SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week, usually on Thursdays. This story may or may not be moved to a different section than this one in the near future, but I can't tell you where or when because I don't make those decisions. If you don't find it here, you'll have to look around for yourself. The latest chapter will always be posted on my blog before being published here. You may want to bookmark that location in the event you cannot find the story here at some point in the future and you wish to continue with it: https://cafepalermoannex.wordpress.com. You may also want to check out this blog posting for some comments I've put up about the story that may help you understand what I'm trying to accomplish with it. As always, comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading the story. I hope you enjoy it.
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 24, Tommy hitches a ride to Rutland and then spends the rest of the night outside a restaurant trying to persuade one of the truck drivers to give him a ride south. He finally succeeds by telling one of the truckers a lie, that his grandmother is dying and he needs a ride to see her before she does. Taking sympathy on the boy, the trucker buys him some food and then allows him to ride south in his rig. Alternately asleep and awake during the stormy trip, Tommy reminds himself how things have come to this. Beaten and ridiculed by his father, his mother a drunk, and his family considered white trash by many in town, Tommy's life has been hard. By the time he reaches high school he is also questioning his sexuality. While he has sex with a girl his freshman year, he also finds himself attracted to boys. Then he is befriended by Wayne, the high school quarterback, whose only interest in Tommy is sexual. When school reopens, Wayne turns on Tommy and the young boy is ostracized by his classmates. Tommy finally decides to run away, a plan he puts into action once his hand is forced by Josh. After spending most of the drive south sleeping or reminiscing, Tommy is dropped off in Washington, D.C., at the bus station.
Part III - Desperation, Degradation and Despair
I remember just standing there watching while Bob pulled the rig slowly away and drove off. I watched until his truck disappeared completely into the darkness. Only then did I look around. I was alone now. I mean, I had always been alone, but I knew this was different and it scared me a little.
It was late by then and dark and it was still kind of drizzling a bit so I decided to go into the bus station and take a look around there. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I figured maybe the $42 bucks would get me a ticket to California. But when I asked, the person behind the counter just laughed and it was pretty apparent I didn’t have enough.
I looked around the place and decided maybe I should check my bag in one of the lockers I spotted nearby. It wouldn’t cost a lot and would spare me the hassle of lugging it around. By then I had decided against trying to sleep in the bus station. For one thing, there seemed to be a lot of weird people hanging around the place. I was also worried some guard would eventually ask to see my ticket and I didn’t have one.
Instead, I was planning to sleep out at a little park I had seen across the road from the station. I figured it’d be better not to have my bag with me if I did that because somebody might steal it while I was sleeping.
After checking my bag, I pushed open the doors to the station and looked around. The rain had pretty much stopped so I decided to walk across the street and check out the park. The air smelled fresh and the park had some benches. They were really wet, but I figured I could find something to dry one of them off with. It would be cool that night, of course, but nothing like Vermont. While it wouldn’t really be comfortable, I figured I could handle sleeping out there.
I turned around and walked back to the street. That's where I spotted the sign. The street was named New York Avenue. I thought that was kind of funny considering I had just passed through the place on my way to D.C. I looked to my right and could see another street in the distance on which a lot of cars were driving north. I figured I would check it out to see whether there was some place over there where I could get something to eat.
As I walked down New York Avenue, I spotted a bunch of boys leaning against a building. I wondered what they were doing out there at that hour.
“Hey,” one of them said as I walked past him.
I wasn’t sure if I should say anything, but I did.
“Hey yourself,” I responded, looking over at him. “Is there a McDonald’s around here somewhere?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he replied. “You’re in luck, dude. There’s one right down at the corner,” he added, pointing in the general direction. “Are you new here? I haven’t seen you around before.”
“I guess,” I replied. “I just got into town from up north if that’s what you mean.”
“Where up north?” he asked. “And what’s your name, dude? Mine is Danny.”
I didn’t want to give out a lot of personal information because I knew they might be looking for me by now. I decided to lie.
“Boston,” I said. “I just got in from Boston. And my name is Josh.”
“So what brings you to Washington?” he continued. “Are you planning to work the streets here? Because this is the place to do it if you are. But we have rules and we enforce them. If you’re planning to set up here, I can fill you in on them if you want.”
“Thanks,” I said, totally confused. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about, but it seemed like he was trying to be helpful.
“Maybe I’ll come back after I get something to eat.”
“Sure,” he said. “It’s been slow tonight, really slow. So I might still be here when you do. If not, just hang around. I’ll be back soon enough and we can talk.”
I went into the McDonald’s and got something off of the dollar menu. It didn’t do a lot for my stomach, but I figured it was all I should spend given my limited resources.
