Mike and Danny: Brad's Story
Note that these stories, including this one, are not an endorsement of unsafe sex. They take place many years before the appearance of AIDS and before it was standard practice to use condoms to reduce the risk of infection from sexually transmitted diseases. Remember always: that was then, this is now. Sex is precious, and so are life and health.
"Your dog gonna be OK?" Elmer wanted to know. "It'll be cold out there in the garage tonight."
"He'll be all right," Brad said and went to let Wellington have a last run in the backyard.
He could see his breath on the night air as he stepped outside. Beyond the back fence the hillside glimmered softly in the lights from the city, and overhead the night sky was deep and silent with starlight.
His thoughts filled with boyhood nights growing up in this city that would always be part of him. Yet in the years that he had been away, he'd become a stranger here. And with his parents moved to San Diego, there was not even his old house to come home to. Here with Elmer, it was a strange and unexpected homecoming.
The two of them had sat together on the sofa holding each other and not talking. He could not say which of them had begun the nuzzling and kissing. All he remembered was the feel of Elmer's rough face against his cheek and wanting to put his lips to the warm hollow inside the man's shirt collar.
They had then leaned back into the pillows on the sofa, Elmer pressing their bodies together with his strong arm folded around Brad. And the first deep kiss had made Brad's head swim.
After a while, Elmer had pulled away a little, and when Brad opened his eyes, he found the man looking down at him with a faint smile.
"I shouldn't be doing this," Elmer said. "You got yourself some troubles, and this isn't what you came here for. I don't want to be some guy taking advantage."
Brad reached to him, touching the side of his face. It may have been the whisky coursing through his brain and his bloodstream, but all he was aware of now was the tenderness he felt for the manand the hard-on trying to make room for itself in his underwear.
Then Brad recalled how it had all started. He'd put out his hand to comfort a grieving man, and before long he'd happily let it turn into this. "Guess I could say the same," he said.
The concerned look in Elmer's eyes softened. "I'd be lying, though, if I said I didn't want you the minute you walked in here today."
Brad, so wrapped up in himself, had not noticed.
"I gotta confess," Elmer said, grinning now. "I liked you way back when you caddied for me at the golf course. You had the nicest backside. I wanted to make all kind of love to you, but being friends with your dad and all," he paused, like there was no need to finish the sentence.
"I had no idea."
"Good. You weren't supposed to." Elmer sat back, letting his hand rest on Brad's leg. "Max knew about me, and I was always afraid he would let on to you." He glanced down at his hand now, his fingers curling into a firm grip around Brad's thigh. "I learned that I could trust him then. And he's never let me down that way."
Brad put his hand on Elmer's. "I wish I'd known."
Elmer shook his head. "It's better this way."
Then Brad had tried to tell him how if he'd only understood more about himself back then, his whole life could have turned out differently. He wouldn't be in this dilemma, looking at divorce and separating from his family.
Elmer had stopped him before he could finish. Life wasn't like that, he tried to tell him. Everyone gets his share of wrong turns and dead ends, he said, and life was supposed to be about learning from them.
"Makes you a better man," he said.
Brad wasn't so sure. He'd wanted to laugh and say, bullshit, but he didn't.
"Anyway," Elmer said, "in a different life, you'd be somewhere else with somebody else tonight instead of here with me, and I wouldn't get this chance to ask you what I'm about to ask you."
"Could you bring yourself to spend the night in bed with an old man?"
"Depends," Brad said, squeezing Elmer's hand, which was still on his thigh. "If that man was you, wild horses couldn't drag me away."
When he'd got Wellington bedded down for the night, bringing in the blanket from the backseat of his car for him to sleep on in his box, he went back inside the house. There he found Max and Clayton in the kitchen with plates of leftovers.
An afternoon of sex had apparently given them an appetite. Max was starting on a drumstick, holding it with both hands. Clayton was giving himself a helping of mashed potatoes. Elmer stood leaning in the doorway, holding his whisky glass and watching them. The sound of a Mozart piano concerto drifted in from the living room.
"You stayin' the night?" Max said when he saw Brad.
Brad looked over at Elmer. "Looks that way."
Max gave him a wink, like he'd been expecting this. "What about you?" he said, looking at Clayton.
"You stayin' the night?"
Clayton looked up from his plate, with a confused grin. "I thought so."
"Full house then," Max said. "That's what I like about Christmas. No room at the inn."
They ate for a while in silence, with just the sound of their forks on the china.
Clayton ate with an arm on the table, like he was protecting his plate. He was young, maybe twenty-five, his blond hair falling in his face. His thin body, as Brad remembered it from the hot tub, almost swam in the long-sleeved plaid shirt he was wearingno doubt another purchase from Goodwill.
