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The contents of this story are fictional. Any resemblance of characters to living or lived persons is strictly coincidental. Certain characters engage in sexual acts which may or may not be legal in the state or country in which a reader may reside. Any reader with objections to graphic descriptions of sexual encounters between males who may not have reached the legal age of consent, or whose local, regional, state or national jurisprudence prohibits such descriptions, should not read further.
Chapter III - Hangar
I don't remember my dreams much, at least not usually. I remember the one I had that night, though, like it was a few minutes ago. More real than the dreams of the night before.
I was up in the air, on a platform of some kind, maybe two or three hundred feet high, looking down on Katy at night, the full moon giving the landscape a cool blue light. Everything was absolutely crystal clear, my vision as sharp as it was when I was twenty. I saw bats wheeling in the air over the lights, feasting on the insects drawn from the presumed safety of darkness. Owls wheeled and plunged silently, their claws finding voles and mice by the score. My house was dark, as was Jerry and Elva's and most all of the others. I saw the crisp details of Andy's cruiser parked behind Charlene's, "565" in black letters on the white roof. A cone of light opened from Charlene's house, and I saw Andy leave, get in the cruiser and slowly head out to Gove. A bell tolled twelve midnight - except we don't have a bell like that in the church belfry. This was a deep, "Big Ben" bell.
I looked north and saw the occasional fire-fly glow from a car or truck on the Interstate in the distance, the shadowy skyglow of Salina barely discernable to the East Northeast. A plane flinked far above and way North, probably a transcontinent flight out of maybe Chicago or St. Louis. Turning clockwise, I looked for the pale glow of Wichita on the horizon, some two hundred miles to the Southeast, but it was too far away, although I could distinguish the horizon and a less-dark patch above it. Nothing at all to the South or Southwest, just a couple of lights on at farmhouses, where someone had probably nodded off without turning them out. Couldn't make out the horizon. To the West, I could make out a couple of lights over to where Gove awaited Andy, almost halfway there, his headlights now casting only a stubby cone of light.
Completing the turn, I looked down again and barely made out the dark depression that was the place where Groth's plane had rested a while, then the three or four miles to the Southeast where the Hangar - "Harry's Folly" it was called for years - stood mute testament to his stubborn pride. It was a good three times as long and twice as wide as the depression.
As I watched over the countryside, nothing moving aside from Andy, I dreamed I saw a pale shimmer in the moonlight, a spot of not-quite-the-right stillness just above the Southwest horizon, moving to the East, unril it was due south of me, then Northeast, around town, maybe ten miles out, then coming towards me from the East, plunging lower, so it was below the horizon, just a ripple in the water of the landscape, barely noticeable. It slowed as it approached, staying beneath me, then stopped, right in front of the Hangar, like it was waiting for the door to open and let it in . . . It was kinda like looking at the amoeba under the microscope when I was in High School, all you could see was the outline, almost transparent, the body kinda wavery. "That's why nobody never sees 'em," I thought idly. "Must drive them Irak sheiks crazy."
"We want you to help," said Groth's voice in my right ear, and I jerked my head 'round to see him, but he was too close, and I ended up with my face right in his, and when I opened my mouth a little to say something, he was kissing me, and I folded into his arms, his strong arms, and hugged him to me, kissing back, crushing him to my chest, feeling myself get aroused, my heart beating like the wings of a just-beheaded chicken, knowing he wanted me, I wanted him . . . and we fell to the horizontal, landing on a cloud just as . . .
Chester crowed and I opened my eyes. I was looking right at the clock, the glowing hands showing 4:38. I had my arms around a mass of pillow and quilt, and my . . . my penis, Roger, was hard as a rock, throbbing. My left hand went to verify that it was real, and I closed my eyes again as I moved my hand back and forth under the covers, the foreskin all slippery from my own secretions, the sensations of shivers in my thighs so long missed, now so unbearably sweet. The orgasm built rapidly, almost without bidding, then burst inside me, making waves of pleasure in my body not felt in years, shooting out the head of my penis into the sheets, and I didn't give a damn I'd have to wash them, it just felt too good, and all the time, I thought of Groth. Not of Mary, not of any other woman. I thought of Groth, of kissing him, of him kissing back . . .