By the time I got back to the building where I had spotted the boys, the kid I had spoken to was gone. I asked one of the other boys where he was, but the kid just grunted and ignored me. Not having anything better to do, I decided to hang out at the place. I leaned against the wall like the other boys were doing and took a good look around.
There wasn’t really very much going on at all. Occasionally someone would walk up to the place, push open the door and go inside. But it didn’t happen that often because there weren’t very many people out on the street. There weren’t a lot of cars either although occasionally a bus would pull up across the street. I hated the smell of those buses.
The next thing I knew a guy pulled up in a car, rolled down his window, and looked over at me.
“I’m looking for BJ,” he said, smiling at me. “Interested in helping me out for $25?”
I didn’t have a clue who BJ was, but I figured that $25 would come in handy.
“What does he look like?” I asked. “And how I can help?”
The guy looked at me like I was crazy or something, rolled up his window and sped off.
“Are you an idiot, dude,” one of the other boys said, looking over at me, disgusted, while the rest of them laughed.
I was about to answer him when the kid I had met before came strolling up the street.
“Danny, this kid is retarded,” the boy said. “He just scared off a john. Get him out of here, will you.”
“Is that right,” Danny said, looking over at me. “Did you just scare off a john?”
“What’s a john?” I asked, more confused than ever.
Danny just looked at me for a moment and then started smiling.
“Oh, my, you really don’t know, do you, kid,” he said.
“Don’t know what?” I replied.
By now I was starting to get nervous with all the questions being tossed at me.
“Never mind,” Danny responded. “You better come inside with me. I’m flush and can take a couple hours off.”
“Maybe I should just leave,” I said, kind of tentatively, not really sure what I should do. I mean, I didn’t know anything about that place so I wasn’t sure I should go inside with him.
“Where are you going to go?” he asked, shrugging his shoulders. “I mean, yeah, sure, feel free to go if you want. But I’m pretty good company and it’s warmer inside than out here.”
I didn’t have any better idea and knew he was right.
“Okay,” I said. Then I followed him into the place where he found a table for the two of us against the wall.
“This is a bar,” I said, looking around.
“Bingo,” Danny responded, smiling at me. “You’re not totally dense, are you?”
“No, I’m not,” I replied, defensively.
“I’m not some doofus kid,” I added, although I was beginning to feel like one just about then.
“Sorry,” Danny said. “I didn’t mean to suggest you were. But you’re right. This is a bar. It’s called the Café Palermo. But they also serve food here too,” he added. “I’m going to order a pizza. We can share it. My treat.”
And with that he ambled over to the bar and put in his order.
“Where I come from, they don’t let kids into bars,” I said, when he returned to the table we were sharing.
“Well, you’re not where you come from,” Danny replied. “You’re in Washington, D.C. right now. And if you take a good look around this place, you’ll see lots of younger guys in here, some the same age as you or even younger. But they’re not drinking, not drinking liquor, that is, because you have to be eighteen to drink in the bars here in Washington; which is still better than Maryland and Virginia.”
I took a careful look around the place and it pretty much confirmed what Danny had just told me.
“Of course, there are also some older guys here, too,” he continued, “but no women or girls, at least not right now. Do you know why that is?”
“Not really,” I said.
“It’s because this is a gay bar where older men come to pay for sex with younger boys,” Danny replied, nonchalantly, staring at me to see how I would react to that.
I tried really hard not to react, but the truth is I was kind of shook up when he said it. I had never been in a bar before, let alone a gay bar or one where you could buy sex.
“The older men are called johns,” he continued. “The boys are called a lot of different things, but hustlers will do well enough, I suppose. Do you understand now?”
I was beginning to, no doubt about it.
“Sure,” I said. “I may be new to this city, but I’m not totally clueless.”
“So what’s your name?” Danny asked.
“It’s Josh,” I said. “I told you before.”
“That’s nice,” he replied, staring me in the eyes. “Now tell me your real name and where you’re really from.”
I wondered how he knew I was lying and whether I should tell him the truth.
“Why do you want to know?” I responded, trying to show him I wasn’t going to be pushed around.
“Because you need some help right now,” he replied. “Both of us know that. And the only way I can help is if you tell me the truth. I won’t tell the cops and I won’t mess with you either.”
I looked at his eyes real closely and he didn’t look away when I did. I’m not really sure why, but I had a feeling he was someone I could trust.
“Okay, my real name is Tommy,” I finally replied, deciding it didn’t matter that much. “And I came down here from Vermont, not Boston.”
“Running away from home?” Danny asked.
I was still nervous so I didn’t say anything to that immediately.
