Mike and Danny: Restless Hearts
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.
Rich and Ty leave for Phoenix; Ed gets a big idea; an old friend shows up to see Virgil.
Mike had work to do around the place that morning, and he was out in the shop with the Farmall cleaning the carburetor and putting in new gaskets. Rusty was keeping him company, lying on a piece of old carpet left over from putting down wall-to-wall in the TV room, and the eaves under the shed roof were noisy with the chatter of sparrows.
Mike was keeping an eye on the house for when Rich and Ty came out to get on the motorcycle and start their trip to Phoenix. Meanwhile, he had mixed feelings about this whole thing. It seemed like the idea to leave had hit Rich very suddenly. He'd simply become very restless one day and the next he was talking about wanting to get going before the cold weather set in.
The decision had seemed to take Ty by surprise, too. He got very quiet when Rich broke the news and looked like he hadn't yet got used to the idea.
Mike didn't come out and say so, but he had his doubts from the start. Rich had come a long way from when he first showed up at the farm, burned out and kind of shell shocked, but Mike wondered if he was really ready to make his way back into the world.
And Ty was not much more than a kid. He had a big, generous heart, but looking after Rich all on his ownwhich he did with the patience of no ordinary manwas surely expecting too much of him.
Besides, he had his own future to sort out. The life he'd planned forfinishing seminary and becoming a ministerhad been taken away from him. And, as he'd explained once to Mike, there was still his family in Iowa who wanted him back.
"I don't know about this," he'd told Danny as the two of them lay together in bed. "There's a world of things wrong with it."
Danny had just pulled off his clothes and crawled naked under the covers to stretch himself out next to Mike. He'd pressed against Mike and put his arm across his chest to tuck one hand into his armpit for a moment and then stroke slowly down his side. Eventually that hand would find its way under the elastic of Mike's boxers and search until it found his cock.
"Sounds to me like he's made his mind up," Danny said and sighed.
They were talking quietly so their voices would not carry to the back bedroom where Rich and Ty had gone to bed a half hour before and could still be awake.
"He's rushing things. There's no reason he couldn't just stay here." Mike turned his head to Danny and reached to touch his face. "I don't care if him and Ty stay all winter. Do you?"
"It would be nice having the place here all to ourselves."
"Well, yeah," Mike said and patted Danny's cheek. "There's that."
Then he kissed Danny and hugged him. And feeling Danny's bare chest against him, he felt a surge of hungry desire that rolled through his body. It had been another long week since the two of them had made love.
"I don't like worrying about them," Mike said.
"And you might be worried about nothing," Danny said, and he'd already found Mike's cock, growing hard there in his hand.
The next morning, though, in the cold light of day, Mike's misgivings were strong as ever. He couldn't shake the feeling that if there was any way to keep it from happening, he should be doing it.
He'd thought of persuading Ty to stay behind until Rich had actually got himself settled in Phoenix. But that wouldn't have been fair to either of them. They needed each other.
Finally he realized that it was out of his handsand maybe not even his business. They were two grown men, and a man has to find his own way. He may be wrong, but even wrong, he knows best what he wants. You have to let him make his own mistakes.
Mike didn't like this, but that's the way it was, like it or not.
He looked out through the shop window when he heard voices from the house and saw Rich and Ty walking from the side porch out to the bike. They were already climbing on as Mike came walking across the place to them. Danny stood in the open porch door, watching.
Rich was in his leathers, and Ty had on a bright red wool jacket Mike had given him. He'd worn it when he used to go pheasant hunting with Don, but that was years ago, and it had wound up in the back of a closet.
Before Rich put on his gloves, he shook Mike's hand and said, "Thank you, I owe you for everything." And Ty, getting off the bike, put his arms around Mike and held him fiercely, hardly able to speak.
"You two be careful, you hear?" Mike said.
"Let us know when you get there," Danny called out from the porch step, where he stood in his stocking feet.
Rich nodded at both of them and kick-started the bike. Ty settled in behind him and slipped on his Easy Rider helmet, and they were already moving as Rich walked the bike backward a few steps and then headed it toward the driveway. He gave them a last big wave with one gloved hand and with a roar they were off.
And Mike stood watching them go, following the bike with his eyes until it disappeared beyond the cottonwoods that grew where the road crossed a slough. He wondered, as he often did at times like this, whether he would see either of them again. The world was so full of mischance and turns of fate.
He looked over to find Danny, but Danny had gone back into the house. He'd left Mike to have this moment alone.
