This story concerns adult and teenage gay males who may be involved in sexual situations. If it is illegal for you to read such stories, or if you do not like to read such stories, please leave now.

This story is copyright 2006 by the author who retains all rights.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This is my third submission to Nifty. This story concerns a boy who is forced by his small hometown to be gay, whether he believes he is or not. While most of the bigotry and homophobia occurs during Zach’s senior year in high school, most of it does not appear in this story. Except for a few introductory paragraphs, this story takes place during Zach’s freshman year in college, when he is free to discover who he is and which life path he is destined to follow. Any comments or questions are welcome at:

A warm thank you goes out to all who write. I appreciate knowing someone is actually reading this stuff, whether you like it or not. I try to answer all emails, although it sometimes takes a little time. If I'm remiss in replying to yours, I apologize.

The Pastel Cowboy

by Carl Holiday

Chapter 1 – Zach is Gay

"I’d gone on a week-long canoe trip on the Buffalo River in Arkansas with three of what used to be my best friends: Steve Norris who was a wide receiver; Blake James a halfback; and, Todd Benjamin, the other halfback. We’d done it the year before and I was looking forward to another good time out in the wilderness during summer break before our senior year. You know, doing guy stuff. Well, anyway, there’s a big pool in the river that’s miles from any trail so you can only get to it by boat and people who know about it often go skinny-dipping there. We were splashing around and, actually, we were having a really good time. We weren’t paying much attention to anything, or anyone, around us.

"Todd was the one who first noticed the raft coming down the river. We walked out toward the main channel to where we stood deep enough so that we hoped nothing showed and they just smiled as they floated past. I knew they were well aware of what we were doing; and, there was a girl sitting on the back float who was the prettiest thing on Earth I’d ever seen. I mean she was wearing this t-shirt and it was more than obvious she wasn’t wearing a bra. You should have seen the way her nipples were sticking out.

"‘Did you see her,’ Blake said after the raft floated out of sight. ‘Christ she was beautiful.’

"‘I don’t doubt on that,’ Todd said. ‘Not with that boner of yours.’

"‘Yeah, what about you and Steve?’ Blake said, pointing to the other boys’ erections. ‘What’s your problem, Zach? Still suffering from homosexuality? God, Zach, you’ve always been such a goddamn faggot. I don’t know why we even let you come with us.’

"They beat the crap out of me, but had the decency to put my stuff on the beach and not in the water. Then they left me there. I don’t know what I would have done if park rangers hadn’t come down the river a few hours later. I told them my friends had gotten mad at me and put me on the side of the river. They took me down river to a place I could hike up to a highway and call my dad.

"I don’t know if it was the cold water, the shock of seeing the raft full of people, or being embarrassed with my friends, but I couldn’t get an erection. God, I wanted to, but nothing happened. And, now I have three ex-friends who’ve spread it around town that I’m gay.”

They’d been working all morning without saying a word, which to Zach wasn’t all that unusual. For as long as he could remember, his father never said more than he needed to, often going for hours without saying anything to anyone. Being the youngest son, Zach wasn’t that much of a talker, either. Yet, he felt his father was working up to saying something in the way he didn’t cuss, even when he hit his thumb with the hammer.

The August sun was well on its way toward another scorcher when Zach pulled back on the come-along another notch on the ratchet, tightening the top wire almost too tight. Just before the ratchet set, Zach’s father flipped the release on the come-along breaking the tension on the barbed wire. Zach flinched away as the wire pulled out of the reel.

“What the hell was that for?” Zach asked.

“I was talking to Bill James down at the co-op yesterday afternoon when I went to get your mother’s chicken scratch,” his father said. “He had quite a different story to tell about what happened up on the Buffalo River last month.”

“Oh,” Zach mumbled as he walked over to the pickup to get a swallow of water. His long-sleeved cotton work shirt was soaked with sweat. He’d never been interested in gathering an assortment of work-related scars across body, so he always kept his shirt on until they stopped for lunch.

“I hadn’t been in town more than an hour when Pastor Connally asked me to come over to the parsonage this evening,” his father said, coming up behind him and grabbing the ladle out of his hands. His father was almost a half foot shorter than Zach’s six foot two inches, but twice as strong with shoulders and arms strengthened at his part-time job at the feed plant in Hannaford. The scar from just below his left eye down through his mouth to the jaw, caused by a clumsy bull at his last rodeo event, was a permanent white stripe across his sun darkened face. After taking a long swallow, he continued, “He wants me to bring your mother with me. He said he wants to discuss your future in the church. He said there seems to be something about you that might cause some of the other members to question your membership. He said something along the lines of you being an abomination.”

