This story details explicit gay sex between men, teens and boys. If you find this kind of thing distasteful, or if you are underage wherever you live, then stop reading this now, and delete this file. The story is completely fictional; the author does not condone or encourage any of the acts contained herein.



Chapter 74

By: Tim Keppler (nemoami@yahoo.com)

 Edited by: Bob Leahy

Once Dinh told me that he wasn't in love with me, we became really-good friends, sort of confidants. I really like him. No, I really love him, but not that way. He's right. But he's someone I can talk to. He's just really easy to confide in, and in some ways probably knows more about me than even Ian and Leslie. I've also discovered a lot about him. "What's your dream?" I asked him one day. "When you're 85, what do you want to be able to say about your life?"

He thinks. "That I was multi-faceted. That I overcame my fears and inhibitions. That I did many things in my life."

"And what are your fears and inhibitions?"

He giggles. "Oh, Shawn, you know the answer to that. That I won't be multi-faceted."

I give him a look. "Tautologies don't count. Truth or dare?"

He smiles. He knows where this is going. "Truth."

"What's your greatest fear?"

Dinh instantly tears up. "That Tim, Kenny or Jason might stop loving me."

"Why would they do that? They all seem to love you to distraction."

"Truth," he says, evading the question. "Where were you on Tuesday?"

I can feel myself going beet red. "In L.A.," I reply. "Truth. Why would they ever stop loving you?"

"Because my...umm...sexual preferences are sometimes a little...extreme. Truth. Why were you in L.A.?"

Pause. "I was working. I had a job there. Truth. What do you mean by `extreme'?"

"I'm...umm...very turned on by...pain."

"By pain?"

He nods. "I sort of...like to be...hurt. Sexually. Tim knows how to love me, but he won't always do it. Sometimes he's not in the mood. Sometimes when I want him to hurt me, he just wants...vanilla sex. Don't get me wrong. I love Tim more than anything, but sometimes he won't...take control."

"Do you like him to control you?"

He nods. "Sometimes. What was your L.A. job?"

I stare at my shoes for several seconds. Dinh has just made a confession to me. I sort of owe him, don't I? "I'm an...actor...sort of. Besides being a waiter at Stuart Anderson's, sometimes I get acting jobs. I...umm...act in adult videos. Gay adult videos."

"Porn?" Dinh shrieks, laughing.

I nod. "I'm not proud of it, but it pays..."

"Don't apologize," Dinh responds. "That's why I did it. It paid the bills. I did it before I met Kenny. When I started working for Kenny, he brought me home to meet the family – Jason, Tim, and the boys. And Tim kept looking at me funny; he kept staring. He asked me what I'd done before I moved to San Jose. I was pretty sure he knew, and when I came back the second time to work with Kenny, he sort of confronted me...gently. He whispered to me the stage-name I'd used in my video when I was with him in the kitchen. I thought my days as Kenny's teaching assistant were over. But, no one really cared. Tim was just...amused, by life's...vicissitudes." He giggles. "There's my $64,000 word for the evening. He thought it was funny. I mean, I only ever made one video, and it wasn't a feature, and I wasn't the star. It was a fifteen-minute short, and I was a peripheral player. What were the odds that he'd seen it? But he had. He'd not only seen it, he owned it. I didn't even do much in that video. I get sucked off, that's it. I don't even cum...I sort of...couldn't."

"You couldn't cum?"

Dinh shakes his head.

"Why not?"

"I was...scared. I was scared it would make me...umm...gay. I was pretty young. I was underage. Sometimes, I can't..." Long pause.


"Umm...sometimes I can't cum...if...umm...there's no...pain." He looks really embarrassed, staring at his shoes.

"It's okay, Dinh. We are who we are."

"What kind of videos do you do?" Dinh asks, changing the subject again. "What do you do in them?"

"Most of them have been pretty...vanilla. Last Tuesday's was a little...different. I'm a little...old for the Bel Ami class of videos I've been doing. I got an offer from Tom McGurk. He does stuff that's a little...umm...harder core. He usually works from San Francisco, but also has a studio in Los Angeles for models who live down there."

