This Magic Place -- Chapter 6

    I awoke to a sense of peace. Dac was asleep, his head in the crook of my neck and his arm across my chest.

    I eased out from under, not wanting to wake him, and headed for the shower. I got dressed afterwards and started for the kitchen only to be confronted by Tiger and a meow upon opening the bedroom door.

    "C'mon, Sweet face," I whispered as I reached down and picked her up, "Let's you and I go downstairs."

    I put Tiger on the long work table and started getting out supplies.

    "Now, if you mind your manners, you can watch," I said, as I proceeded to mix ingredients for pie dough, looking up and explaining each step to her as I completed it. For some strange reason, she seemed to think this was quite the thing and she sat contentedly watching me, meowing occasionally as something in particular caught her attention. I kept talking to her and occasionally reached over to pet her and scratch behind her ears.

    The pies were eventually assembled and put in the oven and I got the table cleaned off and got out a bag of green beans and started cleaning them. Evidently, Tiger was more interested in pastry than vegetables and after giving the beans a cursory sniff or two, curled up and went to sleep.

    I sat there stringing beans and wondering what the events of next week would bring and how Dac would manage when he ran into some of the homophobia that surely would surface. There were so many things running through my mind. When was Dac's birthday? have to snoop and find out, we need a housekeeper-cook, a gardener, need to call Jerry and invite him out -- boy, will he ever be surprised, wonder if he needs money or any help or any of my brothers and sisters, need to feed Tiger.

    "I woke up all alone." Dac standing in the doorway, bare feet and jeans with bare chest, probably for my benefit, I thought.

    "C'mere, I want to tell you something."

    He walked over, quizzical look on his face and I wrapped my arms around him, his skin so warm and soft. I kissed both his nipples and in between and he gasped in pleasure.

    "Lord, David, you do things to me. You just woke Fred up, too."

    "You complaining?," as I reached down and stroked him and felt around -- yep, definitely awake.

    "Never and you know it. Oh, that feels good. What were you going to tell me?"

    "That I got up to make something special for you for supper."

    "You did? What?" The 'what' was kind of muffled as his face was practically in my ear.

    "Oh," trying to focus, "they're some pies in the oven and --"

    "Pies? Did I hear pies?," everything came to an abrupt halt.

    "Uh, yeah, and breaded pork chops and fresh green beans and how about fresh corn off the cob?"

    "Fantastic. I can hardly wait."

    I put seasoning in the beans and put them on to cook then got corn out of the walk-in getting ready to cut it off the cob. I walked by Dac sitting on the table and stopped and kissed him on the chest running my hands up and down his back.

    "Oh, man," he looked at me, "Any time you're ready."

    "You know I want to, but I can't, the pies will burn, the pork chops won't get cooked and we'll end up with lunch meat for supper."

    "Well, at least you could say hi to Fred."

    I put my hand inside his jeans and started stroking, slow and easy.

    "Oh, man. Oh, wait 'til I get you in bed tonight. Oh, that feels good. David, you better stop. STOP! David or I'm going to make a real mess here."

    I smiled at him, "I'm looking forward to tonight. Sure you don't want me to rub it some more?"

    "Yes. I mean, I'm sure.  I mean, quit."

    "Boy, you are confused. Okay. Oh, there are some things I've been thinking about that I need your thoughts on. I need to hire a full-time, live-in housekeeper-cook and also a gardener. You know of anybody that might be interested with the right qualifications?"

    "Yeah, I think so. Dulce Ruiz, she's a good friend of mine, known her for years. She's a fantastic cook. Boy, she would run this whole place and you, too, probably. But she would be ideal for the job. She's not working at the moment, there was money problems with the people she worked for and they let her go and she's having a hard time of it. So I know she would be interested.

    "The gardener. I'm not sure, but I think I know someone who might be interested. Name's Clark Frazier. He moved out here from somewhere back east. He's working for the nursery in town. I've dealt with him in the past when I was putting in a sprinkler system for a client and I got to talking to him about landscaping the property, plants, shrubs, that sort of thing. He's quite knowledgeable and easy to deal with. But I don't know whether he would be interested in working and living out here. He can't be making much in the way of money, though, that nursery doesn't have enough of an operation to be able to pay much. So he might be interested."

    I was thinking about what he said, "Could I ask a favor of you, Dac?"

    "Yeah, sure, be happy to take my clothes off, give you a kiss, rub something for you, wiggle something for you, anything you want."

    "Oh, I'd like one of each with seconds, but I really need something from the grocery store and I can't leave just at the moment with things coming out of the oven and the rest of supper to put together and I was thinking that if I could talk you into going to town for me, you might stop and talk to these two -- well, you say Clark works at the nursery, is it open on Sundays?"

    "Yeah, it is. Yeah, I'll get what you need from the grocery store and stop and talk to Dulce and Clark. When do you want to talk to them?"

    "Well, I'm going to be gone tomorrow and Tuesday is the luncheon with the men and the announcement and so forth. The only time I really have would be tonight after supper or Wednesday and I really would like to get this taken care of before then. Do you think they would be willing to come out tonight?"

    "If they're interested in the job, they will. Okay, what do you need from the store and I'll see what Dulce and Clark have to say."

    I made out a grocery list and handed it to Dac as Tiger wandered in meowing about something or other. "You might as well pick up some cat food for Miss Monster here while you're at it."

