Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? : Part Six

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

World War III was exactly what I started by giving Mrs. Adkins the phone number when we got one. I didn’t have to call my father. He called me. It lasted for hours as I sat there and let him tell his version of things and we got know each other. When Tony came in from work and I told him who I was talking to, he shook his head, took a beer from the fridge and went to the porch.

Harold wanted my address. “I agreed to keep paying the child support while you were in school. You’re still in school, Todd. But I never agreed to support Frankie after you were grown and gone. That stops now. What you do with the money is entirely up to you, but I’ve given her all I intend to.

But when he told me the circumstances that led to their divorce, I nearly fell out of the chair. She was in nursing school at the time. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t. “Frankie was supposed to meet me at a party after class that night. It was late by time she went home and changed. I was hammered when she got there and started looking around for me. I don’t know how to say this, Todd, but someone pointed her to one of the bedrooms. When she opened the door I was in a very compromising situation. We were both naked… and he was on top of me.”

“He, as in a man? You were both naked and he was on top of you?”

“Yes. His name is Michael. That was nearly seventeen years ago. Our anniversary is coming up at the end of October. I told him yesterday I was going to call you. He said he’d like to meet you. And I’d like nothing more than to see you myself. I know this must be a lot to absorb.”

“You have no idea, Harold. Really, you have no idea. Do you happen to remember the guy who you introduced to mom before you were married? His name was Tony, is Tony. Husband number five. They’re in the process of getting a divorce. We live together here in Manhattan.”

“I’m not sure I understand, Todd. Are you saying as in…

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Frankie has always said I was just like you. I guess about this one thing, even a broken, alcoholic coo-coo clock can be right. I’m gay, always have been. I’m sure there’s a joke in here somewhere about the fruit not falling far from the tree, but I’m not sure I’m in a laughing mood at this point. Though I do appreciate you being honest and candid. You didn’t have to do that, Harold. You could’ve just lied to me like everyone else.”

Todd, I’d never do that. The only reason I never saw you again is because she threatened to ruin everyone if I didn’t stay away. I knew you’d grow up someday and hoped we would get the chance to talk. I don’t fault your mother. She didn’t make me what I am. If I can ask, are you and Tony happy? For the life of me, I can’t place him. Obviously, he’s older than you.”

“He said he only knew you through some mutual friends. And yes, he’s thirteen years older than me. You know Frankie. She still likes them young and well hung.” We got off the phone after promising to talk again soon. I poured Tony a glass of bourbon and carried two beers out to the porch.

“I have a question, Tony. Is there any chance back in the day, you and my dad slept together?”

“No, of course not. Surely he didn’t say that?”

“No. He doesn’t even remember you. But you said you knew each other through mutual friends. What kinds of friends were those? He’s gay, Tony. Did you know that?”

“Absolutely not, Todd. After he and Frankie split up, I heard a rumor that she’d walked in on him at a party with some guy. But it was only a rumor. When she brought the subject up after we got married, I assumed she’d heard the same rumor and was trying to milk it for whatever it was worth.”

“It must’ve been worth milking. He just said his seventeenth anniversary with Michael, the guy in the bed, is coming up in October.”

“I’ll be damned. So it was true? I think I need another drink. Should I bring you one?”

“Bring the bottle and a beer. We can share the glass.”

When Tony came back, he put his hand on my arm and asked if I was okay. “Yes, I suppose so, considering my father I haven’t seen in seventeen years just told me he’s gay. I know it’s funny in a way, and more than a little ironic. But it isn’t every day you hear from your own father that likes sucking cock, too.”

“Did you tell him about us?” Tony asked. It was an honest and understandable question. I still looked at him like he was stupid while I got up to turn on the porch light When I sat back down, he asked, “Why do I feel like I’m on trial here?”

