Mike and Danny: Dog Days
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.
Ed was gone. He'd rolled out of bed that morning, sometime after the dew had burned off the grass, looked for his clothes where he'd dropped them out by the pool the night before, and poured himself a cup of coffee from Mike's percolator before he got dressed. Ted had found him in the kitchen, sitting in his underwear, staring into the middle distance like he was trying to make up his mind about something.
It wasn't about whether he was leaving. That much Ed seemed to have already decided. It was which direction he'd be taking out of town. From Grand Island, there were highways going east, south, north, and westeven northwest. Such variety apparently required some thoughtful consideration.
"You just got here," Ted said.
"Never like to wear out my welcome," Ed said, grinning as he eyed Ted's naked frame standing there in the morning light.
"Little chance of that." Ted pulled a mug from a cupboard and poured coffee for himself.
"I dunno," Ed said, like he was about to make an apology, but he stopped with that.
"You hardly let a man get a chance to know youeven a little."
Ed laughed into his cup before he finished it off. "Less a man knows about me the better, I figure."
"No, it ain't. Ask fellers had a chance to get familiar, and they'll tell ya. I'm nothing to write home about."
Ted leaned against the counter top and held the warm mug against his chest. The air in the room was still cool on his skin, as the doors and windows had been left open all night.
"You'd like another man to think that about you, for some reason, but I don't, and I doubt I ever would."
"I ain't saying you haven't been good company," Ed said, putting down his cup on the kitchen table and reaching for his shirt. "I just never been able to stay put in one place very long."
"Reckon you can keep that up? A man can outgrow all that roaming around."
Ed looked at him hard now. "You think I'm gettin' too old?"
Ted sensed this was a sore spot. "Wouldn't matter to me none."
"Tell you what. A man starts slowin' down, there's always somebody ready with a shovel and sizing him up for a hole in the ground." He shook his head. "No, a man saddles up and rides off into the sunset, if he knows what's good for him."
Ted laughed. "You've seen too many westerns."
"Maybe so," Ed said buttoning his shirt. "But ain't much has changed."
"Don't you ever get lonesome?"
Ed stood and started putting on his pants. "Hell, yes. But a man makes his choices and then he lives with them."
"Doesn't have to be like that."
Ed looked down, concentrating on tucking his shirt into his pants, the bulge of his balls resting in the zipper of his open fly. "I'm not a one-man kind of guy. Never have been," he said, like he didn't want Ted getting any ideasif he wasn't entertaining them already.
"I wasn't thinking about you and me, if that's what you're wondering," Ted said.
"Then who was you thinkin' of?"
"Nobody in particular." Ted brought the warm mug down now to press into his belly. "I'm just sayin', you might be surprised what it's like having a friendly soul to come home to at the end of the day."
"I pretty much get laid as often as I need it," Ed said, like Ted had some doubt about that.
"You know that's not what I'm talking about."
"What else is there?" Ted laughed, sucked in his gut, and pulled up his zipper. Then he sat down again to put on his boots.
Ted lifted the mug to his chin and drank from it now, the hot taste of coffee filling his mouth, the steam warming his nose, his cheeks, his eyes. Over the rim of the mug, he watched as Ed got up to go.
"Guess I won't be seeing you again," Ted said.
"Aw, you never know." Ed said and laughed. "I have a way of showin' up when you least expect. Like a bad penny."
"Had more'n my fair share of those."
Ed had turned toward the door and stopped, looking back over his shoulder. "Aw, fuck it anyway," he said and came around the table to lock Ted in a bear hug. Ted had just had time to set the coffee mug on the counter before Ed's chest was crushed against him.
He thought Ed was going to say something, but he didn't. Just held him hard for a moment, slapped him on the back, and then pulled away. In a minute he was out the door, and Ted could hear the engine turning over on the Cadillac. In another minute Ed was gone.
After a while, Ted walked onto the side porch and glanced out over the fields, where a plume of dust rose in the distance behind a tractor pulling a hay rakeMike hard at work.