I drifted back into almost sleep, not even bothering to wipe up, amazed that I had come so quickly, so powerfully. I avoided thinking about it, this sudden switch in my sexual fantasies, from nothing at all to another male, all in one day or so. I wasn't prepared to face the thing that had been there, underneath all my thoughts, waiting to rear its head just when it was too late to do anything about it.
Chester insisted again that the sun was about to come up, and I pulled off the covers, the light chill of morning just enough to get me moving. I looked down at Roger ruefully, expecting him to be all puckered up and exhausted after his outing. He was semi-hard. Me, well gone sixty, with an almost-hard in the morning, not a half hour after orgasm. Something was going on, that's for sure. I wondered if I'd et something or other.
I put on my slippers and padded to the toilet, getting there just in time to let loose a geyser of pee. Even got the finish-off shiver I used to get all the time. When I was a kid, I mean. "Haven't had that feeling in years," I thought to myself as I flushed the old tank toilet and went to the bathroom across the hall as it roared, the big tank on the wall almost at the ceiling making a suddenly almost obscene sucking sound as it emptied out.
I felt my chin for whiskers, and was dismayed to find a thick crop, even on my cheeks and neck, feeling like a four-day growth. I opened the medicine chest mirror door over the sink, and pulled out the razor and shave cream, the toothpaste and plate adhesive, and lay them on the shelf, then closed the door and loaded up the toothbrush and started brushing the abominations, which I'd left in the glass, but without the cleansing tablet. I looked into the mirror for the first time, and stopped, frozen.
Something was really not right. My beard was dark, almost chestnut brown like my hair used to be before I went grey, and thick like it wasn't never. It covered my face, almost to the cheekbone, my neck almost to the adam's apple. I never had beard that heavy before. I don't think I ever had dark hair on most of my cheeks, just light brown except for the dark of the sideburns and chin and top lip. My nose looked different somehow, I couldn't tell you what, it was just different.
"What's going on?" I said aloud, almost startling myself with my own volume, reverbrating in the tiled room. "What the heck is GOING ON?" (I didn't really say "heck," but I don't like cussin', and I used a really bad word.)
I put in my teeth with the usual amount of adhesive, and it hurt - bad. "Shoot," I thought to myself. "Now I got gingivitis. Whole damned body's gone haywire." I spit out the plates and saw a little blood. Gingivitis, all right. All us old guys are susceptible to it. Have to go into Salina to Abe Friedman, my dentist, sometime soon. I put extra adhesive on the plates, figuring that would help a little.
I looked at my hands as I rinsed the brush, and even they looked a little . . . odd. The veins still stood out, like always, but they weren't as dark blue or something. "Get a grip," I told myself, aloud again.
I shaved, slowly, because the hairs resisted the attack, and I had to change blades in the razor. First time in weeks. Under the beard, something was definitely going on. My skin was flushed a little, almost puffy, and maybe even a little smoother. I couldn't figure it - my beard was never that thick, not even when I was in my twenties. I couldn't take my eyes off the top of my head - would hair br growing back in there, too? What was that stuff? Regain? Rogain? But I never took no pills - did someone sneak some into my food or some'at? I couldn't imagine Charlene doing that, or Ralph. My scalp was red as a cooked crawdad, though. Musta got a really bad sunburn. It itched like mad.
My pits were rank, and I stripped to jump into the shower, waiting for the hot water to make its way from the pipe to the shower head. I looked down at myself, and got a little dizzy. My front was different. My belly was sunk, so's I could see all the way down the front. My hipbones was back where they was before . . . before I can't remember how long ago, when I was maybe just married. It didn't look like me. And when I got under the shower, I got another shock. The hair on my front washed off. Like just, fell off with the hot water, all those years of growin' longer and greyer, it all just fell off and swirled around the drain, clogging it up.
I just stood under the water, watching the hair clog the drain, watching the water back up and rise to cover my toes, hair now floating on the surface of the water, all grey and . . . my feet were different. The angles of the toes were gone, the nails blackened at the base, like after that time I stubbed my toe real bad and the nail fell off a few weeks later. My knees were somehow not so knobby, my shins had no more soft puffiness of skin like they'd had for the last few years. My thighs didn't look as skinny as they's been, more muscly under . . . Dear Lord, the wrinkles were gone from my skin! It was taut, stretched.