"What's your story, Clayton?" Elmer said.
When Clayton didn't seem to know how to answer the question, Max said, "He means, tell us about yourself."
"I dunno," Clayton said and paused, like he wasn't used to anybody taking an interest in him.
"Country boy, I guess you'd call me," he said. "Grew up between home in Greeley and my grandad's ranch." He'd never known much but riding horses and looking after cattle.
"You like it here in Albuquerque?" Elmer asked him.
"Yeah, but." He seemed unsure about what he was going to say next. "Big city and all. Everybody in a hurry. Nobody knows you. Gets lonely sometimes, I guess."
"Thinkin' about goin' back?" Max said, talking around a mouthful of turkey.
"Dunno." He frowned, studying his mashed potatoes. "Ain't too welcome back there anymore. Guess I'm kinda stuck in between."
"You get yourself into some trouble?" Max said, like the two of them had spent the whole afternoon together without exchanging a word about anything like this.
Clayton looked around at all of them, and Brad realized that he must feel even more a stranger than himself. Sitting here in a big, rambling house, with a hot tub on the back deck and Mozart on the stereo, and three men who knew he was queer and seemed to like him anyway, a country boy like Clayton would probably feel like he'd fetched up in Oz.
"My granddad's selling the ranch. I don't mean enough to him to leave it to me," he said. "Anyway, he needs the money and he's too proud to take the social security. Godamighty, you oughtta hear him carry on about the government. They don't come like him much anymore."
"You got other folks?" Max said, helping himself to a spoon of cranberry sauce.
Clayton shrugged. "Just my brother now, and he's got himself a job here in Albuquerque."
There were ten years between him and his brother, he explained. They'd never been too close. His brother had been married, but him and his wife had split up. Never did do much but fight anyway. He'd got a job at UPS and found himself a girlfriend. He was doing OK now.
"Problem is, his girlfriend don't like me much. I was there a week, but I had to move out."
"Found any work?" Elmer asked him.
"Just day labor. Nobody's hiring now. Least not anything I can do. Worked a week cleaning up construction sites for a guy, me and a bunch of Mexicans, but he took off somewhere. Just disappeared. Anyway, we didn't get paid."
"Where've you been sleeping?" Elmer said.
"Shelter mostly. It ain't been too bad."
Elmer shook his head. "Anybody else in town know you besides your brother?"
"Couple guys, I guess. Nobody really."
"You know me," Max said.
Clayton looked at him, like Max might be joking. Then he looked up at Elmer, who was studying him with what seemed to be a smile.
"You got any stuff?" Max said. "Where's your stuff?"
"Got a suitcase at my brother's," Clayton said, "and some work clothes and my toothbrush in a locker at the bus station. I can wash up there if I need to in the men's room."
"Max?" Elmer said.
"You'll look after him, right?"
"I didn't come here lookin' for handouts," Clayton said.
"I understand, son, and Max will take you back to the shelter if that's what you want. But you need to know you're welcome to stay the night."
Clayton swallowed hard and blinked his eyes a couple times.
Elmer glanced over at Brad and turned to leave. Brad followed him.
"I don't think he's used to that much generosity," Brad said quietly when he caught up with Elmer.
Elmer put his arm around Brad's neck and pulled the two of them together as they walked down the hallway to his bedroom. "There's not enough generosity in the world for people to get used to it," he said.
Inside his bedroom, Elmer switched on a light and closed the door. He put both arms around Brad now and held him close. There was so much strength in his body, and Brad let himself be crushed in a bear hug.
When Elmer released him, he felt the man's hands slip down to grab his butt.
"You still got a nice backside," he said. "I may just imagine I'm making love to that cute boy who used to caddie for me." He chuckled and began unbuttoning Brad's shirt. "Not that I've never done that before."
The lovemaking had been fevered and intense. After Elmer had undressed him and got out of his own clothes, they wrestled for a while on the bed, laughing, until Brad found himself in a headlock between Elmer's strong thighs.
Laughing, he'd offered with his tongue at that point to lick Elmer's balls. This released him from the headlock for a moment until Elmer grabbed both sides of his head and guided his mouth to his cock, which was stiff and full by now and soon shoved to the back of his throat.
Elmer's desire for him had been powerful. He'd taken him from behind, as they lay on their sides, pulling one knee up to his chest and pushing his hard, warm cock between his legs, gliding back and forth along his butt crack, their bodies locked together.
He'd had to surrender finally, letting himself be fucked with a kind of fierceness that surprised him, Elmer's whiskery chin pressed into the back of his neck, and then his open mouth and teeth planted against his shoulder. He'd never been taken like this, and each thrust, bringing him almost but not quite to the threshold of pain, was a jolt of whirling dark pleasure. He wanted it to stop; he wanted it to go on much longer.
