by Tim Mead
On his lunch break the next day Jeff went to an office supply store where he bought a shipping box and bubble wrap for the dildo collection. Then he stopped at Cypress Haven's most popular deli for a reuben and iced tea.
Macey was waiting for him when he got back to the office.
"Where've you been? Have you had your lunch? What happened with the lawyer?"
"Hello to you, too, Mace."
She humphed, but then she said, "Okay. I'm sorry about all the questions. So let me start with the first one. We always have lunch together. Where'd you go?"
"First of all, we don't always have lunch together. And I stuck my head in your office on my way out but you were on the phone, so I kept going. How about tomorrow?"
She sighed, rolled her hazel eyes, and tossed her auburn hair . . . the color of which Jeff guessed came from an upscale salon. Someday he'd get up the nerve to ask her.
Unsuccessfully trying to hide a smile, she said, "I suppose I can contain my curiosity until then."
"Remind me to tell you about the dildos."
Jeff grinned and went on down the hall toward his office.
"Jeffrey, you come back here!"
"Tomorrow . . . Mom."
That evening he took a picture of each of the faux phalluses. Then he lined them up and took a picture of the lot. Ordinarily if he had something fragile or valuable to ship he would take it to UPS to pack. But, and he chuckled as he thought of it, he didn't think the folks at "Brown" would appreciate the task. So he was doing it himself. As he wrapped each of the items in bubble wrap and placed them carefully in the shipping box, he decided that, quite apart from their ostensible sexual purpose, most of them were beautiful simply as objects. He knew his parents would be scandalized, and that made him chuckle again. But it would be a shame if they simply dumped them in the trash.
When he was finished, he thought about taking the box to Stan and Doug's house. It was a ten-minute walk away, on Lake Shore at the west end of Lake Polk. He really should drop it off at Stan's office, but by the time he got home from Cypress Haven in the evening, it was closed. He decided since he was invited for dinner on Friday, only two days away, he'd wait and take it with him. He made a mental note to take along a bottle of wine, too. There'd be a nice selection in Phil's wine rack from which to choose.
"So you're not too rich to have lunch with me?" Macey asked, grinning.
They were lunching at Ruby Tuesday's, where they went often because it was the only decent place in town with a salad bar. And it was only a five-minute drive from UbiCo's office.
"Well, having a paid-for house and money to cover the upkeep'll make me feel like a millionaire."
Their server brought Jeff's burger, asked if there was anything else he could get them and, on being told they were fine, walked away. Both Jeff and Macey stared at his butt. They realized what they were doing and grinned at each other.
"My, my, my!"
"Oh, girl, you know it!"
"Jeffie, you've never told me how Phil got his money."
"He was a chemist for Imperial Citrus, so he was doing all right but not getting rich, you know? Then in the late 80's, I think it was, there was a really bad freeze from I-4 north. It lasted for days, and it killed just about all the orange trees between Haines City and Clermont. Used to be when you drove up that way there was nothing but orange groves on both sides of Highway 27 as far as you could see. Have you been up that way lately?"
She was chewing, so she nodded. Then she swallowed and said, "It's all subdivisions and strip malls now."
"Uh huh. And it was Uncle Phil who cashed in his retirement fund and used some inherited money to buy lots and lots of dead groves. He didn't have to hold onto the land long before development started and he made a fortune, literally, selling to the developers."
"Smart man. How'd he meet his partner? Buddy, was it?"
Jeff nodded. "Yeah. Buddy was in real estate. So he made a lot of money during that period, too."
"Who inherited that?"
"Oh! So by rights you should be really sitting pretty. Do you feel cheated?"
"No. I honestly never thought about it. Or, if I did, I expected maybe my dad would get most of it, being his next of kin. Even if they were estranged. But, after all, it was Phil's to dispose of as he wanted. Or, come to think of it, maybe it wasn't. Maybe there were strings attached to what Buddy left. Oh, well. Whatever. Phil was more than generous with me."
"Phil didn't like your parents any more than you do?"
"They were just as nasty to him as they were to me. They even blamed him for `corrupting' me."
She put a hand on his. "I'm sorry, honey. It's really a shame to be on the outs with your folks."
"I've gotten used to it. And I always had Phil. Even in high school I came down here from Ocala on vacations and spent a lot of time with him. He used to take me for rides and to car shows and cruises in the Graham-Paige he owned then. When I was old enough, he let me drive it. More important, though, he taught me to hold my head up, to be proud of what I am." Jeff blinked back unexpected tears. "And he loved me. He was more a dad to me than Scott ever was."
"I still think he should have left more to you."