Zach stared at the come-along back where they stopped working. He knew better than to interrupt his father. It might take him awhile to get out all he wanted to say, but Zach knew enough to just wait for his father to give him permission to speak.

“Seems that those three other boys you went canoeing with have a completely different version about why you hiked out of the canyon halfway through the trip. Seems they might have had reason to part company with you. I’m kind of at a loss for words to describe what Bill James said his son told him about you. Even with all my years riding rodeo, I never ran into anyone like what they’re saying you are. Zach, I can’t imagine what the hell gave you the idea that you could get away with it. For God’s sake, Carruthers is a small town.”

Zach continued to stare at anything except a small wad of hot air three feet behind his father. He stepped away from the back fender of the pickup and reached over to pick up the ladle. He didn’t see his father’s gloved fist until the last moment before it slammed into his face. Zach looked up from the dusty pasture into his father’s anger slitted eyes as his mouth filled with the salty sweet taste of blood.

“Why’d you do that?”

“From this moment forward you can consider yourself not welcome in my presence,” his father said, leaning over him, clenching his fist. “For your own safety, I’d think twice about being in the same acre with me. Your mother will allow you into our house, I relented on that, but I will never see you. You make sure of that. Now get out of my sight.”

“But, Dad, don’t you want, can’t I explain . . .”

Suddenly, Zach was on his feet, but he wasn’t controlling his movements. One gloved hand held his shirt while the other, tightened into a fist came in low against his gut. Zach sank back down to his knees. Holding himself, he stared at his father’s dusty boots. As his eyes slowly worked their way up his father’s work jeans, he blinked uncontrollably when he saw the empty holster.

He was running, now, running away from the sound of the .38 pistol his father kept handy for snakes. He tried not noticing the puffs of dust ahead of him as the bullets went to ground. Although his heart was pounding more from fear than the run, Zach didn’t stop until he reached the tank, spooking a couple white-faced yearlings on the far side. He looked back, but the low rise between them kept his father hidden from his view.

Up until that hot August, Zach's bedroom hadn't been much more than a place to sleep and do his homework. The computer his parent's gave him for Christmas during his freshman year was barely used and often weeks passed when Zach never turned it on. Now, his bedroom was the only place in Carruthers, Oklahoma, where he felt a modicum of safety. Only here he couldn't hear the taunts and jeers of farmers at the co-op, mothers at the grocery store, or his former friends down at Glasgow Beach on Eufaula Lake. Lying on his bed, he wasn't in danger of being beaten up as happened at the co-op and at the beach. With the door closed, he didn't have to listen to his father's unending words of disgust that his youngest son was a homosexual.

Zach didn’t want to think what school would be like on Monday. He wondered if he’d be permitted to play football. He was the quarterback, after all. He was all-state last year. They had to keep him on the team. He hadn’t seen Coach Benson all summer, but he knew Dr. Clark, the principal, called his mother on Saturday, asking her something. He tried to listen, but she took the call on the mobile phone and went into the bathroom.

"Yes?" Zach said in response to the faint knock at his door.

"Your father and I are going into Hannaford for a few things," his mother said, sticking her head in the barely opened door. "Do you need us to pick up anything for school tomorrow?"

"No, Ma'am," Zach said. Her head disappeared and the door quietly shut, the latch clicking faintly. Zach heard the back screen door slap shut and his father's restored ’76 Monte Carlo rumble to life. He went to the window to watch them head out the dusty drive toward the county highway. Her rejection of him was the hardest to accept. She tolerated him more than his father, but Zach had expected her to at least listen to his side of the story. She talked to him when she needed to, but never put herself between him and his father.

His father lightened up a little when he realized Zach was still a good source of free labor and there were a few things to be done on the ranch that went a lot easier with two men. Except, those jobs were few and one of them hadn't come up on his father's schedule, yet. Zach did his chores, but his father never checked to see if things were done right. If Zach had a question about something, he'd put it to his mother who came back with the answer. He no longer feared his father, but they were never close enough for anything good, or bad, to happen.

Of all the things that changed after the canoe trip on the Buffalo River, the reason for his friends to single him out as being a queer was the most difficult to understand. They'd all grown up together. They'd seen each other jerk off, but because he didn't get an erection when the other boys did, they said he was gay.

At that moment in his young life Zach wasn't too certain he wasn't.

