Mike and Danny: Forever
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.
Randy had a sore on his butt. He couldn't sit down much, and it even bothered him when he bent over, which he did a lot of working on the calving shed roof. The darn thing had come out of nowhere, and after two days Slim had finally commented, "You're walkin' around like something bit you in the ass."
"Goddam feels that way," Randy said, and when they got back to the bunkhouse that night, Slim offered to take a look at it.
After giving it some thought, Randy pulled down his wranglers and turned around, lifting his shirt tail.
"Can't see much in this light," Slim said. "My eyesight's been goin'." And he had Randy side-step over to a lamp that glowed from a table in one corner of the room. He took off the shade and then held the lamp close enough for Randy to feel the heat from the bulb on his skin.
"Lean over some more," Slim told him, squatting now behind him, his hand resting in the small of Randy's back to steady himself.
If he bent over any farther, Randy thought, the old guy would be looking right up his asshole.
"Kinda nasty bugger," Slim said. "Looks like it's just gettin' ready to puss up."
At that point George walked in from the barn, stomping his boots first on the wood planks outside, then opening the door.
"What we got here?" he said, surprised.
"Have a look at this sucker," Slim said. "This cowboy's got himself one helluva wen here on his backside."
George pulled off his coat and hat and then went around Randy for a look.
"That's not a wen, it's a boil," he said.
"Whatever you wanna call it," Randy said, "any idea what to do with it?" He was getting impatient and wanting to pull up his jeans, but Slim's hand was still there on his back, holding him down now as the two men consulted behind him.
"Hot brick in a towel, I'm thinkin'," Slim was saying. "The heat will draw it out."
"Onion," said George, who knew his Indian remedies from growing up on the reservation. "Garlic if we had it."
Randy began wondering if the two of them were just making fun of him. They'd teased him before when he'd moved into the bunkhouse with them. There were the warnings about spiders that would crawl into his bedroll at night and nest in any warm place they could find – his armpits or his dick hair.
And there was a story George told one windy night as the bunkhouse door rattled, about a cowhand, in the days before indoor plumbing, who'd gone to the outhouse in the dead of night and never come back. They'd found his body the next morning, still sitting inside, his hair turned white and a look of amazement on his face like he'd had a terrible fright. Then for years, after lights out, they'd sometimes hear the bunkhouse door rattling for no reason, like someone was trying to get in to warn them of something. No cowboy'd ever had the nerve to get up and find out.
It was just a ghost story, Randy told himself, passed down to scarify any new guy. Just the same, it didn't matter even knowing a story was made up. Waking to any strange noise in the middle of the night, you'd think of it and get the shivers anyway.
"You about done back there?" Randy said. "My nuts are takin' a chill."
They let him pull up his pants then and decided, since they didn't have bricks or onions handy, to heat water on the stove and apply hot compresses. If he wasn't willing to try that, Slim told him, he could wait until it got good and infected, started running a fever, and they'd rush him to the hospital in Ogallala.
"Guess I'll try the hot compresses," Randy said.
George put a basin of water on the stove and went to the bathroom for towels. Slim told him to get his boots off and to lie belly-down on his cot. And when the first hot towel was wrung out and ready, Slim pulled down the back of Randy's jeans and put the damp compress on his butt cheek.
The heat at first was a sharp shock, and he flinched like he'd been stung. Then the soothing warmth seeped into him, and he sighed with the beginnings of relief. As the towel cooled, George brought another.
It was not a situation he ever expected to be in with the two men. They had not been able to disguise their discomfort when he moved in with them. Without saying so, they'd let it be known that he was an intruder. Randy sensed a closeness between them that seemed to come from knowing one another and working together for a long time. It revealed itself not so much in what they said to each other, but in the silences they shared.
He'd wanted them to warm up to him, but he'd begun to doubt that it would ever happen. Now, suddenly, they were looking after him with a kind of tender caring. He almost had to laugh that it was their concern over a boil on his ass that had done that. He hoped they'd find a way to take an interest in the rest of him.
The two men worked together, not speaking. And Randy became aware of Slim's hand again, this time gently touching his shirt where it lay against his naked hip. He'd lain this way before, someone on the edge of the bed stroking his back, his butt, and the backs of his legs. The someone, of course, was Wallace, the man he thought he'd be spending the rest of his life with.
He sighed, his face turned against the pillow on his cot.
"Startin' to feel better?" Slim said.
Randy had tried hard to forget about Wallace. It was all he could do to make the feelings go away. He'd gotten used to being separated from Wallace when it was just a matter of time until he'd come back to Nevada and they'd be together again. A man can wait years if he does it one day at a time.