    Dac looked down at Tiger, and in a stage whisper, "Did you hear what he called you?," and got a couple of meows in reply.

    He walked toward me with a big smile on his face, "Okay, give me a hot hug and a nice wet kiss and maybe squeeze somebody we both know and love and anything else you can think of and I'll be on my way."

    So, a hug, a kiss, a squeeze and a couple of rubs in the right place and he was out the door.

    I kept busy with supper, finishing with the corn and putting it on to cook. I ought to call Jerry, I thought, before I start the rest of the supper. I put the finished salad in the refrigerator and got the phone and dialed his number. He answered on the third ring.

    "Hey, it's me, what's up with you these days?"

    "Davie? It's about time, you turkey. I tried calling you the other night and they said the number had been disconnected. Where were you, in jail? How you been? And where the hell are you, by the way?"

    "Oh, sorry about that. I moved. I'm living in the mountains now. You got a piece of paper and I'll give you my new phone number."

    "Yeah, just a sec. Okay, go ahead," and I read off the phone number to him. "All right, got it."

    "The reason I called you, Jer, was to invite you to come visit for a while, if you can. I'd like to see you and give you a big hug and talk for a while, get caught up on the news and stuff."

    "Oh, that was what I was calling you about. I was going to come and spend a few days with you, eat you out of house and home and bore you to death with stories of my love life and so forth. And I could use a big hug right now."

    "Well, how soon can you get your scrawny butt out here?"

    "Hey, you said I had a nice looking one. Unh, I could probably get reservations to fly in this coming Wednesday. Well, wait a minute, if you're living in the mountains, where do I fly in to?"

    "Oh, probably Santa Fe," I gave him my mailing address and told him to call back as soon as he got a flight booked. About 15 minutes later, the phone rang again with Jerry on the other end.

    "It's Santa Fe and I'm coming in Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 and it's flight number 401 or something like that. Anyhow, it's out of Denver."

    "Okay, we'll be there to pick you up. Have a good flight. It'll probably be packed, though."

    "We? Hey, what's with the 'we' bit? Is there someone in your life? Finally? Really and truly? Davie?, you there?"

    "Yes, I'm here, I'm laughing. Yes, there is someone, very much someone. Wait til you meet him."

    "Hope to hell he's better looking than you. Oh, I'm glad for you, Davie, you know that, don't you?"

    "Yes, I know it. We'll see you Wednesday, okay? I can hardly wait to see you." We both said goodbye and hung up.

    I heard Dac's Jeep coming up the drive. A moment later and he came in the door with grocery bags in hand and a big smile.

    "You'll be happy to know that I have all the stuff on your list and cat food for my sweetie," looking at Tiger.

    "Good. Let me have the bags," I said, reaching. "What about Dulce and Clark? And I thought I was your sweetie."

    "I have two sweeties. Oh, they're coming out in Clark's car after supper, between 8:30 and 9:00 tonight. They asked all kinds of questions. Boy, did I ever smear it on thick," with sort of a mischievous grin on his face.

    "Like what were you 'smearing' on for instance?," wondering if I needed to get nervous.

    "Oh, like all the benefits you would be offering with the job. You know, company car for each of them, charge accounts, clothing allowance, extended vacation. Things like that."


    "Gotcha," and he started laughing, coming over and wrapping his arms around me.

    "Dac, one of these days, I'm going to give you such a smack . . ."

    "Ooohhh, you're getting me hot already," still laughing.

    "Okay, hot one, what did you really tell them before I start counting ribs -- yours!"

    His eyes opened wide, "No, no, no. Nothing, really, other than what you were talking about, full time, live-in, room and board provided, benefits and that's it."

    "Good. I don't know what all they might want in the way of benefits and I wanted to have some room to negotiate."

    "I think they'll be happy just having a decent job that pays worth a damn," Dac said.

    I got the pork chops out of the walk-in. "Oh, one thing, Dac, I think we should tell both of them right up front about us. I don't want to run the risk of having bad feelings further on down the road when they do find out. And they certainly will. I know we aren't going to tell the men until Tuesday, so I guess we are going to have to get them to swear their silence until then, if that's possible, and I hope it is. What do you think?"

    Dac perched himself on the work table, "Dulce doesn't gossip. She keeps everything to herself. As for Clark, I really don't know. I've gotten the impression a couple of times that he's rather close-mouthed about things, but I really don't know. He seemed really interested in the job when I told him, so keeping his mouth shut for a couple of days really isn't asking that much. What's that for?," looking at what I was doing.

    "Oh, it's the breading for the pork chops. Well, we'll see what happens. I'll talk to Dulce here in the kitchen and while I'm doing that, would you mind taking Clark down towards the orchard. Turn the floods on and I'll join you as soon as I finish talking to Dulce."

    "Sure, I don't mind. Do you want me to tell Clark about us?," Dac asked.

    I finished with the chops and put them in the skillet. "Fine with me. I'll tell Dulce while I'm talking with her." I glanced at the stove, "Supper should be in about 15 minutes as soon as these are done." I got the pies out of the oven and Dac gave them a good looking at.

    "Oh, those look good. I'm so hungry I could eat you -- well, selected parts, but I'll settle for chops. Oh, what kind of pies -- you did say we were having pie with supper; didn't you?"