"Well, first of all, he gave a lot of money to deserving causes. The Church, of course. And the HRC and The Point Foundation do help a lot of GLBT people."
"Charity, they say, begins at home." She took a sip of her tea and looked at him through her eyelashes.
"Okay. Home. I now have a fine big house. When it needs painting every six or seven years, the trust will take care of it. When it needs a new roof, the trust will take care of it. The trust pays the property taxes, the utility bills, the yard maintenance, and the housekeeper. So I've got a great free home."
"When you put it that way, it does sound nice."
"And then there's Agatha."
"Agatha? Oh, you mean the old car."
"Bite your tongue! Agatha's not just any old car. She's a classic. A 1935 Auburn Phaeton. An elegant old gal."
"Won't you just sell it?"
"No way! Besides, I couldn't if I wanted to. The will stipulates that I have to keep her up and take her to at least four classic car gatherings a year."
"What kind of gatherings?"
"Well, there are really upscale ones on Charlotte Island and at Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale every year, what they call a concours d'élégance where prizes are awarded for the best car in each category. There's even an annual show in Sebring. Phil and Buddy took her to them from time to time. But there are monthly collector car get-togethers both in Cypress Haven and Lake Polk. Gear-heads call them cruises."
She laughed. "Gear-heads? That's funny."
"The Phaeton is a rag-top," Jeff continued. "Maybe some Saturday evening you'd like to come with me to the Lake Polk cruise. We'll put the top down and pretend we're Fred and Ginger out for an evening drive."
"Sweetie, I'm all for cruising! I might find myself a rich man who collects old cars."
"Some of them collect muscle cars."
"Ooooh! Sounds hunky."
"Let me explain . . . ."
She looked at her watch. "You'll have to do it in the car, Jeffie. We need to get back to the office." Once they were in the car and headed toward the UbiCo building, she flipped down the sun visor and checked her make-up in the mirror. "I think instead of hearing about muscle cars, I'm more curious about whatever it was you were going to tell me about dildos."
"Oh, that. Yeah. Phil had a collection of really beautiful dildos, and he left them to Scott and Julia."
She snorted. "I'm having trouble with the idea of beautiful dildos, but, seriously, he left them to your wicked parents?"
"If you're really interested, I took pictures of them as a record. They may be needed for settling the estate. And to help establish the value of what Julia and Scott inherited. Actually, it might have been a good idea to have them appraised."
"And who would you get to do that? Do you know any local dildo experts?"
Jeff laughed. "No, I guess not. But Stan might. Getting back to Phil, though, the old boy had a wonderful sense of humor. I can imagine what Julia's gonna say when she opens them." It had been a long time since he'd called his parents by anything except their given names.
When they got back to their offices they attracted some curious looks because they were both still giggling.
The next day they lunched at Hurricane Wings, which was within shouting distance of the UbiCo building.
"Oh, my God," Macey exploded. "I don't know where to start. I still can't get over it. I've been thinking about it ever since you told me yesterday. Your uncle had a collection of, how would you describe them, art dildos?"
"I suppose you could call them that." He handed her his phone. "Here, you can scroll through these pictures."
She did so, alternately gasping and exclaiming . . . to the point of attracting stares from the other customers.
"Uh huh. And he left these . . . things . . . to your parents?"
"These are the people who wouldn't have anything to do with Phil because he was gay and disowned you when you came out?"
"Have you heard yet how they reacted when they got the package?"
"They don't have it. I'm having supper at Stan and Doug's tonight, and I'll take it with me. We work the same hours, more or less, and I haven't been able to get it to them yet."
"Wait, wait a minute! What do Stan and Doug have to do with this? I mean I know Stan's Phil's lawyer, but . . . ?"
"Stan wants to send the package with his return address label on it and a cover letter, reminding them they're liable for inheritance tax on the value of the dildos."
Macey put down a wing bone, used her napkin, and said, "You and Mason are both evil, evil people. I love it!"
"You know, Mace, I feel a little guilty for feeling vindictive. But then I remember how they just cut me off and told me they didn't want anything to do with me anymore, and I don't feel so bad. Phil told me over and over again that they were heartless people. He said they talked a lot about God's will and God's love, and they didn't have any real Christian charity in their hearts."
She sniffed. "Reminds me of a lot of people I know." Macey was local. She'd grown up in Parkerville, gone to USF in Tampa, and been hired at UbiCo as soon as she graduated. "Well, let's see," she continued, "If you give Stan the package tonight, he can't send it by mail until Monday, so it'll be the middle or end of next week before it gets to Ocala."
