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.
Mike takes the day off; Ed has an encounter on the road; Ty looks after Owen; Marty gets a phone call; and Kirk reflects on his life.
There were at least a hundred perfect ways to have sex with Danny. This time, like all those others, had been just fine and made Mike feel all over again that he was one helluva lucky man.
He had lain there on top of Danny, whose legs were hooked around his shoulders, while he pushed in as deep as he could go, bending down, his mouth open and tongue pressed into Danny's mouth and moaning as he came, hips thrusting with each burst of cum.
When he was done and awareness of the present moment slowly returned to him, he heard the sound of the rain slap against the bedroom windowand this was almost better yethe knew that with the weather too wet for fieldwork, he had no reason to get out of bed. There was time and world enough to go on lying naked here with Danny for as long as he wanted, letting the good feelings linger. And now that the aching desire for sex was released, they ran like a pulse through his arms and his chest, warming his heart and soul.
When the words "I love you, Danny" came to him in the heat of passion, they meant something elsea hunger that yearned for the feel and taste of skin and muscle and the blinding urgency of his hard-on wanting to be enveloped tight inside Danny's body. Now they came from a gentle wash of tenderness he could feel all the way from his fingertips down to his toes.
"I love you, Danny," he said softly, still lying on top of him and looking down into his smiling eyes.
If anyone had asked him, he would say of each part of having sex that it was the bestfrom the first touch to this sweet aftergloweach while it happened filling him with a pleasure he could hardly put into words. In fact, he'd have said there weren't words to say just what he was feeling.
Danny, the writer, might be able to, but for Mike most words were intruders. They took up room in his brain when what his whole body craved was not thought at all but holding to him with all his strength the one person who made him feel so alive and happy that nothing else mattered.
He might during other times of the day, working alone in the fieldlike these days in autumn, riding the big harvester and making endless rounds as it cut down the stalks of corn, separated the ears from the dry leaves and stalks, and then shelled the kernels from the cobshe might give thought to the many concerns that were part of running a farm.
There was the bank loan that helped pay for that harvester, the unpredictable weather, wondering how many bushels he would get to the acre and the rising and falling price of corn, and what the balance sheet would look like at the end of the year. Money ahead or deeper in debt.
All these concerns could make a man feel unsure about almost everythingincluding himself. While he didn't wear a white shirt and tie or work at a desk, he had to be a hard-nosed businessman if he was going to make a go of it. It wasn't the reason he'd wanted to be a farmerthe love of the seasons, the earth, the outdoors, watching things growbut it was 1972, and like it or not there were risks he had to take and decisions he had to make if he was going to hang onto this thing he lovedthis 400 acres of land.
But Dannyah, Dannythere were these moments with him that made all these concerns simply melt away. To be with Danny like this was to be overtaken by something so much more powerful than all that, and to find himself wrapped instead in a kind of bliss that needed nothing more than itself.
"I just love the heck out of you," he said again, gently pulling back his cock until he felt it fall free, then rolled to his side in the bedsheets, Danny stirring now, stretching his legs out, and pulling up the blanket to cover Mike and himself.
"Me, too," Danny said, his voice husky with sex and emotion. "I love you like crazy." And they lay pressed together, listening to the rain and saying nothing for a while.
Ed had a thing for Merle Haggard. He loved the guy for being an ex-con and singing tough songs about hard knocks and busted love. There was honesty and a lot of heart in his voice. He was Ed's kind of man, and most of the eight-tracks in his car were recordings of his albums.
Ed wasn't much of a singer, but he sang along as he barreled down the highway in the rain, the windshield wipers keeping time.
I keep on workin', long as my
two hands are fit to use,
I drink my beer in a tavern, singing a little bit of these workin' man blues.
As the miles passed, he let his thoughts drift, enjoying the feeling of being on the road again, with some place to go and something to get done.
