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With a Little Help

Part 1: Gemini

Chapter 8: The Hermit; or, Night Visions

Jake and Donny didn’t make love again that night. They held one another until sleep stole them away, and while he was somewhere in the quiet dark, Donny had a dream.

He was rolling, fast, along a road, and he looked down and saw bricks. They were cream colored and he thought, follow the yellow brick road, and then he saw he was on a motorcycle, Shane’s motorcycle, but he was alone on it. He thought, I don’t know how to handle this thing, and that fast he was flying headlong off a cliff. He fell into a deep tunnel that split in two directions, and when he bounced to a stop he heard a moan and a voice that said, “He went south. Find him!”

He looked around and saw an arrow that said DUE SOUTH. Beside that sign was another, shaped like a pointing finger, and it also said DUE SOUTH, but it was pointing the other way. There was a water barrel and dipper below the signs, and the barrel was full. He heard that groaning, moaning sound from down one of the tunnels, but he couldn’t tell which one, and he heard the voice say, “You must find him, and bring him back, before he dies. He’s south of here. Find him! Hurry!”

Donny picked a direction, but his feet tangled under him and he fell into the barrel with a colossal splash. He found himself floating beneath the surface of a lake. There were swimming forms all around him, and he saw that they were beautiful, luminous people with scales for skin and bright silver eyes, and they were naked, and they were all boys. He couldn’t breathe and he thrashed in the water, beginning to drown. The boys took him by the arms and legs and one of them pressed his mouth to Donny’s lips and forced air into his lungs; and the air became water, and he found he could breathe it, and took great gulping draughts that felt like pure cool silver flowing into his veins.

Donny looked down to see his clothes had vanished and he was naked like the others; and as he watched, scales grew from his skin, his fingers grew webbing between them, and his feet became broad, gracile flippers. He heard a voice say, “He has been baptized and is now reborn,” and he flicked his legs and swam off into the darkness, with the other merboys flashing alongside him.

= • =

Donny woke with a start, visions of silvery scales still in his eyes, and looked over at the sleeping boy beside him. Jake was deep out of it, breathing slowly and evenly, his face placid, and Donny studied him.

His hair was close-cut but not buzzed. It was for the swimming, of course; longer hair, like Donny’s was, wouldn’t work well under a bathing cap. It was a deep golden color, and Jake kept it well. It was glossy and felt soft under Donny’s fingers.

In addition to his Robert Redford good looks, Jake had an exquisite build, the kind of work a sculptor would do if asked to create a statue of pure male beauty. His broad shoulders were well muscled, his chest was defined and cleft, and his abs were solid little proofs of the value of an athletic life. Everything on him was in perfect tone, firm and taut and strong; but while he’d felt the sheer power in Jake’s body when they were making love, he’d also felt the gentleness, the tenderness, in his soft kissing lips, his flicking tongue, his caressing fingertips.

From the hips down there was little more to Jake than ass, cock, and legs — and all three were formed to perfection. His butt was lean and strong, with deep dimples and a flawless hemispherical profile. Sharp inguinal lines plunged from his hips to his pubis. His legs were striated with muscle and, when Donny had been between them, they clenched around his cheeks and shoulders in thrilling orgiastic spasms. And his cock…

Oh, his cock.

Donny had never had an uncut dick before. His first joy was playing with Jake’s foreskin, watching the way it slid back and forth over his corona when he was stroking him. When he was soft, like now, his head retracted under it, leaving the shape outlined in the smooth flesh. When he was hard, the skin rolled back halfway and exposed the center of Jake’s pleasure and the focus of Donny’s attention.

Hard, Jake’s cock was an icon of worship. He had to be carrying at least eight inches, maybe more; Donny couldn’t get it all into his mouth, but the part that fit was magnificent. Soft, it was no less appealing, and seemed big even then, partly because it was, and partly because Jake had shaved all his pubes off. Donny had never heard of that before in his life — a dude shaving off his pubes? What the hell for? But he did like the effect.

His balls, full and heavy, fit snugly in his sac and responded to his teasing, his finger-tickles, his kisses and licks and gentle sucks. His perineal ridge, when Donny was tonguing it, was another source of pleasure for Jake; and his asshole, snug and clean, begged to be rimmed.

And his cum…

Oh, his cum…

Thick and creamy and copious, it filled his mouth in massive, deep surges that shot up Jake’s flesh and out into Donny’s head, flooding him with its warm, rich flow. Donny had given a lot of head by then, some he’d wanted to give and more he hadn’t, but he’d never experienced anything like the raw spike of bliss and lust he felt when he did it to Jake.

He’d never had sex with anyone so physically beautiful, and that was part of it; but part of it was that he liked Jake, a lot, and he wanted to make him feel good. Not just because he’d saved his life, either. Jake was natural and comfortable in his skin, and Donny admired that and liked how Jake made him feel the same way, as though the things he wanted to do with him were all perfectly all right, perfectly natural, that he was welcome to enjoy him, to taste him, to make him come, even though they were both dudes.

He had; he had. And Jake had done the same for him, fuck for fuck, suck for suck. They were equal. Donny hadn’t done anything that Jake didn’t do in joyous return. He’d never felt so completely in tune with anyone before, in bed or out, and he was bewildered by how fast it had come over him and how powerfully he wanted it to go on.

I wonder if I’m falling in love, he thought, or if it’s always been like this everywhere, and I’ve just never known it. Or maybe after all the shit I’ve been through, I’m just desperate to grab at anything friendly.