    "Great, I've been passed up for a bunch of chops and a pie. It's cherry, and yes, with supper," and with my best woebegone expression, and matching voice, "and you've probably broken my heart."

    "Ooohhh, poor soul," then with a big smile, "You know the cure for a broken heart; don't you?"


    "A stiff joint. And boy, do I ever have a joint for you."

    Trying hard not to laugh, "Promise?," wiping imaginary tears from my eyes.

    Dac stood up, looking mock serious, "Oh, cross my heart," making a big crossing gesture.

    I couldn't help but laugh, "Your heart's on the other side, Dac."

    "Oh, shit. Well, wherever."

    And we both started laughing.

    And still laughing, "C'mon, you with stiff joint -- that is if you can walk -- set the table, will you and get the salad and milk out of the frij and we'll be ready to eat."

    "I'll have to walk carefully. Okay, done. Let's eat. Say grace, will you?"

    "Okay. But your time is coming, you know that?"

    "Yeah, yeah," holding out his hands, as I held them and said grace. We sat down and began eating.

    And Dac looked up with a mouthful of porkchop, his eyes closed and his face a picture of blissful enjoyment. He looked like a Rockwell portrait. All he needed was red hair and freckles. "Oh, yum. David, this is good, good, good."

    And it made me think back to when I was living on the farm.

    "You know something?"

    Dac looked up, "What?"

    "Now I understand something about my mother that I never did before. She was an excellent cook and enjoyed cooking for the family. And I never did understand why she went to so much extra work. Everybody in my family had good appetites and enjoyed good food. But she enjoyed it because they enjoyed it so much. I never understood that until now."

    Dac looked up at me, "I'm not sure I understand."

    "Because she loved us and our pleasure was more important to her than her own. And your pleasure and enjoyment is more important to me than my own."

    And Dac asked, "And at night, when we . . ."

    "That too. Knowing that I'm giving you pleasure gives me a great deal of pleasure. More than I can get into words. I can't seem to explain it the way I understand it in my head."

    Dac looked down at his plate, "You give so much, David."

    "I give because I love you, Dac, and so do you for that matter."

    "I love you, too, David, but I haven't given very much at all."

    "Dac, you gave me what you could, so many things. But the most precious gift of all that you gave to me, Dac, was your heart. How could I possibly ask or want anything more?"

    "You gave me the same."

    "Yes, I did. We gave to each out of love. You gave a great deal, Dac." I took a deep breath, "C'mon, finish your supper."

    "I don't feel much like eating."

    And I suddenly remembered my Mom when one of us kids was in a big funk.

    "Sure you do. Your brain just hasn't figured it out yet," as I scooted my chair over in front of Dac. I speared a piece of meat from his plate and held it up to his mouth and smiled. "Open up." He looked at me and opened his mouth and I shoved it in and he kept looking at me as I fed him, chewing and swallowing automatically.

    "How about a bean for a young man?," as I forked one off his plate.

    And then, in a whispered rush of words, "Oh, God, David, I love you so much. I never realized until now just how much. I never really understood. Never really thought that much about it. I knew I loved you and that's about all the thinking I did about it." He looked at me, shaking his head back and forth, "What did I ever do to deserve you?"

    "Well, what did I do to deserve you?," I whispered in return.

    And then his mischievous nature got the better of him, "Make good pork chops?"

    And we both started laughing. And in our laughter, the moment lightened.

    "Now, finish your supper, Bud; otherwise, no pie."

    And a big smile, "Oh, you bet," and dug in with a vengeance.

    I got up and cut the pie and dished it out. I took the slices over and sat one in front of Dac just as he finished and pushed his plate back.

    "Oh, yeah," as he waited for me to sit down, then took a bite, and the look of pure rapture that spread across his face would make any cook proud, "Oh, I think I've died and went to heaven. I hope they have cherry pie up there if I do get to go." He took another bite. "I've never tasted cherries like these, it's such an intense flavor, almost like perfume. It's hard to describe. Oh, so good."

   "Yeah, they taste the same to you as they do to me. They're Royal Anne cherries from Michigan. I bought a large box of them from the Co-Op I belonged to in Albuquerque and they were shipped frozen. I wish now I had bought two or three cases. I never realized at the time that they would taste like these."

    "Oh, I hope you make more of these." His plate was shining.

    "I always make two whenever I make pies. There's another pie, plus what's left of this one."

    His voice had an unusual quality as he looked at me, "You did?"

    And there was something about the expression on his face and the sound of his voice.

    "You better hadn't."

    "How'd you know what I was thinking?," he glanced up at me with a grin and guilt all over his face.

    "Trust me, I know. Okay, Bud, give me a hand. We've got just enough time to get this cleaned up before Dulce and Craig get here."

    We got busy and were just finishing up when the alarm sounded on the access gate. I went over and checked to make sure who it was and released the switch. I went to meet them after a bit and opened the front door as Craig's car was pulling up in front of the house.

    Craig and Dulce got out of the car and I introduced myself and we exchanged greetings and I ushered them into the kitchen.

    "This is Dac. I think both of you already know him."

    "Yeah, I remember you," Craig said, smiling, as he extended his hand. "How are you, Dac?"

    Dac responded just as Dulce spoke up, "Oh, I've known that one for years and years. You keeping out of trouble, Dac? I doubt it, knowing you."

