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With a Little Help

Part 1: Gemini

Chapter 4: The Fool; or, the Good Boy

Jake Sanders was tall like Ray, but more wiry, with a slender well-shaped body that filled out his striped shirt and denim jeans in ways Donny found very hard to ignore. If Ray Travers was Paul Newman, Jake was Robert Redford, all blue eyes and sharp jaw and lopsided, devil-tempting-smiling, six foot two of him. His eyes twinkled, actually twinkled, when he came in. Donny, who had been reclining at the head of the bunk and listlessly paging through a copy of Life, sat up and took instant notice. Jake looked almost as good in clothes as he did out of them, he decided.

Jake stopped and sniffed the air. Ray had just lit a cigarette. “Jeez, Ray, are you trying to kill the poor kid with that stuff? Haven’t his lungs been through enough?”

Ray rolled his eyes. “I seem to recall a certain freshman who had a, shall we say, overwhelming attraction to smoking.”

“Yeah, but it wasn’t tobacco.” He looked over at Donny. “You doing all right, kid?”

“Um, well, I … guess…” He glanced uncertainly at Ray.

“Oh man, he hasn’t used the rubber hose on you, has he?” He turned back to Travers. “Ray, what’d Doc tell you about that? Cattle prods first, then the nipple clamps. No hoses until the third day.”

Ray snapped his fingers. “I always get that backward.”

“Your mom brought some food by,” Donny said. “I mean, it was … nice.”

Jake eyed Donny, then glanced at Ray, who shrugged. “Well, she does have an idea or two what to do in the kitchen, I guess.” He ambled into Donny’s cell and sat at the foot of the bunk. “You know, kid, that shirt looks a lot better on you than it ever did on me. Seriously. You’ve got button-down down cold. They even line up and everything. How are you doing?”

Donny shrugged. “All right, I guess.”

“No overwhelming urges to go diving?”

Donny took a breath. “Sorry about that. If I’d’ve known you … I mean … um, thanks.”

“If you’d’ve known we what? If you’d’ve known we were there and would tear you loose out of that ragtop, you’d’ve found a different spot to drive off of?” He shifted closer to Donny and put his hand on his thigh. “That it?”

When Donny was nine years old, he’d been changing a light bulb in a socket that still had power running to it. His fingers had caught the conductive edge of the bulb, and he’d taken 120 volts right down the arm. That was what it felt like, to him, when Jake touched his leg. “Um.”

“Look, kid. Me and the dudes, and Ray here and Doc, we know what you were trying to do. But we’re not going to blab any, okay? I mean we all have shitty days.”

“I’ve … had a lot of them lately,” Donny said. “Fifty-four hundred some and counting.”

Jake studied him a moment. “What’s so bad, man?” Donny shook his head, and Jake settled closer and dropped his arm around his shoulders. Donny gulped and flushed. “Hey. How about we hit the Pot for a while and take in a little air?”

“That what you’re calling it now?” Ray said. Jake snorted. “Will you be all right in Jake’s company?” Ray said to Donny.

It took Donny several moments to register that he’d been spoken to, and it was all because of Jake. He kept looking Donny’s way and smiling, winking, grinning like they were in together on some kind of secret and very funny joke; and Donny had noticed that Jake’s shirt was only half-buttoned, and that the quantity and quality of chest on display was really rather actually something very; and he’d always appreciated a tight butt on any dude, and Jake had somehow managed to take everything Donny liked and stuff it into the back of his jeans: A half moon, dimpled, full, round, absolutely male slice of perfection; and down in front, there was something else that resembled a bratwurst, studded by a glistening row of buttons barely holding shut a straining fly.

Jake was breathtaking. Easily the best-looking dude Donny had ever seen.

“Huh?” Donny said after he realized it had been quiet for a while.

“Mother Hen wants to know if you’re afraid I’ll take you into the woods and make whoopee with you in all manner of perverse Sodomitic ways,” Jake said, “which possibility I would not rule out; or if you’ll be all right accompanying me to the Hot Pot for a while, there to partake of substances made of leaves.”

“Um. Oh. Tea?”

“If you like,” Jake said.

“Sure, I guess,” Donny said. “I mean if it’s all right, and you don’t mind…”

“It is and I don’t,” Jake said, and stood. He took Donny’s arm and pulled him to his feet. “When’s curfew, Ray?”

“Call me one way or another by eight,” Ray said.

Jake grinned. “Groovy. Let’s go and show you the Burlingham high life, kid,” he said, and led a still-bewildered Donny out into the afternoon light.