They'd taken a long, steamy, hot shower together in Elmer's bathroom then, and Elmer had massaged him with his big hands, stopping now and then to kiss him tenderly and deeply, finally setting him down on a seat at one end of the big tub and bending to suck his cock. At Elmer's first touch, Brad felt his legs go limp, and he held the man's buzzcut head between the palms of his hands until he came.
They'd got into bathrobes afterward, Elmer going to the kitchen for thick pieces of pecan pie, which they ate sitting cross-legged on the bed, not saying much for a while. Then there'd been a knock on the door. It was Max.
"Can we come through so we can go out to the hot tub?" he wanted to know.
When Elmer said yes, the door opened, and Max and Clayton came in. There was a grin on Max's face, and he stopped at the foot of the bed. "Well, ain't this just the merriest Christmas," he said. "Looks like Santa got everybody what they wanted."
Elmer smiled back at him. "Just don't come back in this way," he said. "Go around through the garage."
"I get the idea," Max said and winked. "We don't want to interrupt anything."
"Some of us like to sleep," Elmer said.
"Not us," Max said, taking Clayton by the elbow and heading for the deck. "C'mon, boy, let's get wet."
Elmer took the plates back to the kitchen, and when he returned Brad was already in bed. He watched as the man took off the bathrobe and reached to switch off the light. In the first moments of darkness, the image of him lingered in his visionhis broad chest and flat belly lightly covered with graying hair, and a thatch of it over his thick cock. He was a handsome man.
He'd got into bed then, and Brad felt his hand slide across his chest, fingertips softly touching one nipple.
"Good night," he whispered.
And then Elmer sighed and went to sleep.
When Brad woke up the next morning, he found everyone gone except Clayton, who was watching a big color TV, which stood in a corner of the living room next to the Christmas tree. There was news on about bombing in North Vietnam.
"Those commies are gonna know what's what now," Clayton said.
Clayton had not seemed like someone who followed the news.
"Dropping bombs on Christmas doesn't seem much like peace on earth to me," Brad said.
"Maybe there'll be some now."
"We sure as hell could use it," Brad said and went to the kitchen to pour himself a cup of coffee. There was a plate of cinnamon rolls on the counter and he took one.
"Where is everybody?" he called out to Clayton.
"Max went to work. Elmer had something he had to do."
"They left you here all by yourself?"
He'd been licking sugary icing from his fingers when he looked up and saw Clayton standing in the kitchen doorway.
"I'm not all by myself. I'm here with you," he said. "Elmer said to say he left something for you on the refrigerator."
Brad looked and found a folded piece of yellow paper under a magnet of the Grand Canyon.
"I can tell you what it says. He wants to know if you can give me a ride over to my brother's so I can pick up my suitcase."
"So you're moving in?"
"Just till I can get a job and get my own place."
Brad unfolded the note and read it. It said nothing else besides what Clayton had already told him.
"How about you?" Clayton said. "You movin' in?"
"Not planning on it. I think maybe Elmer and Max like having this house to themselves."
"When I get a place, you can move in with me."
Brad took a good look at Clayton and wondered what he was thinking.
"I like you," Clayton said. "I think we could get along together."
Clayton had apparently been doing a lot of thinking. He had it all figured out that Brad was going to be needing a place now that he was leaving his wife and family. Divorce and child support were going to cost him, and working as a college teacher, he probably didn't have a lot of money.
The two of them could split the rent, share the groceries and the other bills, and buy any furniture they needed. They could live like Max and Elmer. There'd even be room for the dog.
"How do you know all this about me?" Brad said.
"Max. I asked him."
"Didn't Max tell you where I work is in Santa Fe?"
"It's not that far."
Brad wondered what Clayton would consider far.
"It's a nice idea," Brad said, not believing it for a minute but thinking he should say so anyway.
"It's a great idea."
"But maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves a little?"
Clayton got a yearning look like he needed a hope to cling to and was trying hard not to be discouraged.
"I was just thinking, we're both on our own," he said. "We could kind of take care of each other."
He was always getting homesick, he explained, but he had no home to go to. There was nobody waiting for him to show up at the end of the day, not even a friend. Nobody in the world happy to see him when he walked through the door.
He hadn't really taken to Max when they met. He could tell Max was more a taker than a giver, but being alone on Christmas day was worse than anything he knew he could ever bear. He'd considered Max's offer that morning at the soup kitchen and finally decided to hitch a ride out to the house where he lived, knowing it meant there'd be a day's and maybe a night's company, probably in exchange for a little sex. He could do worse.