Ed lay in bed under the blankets, his big bulk of a body spread out to occupy all of it. Ted had got up with almost the first light to make himself coffee and then get to his paints. He worked only by the sunlight pouring in through the windows on these autumn dayswhich were swiftly growing shorter.
"It's the colors," he explained to Ed, who had wondered why he never worked at night. "Artificial light screws 'em up."
Ed had been surprised how much labor actually goes into painting. After all, how many painters had he known in his forty yearsnone. He had always taken pictures on the wall for granted. What were they? Just decoration. Now he knew better.
Ted was hard at work now finishing twenty of them for a show in Omaha. It was his first big deal, and he was dead set on making it a success, selling as many canvases as there were people to buy them and "getting on someone's radar," he liked to say. Someone with enough connections to get his work out there where he'd get the attention of the collectors with the big money.
Ed had been a salesman most of his lifehe'd got his start selling cigarettes to the other kids in junior high, until a vice principal had caught him and put him on detention. After that he'd been more careful and never got caught again. It was no use giving up a talent he obviously had for being a middle man.
Although he'd dabbled in more serious traffickinglike alcohol from his dad's supply, hidden from a strict Baptist spouse in a disused storm cellar, and marijuana, which grew wild in a far corner of the pasture on his grandfather's farmhe'd seldom taken money in exchange for these. He just enjoyed the guilty pleasure of indulging in something forbidden with a few of his closest friends.
And the guiltier the better. Along with smoking the shriveled leaves he'd harvested from the marijuana weedswhich mostly just gave him and his buddies a headache, though they tried their best to believe they were highthere was, when they got in the mood for it, the fun of a good circle jerk.
That experience had taught him the importance of figuring out from prospective buyers what they really wanted. And it wasn't just the boots or saddles or carshe'd worked for a while at a Cadillac dealership in San Antonioit was the warmth of his personality, the sly jokes and winks, and, let's be honest, the size of the bulge in the front of his pants. It was all flirtation and seduction. It didn't matter if it was a man or a woman. The car or the saddle or the boots were a substitute for having sex with him.
Knowing that what Ted needed was a good salesman for his paintings, Ed had puzzled over how he might put his skills to use for him. But this turned out to be more of a challenge than he'd figured on. What made someone willing to write a four-figure check for just a picture of something to hang on a wall? He didn't know.
So he'd taken to simply sitting in a creaky wooden chair with his feet up on a crate, watching Ted, trying to concentrate on what he was doing. Ted would stand at the easel for hours, maybe playing some of his records on an old portable stereo, floppy shirt sleeves rolled up to the elbows, his slim hips and long legs in his paint-smeared jeans.
Ed realized he had never taken the time to get to know another man so thoroughly before. Until now, there had been no need for it. He was always on the road anyway andface itit suited him to be constantly on the move.
For a while, he'd satisfy himself with a cup of coffee, watching the unfolding mystery of a painting as it slowly materialized. Then it wasn't long before he'd become aware of Ted himself, his butt there in the back of his jeans, the crease along the seam between his back pockets pressing against him this way and now that as he shifted from one foot to the other. Who'd have guessed a painter could be such a handsome man and so damn good in bed.
Ed could get hard just letting his eyes wander across Ted's backside until he finally had to get up and walk over to him, and with his big hands stroke his shoulders and his butt, caressing the inside of his thighs, then slipping his fingers between his legs to feel the body heat there in his crotch. Finally, both hands on Ted's firm stomach, he would press into him grinding his hard-on against him from behind.
But Ted would often keep on working, saying, "Hey," and just that and no morelike nothing was going to interrupt him.
Somehow a lot of days had passed like this. Ed had got to sleeping later and later in the mornings, and the sex every night had taken the edge off his usual nervous energy. For the most part, he'd grown calm, mellow, relaxed, and he couldn't remember why he used to be always rushing around.
This, of course, would last until the sun went down, and all the way through supper he felt a growing urge to get Ted out of those paint-smeared jeans and back into bed again. Like as not, the supper dishes would get left on the table, Ed grinning and growling, "My turn. I wanna fuck you now."
Then in something like a fever pitch, they would roll and wrestle together in the sheets and have sex until they were both exhausted, finally round about midnight falling asleep as they lay there against each other.
It was the best of all possible worlds. So Ed would often think, as he settled his head into his pillow and enjoyed the last seconds of consciousness before drifting off to dreamland.
Finally one morningthis morningit dawned on him. He got out of bed and walked naked to the big empty room where Ted was working. He was layering paint on a large canvas that Ed had recognized as a picture of Mike's farm. The colors were all high summer, and the sky sang with a vibrant blue.
