STANDARD WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to individuals, living or dead, is pure coincidence. Do not read this story if you are offended by man-to-man romance or sex. Do not read if you are underage according to the laws in the country, state/province, county, city/town/village or township where you live. There is sex between males. You have been warned!
Copyright 2002 by
Nick Archer. Permission is granted to Nifty Archives to post one
copy. No part may be copied, reproduced, republished, or reposted
on another website without written permission from the author.
By Nick Archer
According to my friend Buddy, the definition of a loser is one whos over thirty and still wears a nametag to work.
I guess you could call me a loser.
Oh, I only wear a nametag to my part-time job. I dont wear one at my full-time job. See, Im a teacher. I teach 7th and 8th grade history in a Catholic school. If you know anything about the pay scales of teachers, you know Catholic schoolteachers are on the bottom rung. So I took a part-time job to make ends meet. I work part-time in a bookstore in Chicago Ridge Mall.
I dont have a problem being a gay guy and teaching in a Catholic school. Some people would. Not my fellow teachers, though. They dont know about my gayness, of course. They respect me because Im a good teacher and Im the only man on the staff. They treat me like a prince.
Just after lunch, Theresa, one of the fifth grade teachers, stopped me in the hall. Shes Italian, married, has four kids and is as big as a house. But shes absolutely lovely and one hell of a teacher. Her kids love her.
"Theres a pan of lasagna in the fridge in the teachers lounge. Take it home."
"Oh, Theresa, I couldnt."
"Dont give me that! I made enough to feed an army. Dominic says if he eats another piece, hes going to explode! I know you dont have much time to cook with your bookstore job and all."
"Thats very nice of you, Theresa, but "
"Dont give me that crapola!" She tried to be stern but I know that shes just kidding. Its a little game that we play. "And you never know," she says with a conspiratorial wink, "you might have company over the weekend. You could tell her you made it yourself." Sometimes breeders can be so dense.
She gave my arm several maternal pats. "Have a nice weekend and dont work too hard at the bookstore."
"I actually have tonight off," I told her.
"Really? Good for you! Well, maybe you can get out and meet a nice girl."
I just smiled and shook my head as I continued to my own classroom. Its unusual that I have Friday nights off. Most of the other part-timers are college kids who want Friday nights off to party. Since I have no social life anyway, I volunteered to work Friday nights; a fact that has endeared me to the store manager.
The rest of the afternoon flew by. Since its almost Halloween, I talk to my students about some allegedly haunted spots in the Chicago area. I tell them about Bachelors Grove Cemetery, St. James Sag Church, and the ghosts of famous disasters such as the Eastland disaster and the Haymarket Riot. And, of course, I tell them about Resurrection Mary.
"Resurrection Mary probably falls into the category of urban legends," I tell my classes. "Almost every city has a tale about the vanishing hitchhiker." Mary was a beautiful blond girl and the daughter of Polish immigrants. In the 1930s she had gone to a dance with her boyfriend at the Willowbrook Ballroom. Back then it was known as the OHenry Ballroom. They had a fight and Mary decided to hitchhike home. Tragically, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed her as she hitchhiked home on Archer Avenue. She was buried in Resurrection Cemetery, a huge Catholic cemetery on Archer in the suburb of Justice. Since then, shes been seen hitchhiking up and down Archer Avenue. Some drivers have even claimed to have picked her up and taken her to the ballroom. One man claimed to have danced with her. He reported that her skin was cold to the touch. In 1979, police spotted her hitchhiking on the side of Archer Avenue near Resurrection. They turned on their Mars lights and gave chase. As she neared the cemetery, she pulled two of the iron bars of the fence and disappeared. I even displayed some pictures of the bent and scorched iron bars of the fence where Mary supposedly tried to get back in. The kids listened with rapt attention and they had lots of questions. Theyre particularly interested because our school is not far from Archer Avenue.
Sure, the topics of ghosts and hauntings are not exactly in the curriculum guide. But I reassure myself with the fact that Im only spending one classroom period on the topic and the kids are wired for sound anyway. I suspect theyve been dipping into the Halloween candy at home and most of them have a good sugar buzz going already. Besides, its history. Whether or not the stories are true is another matter. When they ask me if I believe in ghosts, I tell them that there are lots of things we dont understand about God and His plans and that most of these spirits probably dont realize theyre dead. Its a Catholic school, after all. No need to get in trouble.
Mike ORourke stops after the last class. This eighth grader is stunningly handsome: dark hair, dark eyes, high cheekbones, beautiful skin untroubled by blemishes, and a wide smile revealing perfect teeth. He could easily be a model.
"Mr. D, you are such a dude!" I allowed the kids to call me Mr. D. My last name is DiGiacomo. Its quite a mouthful. "I love hearing that stuff. Is any of it true?"
I smiled mysteriously at him. "What do you think?"
"Well, I know this one lady whos the mother of my cousins friend that says she saw Resurrection Mary. I dunno. I wouldnt want to see her!" He looks at me with a combination of fear, curiosity and maybe just a touch of hero worship. "So you believe in Resurrection Mary?"
"No, Mike. I dont believe in ghosts," I answered him honestly. I glanced at the clock. "Youd better get to your homeroom, Mike." The kids return to their homeroom for ten minutes before final dismissal.
"Oh, yeah, I guess. Have a good weekend, Mr. D!"
Im not after the boys, although Ill admit that some are very pretty - like Mike. Nope, I want a man. But I dont have one.
Im very lonely. My lover died a year ago. No, it wasnt AIDS that took Kevin from me. It was a common car accident on a rainy and windswept night.
Since then, I buried myself in work. Between teaching and all the lesson plans, paper grading, and parent conferences that it entails and my part-time job, I hardly have a social life. Its my choice, I tell myself, but as I near my thirty-second year I long for a steady man in my life. I want someone to see a movie with. I want someone to listen to the escapades of the little shits that I teach.
Alone in my classroom after the final bell, I packed up my briefcase, picked up a few stray papers off the floor, erased the board and locked the door.
In the teachers lounge, I removed my edible gift from the refrigerator and said my good-byes to the other teachers there.