But forever was a long time to wait, and being on his own for the rest of his life was not a prospect he could accept without feeling sadder than he could possibly bear. He had a heart, after all, and his heart had already begun yearning for someone, anyone, to take Wallace's place.
Out here in the middle of the Nebraska Sandhills, the rolling grassland under the big windswept sky was beautiful and filled him with the sweet solitude of open spaces. But without a companion, a man could get real lonesomeso lonesome, like the song went, he could die.
He'd taken a liking to Chad, and the few nights they'd spent together while Don was away with his family for Thanksgiving, he'd tried to get the young cowboy to feel the same way about him. But nothing he tried had worked.
Chad would let him massage his feet as they sat in front of the fire, and he hadn't objected when Randy worked from his feet right up to his crotch, but he hadn't got as far as sharing the same bed. It was like Chad was saving himself for somebody else and would stay loyal to whoever it was, no matter what. There was no getting past that wall of resistance.
Randy knew about love, but not that kind of love. When Wallace had been gone from Nevada for less than a month, Randy had gone to a rodeo. It was just a pumpkin roller out in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of trucks pulled up around a dusty corral and cowboys from local ranches riding some bad ponies and wrestling steersin between drinking beer and getting into fights.
There'd been a weather-beaten cowboy all by himself, leaning on the fence and watching the riders, his levi's and boots so worn they weren't good for anything but throwing away. Smoking a roll-yer-own and holding a beer can between two fingers, he'd pulled his sweat-stained hat down so far on his forehead he was just peering out from under it.
His eyes, almost screwed shut in a snarl of sunburned wrinkles, shone black in the shadow of his hat brim. Long-legged and thin as a rail, he could have been twice Randy's age. It was impossible to tell.
"Hidy," he said, those eyes darting toward him and away again. And they'd talked for a whileif you could call it thatjust a handful of words at a time, with silences between as they watched one bronc rider after another fly out of the chute and get bucked off into the dirt.
After one of the rides, the cowboy tipped back his head to finish his beer and then turned and walked away. In a minute he was back with two more beers, one for himself and one for Randy. It was cold and wet. It must have come from an ice chest in one of the pickups parked behind them.
"Thanks, pardner," Randy said, popping the top.
The cowboy shrugged a little and leaned again against the fence.
They'd spent the rest of the afternoon like that, drinking beer and not saying much, but keeping each other's company and stepping off together behind a stock trailer, when the time came, to pee in the sand and weeds. And Randy had got a look at the long cock that fell from the cowboy's fly as he unbuttoned his levi's. He'd been talking, his cigarette in the corner of his mouth, and he hadn't turned away to piss, unconcerned whether Randy watched him or not.
As the sun angled down into the hazy western sky, a wind came up and began whipping the dust around. A last few bullriders came out of the chutes, and then the small crowd had started to break up. The two men waited until most of the trucks had headed off toward the road, and then got into the cab of the cowboy's pickup, where he took that long cock out of his jeans again and Randy bent down to suck him.
There hadn't been a word spoken about it. It just happened, like it had been decided long beforewhen he'd brought Randy that first beer.
Afterward, watching the cowboy's pickup driving away, the taste of salty cum in Randy's mouth, he felt his own hard cock between his legs, and when he climbed into the cab of his truck, he pressed both hands into himself until he came.
He sat there then, his warm cum soaking into his jeans, as the sun sank behind a bank of clouds that swelled over a ridge of low mountains. He hadn't thought of Wallace all day until that moment, and with a mixture of feelings he couldn't say were either good or bad, he let himself consider what if anything he'd ever tell Wallace about it.
And he decided there was nothing to tell. There were some things that were a man's own business. It would no doubt happen again. Anyway, what did it matter? It didn't change his feelings for Wallace. He still loved the man.
A sharp gust of wind blew dust against the windshield, and he realized that the last trucks with their loaded stock trailers were driving off, their headlights shining in the growing dusk. He started his pickup and followed them.
Don put on his hat and coat and went outside into the December night. The sky overhead was full of brilliant stars, the ground frozen under his feet as he walked to the bunkhouse, where a light glowed in the window. There was the smell of wood smoke on the air from the bunkhouse stove.
He knocked on the door and then stepped inside, where he found the three cowboys gathered at one of the beds. Between Slim and George, he could see Randy's naked butt sticking out of the back of his jeans.
"What's going on?" he said.
"Got ourselves a little medical emergency," Slim said.
"Somebody get hurt?"
"Just a wen in a bad place," Slim said.
"A boil," George said.
"Let's see it," Don said.
"It's not that bad, sir," Randy said, like he'd reached the limits of humiliation.
"Aw," Don said, when Slim lifted the towel for him to see. It looked bad enough. "He gonna be all right?"
"Soon as it drains itself," Slim said. "Shouldn't take long."