“Look, Tommy, I can help if you’ll let me,” Danny said. “But you need to be honest with me. Are you running away from home?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “As a matter of fact I am.”
“Any chance you can be persuaded to go back?” he asked.
“No,” I replied. “They’ll lock me up if I go back.”
“Okay,” Danny said. “I won’t try to persuade you, at least not tonight. We need to talk some more, but you look kind of tired and worn out to me. Do you have a place to stay tonight?”
“No,” I responded. “Not really. I was going to sleep on a bench at that park up the road.”
“Forget that, dude,” he replied. “The cops will be all over your ass before the night is over. I could take you to one of the shelters, I suppose, assuming you don’t mind being beat up, robbed or raped. If that’s a problem, I could also talk to Ray about putting you up tonight. Ray is a friend of mine.”
“He lives in the building across the street,” he continued, pointing toward the entrance. “Like I said, he’s a friend of mine. I’m sure he’ll let you stay with us for a few days at least. He won’t try to mess with you and I won’t either. Do you want me to ask him whether you can stay tonight?”
I didn’t have a better plan so I just shrugged my shoulders.
“Whatever,” I said.
By then his pizza had arrived and he put the largest piece on a plate and handed it to me. We just sat there for fifteen minutes or so eating the thing. I had more than my fair share, but Danny didn’t seem to mind. I was glad about that because I was really hungry by then.
When we were done with the pizza, the two of us headed across the street to the building he had mentioned and Danny let himself in using some kind of key card. We took the elevator up to the sixth floor, then turned left and walked to the end of the hall. When he got there, Danny used the card to open the door and the two of us went in.
“Ray, it’s me, Danny,” he shouted. “I’ve got someone with me.”
“Who?” the guy replied, emerging from a room and looking over at me. He was an older guy, maybe around Coach’s age or perhaps even older. But he was taller than Coach and bald.
Danny took the guy aside and started talking to him in private. It made me kind of nervous that the two of them were talking like that, but I decided to wait and see what happened next.
“Okay,” Danny said, breaking away from the guy and looking over at me. “Ray says you can stay, at least tonight. Maybe a little longer if needed. You’ll be sleeping in my room with me. But I still have some work to do so I need to get back to the Palermo.”
“Did you come like that?” he added, looking over at me. “Or did you have enough sense to bring any stuff with you?”
“I have a bag,” I replied. “I checked it over at the bus station.”
“Okay,” Danny said. “That’s fine for tonight. We’ll pick it up and bring it over here tomorrow. Let me show you my room.”
I followed Danny down a corridor and we turned into a bedroom at the end. It was a small bedroom with just one bed although it was a little bigger than my bed at home. Clothes were strewn all over the floor and there was a small chair over by the window. It looked like it was there so he could use it to look out the window at the street down below.
“It ain’t much,” Danny said, “but it’s close to the Palermo. The bathroom is over there,” he added, pointing across the way. “I’ll see if Ray has an extra toothbrush he can lend you.”
And with that he disappeared back out to the main room.
I looked around.
It could be worse, I remember thinking to myself. I could be sleeping outdoors. In fact, this is a lot more than I could have expected to be honest.
And besides, I was tired, no doubt about it. Having to stay up all night to catch a ride could do that to you.
I’ll try this for one night, I said to myself. If either of those guys tries to mess with me, I’ll clear out of this place as fast as I can.
Eventually Danny returned.
“Here,’ he said, handing me the toothbrush and tossing a towel at me. “There’s some toothpaste in the bathroom and you can use my towel if you want to take a shower before you go to bed. And if you’re going to sleep in that bed with me and not on the floor, I would appreciate it if you would. Take a shower, that is. Because you’re definitely, umm, well, how should I put it? You’re definitely a little ripe,” Danny added, grinning at me.
“Okay,” I said.
“I’m going back to the Palermo now,” Danny replied. “We’ll talk some more tomorrow.”
Then he walked out of the room leaving me alone by myself.
I went across to the bathroom, closed the door and stripped off my clothes. They really didn’t smell very good at all. I had been wearing them a couple of days in a row now and had sweated a lot in the process. I couldn’t blame Danny for being put off by the smell. Hell, even I was put off by the smell.
I climbed into the shower and turned on the water. It felt good. I just stood there letting it soak in. I felt clean again. When I had finished, I brushed my teeth, then peeked out the door to see whether that dude Ray was hanging around to catch a look at me naked. But he was nowhere in sight.
I went over to the bedroom. I wasn’t sure what to do. I thought about putting my clothes back on so I could bolt immediately if someone tried to mess with me. But, like I said, they didn’t smell all that good. So finally I placed them on the floor right next to the bed where I could get to them quickly if I had to.
