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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 IV - B.B.
"I can't believe I'm stuck in this . . . this limbo! If only I could what to do about it," I thought to myself as I climbed down from the tractor to separate it from the seed rig. I'd just finished sowing the barley in the rich soil in the Northeast corner, up against the Dreeson line. The Dreeson Place - or their second place, I guess, since they had a cropping deal with Tad Barret, and he farmed it - the Dreeson farm used to be my Dad's, until he was killed in a freak accident, just after I was born. My Dad was only a couple of years older than I am now when he got struck by a bolt of July lightening, right in the middle of the field, over yonder. I can see it from my desk upstairs here - or at least the piece of land where it happened. There's no marker or anything where the tractor was.
I never knew him - or living on the farm - at all.
Least not that I can remember. My Mom kept the farm for a couple of years after my Dad died, but then gave it up and sold it when my twin brother died, then opened "Charlene's," the town coffee and gossip shop. I don't remember any of that. I just remember the town house and the attached coffee and Dinner take-out shop.
No matter I wasn't raised on a farm - I've wanted to farm for as long as I can remember, from when I first planted the little patch of tomatoes in back of the house when I was seven. There's something about helping Life produce its bounty that no "job" could rival for satisfaction. I worked on Hal Cooper's farm every summer when school was out, from when I turned thirteen really, but officially when I turned fourteen, because Kansas has these dumb laws about work permits and all. I loved it.
I've cropped old Hal Cooper's farm almost two years now, living at home until last month, when Hal moved into his house in town, next but one to Mom's, and I moved into Hal's farmhouse. When Lynn, his wife of thirty some years, died on the farm, Hall sort of didn't want to stay there any more. He left me most of his furniture to use, because the town house was already pretty full from when his mother and Dad lived there after they turned the farm over to him, so I was pretty well fixed. I had all these thoughts about finally having a place of my own, that I could take someone to bed to, but it just didn't happen, didn't find anybody I wanted to wake up to. That big house sure got lonesome some times.
Mom wasn't happy about me moving out, because she figured I ought to follow custom and stay at home 'til I got married. I felt kinda funny about doing that - living at home, I mean - ever since she started seeing Andy Trothwell from over to Gove last year. He never slept over when I was living at home, and I sort of felt it was because of me being there.
Besides, once I got the share-crop deal done with Hal, there was no way I could see being able to work in my Mom's coffee shop any more. It's just right for her, plus a kid what dropped from school and wasn't ready to farm, or maybe a young Momma like Cal's Sara to help her in the mornings, clearing breakfast places and making cold and warm-'em-up dinners for the single farmers and workers to take into the fields.
For the last year, Tracey had helped out mornings, but she was a little slow, and Mom was looking for a replacement, now that Tracey went to visit her aunt in Peoria. We normally don't talk about these things, even though everybody in town knows her and one of the Hill boys (either one - they were both doing her down by the creek on a regular basis) popped a balloon - or more likely, forgot to use one. Neither one of 'em was willing to marry her, of course, so she went to her aunt to calve and get the adoption done then she'd come back and finish High School. I could understand Tracey falling for the Hill boys - they're both as good looking as can be, built big for their ages. I think Todd is sixteen and Terry seventeen. But Tracey wouldn't make a good farmer's wife - too lazy - so old man Carmichael paid her trip to Peoria to get them off the hook. After he beat their butts black and blue for being so stupid about using protection, and sharing the same woman, which is an abomination.
As for Andy, well I guess he's a pretty nice guy, even if he is a Trooper. Took good care of his wife when things got bad, and saw his daughters both off to college. He never came down hard on folks unless they really deserved it - even let me off for driving my pickup back from Gove after a party, shit-faced, but still driving pretty safe - about three miles an hour. (And before you get any ideas, that was a year before he met my Mom.) I figure my Mom has every right to get a little lovin' - she's done without as long as I been alive, almost. Isn't natural for a woman as attractive as my Mom to go without. Isn't right.
She won't tell me, of course, but T.J. says Andy's cruiser leaves Mom's house way after midnight sometimes, 'cause he's seen it on Gove Road lots of times after I moved out here, heading towards Gove. Andy lives on the north side of Gove, in a house he built in town after his older brother got the farm. I never stay up that late - midnight, I mean - but T.J. gets home from seeing Julie pretty late most nights.
I hope they're getting in some good loving after supper. Mom and Andy, I mean. I got hard in my jeans, just thinking a little about sex, of course. I'm always getting hard down there, over anything slightly sexual or anybody really good looking, almost.
I wished T.J. was still into getting corn holed, but he's been seeing this girl we graduated High School with, Julie Werther. Julie is really nice, a great figure ("two handfuls") and sweet as honey. Ever since they started dating, in our Senior year, T.J. lost interest in that kind of stuff with me. I figure that's okay - I mean, he really wants to have his own farm and a family. I figure him and Julie will hitch up as soon as he finds a good sharecrop deal.