"Oh dear God, what is going on? What's happening to me?" The water was three inches deep, the surface covered with a fine mat of my hair, like little worms . . .
I leapt out of the tub, turning off the water, shaking like a leaf. I hesitated before plunging my hand into the water to clear the drain. I had to clear it three more times, throwing a handful of matted hair into the plastic trash basket each time.
"Whoever put sommat in my food's gonna pay dear," I swore to myself. "The joke's gone too goldarned far!"
I grabbed a towel and dried off - there was no hair left on my chest to speak of, none on my belly. At least my pubic hair was still there, but even some of that seemed to be gone. My legs seemed to have lost all of the hair above the knee, and most of what was below the knee. I looked in the mirror, and the hair on my head seemed okay. Maybe a little thinner, but that was normal, Who ever heard of a drug what acted both as a depilatory and a beard restorative?
"There you go with big words again, Graham," I mocked myself. But I was shaking.
After I cleaned out the drain (for the fourth time!) and wiped the tub like always - there was more hair there than I thought I ever had - I got on the scale. Figuring I must have lost a few pounds or something, I was surprised to see that I'd actually gained five pounds since I last set the marker, from 175 to 178. That, at least, was a relief - you don't gain weight when you have the Cancer.
My gums hurt still. I took a aspirin, even though it was morning and I had work to do..
I padded into the bedroom and got dressed, just throwing on my jeans and a clean shirt over the plaid boxers and white T-shirt. Work boots over white socks completed the dress of the day - I didn't even wheeze when I pulled the boots. My jeans were definitely loose around the waist, but not so loose around my hips. "Once a fat ass, always a fat ass, I said aloud, trying to take up some tension. My shirt felt a little tight across the shoulders and chest.
I had to take up another notch in the belt - a notch hole I'd never used before.
I took the pickup into town instead of Jeep after I fed the flock and gathered the eggs, figuring on doing a little lookin' over the Hangar and the workshop that was to house my new venture. I didn't ferget my hat. I don't think I wanted nobody to make any smart remarks about me losing more hair. What the heck was I going to use as a explanation when somebody saw my nekkid chest, like Andy? I was due for my annual exam in a few weeks. Geez, why is life so darned complicated?
I was running a little late, so I took the Gove road right into town, barely making it in time.
Dan poured me my coffee just as I opened the door, letting me know he knew I was a little late, but not drawing nobody's attention to it but me. Dan's considerate that way. We all said howdy, and I looked over to the first booth, but Andy Trothwell warn't there. "Must have swing shift tonight," I thought absently, nodding to Karl Carlsson and his son Phil, what had double plots South and West of mine. They don't come into Katy that often for breakfast, counta they live in Totteville. I noticed what all the booths was filled, as well as the seats to the counter. Charlene's was bustling, which was nice to see. I figure she's had enough troubles in her life.
Charlene had already given Pete his cake, but didn't bat an eye, just asked if it was bacon or sausage, so I said bacon since yesterday was sausage. By the time I got my breakfast, with the bacon in the center and the sausages on the side of the platter, Ralph and Gary had come in, and the familiar buzz was going on. The Carsten boys down at the river were selling futures on their alfalfa this year for the first time, but not on the corn or soy. Pete was sayin' as how he'd made a extra fifteen cents a bushel by selling early.
I et, but my gums hurt some when I chewed down on the sausage and the bacon. Damned plates! I pushed away the platter without eatin' but maybe half, and sat with my coffee jawin' with Dan an' Ralph an' Gary about Sweeney's. The whole of Sweeneys's garage went, right to the I-beams, probably 'cause they stored too much oil in drums. The showroom was gutted - the ceiling fell in on all the equipment when the wall to the garage burned through. The hint of arson was behind everything Gary said - he got his info from his wife's sister-in-law, whose brother was a volunteer fireman in Oakley and helped fight the fire. That's where his wife, Diane, was all week - her brother and sister-in-law had just dropped twins.