Zach couldn’t remember ever being called to the principal’s office, even back in elementary school. He never went to the vice-principal’s office, either. As he sat quietly on one of the straight-backed, yellow oak chairs obviously designed to make students physically uncomfortable to coincide with whatever mental anguish they were going through. The two secretaries ignored him as they chatted and worked at their computers. Zach knew why he was there. He fully expected to be expelled, forced to leave school before getting a chance to explain his side of the story, giving the bumpkins’ bigotry another triumph. Yet, Dr. Clark wasn’t from Carruthers, so Zach wasn’t certain how the meeting might turn out.

“Zachary Alexander?” Dr. Clark said, as he stepped out of his door. He was taller up close than he appeared on the stage in the cafetorium and he was built like a tight end.

“Yes, sir,” Zach said, standing up. He took the principal’s offered hand and hoped his grip was enough to convince the older man he wasn’t a limp wristed fairy.

“Come on into my office, Zachary. Estelle, please call Coach Benson and ask him to come up here.”

There was a desk back in the corner with a computer monitor on a stand at the right. Bookshelves covered two walls and a credenza with a leafy houseplant sat under the windows on the third wall. An uncomfortably looking blue vinyl sofa took up most of the fourth wall, facing the windows. Zach shivered at the chill in the air, thinking he’d finally figured out where all the school’s cool air went.

“Have a seat,” Dr. Clark said pointing at another yellow oak chair facing his desk. “I want you to know, right off, that I’m disappointed, Zachary.”

“Yes, sir,” Zach said as he sat in the chair. Dr. Clark remained out of sight behind him.

“Zachary, when I first heard about your situation from one of the members on the school board, I want you to know, I was shocked that you thought you could keep this a secret here in Carruthers. In nearly thirty years of working in high school education in Oklahoma, I’ve never encountered a boy like you.”

Oh, God, Zach thought to himself, he really thinks I’m gay.

“Zachary, I have a problem, though,” Dr. Clark said, walking around the desk and sitting down in his high-back, red leather executive chair. He stared at Zach for a moment, then swiveled around and tapped a few keystrokes into his computer. “You’re not a run of the mill student. You’ve haven’t received less than an “A” all through high school. If this thing hadn’t come up, you’d probably be Valedictorian at graduation. Except, this year we’ll have to settle for second best.”

Zach thought about saying something, but decided against tempting fate.

“If you had a few “B’s” or “C’s” I’d expel you right now and not have any second thoughts. You disgust me. You could have gotten a full-ride to either Norman or Stillwater, but, now, you’ll be lucky to find a community college that will accept you.”

The principal’s phone chirped obnoxiously, and he continued to stare at Zach as he answered it. “Yes? . . . Yes, he’s with me now. . . . Uh, huh. . . . Okay, I think that’s best, too. . . . Yeah, okay, goodbye.”

“That was Coach Benson, he’s busy trying to figure out who’ll replace you as quarterback this year, and won’t be able to join us,” Dr. Clark said, turning to look out the window. “He wasn’t really interested in coming up here, anyway. Let me give you a bit of advice, stay away from him. Carruthers was almost certain to take the State Championship again this year, but you’ve ruined that, Zachary. There are a few seniors who were hoping for scholarships, but they won’t be getting any because the scouts won’t be coming to see us lose.”

Zach didn’t know what to say, what to offer as an excuse, an explanation. Obviously, Principal Clark and Coach Benson weren’t looking for Zach’s explanation about the incident. They’d already made up their minds.

“Zachary, you will not be permitted to go out for any sports this year,” Dr. Clark said, getting out of his chair and walking to the window. “Also, you will not take any Physical Education classes. I do not want to tempt fate and put you in a room with other naked boys. God Almighty! Zachary you make me sick.”

“But, sir, why can’t I tell my . . .” Zach said, before Dr. Clark’s hand slapped him so hard Zach nearly fell off the chair. He looked up into the principal’s anger tinged face.

“I will not have anyone take that attitude with me,” Dr. Clark said, walking around his desk and sitting down. “Mrs. Deere has your revised schedule. You will be permitted to attend classes at Carruthers High School. You will not be permitted to participate in any extra-curricular activities. You will not attend any school sponsored events. If you have to use the library, you will notify the office and the secretaries will arrange for a faculty member to escort you. Give me any excuse, Zachary Alexander, and I will expel you from Carruthers High School faster than you think possible. Now, get out of my office and take that chair with you. I don’t want any of your filth remaining in my office.”