"I figured it out," Ed said.
"You figured what out?"
"It's you that's for sale."
"What are you talking about?"
Ed pointed to the finished paintings lined up along the wall. "Every one of these has your name on it, down there in the corner. When someone buys one of these, it's not the painting they're buying. It's you."
He grinned with the satisfaction of having finally figured this out. And he explained his philosophy of salesmanship, that what buyers want is sex with you, and they're willing to pay for the next best thingwhatever you're selling.
Ted kept on painting. "Your brains are between your legs, you know that?"
Ed reached down with one hand to cover his cock. "I'm serious," he said.
"I believe you are," Ted laughed.
"I wanna sell your paintings," Ed said. "I wanna sell you."
"I dunno," Ted said and shook his head.
"Don't you think I can do it?"
Ted kept busy with his brush. "I'm a little confused. Are you talking about selling me or selling yourself?"
"It doesn't matter. I just know it'll work."
He stood there absently stroking himself now, his brain already buzzing with ideas. He'd go looking for his old customersthe ones with Texas oil money who used to pay cash for big cars and expensive saddles. They'd bought big houses, too, and all of those houses had big walls that needed pictures. With his usual charm he'd get them reaching for their checkbooks.
And the moment he had the thought, he knew he'd been itching to be on the road again.
"I'm going into town," he said. "Something I need to get."
"Don't forget to put your pants on."
Ed hardly heard him. He was already thinking about how soon he could get himself to Texas.
When Marty finally got up, he had stopped wondering where Virgil was. He'd fallen asleep the night before watching an old movie on the new TV. Now the Saturday morning cartoons were on.
The high-pitched voices and noisy racket were enough to give a man a headache. Marty crawled to the foot of the bed and switched it off. Then he lay there, listening to the silence in the apartment and remembering the night before.
They were in the middle of a pizza, sitting on the bed in their underwear and watching "The Friday Night Movie" when they heard a commotion on the stairs outside their door. It was the landlady from upstairs telling someone in her loud, friendly way, "Just go on down and knock on the door. They're home."
"You invite somebody over?" Virgil said.
"Hell, no. Musta been you."
"Never told anybody I live here."
There was now knocking on the door and more encouragement from their landlady. "I know they're home," she kept saying.
"You gonna go see who it is?" Marty said.
Virgil got up without answering and walked out of the room, pulling on a pair of jeans as he went.
It had turned out to be an old friend of Virgil's. Marty had listened from the bedroom but couldn't make out much of the conversation over the volume of the TV. It just sounded sort of serious.
After a while Virgil had come back for his shirt and shoes and, while he put them on, explained that he and his frienda guy named Brian who he played ball withwere going out for a beer. There was something they needed to talk about.
And Virgil had never come back.
"Fuck him," Marty said to himself as he lay there the next morning. And he got up to go to the bathroom, where he turned on the shower and took a long pee in the toilet while the water got hot.
Soaping his armpits and his crotch and using Virgil's shampoo to wash his hair, he let himself think about nothing for a while, the steamy spray drumming onto his head and prickling his skin. And he stood for a long time letting it fall straight into his face.
It wasn't like he always needed to know where Virgil was or what he'd been doing all night with his friend. But if it had been Marty, he would have done something different. He just wasn't sure what. After all, what were the rules for two guys who lived and slept and had sex with each other? He didn't know.
What he did know was that waking up alone in this empty apartment didn't feel so good. It was too much like all those years of being always on his own and having no one to share his life withand not even knowing why he was often so unhappy. Finally he turned the water off and stepped out, reaching for a towel.
Then it came to him that they were more than just buddies. Virgil had invaded his heart, and he needed to know that Virgil felt the same way about him. Forever was a long time, but he wanted to think they'd always be around for each other.
Feeling close to Virgil like this had not happened all at once. For a whilea couple of weeks at least it felt like he had no feelings at all, nothing to give in return for Virgil's affection, which seemed to grow deeper every day.
Meanwhile, he doubted that Virgil meant half of what he was saying. It seemed so unlikely that someone else could want him the way Virgil said he did, could never seem to tire of him, could spend every waking hour of a day with him and then cuddle together with him all nightstill there in the morning with a smile for him.
Except for this morning.
And by the size and shape of Virgil's absence, which Marty felt somewhere deep inside, between his heart and his gut, he began to wonder if maybe he'd let himself fall way too far in love.
He had surrendered to it the night he moved into the apartment. Lying there together in the dark, he had let Virgil enter him for the first time. It had been a strange, difficult experience that felt so awkward it seemed unnatural.