He'd had plans to get as far as Oklahoma City by nightfall, but the weather was slowing him down. At Red Cloud"Home of Willa Cather," a sign said as he entered townhe'd stopped at a diner for a breakfast of steak and eggs, a side of pancakes and a refill for his thermos.
He was practically busting out of his wranglers from being well fed and doing nothing but hang out at Ted's for the last two months, but it was his favorite meal to order up when he was out on the road. Like they say, as he often told himself, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and anyway who knew when he'd eat again. Which was a joke, of course. He never had much reason to miss a meal.
It was a slow Sunday morning and he flirted a bit with the waitress, who looked tired like she needed some cheering up. She wore a wedding ring, but here she was waiting tables all by herself on a Sunday morning in a little town without even a by-pass. Maybe the guy she was married to wasn't the breadwinner she'd hoped forit showed in her face, that half-concealed look of disappointment.
He'd met plenty of women like that. And there were still times when he let himself get into bed with one of them, just for the sake of something he couldn't quite account formaybe the satisfaction of being for once all the man a woman secretly desired.
It didn't bother him that he wasn't actually what he seemed to be. After all, with women he was only good for a one-night stand. What mattered was that look of disappointment disappearing for a while and the welling up of passion that took its placesometimes an explosion of it.
So here was another one of them, topping up his coffee mug, noticing his outfit and calling him "cowboy," like by any stretch of the imagination he was one. Then a carload of other customers had come in, a man and his family dressed for church, plus two old guys who must have been regulars and, tired of each other's company, kept her at their table between trips to the kitchen, talking to her and making lame jokes as she stood there with a coffee pot in her hand.
When he was done eating, he covered the check with something extra for a tip and tried to catch her eye from across the room as he left, touching the brim of his hat when she glanced over at him. Yeah, he thought to himself, she'd probably like to get in that Caddie with him and take off for parts unknown. The world was full of peoplemen and womenready to make an escape just like that. Restless hearts.
Soon he was crossing the state line"Welcome to Kansas"and when he got to Concordia, he stopped at a filling station. The rain was coming down in a steady drizzle and he went inside to the men's room to take a piss. A high school kid in a nylon windbreaker too big for him, the hood pulled so far over his head it almost hid his face, went outside to fill the Cadillac with premium.
A man came from the john as Ed got there, and he took a step to one side to let him pass. When he came back out, the guy was still there, standing at the big plate glass window and looking out at the rain, which was now falling harder.
He wore a dark blue jacket with a company logo on the front and a dark blue cap with the same logo. He was, Ed figured, the driver of a big rig that was parked out by the diesel pumps.
"Ain't this something," the guy said, shaking his head.
Ed agreed, thinking he'd wait for the rain to let up before going back to his car, and the two of them stood there together.
The trucker had his hands in the front pockets of his pants, and he rocked a little on his feet as he continued making comments about the road and the weather. He was older than Ed, hair cut short around the ears and beginning to gray. Under his jacket he wore a sweatshirt, and over that, holding up his pants, was a pair of wide suspenders.
"How far you goin'?" the man wanted to know.
"Been on the road long?"
The kid in the windbreaker had come jogging back from Ed's car, and Ed paid him, after working the wallet free from where it was wedged tight into his back pocket.
"Got a regular run from Sioux Falls down to Wichita and back," the trucker said.
The trucker reached down with one hand and scratched his balls, holding his cock for a moment and giving it a tug before he slid his hand back in his pocket.
Then he said, "There's a rest stop a ways down the road. You know it? I like to stop there for a little shut eye."
"Is that right?" Ed said.
Here it was happening again, he thought. He looked at the guy, who was still gazing out at the rain. There was a firm set to his jaw and a little smile on his face. He was a handsome man, and as he stroked his chin now with one hand, Ed saw a wedding ring on his finger.
He thought of the waitress again and laughed to himself that the two of them could be a couple, each less than happy with the other. Each making the other's life feel a little empty. Each noticing something in Ed and wanting it.