* * *

Almost exactly nine months later, Zach was getting out of his dirty Ford Ranger 4X4 in the guest parking lot behind Caine Hall at North Park College, in North Park, Washington, a small city immediately north of its younger and bigger sister, Seattle. He chose North Park simply because it had a summer entry program for freshmen and he needed to get out of his house right after graduation; and, well, it was close to where his former uncle lived. (When Aunt Louise married David she didn’t know about his predilection for men, but when she did find out after nearly thirty years of marriage, she divorced him quicker than the family thought was quite right.)

The bruising from Zach’s last beating had mostly faded from his face, but a rather severe one under his shirt on this right side was still ugly. He wasn’t allowed to go to the graduation ceremony since it was a school function so he went into Hannaford to get a few last items for his trip to North Park. After wandering around Wal-Mart for longer than he expected, he decided a chocolate milkshake at Bud’s Burgers sounded good. Unfortunately, a few seniors from Carruthers decided the same thing sounded good after getting their diplomas. Zach never had a chance to get away. As he always did, he tried to defend himself, but with seven against one, his chances of winning were close to zero. The only consolation out of this fight was knowing for certain Blake’s jaw was broken and Todd’s shoulder had certainly been wrenched enough to give him trouble catching a football, but he ended up bleeding and bruised in the gravel when the deputy sheriff showed up. He looked at that final fight as sort of a graduation gift, one more reason never to go back to Carruthers.

His parents added thirty-five thousand to the fifteen thousand he had in the bank for college. According to his father, “This will help you get started in life, since you’re not going to be coming back to us for any help.” No, thought Zach, I have no reason to ever go back home.

And, so, he walked into Caine Hall to start the process of becoming a college student.

After three hours of forms and writing more checks than he could ever remember, he was assigned to Bruce Stuart to escort him to Boyle Hall, where he’d be living during summer quarter. When he saw what might have been a boy, but he wasn’t too certain about that, walking down the hall towards him, Zach suspected his reputation had preceded him from Carruthers. Bruce’s hair was up in a bun, he had green eye shadow, and bright red lipstick. He walked with a swish like he was a debutante at a ball. One hand was held up with the wrist and fingers bent like they were limp, but he’d wave at people as he passed them. He was shorter than Zach, but seemed to be fit, like a swimmer or long distance runner.

He stopped in front of where Zach was sitting and said, “Hi, you must be Zach. You can call me René. Most people who’ve met me call me René the Fairy, but I don’t mind. Do you mind?”

The voice was heavily accented, but the lisp was imprecise, almost as if it was artificial. The accent was European, but Zach couldn’t figure out what country. René, or Bruce, reminded Zach of Anthony Blanche in the BBC mini-series Brideshead Revisited, which his Uncle David gave him for Christmas when he was only ten and very much into all things British. He watched the tape until it broke, but his parents wouldn’t let him buy another.

Zach stood up and held out his hand. Bruce, or rather René, took it and kissed it, causing everyone in the office to laugh. Zach hated being the butt of their joke. He didn’t know if it was because they heard he was gay or because he was from the Nowhere, Oklahoma, where dolts, hicks, and dunderheads lived.

“Very nice to meet you, René,” Zach said, in a loud voice, while clicking the heels of his shitkickers together and saluting like a proper German officer. “If you will accompany me, my pickup is out back.”

René smiled at him and said, “Okay, cute boy, I’ll follow you anywhere. Are you a real cowboy?”

“Yeah, I’ve castrated a few calves in my day.”

“Ew, yuk, that’s disgusting.”

“Not as bad as slipping in a barn yard full of cow shit and landing in a puddle of cow piss.”

“Okay, okay, stop with the graphics. Do you do rodeo?”

“No, that was my father’s gig. I used to play football and some baseball in the spring.” He didn’t know why he said that, he hadn’t been able to do any sports last year. Though, he did join a health club in Hannaford to stay fit.

“I like football players,” René said. “They’re so strong and muscular. Were you the quarterback?”

“Yes, I was the quarterback.”

“I bet you’re a great quarterback.”

“I wouldn’t know, I didn’t play last year.”

“You weren’t sick were you?”

“No, they think I’m gay and wouldn’t let me play with the other boys.”

Zach wasn’t surprised René, or Bruce, didn’t came back with a snappy reply, but at least he said it, got it out, put it on the table. He didn’t like it, but he wasn’t about to hide from it here. If they wanted him to be queer, well that’s the way it had to be. He was starting out new and fresh, but people talk and people were bound to learn what happened back in Carruthers. You had to expect people to find out, that’s the way life worked.

Zach unlocked the passenger door and opened it for René. When he got in on the driver’s side, Zach sat for a moment. He’d never, consciously been this close to someone who was probably very gay. He suspected René, or rather Bruce, was gay, but it may have been some sick joke, too. René was a walking gay cliché. He couldn’t imagine anyone doing so much to look so obviously queer.