Chairman Meow greeted me at the door, protesting loudly. How dare you leave me alone all day? I scooped him up and hugged him to my cheek, remembering the day Kevin and I picked him out at the Humane Society. He was just a little orange fuzzball. Hes an orange tabby; picture Morris in the 9 Lives commercials. He started purring the second the volunteer handed him to me, and I was smitten. The only disagreement we had was naming him. Kevin thought the name Chairman Meow was amusing but I lobbied for something more mundane like Tiger. Kevin won. I let him win.
The week after Kevin died, Chair mourned by sitting in the middle of the kitchen and howling every night. He seemed to sense Kevin was gone. Chair single-pawedly prevented me from going over the edge in those first few lonely months without Kevin.
He is already purring loudly. "Hi, there, buddy." I gave him a gentle hug, feeling his soft fur against my cheek, and put him down.
Later that evening, I sat in the small dining area of my apartment grading papers with the TV on and a large helping of the lasagna warmed in the microwave.
The phone rang. "Hi, sweetie, its Buddy." Buddy is his incongruous, way-too-butch nickname. His real name is Leonard. "What are you doing home?"
I swallowed before responding to my best friend. "I wasnt scheduled at the bookstore tonight."
"Fabulous! Then you can go out with us! Were going to Boys Town!" When Buddy goes out, its invariably an all-night event, especially if hes going to Chicagos gay ghetto.
"Im working at the bookstore in the morning."
"Oh, you can survive on a few hours sleep. Ive seen you do it."
"Im getting way too old for that shit. I cant function the next day anymore like I used to do." I took another bite of lasagna and braced myself for the inevitable lecture.
"What a wuss! You really have to get out more. I dont know why you dont quit that bookstore job. Besides, all the bars are having drink specials. Everyone will be out tonight because Halloween falls on a Sunday this year. Come on. Dont be such a workaholic."
"Im not a workaholic. Its called paying the bills."
"And youve got to keep up payments on that shiny new Jeep Liberty. I told you that you should have gotten a used car."
Hes getting off topic, as usual. "I think Ill pass this time."
"Well, at least tell me that youre going out somewhere."
"Yeah, I was thinking about going for a drink at the Willowbrook."
His disdain was audible. "That dump? Youre sure as fuck not going to find Mr. Right there!"
"Well, its close by and I can get home at a reasonable hour."
"And God knows you need your beauty sleep."
"Cunt." We trade our barbs in jest. Buddys really the best friend I could have. His voice becomes serious. "Im worried about you, Jim. Its like youve given up."
"Maybe I have, for the time being at least."
"Kevin died, honey, not you. Life has to go on."
"Is this going to be a lecture series?" I snapped at him. "Because if it is, I forgot to pay the registrar."
His voice became very gentle and lost all of its sardonic tone. "Im sorry. You know I care about you. I just think its time to move on."
I rubbed my forehead and sighed. Wed been over this a thousand times. "I know. And I appreciate your concern. Still, Im the only one who can decide when its time to move on."
"I know," he conceded in a soft voice. "Go have a good time. Be careful; I heard on the news that there will be all sorts of roadblocks and random sobriety checks. Ill give you a full report from the frontlines. Love you."
"I love you, too."
I dawdled as I finished grading the papers, put the rest of the lasagna away and washed up the few dishes in the sink. At 32, Im growing out of the barfly phase. Oh, sure, there was a time when hardly a weekend went by that I wasnt in my favorite bar. But as time passed, I found I couldnt teach with a hangover. I needed to be at my best. I was tired of the posers and the attitude at gay bars. I found myself going less and less until going out almost seemed a chore.
I stripped down and took my second shower of the day. I splashed on some cologne and dressed in my favorite pair of jeans and a polo shirt. I checked the food and water in my cats bowls before slipping on my favorite jacket - a reproduction letterman jacket. I was never a jock in school, so it makes me feel sporty. Plus, its warm. Just as I exited my apartment, I glanced in the mirror once more. Not bad, I thought to myself. I could lose a bit more weight. But then, who couldnt?
My Jeep Liberty still has that new car smell that I love so much. Unfortunately, I dont get to enjoy it as much as I would like because I always seem to be working. I love being so high off the street and the view that it gives me. And because the Liberty is smaller than most SUVs, it gets descent gas mileage.
From my apartment in Bridgeview, I drove west on 63rd Street a short distance to Archer Avenue. Archer runs southwest out of the city, slashing diagonally across Chicagos rigid grid system of streets like a knife through Brie. Its a historic street. It paralleled the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Des Plaines River. They were a vital link from Lake Michigan to the Illinois River and ultimately to the muddy Mississippi.
When Irish immigrants built the Illinois & Michigan in the 1830s, they called Archer Avenue Archie Road. In the early 1900s the I&M was superceded by the larger and deeper Sanitary and Ship Canal. It was hailed as a major engineering feat because it actually reversed the direction of the Chicago River. Until then, Chicagoans choked on their own waste, because raw sewage was dumped into Lake Michigan - also the source of Chicagos drinking water. Cholera and typhoid were epidemic until the Sanitary and Ship Canal was built.
As I drove southwest on Archer, steam rose lazily from the three bodies of water, shrouding the industrial buildings on the shore in mystery. I could smell the burnt popcorn odor from the CPC Products factory in Argo. They process cornstarch there. Thin, wispy clouds shrouded the moon, which was almost full. The further southwest I drove, the concentration of houses and buildings became less and less. Archer Avenue became dark as streetlights were spaced further apart and trees crowded the road.
I felt a chill as I passed Resurrection Cemetery. I glanced out the drivers window as much as I could while still keeping my eyes on the road. Nothing seemed out of place. There were no mysterious glowing lights. The only unusual thing was the wisps of fog veiling the headstones and memorials.
Then, just past the cemetery, I spotted him.
His platinum blond hair almost glowed in my headlights. He was hitchhiking.
Now, I know in other parts of the country, hitchhiking is fairly normal, but not in Illinois. The law enforcement community strongly discourages hitching. And its even more unusual to see someone hitching a ride on a chilly, damp late October night.
As I pass him, I saw that he looked clean. He certainly looked well-dressed. He was wearing a double-breasted suit, a white shirt and a tie. He looked very young; perhaps in his late teens but definitely not much older than twenty-two.
On an impulse I pulled to the side of the road and onto the gravel shoulder. Through the rear view mirror, his face looked handsome even in the red glow of my taillights.