He had a grandmother who once persuaded him that everything happened for a reason. He'd tried to make that belief account for every misfortune in his short life, but given his luck, the belief was growing a little thin. Then when he saw Brad that first time in the hot tub, he felt the old belief surge back to life again. Something about him made Clayton feel that he'd found the man he'd come all this way to meet.
His grandmother had also been a believer in love at first sight. Of course, she'd been reassuring him that some day his eyes would fall on the girl who would be his wife, and he'd know it instantly.
That advice had never panned out either. It didn't help him find even a real girlfriend, just one after another who never got his heart racing enough to keep up his interest, and they'd given up on him, finally sensingand sensing correctlythat he'd given up on them.
What he kept wanting, he realized, was someone older and wiser to smile on him and show him the way to some kind of happiness. He'd gone on elk hunting trips with a cowboy he knew from working on his grandfather's ranch, and he'd hung on the man's every word as he coached him in shooting his rifle and field dressing the game they shot.
He loved the man's independence, his self-reliance, his way with horses, and his skill with rope and tools. He had an ancient Ford pickup that he kept running good as new though the odometer had rolled over at least once, maybe twice. And most important, he seemed to like Clayton.
But he was content with the distance between them, never touching him with warmth, keeping to his side of the tent they slept in at night. When Clayton finally admitted to himself that he ached to reach across to the man as he lay there in his sleeping bag, and knowing that he would sooner break his own arm than do it, he'd begun to feel that love at first sight was never going to happen for him.
Not unless it was another man.
And he began realizing that it was happening to him all the time. A man in a hardware store, a truck driver, a delivery man, a man in a bar, a man in a magazine ad for levi'salways someone as far beyond his reach as that cowboy in the tent. No man would want him, not even for a friend, once they knew he'd fallen in love with them.
What he knew of queer men had happened unexpectedly with a guy in an old van covered with bumper stickers, who'd picked him up once hitchhiking. He was a beefy man with a big grin, a wild beard and a crazy streak in him a mile wide.
They'd stopped in a rest area with grass and picnic tables under the trees, and the guy had leaned across the seat and said, "I'm gonna give that dick of yours a tongue bath." And he'd gone down on him as Clayton held his gaze on what lay beyond the windshield, watching a table of tourists not twenty feet away eating sandwiches and drinking iced tea out of a big Coleman cooler.
"It wasn't what I'd been expecting for my first time," Clayton said. "I just sat there hanging on to the seat for dear life, just praying that nobody could see what was going on." His eyes were open wide with what must have been the look on his face when it happened.
"How old were you then?" Brad said.
"Not much more'n nineteen."
"And what's it been like for you since then?"
There was that frightened pause again, like the one from the night before when he realized somebody was actually listening to him.
"Not so good. I got beat up once at a drive-in movie. Some guy in the men's room didn't like the way I was looking at him." Clayton stood there, his face an expression of fear and confusion. "Honest, I couldn't help myself. I'd been drinkin' and I was so lonesome that night." It had been in the middle of the second feature, and when he'd gone to take a leak, there'd been this guy who didn't seem to be in a hurry to get back to the movie either.
"Need some company?" he'd said before he could stop himself. He'd thought they might go back to his car and even just talk, if that was all it was going to be. Maybe more. There was that tongue-bath line he'd use if he thought the guy was interested.
"I think he just didn't like me," he said sorrowfully. "Anyway, I went home with a fat lip and a loose tooth that night."
"Have you ever loved somebody who loved you back?" Brad said.
Clayton thought for a while, then shook his head. "No, not really."
"Not even close."
"And you think I might be the one?"
"I'm not drunk, and I am not asking you about a tongue bath. I just want so bad for you to like me. It would mean the world to me if you did."
"Clayton, I don't have much experience at this either, but I'm not the kind of person who agrees with your grandmother. I don't believe everything happens for a reason. And I don't put much stock in love at first sight. I'm a little unsure about love itself these days."
"Is it Elmer? You like him more'n me?"
"It's not Elmer."
"Then it was something bad happened to you?"
"I was in love with another man," Brad explained. "It was real love, I'm pretty sure." And he told Clayton about Craig and how he'd thought the two of them could have a life together, but it wasn't working out that way.
His own sorrow rose in him again as he told the story, and he saw it reflected in Clayton's face, who was living it all over again with him. He wondered if he'd ever known a man so unable to resist being swept up in another man's feelings.
"I don't know what I'm doing," Brad told him. "I may be a lot older than you, but I sure am not wiser."
And he wondered at the ironies of the human heart, that the desire of one man could be so poorly matched with the desires of another.
Continued . . .
© 2010 Rock Lane Cooper