This didn’t feel like desperation, though. Desperation didn’t make you want to kiss every square inch of another person’s body just to know how he tasted everywhere, or slurp and suck and swallow him until he cried out in pure flaring joy. Donny knew desperation, and this just wasn’t it. It felt more like … like destiny.

He thought of the compass Ray had given him, and his dream. South. Burlingham was more or less south of Cliveston … well, no, it was more southwest … but Brooker did run straight south from the state route; and Suffock Bluff was a few miles south of Burlingham. The merboys, he thought he had an idea about; obviously they were his rescuers, possibly even half-remembered from his plunge into Halter. At least they weren’t done in eye-hurting colors. Even his dreams, it seemed, could retain some modicum of taste.

Baptized and reborn, he thought, the sound of Jake’s breathing soft in his ear. Yes.

Was I guided here?

Who by?

Not by God, as his father understood the idea; nor, for that matter, as most other people did. Donny had never given much thought to God, at least partly because God had never seemed to think much about him. He’d prayed for help, begged to be given strength to not be gay, and all it had got him was sore knees. He was nominally Presbyterian, but the last time he’d heard a minister speak was at his mother’s grave, and the words hadn’t touched him, hadn’t stirred him, hadn’t comforted him in the slightest. Resurrection? Eternal life? She was dead, dead and in the ground, and that was it; and her way into death hadn’t been made any easier by God either. She’d looked like a concentration-camp victim at the end, when the morphine had stopped working and, even though she was in a coma, her face sometimes contorted with pain. Her death had been a relief, in a horrible way.

God, Donny thought. Fuck God. Dude was a serious asshole. The Old Testament was full of stories about all the horrible shit he’d done to his own people.

Whatever people got out of church, he thought, was coming from within themselves, not from some external entity, and definitely not an old white guy with a beard who was obsessed with who put what parts of which into where.

He’d never had a close relationship with any religion, but that didn’t matter in America in the sixties, still reeling from the Red Scare of the previous decade, when everyone had been trying to out-Christian everyone else around them, just so no one would think they were godless Commies. He’d heard the condemnation of hom-sexshuls from the pulpit as clearly as everyone else. It was all-pervasive, a constant and consistent thread woven through the fabric of society, as ubiquitous as the notion had once been that interracial marriage was wrong and segregation was right. (In many places, he knew, those beliefs persisted. It would take a generation, maybe longer, before that changed.)

The American flag was full of hitches and snags and runs, of which he was a representative: It was worse, now, for gay boys and lesbian girls than it was for black people, in many parts of the country. Polite people agreed, at least in public, that blacks should have equal rights, but there was no such feeling for gays or lesbians. They were starting to come out a little more, here and there, and there were even a few bars in Cliveston — ones Donny knew the backs of a little too well for his liking — where men could get together with men. But they paid a price for their openness in the form of opprobrium, mockery, and overt discrimination; sometimes there was even violence, and the police were always slow to respond to any calls for help from “notorious” homosexual establishments. More often, they were there busting them in a raid. In many parts of the nation, including Cliveston, homosexuality was illegal, in the form of anti-sodomy laws.

But not here. It wasn’t like that here. There was no condemnation, and there wasn’t anything like a gay ghetto either — but Donny had the feeling none was necessary. Not when someone like Jake could be as open as he was about his feelings, in public places.

Why? Why was Burlingham different? And how, of all possible places in the world, had he ended up here?

It definitely wasn’t by any planning on his part: He’d just wanted to get away. He didn’t know where to, and didn’t care. When he’d hotwired the DeSoto, he’d been in a blind fury of agony and rage, and only wanted to be anywhere but where he was. He’d driven without thought or plan, but as the state route had given way to tan brick and more and more trees went by, the thought came to him and didn’t go away: I could drive into one of those.

It wouldn’t have worked, and he knew it. He would’ve collided with the steering wheel instead of being flung headlong into a trunk, and cars didn’t explode when they hit trees (or, for that matter, when they plunged over cliffs). That was Hollywood nonsense. He probably would’ve died, sure, but over the course of a couple hours, with his chest caved in, coughing up blood the whole time, like his mother had. At least, until she was comatose.

But the notion of killing himself, once it was in his head, was impossible to ignore. An end to dealing with his father’s BS, with his own sexual perversion, with his endless pain: The ultimate get-away.

Drowning had seemed more certain, less terrible, and quicker. Halter had beckoned. Suffock Bluff had loomed.

And then Jake had appeared.

What if I am dead? he thought. What if I was wrong — what if everyone’s always been wrong — and there’s not only a God, but there’s a heaven too, and it’s not about eternal choirs and harps, but being in a place where you have a real shot at being happy for the first time in your … afterlife?

But if that were the case, God was still an asshole: Why make anyone wait to find peace until after they were dead?

No, it was simpler, if more dismal, to accept the idea of there being no God, no afterlife, no soul, none of that. Cancer came from cigarettes. Booze made angry men angrier, and dangerous. The need to feel superior to someone else made people sneer at queers. There was no divine intervention necessary to explain any of it, and none to be found, either. People were the architects of their destinies, and of their own suffering — and in many cases, of the suffering of others.

And yet, into this godless and dark world had come an envoy of light, to bless him back to life with a kiss.

He sighed, nestled up to Jake and rested his head on him, and slipped quietly away once more; and he woke early the next morning to the best feeling a boy can know, and looked down and watched while Jake sucked him into paradise, their eyes locked together in wordless happiness; and then he reciprocated.

Then they got up, dressed in boxers and tee shirts, and went to breakfast.