"McGurk? You mean the guy who does all the...bondage videos?" Dinh asks.

"Umm...yeah. Him. He's a nice guy, it turns out. Nothing like what you'd think."

"And...uhh...what'd you have to do?"

"A lot of stuff...a lot of it pretty kinky. And, he doesn't do much simulation."


"Most of what he does is real. It really happens to you. Like if the top fucks you, it's not simulated. If he spanks you, you really get spanked. And stuff."

Dinh reaches over and caresses my face with his right hand. "And, what'd you have to do?"

I look up at Dinh, trying to gauge his...what?...sincerity. "I...umm...got locked in a stocks, spanked, fucked, had my balls abused, and...umm...other stuff."

Dinh gives me a long, long look. "It's cool, Shawn. It's okay. What other stuff?"

I give Dinh a really long look, and then stare down at the rug. Finally, "The guy I was working with, the top, is a serious player. He did some stuff with...needles."

"What does that mean?" Dinh asks.

I'm getting a little emotional, now, because I was so terrified, and because it...umm...hurt...so much. "You can't know how much money this was worth. This one movie will pay for a semester at Stanford, but what they did to me..." I find myself tearing up. "I really can't talk about this," I say, choking. "I'll never do it again. Never! I'll never work for McGurk again. It was too intense."

We pause for a long, long moment. Finally Dinh reaches over and hugs me, and then looks me in the eyes. "But aside from that...needles thing, it was...umm...okay?"

"Yeah, it was fine," I say, regaining control.

"Have you ever thought of making videos rather than acting in them?"

I give Dinh another really long look. Why would he ask me this? How could he know? "Umm...yeah."

"Really?" he looks at me, incredulous. "Really? You've thought about it?"

"Umm...yeah." I'm not sure where this is going. I'm a little reticent, I know, but I don't know what else to say.

"You...umm...want to?" Dinh, too, is now very...skittish, and I'm not sure whether this question is motivated by curiosity or desire. Does he want to make videos?"

"Yeah," I finally say. "I've...umm...written a couple of...scripts."

"Scripts? Porn scripts?"

"Yeah. Porn is sort of boring, isn't it? Porn videos aren't something you watch more than once. Unless you get really, really cute guys? It sort of needs to have a story wrapped around it, doesn't it? Isn't it better if you understand who the characters are, and their motivation? Bel Ami gets away with non-stop sex because their models and actors are just...gorgeous. And McGurk gets away with it because of the kink factor. But...umm...what if you could deliver kink with characters you knew, characters who have a reason for being there besides for the sex? So, for example, take an actor who you like. Take Kevin Williams, for example. He was around years ago. Have you ever seen any of his work?"

Dinh nods.

"He was really cute, and actually wasn't a bad actor, but the stuff he played in was...awful. He was in those movies to have sex and that was all. There was no plot, no story. He walked in the door of the studio, got fucked, and went home. That was it. But...uhh...supposing he had history. Supposing he was a real person."

Dinh nods slowly, sort of absently. Then he looks up. "Do you think porn needs that?"

"I'm guessing, but I think if you could do that, could produce an actual story that includes a lot of sex, I think you could make a boatload of money. I think there're a lot of guys out there who'd buy it."

That conversation was three days ago. Three days later, I'm out swimming when Dinh bounces in from Tim's place, through the gate. He dives in, and we splash around for a while, and then Feng joins us, diving in from the side of the pool, aiming for us, for me. I catch him in mid-air, to his utter surprise, dunk him in the pool, and then lift him back out. "What are you up to, Mister?" I ask him. He is all giggles.

"Splash," he screams, and wriggles out of my grasp, plunging into the water, and swimming away. He's gotten to be a pretty-good swimmer. He sort of glides like an eel. He likes to swim under water. He doesn't do the breast stroke very well, but he does slither through the water very well. He's good.

Suddenly, Dinh touches my shoulder. "Can I read your scripts?" he asks.


"Your porn scripts. You said you'd written a couple. Can I read them?"

"Yeah. Okay. I'll email them to you."