T.J.'s brother, Darren hinted once that he'd like to experiment with me, but he's only just turned sixteen, and I'm not going to play that fiddle. He has a nice butt, though - just like T.J. Sometimes . . . well, I'm only human. But I never touched him, honest.
T.J.'s sister Beth is a little tramp - puts out for anybody, ever since she got titties, but she's only seventeen, and I figure I'm not going to get nobody else's sloppy seconds. 'Sides . . . I guess I'm not really into girls. When I strum my string, I usually think on looking at T.J.'s back, the way the backbone leads right down to his butt, the way my dick looks moving' in and out.
Sometimes I think about that time up on the interstate, when I went into the toilet and found a hole in the wall of the stall, and a tongue sticking through it . . .
That's the first - and only - time I got a blow job - last summer - and it blew my mind, too. I went back up there a couple of weeks later - just curious, you know? They'd put a metal plate over the hole, almost covering the whole of the old wooden partition, and the place smelled worse than a horse barn that never got mucked, the pee smell unbearable. I never went back again, but I always wondered who it was that sucked my dick. He never came out of the toilet, as far as I could tell. I waited for ten minutes to see, but he never came out, and when the Trooper patrol car pulled in, I got skittish as hell, and got right outta there. I don't remember if I looked at the parking lot for familiar pickups or not - I was too busy looking to see if it was Andy Trothwell, or the other Trooper that knew my family, Gordon Smith, but it was somebody I never saw before that got out of the patrol car. A short heavyset man, looked black or maybe hispanic. My heart hammered until I got home, looking in the rearview mirror every few seconds to make sure the Trooper wasn't following me.
I thought quickly about whacking off. "Not gonna happen," I told myself, because I had to get the tractor down to old Charlie's garage to get it serviced, before it closed at seven. Not the little stuff - I do the plug and oil and filters and stuff myself, but I'm no good at anything else, and I figure my old Deere isn't going to suffer at old man Baker's hands. Graham Baker's about the best mechanic in Central Kansas, according to everybody that lives hereabouts. Even my Dad apparently used Charlie's, so as to get Baker's service - and he hated Charlie Adams something fierce, Mom said. Something about the Vietnam War, I think, but no one seemed to know what it was all about. Or else they just wouldn't talk about it. Alex didn't come back. From Vietnam, I mean. Just a silver box.
I don't really know Graham Baker, even though he lives just two farms over Gove Road, towards town. He keeps to himself pretty much. Mom said he and my Dad were tight, and he was all broke up after Dad died. Then he went and lost his wife to Cancer, a couple of years after Dad went, and just sort of hunkered down, I guess. I remember he came to supper at Mom's house some when I was a kid, but he hadn't been for a long time, years, at least.
Whenever I saw him at the garage, or one of the fairs, we were polite, but distant. I mean, what does a teenage farmer-to-be or a 21 year old struggling share-cropper have in common with a guy in his sixties? He was the Mechanic, the farm owner, me the hayseed cropper. He has two parcels, one where he lives, the other where Gil Carver lives, share-cropping both parcels. He gave me the creeps sometimes, like he knew what I was thinking. I know he thought of my Dad when he saw me. He told me that after the big Homecoming game in my senior year, when we won by three touchdowns, one of 'em mine on an interception. Said I had my Dad's speed and slippery legs.
Mom says Gil wants to buy the piece they live on from Baker when the crops are in, and sharecrop the parcel next to that, right behind me. It's the old Barney farm, that somebody bought at the estate auction last April, too late to crop out, so its fallow this year. Nobody knows who bought it - the lawyer for the Barney family told me it was a private trust that bought it, and it wasn't interested in selling it to me when I asked, it would only crop out. I'm not sure I could handle two parcels to sharecrop all on my own.
Gil's already sold almost his entire crop on the Futures market, and he sold in April, at the top of the market. I sold a couple of weeks later, and got almost as good a price, but I only sold half the crop, so I'll have to take spot price for the rest, come September. I'm hoping prices will firm, seeing as how soft they are now.
I shoved the rig back into the slot in the barn that it calls home, where I'd lube it and cover it with the oilcloth until next season. Damn thing must be forty years old, but it still works like a charm. Mr. Baker - Graham (I gotta start using Christian names now - I'm not a kid anymore) - did an overhaul on it last year when I bought it at a distress auction up to Grainfield. It was a really bad day for an auction - I don't guess but forty buyers showed - the Interstate was open, and the main roads plowed, but it was snowing pretty good, and they promised a lot more snow, so not many folk came from more than a couple of miles away. I'd have thought they'd postpone the auction, but I guess they had too much at risk. I got the rig for $200-, the opening bid. Nobody else bid on it. Almost got a fine Deere closed six wheeler tractor for $3,500, but a couple of guys showed up right at the end of the call and started bidding against me and each other at a clip that took it over $6,000- in less than a minute. Too rich for my blood.