My heart thumped as he trotted to catch up with my Jeep. Images of tomorrows Tribune headlines swirled though my brain: Catholic Schoolteacher Found Dismembered. Or maybe I was just being too paranoid. Or what if he was underage? God forbid. What the hell was I doing? I remember thinking; I still can pull away before he reaches the passenger door.
But just as I finished that thought, he rapped on the glass of the passenger door. I reached over and unlocked it.
His smile dispelled most of my fears. It was almost as luminous as the dashboard lights.
"Hi," he said in a raspy voice. "Where are you going?"
I hesitated. Most everyone knew The Willowbrook was a gay bar. Maybe the kid was a basher. You couldnt be too careful. "Umm .Im going to Willow Springs."
"Me, too! I have to go to find my younger sister. Shes been missing and my parents sent me out to find her." He hopped into my car.
As he seated himself in the passenger seat, I could smell his after-shave. The aroma was definitely after-shave, not cologne. And not just any after-shave but Old Spice. To this day the scent brings back memories.
"Where are you going to start looking for her?" I asked as I eased back onto the highway.
His face sobered. "At the OHenry Ballroom. She was going on a date there. But she hasnt come home yet. Its been a few days. My folks are plenty worried."
I wrinkled my forehead. "You know they changed the name of the place, right?"
"No, I didnt! When did they do that?"
"About twenty years ago."
The kid looked confused. I decided it was time for introductions. I held the steering wheel with my left hand and offered him my right. "Im Jim DiGiacomo."
His hand felt large but deathly cold in mine. "Im Harry Novotny. Where do you live?"
"In Bridgeview. How about you?"
"I live with my folks in Bridgeport." It was Mayor Daleys neighborhood.
"Youve been hitching all this way?"
His smile revealed perfect teeth. "Well, no. I got a ride as far as 63rd Street." He was so pretty. He had a deep dimples on both cheeks. His hair was longer on top, but buzzed close to his scalp on the sides. He had slicked the longer area of his hair with gel. His hands and feet were unusually large for a kid his size. You know what they say about men with big feet, I thought.
"If you dont mind me asking, but just how old are you?"
"Im 21. I know I look a lot younger."
By this time, we had pulled in front of The Willowbrook. We could hear the thump-thump-thump of the music inside.
"Sounds like they have a really hep band tonight," Harry commented.
I looked at him strangely. Band? I thought. Ive never known a band to play here. The OHenry had burned to the ground and been rebuilt as The Willowbrook. It was a huge complex with smaller ballrooms and meeting rooms, and a full kitchen. The owners rented out the smaller rooms for wedding receptions and funeral luncheons. It did very well until the sixties when times and dancing preferences changed. It finally closed in 1974. Unable to find a new buyer, the owners allowed the abandoned property to deteriorate. Finally, ten years after The Willowbrook closed, a new owner purchased the place at a fraction of what it had cost to build. He intended on remodeling the sprawling building into a gay bar.
The gay community scoffed. The Willowbrook was out in the middle of nowhere and it would never attract enough business to support itself, they said. But the savvy new owner looked to the future. He remade the main ballroom into a huge dance floor and embraced a new entertainment trend that was emerging at the time: video. Monitors were installed throughout the building. A huge array of TV screens - ten high and sixteen wide - were installed behind the main stage.
Business was slow at first, and for the first year and a half, it looked as if the new bar wouldnt survive. But as technology improved, the owner added computers to his system, which allowed him to control the lighting, music and video. The Willowbrook again became a destination - this time for gay men and a smattering of lesbians.
The gravel crunched under our feet as we approached the main entrance. "Is your sister supposed to be here?"
"Yes. At least I hope she is."
"She was coming here with a date?" I was confused. A million questions fought for attention in my mind. Was she coming here with a straight man? The Willowbrook did attract many non-gay couples that wanted good dance music and cutting-edge light shows. Was she meeting some of her gay friends? Maybe she was a lesbian.
"I like your car. It smells new. What is it?"
I smiled at him. "Its a Jeep Liberty."
"Its cute, like you."
I could feel my face get hot.
"Im going to go around the building and check for my sister. Ill meet you inside." And he beat a hasty departure around the corner.
I felt about as used as a toothbrush. All he wanted from me was a ride! Shit, shit, shit! And he was so cute, too. And despite how young he was, he was very charming. Oh, well, I wasnt planning on staying long tonight. Now I can have a drink or two and make a clean getaway.
I could feel the throbbing music in my gut as I stepped inside the vestibule of the bar. The surly doorman took my $5 cover charge and I stepped into an enchanted electronic wonderland. The video screens were accompanied by a huge array of lighting effects. Besides the more mundane colored spotlights, the DJ had strobes, lasers and Mars lights. The huge video display could be programmed to display one image or different images on each screen. The owner had a warped sense of humor and always ran a video in the lower left video screen. Tonight, it was Rocky Horror Picture Show, without the sound, of course. Ive seen him play The Wizard of Oz, The Sound of Music, Gone With the Wind and Victor/Victoria.
I negotiated the crowds and made my way to the main bar. I estimated that about fifty percent were in costume. Like Buddy always says, Halloween is one of the National Gay Holidays. Still, one has to be very careful when dressing up for Halloween. I mean, you dont want to be too outlandish and destroy your chances of getting laid.
"Hi," said a man dressed as Jacqueline Kennedy said to me over the music. His costume was flawless and hilarious if a bit tasteless. He was dressed in a replica of the pink suit Jackie wore in Dallas on the day Kennedy was shot. A perfect pink pillbox hat topped his perfect wig. What made the costume funny - or vulgar depending on your point of view - was the swath of fake blood across the front of his/her suit and bloody white gloves. It was a terrific costume.
The only problem was the guy wearing it was about 6 5".
"I love your costume," I almost shouted back to him.
His eyes lit up. "Thanks."
I turned my attention to the bar. I was fourth in line for a drink. I began to think of going to another one of the bars. Perhaps the lines were shorter there.
"Well, I just got here. I need to warm up a bit."
"Yeah, cold for this time of year," I agreed.
He extended his hand. "Names Tom. Are you here alone?"
Already the conversation has deteriorated into barspeak. This was one of the things that bothered me about going to gay bars. "Well, yes and no. I was supposed to meet someone here."