    Dac looked at her with a big smile, "Is it even necessary for me to respond, Dulce?"

    "No, not really," her whole body bouncing as she laughed. "I can remember too many things about you. All the scrapes you managed to get yourself into and all those poor girls you left pining away."

    Dac was getting slightly red in the face, "Enough, Dulce."

    And while all this exchange was taking place, it gave me a chance to study my two prospective employees. Dulce, the more vivacious of the two, was short and rather dumpy with dark brown hair and eyes, an angelic face that I suspected hid a will power of solid steel. She was full of energy, her dancing eyes taking in everything in the kitchen. She certainly seemed to have Dac's number and a running total of his conquests or near conquests.

    My first impression of Craig was that he looked like the Marlboro Man. All he needed was a Stetson and pair of boots. He was fairly tall, rather thin, blue eyes, light brown hair, a beak of a nose, angular face with a kindness in his eyes and voice that was disarming. I liked both of them immediately.

    "Dac, why don't you take Craig down and show him the orchard and I'll be down in a few moments. I'll turn on the floods for you."

    "You bet." Dac seemed glad to escape the brown-eyed scrutiny of Dulce, "C'mon, Craig, let's get out of here before Dulce starts picking on me again. It's not too far. It's a real neat orchard but needs work," and they escaped out the kitchen door.

    I turned back to Dulce. "There's a guest cottage out back with two furnished apartments and if both of you decide to take the positions here, then there would be one for each of you."

    I explained the job requirements to her and showed her around the kitchen and the house in general, benefits that went with the job and on and on. She stood watching and listening, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

    "And one last thing that I do need to explain and I will need your word that you will keep what I have to tell you in complete confidence -- well, no further than Craig. Do I have your word on that?"

    "I've never been one to talk, Mr. Rinehardt, so yes, you have it."

    "Good. Dac and I are domestic partners and we're committed to each other. Do you understand?"

    "Yes, you're lovers; right?"

    "Yes, that's right."

    She looked up at me and smiled, "Now why doesn't that surprise me? I've wondered about that boy on more than one occasion. And if you're asking me whether I have a problem with it, no, I don't. If the two of you love each other and are happy, then I'm happy for you. I figure it's between the two of you and God and you're not accountable to anybody else."

    "Good. That's the way we see it. Everybody is going to know about it by Tuesday afternoon or evening, at the latest. We've got to make an announcement to Dac's crew Tuesday at lunch and it will be all over town thirty minutes after they get off work."

    Dulce thought about it for a moment, "Well, I doubt that you'll have much problem with any of them except Malcolm and you already know about him."

    "Oh, yes, Dac gave me quite an earful," I said.

    She gave me one of her smiles, "Good, because if he hadn't, I would have."

    I laughed, "That I don't doubt. Now would you be able to get moved in and start first thing Wednesday morning? That is, if you are interested in the job."

    "I am and I don't see why I wouldn't be able to start Wednesday morning. I haven't got that much to move, but I will need transportation out here. I don't have a car."

    "Dac and I will get that arranged between us. Okay, I need to go and talk with Craig. Look around and familiarize yourself with everything and I'll talk with you later," and I headed out the door towards the orchard.

    I found Dac and Craig squatted down talking to each other halfway down the row of apple trees. I got the immediate impression that they were talking about something rather personal rather than fruit trees. They both stood up as I approached.

    Dac looked at Craig, "Tell David what you just told me. Believe me, he'll understand."

    I could see that something was really bothering Craig. "Can you tell me, Craig?"

    Craig looked at me, "Yeah, Dac just told me about the two of you. And yeah, I can tell you."

    "I'm gay. I was in a relationship with a guy back in Ohio. I worked for a nursery there. Neil and I had bought a house together. We were domestic partners and we had a commitment ceremony planned for the summer. Friends of ours were planning it and we were already working on the invitation list."

    "This is hard," and shook his head. "Neil was killed in an automobile wreck. A drunk driver hit him head on, on his way home, he died instantly," he stopped and took a deep breath. "It was my birthday and we were going to go out and have dinner together to celebrate," and he looked at me, the tears shining in his eyes, "and instead, the cops . . . the cops . . . the cops came to the door and told me that he was dead and what had happened. I totally came unhooked. Later, my sister helped with the funeral arrangements and then after the funeral, I just lost it completely and I went on a big drunk and . . . and . . ." he put his hands up to his face. "I'm sorry . . . sorry," and in between sobs, "I've never told anyone about this. Sorry. I don't mean to break down like this, but I can't seem . . ."

    "C'mere, Craig," and I wrapped my arms around him and he grabbed hold of me and I just held him while he cried and cried. I wondered if he had ever really let go and cried over this as he should have. Dac was affected as much by his grief as I was and stepped up to him and started rubbing his back and neck, talking to him, "It's okay, buddy, really, it's okay. Things will get better if you move out here because this place out here is magic. We just got to get you out here, and all you have to do is ask me and I'll sure help any way I can."

    Craig began to get control of himself and stood back. "Sorry to fall apart like that. You're the first ones I've told this to." He put his hands to his face, as he was assaulted by another wave of memories, "Oh, God, David, I loved him so much and I'm so lost without him. The pain just won't go away, it's there all the time. Day in and day out."

    I reached up and took his hands and gently pulled them away from his face, "You haven't finished grieving for him, Craig, and you're going to have to do that before any healing can take place. You need to be around people who understand and care. People you can talk with and share your feelings with. Here, in other words."