"Graham?" came a voice at my right shoulder.
I looked 'round. It was Phil Carlsson.
"Finished eating?" He was fidgity
"Ayuh," I said, looking into his grey eyes. So the mystery of why the Carlssons was in Charlene's was solved. They wanted something from me. I told 'em last year that my second parcel was first optioned to Gil Carver so it wasn't that. They was trying then to buy a single or double plot for Phil's kid brother Charles, somewhere between Karl's spread and Katy. Charles was share-cropping over to Gove, last I heard, still not married. Good women want a man what has more'n just a two-year share-crop contract.
"Could we maybe talk to you a few secs?"
"Acourse, Phil. Lemme get more coffee, be right over." I snagged the pot from the hotplate in front of Gary, poured some, then walked over to the booth and sat down next to Phil, 'cause I knew his Dad was the one who'd be doin' the talkin'.
"Mornin' Graham," Karl muttered, paying more attention to the biscuit he was buttering than to me. "Word has it you might open up over to Harry's Hangar."
"Ayuh," I said. Word gets out quick, like I said.
"Think you could handle our group?"
"You mean, you and Phil?"
"Naw - us an' the rest of the Co-op. Torris." The Torris Co-op is maybe a group of fifty middle-size farmers what do a lotta common buying and selling. I didn't know Karl and his son had signed on to the Gove-based Co-op. "Been usin' Sweeney. Don't look like we can count on 'em no more."
"How many?" I stalled for time - this could be good. Maybe even too good.
They's forty-eight of us, and we got - lessee," he fished a wad of paper out of his shirt pocket. "We got fifty-two Deeres, forty-three IH, thity-two Cats what could come to ya, and about half that number a harvesters an' balers an all what ya'd need to come to us to do."
"I can handle that," I said. "Long as your schedules don't call for it all in the same cycle, an I can do a maintenance run what lets me do six or eight jobs a day when I's on the road."
"How long afore ya have yer shop up?" asked Phil, as his Dad gummed his biscuit. Didn't have a tooth in his mouth and refused to wear plates. I wondered if that was going to be my fate, my lips caved into a mass of creases.
"Only signed up a lease with Gary yesterday," I answered at Karl, figuring he was the one who'd make the decision. "He's givin' me the keys this mornin' an' I'll get a idea a how much I need in tools and stuff, and what kinda buildin' I gotta do. I figure I'd best have at least a coupla weeks afore I can take more'n emergency work. "
"Gimme a bid tonight, then," said Karl. He spit a coupla crumbs halfway across the table when the 'then' came out, and 'pologized as he wiped them off the plastic tablecloth with a napkin. "Call me after eight." He handed me a batch of damp paper. All but the top sheet was a computer listing from Sweeney's with all the machines what was covered under their contract, including model, year, and even the annual contract price.
"Don't need to," I said at him after seeing the prices Sweeney's charged. They used the recommended standard industry rates for everything. "My price will be 85% of what Sweeney's charged for in-garage work, and 90% of what they charged for field and emergency maintenance. Nights and Saturdays, the charge will be double, not double-fifty. I'll provide emergency service on Sundays and Holidays, but only outside church services for me or my mechanics, 'cept at harvest. Charge double-fifty for day work, triple for night work. Night means 8pm until 6am, year round. No work on Christmas or Thanksgiving or the Fourth, no matter what."
"Might shave some off in-house work in the off season, if it looks to be reasonable. Won't know 'til I see how much business I bring in."
"Done. Gimme yer hand."
We shook, and I had my first contract. More iron-clad than most - we're pretty thick 'round here. A man's hand still counts for what, not like in places where lawyers is always hovering, looking for ways to make money outta somebody's honest mistakes and others' greed. Still can't believe some dumb old twit got thousands of dollars out of spilling hot coffee all over herself opening a fresh container in a moving car. So she wanted cold coffee? I don't think so.
Business done, we jawed for a minute or two on rain prospects for the week, the new state agriculture inspector's incompetence, and the primaries, then broke, so's they could get to their fields and I could get to the Hangar. I got a big smile and wink from Charlene as we got up to go. I figure she was behind how Karl got told what I'd signed a lease already. I winked back, and left on a cloud. Karl's group would keep me in business - I'd make enough on the contract to pay me and at least one mechanic if I could fine a good one, one jouneyman apprentice, and a bookeeping service.