Anyhow, Old Will, the guy that worked with Baker - Graham - at the garage, said that Graham had remarked that my rig was in "pretty good nick" (I had to look that up to find out it mean good condition) and that if I only paid $500 for it, I got the buy of the year, but for $200, I'd got my early Christmas present. I only dealt with Will, or Mr. Adams, T.J.'s dad. Graham was always busy.
I headed towards Charlie's garage around six, I guess. Maybe six and a quarter. I'd called Mom the night before to see if she'd drive me back to the farm after I dropped off the tractor. I had to get some chores done in the morning that couldn't be put off, like all farmers - milk, chickens, the usual. Mom invited me to late supper, around seven o'clock, and would drive me home after.
"So what you gonna do about this mess, Billy Boy," I thought as I pulled down the long drive. "You haven't found your mate, you can't leave the farm, you don't want to just marry any old girl and pretend all your life. What you gonna do?"
I've had this conversation with myself about three times a day for the last two years. You get a lot of time to think in farming - especially farming on your own.
I've always wanted to find a guy that I could feel good about, that felt good about me, that would hold me and let me hold him, just the two of us, on our own farm, side by side. But there wasn't anybody here, or in Gove or Totteville or Grainfield that gave me the flutter of that special feeling in my chest. I'd had it once, just the beginnings of it, when I went to the Ag. School extension in Salina the year after I graduated from High School. He was a guy from up North somewhere, I learned that from one of my classmates. His name was Hank, and he'd graduated from High School two years before me. He hung out with a bunch of people that were a little older than me, and because I was commuting from home every day, I didn't get much chance to run across him outside of the one class - Farm Finance, I think it was - we shared on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I was always early for that class, just to be sure I got the seat on the right side of the room across from where he always sat with two of his friends. I could look at his profile, his big ears, his lanky frame, watch his legs as they sometimes crossed, sometimes strained against his jeans, or chinos. A couple of times, he came to class in shorts, and I couldn't believe how good his legs looked, fine dark hair, taut muscles, tanned skin. His face was like a more masculine version of Tony Curtis, longer and more angled. He was about the same height as me, I figured, somewhere between six three and six four. Dark, flashing eyes, especially when he laughed, which was a lot when class wasn't in session.
I wanted so bad to meet him, but I was too shy to just walk up to him and say howdy, so I watched from across the room, and got more and more flutter in my chest every time he looked over at me. So fine!
About four months after I first saw him, I was getting so frustrated, I couldn't stand it. I whacked off every night thinking about him, his white teeth, his crewcut beauty, his incredibly fine butt, the long cleft between his shoulders and his belt, how fine it would be to plow his field, maybe let him plow mine, maybe even kiss and hold each other some. I even thought fleetingly of putting him in my mouth, tasting his seed like the guy in the stall at the rest stop did to me. The best was the fantasy of having my dick deep in his mouth, his eyes looking up at me, making me shoot . . . I had to reach down and adjust myself as I jounced along Gove, past the old house where I was born.
I was screwing up my courage to walk over to him right after class one Thursday, the next to the last week of the semester, when somebody said softly in my ear. "I wouldn't hit on him if I were you."
I spun around in my seat, feeling the blood rush to my face, the chill running down my back.
"He hates us," said this guy behind me, still real soft. He was the sort of swish guy I couldn't abide. Always wore shirts that were more like blouses, had dyed hair and pants that were too tight, acne scars something awful, glasses and a too-high pitched voice. An earring in one ear. He was always with two or three girls, and walked more like them than like a guy.
"What are you talking about?" I said, a little . . . well, sort of mad that he would talk to me.
"I've been watching," said the little one, not looking at me, talking into his notebook. "I've seen you watching him. You want him."
"Fuck off," I said lamely.
"Hank beat up a guy a couple of months ago that hit on him," said the queen. "Put him in the Clinic for stitches. Not right off, though. Waited until after the guy gave him head."
"Don't mean shit to me," I fired back. "I'm not like that."
"Just didn't want to see you get all bloodied for nothing," he said. I saw the way Hank looked at us, like he knew we were talking about him, and I knew the guy was right. There was an evil in the glare that I hadn't seen, hate that put my little flame out. I never saw a hatred like that, so strong you could see its reflection in a mirror. I found his name out - Edward's, I mean - after class, when we went and got a cup of coffee at the Student Union, before I drove back home.
We only talked about class after I shut Edward off when he started talking about Hank getting a blow job from a friend of his. I guess I managed to convince Edward that I wasn't queer, explaining that I thought he might be one of my second cousins on my other side, but once I'd heard from Edward about him, I knew he wasn't a relation.