Flirting with the waitress was one thingit would never have come to anything. But this was different. He could easily have sex with this guy. Just stop with him at that rest stop, climb into his cab and do what comes naturally. He'd be on the road again in thirty minutes and not lose any time.
But it wasn't going to happen. And for maybe the hundredth time since he left that morning, he thought of Ted, who didn't believe Ed could stay true to him. If Ted was ever going to believe himthat he'd become someone to count on, someone to love, just one man for one manall this was something he was giving up. For good.
"See you later," the trucker said and was walking out the door and hurrying through the rain to his truck, without glancing back. Ted watched him go, climbing up into the high cab, his pants pulling tight over his butt. No doubt about it, he was a good looking man, and maybe a barrel of fun in the rack.
If he followed the guy to the rest stop, Ed caught himself thinking, Ted would never know. Butand this was his next thoughtthat's exactly why he wasn't going to do it. More than Ted, it was himself he needed to prove something to.
Later, back on the road, he drove for a few miles before he caught up with the big rig. Following it now down a two-lane stretch of highway, he'd already decided to pass and be on his way. But the truck was throwing up a thick spray of whiplashed rain from the pavement, and Ed couldn't see around it. Two cars came out of nowhere from the other way, one after the other, just to show that only a fool would take a chance pulling into the oncoming lane.
So he slowed and dropped back a ways, hoping the rain would let up. He popped another cassette into the tape playerKris Kristofferson's worn-down voice singing "Me and Bobby McGee." Damn perfect song for driving down the highway on a rainy day.
Freedom's just another word for
nothing left to lose
Nothin' ain't worth nothin', but it's free . . .
After a while, the right turn signal began to blink on the back of the truck, and it slowed, drifting a little to the right and then pulling off the road. They'd got to the rest stop. A cluster of trees grew there in the misty rain, and there was a stretch of grass that had been kept mowed during the summer by some state highway crew.
Ed slowed as the truck moved to the side, and then, when the way ahead was clear, he put his foot down on the accelerator and drove on.
Owen was still flat on his back in bed and feeling like he'd been knocked down and dragged half a mile by some old wild steer. His body ached, and he kept feeling hot and sweaty and then too cold.
Ty, who'd been in and out of the bedroom all morning, had kept him company, bringing him more hot drinks"Fluids, rest, fluids, rest," he kept saying, like he was in chargeand searching the medicine cabinet for painkillers and cough syrup.
"Robitussin?" Ty had called out from the bathroom.
It was what they gave Owen's kids when they had colds and runny noses.
"That's the stuff," he said.
"I'll go get a spoon."
"No, shit. I'll drink it straight from the bottle."
And he'd finished it off.
"We're gonna need more of that," Ty said, with a look of concern.
"How long's it good for?"
"Says four hours," Ty said, reading the label.
"Don't matter. I'll probably be dead by then."
He popped several Excedrin and swallowed them down from a glass of water Ty had brought for him.
"I found a thermometer in the medicine cabinet," Ty said. "Let's see if you've got a temperature." He shook the thermometer down and then held it out waiting for Owen to open his mouth.
"If I knew I was gonna have a good-lookin' nurse to take care of me, I'd stay in bed sick more often."
"Just open like this. Ahhhh," Ty said, ignoring the remark and dropping his jaw. His tongue lay there soft and pink behind his teeth.
"I could give you a big ole kiss right now," Owen said.
Ty shook his head. "Ahhhhhhhhh," he said again.
"Yeah, you probably don't want any of my germs."
"That's one reason."
"What's another one?"
Ty slipped the thermometer into his mouth. "Wouldn't Kirk care?"
"You don't have to worry about me and Kirk," Owen said around the thermometer. "We're OK."
Ty took Owen's wrist now and felt with two fingers for his pulse.