Gary was standin' next to his pickup, in front of mine, waitin' on me.
"Graham, didn't want to talk business inside . . . you need any help on settin' up shop?" he asked as I crossed the street to him.
"Don't know just yet," I grinned. "Power an' Light's asking fer a licensed electrician's certificate that all the wirin' is up to code. Guess I need to call Matt over to Gove to come look at it. The phone people got no record of the wiring. Seems that's all the trouble I could find yesterday."
"No worry on the wiring," Gary said. He looked a little strange, like he wasn't completely awake. "Matt's Dad did all the wiring, coax all through, even got 220 hooked up into all the maintenance bays, all over the Hangar. Hangar's still got the original military spec wiring fer lights and stuff, and we put in new breaker boxes."
"Still got the drawings?"
"Yeah, I'll get a copy to them today. Gotta go to Gove s'afternoon anyhow, I'll get a copy made at Sloan's." Gary looked at me a little strange. "Yer friends asked me to watch over you, ya know? Make sure you didnt' get stepped on or nothin."
"Who's that?" I asked. For some reason, I was almost dreading the answer.
"Only Charlene, everybody what eats her biscuits, Andy Johnson an' Andy Trothwell, Gil Carver, Diane - even my Mother, fer chrissakes. Hal called, so did Bill Sweeney. Oh, yeah, I even got a call from some guy in K.C., said he heard you were opening a new garage in my Hangar, wanted to know if there was nought he could do to help you get started. Said his company needed a good repair shop these parts, an' you was the best mechanic they's seen."
"Who, Deere?" I asked. I know this guy John something-or-other from Deere had recommended me to Sweeney.
"Don't rightly remember," Gary looked askance. "Name just slipped through my ears. Guy's name was Soup, or Broth, or Stew maybe. Something like that."
Groth. Groth had talked to . . . how did he find out that . . . my head spinned about a little.
"Groth, maybe?" I managed to sputter out.
"Yeah - that's the name. Sounded like a radio announcer - almost no accent at all, couldn't tell where he was from," Gary said, looking down at the tarred road.
I only half heard the answer. Groth was in Kansas City? I thought he had to go to that place in New Mexico where they keeps all them Skunkwork planes.
"You okay?" asked Gary, his hand all of a sudden on my arm, his voice showing concern.
"Yeah," I said. "Why?"
"You turned kinda pale, sorta weaved a little," Gary said. "Sure you're okay?"
"Course," I said as casually as I could. "Just ate too fast."
"Right. Well." Gary looked at his feet. He didn't believe me. Probably thought I was going a little senile. Old folk do that. "Here's the keys. The silver ring is for all the doors and locks in the Hangar. The brass ring is for the workshops, the office, and the doors leading to the Hangar. The red ring is for the entry gate, the power cabinet, and the utilities room. This here's the ring of keys fer the apu and the tug."
"Yeah, Dad bought a used tow tug an' a apu off Brannif when they went under, to service the planes what never come just before he shut 'er down. I thought he was goin' a little cracked, buying stuff what was used fer jets and all, when he didn't have but four prop plaves landing at the field. He wouldn't listen to none of us - not even my Mom - when we said anything about them. He put 'em up for sale, but din't get no offers - they'd a fetched what he paid fer 'em, but he figured they was worth more, and turned 'em all down. Put 'em on blocks after that, figuring to sell 'em later. Never did."
We jawed for a minute or two on the Sweeney closure and the primaries, how McCain didn't stand a chance, then I got in the pickup and turned around towards the Hangar. It was visible right from town, at least the top of it. Funny how you never take note of things until they're important to you.
I drove kinda quick out to Post road, down to the gate, what opened easy with the key that Gary provided, then drove the half mile up to the entrance to the maintenance shop on the south side. Up close, the thing is huge, but it kinda gets whittled down to size at a distance. It's almost six hundred feet long and near two hundred wide, more'n a hundred tall at the center. The giantest Quonset hut ever.