Ted's clothes from yesterday were hanging from an aluminum lawn chair that had tipped over in the grass. He bent to pick them up and just stood there, closing his eyes to let the morning sun warm his face. Then he got himself dressed.
The jeans were stiff against his skin, the rivets in the back pockets little darts of cold on his butt as he zipped up the front. After the hours of being naked with Ed, his body felt constricted in clothes, his balls and his cock pressed into his crotch, the fabric of the shirt pulling across his shoulders.
Even stranger was the feel of putting on shoes. Tying the laces, he felt the weight of the thick soles, binding him to the earth. The lightness of being barefoot and naked in the morning light, the memory of a night with another man still lingeringall of it lifted from him and was gone. He was back in the real world again.
A brief moment of sadness passed through him. And then he thought of the sketchbooks in his car and the empty canvases waiting for him in the old farmhouse he was renting, the paints and the brushes. Finally the excitement of wrestling the images in his mind into shapes and forms that would hold the gaze of other peopleinterested buyers he hopedbegan to rise in him, and he felt the urge to be gone, too.
He walked back into the house, thinking of one last cup of coffee before hitting the road, and as he came through the door, he saw the figure of the young seminary student Ty standing in the middle of the kitchen in his underwear and looking bewildered.
"Morning," Ted said. He'd almost forgotten about the guy, lying there in the bed beside him when he woke up, his head buried between two pillows.
"Where's Mike?" he said.
"Out in the field."
Ty scratched one ear. "I know I went to sleep on the couch. How did I get in the bed?"
"That was Ed's idea."
"I slept with you guys?"
A worried look now crossed Ty's face, like he was trying to remember something and couldn't.
"Nothing happened," Ted said. "You said a couple things in your sleep, but you never woke up."
Which was mostly true. Ed, when he got in on his side of the bed, had got curious and pulled down the front of Ty's shorts to see his dick.
"Look at it. Ain't that just a beauty," he'd said. It lay in a soft, fat curve over his balls, the down on them still new. Then Ed bent over the young man and blew gently along the length of his cock, until it began to stir.
"You ask me, that's a gift from the Almighty himself." He blew some more. "Shame to let such a fine thing go to waste."
He lifted Ty's undershirt and touched his bare chest now, where there were a few short hairs visible against his fair skin, and lightly stroked downward with his finger tips to his belly button. Ty's cock expanded a little more.
"Make a boy believe it's wrong to put that to good use and have his heart's desire," he said, a touch of anger creeping into his voice. "They oughtta string up the bastards who talk crap like that."
He bent down again, and Ted thought he was going to start sucking Ty, but instead he placed one small, brief kiss on the end of his cock.
After most of a day and night of rough and ready sex with Ed, the tenderness of his concern for Ty was a surprise. It was like some other person had emerged from inside the big-shouldered, gruff-voiced, unshaven man, with his thick coat of hair from chest to crotch.
Ty's cock had given another start and swung against his leg.
"I'd like to be there when he has his first time," Ed said, smiling.
"And not with some stranger in the dark," Ted said.
"Even that would be OK," Ed said.
Ty stirred and mumbled something, talking to someone in his sleep. His cock now lifted onto his thigh, stretching longer.
Ed grinned, watching. "I think we started something," he whispered.
They said nothing more for a while as Ty's cock inched higher, finally coming to a stop, straight and hard over his belly.
"Must be a good dream," Ed said, grinning.
But a frown had come over Ty's face, and when he spoke again, his voice seemed to ache with regret.
"Good or bad," Ted said, concerned now. "I don't think he should wake up and find us gawking at him."
Ed considered this for a moment. "Yeah, might fuck him up," he finally said. "Knowing him."
He carefully pulled up Ty's shorts as far as they would go, the elastic still short of the end of his cock, which gave out another little spasm.
Ty moaned now in his sleep, his eyes squeezing tighter shut, and his mouth opening over clenched teeth.
"Hell," Ed said. "That boy's gonna pop."