Owen studied Ty's face as he sat there on the edge of the bed, eyes fixed on his watch as he counted. The guy was such an innocent. How could someone his age know so little about this world? When Ty let go of his wrist, he put his hand down on Ty's leg and gently squeezed the muscle above his knee.
"A little fever. Not much," Ty said when he took back the thermometer, turning it in his fingers to peer at it.
"What did Kirk mean when he called you a lost sheep?" Owen said.
Ty didn't move from the bed. Just slipped the thermometer into his shirt pocket and then put his hand down on top of Owen's, holding it there. "Suppose I am a little," he said and shrugged.
"Where was the rest of the flock the last time you saw them?"
Ty laughed now. "You're saying that because you know or you don't?"
"How would I know?"
"I thought maybe Kirk told you. I was working at a church, studying for the ministry."
Now Owen felt a little different about having his hand inside the young man's thigh, and gave up his plan to see how far he could reach between his legs. There was innocence, and then there was innocence.
He lay back, listening as Ty told a story of losing his job because he'd got himself into some trouble thatif you looked at it from any reasonable point of viewwasn't much trouble at all.
"So you got screwed," he said at the end of it.
Ty gave him a sad look. "I guess so."
"No guessin' about it. Them fuckers are all alike. When I think of the holier-than-thou folks going to heaven, it gives a man all the more reason to head for the other place."
Ty said nothing, like he'd never thought of this before. "They're good people, most of them," he said.
"Not good enough, if you ask me."
"Still, we're supposed to forgive."
"Do unto others. You heard of that?"
"I'm not a heathen, but a little of that goes a long ways." He felt Ty's hand, still there unmoving on top of his. "What's still got me puzzled is what you're doin' way out here."
Ty sighed. "Oh that. I was with another guy. We were on our way to Phoenix," he began.
It was noon when Marty finally got up. Virgil still lay there in dreamland. He'd been awake enough once to move over to Marty's side of the bed, a sleepy smile on his face, then drift off again pressed against him, his cheek against Marty's shoulder and his hand tucked between his legs, fingers tucked under the end of his dick.
Wet leaves scuttled in the window wells when the wind gusted around the house, and looking out he could see rain clouds. It was a good day to spend at home, and he was glad he didn't have to go to work. He got dressed in the clothes he'd tossed onto the floor the night before, his jeans, a wrinkled work shirt, andwhen he couldn't find his own in the closeta pair of Virgil's sneakers.
He was in the bathroom splashing water on his face and rinsing the taste of Virgil's cum from his mouth, when he heard the phone ringing. He wondered who could be calling, and thought of his mother or his boss at the lumber yard, but more likely it was someone for Virgil.
The phone was in the living room, on a footlocker pushed against the wall. It was next to a bench where Virgil pressed his weights, and he'd sit there talking on the phone, with the receiver in one hand and doing curls with a dumbbell in the other. It went along with being a jock. Marty, a kid who grew up on a farm, got strong lifting hay bales, feed sacks, and fence posts and never saw the need for all this.
"Hello?" he said when he picked up the phone.
"Marty?" came a voice from the other end.
"Yeah, who's this?"
He sat down on Virgil's bench now, trying to think of the Mikes he knew, and he couldn't think of any who'd know where he was living now.
"You know, Mike up the road from your dad's place."
Then he realized who it was, and his first thought was that something had happened at the farmthere was some trouble. "Is anything wrong?" he said.
"No, no. I was just wonderin' if you're busy today. I'd come over."
"I'm not busy," he said and tried to imagine why Mike would want to see him.
"Will you be at home?" Mike said.
"Yeah, do you know where it is?"
"Danny knows." They were driving to Kearney together later in the afternoon, he explained, and he'd come by then. "Can I take you out for a beer?"
"OK, see you in a while." And Mike hung up.
He looked up and Virgil was standing there in the doorway from the bedroom. He was stark naked, except for a camou cap on his head. He looked almost skinny without his clothes.
"Who was that?" he said.