Edward and I never became friends or anything. I think he would have liked to, but he wasn't one I'd want as a friend. His effeminate ways just embarrassed me too much, made me squirm when other people saw me talking to him at the Student Union that afternoon. Hank was there, too, and I got treated to the laser hate when I looked over at him. Funny how someone so handsome can suddenly look so ugly.
I arrived a little late and sat at the back of the class the next two weeks, away from both Hank and Edward, and paid no attention to either of them, during or after class. I sat at the seat closest to the proctor during the final exams, just to avoid them.
When we got our diplomas in a pretty hokey ceremony in the main auditorium one week after the final exams, I ran out of luck. Hank's last name was Tarwell or Tatworth - I can't remember - so he sat right next to me during the most boring speeches ever uttered by the school administrator and the Ag. Bureau supervisor. He kept pressing his leg against mine, and I had to move away to keep from getting a hard. I didn't want to do anything with him, not really, but my dick just didn't know that. When we got up to file in front of the assembly to get our Certificates, he pressed up against me as we waited to climb the stairs, and I felt him hard against my butt. I couldn't help the thrill that went through me when he did that.
"So you gonna give me a treat for graduation?" he mumbled as we waited for the line to move, for some reason stalled at the top of the steps. "I could really use a good slow suck. Even better, a piece of that fine ass."
I turned around real quick and snarled something about not being interested in hanging around with no queer, and said it loud enough that at least the guys in front of me and behind him must have heard. He actually flushed, and I could see it wasn't from anger, but from embarrassment.
"Sorry," he said. "I thought . . ."
"Wrong!" I finished for him, and turned around to jump up the steps and get my little folder with the Certificate.
That was the last, the only, word I spoke to him, and the last time I looked at his face. God, he was handsome! I didn't go back to my seat, I just walked out the side door, got in my pickup, and drove home. Mom wasn't at Commencement - she had to keep the kitchen going, so there was no reason for me to stay for the rest of the ceremony.
I still think about his face sometimes when I stroke off. I still wonder what it might have been like if he was one of the good guys, if he had found me as interesting as I found him.
I never felt that way about T. J. I mean, I never felt that I wanted to kiss him or hold him, much less set up home with him or anything. We were just using each other to get off. I wouldn't let him corn hole me, but he never seemed to mind that. I'd stroke him off sometimes when I was plowing him, but he more often than not wanted to do it for himself, so he could get the timing just right. We never kissed or nothing. That would have been queer.
I jumped out of my reverie as I pulled past Cal's house into town, and got to Charlie's' garage a little after half six. The lights were already off. I couldn't find anybody around, and kicked at the tires in frustration as I got back up on the tractor, to go the block or two to Mom's. I was right pissed that I'd come all the way into town, with an appointment to get the tractor serviced, and they'd closed up early. I said a couple of choice words about Charlie and Company - or at least about Ron and his four footed mother.
"Nothing to do," I said under my breath as I rounded the corner to Mom's place, "Calm down and have a nice supper with Mom."
Just then I noticed Graham Baker's old Jeep at Pete's pump across from Mom's place, and turned into the station. Graham had turned towards me, and waved as I drove up, but I couldn't see much of him. He was behind the old Texaco pump that still had the round globe with the star on it, the star a little worn away here and there. I pulled in next to his Jeep, and jumped off the tractor, leaving it running.
"Hey, Graham," I said waving at him as I walked around his old Jeep towards him.
His face was under the shadow of his hat, an old Stetson, and I thought of his big ears and nose, his comfortable ugly old face, the bushy eyebrows and ear hair, his head as clean as an egg on top.
"Hey, B.B.," he half hollered over the noise of the tractor. "Hot 'un, ain't it?" he said, pulling off his hat to wipe his forehead, and straightening up in the fading sun. He looked like one of those posters of the lean, mean old-time cowboys, blue denim shirt almost white from being washed so many times, lanky legs in darker denim, big metal belt buckle, worn boots. Almost as tall as me.
"He must have been a hunk when he was young," I remember thinking. "Not handsome, but not ugly either. Definitely a hunk." He still had a tight looking butt, and his shoulders were broad, the chest looking solid, the belly flat. Funny - I thought he had a pot when I saw him the last time, maybe two weeks ago. Could have sworn he had real bushy gray eyebrows, too, but they were just normal, dark with some gray. I couldn't help myself looking at his crotch, seeing the bulge of his manhood a lot more prominent than most, wondering if it was still in working order. Sick, I know.
He looked into my eyes, and I swear, I felt a flutter, a spark. There was something about the way his eyes were so deep, the pure masculinity of him so blatant. I almost stumbled as I went to shake his hand. His grip was strong, the hand not all that larger than mine, but still swallowing mine up, in one of those shakes that tells you this is a man, one you can count on. I almost jumped back when he let go my hand, not wanting to give the impression of weakness, of wanting to hold on a little longer.
"How come you shut up shop early? Got trouble with the Jeep?" I said lamely.