“You’re not. I’m sorry if it comes across that way. My dad didn’t put these questions in my head. I already had them. Far as my sex life goes, I’d tell you about if I had one that wouldn’t fit on a postage stamp, Tony. I blew one guy behind the bleachers in 10th grade. And my other claim to fame is comparing hard cocks with some kid who had buck teeth when I was fourteen. So how about you? Your dick is the only one that’s ever been near my ass. And mine’s never been inside anybody but you.”

“I take it you want to know about my sexual history? It won’t fit on a postage stamp, but it isn’t a novel either, Todd. I’ve slept with maybe four or five women, and probably about that many men. The guys were when I was younger, but I tried to change all that because I thought it would make life easier, not because I was ashamed. I’d always wanted a kid, but had no desire to raise a baby. Your mom came with one built in and you were ten or eleven. By the time I realized you would never be my kid, it was too late. That’s why I told you to never call me your father. I never was. If I’d been allowed to be…”

“We probably wouldn’t be here. So where does that leave us, Tony? Maybe the first time with the Oreos… it was innocent enough. But I doubt even that, especially on my part.” I stood up and slid my hand down the front of his shirt. “That was the first time I ever rubbed your chest. I went to bed that night and jerked off thinking about it.”

“Todd, I could see you were infatuated. I was flattered and thought it was cute. Maybe that was wrong on my part. I don’t know. But what was I supposed to do? Shame you for having a boyhood crush? I had them. There were a few clues that you might be gay, but it didn’t matter to me. I still loved you anyway.”

I was unbuttoning his shirt and playing with his nipples and navel, so it probably was witness tampering, or at least leading them on, but we were already well into the weeds and I didn’t feel in imminent danger of someone calling a mistrial. My Perry Mason turned out to be much better than my Little Joe Cartwright. It might have been unconventional to sit on his lap and badger the witness with my lips, but nobody objected as I asked, “When did you start to see me as something other than the son you would never have?”

“That part’s easy, Todd. It was when you started showing me the man you were becoming. I thought you had balls, a good cool head, a big heart. And you were so handsome, not as handsome as you are now, but with a little more of that freshly fucked look, you could really go places, like to bed when I pick your beautiful ass up after I down this drink, counselor.”

That simple question and his off-the-cuff answer changed the trajectory of our lives, not unlike the other events which began unfolding around us all too quickly. My first semester started. The books had been bought. Tony was settling into the new routine of his job. We chugged along. But for my part, it was something akin to a menstrual period. I was always grumpy or elated, engaged or distracted, swollen with new ideas or starved for attention.

I spoke with my dad again and told him it wouldn’t be the right time for a visit. School, trying to keep house and be a newlywed all at once, my plate felt more than full. It was the first or second day of December, two weeks from finals, I was doing great, even in math. I had solid B’s and by some miracle, one A in defiance of the odds. That was in logic which made no sense whatsoever.

Our house phone rarely rang. That night I didn’t expect Mrs. Adkins to be calling so late. Her lights had always been out by nine o’clock. It was nine thirty. Tony chatted a few minutes like he was talking with an old friend, then handed me the receiver. “Here, it’s Millie across the street. She wants to talk to you.”

“Hey Millie. Don’t tell me the cat’s stuck in the tree again. That would be a bit of a drive. I thought you’d be in bed by now.”

She wasn’t laughing. “Well, Todd, I almost was. I finished washing my hair and was drying it off when someone knocked at the door. It was your mother, and she was in quite a state. Wanted to know how you were doing, and if I’d heard from you. I was in my robe with my hair dripping wet, Todd. I thought she was drunk. Honey, I mean she was, but that isn’t why I’m calling. When I told her you were fine, I didn’t say a word about the checks, only that Tony had brought you everything else. Child, when I mentioned his name, you should’ve seen the look on her face.”

“Don’t worry about it, dear. If she even remembers the conversation tomorrow, we can worry about it then. Go dry your hair off and get some sleep. We’ll talk later in the week.”

“Worry about what?” Tony asked soon as I hung up the phone.