He had held himself tense for a long time, Virgil soothing and stroking his body, talking to him gently, while the discomfort brought tears to Marty's eyes. Try as hard as he might, he couldn't get himself to calm down and just let it happen.
Finally they were lying on their sides, his knees almost to his chest and Virgil behind him, hugging the two of them tightly together. He could feel Virgil's whiskery cheek against the back of his neck and, below, the stiff pressure of his erection slowly working its way into him.
"Do you want me to stop?" Virgil asked him more than once, and Marty kept saying no. But not because he was enjoying it. He simply didn't want to disappoint Virgil.
"Maybe some other night," Virgil said.
"No," Marty said, "I want you to."
That partthe wantingwas true. He just couldn't make it happen.
"I'm gonna stop," Virgil said after a while, with a kindness in his voice that could only have come from more love and patience than Marty had ever known in another man.
Marty gripped the hand Virgil was holding against his chest before he could pull away.
"No," Marty said. "Please." He wanted Virgil to stay inside him, pressed naked against him like this. And as he shifted his weight, pushing back against Virgil, the movement brought him a stab of pleasure he hadn't expected.
"Ahhh," Virgil had cried out. It was a quick gasp of surprise. His body went rigid, and one of his legs made a jerking move on the bed sheet. "Ahh-hh," he said again, his voice rising sharply.
Marty knew from the many times it had happened already that Virgil was coming, and as it always did, a wave of tenderness passed through him for his new friend. Only this time it was a surge of feeling that included each of them. Like they were being held warm and secure in the loving arms of something greater than both of them had ever known before.
He wasn't much of a believer, but at that moment he could have sworn they had been meant to find each other and be together like this. And he wanted the feeling to never stop.
He took the towel now and wiped the steam off the bathroom mirror, then he wrapped the towel around him and ran a comb through his short hair. There was still the taste of sex in his mouth, from the night before, and he got out his toothbrush to brush his teeth.
In the bedroom, he picked up the pizza box that had spent the night on Virgil's side of the bed, and he took a bite out of a cold, stiff slice as he put on his levi's and a sweatshirt.
He was in the kitchen, searching for a coke in the refrigerator, when he heard footsteps coming along the driveway outside the window, and he looked up to see the bottom of Virgil's jeans and his sneakers pass by. Soon there was a rumbling sound as he came thundering in his usual way down the stairs.
"Mornin'," he said as he walked through the door. "You'll never believe what happened."
"That guy Brian last night? We used to be roommates." Virgil stood there in his denim jacket and, eying the open pizza box now on the kitchen table, reached into it to take the last piece.
"What's the matter with him? He looked kinda worried."
"Oh, he thinks he's in deep shit," Virgil said around a mouthful of pizza. Then he came around the table to where Marty was standing. "Hey, pardner," he said and gave him a big kiss.
"Is he?" Marty said, "In deep shit?"
"He's been shacked up with his girlfriend. She wants to get married. He doesn't."
Marty shrugged. "Time comes, you gotta pay the piper," he said. It was something his father would have said, and realizing that gave Marty a funny feeling. Turning out like his father was the last thing he wanted to happen.
"She's got him going because he doesn't always use a rubber, and she thinks she's missed a period." Virgil laughed. "Poor sucker."
"You don't sound too sorry for the guy."
"Yeah, well, I do and I don't." Virgil had his head in the refrigerator now. "We got any more coke?"
"I got the last one."
"Gonna have to be beer then," Virgil said and stuffed the last of the pizza into his mouth before reaching in for one.
"So what's he gonna do, your friend?" Marty asked.
"Says he's moved out." Virgil pulled a chair away from the kitchen table and sat down. "I coulda told him being queer has its advantages. A queer guy doesn't have to worry about stuff like that." And he laughed.
Marty walked around to him and straddling the chair sat on Virgil's lap.
"I shoulda called when it started turning into an all-nighter with him," Virgil said. "Did you miss me?"
"What do you think?"
"I hope you did," Virgil said and set the bottle on the table. He leaned up to Marty's face and gave him a wet and beery kiss. "I was sure wishin' the whole time I was here with you."
Marty put his arms around Virgil's shoulders, and the two of them sat together for a while not talking.
"Funny," Virgil said. "I used to feel the same way about him. I'd have given anything to have him hold me the way you're holding me now."
Marty sat back to look Virgil in the face.
"But he decided he didn't want anything to do with me anymore," Virgil said. "Now he wants to be friends again." He reached for the beer and took another drink. "Ain't it something how things turn out."
Continued . . .
© 2007 Rock Lane Cooper