Jackie finally took the hint. "Well, Ill be around. Probably in the Jungle Room."
"OK," I shouted. "See you later." I dont really have anything against drag queens, I really dont. And it is Halloween. Still, I would never date one. Hell, if I wanted a woman, I sure as hell wouldnt be in a gay bar.
The Jungle Room is one of a half-dozen smaller bars off the main ballroom. Its fashioned after Elvis room of the same name at Graceland. As The Willowbrook became more and more successful, the owner transformed the smaller banquet and meeting rooms into theme bars to handle the weekend overflow. Theres also a Construction Room that looks like its perpetually under construction. Wall joists are exposed and the bartenders dress like construction workers. Theres The Barn, which seems to attract a lot of women, and The Jail. They all were conceived and built to play upon gay mens fantasies - kind of like a gay theme park. Still, this building is so cavernous, there are rooms that are untouched and probably will never be remodeled. Ive heard that sex occurs in some of the unused rooms. The owners and management dont approve of it but neither do they do anything to stop it.
I grin to myself as I watch Jackie teeter into the Jungle Room. She made a very public adjustment to her crotch on the way.
My ears already started to throb from the loud music as I made my way to The Den. You guessed it - its done up like a cave but a lot more comfortable. The staff in this room wear short Fred Flintstone-like tunics. The video monitors in The Den are often tuned to regular TV during the week. On Sunday nights this is the place to watch Queer As Folk.
This bar is a lot less crowded and I order a beer. I found a seat near the fireplace on a hassock covered in faux leopard skin.
I swilled my beer as I thought about the beautiful boy who entered my car and then vanished.
Suddenly, someone tapped my shoulder.
Harry smiled widely when I turned to face him. His eyes are smiling.
"Hi there," he said with a smile, and then leaned in to kiss me. My heart leapt. I was ecstatic to see him again.
His lips are soft and sensual and not cold like his hands. "I thought I lost you. Did you find your sister?"
"No. She must be on her way home. But I found you again."
"Youre so sweet. Do you want a drink, Harry?"
He held up a green-tinted mixed concoction that seems to be glowing in the ultraviolet lights. "No thanks. I get lots of free drinks here." He perched on the edge of a nearby chair after he moved it closer to the hassock.
"Anyone ever tell you how handsome you are?" he asked me. His voice is low for someone so young looking. And despite the fact that its kind of raspy, I can hear him clearly over the music.
"Aww." I brushed his compliment aside. "Youre pretty cute yourself."
He kissed me again, this time parting his lips to allow my probing tongue inside. I desperately want to slide my hand underneath his suit to feel his chest.
I take his hand in mine. Its still cold but it seems to be warming up.
"So what do you do? For a living, I mean?" Harry asked me. I tell him honestly that Im a teacher in a Catholic school, and that Im single.
"Im going to college."
"Really? What are you studying?"
"Im studying radio! Im going to go into broadcasting."
"Interesting. You have a very unique voice. That should be an asset."
"I have other assets, too," he said with a huge grin.
"Im sure you do," I smiled back.
He grasped my hand. "Lets dance."
Still holding my hand, he led me into the main ballroom. The music was good and it pulsed and throbbed. The fog machine augmented the mesmerizing swirling lights. The blue, green and red laser lights looked like Star Wars light sabers as they sliced through the fog. The DJ released glitter from the ceiling.
Harry really could dance! Maybe it was the fact he was a decade younger than me but I had a hard time keeping up with him.
On the edge of the dance floor, I spotted Jackie Kennedy with a drink in his/her hand. He watched me dance with a strange look on his face.
"Harry," I gasped after what seemed to be an hour, "I need a break.
"OK, old man." His smile teased me.
"Hey! Thats enough of that! Whatever happened to respect for your elders?"
Just as he took my hand and started to lead me off the dance floor, the DJ slowed down the pace a bit with some slower, more romantic music. The owner insists on at least one slow dance song each hour.
But it is the DJs musical selection that has my eyes instantly brimming with tears. The song was Just Another Day by Jon Secada. I stopped at the edge of the dance floor.
I, I dont wanna say it
Dont want to find another way
Make it through the day without you
Its just another day
"What? Whats wrong?"
"This song," I mumbled.
"What?" Harry asks as he enveloped me in a hug. "This song means a lot to you, doesnt it?"
I could smell his Old Spice again and could feel his wiry body. His breath was warm on my ear. "You miss him a lot, dont you? I can tell." Almost without be being aware of it, we started to dance. It was really more of a rotating hug than a dance.
"This was the first song we danced to. We always thought of it as our song."
"What happened to him?" Harry asked gently. He raised his head from my shoulder to look into my eyes. Even in the dim light I can see the concern there.
"A car accident."
"He still loves you, I can tell."
Gradually, I regained my composure and the tears receded, like the shoreline of Lake Michigan after a summer drought. As we danced, I noticed some other people were watching us. I remember thinking that was a little odd.
When the song ended, Harry gave me a brave smile, took my hand again and led me back to The Den. As we passed through the crowds, I could swear I heard some people say, "Its Harry," and "Harrys here tonight."
We filed past Jackie, who was still watching me with an odd look on his face.
As we passed Jackie/Tom, I thought I heard him mutter something like, "Dont you feel strange dancing by yourself?" But the music was so loud and I was so enamored with the young man holding my hand, I didnt care what he thought.
"Would you rather talk for a while?" he asked me as I took a swig of my beer.
I shrugged an assent.
"I know a place where we can have a little privacy. Bring your drink."
He stood, took me by the hand again, and led me back into the main ballroom. We wove our way between the writhing dancers to a corner of the room behind the main video display.
Now, Im pretty good at directions and I have a good sense of distance. I could have sworn that this was an outside wall. He led me to a door covered with acoustic material applied to the door to deaden the music.
With a quick jerk, he opened the door. I expected the door to open outside, but instead there was another bar I had never seen! The ceiling was painted sky blue with white clouds expertly painted on. The walls were also sky blue. All the furniture - the tables and chairs and the circular bar in the center of the room - were white. A single tube of blue neon encircled the walls about a foot below the ceiling. The bar was also encircled with blue neon.
"Cool! Ive never seen this room before."
"Its new," Harry explained. "They wanted to finish it before Halloween, but theyre behind schedule."