Inside, the maintenance shops was huge, too. Gary was right - the equipment was old, but there was a lot of space for the bays I'd need, and there was even a hydraulic lift I could use for some of the in-house work. I wandered through the maintenance bays, looking at the tools, drill presses, borers, and lord knows what all else, all covered over with dust-laden oilcloths, but still bright and shiny underneath. Seein' as how Gary was strapped for money, I couldn't figure out why he didn't just sell it all off at auction. There was precious little I'd need, aside from the diagnostic equipment for the new engines, and that could wait awhile, seein's how most of the equipment 'round here isn't less than five years old.
I wrote down some of the stuff I needed to get from the farm, then drove home to get it all. I loaded everything in Jeep, not the pickup, as the day was warming up, good topless weather, and drove back to Hangar, unloading the toolbox, a Sawzall, the Makita Percussion Drill, the little gas generator and the lights. It only took a few minutes to set up the first bench with power and light - even had an independent safety circuit breaker at eye level to isolate it from the rest of the wiring. They went first class when they built this baby.
I spent the rest of the day going through with a clipboard and a pen, figuring what equipment I'd need to add, what I'd have to move out of there, what tools, what striping had to be done for OSHA, where safety equipment would have to go, all that.
I wouldn't need no wiring done, that was certain - the place was as well-wired as the best garage I'd ever seen, in Salina. Every bench had 110 and 220, telephone line and secure ground to the frame of the Hangar, breaker box. Brilliant, but it must have cost Gary's Dad a pile to get it ready for nothing. The main breaker box had a 500 amp main breaker. I don't figure Katy has a line big enough to carry that much juice!
After spending the whole morning in the maintenance shop, which ran a good two hundred feet of the length of the Hangar, I pulled open the fifteen foot square sliding doors into the Hangar itself. They were perfectly counterweighted, and the grease had apparently been liberally applied, as they opened as easily as a sliding glass patio door, but together. Slide one, the other moved exactly the same distance, but in opposite direction. Don't see that very often! The cherry doors from my parlor to the Dining room is like that, but they's only seven feet across, and use rope. The doors musta used steel cable.
I just dropped jaw at the space of the Hangar once I stopped being awed at the entry doors. Biggest space I ever saw under one roof, with not a pillar anywhere. The echo of my steps was spooky, as I walked to the centerline, still yellow under the dust, and looked straight up at the roof, split down the center with an open space for air circulation, a sort of second roof above it, what I'd never noticed from outside.
The sun beamed through a little this late in the afternoon (I'd missed Dinner, completely absorbed in the listings), making a wide but narrow beam at almost a 45 degree angle, streaming with tiny motes of dust in the air. It was like being in a cathedral - quiet, huge, massive, awesome. I musta stood like that for ten minutes, just drinking in the sensations.
I roused myself and looked around, not really able to take in the size of it all. The maintenance shop ran only maybe a quarter of the length of the south side of the space, and from where I stood, was small-looking. A hundred-plus foot long room, with a twenty foot ceiling, and it looked small! There was a lot of stuff settin' on top of the ceiling, so I guess it was pretty strong. Biggest piece I saw was the fuselage of an old duster, stubs where the wings mighta was, no landing gear.
The tug and the APU were at the Northwest corner of the Hangar, looking like Tinker Toys under black plastic sheets. I walked all the way over to them and looked under the sheets. They seemed to be in good knick, but there was no way to know until I fired them up, after changing the oil, filters, lubing all round, and purging the gas tanks. Some day.
I wandered a little through the space, just overwhelmed by the size of it all, then went back into the maintenance shops and finished up my listings, now nearly six pages long. It was starting to get late in the afternoon, and my stomach was beginning to gnaw a little, so I closed up and went to Jeep to head home.
When I locked the outer gate and got back into Jeep, I saw that the fuel gage had gone past "E" where I was runnin' on no more than fumes. I'd forgot to fill him up at the house, so I headed back down into town to fill up at Pete's gas pump, just in case. Better try a mile than six, and I was proved right - the engine gasped and died just before I got to the entrance - I had to push Jeep the last ten yards. I started the pump, and waited for the old dials to spin, to where they showed that I'd bought ten gallons exactly.