"Yup. He's comin' over to see me."
Virgil crossed the room to where he sat and put his arms around his neck, hugging him to his belly, his cock against Marty's chest. He was still warm from bed and smelled of sleep and sex and something pungent and sweet like day-old Right Guard.
"I gotta tell you something," Virgil said. "I was ass over heels in love with that guy for about a week when I first met him."
"Really?" Marty's voice was muffled, his cheek pressed to Virgil's belly. "He was always one of my dad's friends. I never thought much about him."
"He ever give you a haircut?"
"A haircut? No."
"He did me once, and I coulda creamed my jeans."
Marty stood now, looking at Virgil. He took Virgil's cap and put it on his head backward.
"You're kinda easy that way," he said and put his arms around him.
"Oh, I am, am I?"
"I'm not complaining."
The other cowhands were on horseback in the rain, driving the herd of bawling cows and calves along the road toward the ranch. Kirk had taken up the drag, following them in his pickup.
He towed the long horse trailer behind him, which they'd used to take the horses over to bring back the herd. On the way there, two of the cowboys, with their long legs, had squeezed into the cab with him, and the third one had ridden in the back, out in the rain.
Inside, there'd been no hesitation about which of the two would get the window and which one would have to sit in the middle. Kirk didn't know how all this was decided because not a word had been spoken. It was just clear which of them had the most privileges.
When they'd got there, the four of them had ridden the horses out into the pasture to round up the cattle, which were mostly bunched together in the wet, windy weather and not interested in going anywhere. It had taken them a while to get them moving and out the gate onto the road. By the time Kirk had got back into the truck, he could feel the cold rain soaking through his clothes.
He had his window rolled down now and beat on the side of the truck with one hand, yelling at the stragglers to move them along, "Hey, boss, hey, boss!"
One of the men, riding behind the herd along with him, gave chase to any of them that tried to turn backand there was always at least one cow, determined to make a run for it, taking her calf along with her. The cowboy's yellow slicker was glistening wet, the saddle creaking between his legs, and the rain spilled from his hat brim. He grinned at Kirk from under a droopy mustache like they couldn't have picked a better day to be doing this.
The rule of the ranch, Kirk had learned, was that the weather never stopped you from doing anything. If it rained, dammit, then let it rain.
He would see to it they all got into town for some free rounds of whiskey afterward, and they were probably counting on that or they'd all have been in a different mood. They were good men, after all, and there was no need to give them reason to start looking for work somewhere else.
As he drove along, he thought of Owen, who was tough as his old man and would have come out in this weather if Kirk hadn't stopped him. He was glad Ty was there to look after him.
It was still new for Kirk to think this way about anyone else, and he wasn't used to it. It was so much easier not to give a fuck.
Years ago, when he was still a kid, he'd walked away from his buddy Rich like that and never thought of him again. Not once. And if Rich hadn't showed up yesterday and punched him in the nose, he wouldn't be thinking of him now. It had been the same way with every other guy. Always moving on.
But he'd let Virgil get to himthe little bastardand he hadn't been the same since. He still didn't know how it had happened, but somehow he'd let his guard down. He'd let Virgil weasel his way under his skin and then the boy had taken off, just like that. It had knocked Kirk on his asshim of all people.
And for a while, he'd gone back to being his old self. He wasn't going to let something like that happen to him again. Then damned if it didn't anyway. Owen had gone and found him. Only this time, even after he'd agreed to be Owen's business partner and move in with him, Kirk had promised himself that whenever he felt like it, he could pack up and leave again.
And maybe it still was that way between them. But even if he tried to let go, he'd begun to realize that something about Owen wouldn't let go of him. It wasn't lovehe didn't know what that was anyway, even if it came up one day and bit him in the backsidebut whatever it was, it wasn't bad.
And thatlike breaking in a new pair of bootswas beginning to feel OK with him.
Continued . . .
© 2008 Rock Lane Cooper