"It looks finished to me."
We cuddled together in a booth covered with immaculate white leather. "How did Kevin die?" At that moment I was certain I had a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face. Im sure I hadnt told Harry his name. How did he know?
"It might help to talk about it." Harrys voice was full of compassion. Oddly, I wanted to tell him everything. It was like sitting next to a stranger on a plane.
My eyes began to fill with tears. I could no longer hold the loneliness and the longing inside. I told him the whole story. I told him how we had had a fight that night and Kevin decided to go out for a drive. I implored him not to; it had rained all day, the temperature was dropping and the rain was predicted to turn to sleet. He went anyway.
I stayed home alone, listening to the sleet peck at the windows. I attempted to sleep and when sleep eluded me, I turned on the TV. I learned more about the Ronco Rotisserie Oven than I ever wanted to know. Just Set It And Forget It! It wasnt until 7:30 the next morning when a uniformed Bridgeview cop came to my door. I learned later that even though we had lived together for almost eight years, I was not considered next of kin. The police had contacted his parents and brother and sister first. I only ranked because we had been roommates. So much for equal rights.
Harry tenderly kissed my wet cheeks. "Im so sorry. I didnt mean to push you."
"You didnt push me. I wanted to talk about it."
"Love never ends, Jim. It goes on forever." We kissed again, and I felt his hand snaking up under my shirt. His cold hand made me shiver involuntarily.
"Youre so hairy," he whispered in his sexy voice. "I like that."
"Uh-huh. I like older men."
I began to unbutton his suit jacket. By this time I had consumed a few beers and my inhibitions were faltering. "What are you like under there?"
His dimples appeared as he loosened his tie and unbuttoned the top button of his white oxford shirt.
"I also didnt mean to push you into - you know - messing around." His sweet face was so full of concern and compassion. I responded in a way I felt was most appropriate; I kissed him. His lips, unlike his hands, were hot, moist and sweet.
When our lips parted, I whispered, "You didnt force me or push me. I wanted it - I want it - as much as you do."
"Are you sure?"
I smiled reassuringly. "Im sure."
He stood in front of me and slowly and sensually began to strip off his jacket, then his shirt and pulled his white T-shirt over his head. He was a thin man - I usually like my men with a little meat on their bones. But his chest was was a alabaster statue. His abdomen showed just a hint of a six-pack. And besides the tawny hair under his arms, his body was completely hairless; at least the parts that were visible at that moment.
I flicked my tongue over his left nipple. He threw his head back and sighed.
Now, let me explain something here. Im not into public sex. Sure, Ive done my share of cruising but the thought of an audience doesnt excite me. But as sure as taxes, thats were Harry and I were headed. The room was empty except for Harry and me. I wanted him so badly. There was just something about him. His boyishness attracted me. Then there was his sexy voice and his big feet and hands. And Im partial to blonds. Kevin was a blond.
But there was something beyond that. At the time, I couldnt put my finger on it. His concern over my dead lover certainly had endeared himself to me but my attraction to him went even beyond that. For all his youth he seemed to be very self-assured and mature. I was a moth drawn to a flame.
He sat next to me and removed his shoes by carefully untying the laces first. I was amused to see the care that he took to undress before sex. I mean, how many people take the time to untie their shoes in the throes of passion?
He was wearing old-fashioned boxers underneath his trousers. They were tented in front.
"Stand up for me, so I can undress you." I did as he requested. "Oh, so beautiful," he murmured as he pulled off my polo shirt and ran his fingers through the hair on my chest. "So masculine." He kissed me again.
Without warning, he undid my jeans and yanked them down along with my boxer briefs. Before I could utter a word, my cock was in his mouth.
Just as Harrys hands were arctic, his mouth was an inferno. He sucked my cock with just the right amount of pressure and motion. Only one other person knew how to administer such an expert blowjob - my deceased lover Kevin.
I reached between his legs and took his sizeable cock in my hand. It was oozing copious amounts of precum.
I didnt want an orgasm - not just yet. I lifted his head from my lap. A dribble of his saliva glinted on his chin.
"Nothing at all. Its excellent. I just dont want to come yet. Let me suck you."
He hooked his thumbs under the waistband of his underwear and pushed them down. His cock was a normal temperature as well, I noted, as I relaxed my throat muscles to admit his dick.
He moaned with pleasure and ran his fingers through my hair.
I continued for what seemed to be a long time. My saliva began to dribble on the white carpet.
I could tell he was near orgasm when he pulled out. A long string of saliva and precum streamed to the floor.
He bent over and kissed me. "I want you to fuck me."
I smiled and nodded. It seemed the most appropriate response.
He pulled the table away from the booth, almost upsetting our drinks. He pushed his boxers off and positioned himself on his back with his legs in the air and his ass at the edge of the bench. He offered his most secret spot to me. It was perfect and pink and hairless.
"So beautiful," I whispered.
I spit on his hole, and then slathered two fingers and began to work them in. His hole received them without protest.
I might have killed myself with remorse if Harry had tearfully confessed that this was his first time. But it was obvious to me that he had been here before.
"Im ready," his raspy voice interrupted my thoughts. "Fuck me."
I was more than glad to comply. I was so far gone, I didnt even think about using a condom. I was about to end almost a year of celibacy.
The head of my cock entered without incident. I admit I got a little reckless and slammed the rest into his rectum. His assring clenched my dick, seemingly grasping it. His only response was a tiny whimper.
I held it there for a long moment, savoring the hot smoothness of his ass. Then, I began pumping. Within moments, sweat was dripping off my forehead onto his torso.
I bucked and pumped his ass mercilessly. At one point, I had to pause and pull his ass back toward the edge of the bench because the force of my fucking had caused him to slide back on the bench.
Harry came first; I could feel his assring throb with his orgasm. It pushed me over the edge and I filled his ass with my spunk.
I regretfully removed my cock and a long trail of sperm oozed from his ass to the carpet.
"Were going to get in trouble for leaving stains," I snickered. My semi-erect cock bobbed in front of me as I walked to the bar in search of something to wipe him up with.
I found a towel that looked clean and he grinned at me as he cleaned himself up. I was almost embarrassed at having fucked someone in a public place. Fortunately, no one had even tried to enter the bar.
"What are they going to name this bar?" I asked as I zipped up my jeans.