"Cool," he says, and then we start to swim. We pretend to be sharks, both aiming for Feng, and when we reach him, we pounce. We bite him softly on the leg, on the shoulder, and on the belly. He screams with laughter, but "escapes" us, ultimately, swimming to the other end of the pool. There he waits for us to follow, to attack him again. He is just so cute. By the end of about an hour, we're exhausted, and Feng is delirious with laughter.

"Enough," I scream, lifting Feng out of the water and setting him on the edge of the pool. "You're too fast for us," I tell him, climbing out of the pool and snatching him back, throwing him into the air. "Let's go get rinsed off and get something to eat." He likes that idea. I think he has mango in mind. Like Kev, Feng loves his mango. He's going to get pineapple, though. We're out of mango. But, he won't mind.

That evening, I email Dinh the two scripts I've written. One is pretty light-weight. It's about us basically, our lives. I wrote it when I was lusting after Dinh. It's the story of two guys who meet at the local Peet's Coffee shop, as most everyone does in our neighborhood. Both are single parents with young children of about the same age. It's interracial, so one's Asian and one's Caucasian, and actually the Asian guy is straight. But, he's attracted to this Caucasian guy. In the course of their first meeting, they discover that they live next door to each other, and that the Caucasian guy has a swimming pool. It's the kids that get them together.

The second script is a bit more...provocative. I had Ian and Leslie in mind when I wrote it. They meet at a coffee shop. No, that's not right. They meet at a dance club, at a party. They meet and dance with each other. Then they move to the coffee shop next door to talk and find out about each other. From there they start to date, start to meet each others' friends. Then, having abstained from sex for weeks, they succumb, but not before talking about what they like to do. And what they like to do is...a little...kinky. One guy likes to be spanked. He's into...pain, and the story is about both of them coming to terms with that. It's basically a love story where two people have to accept their different views of what love means. For one, it means vanilla sex, and for the other it means being hurt as part of the sex act. I guess it's a story about acceptance and the desire to give your partner pleasure in whatever form his pleasure takes. I don't know. I like this second script a lot more than the first because...it's more complex. The relationship is hard to describe, and I think most relationships are hard to describe.

Two days later, Dinh and I meet for lunch at his favorite noodle shop. I hate to admit that we're a little bit predictable, but we sort of are. Every Wednesday we have lunch at this same noodle shop in Mountain View. It's a place that specializes in the foods of Huế, a Vietnamese city in about the middle of the country. I think his parents are from there. Dinh, too. The soup is really good, and Dinh knows the owners pretty well. As a result, we always get a table really fast, even though the place is always packed and has a line of customers waiting for tables. Dinh likes the Bún Huế, which is a very fishy-tasting broth with both beef and pork slices, noodles, and usually a pig's knuckle. It's good. I like the Phở, which isn't specific to Huế, but which tastes really good here, I'm not sure why. Is there more anise in the broth, or more lemon grass? Maybe it's the fish sauce. I'm not sure, but theirs is really good.

So, once we have our table, and once we've given the waitress our order, Dinh looks across the table at me. "I really liked your scripts, especially the second one. It...umm...turned me on pretty quickly. Have you sent them out to porn companies?"

I giggle. "No one's going to make those videos. Producers like Falcon and Bel Ami aren't interested in character development. They're interested in dick. They're interested in the number of cum shots they can get into a one-hour video. That's important, but it's not the whole deal. Know what I mean?"

Dinh nods as the soup arrives. We shovel in our bean sprouts, tear up our basil leaves, and squeeze in the lime and Sriracha hot sauce. Then we start to eat.

"So...umm...why don't we make these ourselves?" Dinh says between mouthfuls.

"The two of us?"

"Yeah. Well, I don't mean acting. We can hire actors. As I was reading the scripts, I found I had a lot of ideas about how I'd direct them, for the kind of motivation I'd be looking for, for the physical appearance of the actors I'd cast, even for the locations and settings. Do you know how to work a camera?"

I nod, slurping down a long noodle. "Yeah," I say, finally. "I've done it before. The trick is to have multiple cameras going at once, and to film scenes from multiple angles. You put together a scene-by-scene shooting matrix, laying out where each camera will be during a scene. The rest is editing, and I've done some of that before, too."