“Are you like this all the time?” Zach asked. “Or, is there some person under there hiding from reality?”

He looked over at the person sitting in the passenger seat, but all he saw was the back of a head. He’d hit a nerve and was sorry he thought René was just show.

“Look, I’m sorry, okay?” Zach said reaching over and touching René’s shoulder. He felt more muscle than he expected. “Come on, how do I get to my dorm?”

“Head over that way,” Bruce said in a voice without a trace of accent or lisp and pointing toward the west exit.

“Oh, god, Bruce, please forgive me,” Zach said. “I was only guessing. I didn’t think you were actually faking it.”

“It’s okay,” he whispered. A tear welled up in one eye and dribbled down his cheek, smearing his makeup.

That night, after getting everything he needed into his dorm room and the rest locked away in a storage facility a few miles from the college, plugging his laptop in the DSL outlet and making sure he could access his ISP, making his bed, eating something in the cafeteria the college called food, and feeling like a total jerk for catching Bruce at his game, Zach sat down on his bed and punched Uncle David’s number into his cell phone. Somewhere deep in his gut the stuff that looked like lasagna was having a difficult time adjusting to its temporary residence, causing Zach to wonder if he’d get through this call. Finally, the ring tones stopped and a voice said, “Hello?”

“Uncle David?”

“Who?” Oh, god, Zach thought, the number’s too old. He knew he should have looked up David Brandon in the Internet.

“David Brandon, is he there?”

“Just a minute. Can I ask who is calling?”

“His nephew, Zach Alexander.”

After a couple belches, one of which was slightly juicy and made Zach’s throat burn, a different voice came on.


“Uncle David, this is Zach Alexander.”

“Zachary, is everything okay with your parents?”

“I wouldn’t know, sir, I haven’t seen them in a week.”

“Okay, uh, did you run away from home, then?”

“No, Uncle David, I’m seventeen. I just moved into my dorm room at North Park College and thought I should call.”

“Where? North Park College? Where’s that?”

“In North Park, north of Seattle. We’re practically neighbors.”

“Oh, uh, you know, Zachary, I’m not really your uncle anymore.” Oh, god, Zach thought, he doesn’t want anything to do with me.

“Oh, I guess, I shouldn’t have called. I’m sorry, I just thought you might, ah, fuck it!”

Zach hung up and listened to his stomach growling at the lasagna. Another sour burp let him know something was not happy. Then his phone barked like a little dog, letting him know the caller was unlisted and either a sales call or a wrong number. He answered, anyway.



“This is your, uh, Uncle David. Why did you just hang up on me?”

“How did you get my number so quick?”

“Caller ID, everyone’s got it these days and you’re not unlisted. Now, what’s the problem?”

“No problem, sir, I just wanted to let my favorite uncle know I was in town.”

“Does this have anything to do with the letter I received from your parents a few months ago letting me know you applied to North Park College, wherever the hell that is, and that you are a homosexual and that I should not talk to you if you come up here because you’re an abomination, I think that’s what it said. Frankly, I threw it away.”

“Oh, fuck! Those stupid fundamentalist, homophobic, bastards. God, will it never end?”

“Zachary? Zach? Calm down, Zachary.”

“I gotta go. I’ll call you back a few minutes.”

He ran to the bathroom he shared with four other rooms and went into the first stall. The lasagna and everything else came up. When he was certain his stomach was finished rejecting what was supposed to be food, Zach went to the sink, washed his face and rinsed the vomit out of his mouth. He looked in the mirror and saw a young man, well almost a young man, looking back. The bruise under his left eye was almost gone, but the one around his right eye was still a little obvious. René said he was cute, but Zach expected René said that to all the boys. He went back to his room and called Uncle David.


“This is Zach, sorry, dinner disagreed with me.”

“Are you all right?”

“No, I’m not all right. I was hoping you might understand. I was hoping I could talk to you.”

“Did they kick you out?”

“Yeah, out of the family. They gave me some money not to be their son anymore. I got to stay until I graduated from high school, then I had to hit the road. I came here because I could get in for summer quarter. I’m sorry if I troubled you. I won’t call, again.”

“Zachary, please. Now, do you need any money?”

“No, I’ve got lots. I’ve been running my own herd of cows for nearly ten years. Dad lets his kids do that for college money. I had to do all the work, but got to keep all the gross, he picked up the expenses. It was a pretty good deal, actually. Plus, they gave me a bunch, I suppose to keep me away for good. Rather decent for a fundamentalist, homophobic bastard, don’t you think?”