Just as I reached for the slips we use to tell Pete how much gas we took, I seen a Deere 2 x 4 come round the corner. Looked like young B.B. Taggert's rig. Needs a new distributor, I reckoned from the sound of the engine, missing one firing in 4 every fourth cycle. Sounded like there might be a stuck exhaust valve, too. Common with Deere's what got more'n ten years on the clock. Not life-threatening or nothing - Deere's can live forever with a little decent maintenance.
I saw it was B.B. and waved at him, and he pulled into the station right next to me, then climbed down.
"God, that boy is a looker!" I thought to myself. About my height, maybe an inch taller, long and lanky, with slim hips and a pair of wiry legs topped by a fine butt. Long, slim torso bursting into wide shoulders and chest, long arms and perfect-length neck, holding up a perfect head, flawless skin on a wide square face bone, wide-set eyes with a deepness to 'em like Actors have, Sandy hair looking soft and strong at the same time, a slight curl up front. So much beauty on a single person! I guess when you're "homely" like me, you appreciate it more.
We shook hands, it being a while since we'd seen t'other, and I got a funny tingle in the back of my neck. We talked some, about how I was opening up soon, that kinda thing. I offered to do his tractor the next day, since I had a couple of distributors back at the house, and I could grind the valves off the portable generator, if need be. He followed me out to the Hangar, and we put it in the maintenance shop, then I showed him the main Hangar. If anything, it was more impressive than before. The sun was getting fairly low, and the beams of sunlight was coming under the top of the roof, making the dust hang like gauze.
His arm brushed mine at one point, and I felt a shock run up my arm. He felt it too, and I swear if i'd a been thirty years younger, I'd a grabbed him right there and swapped spit . . . I managed to get myself under control, barely. What the heck was goin' on with my head, anyhow? First Groth, now this? I kinda rushed him outta there, and we jawed a little on the way out to the gate.
I took him to his ma's house, and ended up eatin' supper there, jawin' some more about all sorts of stuff. I coudn't eat much - my gums hurt something awful whenever I bit down on anything. I sorta went through the motions, at least eating all the mashed and gravy, and cutting small pieces of meat what I could swallow whole. I could feel him watchin' me most of the time. Like he couldn't believe an old guy like me had anything interesting to say. I didn't dare look at him - he or Charlene would know right away that I thought he was sexy like a mare in heat is to a stallion in rut.
Charlene thinks the world of him, of course. I think she embarrassed him with all her praise, but a man needs that once in a while, too. You could see her eyes and nose in his face, as well as the long, long fingers on his hands. Intelligent, too. Real knowledgeable about the crop cycles, weather patterns hereabouts, the water tables in the county.
I ended up driving him home, the second farm past mine on Gove road, maybe ten miles outside town. He was quiet most of the way. Then he blew me away with a question about his Dad, whether or not he'd kilt hisself. I didn't know what I should answer, so I told him his Dad would have been proud of the way his son turned out, so good, so intelligent. I couldn't look at him while I was sayin' that, for fear he'd see through me, see my . . . oh, shit and shinola, I was turning queer on me.
I told him any time he got lonely out there on the farm, to come have a drink on my porch. I hope he didn't think I was being a dirty old man. I hoped I wasn't, that I wouldn't try anything foolish.
I thought about what was happening all the way home. I'd never so much as thought about going with another woman since before Mary and me decided to get married. I never considered it with a guy, not really, since I was a kid. I pretty much stopped thinking about ever doing it with another person at all after Mary died. So what happens? I turn sixty-five, I come across some queer - sorry, not politically correct - some gay Air Force pilot what kisses me and I gets all hot and bothered, now I'm lusting after a kid one-third my age, probably as straight as a laser, whose father was a kid when I was already married. I wondered how to stop the progress of the disease.
I sat on the porch for a bit, even though it was already almost ten at night, and sipped a couple of fingers of prime bourbon. This was all gettin' a little too complicated for me. Crazy dreams what didn't make sense, visions of things what couldn't be real, newfound lust and sexual energy, changes in my body what can't happen so fast. I thought about the ship, and how easily it would slip into the Hangar, undetected . . . 'Where the heck did THAT thought come from,' I wondered.