"So, what if I direct, and you manage the camera work and editing. We can distribute the videos either through companies like Falcon, or we can distribute them from a web site. Have you ever looked at seancody.com or randyblue.com?"

I nod.

"That's what I have in mind. Distribution costs are minimal because there's no physical media – no packaging. People who want the videos just download them."

"But, how do they know where to look for them?" I ask. "How do would-be viewers even know they exist?"

"We'll have to advertise," Dinh responds, "but there are a lot of creative ways to do that without spending too much money."

"Where'd we film them?" I ask.

"Well, some of the shooting would be `on location,' but I was also thinking we could set up the basement at your place as a studio for bedroom scenes. We could use Tim's dungeon for the more hard-core stuff."

By this time, we've finished our soup. When you finish eating at this place, you're really obliged to leave because there are so many other people waiting for tables. We get up, and go to pay. The moment we settled the bill and turn to leave, we notice that our table has been cleared and another couple has been seated. Two guys. One of them catches Dinh's eye. "Dinh," he calls. Dinh turns back toward the table, and then his eyes light up.

"Thanh," he calls, crossing back to our table. They hug, and Dinh sits back down next to his friend. He motions me over, and I sit down next to the guy Thanh is with who, thankfully, is very nice.

"I'm Howe," Thanh's friend says, extending his hand. We shake.

"I'm Shawn."

Thanh and Dinh are talking a mile a minute in Vietnamese, and this continues for maybe five minutes. Finally, Thanh notices me. "Hello," he says in heavily-accented English. "I'm Thanh. Dinh and I went to high school together down in L.A. I didn't know he was in San Jose. We haven't seen each other in years. You are?"

"Shawn," I respond. "We live next door to each other." We shake hands as Thanh eyes me carefully. I'm being cruised, and Thanh is unabashed. He knows I know that I'm being cruised, and he simply doesn't care.

"You are gay." This isn't a question. He says it with authority, with conviction. "Do you sleep together?"

Dinh cuffs him playfully. "No," I say, smiling. "We're just good friends."

"Then you are available?" he asks.

Dinh cuffs him again, giggling furiously. They chat at lightning speed in Vietnamese, and then Thanh looks back at me. "I see," he says. "You are taken, but not by Dinh. You are taken often by the sounds of it, or...umm... should that be `taken a lot' or `very taken'? American idioms are such a challenge." He has an impish grin on his face. He's teasing me, and I can either be embarrassed or I can play along.

"I'm taken regularly," I reply, smiling demurely, primly.

Thanh laughs. "Yes," Thanh says dryly. "You and Dinh must join us for dinner tomorrow night. Howe and I are going to Vung Tau on 12th Street. Please join us." He looks from Dinh to me and then back to Dinh. I nod to Dinh and he nods to Thanh. "Excellent!" Thanh says. "Let's say 7 pm?" Again we both nod. "Perfect! We'll see you then. Now go, before the waiter comes back and throws us all out for not eating fast enough." Dinh smiles again, and we leave the restaurant. This guy is seriously funny!

He's also seriously cute. Seriously! What does he look like? I'm never sure how to describe really-cute guys. He looks very...Asian. He's very tan, and has high cheekbones, and very pouty lips. He has single-fold almond eyes, and dark hair. Like most Vietnamese, he's quite petit, maybe 5'5" tall and very slender. Unlike most Vietnamese, he has a rather broad, flat nose. This is more a Chinese trait, I think, so maybe he's ethnically Chinese. I'm not sure. All I know is that he's really attractive.

"You went to high school with him?" I ask Dinh, giggling.

Dinh laughs. "No. I'm not sure Thanh ever went to high school, at least not over here. I met him on the set of my porn movie. He's the guy who sucked me off, or tried to anyway. He told you we went to high school together because he wasn't sure what I'd told you about my sordid past. Thanh was a porn star. He did feature-length movies. He was the real thing. Today, he says, he's a gardener, which is a shame because he's still really...hot, isn't he?"