"Got myself fired yesterday," he boomed. "Went chasing after a weather balloon, thinking it was a plane, and young Ronnie fired my ass." He said it like it was some big joke. He smiled at me and almost laughed. I felt a mix of compassion, mirth and attraction, all at the same time.
"God, what a hunk he must have been," I reflected again as he spoke, looking at his big hands, his narrow hips. "I gotta do something about my need," I thought, "Else I'm gonna start jumping bones of old codgers like Graham. Get myself pounded into mush."
"So who's gonna be our mechanic?" I asked, now afraid to look at him, afraid he'd see the person behind my corneas, know I was a pervert.
"Well, Ron's bringing in his brother's boy to replace me."
"T. J.?." I asked, a little stunned. "T. J. can't change into a mechanic, he's gonna stick to farming! I mean, him and Julie is gonna share-crop next year, when he finishes the Ag course."
"Not T.J. - Cal."
"Calvin?" I couldn't believe it. "T. J.'s brother, Cal?" Cal couldn't be a mechanic no more than a nuclear physicist. I mean, he's not a bad guy, but dumb as a post. Him and Sara are getting married in June. Mom said there was a rumor that she was pregnant, but we weren't to say anything about it. That meant everybody in town knew, but we were going to keep it under wraps to avoid that anybody got hurt.
"Well, Cal's gettin' married and all, and they don't have no more work at the mine for him," Graham said softly. "Man's gotta provide for his family somehow."
"You aren't angry?"
"No purpose," Graham said.
I looked back up into his eyes, feeling somehow drawn to them. God, if they didn't seem deep as the clear winter night skies of January.
"I'm setting up on my own, up to the Hangar, soon's as I can get all the equipment ready, and the juice should get turned on in the morning," Graham said, not breaking our eyes away.
"Think you could do me?" I said without thinking. "I gotta bad vibration at 2200 rpm."
"Sure," he said. "We can take her up to the Hangar, then I'll drop you to home. Ain't got nothing to work on with my hands just now, so it'll be a pleasure. Oughtta have her ready tomorrow, 'less I gotta dig into her."
"I'm supposed to supper with Mom tonight," I said looking away. "Could you drop me at her house instead?"
"Surely," Graham said as he put the nozzle back on the side of the pump and wrote down on the little Post-it notepad how much he took, then put the sheet into the box for Pete to figure the price. The pump don't go over 99 cents a gallon, so Pete has to use a calculator every time he sells from the pump. He leaves the pump on all the time, of course, even though he's mostly not there; nobody from around here is gonna steal from Pete, and when we had a tourist come through one time that didn't know the system, he found the slip and wrote down how much he took, then paid with a couple of twenties and put it all into the box, even though the total he owed wasn't but twenty some dollars.
That drives the Bureau of Weights and Measures inspectors crazy, of course, because they expect anybody using a pump to have one of those high-tech machines that take credit cards, cash and all, spit out a receipt, measure everything in thousandths of a gallon, and I don't know what else. Maybe wash the windshield.
Pete just tells them the gas isn't for sale, it's just for his own use, and sometimes he loans some to friends as a courtesy, like we all do out here. The BWM people shake their heads at our ignorance and mulishness, then go away, which is just the way we all want it. I never met a bureaucrat that didn't belong as the wrong end of a mule.
Mostly, of course, Pete sells and delivers directly to the farms, running a full double tanker a week from the depot outside K.C., then splitting off the trailer and making deliveries. I buy two hundred gallons at a time, every two weeks, which is just enough to keep my 500 gallon tank from going too much below half full. Pete charges only wear and tear on his tanker, so's to replace it every five or six years, plus three or four pennies a gallon to live on - he only has one parcel, and five kids - that suits us all down to the ground.
So I followed the old Jeep out to the Hangar, as the sun continued its slide towards the horizon. Graham had to unlock the gate, then we drove maybe a half mile to the Hangar itself. I never realized it was so big! Graham opened a big sliding door on the side, and motioned me in. I expected to go right into the Hangar, but there was a concrete block wall maybe thirty feet from the side that went up about twenty feet, and a suspended ceiling between it and the outside wall of the Hangar, so you couldn't see all the inside. Graham pointed to a place near a bench a few dozen feet into the darkened maintenance area to park the tractor, and I got down after switching off and taking the key off my ring to leave in the lock.
"Can I see the inside?" I asked after I got over to where Graham was standing, watching me.
"Sure, B.B.," he said, and walked over towards the door in the wall. I followed a few paces behind, and couldn't stop looking at his butt. It looked as good as T.J.'s butt. Maybe a little better, even. I wondered what it would be like to corn hole an old guy.
"Probably loose as a goose," I thought. "Old men fart like hogs because they aren't tight any more. But better than a hog or a cow." T.J. said he tried a heifer once, but got kicked pretty good. He claimed that he did a goat, which I find disgusting, but I think he was just pulling my leg. I don't think I'd be interested in sex with livestock, thanks.