“Those dots you said Frankie could connect… Sounds like she’s connecting a few of them. Bad as I hate to, I guess I should call her. What do you think? You know she’s going to ask. Should I tell her you dropped off the rest of my stuff and left?

“Obviously you can’t tell her the truth. Do you want me to call? I can make something up. I don’t want you to have to…”

“What? Lie to my mother? That’s the least she deserves. I’ll call her.”

Two days later, she answered on the third attempt. When she asked if I was coming home for Christmas, I said, “Probably not. You told me I could fucking starve if I left you. Guess what, mom? That’s exactly what I’m doing. Money for gas, it isn’t in my budget.”

“Well, if your damned father would send his check on time, I’d give you some money.”

“Thanks. That’s very thoughtful. I’ve been here since the beginning of June. This is December. I guess your checks must’ve gotten lost in the mail like my dad’s.” Tony’s name never came up, not once. It was no great shock a few days later when I got the child support check she was obviously expecting. I thought it was the entirety of her reason for wanting to talk to me. In a rational way, everything about that conversation made sense. Only I wasn’t talking to a rational person. I was talking to my mom, and some part of me still wishes I’d been nicer, even if it meant lying through my teeth. 

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?: Part Five

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

Business math was no less useless than algebra, but it was easily passable and helped me decipher the bank statement Mrs. Adkins handed me sitting at her kitchen that afternoon when I told her I’d been ‘provisionally’ accepted to Kansas State as long as my math scores improved over the next year. I’d shown Tony the letter, but asked him to let me do the honors of telling Frankie. While she flew into a rage and told me I could fucking starve if I walked out, I saw no point in telling her that I’d managed to accumulate nearly nine-hundred dollars from the money my dad had been sending across the street for years to keep it out of her hands or that of the Lucky Lounge and liquor store.

We ate off paper plates for a week until she replaced the broken dishes and kept J.C. Penney in the housewares business for a few more months while we waited on the next major meltdown. But I only thought she was volatile and tense until Tony started dropping hints he’d had enough.

“So, you’re running out on me just like that miserable son of a bitch did? It’s not enough my only child is leaving me the way that cocksucker did, but at least he doesn’t have a dick stuck up his ass. I regret the day Harold introduced me to you. I should’ve known then, you were no more of a man than he is. Birds of a fucking feather. So go, go fly away, Will Robbing Nester. Go fly away.”

It was my turn to toss Tony his coat and tell him we were going to ‘our place.’ I’d never actually needed a drink in my life, but from what I thought I’d heard, I felt like I was at that point and beyond. Nothing felt real as we got in the truck and I drove away. Numb isn’t the same thing as shock. When you’re numb, you don’t feel anything. I felt everything as I pulled in the parking lot of The Hideaway. The first shot went down burning. The second was easier when I’d consumed enough courage to ask. “My dad introduced you to my mother? That’s what she said, anyway. Is it true, you knew my father? Why am I just now finding this out, Tony?”

“Todd, it was a long time ago. Before you were born. I don’t remember exactly. But we haven’t spoken since I was your age. He was older, but not by that much. I barely knew Harold. We had a few friends in common. Everyone was out drinking late one night. I ran into him and he introduced me to Frankie. I’m not sure they were even married at that point. I didn’t see your mother again for years, long after she and your dad divorced.”

“Okay, I get that, but why didn’t you tell me?”

“If I’d thought it was important, I would’ve told you when you were older, but she made me promise to never bring his name up again. I haven’t, not once, not ever. Why is this such an issue?”

“Because, Tony. I need to know there’s someone in my life I can count on to tell me the truth. Why did she call him a cocksucker and say he had a dick up his ass? Those words sorta’ jumped right out at me. I’ve never heard her call him that before now, no matter how drunk she was. Except for the birthday cards, I might not even know his name.”