"Umm...yeah. He's good looking. Just a little." We both giggle, and head back to Stanford where we grab some coffee at the campus coffee house.

"So, if we did produce those scripts, which would we do first?" I ask Dinh as we sit down to drink our coffee.

"That's what I was wondering, too. The mass audience would like the first one better – the one about the straight guy and the gay guy with kids who meet at Peet's and fall in love. It's sweet, and it plays to that fantasy among a lot of gay men that they can seduce a straight guy, like straight guys are such a catch." He rolls his eyes and giggles. "The other script, the one about the guy into pain as a sexual release, is more interesting, though, more provocative. As a main-line movie, I'd say `Let's do that one.' But it's not a mainline movie. It's porn. By doing that one, you seriously reduce the number of potential buyers interested in your product, but...you make it cheaper and easier to market the movie because the number of places you need to advertise it is much more...finite. And, even though you have fewer potential buyers, gay kink has more elasticity in terms of margins. You can charge more for it because the potential buyers you do have are used to paying more."

My eyes have sort of glazed over, I think. You can tell that Dinh is a doctoral candidate – albeit in Computer Science – because of the way he thinks. He's so fucking logical, and I don't think he's ever taken a marketing course in his life. This is just how he analyzes a problem. "Dinh, which one should we do first?"

He giggles, realizing that he's been lecturing. "I think we should do the second one, the kinky one. I'm hoping that recommendation represents my brain rather than my dick. Obviously, I find the kinky story more interesting. But, I think it'd be easier to market, and given that neither of us knows anything about marketing a gay video, easier is better. Wadda you think?"

I nod. "It makes sense, and that script is really the one I like best, the one I invested the most energy in. So, what do we do next?"

"Yeah. There are a lot of things we need to do before we ever start filming, it seems to me. First, you and I need to sit down and read the script together. Let's each take a role and read through it. When I was reading it, I found several places where I thought it would be interesting to change things a little. And, we need to start looking for actors. Six months ago, I would have said that finding actors would be a snap. You just advertise on Craigslist. Now that we have the Craigslist-killer, though, I'm not so sure. We'll start there, and see what we come up with. So, are you bought into this? You wanna do it?"

I giggle and nod. He reaches his hand across the table to shake. I roll my eyes. "Dinh, we're gay!"

"That's true." We both get up from the table and hug.

"Let's do it," I whisper.

"Let's," he whispers back.


The next two months are a whirlwind of activity. Everyone in both our families knows what we're doing, and everyone's on board. Dinh told Tim the evening we decided to make the video, and he snickered, apparently. "Back to your roots?" he said. Dinh cuffed him, and they laughed. He thought it was a great idea. "Why not?" he said. "Most porn is so mindless. If you're going to make something with an actual story, that should have an appeal. And then...umm...it won't be just twinky little white boys frolicking in the froth of the sea, either, will it? It'll be something a little closer to life – our life." He loved the idea, and so did Kenny and Jason. Jason even offered to look at the final cut of the movie and to write some music for it, music he could get the San Francisco Symphony to record for us – gratis.

Ian and Leslie were also enthusiastic. "Finally," Leslie said, "finally we find a use for that damned mausoleum downstairs." When we'd move to this house, Leslie had the basement finished – drywall, paint, carpeting, the works. But, we've never used it. Dinh and I are proposing to use it as a studio, and Leslie loves the idea. "So, this means that when I bring a trick home, I can take him down there, and film the whole thing. It'll be good for jerk-off fantasies for years." Ian cuffs him, giggling.

"You bring a trick home, you're toast. You bring a trick home, I want part of him." Now it's Leslie's turn to cuff Ian, and then they start wrestling and tickling each other, much to the amusement of our boys, who are having breakfast at this moment.

"Watsa `trick', Daddy?" Feng asks me, laughing.

"He means a friend, sweetie. They're just being silly."