I debated whether I should sleep on the floor or in the bed. But I didn’t have a blanket and the bed looked really comfortable. I sighed, then climbed into the bed, naked. I remember closing my eyes. It felt so good to be able to rest for a spell.
I’m not really sure why. Maybe it was just seeing that older guy Ray, but my mind drifted back to Vermont and to Coach Johnson.
The thing is, once the gossip started, I was dead meat. I knew it and everyone else at school knew it too. No one wanted to have anything to do with me and who could blame them after all? I wasn’t just white trash any more. I was gay white trash. You couldn’t go any lower than that in high school.
Eating alone didn’t bother me that much. I had never really been part of any special clique at school so I was use to that. Being a human target when they threw food at me made it harder, of course, and eventually I stopped even going to lunch. I just made a sandwich at home and ate it quickly at my locker during lunch break. No drink or anything. I couldn’t afford that.
The funny thing is, as much as all the guys claimed to hate me, some of them started bumping into me privately and asking me to suck them off. The first time was a bit of shock. But then it happened three more times. By the time Josh caught me alone by my locker, I was used to it so I didn’t even wait for him to ask. I just told him to take a number and get in line.
He denied it, of course. That didn’t really surprise me, but he did plant a little doubt in my mind because he seemed nicer than the other guys somehow. But then I reminded myself how nice Wayne had behaved toward me at first and how that had turned out. It was just hard to trust anyone after everything that had happened to me.
Then I heard that Wayne and Josh had gotten into it over me somehow and were planning to fight. I left school early that day to scout out a place where I could watch the fight without anyone seeing me. But the fight never came off. The teachers broke it up before it could even get started, which was kind of a disappointment since I knew who I was planning to root for.
But the whole thing made me wonder even more whether Josh really did care about me.
It was around November that I began to worry. I had been leaving the house before my parents got home from work and staying out late in the evening. I just didn’t want to listen to all the screaming anymore and I was tired of getting beat up by my father. I was getting beat up enough at school. So I would leave, then go home around 11 p.m. when they were drunk and passed out. In the morning, I would get up early and go to school.
After school was the problem. The weather had started to turn cold earlier than usual that year. Up until then I had just been hanging out at the park. But I knew I couldn’t hang out at the park all winter. I started going to the library, but eventually they figured out I wasn’t there to do schoolwork or to read the books. They told me I couldn’t hang out there anymore and by then they were starting to close earlier in any event. I didn’t know exactly where to hang out after that.
It must have been sometime in November after PE that I got cornered by some of the guys in the locker room. They started pushing me around and taunting me. The thing is, it was always the same. They didn’t even have the guts to come after me one on one. They did it in groups so I didn’t have any chance at all. Not that I was the toughest kid in the school, but I could handle myself okay and it would have been fairer to go one on one.
I knew life wasn’t fair like that, of course, so I tried really hard to avoid places where they could corner me, but that was really hard after PE. The Coach made you shower and no matter how quick I showered the guys were all over my case and I usually ended up getting pushed around a lot. Usually Coach Johnson would come down and rescue my ass once the noise reached a level he found annoying. But that day was really bad. There must have been fifteen of them and they had me surrounded and were beating up on me more than usual.
By the time Coach arrived and broke it up, I was bleeding in a couple of places. He sent the rest of the boys on their way, but told me to go up and wait in his office.
A couple of minutes later he came in. Without saying a word, he pulled his first aid kit off the shelf and did his best to get me patched up.
“Look, Taylor,” he finally said, “I’m tired of this. Every day it’s the same thing and it’s getting really old. I know why the rest of the guys are beating you up. What I want to know is whether it’s true.
“What?” I asked.
“Don’t play games with me, Taylor,” Coach said. “I want to know whether you’re gay.”
“Does it matter?” I asked, a bit taken aback by his directness. “Everyone thinks I’m queer. That’s why they beat me up. I don’t see how it matters whether I am or not. If I told them I wasn’t, they wouldn’t believe me and they’d still beat me up.”
“It matters to me, Taylor,” Coach said. “Because I can help if you are.”
“Well, I’m not,” I replied, surprised. “I think I’m bi if you have to know. But even if I was gay, how could you help?”
“Look, Taylor, I’m not clueless like the rest of the teachers at this school,” Coach responded. “I know all about your situation. I know you go home after school and stay there until 5:15. I know you leave home after that and try to hang out some place until late at night. I know your parents don’t treat you well. I know you don’t even eat dinner most nights.”