"It'll probably be Doug's job to do that. But you're right about the timing. And, after all, there's no rush. With their attitude toward sex, I'm kind of surprised I was ever conceived. For sure they won't have any use for dildos. Even the more functional kind. I imagine Stan will hear back from them. An explosion of some kind, most likely."
Macey tittered. "You can't see 'em building shelves in their living room to display their new collection?"
As they both laughed over that, Jeff signaled the server for their check.
It was cool that evening, so Jeff opted to wear khakis instead of the shorts Doug had suggested. As a native Floridian, he felt that grown men didn't wear shorts often after mid-October, and this was the cusp. It was only the snowbirds and the ones who'd moved there from up north who wore shorts the year around.
It was a short walk to his hosts' house, but he had a bottle of wine, and the heavy box of dildos fit awkwardly under his arm, so he decided to drive. He was still using his recently paid-off Subaru. He hadn't even thought about driving the BMW.
He put the box of dildos on the floor of the backseat and used it to wedge the wine bag upright. The Japanese sedan looked good. It was amazing how infrequently he needed to wash it in Florida compared with Illinois. He'd chosen the car for several reasons, not the least of which was the AWD, which came in handy during blizzards on the plains of Central Illinois. Who needed anything better?
Stan and Doug's house was a large, squarish frame built in the 1920's with a porch across the front, though it didn't look to be quite as big. Like Phil's, it had a separate garage in the back. Here, however, the garage was brand new. Doug and Stan had razed the original one-car garage and built a new frame two-car garage. The paint and the roof matched the house exactly. Along the lot line from street to garage was a double-wide driveway that would probably hold half a dozen cars.
In the drive was a new-looking Malibu that Jeff knew didn't belong to his hosts. Stan drove a Thunderbird from the early 2000's, and Doug had a red Ram pickup. Phil had told him Doug used to have a gray Buick sedan that Stan teasingly called "The Hearse," but that when they'd bought the house and undertook to renovate it, Doug had traded for the truck.
So there'd be at least four of them for dinner. Good! A chance to meet someone new!
As Jeff was getting the dildos and the wine out of the car, he heard the screen door open and then close. A moment later Stan was beside him.
"Here, let me help you with that."
Jeff handed him the wine. "Hey, Stan! Thanks for having me. I've been looking forward to this evening."
Stan gave him a tight, one-armed hug. "Yeah, I imagine that big old house seems pretty empty these days."
"Uh huh." He picked up the box.
"Oh," Stan said, "that's the dildos."
Jeff couldn't help grinning. "Yep."
Stan chuckled. "Come on in. There's someone I want you to meet."
Once they were in the house, Stan had Jeff put the box on a table just inside the front door. Then he called out, "Mark, Jeff's here."
Out of the kitchen stepped the best-looking man Jeff had seen in a long time. His height matched Jeff's 5'10". He had dark, curly hair, dimples, and a muscular build. His intensely blue eyes told Jeff this had to be Stan's son even before Stan said, "Jeff, this is my son Mark. Mark, Jeff."
Trying to ignore what was happening in his nether regions, Jeff put out his hand. Ignoring it, Mark enveloped him in a hug. Like father, like son . . . at least in the hug department, Jeff thought.
"Jeff, I'm sorry about your uncle. I met Phil and Buddy a couple of times, and they were really sweet. Real rôle models for gay couples. And such fun to be around!"
At that point Doug came into the entry hall from the kitchen. He was drying his hands on a towel which he then casually handed to Stan, who took it back to the kitchen while his partner greeted their guest. "Jeff, welcome." He, too, hugged Jeff. "Come on back. We're sitting on the lanai."
Jeff knew Doug and Stan had enlarged and screened in the concrete patio that had been there when they bought the house.
When everyone was seated, Doug produced red wine, though not the wine Jeff had brought because, he said, it was too good to go with something as mundane as steaks and baked potatoes.
Gesturing at his surroundings, Jeff asked, "Is this one of the projects you guys did yourselves?"
"Dougie did most of it," Stan said.
"I got some professional advice. And a lot of good suggestions from Sam at the hardware store. He knows how to do almost anything."
Stan's eyes narrowed. "You should see my Doug wearing nothing but shorts and work boots. He needs a calendar of his own."
Mark and Jeff chuckled. Doug blushed and said "Oh, pshaw." (He actually pronounced it puh-shaw.) "Stan was involved, too. He'd come home after work and take off his lawyer clothes and get dirty helping out. You know, he's sexy with smudges on his face and dirt under his fingernails."
"Please, Doug. This is my old man we're talking about!" Mark exclaimed.