    He looked at me, "I wanted this job from the very beginning when Dac told me about it," he said. "I could do a good job here. But, I don't know whether I can stand to see you and Dac and the love you have for each other on a daily basis and all the memories that's going to trigger. I don't know whether I can handle it without falling apart again."

    "Yes," Dac said, "it's going to drag up a lot of memories, and you may fall apart. But so what if you do fall apart, what better place to do it than here? Man, you've kept this bottled up inside you like some kind of monument of sorrow or self-pity or something and sooner or later you're gonna have to deal with it and get over it and go on."

    "I know. You're right. I was going to talk with the priest about it but didn't know him that well and then, too, the church's position on gays, I suppose, kept me from seeking him out. I'm glad I talked with both of you, though. It helps. I feel better."

        Dac looked over at me, "David, I'm going back to the house. Think I'll terrorize Dulce for a while. Craig, c'mere, let me give you a hug before I go. Besides," with a grin on his face, "I give more exciting hugs than David." Craig smiled and walked into his arms, "Thanks, Dac."

    Dac started toward the house and I turned back to Craig, "Does Dulce know about all this?"

    "I haven't told her but I think she's figured it out about me. She's pretty sharp. She doesn't know the whole story, though, I'm pretty sure."

    "I've already told her about Dac and I and she didn't have any problem with it, nor was she particularly surprised at the news. I would suggest that you tell her. I think she would be able to help you a lot -- she's very kind hearted and giving. And of course, Dac and I will help as much as we're able. But here is the better place for you. You're among your own kind."

    Craig looked at me and smiled, "Then I want the job, if it's still being offered."

    "Of course it is," and I spent the next ten or fifteen minutes going over what I wanted done in the orchard, benefits of job, and on and on.

    We started walking towards the house, "I think what I will do, towards the end of the week, is buy a pickup for general use around here and you and Dulce will be able to use it whenever you need to go town for supplies or other errands. That way, you won't have to depend on others for transportation. One thing, though, would you be able to give Dulce a hand with moving her things out here? She doesn't have any transportation."

    "Oh, sure, no problem. Listen, I really appreciate the opportunity you're giving me. I won't let you down."

    "I don't think you will, either, Craig, and I'm glad that you'll be working here and don't hesitate to holler at Dac or me if you run into some brick walls, and you will. And don't lose hope, Craig, that's the greatest of all sins. I think there will be someone for you, sooner or later."

    Craig looked at me, "Thank you, I hope so."

    We walked in the kitchen door and Dac was perched on the counter teasing Dulce and she was handing it back to him far better than he was handing it out.

    Dac turned toward me, "See, she's already picking on me again. You better have a talk with her."

    "Oh, I certainly will. Dulce, lay it on!"

    Dulce laughed, "See, he's got your number, Dac."

    Dac muttered under his breath just loud enough for me to hear, "Oh, he's got quite a bit more than that."

    Craig turned to me, "I'll get us moved out here by Tuesday, latest, and we'll start first thing Wednesday morning."

    "That'll be fine, Craig, and if you need anything in the meantime, holler at me or Dac."

    They said their goodbyes and left. Dac and I got a cup of coffee and sat down at the kitchen table.

    "Well, I'm glad that's taken care of. I was really impressed with both of them. I think they both will be happy living out here and do a good job."

    Dac smiled, remembering some of the evening's conversation, "That Dulce is something else. I've always liked her. She used to tease the daylights out of me. Boy, that was some surprise about Craig, though, wasn't it?"

    "Yeah, I sure wasn't expecting that. I thought he was going to tell me about some dark thing in his past. You know, a felony or he was in prison or he robbed a gas station. I was really floored when he said he was gay."

    "Same here. When I told him about you and I, all of a sudden he had tears running down his face and I couldn't figure what in the world I had said. And I asked him what was wrong and then he told me. Then you came up about that time."

    "He really fell apart, didn't he? I asked him -- I think you had already left -- if Dulce knew about any of this. And then when he said no, I suggested that he tell her. If I'm reading her right, she will mother and manage him all over the place and give him a big sympathetic ear, which is just what he needs. That and talking with you or me and the stability of living and working out here."

    "Right, then she won't have time to tease me and pick on me."

    I put on my sympathy face, "Oh, poor one. You lead a life of such travail. Oh, where did I put my violin?"

    "That's it, make fun of me, David. Your time will come, then we'll see."

    "Like tonight in bed? That was you that was talking about mending my broken heart; wasn't it?"

    "Perhaps. I've been offended and deliberately misunderstood. It may take some time to get over it."

    "I'll bet Fred doesn't have that attitude," as I scooted my chair over in front of Dac and reached between his legs and started stroking. "Great Scott, he's as hard as a rock, unless you've got a very large flashlight stuffed in your skivvies. Man, you could practically drive nails with it. Is it time for bed, my Bud or are you still suffering from grievous offense?"

    And with a tight little smile, "I think I'm getting over it. And David, you know I'm not wearing skivvies."

    "Then, what are we waiting for?"

    Monday morning at 7 a.m. found me on the road to Albuquerque, more or less awake with a steaming cup of coffee in the bracket on the dash and a CD playing.