That butt was just perfect shape, though. I imagined pulling his jeans down and spreading 'em on the ground, jumping his bones before he knew I was in him. I couldn't believe I was thinking about having sex with a guy that was older than my Granddad would have been if he hadn't bought it in a silo explosion when I was a kid. I tried to shut my libido down.
Graham opened the door, and we walked into a dreamland. The sun was streaming through the spaces between an open part of the ceiling and a higher cap almost horizontally, high overhead. The light bounced just all over the place, in rays that gradually diminished. There was one piece of metal or glass that took the ray and broke it into a rainbow beam that turned the air into Joseph's coat, at the East end of the enormous cavern.
"Must be as big as a football stadium inside!" I said stupidly, in a hushed voice, because it was like being in a great European cathedral like I saw on Discovery or the History Channel once. We were standing side-by-side, looking up at the display.
"Bigger," Graham said. "More'n twice bigger. Gonna do just fine," he added enigmatically. No way a farm garage could ever use that space. It was big enough to house the whole state farm equipment exposition held in Kansas City, I reckon.
I turned to look to the West, where the sun was poking under the roof line, and somehow my arm brushed against Graham's bare forearm. It sent a shiver right through my elbow and upper arm, up to my neck bone, raising the hairs on the back of my neck. I almost jumped in stepping back from him.
"You feel that?" he said, his head still tilted up to the rainbow, but his eyes looking directly into mine.
"Yeah," I said, not thinking, just numbly answering. Something was going on between us I didn't understand. Not at all.
"I figure there must be a lotta static electricity in here," he said. "What keeps the dust suspended in the air."
I clambered on board the lifeboat he'd launched. "Yeah, made the hair on the back of my neck stand up," I breathed out. "Wouldn't want to stand here too long before touching somebody - it would be quite a shock."
"Depends on who you're with, I guess," he said, breaking his gaze and turning back towards the door. "Let's get you to supper."
I was disappointed that he didn't want to stand with me for a little, maybe . . . I don't know. I was all muddled up. I half ran a few steps to catch up to him, my boots' noises reflected by every corner of the Hangar. He smiled at me and winked, the smile lighting up his face, his teeth gleaming in the sun. I didn't know he wore false teeth, then.
"How long you lived here, Graham?" I asked, more to fill the gap than anything else.
"Be sixty-five come September," he said. "Born in the house I live in."
"You here when the Hangar got put up?"
"Yep. Old Boyce thought he was gonna have him a right big airport back then. That was afore the Interstates got built by Eisenhower, before jets could fly across the whole country plus a ocean without landing. He was right when he figured people would start using planes a lot to get from here to there, he just didn't figure on them getting so big, so fast, so soon."
"I thought it was just for his crop dust business," I said, That was the story I'd heard since I was a kid.
"Well, that's what he said, mostly. But deep down, he wanted to be one of the relay airports from Chicago to Los Angeles. Remember, back before the War - World War II, I mean - planes had to stop at least three or four times to get from L.A. to Chicago. I guess he didn't pay no attention to the DC-4, what could fly all the way to Dallas or Denver from L.A., then up to Chicago. One stop."
"Was that an early jet?" I asked. I'd never heard of a DC-4. I knew what a DC-3 was, the little old propeller plane, and a DC-8 was a big long four engine jet that went out of service in the nineties.
"Nope - one of the last prop planes. Got replaced real quick by the DC-6, then the DC-7, and then the 707."
"It must have been exciting to live though that," I said.
"No different than now," Graham said, as we went through the sliding door back into the shop. My tractor looked lost in it. "We use bigger and better machines, but the goal is the same - coax out of Mother Earth the crops to sustain us all, insect, beast and man. Nothing more fulfilling than that."
"I thought you were only a mechanic," I said with a foot down my throat. "I mean," I said trying to recover, "I thought you worked only as a mechanic, not as a farmer, too."
"Only did mechanical work in the off season at first," Graham said as we closed up the garage and climbed into his Jeep. It's pretty spartan. The seats are only an inch thick, I swear.
"Mary and me farmed the piece what raised my whole family since the eighteen hundreds, and then the second piece north of your Dad's as well, up 'til she took sick in the late seventies, early eighties. Our main work was to keep her healthy as long as possible, so I cropped the farm out to Gil Carver after your Mom sold out to Ralph."
"Gil's been farming your place for twenty some years?" I asked, stunned. I thought Gil was only in his thirties.
"His Dad," Graham hollered over the noise of the engine as we sped towards the gate. "I didn't want to sell but the piece on Post Road, so he eventually bought a two-parcel farm over to Gove. Our Gil's been on his own here twelve years, and now he's lookin' to buy a two-parcel place on his own, too. I suppose I oughtta be thinking on selling both of mine to him, seeing as how I ain't got no kids to 'queath it to, but I'd rather 'queath it to someone than sell it."