"I don't want him going back to work till that starts to heal up."
"Really, sir, it's not that bad," Randy kept saying.
"Slim," Don said, "make sure he does what I say."
"I come down here to tell you all something," Don said. "I'm leavin' for a few days. Slim, as usual, will be in charge."
Besides feeding hay and cake to the cows, who now needed their increasing attention as the winter deepened and they got closer to calving season, there were the pens they'd been repairing in the calving shed and the boiler on the water heater.
"If the weather holds, Randy can finish that roof job when he's up to it again," he said.
"We'll get 'er all done," Slim said.
"I know I can count on you boys. Anybody got any questions?"
"When are you leaving?" Slim said.
"Crack of dawn."
And he explained that Chad would be taking him to the airport in North Platte. On Chad's way back to the ranch, he'd be stopping at the clinic to let the doctor look at his ankle. "If the doc says it's OK, he can start helping you out. But make sure he stays off any roofs, I don't care what he thinks he can do."
And he walked back out into the night to return to the house, where he'd been putting some clothes in a canvas carry bag to take with him. He'd already got his best hat out of the box where he kept it in his closet, and he'd polished up his best black boots.
After searching through all his drawers, he'd found a leather string tie with a silver medallion clasp. It would go real nice with a new shirt, white with a flower print over the shoulders, still pinned and folded around tissue paper. He wanted to look good when he got where he was going.
Of course, the men hadn't asked where that was. If it was on ranch business, he would have told them. Since he didn't say, they'd understand it was personal and not for them to know.
After the trials and tribulations of Thanksgiving, he'd returned to the ranch with such an empty feelingwhich he experienced as the worst need for a good fuck he could rememberthat he'd made up his mind to fly to Arizona to meet up with Glory, the doctor's wife who'd helped him get through many a summer night in the backseat of her car.
He'd done some asking around on the sly and finally learned her last name. By the slimmest chance, a man he'd struck up a conversation with at the hotel bar in Hyannis had turned out to be someone who'd been her brother-in-lawuntil a bitter divorce he was still recovering fromand he was happy telling Don all he wanted to know. Don had then made some calls to Tucson, where she spent the winters. In three calls, he found himself suddenly talking to her.
He'd instantly recognized her sultry voice. "Glory?" he said, and there was a long pause while she may have been deciding whether to hang up. But she hadn't.
"Who is this?" she'd asked.
"You know damn well who it is," he said. "I can't wait till next summer to see you again."
She'd tried to persuade him not to come, but she hadn't been convincing. By then his dick had made up his mind for him anyway. It was hard as a cedar fence post in his thermal underwear.
Chad woke in the morning darkness. Don was at his bedroom door saying, "Time to roll out."
He sat up in bed and reached for his wranglers, slipping his foot with the bum ankle into one leg first and then the other. Then he stood to pull them up. There was a chill in the room, and the jeans were cold against his skin.
He didn't need the crutches anymore, and he was able to wear boots on both feet, but he had followed the doctor's orders and did nothing that would keep him from healing up good, which meant doing nothing but hang around indoors most of the time, and doing nothing was surely the hardest thing in the world for him to do.
He'd kept near the stove in the kitchen for days reading through Don's collection of Louis L'Amour books until they all started sounding alike. He'd wondered if in fact he hadn't been reading the same ones over.
As a boy he'd been pretty good at drawing pictures, and he took a pencil and some paper one day and drew what he saw outside the windowsthe barns and corrals, the figure of Randy putting a new roof on the calving shed, and in the distance the ridge line of hills with a scattering of Don's cows around a windmill.
There'd be dinner at noon when the cowboys came in to sit around the table for a half hour and wolf down hot stew or thick ham and cheese sandwiches with bowls of soup, usually saying little, though Slim would always have a word or two for him. And there was Randy, who liked to joke, just to break up the silences, until Slim one day had observed in his old cowboy wayand to no one in particular –that a man should never miss an opportunity to just keep quiet. That had ended the jokes.
What got him through the days was knowing that Don would be there with him in the eveningsthat and the fact that Don had given him a job to do, answering the phone and taking calls from people interested in his Charolais operation. Chad would take down names and phone numbers on a piece of tablet paper and have them ready for Don whenever he came to the house.
It felt good being useful, and Don would smile and thank him, calling people back and then talking with him for a while after he'd hung up, like Chad was somehow a partner in his business. He loved those times, listening as Don spoke, watching his eyes, warm and often pleased, and the expressions on his faceespecially his smile.
It was something of a routine they'd gotten into. So it was a surprise when Don suddenly told Chad he'd decided to leave the ranch for a few daysand he'd be going first thing the next morning.