    I really had hated to leave the warmth of Dac's body, the smell of him, the feel of his arm across my chest and the look on his face as he slept. He is so beautiful, I thought. Truly what have I done that our lives should be intertwined?

    It was chilly outside and the heater was on. Indian Summer was almost at an end and early mornings were cold in the mountains. The bushes and underbrush along the roadside glittered in a diamond array of frost in the sun's first light. At the edge of a field, near a clump of trees, a group of deer stood, their breath billowing in clouds of steam. This early in the morning, there was hardly any traffic. A pickup here and there, a farmer, perhaps, on his way to the local market. There was a sense of peace as I drove through this part of the country.

    My thoughts turned to Dac, as they usually do when I am at rest. He would be up by now, getting ready for the day, perhaps in the shower or getting dressed or downstairs drinking a cup of coffee. I wonder what he is thinking. I wonder if he is thinking about me, or last night's passion and fire, or the gentle things we said to each other. Is he smiling? I wonder if he will be happy with what I am going to do?

    My thoughts were interrupted as I pulled onto I-40 and began the run into Albuquerque. The traffic was picking up and crowding, as usual. The anger and frustration already showing in the faces of the people behind the wheel. I felt sorrow for them, trapped in their desperate lives with beauty and laughter a rarity. I wondered at my fortune.

    I eventually reached the downtown part of Albuquerque and located the music store I had chosen earlier, mainly because it didn't have an abundance of "Save you Money," and "Free Delivery," and blah, blah, blah, splashed in every conceivable space of the ad.

    I pulled into their parking lot and walked into the store. A salesman, working towards the back of the store, came walking toward me with a smile on his face. He was slight of build with black hair and green eyes.

    "Good morning. May I help you?"

    "Yes, I want to buy a piano."

    "Good. Well, as you can see, we have quite a selection of pianos here on the floor and others upstairs. Do you have something particular in mind?"

    "Yes, I do. A Steinway."

    "All right. We have a number of spinets and one or two baby grands here on the floor, and I think --"

    "No, what I want is that big one like the one in the auditorium here in town."

    "I see. Then you're talking about a concert grand. And we do carry them but they are in a different warehouse. We would have to go over there to see them."

    "Okay, let's go. One question. Do you play piano?"

    "Yes, I do. It was my major in college. Okay, let me tell the secretary that I'll be out of the store and I'll meet you in front. My car is the red Camry by the front door."

    I went out the front door and waited by his car and the salesman came out directly and we got in and headed north across town.

    "You are buying this piano for yourself?"

    "No, I don't play. It's for -- well, oh, what the hell. It's for my domestic partner, he plays."

    "Oh, well, why didn't you say so? I have a domestic partner myself. My name is Joe, by the way."

    "David Rinehardt, and I'm glad to meet you. Will you be able to go through these pianos and pick out the best one?"

    "Yes, pretty much. Depending on what you are using for criteria. I assume you are talking about tone, action, response. That sort of thing."

    "Yeah, I think so. I don't know that much about pianos and I didn't have the time to do any research on the subject before I drove down."

    "Okay. Well, what I just mentioned is as good a criteria as any. You say you drove down? You don't live in Albuquerque?"

    "Used to but we live in the northeastern part of the state now, up in the mountains, which is where I would want it delivered."

    "Oh. When?"

    "By the end of this week. No later than Friday."

    "Oh, wow. Well, let's see what we can find." We pulled up in front of a large warehouse. Joe turned off the car and we got out and he unlocked the door and we went inside. He turned on the lights and it looked like there were acres of pianos.

    "Are all these Steinways?," I asked.

    "No, various brands. We only have 12 Steinways, over there in the far corner," pointing in that direction. We started walking towards them. "This may take awhile. Some I may be able to eliminate quickly but others will take longer.

    "Now what I'm going to do is try to make a sort of standardized test that I'll use on each piano. And I'll score each one on a chart and at the end of the tests I'll eliminate all but the winner based on the scores.

    "I'm going to play a sonata by Scarlatti mainly because this particular piece uses just about every note on the board so I can get an idea about tone and make sure everything is working properly. Then I'm going to play several finger exercises that will also cover the entire board to get an idea about action. And finally, there is an excerpt by Rachmaninoff that is rather machine gun fast and staccato, again for action and also for response. If we had time, I would also play a transcription by a Scottish composer that is a very complex tone poem, to get a better idea about the tone and harmonics, but we really don't have the time."

    "No, take the time, I'll wait."

    "We may be here all day. I'm not that anxious to get back to the store but I just wanted you to know that it's going to take time to eliminate all of these."

    "So, we can send out for food. Or better yet, we'll break and I'll take you out to lunch. You're trying to help and I appreciate that."

    "Okay, get comfortable somewhere and I'll start going through these."

    I located an easy chair and an ashtray and made myself comfortable and Joe started playing his way through the pianos. From what I could tell, he was an accomplished pianist and the pianos were beautiful instruments. But to me they all sounded good and I couldn't really tell any difference from one to the other about tone or response or action. I hoped he knew what he was talking about.

    We broke for lunch around noon and went to a local restaurant. While we were waiting for our orders, Joe told me that things were moving along faster than he had anticipated. Perhaps we would finish earlier. We finished lunch and headed back to the warehouse and continued.

    He got through all the pianos and it turned out to be piano number eleven at 3:30. We got the order numbers from it and headed back to the main store.