A dollop of milky cum spilled out from the end of his cock, and then more sprang from him glancing up along his belly toward his chest.
"Oops," Ed said, grinning now, and he pulled down Ty's undershirt, covering it all even while there was more still coming. The room filled with the rich oatmeal smell of it.
Ed inhaled and sighed. "Nothing on earth like it." He looked long at Ty's face, now relaxing as he sank into deeper sleep. "When's the last time you had a wet dream," he said, without looking away.
"Couldn't tell you."
"Dog years for me."
Ed finally reached to the lamp beside him and switched it off. He chuckled. "Doubt if there'll be one for me tonight either."
They lay there in the pitch dark without moving, Ty pressed between them.
Ed gave out a mighty yawn, then sighed again and said, "All fucked and tuckered out. And that's what I call a perfect day." The room was utterly dark now, and as Ted closed his eyes, he could hear Ed breathing, already drifting off to sleep.
Standing there now in the bright light of the summer morning, Ty was all confusion and dismay. His hair stuck up in twisted spikes, and his undershirt clung to him, pasted against his skin with patches of dried cum. He had a stricken look, Ted thought, like the kind you see in western movies, when a man gets trapped in quicksand or bitten by a rattlesnake.
"I was going to have another coffee," Ted said, walking over to the percolator. "It's still warm. You want some?"
Ty didn't respond. His eyes were on the copy of his bible that lay on the kitchen table where it had been left the night before. He may have been thinking of the page Ed had torn from it.
His hand then fell on the front of his undershirt, and for the first time he seemed to realize the condition it was in. He looked down at himself blankly.
Ted poured a coffee for Ty and handed it to him. "You don't look so good, my friend. You gonna be all right?"
After a moment, Ty took the coffee. "Yeah," he said, softly. "I'll be fine." But he didn't look so sure.
"Tell you what," Ted said. "Good hot shower might do you a world of good. Always works for me."
Ty shook his head, but turned with the cup of coffee and walked to the bathroom, like all he needed was someone telling him what to do next.
"Towels are there in the cupboard in the hall," Ted said after him. "Should be one or two left from yesterday." He and Ed had helped themselves each time they came inside from the pool.
Ty got a towel, stepped into the bathroom, and shut the door behind him. Ted heard the bolt lock sliding into place, and after a long pause there was the sound of the shower being turned on.
He'd need a change of underwear, Ted thought, and he went into Mike and Danny's room, where he opened the top drawer of Mike's dresser and took out a neatly folded tee shirt and a pair of boxers. In another drawer, he found a pair of socks carefully rolled together.
He marveled at Mike's sense of order. On the dresser top, there was a handful of coins, divided into little stacks of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. A framed picture of Danny stood at a calculated angle next to a smooth wooden box. When he glanced inside it, Ted found cuff links, an old-fashioned silver tie clip, a brass belt buckle, and a collection of shirt buttons.
He looked at Danny's dresser now, a jumble of paperback books piled on it, a birthday card propped against them, a stack of old letters, a bottle of English Leather and a tall can of Right Guard, magazines with dog-eared covers, a couple of neckties hanging from the drawer handles. A still life of clutter almost spilling over the edges and onto the floor.
They were an odd couple, Mike and Danny, and perfect for each other.
On the wall beside Danny's dresser hung the painting Ted had made of him long ago, when he was a college boy, his body still lean and youthful, his cock full and upright, looking for all the world like a big old hard-on.
Danny had been nearly as innocent that day as Ty was now. The shock, surprise, and pleasure when Ted had given him a blow job, and those brief moments when it all happened, were now a memory that always made Ted smile.
It had been Danny's first time and an opening to what Danny had never known about himself, discovering what he could mean to another man who liked him enough to embrace him naked and suck on his cockthat beautiful cock in the paintinguntil he came.
Ted walked back to the kitchen and set the underwear and socks on the table. The boxers were on top, and he patted them there for a moment, thinking this was as close to Mike as he would ever get. Mike was that one man in a million who would stay utterly true and faithful to another man. It was a part of his sense of order. This is what you do; this is how it is.