Chad hobbled now through the darkened rooms of the house to the kitchen where Don, already in his coat and hat, sat at his roll-top desk. He was taking money from a cash box and putting it into three envelopes. He scribbled something on the front of each and then sealed them with quick licks of his tongue.
"Here's the men's pay for the month," he said. "You can make sure they get it." He rolled shut the desk and put the envelopes under a brass steer that always sat on top of it, its head turned and seeming to stare across the room.
Then he stood up, still holding a handful of bills. He peeled off several of them, which he folded and handed to Chad, while he shoved the rest into the front pocket of his jeans.
"That's yours. There's a little bonus in there for Christmas."
"Sir, you don't owe me anything."
"Take it," Don said, like he was about to get impatient if Chad didn't. So he took the money and while Don headed for the door, he hurried to put on his hat and coat.
Don seemed to be in an anxious mood as they drove in the early dawn light from the ranch and along the dirt road that led to the highway. The pickup shuddered over stretches of washboard, but he didn't slow down. When they got to the highway, he kept going right through the stop sign, and quickly put his boot down on the gas pedal. Soon they were rolling along over the speed limit.
Sitting close to Don, while the rangeland glided by the windows, gave Chad a feeling of growing excitement. From the corner of his eye, he watched Don's broad hands in a pair of leather gloves on the steering wheel, and from under his tan duck coat, there were his long legs angled apart.
He let himself imagine the two of them on the road like this forever, always in each other's company, maybe having adventures like Roy Rogers and one of his pals. He'd had daydreams like this when he was a boy no more than twelve, being best friends with a handsome young cowboybut old enough to drive a cartraveling in the West, on Route 66, over mountains and across deserts, solving mysteries, rescuing people in trouble, and catching men who broke the law.
They would have horses, too, because they would need them sometimes to chase outlaws over rugged terrain. And the horsesGeronimo and Busterwould be riding along in a horse trailer behind them as they sped across the western landscape under the western sky. He'd spent slow afternoons in grade school drawing pictures of his cowboy friend and their car and their horses.
Riding with Don like this, it was almost like that. Especially as Don drove on in silence, absorbed by his determination to get wherever he was going, as fast as the truck would let him. Chad could allow his thoughts to take whatever shape they wanted and avoid remembering that Don would be getting on a plane and leaving him behind. He'd still have Don's truck anyway, and before long he'd be sitting where Don was now, his hands on the same steering wheel, proud to have earned Don's trust like this.
At the little airfield in North Platte, Don stopped at the curb in front of the terminal's entrance and they both got out.
"I'll be calling you when I need a ride back to the ranch," he said to Chad, tugging on his hat brim in the cold wind. "Thanks, buddy," he said and slapped him on the shoulder, the leather glove smacking against the arm of his denim jacket. And then he hurried to the building and disappeared inside.
Chad went around the truck and got in. Don had left it running, but Chad sat there for a moment, his hands on the steering wheel, holding the memory of Don's hand on his shoulder and letting the feel of it radiate through his body. "Buddy," he'd called him, and the word was like a small and precious gift.
When the clinic opened, he was waiting at the front door to see the doctor. He lied a little about his ankle when he said it wasn't sore, even when the doctor held his naked foot in his hand and turned it this way and that. Problem was, when he pressed around the ankle, the doctor felt him flinch, and he couldn't get away without more advice about keeping off it as much as possible.
"Trouble with you cowboys," he'd told Chad, "you think you're tougher than everybody else. And you're not."
Back at the ranch, it was already late morning, and before long Slim came into the house to cook up some dinner. There was leftover roast beef from last night's supper, and he fried up some potatoes to go with it. He put a loaf of bread on the table as George was coming in. Randy was right behind him, and the four of them sat down to eat, none of them saying a word. Then leaving Chad to do cleanup, they left one after another and the house was even more silent than before.
Setting the last washed dish to dry in the rack, Chad wandered around the house until he found himself outside the door of Don's bedroom, which stood half open. Inside, Chad could see that Don had left his bed unmade, the covers lying back just as he'd thrown them when he got up.
Chad slowly walked into the room and went to the bed, bending to put his hand on the wrinkled sheet where Don had slept, smoothing it out. Then he reached for the pillow, flattened where Don's head had left a rounded hollow, lifting it to his face to breathe deeply, taking in the smell of him.
At his feet were a pair of Don's work jeans that he'd stepped out of the night before. Next to them was his sweatshirt and, inside it, a red flannel shirthe'd pulled them off together when he'd got undressed. Chad now sat on the edge of the bed and picked up Don's clothes. He held them for a while in his arms, touching the denim, a frayed cuff, and the broken threads where a button was missing on a sleeve.
"Buddy," he said softly.
Continued . . .
© 2009 Rock Lane Cooper