    We were talking and joking about something or other as we came through the door and pretty much ran head on into the store manager. My immediate impression of him was that he had an expression on his face that looked as though he had been sucking lemons the better part of the day. With maybe a couple of Florida limes thrown in. Without sugar. Joe said something or other to him and headed toward the back of the store, I figured, to write up the order and so forth. So, I started after him and this Mr. Beevus -- honest, that was his name -- told me to "wait here, please," and self-importantly trotted off toward the back of the store.

    I didn't figure I needed to take orders from him and so I started toward the back of the store again. Well, Mr. Beevus and I arrived at the same destination about the same time. He more or less glared at me and then started in on Joe.

    "Would you tell you 'friend' to please wait somewhere else, Joe? And just where have you been all day? I've had to wait on the customers myself."

    Joe turned toward him, "He is a customer. He's buying one of the concert grands. I was writing up the order for him. And we have been at the warehouse going through the pianos to find the best one."

    "I see," said Mr. Beevus. He turned around and looked me up one side and down the other. Boy, my net worth just got calculated, totaled and found miserably wanting. I'll admit I wasn't dressed all that well. I had gotten out of the shower and pulled on a pair of jeans, sneakers, and one of Dac's sweatshirts -- it smelled so good, I couldn't resist. But I was dressed about as well as anyone else in this town out shopping.

    Anyway, Mr. Butthead -- I mean, Mr. Beevus turned to Joe and in a voice which obviously was calculated for me to hear, "Does he have the funds to cover it?"

    I was getting pissed. And in my usual big-mouthed fashion spoke up, "Yeah, I can cover it. I can give you a check, a variety of credit cards, or in nickels, dimes and pennies, whichever way you think you're smart enough to handle."

   'Superior being' turned back toward me with an irritated look on his face, "credit card, MasterCard would be preferable."

    I held it out to him and he gingerly took it, probably wishing he had a pair of forceps to handle it with, gathered up the order that Joe had written and minced off to his office to clear the amount with the credit card company.

    I turned to Joe, "Where in the hell did you get that piece of work?"

    Joe laughed, "I know, I know. He's the owner's son. Nobody would hire him, so his old man foisted him off on us."

    "Well, if you get any flak from me shooting off my mouth, here's my card, give me a call and I'll straighten it out. Hell, I'll buy the damned store and put you in charge and you can fire the idiot," and started laughing.

    "It's a tempting thought, but nah, he won't give me any problems. He's too much of a chicken-shit. He knows I'll quit and then he'd have to start waiting on customers himself. The place would go out of business in a week."

    "Okay, let's set this up for delivery Friday afternoon. While you were checking out pianos, I drew a map for your delivery man on how to get there. If there are any problems, give me a call, the number is on the map. Oh, neither my partner nor I will be at the house when you deliver, but my housekeeper and possibly my brother will be there and she will know exactly where the piano is to be placed. Her name is Dulce. It's all on the map I gave you. Oh, man, I hope he likes this."

    Joe looked at me, "Yeah, I understand. I think he will, though. You know, of all the Steinways I tried today, this is the best one we have. But, if for some reason, he doesn't care for it, he's welcome to come back and try the others and switch pianos if he finds one he likes better."

    Mr. Beevus returned, apparently having satisfied himself, handed me my credit card and walked off. Not a word, nothing. No I-yes-no-thank you-kiss my ass, no nothing.

    I looked at Joe and shook my head as I started for the door, "You know, it's refreshing to be around someone like him. He makes me realize just how good a person I really am."

    Joe laughed, "You got that right. Listen, thanks for the business. Let me know if there's anything I can do for you. Hope I see you again."

    "Same here, Joe," and I left the building a little after 4 o'clock. I got in the Cruiser and thought to myself, boy, buying Steinways is hungry business. I didn't want to go to one of the fast food places but I wanted -- I know, Mexican! -- that's what I was craving, some good Mexican food with lots of red and green chilies.

    I headed east on Lomas to Los Cuates, a little Mexican restaurant that I used to frequent. I pulled in and went inside, sat down and when the waitress came up, ordered chicken burritos with refried beans, Mexican rice, taco chips with salsa and a bottle of Mexican beer. Their coffee is terrible, and the iced tea isn't much stronger than tap water, but their food more than made up for it, being plentiful and excellent.

    I finished the meal, sat back with my mouth still burning and a band of sweat across my forehead from the onslaught of chilies and took another swig of beer hoping to counteract some of it. I looked at the time, it was after 5 o'clock. I needed to call Dac. I left a tip, paid the bill and got in the Cruiser and got out the cell phone and called. The phone picked up on the other end and this growly, sexy voice, said "Hello," and I got chills all over.

    "Hi, is Fred there?"

    There was sort of a surprised pause, "You ass. You damned right he's here. Where are you?"

    "In Albuquerque, just got through eating supper and ready to head home. Miss me?"

    "Oh, sort of. Tiger's missed you although she has rather questionable taste, in my opinion. When are you going to get home? It's after 5 now, probably not until after 10?"

    "Probably not. Maybe later since you aren't sure whether you've missed me."

    "You get your butt home. You know damned well I missed you. I always miss you when you're not around. I've missed you, Tiger's missed you and if we had a dog he'd probably be out baying at the moon because he would have missed you, too. Does that answer your question? And did you get all your stuff done in Albuquerque?"