“Frankly, I’m surprised he sent you a card. He’s not supposed to. I made her show me the divorce papers on all four of them before I married her. Your dad gave her the house and agreed to pay child support. But he was supposed to never see you again. How she was able to make him agree to that, I have no idea. You’ll have to ask her. Have you ever spoken with him?”

“No, not once. He sends the cards across the street to Mrs. Adkins. She’s been putting the money in a savings account for years. I never stopped to think about why she shows me the cards, but never lets me keep one. I guess now I know. But all this sounds exactly like something Frankie would do. Dear God, give us both the strength to endure this one more month. I can’t wait.”

“Hoss, I’m afraid you’ll have to. I can’t come with you next month. The plant isn’t quite finished yet, and I need to stay here until the first of July. You can take the bus to Manhattan with what you’ll need for school. I don’t intend to tell her where I’m going. Frankie connects enough dots as it is, real or imagined. If you and I left together, she’d come unraveled. I want start over, Todd, not start a war with your mother.”

“Roger Wilco that, buddy. But I can’t live at the bus station for a month, and I’m seriously ready to get the hell out of Dodge.”

“All you have to do is find us a room for a couple of months and get ready for school. When I get there we’ll start looking for a place and get moved in. I want to be as settled as possible before you have to start classes. August is going to be a ball buster of a month, Bucko. We have to find you some kind of a car and come up with some furniture. Far as I’m concerned, Frankie can keep what she hasn’t broken. All I want is the clothes on my back, and another drink before I do something stupid.”

“Stupid?” I asked. “In what way?”

“Like getting us thrown out of ‘our place’ for kissing you. Now get your handsome little ass to the bar, Todd. Beer and a bourbon. Just one. We’ll share. We need to get something to eat and get home before she does.”

Not that I cared; I almost didn’t go myself when the time came. But neither of them came to my graduation. Tony said she was shitfaced before noon and the ceremony wasn’t until one. Mom had been becoming more of a nightmare as the day approached, and neither of us wanted to shoot ourselves with a semi-loaded cannon in the face at that close range. We’d come so far, but there were still many miles to go as she weaved and wove her way to the bus station pretending she was losing something precious to her eyes other than runny mascara.

Greyhound didn’t have room on one bus for two suitcases and my four cardboard boxes. Three of them followed the next day. I got a room at the Holiday Inn across from campus hoping I’d only have to stay a night or two. I lucked out by arriving when most people were leaving, found a room easily by promising my dad and I would vacate before the fall semester, and the lady was glad enough to have renters through the summer months.

What was left of the month of June was not idle time. I opened a bank account, paid the semester’s tuition and found a tutor for math at the school. At twenty-five cents an hour, I could only hope the guy was a genius. He was, but I couldn’t help noticing in the campus library where we met twice a week, there was far more to his girth than gray matter alone. For a complete geek, Drew had a body hiding under that pocket protector that just wouldn’t quit. In his own weird way, I still sometimes wonder if he’d been sweet on me when I look at that ceramic cup he made and hand-painted as a late birthday present after I said something about spending mine alone the previous week.

The only two calls I made were to Tony at work with the address of our posh new digs and Mrs. Adkins to make sure mother hadn’t burned the house down with him trapped inside.

She was thrilled to hear from me. “Honey, I’m glad you called. Two checks and two cards came after you left. One was for graduation. I’ll save it for you. What should I do with the checks?”

Without thinking about it, I blurted out, “Give them to Tony. He’ll be here in a few…”

“Isn’t that sweet? Just like your daddy, Todd. Real sweet man. I wish he could’ve stayed around long as Tony’s managed to stick it out.”

“Do you happen to have his number? I never thought to ask.”

Days of torture went into the process of deciding whether to call him or not. Tony would be riding over the hill at any moment. He was the only daddy I’d really ever known, of course I I had no idea there could possibly more than one type of these exotic creatures. Out of sight, out of mind. But leaving it behind in the present was like having a ghost rattling chains and haunting you, yet trying to pretend you don’t hear, see, or feel its presence. The only thing that really took my mind off that phone number were Tony’s lips when he walked in carrying two suitcases.