“You hate them, don’t you?”

“No, not completely. They could’ve kicked me out last summer when it all started, but let me stay until I graduated. They even paid the doctor bills when I got beat up. Every time, which is surprising, too.”

“Zachary, I need to see you. Um, let’s see, I’m busy tomorrow, but how about I take you out to dinner tomorrow night. It’s Saturday and we could go get seafood. You like seafood, don’t you?”

“Uncle David, seafood in my neck of the woods is catfish and they don’t even swim in the sea, but I have been to Long John Silver’s in Hannaford for their deep fried greasy stuff. I suppose you could call that seafood, right?”

“No, I know a much better place and they don’t use batter on anything. You’ll have to try the salmon. It’s delicious.”

“Salmon? Wasn’t he one of the patriarchs?”

“You’ve been reading your Bible, too much.”

“You kind of get in the habit when you have to.”

“Give me a street corner and I’ll have Paul pick you up.”

“Uh, out front of the dorm it’s College Way and, I think, MacArthur Boulevard. There’s a bus stop on the corner, I think. That’s what the map shows. I’m in J C Boyle Hall.”

“J C Boyle, huh? She certainly gets her name around a lot.”


“The Boyle’s were pioneers in North Park. Owned a bunch of trees, then cut them all down, made a ton of money and sent J C and her brothers back east to some fancy college. J C is famous in North Park, mostly because she never, ever went by Jennifer Christine. Look her up in the history books, she was quite a character.”

“You seem to know a lot.”

“I’m a writer. I have to do research, and, well, some characters stick in your mind, especially eccentrics like J C. Okay, are we on for tomorrow night?”

“Sure, I’ll wear my fancy snakeskin boots and my best Stetson.”

“Still a cowboy, huh?”

“Fall on your ass in cow shit enough times and it gets forced into you.”

“See you tomorrow night. And, Zachary, thanks for calling. Things will work out.”

“Thank you, Uncle David.”

The following afternoon Zach was in his room deciding what to wear. Uncle David said they were going to a fancy restaurant so he knew his best clothes had to be worn. The snakeskin boots and black Stetson were obvious, but in between he had to choose carefully. He wanted to look as cowboy as he could. The red, white, and black plaid shirt with mother of pearl buttons hung tightly across his shoulders then tapered down to his slender waist accentuating the classic V. The blue jeans were his best, not a loose seam anywhere, they were tight enough even Dwight Yoakum would appreciate how he looked. He wasn’t certain why he thought of Dwight Yoakum, but maybe it was the tight jeans.

He made it down to the corner in plenty of time and stood there in the sunlight feeling better than he’d felt in months. Just like Uncle David said, things were going to work out for him. He was going to get past what they did to him in Carruthers and he was going to feel good about this queer thing they forced upon him.

“Are you a real cowboy?” A voice said. Zach turned and looked at what he thought was a little boy, maybe not much over thirteen.

“Yeah, I guess you could say that,” Zach said feeling warm that someone recognized him for what he was and not because he might be gay.

“Good, I was afraid you were trying to work this corner,” the kid said. “If you don’t know, the cops around here don’t like any business occurring so close to campus.”

“What?” Zach stared at the little boy, then suddenly saw the face seemed older, a lot older than thirteen, a lot older than himself. The body was skinny, anorexic skinny. The jeans were tight, emphasizing skinny legs and hiding whatever should have been in the crotch.

“You are! You are a cowboy!”

“Yeah, I said that, but who, or what, are you? Do you go to North Park College?”

“Nopaco? Yeah, I’m in the graduate program. I’m working on a MFA in art. I paint. Do you really like wearing those jeans?”

“Yeah, they’re my best pair.”

“You’re not from around here, are you? New student?”

“Yeah, I’m from Oklahoma. Name’s Zach?” He held out his hand, not expecting anything more than a dead fish.

“I thought I heard a bit of Dixie in your voice. I’m Steven, originally from Midland, Texas, but I left when I was twelve, over ten years ago. I’ve worked real hard to drop the accent.” The grip was firm, cowboy firm.

“It hasn’t worked, you know.”

“Yeah, Texas doesn’t let go very easily. You know those jeans are awfully tight, tighter than mine. I’m sorry, but do you realize advertising like that can get you in trouble in this town.”

“Advertising what?”

“Damn, Zach, you are from the sticks, aren’t you? Oh shit! There’s my ride, gotta go. See you around kiddo.” A big black Cadillac with dark tinted windows pulled into the bus stop. The back door opened revealing nothing except a lot of dark air.