"Heaven," Harry answered with a grin.
Dressed and satisfied, I plopped next to Harry on the bench of the booth and grinned at him. He returned the smile and took my hand.
"You hand is warmer," I told him.
"Yes. My body tends to warm up after contact with humans .I mean with someone."
I looked at him with a puzzled expression. When there was no explanation forthcoming, I sighed with contentment, closed my eyes, and lay my head against the back of the booth.
"Sleepy?" he asked.
"Always after sex."
"Do you want to leave?"
"Yeah, I think so."
"Would you drive me home?"
I opened my eyes and kissed him. "Of course. In fact, I was wondering ..you could come back to my place. I live alone."
"Id love to, but I cant."
"No, its not that. Well, Ill explain in the car."
"Can I call you sometime? Or will you call me?"
His face clouded. "Thats quite impossible." He stood and held a hand out to me. "Come on."
I turned around as we exited the door of the bar named Heaven. I clearly remember seeing the door slam shut behind us. On the dance floor, the party was still going full tilt.
I led Harry across the dance floor, leading him like a prize show dog. In fact, Harry was a prize. At least thats the way I felt about him.
Like Moses and the Red Sea, the dancers parted as we made our way across the dance floor.
I spotted Tom/Jackie standing near the main entrance. I smiled at him.
"Leaving?" he asked the obvious.
"Yeah, Im kinda tired."
"Maybe Ill see you again."
I put on a smile. "Id like to see what you look like out of that costume."
He laughed a short blast of a laugh. "Ill bet you would."
Without any more pleasantries, we exited the building. By this time, the fog had become really thick; floating and swirling. I opened the passenger door for him. As I started the Jeep, I leaned over to kiss him once again.
As I eased onto Archer, I commented to Harry, "I really liked Toms costume."
Harry chuckled. "I did, too."
"Im sorry he was sort of rude to you."
"Its OK. Its really sort of understandable."
We were stopped at a stoplight. I turned to face him. I wasnt sure I wanted to hear the reasons. Had Harry fucked Tom? Was Harry a barslut? Had I just been had?
The words resisted leaving my lips. "Why is it understandable?"
"The light is green," Harry reported, staring straight ahead into the fog.
I crossed the intersection, pulled to the shoulder and switched the hazard lights on. I faced Harry. "Spill it."
"Not everyone can see me."
"What are you talking about?"
"Only some people can see me. Tom couldnt."
I felt the blood drain away from my face. Was he some sort of freak? He seemed perfectly normal. Maybe he was high. Maybe he was a serial killer. I had a million scenarios flying through my head, and in this fog some of them were destined for a mid-air collision with reality.
"Im a spirit," Harry explained. "Only some people can see me. Usually, only those who believe."
"Well, I dont believe. There are no ghosts." That settles that.
"I know you dont," he said quietly. "I was sent to you."
"What do you mean?"
"Youre a spiritual person. You understand that there is a plane of existence beyond this physical life."
"Of course." I teach in a Catholic school, after all.
"I was sent to you by The Creator. And by Kevin."
"What? What the fuck is this? Its A Wonderful Life?"
"Kevin was worried about you so he asked me to appear to you."
Tears threatened the corners of my eyes. "What the fuck are you talking about?" I wasnt sure whether to be angry or upset.
He placed his hands on either side of my face. His hands were still warm. "Calm down. I wont harm you. I came to help you."
"OK, suppose you are telling the truth. Why didnt Kevin come himself?"
"I was coming anyway. I really am looking for my sister. I told you the truth about that. Kevin is not yet spiritually ready to return to this plane."
"I dont believe this shit!" I slammed the car in gear as road rage replaced my curiosity. "Youre speaking in riddles."
"Hey! Take it easy in this fog!"
"Dont tell me what to do. Did you slip something in my drink? That date rape drug?"
"Youre freaking me out! I dont know how you know all this shit. I dont know if youre some sort of mind reader or just a freak, but Im dropping you off and I never want to hear from you again."
"OK, OK." He took a deep breath. "Ill tell you the whole story. Maybe youd better pull over, first."
By this time we were just west of the cloverleaf intersection with Mannheim Road. There are all sorts of Forest Preserves in this area, including a huge toboggan slide. I pulled in into the entrance to a picnic grove. A reflective sign that read "Closed at Sunset" dangled from a chain across the access road. Foggy fingers interwove themselves among the barren tree branches.
"My name is really Harry Novotny. I was sent by The Creator and Kevin to help you. I really am twenty-one. At least thats how old I was when "
"When you died," I completed the sentence for him.
I stared out the windshield. "When did you die, Harry?"
"1935. I was hit on the side of Archer Avenue. My parents had sent me out to look for my younger sister. She had gone to the OHenry to dance with her boyfriend. She never came home. My parents were frantic. They called the police but they wouldnt do anything. They kept asking if they had a fight or if Mary might have run away. So they sent me out to look for her."
I sat there with my mouth agape.
"I was hitchhiking down Archer when I was struck and killed by a driver. He never even stopped. I remember floating above my body and looking down at it on the side of the road." His raspy voice became even thicker with emotion. "I never got a chance to say goodbye to anyone.
"Thats part of the reason they chose me to appear to you," he continued. "You and Kevin were in sort of the same situation. You never got to say goodbye. Not to mention that Im homosexual. You call it gay these days. Also, of course, you live and work near Archer Avenue. So, you see, I was perfect for the assignment."
"So, I fucked a ghost?"
Harry nodded slowly.
By now my initial anger had turned to curiosity. "But it was so real. I mean, your everything! Are you sure you didnt slip something in my drink?"
"But how "
"We can manifest if we choose. But there are some things that dont work very well in the physical plane."
"Well your cock and ass certainly worked well."
He laughed but stopped abruptly and covered his mouth. "Im sorry. I didnt mean to laugh at you. My hands, for example. Theyre always cold at first but they warm up with human contact."
"I I dont know what to think."
"I know its hard to believe. And I know youre not a believer. But think about this: Kevin loves you so much that he wanted to manifest. But The Creator said no so it was quite impossible." His hand was still warm as he caressed my cheek. "And I think I understand why Kevin loves you so much. But he also wants you to know that its time to move on." He nodded toward the clock on the dashboard. "Its also time for you to go home. You have to work at the bookstore in the morning."