Whatever hesitancy he’d had, he obviously hadn’t packed and brought it along. It became apparent pretty quickly he’d been as frustrated with the pretense as I had. The room I’d chosen was cheap and conveniently located, but the walls weren’t very thick and the animalistic noises we both wanted to make that first night had to be muzzled and muffled. So the sounds I made having to be peeled off the ceiling when he tried to put that big cock up my ass at my own urging was not something we intended to try again until we had our own place.

I’d never seen myself as any sort of country boy, but the little farmhouse we found between Manhattan and McFarland was convenient to his work and only fifteen minutes from campus. Plus it was situated on two acres set back from the road and we could do all the whooping and hollering we wanted. The car we found just sort of fell in our lap. Tony’s company had given him a thousand dollars for moving expenses. One of the graduating seniors was going off to Europe for a year and wanted to unload it cheap for spending money.

Furniture was a different matter. I’d never seen myself a man of refined tastes, but that turned out to be the case. Everything I liked was expensive, even the ‘better quality’ used stuff. Some old lady had croaked in Topeka and her family was having an estate sale. We drove over and I cleaned up. It took three loads in the truck and my car both to haul it all away, though we got nearly everything we needed except a mattress and linens. I flat out refused to sleep on some dead woman’s bed that smelled like an old sick person, but we had enough money left to buy a new one in Topeka. It came with a one year warranty, and we set about testing it nearly daily to see if it would hold up under extreme conditions and way more than average wear and tear.

My ass unfortunately came with no such money back guarantee. Trying to break it in, I began wondering if Tony would demand a refund. He didn’t. We both discovered I really  liked my big pickle on the side until I learned the art of taking it like a man and loving it rather than complaining that my eyes were being poked out of their sockets.

When Tony suggested one night that I fuck him, I obliged with gusto, and he had absolutely no problem taking it like a real man. In fact, he seemed to enjoy it enough, I was really surprised. Though that ease and the pleasure he derived set my mind to wondering about all sorts of things which clogged my big-girthed brain with a lot of questions I’d never thought to ask him or anyone. 

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?: Part Four

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

Between the moon, firelight and Tony’s shadow, I found myself in a very hard place. I honestly thought he was pissing on the fire, but his elbow starting to move back and forth said otherwise. I’d never been the forward type, but that’s what I did as I crawled out the open flap of the tent. And there was zero possibility I was mistaking his intent when I quietly walked up behind him and saw what he had in hand.

“Jesus, Todd! Don’t you know how to knock? he said understandably startled when he realized what I’d seen and started to pull up his shorts. I put my hand on his arm and said, “Please don’t. I was hoping I could join you. Don’t stop, not when we’re both like this,” as I lowered mine to the knees and showed him how seriously I meant what I said.

I hated begging, but it was out of my control when I gave the waistband of his shorts a good tug. “Please, for my birthday. Do this for me. We’re buds, right?”

“Yeah, we’re buds,” he said as he pulled down the other side. “This is for your birthday, you crazy little fuck. But don’t ask me again.” Thirty seconds later he regained whatever momentum he’d lost and I was pulling up fast behind as a very close second. It wasn’t like sucking Claude’s cock where I’d been more or less in control. Fuck, I couldn’t even control the fury of my own fist as we pumped our way to the finish line.

If our eyes ever left each other, I don’t remember. His were focused on me and mine were glued to the hand on his cock. When I saw how close he was getting, I couldn’t hold back and staggered forward toward the fire with my crotch leading the way and my hand using his stomach for balance. I think I was still spurting when his arm clutched at my shoulder and he moved in facing me almost trembling from the knee as his legs locked against mine.

When he fired the first shot across my belly, I was reaching for his dick when the next one hit me in the palm of my hand. He keeping filling it with ammunition as I greased the head and felt it running through my fingers. He shuddered, pushed my hand away and said, “That’s enough. Fuck I can’t take anymore. You’re fucking intense, Todd.” He wiped his cock on my thigh and said, “Get me a beer, shithead. Man, I could use a cigarette right now.”