“Hey! What am I advertising?”

“You gotta big dick!” Steven yelled just before getting into the car. He gave a little wave and closed the door. The car sped off in the lumbering way of all limos.

Zach looked down at his bulge. He never thought about it before, but suddenly realized the jeans were doing a great job of emphasizing his most important asset. The more he thought about it, the better he felt. He knew lots of guys who wore jeans as tight as his who looked like they didn’t have anything in the dick compartment. Yeah, this was going to work, he thought.

Then he thought of what Steven had said about working this corner and getting into trouble. He tried to imagine what Steven was talking about and what that had to do with advertising his big dick, but he couldn’t come up with any logical reason for such a comment. What was he working at? A corn horn broke his train of thought.

It was a silver Mercedes sedan, big. It had to be at least a 500 something, not that Zach had all that much experience with Mercedes from living in Carruthers. Oh, there were a few prowling around advertising big spreads and oil money, but they weren’t all that practical with the nearest dealer over a hundred miles away.

“You Zach?” The driver yelled through the open passenger window.

“Yeah,” Zach said opening the door. The man had to be in his forties with short hair graying at the edges, but looked fit like he worked out. “You’re Paul, right?”

“Hurry up get in, I don’t want anybody getting the wrong idea.”

Zach sat down and Paul pulled out into traffic, slamming the passenger door.

“In a hurry?” Zach asked, fastening his seat belt.

“You don’t have a clue, do you kid?”

“Does this have anything to do with what that other guy said about me working that corner?”

“Yeah, probably, but what other guy?”

“Said his name was Steven. With me just a moment before you pulled up. Left in a big black limo.”

“Steven, huh? Short, real short, skinny, blonde hair, page boy, clear blue eyes, pasty complexion, looks maybe fourteen from a distance, but ages quickly when he gets closer?”

“Yeah, you sound like you know him pretty good.”

“He’s modeled for me on occasion when I need a young kid in a painting. It saves a lot of paperwork and legal shit, besides having to have a chaperone which I don’t work with very well. He’s a whore, basically. He was probably trying to get you off his corner, but why he’s working the streets, again, is beyond me. He should have his clients coming to his front door.”

“He said he’s in the graduate program.”

“Yeah, he thinks he’s a painter, but he’ll never be anything more than a school teacher who has a hobby. He’s okay, but not good enough.”

“So you thought I was a whore, too?”

“No, I knew who you were. I was just hoping nobody saw you get in the car. I don’t need any cops stopping us and having to explain you’re just a naïve cowboy from, where? Oklahoma?”

“Yeah. So what is it? The bulge in my pants?”

“The cowboy gear isn’t something you see around here and, yeah, you’re packing quite a load there, kid. Not a lot of boys go around these days wearing tight jeans showing off their cocks and butt. You got a cute butt, too, by the way. No, most kids wear pants so baggy you can’t tell if they’ve got cocks, or not.”

Zach looked out the window wondering what he’d got himself into. There weren’t a lot of kids out, but the few he saw as Paul headed out to the interstate were all wearing loose, baggy pants, almost like dresses they were so loose. He couldn’t imagine ever trying to run from a pissed off bull in pants like that, let alone trying to get up on a horse. And, the way they walked with one hand holding up their pants, waddling to prevent their pants from dropping down to their ankles, they looked so stupid. No, he’d keep his tight jeans. They were practical. They made him look like a cowboy.

Zach tried to imagine what all this queer shit was about. Back in Carruthers it had been so easy. Everyone just assumed he was gay and he didn’t have to do anything to prove them right or wrong. They just hated him. But, up here, he’d met René the Fairy who was so obvious it was scary. Then today he runs into Steven, and then Paul, who thinks he looks like some kind of whore selling sex. Why couldn’t he just be a cowboy? It was so simple, except cowboys didn’t like queers. That’s what his father told him. There were no queer cowboys. Only, Zach suspected that wasn’t true. Queer cowboys just didn’t go around advertising. And, then he knew. He’d been advertising. “Hey! Look at me, I’ve got a big dick. Want it?”

It was too confusing. He’d have to ask Uncle David about it, but could he really do that? He didn’t know Uncle David, except from years ago when he was a little kid and Uncle David and Aunt Louise came down to Carruthers a couple times with their kids for visits during the summer. And, what did he want to know? Being queer meant liking guys, not girls. But, what was the deal with Bruce dressing up to be René the Fairy; and, what about Steven looking like a little kid. Was that an act, too? And, was his cowboy gear the same thing? It was just too confusing.