We end up extensively rewriting the script. The premise is still the same, revolving around the theme of learning to love in ways that are meaningful to the one you love rather than to you. I'm interested in the notion of reciprocity. If I show you love in a way that's meaningful to you, and you show me love in a way that's meaningful to me, aren't we both happier? Dinh thinks it needs to be a little more...varied...to make that point. When he reads the script, Tim agrees. "Do you want to concentrate just on spankings? I mean, that's what we mostly do here, but there are a lot of couples that explore other areas of erotic pain. Branching out would give your movie a broader appeal." He's right. The final script is much better. It's still erotic and kinky, but it's much more...exciting. You don't know what's going to happen next. What you do know is that the two main characters love each other, really love each other, and you know that not because they say it, but because they show it. It's a really good script.

Our biggest struggle is finding actors. We advertise on Craigslist, and put out flyers at Stanford, at San Jose State, at Foothill and DeAnza Junior Colleges, and at coffee houses and movie theaters throughout the south valley. We get lots and lots of applicants, over 250 in all. We asked for pictures – one face shot, and one full-body shot. We didn't ask that applicants be naked in the photos, but a lot of them are, figuring, I guess, that their willingness to send us naked photos will work in their favor. What it actually does, in a lot of cases, is allow us to eliminate many before ever auditioning them. The auditions, I have to confess, are a lot of fun, getting the candidates naked and filming them saying lines. I'd made up cue cards with the lines written out. Dinh would hold up the cards, and the actors would read the lines, those who could read at all. It's amazing how little expression or imagination people have when they read a script. I've always thought that novels are better than the movies made from them because when you read a novel, you sort of become your own screenwriter. It's your imagination that infuses the characters with life and authenticity. Essentially you do the same thing when you act. You put flesh on the bones of a character, figuring out who they are and making them real. So, how come so many of our applicants are so...wooden, so...boring? Why don't they express themselves when they read the lines? Who knows?

All told, we find maybe forty we can use, and then we tell them the story line; we tell them what they're going to have to do. That forty goes to fifteen. This movie is a little too graphic for most, a little too...extreme. And we're not pulling any punches. We're not going to fake effects. There are a bunch of different studios making S/M videos. Most of them do it badly because the effects are obviously fake. These include spankings that turn the ass red in a split second (because the ass has suddenly gotten an application of makeup), and fucking scenes shot entirely from the front (so you don't see that penetration never actually happened). They include voice-overs ("Oh...yeah...fuck me harder...fuck the shit out of me"), but when you watch the actors carefully, you realize they're not saying anything. Both Dinh and I want this video to be authentic, so we need actors willing to be authentic willing to be...hurt. This limits the talent pool. We find fifteen, however, who have potential. That brings us to the next question. Who do we match with whom?

If you wonder why there are casting directors in real movies, it's not so much the choice of individual actors as it is the choice of an ensemble. Matching up actors with chemistry is the secret, and neither Dinh nor I know how to do this. I come up with an answer, though. Speed dating. Basically what we decide to do is bring all fifteen actors back for a second audition, get them naked, and have them rehearse scenes while we film them. Each one will do a short five-minute scene with one of the other guys, and then we'll switch them, pairing each of them with someone else. The scene will include a kiss and some fondling so we can see how comfortable they are making out with someone in front of a camera. Then, at the end, we ask each of them who they were most comfortable working with, and who they were least comfortable with. We also ask them who they think would be the best choice to play the character they're not playing. From this, we get some really-fascinating answers. It turns out that the guy almost everyone was most comfortable with was a guy I would never have chosen for either role. He's too...easy, too...laid back. I think everyone pretty much realized that, because the guy most of them said they were most comfortable was not the guy they selected for the roles. The guy most of them selected for the role of the dominant partner was the guy at least half of them said they were least comfortable with – which makes sense if you think about it. But it didn't make sense with this guy – until we played back his audition tapes.

You need to understand that this guy is gorgeous. But he doesn't fit the stereotypes of a typical dominant. He's young, and while he's very well defined physically, he's not "muscular" per se. In still photos, he looks like the boy next door, the friendliest guy you'll ever meet, and when you talk to him, he's personable and eager-to-please. The kicker with this guy, though, is that he can act. Really. The character of the dominant in this script is basically seduced into becoming dominant by his new boyfriend. So, in the course of the video, this character transforms himself so he can show love to his boyfriend in ways that are meaningful to him. He goes from being laid back and easy-going, to being demanding and controlling. That transformation has to be believable, and so does the dominance. The problem with most S/M videos (and stories as well) is that the dominant character is entirely one-dimensional. You never get to see his vulnerability or the love he has for his partners. That makes for a boring story line, and that's why we're making this video in the first place.