Shaking my head to clear the webs, I went into the kitchen, washed the glass, put it back under the table, then went upstairs to get ready for bed. I changed the bedclothes, first, then went into the bathroom to scrub my teeth and put them into the glass with the blue pill that fizzed them clean, then took a aspirin against the hurt of my gums. I looked at them in the mirror, to see if they was infected or nothing, but they was just all red, swollen a little. A quick shower confirmed that all my chest hair was gone - nothing at all remained, not even around the nips.
I looked at me in Mary's long dressing mirror, on the inside of the closet door, before I put on my sleep things. I didn't look the same without the grey hair on my chest, of course. My pubic hairs was reduced to just a small triangle above Roger. My hips looked slimmer than I remembered. My face was different. I couldn't see what it was.
I got down the last photo I had of me, when Mary and me was in Salina, a few months before she went, and we found a professional photography studio right inside the Sears store. She was looking her best, and I had on a white shirt and a string tie.
I went back into the bathroom and held the picture up beside me and looked into the mirror. The differences were obvious at once. My nose was smaller, less bulbous. My eyelids weren't as droopy, and my eyebrows not as bushy. My cheekbones looked higher or something. My chin didn't recede as much. My beard, of course, was completely different. I had a dark beard, where none was visible before, and it was all over my lower face, not just on the chin and lip and sideburns like before. I was better-looking than I can remember ever being. Not handsome - never that. But not as homely as the man in the photo.
I looked into my eyes, but found no answers to the questions I couldn't formulate. I shook like I had the ague, and put on my sleep clothes, slipping under the bedclothes almost sneakily, afraid to go to sleep, afraid not to.
I slept at once.
I dreamt of B.B., which Charlene had adopted as a shortened "Bill's Boy," 'cause she didn't want him to be called "junior' all his life. I don't think more'n two or three people aside from Charlene an' me knows that. Everybody thought it referred to the size of him when he was born - 8lbs. 12 oz. "Big Bill." Wrong.
I saw him perched on his Deere, staring up into the sun. He was naked as a jay, but I couldn't quite make out the details of his body. I just saw his face, the brown eyebroes, the golden-hued hair framing his foehead, the strong jaw and sensuous lips. He looked down at me and smiled - it was the same smile my Mary gave me when she married me - tender, soft, knowing. He held out his hand to me, and I reached for it, afraid he would pull back, but he held me, pulled me up onto the tractor next to him. I was naked, but I wasn't ashamed. He was so beautiful naked that I couldn't breathe.
I looked up, following his gaze, and saw the Ship floating a few feet above the ground, incredibly beautiful in its perfection, gradually moving towards us, the weeds underneath it being crushed by an invisible hand. We held hands, and the Hangar doors opened, slowly, just in time for the Ship to enter, move slowly through, disappear into the maw of the Hangar. The doors closed, and the sun went down, and he turned his head to me and said "I love you." His hand went to my penis, holding it lightly, and mine went to his, wrapping gently around it, feeling its warm silkiness, its power over me. We kissed, and I felt emotion like I never felt before, not with nobody, even my Mary, God rest her. My heart was full to the brim, and I came in his hand just at the touching.
I woke in a cold sweat, my right hand full of my own semen. It was dark outside, not a glimmer yet of dawn. Just as I moved to get out of bed, to clean up my mess, Chester announced imminent glimmers of dawn. My dream lasted only a minute, but the whole night had passed smoothly by. I was in shock. My eyes were full of tears, I don't know why. The clock said 4 am.
I got up and cleaned my self up, dressed, then wrote out most everything above what I hadn't already written. It took almost two hours, even though I'm pretty good at typing. I took it in school, mostly so's I could do term papers in college, but I never got to go, just the ag school. - never thought it might come in handy for personal computers. They didn't even exist when I was a kid.
Time to get the hens fed and gather up eggs for Charlene. God, she'd kill me if she knew I looked on B.B. that way. I wish there was somebody I could talk to, help me figure out how to get this outta my system. I don't want to be that way! I don't want to be hurting nobody!