I started the car and eased back onto Archer. The fog seemed to be thicker than before. I switched on the intermittent wipers.
"Youre a wonderful man," Harry continued. "You have friends that really care about you. You have a long life ahead of you and you are not destined to spend it alone. You will find love again. But first, you have to let go of the past."
We entered the suburb of Justice. "What was your younger sisters name?" I asked him.
"It was Mary."
A chill ran down my spine. "Resurrection Mary? You sister is Resurrection Mary."
"What? I dont understand."
"If your sister is the one Im thinking about, she was killed as well. She was hit on the side of the road just like you."
"Shes dead?" he screeched in a voice that sounded like a cross between a siren and fingernails being dragged across a chalkboard. "Pull over!"
With my heart thumping wildly in my chest, I pulled to the side of the road once again - right in front of Resurrection Cemetery.
I blinked and rubbed my eyes because is seemed like the fog was now inside the car. When I glanced over at Harry, he was translucent! I could see right through him to the door. He opened the passenger door and jumped out.
With a hand on the open door, he leaned into the Jeep. "I didnt mean to scare you. Goodbye, Jim."
"Wait! Dont go! Will I see you again?"
"Probably not," he said sadly. "But remember that you are loved." A slow grin spread across his face. "And youre one hell of a good fuck."
He turned toward the cemetery fence and became one with the fog. I heard his voice say, "Be happy, Jim. I love you."
I dont know how long I sat there on the side of Archer Avenue with the passenger door wide open while I sobbed. The windshield wipers swiped at the mist at regular intervals.
When I composed myself, I pulled the passenger door shut. I cautiously made my way home in the thick fog.
As I unlocked my front door and switched on the lights, Chairman Meow trotted up to greet me, as he usually does.
But this time he stopped about two feet in front of me, arched his back, flattened his ears and hissed at me. He had never done that before!
My head was swirling as I undressed and prepared for bed. I immediately fell into a deep sleep until the alarm roused me for my shift at the bookstore.
The first thing that tipped me off that this was not going to be a normal day was that I could smell Old Spice in my car. The odor was unmistakable. I was only scheduled for six hours, and it went quickly. I found it difficult to concentrate on the tasks at hand, and as the day wore on, I began to question the events of the previous night.
Once I got home, I fired up my computer and tried to search for the name Harry Novotny. I found nothing. I located all the legends of Resurrection Mary I could find online. None of them mentioned a brother. Also, there was some question about the identity of Mary herself. Her true last name was never known.
I tried to tell myself it didnt happen. My mind denied the events. But my heart couldnt.
The only thing left to do was to investigate the scene of the crime, so to speak. Maybe Harry would reappear or maybe I could find out some more information.
My head was pounding from the lack of sleep and the events of the last twenty-four hours. I lay down on top of my bed without pulling down the comforter and started to drift off. Chair gracefully hopped up on the bed and snuggled contentedly near my right arm.
Within moments, I was aware that I was not alone. I sensed a presence in the room. I didnt move, but I did open my eyes. The clock read 4:15. Chair was kneading his paws in his sleep; dreaming of nursing on his mothers belly.
I heard a soft voice say, "You always were cute when you slept."
"Its me, sweetheart."
"Where are you?"
"Im right behind you, like I always was. Like I always will be."
"I miss you."
"I know, babe. Thats why I asked Harry to come down."
"Why cant I see you? I want to be able to see you."
"Its not time yet. Youre not ready. And they keep telling me Im not ready. I really shouldnt even be talking to you."
"Im glad you are."
"Me, too. Im safe, darling, and so are you. You are infinitely safe. You have lots of people who love you; both living and on this side." I felt a sensation like my hair was being stroked gently and tenderly. "Why are you weeping?"
"Its just so ironic. After a year of not having sex, the first person I have sex with is a ghost."
"Oh, ghost has negative connotations. We prefer spirit."
"I liked Harry. I wish he was real."
"Darling, he is real. Hes just not real on your plane of existence, at least not now. He likes you, too. Hes also watching over you." He was silent for a few moments. "I see Chairman Meow is doing well."
"He misses you, too."
"I know. Look, babe, I have to go."
"Why? Cant you stay?"
"Ill get in trouble. Its a long explanation. Anyway, get your rest. You need to go out again tonight to satisfy your curiosity. And because its time for you to start circulating again. Dont worry, well see each other again."
"Harry says hi, too. Hes been walking around bow-legged since he got back." I heard Kevins champagne laughter. When Kevin said that, I knew it was he. No one else has his sense of humor.
"I love you, Jim. Thank you for our time together."
"Please dont leave," I begged.
I heard his voice less distinctly. "Good-bye, love. Be happy."
"I love you, Kevin."
His voice sounded distant when he whispered, "Bye, Jim. I love you, too."
When I opened my eyes again, Chair was still sleeping peacefully in the crook of my arm. The clock read 6:30. My pillow was damp with perspiration - or was it tears?
I sat up slowly as my head felt heavy and stuffed with cotton. My clothes were all wrinkled and twisted. I shuffled to the kitchen, cracked open a Diet Coke and downed half the can. The caffeine helped to clear my head as I tried to make sense of what had happened - if it had really happened at all.
I realized I was hungry but as I peered into the cold cavern in my kitchen, nothing appealed to me; not even Theresas delicious lasagna. So I threw together a salad. I switched on the TV and landed on the public TV station. They always had some classic movie on Saturday evenings.
After I finished eating, I stretched out on the couch and attempted to watch Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. At eight, I stripped, took a shower and dressed again.
The night was clear and cold. The fog had lifted and the moon was almost full. I had eschewed any gloves - like I normally do - and the cold steering wheel almost stung until the heat started kicking in.
As I passed Resurrection Cemetery, I slowed the Jeep to a crawl much to the chagrin of the drivers behind me. I finally pulled over to the side of the road. I peered through the iron fence to the gravestones glinting in the moonlight. I could see nothing unusual.
Nor did I see Harry on the side of the road.
It was still early when I arrived at The Willowbrook - early for the bar patrons at any rate. Since Saturday was October 30th, I knew the bar would be having its Halloween bash tonight. I intended on leaving early anyway. Besides, my investigations probably would be best done without a crowd.