"Yeah, you're right," Dinh says to me as we argue about this guy for the seventeenth time, "Jeremy doesn't fit the mold. You'd never expect to see him all decked out in chaps and boots. But isn't that the point? Have you ever seen Leslie in chaps and boots, or Tim?"

He's right. I have to agree. We've found our dominant.

What we haven't found is our sub, and it's not for want of trying. There is no consensus at all among the fifteen candidates as to which actor we should select for the submissive role. Some even write that they have no preference. Dinh and I agreed. No one catches our eye. I've envisioned this as an interracial story, but that clearly isn't going to happen. The fifteen candidates we end up with are all Caucasians. But, even if I give up on the notion of a mix-race couple, there's no one suitable. There are plenty who are cute, I guess, but no who can both act and who has any chemistry with Jeremy. It's really sad. I'm losing hope in this project.

On Wednesday, Dinh and I make our way to the noodle shop in Mountain View for our weekly lunchtime infusion of soup. Thanh and Howe are here again. They must be making this place one of their regular stops. Thanh waves us over to their table, and we plunk down and order. We both have the same thing almost every week, so we know what to order by number, and usually do before the guy who seats us gets away. I order a small number 8, and Dinh orders a small number 19. It doesn't take long for the soup to come...steaming.

"What have you guys been up to?" Thanh asks.

"We've been trying to cast a video," Dinh says ruefully, "and we're not having very good luck." He fills Thanh in on our dilemma. Thanh can slurp noodles faster than anyone I've ever seen. He is very intense about it. He seems to be totally concentrated on his lunch, and paying little attention to the story that Dinh is relating. Finally, when Dinh has finished his story, and Thanh has finished his soup, Thanh looks across the table at Dinh.

"So, what's the story? Who is this character?"

Dinh defers to me. "The story is sort of autobiographical for both Dinh and me. We're both...umm...sort of...submissive. We both have dominant partners. We're both...uhh...sort of into...pain. The story is about a guy who falls for a submissive who...coaxes him into taking control. I was surprised that we found the dom, frankly. We found him quickly. But, we...umm...can't find the sub. There's just no one appropriate. Either they can't act, or they're not willing to take the punishment they'll face in this role, or they have no idea what this kind of role really is – they have no life experience that matches up. It's really depressing. Are Dinh and I the only ones in this situation?"

"Uhh...probably not," Thanh replies. "There's me."

This stops the conversation dead. For Dinh, it stops him mid-mouthful. Just as he's about to suck up a mouthful of noodles, he sets his chopsticks down, laying them on the edge of his bowl. Thanh doesn't pause. He goes right on eating.

"You?" Dinh says, incredulous.

"Yeah," Thanh says, nodding, slurping down an avocado milkshake, his dessert.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Dinh asks.

It's Howe who answers. "Thanh and I have a relationship that sounds similar to what you both have. Thanh gets off on a bit of...pain. And I...umm...get off...on providing it."

Dinh is absolutely incredulous. "Really? But you seemed so...dominant when we worked together," Dinh says to Thanh.

"Well, there's dominant and dominant," Thanh says, giggling between slurps. "You seemed so submissive back then. Someone needed to `take the reins'. It's called acting, Dinh. Sometimes I can do that. But, just because I can act that role doesn't mean that it's my preference in real life."

Have you ever seen one of those cartoons where a light bulb suddenly appears above the head of one of the characters? "Brilliant idea" it seems to say.

"Do you still act?" I ask.

"Haven't for about three years," Thanh replies, finishing his milkshake.

"Would you consider doing it again?"

Then Thanh gets it. He puts down his glass, and stares at me across the table, a pensive look on his face. He glances at Howe, who shrugs. Then he looks back at me.

"Yeah, I guess so. Why not?"

Published first at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Nemo-stories/