Ted had expected to finish his coffee now and be on his way. But he became aware again of the sound of the shower coming from the bathroom, and of the young man there, soaped and surely rinsed clean by now, but trying still to wash away the trouble he was in, the guilt of being what his religion would not let him behimself.
Waiting somewhere for Ty was his own first time. And when and how would that happen? For Ty's sake, it needed to be someone truly loving and gentle. And what were the chances of that? Pretty slim. There he was, stuck on the other side of the river, with no one to ferry him safely across.
Whether he knew it or not, when Ty discovered Mike, he had found the right kind of man. But Mike, dammit, was too good to be true. He'd never be unfaithful to Danny, not even for a good cause.
Ted put the empty coffee cup in the sink, thinking he should be heading home. He looked out through the kitchen window where the warm sun beat down on the hard packed dirt that stretched from the house yard gate to the barn. He could see Rusty snoozing in the shade of the wild rose bush that grew beside the fuel shed.
He thought of Ed for a moment, on the road and miles away by now, his old Cadillac cruising down the highway at some speed over the limit. And he let himself think of Ed's broad, hairy body, his grin, and the thrust of his hips against him as they had sex.
And then he remembered the curious tenderness he'd shown when Ty lay asleep between them. Ed could well have brought Ty across the river in his big unsinkable boat, landing him safe and sound on the other side.
But then there was the problem of Ed's disappearing just when you got to know him. If you get to half-like him, as Ted had found out, he's already hitting the road, trying to shake free of you. Rather be lonesome than tied down. That would be no good for Ty either.
Which left Ted.
And there was no way he would take on that responsibilityso he told himself. He had work to do, a living to make, a place he needed to find for himself as a painter, and the paintings would not paint themselves. They needed his whole soul and body if they were going to be any good.
It wouldn't be easy like Dannylike showing someone how to uncork a bottle of wine. You do it once and they've got it.
Thanks to all his years trying to live by the Good Book, Ty was so knee-deep in guilt that he'd take a long, long time to get the hang of it. He might never get it right. And all that while he'd be looking to Ted for help.
Or, and this was the possibility that was more likely, Ted could find himself falling in love with the young manlike he'd done with Bobby, the college boy Danny had brought to his houseand then getting dropped like last year's Sears catalog as soon as someone new and younger came along.
Once Bobby had got his eye on Mike's nephew Kirk, there had been nothing but trouble, and after two days with Kirk in the house Bobby had flown the coop. The two of them had disappeared together, hitchhiking in the frozen days after a blizzard and getting all the way to California with a long-haul trucker.
Bobby had missed two weeks of classes by the time he got back to college. His dad, a minister in Scottsbluff, had gone out to retrieve him. And whenever they saw each other on campus, Bobby made a point of avoiding him. He never told Ted he was sorry.
It had taken Ted a month or more to pull himself back together after that, amazed that someone he'd not even known a few weeks before had managed to tear his heart out and leave him – well, like some poor bastard up to his armpits in quicksand, or bitten in the ass by a rattlesnake. After that, he'd promised himself not to get mixed up with young first-timers again. They weren't worth the trouble.
The sound of water in the pipes suddenly stopped as the shower was turned off. Ted waited until Ty emerged from the bathroom to say goodbye before leaving.
"Borrowed you some underwear from Mike," he called out when he heard the door open.
Ty came into the kitchen and stood there, his wet hair neatly combed, the bath towel wrapped firmly around him. Ted pointed to the underwear on the table.
"Those are Mike's?" Ty said.
"Yeah, he won't care."
Ty fingered the boxers like they were made of silkor spun from gold.
"He's got some polka dot ones and at least one with little red hearts," Ted said. "I just thought you'd prefer plain white."
Ty pulled his hand back. "Thanks," he said.
With a sudden sense of irony, Ted realized that the shoe was suddenly on the other foot. He was making a hasty exit just like Ed. He might as well have said, "Aw fuck it anyway," for he walked around the table and took Ty in his arms, hugging him tightly.