"Serious?" I wondered if I'd ever be able to raise the money to buy a farm of my own. What I really wanted was to buy back my Dad's farm, our heritage; that's a dream, I guess.
"Never say a word unless I am," Graham said, climbing back into the Jeep after locking the main gate. "The Gove Road farm's my family blood," he said, looking at me, not yet taking the road to town. "I'd much better give it to a man what loves the earth than one what has the money to buy it without the love of it."
"Can you stay to supper?" I asked without thinking. I didn't want to stop our talking.
"Yer Mom okay with that?" he asked politely. He knows full well that Charlene - Mom - keeps a farm kitchen - always enough for at least one more mouth.
"Sure!" I answered to his patent 'yes' to my invitation.
We got to Mom's house, and she gave Graham a hug when he walked in, complaining that it had been months since he'd sat at her supper table (I figure more like years - I don't remember him ever at supper since I went to High School.) and wasn't it just a coincidence that she'd cooked a butt pork roast and there were extra greens, and come on in, she was just putting the potatoes in to boil.
I poured us all a big glass of ice tea, and we stayed in the kitchen talking for a while until Mom shooed us out so she could concentrate on what she was doing. Graham and I sat on the porch and sipped the tea, talking mostly about the tractor, and what he thought was probably wrong with it, and why it would only take a couple of hours to fix. He really knows his engines. His hands are huge, even bigger than mine. I always thought old people's hands got wrinkled and gnarly, with blue veins, but his were normal looking for a young farmer, tanned with big veins under the skin, only slightly blue. There weren't any liver spots, and there was none of the swollen joints that a lot of older farmers got. He uses his hands a lot to talk, the long fingers dotting the "i's" and underlining the important points, expanding his vocabulary.
Mom called us in just as the tea was about out, and after we started talking about politics a little. He's a Democrat, but he says he always votes Republican, because there's no Democrats any more that know what it's like to work. He says the last Democrat he voted for was Truman. He was tempted to vote for Johnson, but he didn't like the stories about what went on down in Texas, where Johnson was always a politician, and his wife got rich off a radio station that nobody listened to.
He had some tart things to say about Clinton and Gore. About how he didn't never believe a President of the USA could lie like that.
"And Gore!" he slapped his leg. "Never got close to being a 'working man' in his life. Vietnam photographer my ass! Ever seen one of his photographs? Asshole never saw no action, never took but photos of hospitals and award ceremonies, the pussy!"
Politics and religion aren't allowed at Mom's supper table, but we found plenty to keep our lips flapping. We talked non-stop about weather, crops, the new genetic corn they was trying to push (but it was only good for silage, not for eating), the price of gas, the new Garage Graham was setting up. We got on to birds, flyways, the Passenger Pigeon, the endangered species, you name it. I couldn't keep my eyes off him. He spoke rough, but his heart was in everything he said, and it was a good heart, you could tell. His head was as bald as anybody I ever saw, but it suited him. His face and scalp were a little red, like from a new sunburn, his jaw strong, the cheekbones high. The kind of face that painters love, because it's both attractive and lived in, full of stories and experiences. His adam's apple is prominent, and the beard goes right down to just above it, then stops dead. There was no hair peeking over the neck if his T-shirt, which surprised me a little, seeing as how he has such a heavy beard. You could tell his beard is reddish brown still, not gray like his hair. It makes interesting shadows in the hollows of his cheeks in the evening. His ears are big, but not flapping in the wind, tight to his head, really nice looking, not full of veins and stuff. And no ear hair. I thought he had tufts of ear hair, but I must have been wrong.
Mom kept bragging as how I'd made money on my first share-crop last year, that I'd got all my planting done right on schedule this Spring. She heaped more praise on me than I felt comfortable with, so I kinda asked her to tone down a little when we took the plates into the kitchen, "because I didn't want Graham to think I was a swell-head." She looked at me a little funny, then said okay.
Mom's apple strudel and home-made vanilla ice with a slice of Gove Cheddar got raves like always, and we offered to help Mom put away the dishes, but she shooed us out, saying we had too much to do in the morning. I think she was expecting Andy later. She had that glow on her.
Graham figured as how it made more sense for him to ferry me back to my place, so I got my ususal care packager from Mom - a warm-up Dinner for the next day, some pie and stuff - and we piled into the Jeep. It was a little chilly heading home, because the skies were clear, the stars all out because the moon wasn't yet risen. I was glad of the heater that blasted on my feet, if not anywhere else, as we drove down Gove to my place. We passed his farm, with the big old farmhouse set back from the road on the knoll, the gables and turrets as signposts. It had lights on in the front rooms, and looked warm, lived in.
"Your lights are on," I said, partly to break the silence that had fallen between us..
"Got 'em on timers," he said. "I like coming home to a house what's not so empty looking."
"Your granddad built it?"