Stan leaned over and swatted him on the back of the head, like Gibbs cuffing Di Nozzo. "Old man? Old man?? Watch it, pup! Just because you're a high-falutin' corporate attorney in Cincinnati doesn't mean you can diss your father!"
Mark grinned but said nothing.
Though he'd heard that Stan's son was a lawyer in Ohio, Jeff didn't know more than that about this attractive man.
"Mark, are you in Lake Wales for long?"
"'Fraid not. I had a meeting in Tampa this morning, so I thought I'd run over here and see Doug and Pops. I'm flying back home tomorrow. My husband has a gig tomorrow night."
Husband? Mark's gay? And taken? Oh, damn!
"A gig? What does he do?"
"He's a cellist with the Cincinnati Symphony."
"Cool! And you guys are married?"
"Uh huh. We went to Massachusetts as soon as it was legally possible to do so."
Stan added, "Mark thought he was straight all the way through high school, college, and law school. Was even more or less engaged to a beautiful German girl. Then they broke up and he met Casey. That's when he found he isn't. Straight, that is."
Grinning at his dad, Mark said, "Well, at least I didn't marry a woman and then discover I was gay."
"Watch it, boy. If I hadn't married your mother you wouldn't be here."
Only slightly abashed, Mark said, "Yeah, well, there is that."
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly. The supper fare, as promised, consisted of steaks and potatoes done on a gas grill in the back yard plus a salad.
Dessert was apple pie. Since it was in a Pyrex dish rather than an aluminum tin, Jeff asked if it was home made. Doug waggled his hand and said, "Mezzo-mezzo. I don't do pie crust very well, so this is Pillsbury's. But I did the filling."
Served with ice cream, it was delicious. Jeff didn't see how home-made crust could make it that much better, but then his mother had never made pie crust either. Julia Elder was no Julia Child.
They sat outside, protected from the mosquitoes by the screening, and chatted until it became too cool. Jeff enjoyed being with the three intelligent, attractive men, though he was envious of them.
I'd love to have a great partner like one of these guys, he thought, but at this point I'd happily settle for a good fuck.
When Mark yawned, apologized, and yawned again, Jeff took it as his cue to leave, knowing that Mark had a morning flight to catch out of Tampa.
He thanked his hosts, got hugs from all three men, and drove the short distance home.
As he was entering the security code for the alarm system, he thought that he was lucky to have such a fine old house, but once more he wished he weren't alone.
Jeff was sure that Phil had not driven the Auburn since Buddy's death almost exactly a year earlier. When Jeff moved in, however, Phil had shown him where the keys were kept and showed him how to start it up. He said he'd expect Jeff to start it up at least every two weeks and let it idle for a while. Jeff had tried to persuade his uncle to take it for a drive, but Phil had refused, saying that would bring back too many memories.
While going through some folders in Phil's file cabinet looking for something Stan needed, Jeff had run across a folder labeled "Agatha." He put it aside.
The morning after being at Stan and Doug's he decided it was time to start up the classic. But he wanted to go through the folder first.
He learned that James Bennett, Agatha's previous owner, had bought it at an auction in Auburn, Indiana in the early 1970's. Not long after that the vehicle had a complete restoration of the mechanical and electrical systems, but the original paint hadn't been touched at that time.
There were records in the folder of every bit of work that had been done by Bennett or by Uncle Phil. Phil had had the car repainted with its original color scheme after he'd bought the car from Bennett five years ago. The tires were new, but they were the same wide whitewall, bias-ply tires that were originally on the car. The cloth top had also been replaced with what was apparently an exact replica of the original, and the interior had been restored to its original appearance.
He learned that the car had a Lycoming straight eight engine with a supercharger. It developed 150 horsepower. Which was a lot in those days but not so much now. Still, the car was long and heavy. Built for comfort, not racing, obviously.
Jeff found a note for him from Phil saying to hang onto all of this paperwork because it was vital to authenticating the originality and provenance of the car.
All of this piqued his interest, so he went online and looked up 1935 Auburn Phaetons. He found a lot of wonderful pictures and fascinating reading. And he saw that one in less pristine condition than Phil's had sold recently for over $150,000.
When he went back through the paperwork in Phil's folder, he began totaling the initial cost and the renovations and maintenance. Phil had way over $150K in Agatha.
Now he felt an urge to go see the old dame. He carefully put all the paperwork back in the folder, returned it to the file cabinet, went downstairs and out the back door to the garage.
After disabling the security system he removed the cloth cover. And there she was, glistening in the light coming through the door. Phil had told him the cover was necessary even though the car was garaged because one should never wipe dust off the surface with a dry cloth. The Auburn was painted with the kind of paint or lacquer used on cars in the 30's, not with a modern clear coat finish. But it looked brand new.