It looked like they were going downtown, but at the exit Paul headed left up a hill. He turned right and they went up a steeper hill. He made a left turn up further then stopped in front of a tall building. He took out his cell phone and pushed a couple buttons.

“Hey, it’s Paul. . . . Yeah, he’s with me. . . . No, I think you’d better come down. . . . No, you’ve got to see him. . . . No, you come down here. . . . Because I think you’re going to be pissed, that’s why. . . . Because he looks like a hustler, okay? . . . Okay, see you in a bit.”

Zach looked over at Paul. “What
s a hustler?”

“A guy who sells himself.”

“Like working that corner?”


“Uncle David is going to be mad, isn’t he?”


“Fuck! Why can’t I just be a cowboy? Why does being queer have to be so damn difficult? First it’s René the Fairy . . .”

“You met René?”

“Yeah, he helped me get to my dorm yesterday. He’s weird, but why does Bruce have to act like that?”

“Who is Bruce?”

“The boy who is underneath all that René the Fairy shit. He doesn’t even talk like René. It’s all an act. And, Steven looking like a little kid. He does that on purpose, doesn’t he?”

“Yeah, he gets more money for looking younger.”

“And, me dressed like a cowboy with tight jeans that show off my dick. God, what a fuckin’ fool I must look like. Just like some dumb cowboy from Oklahoma, right?”

“Sorry, but it’s either that or a hustler. We don’t get that many cowboys in this town, especially ones walking around with seven inch dicks. Standing on that corner, you looked like you were selling something.”

“God, I feel so stupid.”

“Well, stupid or not, you’re going to have to get in the backseat. There’s David now. Go on, get it over with. He’ll only be mad for a little bit. You’re family, he can’t get too mad.”

Zach got out of the car and saw his uncle’s eyes wash over him, zeroing in on the prominence in his jeans. Zach was doing the same thing. Uncle David was big, tall, and definitely in his fifties. He looked fit, too, kind of like an older, retired linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. Then he saw a smile. When Uncle David came close he wrapped his arms around Zach and held him close in a tight hug. Then whispered in his ear, “Your pants are too tight.”

“I know,” Zach whispered. Then was shocked out of his boots when Uncle David kissed him on the cheek, close to his mouth. He wondered if this was a gay thing, too.

“Come on, we’ve got to do something with those pants,” Uncle David said opening the backdoor. Zach got in wondering what could be done with his jeans.

“Isn’t there a Western clothing store down in Renton?” Uncle David asked.

“Yeah, I know where it is,” Paul said. “Going to buy him some new pants?”

“Definitely! I’m not about to take him to some restaurant and have every man in there thinking his my boy. A cowboy’s okay, but not some twenty dollar hustler from Dick’s (a local drive-in) parking lot. Sorry Zach, but you look like a cheap whore.”

“I know, Paul told me. I’m sorry, I was just trying to look nice. I didn’t know being gay was so complicated.”

“Do you have anyone to show you around town?” Uncle David asked as Paul headed back down the hill toward the interstate. “I was thinking I could hire someone to show you around.”

“Who were you thinking of?” Paul asked.

“Steven O’Brien. I know he’s primarily a prostitute, but for the right amount of money I’m sure he’d be willing to help Zach get acclimatized to Seattle. I definitely know he doesn’t give out freebies, so if he knows I’m not paying for that, he’ll do what I ask.”

“I don’t know,” Paul said. “I think you’re playing with fire having Zach hang out with Steven.”

“No, it’ll work out. In fact, I’ll call him right now.”

Zach sat in the backseat listening to all of this wondering if they were talking about the skinny guy he’d seen earlier. He was more than willing to just learn about everything on his own and kind of felt embarrassed his uncle would pay someone to show him around. On the other hand, if it was Steven, then maybe he could ask about the queer shit, too. Like about René and Steven, too. And, well, maybe he could convince Steven to do some things. He wondered how much having sex with Steven would cost.

Well, there we go, first chapter out the door to establish the pattern for the story. If you’re wondering, there is a young man who was the inspiration for Zach, but he doesn’t live in Oklahoma and, probably, isn’t gay. He’s just cute as hell, which probably means he definitely isn’t gay. It seems to be one of the universal laws of nature that the cutest guys are straight.

Chapter 2 will be along in a week, or so. The way it’s been going, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night and knocking off a couple thousand words before going back to sleep, but with my job (long haul trucker) the middle of the night could be five o’clock in the afternoon, and often is.

Take care, be safe, and remember to speed up when merging into traffic.