He held him for a while, waiting for the young man to hug him back, to relax in the honest warmth of his embrace. But he didn't. It either embarrassed him to be held this way wearing just a towel, or he felt nothing at all for Ted.
Or he was just lost there in his own troublesbeyond Ted's reach.
That night, Ted flipped through his sketchbooks one last time and started framing canvases, thinking of nothing in particular, just letting his imagination play with the colors and images that came into his head. He'd set some LPs on the record player, with Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" on the top, so when he flipped over the stack, he would hear the other side first thing.
The night was moonless, warm and still. He'd opened all the windowsthose with screens in themwhen he got home and changed into a pair of gym shorts, walking from room to room barefoot with a bottle of cold beer as he let the past two days slip from him and concentrated on what he was about to do next.
Around midnight, he stepped onto the back porch for a while, the sound of a Stan Getz bossa nova drifting softly from inside. Overhead, he glimpsed the shadowy form of an owl against the starlit sky, its wings beating against the air as it hovered there, hunting for something in the grass and weeds of the nearby field.
A pole light shone from a farm a mile away, and he felt the open distances spread out into the warm darkness around him. Without thinking, he slipped one hand into his shorts to tuck his fingers around his balls, the end of his cock pressed into his palm. With the other hand, he raised the bottle of beer he'd been drinking to his mouth.
Don't you ever get lonesome, he'd asked Ed that morning.
Ed had given him some bullshit answer, and he hadn't bothered asking Ted the same question in return.
If he had, Ted would have answered truthfully. When I'm not painting, yes. For damn sure. And sometimes even when I'm trying to paint. Like right now.
The only thing keeping him awake he knew, and it would do so until dawn, was the empty bed waiting for him in the bedroom. He may as well have never known about sexnever crossing the riverbecause the loneliness that comes with knowing it is no different from the loneliness of not knowing.
Someone's farm dog barked in the distance. Another barked back from farther away.
He could hear a car approaching on the gravel road that ran past the end of his driveway, coming from the direction of town. Town kids out late at night, he thought, looking for a place to park and drink or get laid. Or some farmer coming home from a night job at the poultry plantor from somewhere he shouldn't have been at all.
The darkness at this hour always made him think of lovers in tangled bedsheets or back seats of cars or on blankets in open fieldsthe night alive with fucking. It made his own desire rise, and he could feel it now, his cock stirring in his hand. He would have to masturbate if he was going to sleep at all tonight.
The car continued along the road and seemed to slow down. He waited for the sound of a teenager with a baseball bat, taking a drive-by swing at his mailbox. This happened a couple times a year at least, a favorite high school prank.
When the car stopped and then pulled into the driveway, he was puzzled. Probably somebody lost in the endless, dark tract of the Nebraska night, looking for some place they can't find and seeing his house lights still onunlike his farmer neighbors early to bed and early to risehoping to get directions from him.
He crossed back through the house, setting his empty beer bottle into the case of empties in the kitchen. He took a moment to pull on a tee shirt, and then walked to the front porch where he switched on the light over the door as the car pulled to a stop outside.
"That you, Ted?" a voice called from the car as the driver got out. In the dim light from the porch, it looked like a Cadillac.
"Yeah. Who's that?"
"Sonofabitch, I been up and down these goddam roads looking all over for you." When a figure emerged from the shadows, it was Ed. "I was damn near ready to give up."
He came through the gate and walked straight for Ted, slamming his body against him and crushing him in a bear hug.
"I got almost all the way to Topeka, and I couldn't stop thinking of you. So I turned around and came back," he was saying.
"How did you find me?"
"Mike. He told me where you live," Ed said, pulling back to look in Ted's face. "He just gives shit for directions." Then he took a deep breath and kissed Ted long and hard.
"I don't believe this," Ted finally said.
"Neither the fuck do I," Ed laughed. "Now pull down those shorts and let me put a smile on your face."
Continued . . .
© 2006 Rock Lane Cooper