The music was already blaring despite the fact the crowd was still thin. I was able to get a beer at the main bar within seconds. I scanned the faces for any sign of Harry. I was not surprised, although still disappointed, that I didnt see him. I carried my beer across the dance floor to the door behind the main stage.
Behind this door was Heaven. I had to see it again for myself. The door was not marked with an Exit sign, nor was it wired for an alarm. These facts told me it probably didnt open outside.
But when I opened the door, it did indeed open to a grassy area behind the building. Where the hell was the white room with the blue neon? Had I dreamt the whole thing? I stared out the door for a time looking at the moonlight on the trees in the distance.
Puzzled and confused, I shut the door firmly. My knees were actually shaky as I made my way to The Den.
There were a few men already in the smaller bar. A group of about four or five twinks laughed raucously in one booth. Two bears chatted with each other at the bar. I selected a seat at the bar. The blond bartender was serving customers at the other end of the bar. I couldnt see the bartenders face, although he was wearing the Fred Flintstone tunic that all employees wore in this bar. It was no matter; I already had a beer from the main bar.
Across the bar, a very tall man caught my eye. He had sandy hair, a pug nose and a nice smile. His face showed a degree of recognition. At first, I couldnt place the face.
Then I realized it was Tom. I returned the smile.
He picked up his drink and his cocktail napkin and moved to my side of the bar. "Would you like some company?" He asked in a gentle voice.
I smiled sincerely at him. "Sure."
He shook my hand with his huge bear paw and perched on a stool next to me.
"I almost didnt recognize you without the costume. It was so brilliant."
"I never do drag. I feel much more comfortable tonight." His face was ruggedly handsome in the dim light of the bar. He had a strong, square jaw and very pretty lips. Without last nights heavy makeup, I could see his five oclock shadow. Through the open collar of his shirt, I noticed that his chest was hairless. I found myself wondering if his chest was naturally smooth or if he had shaved for the benefit of the costume.
"Where did you get the idea?"
"From Queer As Folk."
"Havent seen it," I confessed.
He regarded me incredulously. "You havent seen Queer As Folk?"
"I refuse to subscribe to the premium cable channels, especially Showtime. All they ever seem to show are Jean Claude Van Damme kickboxing movies. And Im not subscribing for one series."
He shrugged good-naturedly. "Youre really missing something." He took a swig from his bottle of Michelob. "You could always watch it here."
I shook my head again. "I have to be up for work Monday mornings." Here in the Midwest, Showtime plays QAF at ten on Sunday nights. Its not an outrageously late time slot, but still, Im winding down for bed. Like I said, I have to be at my best.
"What sort of work do you do?" he asked boldly.
"Im a teacher."
"Really?" he asked with sincere interest. "What do you teach?"
"I teach junior high history and social studies."
He grinned and shook his head slowly. "Youre a brave man. I could never do it. Junior high kids are evil." I gazed into his blue-gray eyes. Ive seen that look before. He was hunting and I was the prey. "I wanted to talk to you some more last night," he confessed in a quiet voice as he avoided my gaze. "But you seemed .um .preoccupied."
"Im sorry. I was just having an off night. Something strange happened earlier in the night." No need to go into all the details about Harry. Tom would really think I was a crackhead. I sighed. Might as well tell him the truth. "Ive been in a strange place the last few weeks. See, my lover died about a year ago. In a car accident," I added quickly to dispel any fears. "Itll be the first anniversary of his death in a couple days."
"Im so sorry." He placed a huge hand on the back of my neck in sympathy. His fingers felt warm against my bare skin where my collar ended. He gave me a gentle squeeze and a few rubs before withdrawing it. "Are you OK?"
"I think so," I said truthfully. "I just miss him."
Tom leaned close to me and gently kissed my cheek. It wasnt an erotic kiss, just a kiss of friendship and support. And he was wearing Old Spice! Buddy told me later that I should have been angry with Tom because he was taking advantage of me in a vulnerable moment. I never felt that way. I still dont.
"Anytime you need to talk, Im here."
My eyes brimmed with tears as I mumbled a sincere thanks.
"Just as friends," he added. "I dont want to push you. But I have to add," here he grinned widely, "that I am very attracted to you."
"The feelings entirely mutual. And I have to admit that although I loved your costume, I like you much better as a guy."
He threw his head back and laughed heartily. "Well, that makes two of us, I guess."
My stomach rumbled. I glanced at the clock over the bar and then at my watch to view the real time.
"Got a hot date?" Tom teased.
I was mortified at my stupidity and rudeness. "Im sorry. I just realized Im hungry."
I watched Tom as he drained the rest of his beer. The bartender, who up until this moment had been busily washing glasses, must have motioned to Tom as if to ask if Tom wanted another. Tom shook his head at the bartender. "We could go out to get a bit to eat; its still early."
"OK," I agreed with a smile. "Where do you want to go?"
"We could go for the ultimate drunk food; Sliders."
It was my turn to laugh. "I love White Castle, but Im not drunk. My stomachs been a little uneasy the past few days."
"OK, well, I know a restaurant on 63rd Street. Theyve got really authentic Polish food."
I smiled. "Excellent idea." I started to pull out my wallet to pay for my drink and tip the bartender, but Tom stopped me.
"This ones on me."
We stood simultaneously from our bar stools and chuckled. Our eyes met. On a sudden impulse I wrapped my arms around his slim frame and hugged him. The top of my head just met his chin. I felt warm and secure in his arms.
"Im here for you, Jim."
"Thanks, I appreciate it very much." As he released me I regarded him. "You never did tell me what you do for a living."
"I work for the Red Cross. Im a crisis counselor. I work with a team of professionals that go to disaster sites and talk to victims."
"Sounds very challenging." We started to leave The Den for our ultimate destination - the main entrance.
For some reason, I felt compelled to turn around and look at the bartender once again.
He was simultaneously smiling widely at me, nodding his head in approval and giving me a thumbs up sign.
It was Harry!
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. I read and respond to all email (even if it takes a few days) Just click on one of the links below. And don't forget to check out my website (Chapters are always posted there earlier than here) and my other stories here on Nifty, Pocketful of Stars in the Young Friends section, Paternal Instincts/Family Instincts/Thicker Than Water in Relationships and Cooksville Chronicles in Historical.
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