“Like I said, I know the whole story, Taylor,” he continued. “If you want, you can stay at my place in the evening until you decide to go home. I’ll even drive you home. I’m not much of a cook, but you’ll have something to eat in the evening. It’s a pretty sweet offer, Taylor, especially with winter coming on so fast. You’d be smart to take me up on it. But it’s up to you.”
I remember wondering how Coach knew all of this. But he did and his offer was kind of attractive. I was suspicious, of course. I was pretty much suspicious of everyone by then.
“I don’t know,” I replied. “What’s the catch? What’s in it for you?” I asked, bluntly.
“Not a hell of a lot,” he replied, “except for some peace and quiet. If you decide you want to take me up on it, I’ll let you skip PE and still give you a passing grade. You can exercise down in my basement. That way I won’t have to be breaking up one of these fights every day and you’ll have some time to yourself plus a lot fewer bumps and bruises.”
I still wasn’t sure about the whole thing, but told Coach I would try it. He suggested a place where we could meet up by the Elm Street bus station that he said wasn’t too far from where he lived. That afternoon I left the house around 5:00 and walked up to Elm Street. Sure enough, Coach came by around 5:30 and picked me up.
The first week everything seemed cool. Coach would order in a pizza or whatever and share it with me. After dinner he had me go down to his basement for thirty minutes and exercise, then take a shower. Occasionally he would get on my case to do my homework. I actually appreciated him doing that for some reason. It was like he cared or something.
But most of the time the two of us just watched television in the evening after I finished showering.
It was sometime the following week when he put the question to me.
“Have you ever smoked marijuana?” he asked.
I told him no. He said I would like it so that’s what we did. We smoked weed. And he was right. I did like it. Getting high really relaxed me and made all of my problems disappear. I started asking him if we could smoke every night and he was agreeable to that. So that’s how I got into dope.
It wasn’t very long after that when it started. I was stoned and Coach sat down next to me and put his hand inside my jeans and started playing with me. I knew what he was doing right away. I had been expecting some kind of catch so it didn’t really surprise me that much. The thing is, I was warm. I had food and weed and, to be honest, I didn’t care anymore. So I let him do it. He gave me a blow job that night.
He was better at it than Wayne and I liked it. It didn’t take long before he asked me to suck his cock so I did. After that he pretty much stopped giving me blow jobs. But I still had to give them to him.
Coach Johnson was horny as hell. He was asking me to suck him off three or four times every evening. And then one evening when I was stoned he brought out the panties and told me to wear them while I sucked him off.
I remember protesting, but he just said that there wouldn’t be any more weed unless I did it. It bothered me some because I wasn’t no girl. But I wanted that weed really bad and figured it was his problem, not mine. So I did it.
I didn’t know he was taping me sucking him off until later. He liked making me watch while I was doing it to him and he wasn’t exactly shy about telling me what would happen if those videos ever got out.
By then it was February or March and he started getting on my case about wanting to fuck my ass. But I told him no.
He tried the whole thing about how there wouldn’t be any more weed again. But I called his bluff and said fine, that I could go without the weed but there was no way I was going to let him do that to me.
No way. No how. Forget about it!
I mean, the thing is, I had done a lot by then but I didn’t want him or anyone else to do that to me. It seemed to me it was the last piece of myself that was mine and nobody else’s. I had shared my hand, I had shared my mouth, I had shared my cock and just about everything else. I wanted something that was mine that I wasn’t sharing with anyone. But most of all I didn’t want to be Coach’s girlfriend. It seemed to me things were getting weirder and weirder and that’s where he was headed with this whole deal.
I’m not sure exactly how long I slept that first night in Washington, but I remember being awakened by the sound of someone in the room. He was trying to be quiet, I could tell, but I was a light sleeper. I opened my eyes and peeked over. It was Danny and he was taking off his clothes.
From what I could see, I remember thinking he had a pretty nice body, kind of small, like mine, but more muscular, kind of like Josh’s. I couldn’t see much though so I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep. The next thing I knew he was climbing into the bed with me.
There was enough room for both of us but not very much left to spare. Danny spooned himself up behind me, then wrapped his arm over my chest. I remember tensing up, wondering if he was going to try messing with me. But he didn’t. He just tried to find a position that was comfortable, then settled down.
I just lay there silently, nervous. Eventually his breathing started to get deeper. I could tell he had fallen asleep. His arm was still around me, but I felt more relaxed now knowing he was asleep. I closed my eyes and soaked in the warmth from his body. It felt good after what I had gone through the previous evening.
I guess I fell asleep after that. Only this time I fell into a really deep sleep and no more memories came flooding back.
[Please check the Author Notes in the header above if you haven’t already done so]