"One part of it. The main part was built by my great granddad, after the bad times was over, before the Depression got started."
"Do you remember the Depression?" I asked.
"Wasn't born until it was almost over," he twinkled at me. "Ain't as old as what I look!"
"I don't think you look old," I said, again without thinking. "I think you look . . . experienced."
"You got a way with words, don'tcha?"
"I guess," I said. "I liked school a lot."
"But not History or Art or Chemistry or German," he said. "More like English, Math, Biology and Physics. Oh, and sports."
I looked at him with wonder that he knew that. "You been talking to Mom?"
"I knew your father. He was the same. Watched you grow up, don't forget."
"What kind of a man was he?"
"Kind, caring, loving, strong. All the good things you heard about him was mostly true."
"Do you think he killed himself?"
Graham looked at me like he'd been shot. "Where'd you hear an awful thing like that?"
I thought back to the times when I was a kid, and the rumors got to me that my dad had done himself in. I think it was Chuck Dreeson, who was a senior when I was still in seventh grade, who told me I was an orphan because my Dad killed himself to get out of debt after I was born. I beat him up, or at least I got in a couple of good punches before he got hold of what was happening, and pounded me into the ground with two lucky punches. Chuck's twenty-seven now, still single, lives in Chicago right downtown. He manages a MacDonalds or a Burger King or something.
"Just around," I said. My voice was kinda small. I should have kept my mouth shut.
"Your Dad loved you too much to not want to stick around and watch you grow up into the fine young man you've got to be, B.B."
"I . . . thanks," I said. I felt like I was going to get a little teary, and I didn't want Graham to think I was weak like that.
"You're just as bright as he was, maybe a little handsomer because of your mother, and as nice a man as he could have hoped for. He'd a been awful proud of you, B.B."
I didn't say anything back, hoping the dark would cover my softness, my weak side. I was on the verge of a blubber.
Then Graham turned into my drive, up the trail to the old house, not as big as Graham's place, but just as ornate. It didn't look inviting at all, though, standing amid the big oak trees, almost cowering beneath them, gaunt and cold and dark. The drive is pretty well rutted, so we were bouncing around in the seats like Ping-Pong balls, and I slipped out of the soppy thoughts.
"You doin' all right on your own in there?" he asked as we slowed to a stop.
"Pretty much," I said, not yet ready to get out of the Jeep. My butt felt a little worse for wear from the ruts in the road, but that wasn't the reason. Truth said, sometimes I get kinda lonely in the old house. There's days go by when I don't see another soul to talk to, only maybe a distant pickup or tractor in the field, so far away you couldn't make out a wave unless it was done with the whole body.
"I gets a little lonely even after all these years in my house, without my parents, without my Mary. You ever gets a little that way, you come over for a nip or two and a jaw or three," Graham said, sticking his paw out for a shake. "I keep a bottle of decent bourbon all the time for visitors."
I went to shake his hand, and I felt a little repeat of what has happened in the Hangar, a shiver up my arm, the back of my neck all of a sudden in a shudder. I looked in his face, and I knew. I knew he felt something, too - his eyes were a little widened, almost deer-like surprised. His lower lip was a little slack.
"Night, Graham. And Thanks," I said as I got down from the Jeep. I stood there for a minute, looking at him in the moonlight, his Stetson shadowing his eyes, but I could still feel them washing over me. He looked younger in the moonlight, maybe forty-five instead of 60 or 65. He nodded at me and turned the Jeep around, carefully avoiding the roses, giving me a salute as he passed me again, tall and upright on his seat.
"A real man," I thought. "Strong and good to the core. Made a good man for his Mary. "
Everybody seemed to find a mate eventually, although it was always man/woman as far as I could tell. Why couldn't I find a guy like me, someone that loved the land and Nature, that wanted to build a life with someone like me, make love together, to each other, grow together, grow old together?
"Where's mine?" I muttered to myself, sinking into that damned well full of dark thoughts and deep despair again.
The Jeep zipped down the drive, the single red tail lamp obscured by the dust half the time. It disappeared suddenly at the bend in the drive, hidden behind the hedge. I heard its whine as it went back along the Gove Road towards town, eventually getting lost in the sound of a big jet flying high overhead, heading East. I turned to go into the house, feeling somehow abandoned, incredibly lonesome. Remembering I had to wash some jeans before I went to bed, I went back to the room behind the kitchen.
It kept whispering through my head as I separated the clothes, threw the dark stuff in and started the machine.
I wanted to start fertilizing the alfalfa in the morning, using the little Cat instead of the big Deere. I had to start early, as it would take a couple of hours longer with the Cat, probably until dark, so I turned in right away. Even after I turned out the light and crawled under the sheet and blankets, the susurration of the question continued. I felt so alone I couldn't resist a tear or two in self pity, the words echoing again and again as I slowly reached for the oblivion of sleep.