The body of the car was a light tan with a maroon stripe under the windows and another over the running board. The canvas top was a close match to the main body color. The interior was tan leather, again matching the top and body color.
He'd also learned that phaeton was a term used in the 30's to refer to a 4-door convertible. On the Auburn the front and rear doors were hinged at a center post; thus the front doors were suicide doors (i.e. they swung backward) and the rear doors swung forward.
The headlights were the teardrop shape common at the time, but these were of blemish-free chrome. Two fog lamps were mounted on the front bumper with the period-authentic amber lenses.
The wire spoke wheels were the same maroon as the body stripes. They were enhanced by chrome hub caps and the period-correct whitewalls.
The grill was a typical upright shape in fashion at the time, but it was raked back a bit and split vertically so that each half was slanted back from the center. The hood ornament, called the mascot by those in the know, was a graceful winged female figure. The hood was very long, partly because that was a common styling element at the time, but also because the straight 8 engine was a long beast. Two rows of louvers which went down each side of the hood were painted the same maroon as the rest of the trim, but they were accented with chrome strips above and below. Two silver side pipes came out of each side of the hood and sank out of sight below the front fenders.
From his perusal of the Agatha folder earlier Jeff had learned that the car weighed almost two tons and was just over 16 feet long. He knew that many of the more expensive cars of the period were longer, but Agatha looked mighty impressive sitting there. She seemed huge compared to Jeff's Subaru, though there was only less than a foot difference in their length. The Auburn even managed to dwarf the BMW parked beside her. Perhaps it was because the older car sat up so high and seemed to have so much . . . presence.
Even though he'd done it every two weeks at Phil's behest, he was irresistibly drawn to get in and engage the starter. The engine came to life immediately. He couldn't help gunning it a couple of times, though he thought he'd been told he wasn't supposed to do that. But the deep rumble of the big eight-cylinder engine and the whine of the supercharger together were unique. His response was visceral: he could physically feel the excitement of the car. He knew that many car collectors were into muscle cars, Sam Dudek among them, but he had a lust for this car and an uncontrollable urge to drive it. He didn't put the top down because that took a while and was much easier to do with two people, but he cranked down all the windows. He drove carefully out of the garage, out the driveway, and turned right. He thought he'd make one clockwise tour on Lake Shore around Lake Polk.
It was a beautiful October morning. The humidity was low, the air cool. The wavelets on the lake sparkled in the sun. It was days like this that explained why so many tourists rented convertibles when they came to Florida, and Jeff was almost sorry he hadn't put down the top. He made a mental note to invite Macey to Lake Polk for a ride soon. He knew she'd love it.
The car attracted attention from the walkers along the lakeside path. Several of them waved at him while others just stared. When he was ¾ of the way around the lake, he passed Stan and Doug's house. Mark's rental car was gone, and there was no sign that the older men were at home. Perhaps they'd said goodbye to Mark and then gone back to bed. It didn't seem quite like them to be in bed this late on a Saturday morning, but Jeff enjoyed thinking about the two naked older studs together as he drove home.
He garaged the car and put the dust cover back over it, put down the door, and went into the house, exhilarated. He put a note on his calendar to take Agatha to the local car gathering on the last Saturday of October which, he noted, was only a week away.
He watched Florida State, his alma mater, play football on television that afternoon. He thought about going out for supper but realized it was Saturday, the snowbirds were back, and he'd probably have to wait for a table. So he microwaved turkey tetrazzini and drank a glass of pinot grigio with it.
After his meal he watched a college football game from the West Coast but couldn't really get into it because he didn't care about either of the teams involved.
Finally, discouraged and lonely, he shut off the TV and went upstairs. As he climbed, he thought of Phil's collection of dildos. Surely those were artifacts, not something for use. But he wondered . . . .
Sure enough, he found a collection of usable dildos and butt plugs in the bottom drawer of the nightstand beside Phil's (and Buddy's) bed.
He knew his uncle to be concerned about hygiene, but he wasn't tempted to use any of them. He put them in a plastic grocery store bag and took them to the garage and put them in the garbage, hoping Etta wouldn't find them.
Now that the place was his, he supposed he should move into the master bedroom. But that still seemed like Phil and Buddy's territory, so he thought he'd continue to sleep where he'd been sleeping since moving in six months ago. At least for a while.
His mind went back to the image of Doug and Stan in bed together. Without a dildo of his own, he made do with lube and his fingers, as he had so often in the past.
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