    "Yes, and yes."

    "Including the secret thing I'm not supposed to know anything about?"


    "And you won't tell me anything more, will you?"


    "Well, I'll probably be in bed by the time you get here."

    "You want me to come up and snuggle with you?"

    "We'll probably do more than snuggle."

    "Tell dirty stories in bed?"

    "We'll be a dirty story. Now, get your ass home!"

    I laughed and disconnected and took out for home.

    It was after ten when I pulled up in front of the house. I cut the engine and went in. The house was quiet. There was a light on in the kitchen and I went in and warmed myself a cup of coffee and started upstairs. I got halfway up when I remembered that Dac's crew was coming for lunch tomorrow. I retraced my steps went and got the brisket out of the walk-in and proceeded to trim the apron of fat from it, put it in a roasting pan, put barbecue sauce all over it and then covered the whole thing with foil and placed it in a slow oven to bake overnight. Then I got my cup of coffee and started back upstairs.

    Dac was in bed sound asleep and Tiger was curled up beside him. She looked up as I approached the bed and meowed at me.

    "Ah, sweet face, you're not sleeping in here tonight," as I reached down and picked her up and walked over to the door and deposited her on the other side. She meowed her displeasure as I closed the door. "Find your own boyfriend, this one's mine."

    I got undressed and slipped into bed trying not to wake him but he either heard or sensed me and moved over, putting his arm across my chest, whispering in the crook of my neck, "You're home, I missed you. I love you."

    "I love you, too," enjoying the warmth and smell of his body pressed against my side.

    "Someone's awake," I whispered.

    "I know, he's been waiting for you all day."

    "He has?"

    Dac whispered, "Yeah, me, too."

    "You want to do something about it?"

    "Do you?," Dac whispered.

    "I don't know, how about you?"

    And a sudden growly voice, "You know damned well, I do. Always."

    Movement, and in the darkness of the room, the shadow of his face as his lips touched mine.

    "Oh, you taste so good. Just like a guy I know."

    "Who's the guy?," said growly voice.

    "My wonderful man, the one I love, the one that makes me melt inside every time he touches me," a light kiss, "the one I make cherry pies for, the one who has my heart," several more kisses, trying to catch my breath, "and anything else of mine that he might want."

    "I love you, David."

    "I know. I'm the luckiest guy in the state."

    "Just the state?"

    "Well, I don't know anybody outside of New Mexico."


    "Roll over, my Bud, I want to taste all of you."

    "Do I taste good, David?, I hope."

    "Oh, Dac, you're my bread and salt, I gotta have some of you every day."

    "Hope there's enough," he said, "Oh, David," as I began kissing and licking his nipples, feeling them swell and harden, standing in proud, swollen points, rolling my tongue around first one and then the other.

    Then licking my way down the trunk of his body, finding hot spots that caused him to flinch and moan in pleasure.

    "Ahhh, David, you've got me so turned on I'm practically turning inside out."

    "I sure hope so, you're damn well turning me on," I said, as I began tonguing the soft skin and hair above his belly button, tasting the sweet-salt flavor. Then in his belly button, around and around and Dac writhing and moaning.

    Then following his band of hair as it burst from the middle of him, descending to the thick, luxuriant growth.

    And the sudden shock of his warm hand as it ever so gently wrapped around me, slowly moving up and down, caressing the head and then descending only to repeat its journey and I was fast losing my mind as he, he, Dac, my love, touched and caressed me. I was delirious with the sensations he was producing.

    And his whisper, "There's so many things I want to do to you, David, you can't know the things I've dreamed of."

    His head was in my groin and I could feel the warmth of his breath on me, his hand was magic, as it touched me and all around me.

    A shaft of moonlight was splashed across the bed and in the illumination, I could see the hugeness of his penis, swollen, the head half exposed. I grasped him, marveling at the warmth and smoothness of his skin, running my hand the length, finally moving the foreskin down completely exposing the gleaming head. I leaned in close, drunk with the sexual musk of him. I engulfed him, taking him deep into my mouth and throat, hearing him cry out. And almost simultaneously I felt the wet heat of his mouth as it covered me, and I too, cried out as I felt myself being taken deep.

    We began moving on each other. Suddenly he swelled and his sperm gushed from him, filling my mouth and throat with its thick, sweet-salt taste and I couldn't get enough of it.

    His moments of delirium brought my release as I felt the seed shooting from my body and gasped at the waves of pleasure coursing through me.

    We lay together our faces touching, kissing. I marveled that God created such a wonderful being as he, as I touched his face, eyes.

    "I love you, Dac. Oh, so much, I love you."

    "And I you, David."

    He moved up against me, his head in the crook of my neck, arm across my chest, my arm around his shoulders and that wonderful sense of peace when he was in my arms pervaded my body and I grew drowsy.

Okay, guys, that's it for this one. Yes, I know, I can hear everyone hollering at me, no piano for Dac in this Chapter. Sorry, but there were just too many other things that had to happen first. At least it's on its way. He'll get the piano in the next chapter -- I think, unless I think of something else that I want to put in.
Write and let me know what you think and please remember to use TMP in the subject line. My email address has changed. It is DacAndDavid@MSN.COM, yeah, I know, hardly original but the idiot computer rejected everything else I wanted. Hope you all had a good holiday. Harlequin