I came back with two bottles and a pack of Lucky Strikes. “Where did you get those? You don’t smoke.”

Packing them like I’d seen on television, I took two and lit them in the fire thinking how sexy and adult I was being puffing on both at the same time to give them a good ash. Five minutes later I was still looking for a lung donor and pretty much ended my flirtation with the glamours of smoking right there on the spot. He finished his, we chugged the rest of our beers and were having a good side-by-side piss when I told him he had a nice cock. “Yours is better than most, too,” he said. “Where’d you get a dick like…” He was shaking his off, but not the stupid question. “Like father, like son. Knowing your mother, why am I not surprised?”

We’d laid down with him behind me when I felt his hand on my side. I was trying to scoot back into his body. “Todd, it can’t be like this. You need to know it can’t happen again.”

“I get it, Tony. But it’s still my birthday. Shut up and go to sleep. Let me have my fantasy for one night.” My hand was still over his on my stomach when I feel into the best sleep I’d ever had. The next morning I could feel his plank of wood pressing into my ass as we both stirred into an uncomfortable wakefulness. He was getting up with the head poking out the top of his shorts. I ran my hand down the cotton and he jerked it away.

Showing him my condition did nothing to convince him. “Your birthday is over, Hoss. Today is a new day at the Ponderosa.” But at least he didn’t object to the side-by-side pissing contest, and I knew to be grateful for both large and small favors.

Frankie, against all miraculous odds, managed to defy death and keep from killing anyone else in our absence, at least from what we could gather. The house smelled like smoke from a scorched pot and something burnt beyond recognition which was still in the oven. I landed an evening stocking job at the grocery store for the summer and we didn’t starve. In fact, it was probably the best Tony or me had eaten in years, but I didn’t manage to save much money while he and I pigged out. But Tony gave me rides to work and I could usually find one home. Nothing about it was exciting, but it gave me time to fill out college applications and write entrance essays during the day.

My highlights were a couple of late-night bombing runs with Oreos and milk. I guess you could’ve called it ‘our thing,’ but no matter how deep Frankie’s coma was, Tony wasn’t buying what I was tried to sell repeatedly until I finally gave up annoyed and frustrated.

The door was closed to my room the Friday afternoon before Spring Break when I heard holy hell breaking loose in the kitchen. Unless she was arguing with the mop, which was always a possibility, I assumed Tony must’ve come in from work. She was yelling, “Do you think I’m stupid, Tony?”

“Stupid drunk maybe like most of the time, Frankie. But if you don’t believe that I’m going out of town on business, feel free to call my boss if you can even remember where I work. I’m a fucking machine lathe operator. One is broken, the other is on its last leg like you. Since I’m the one who uses the goddamned things, they want me to go pick new ones. And whether you like it or not, Todd is coming with me.”

That was the first I’d heard about it, but she wasn’t done. “First camping. Now this ‘business’ trip. And what ‘business’ does he have going with you? I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck yesterday. All you’re doing is trying to make that boy like his father. And I won’t have it!”

“Frankie, the only thing you’re capable of falling off of is a barstool. Todd wants to go visit one of the colleges he’s applied to. And you’re sure as hell in no condition to drive him.” I’d come around the corner and watched as he threw the car keys at her. “Go tell your troubles to Tom Collins or your buddy, Harvey Wallbanger. I’m done with this conversation.”

Once she slammed the kitchen door hard enough to rattle every window in the house, I came in and asked, “What the hell was that all about? Are we going someplace?”

“Yes, our place, The Hideaway. Get your coat. She isn’t the only one who needs a drink around here tonight.” At least he didn’t throw his keys at me. “Here, you drive. The way I feel right now, I won’t be in any condition to get us home in one piece.”

We were sitting at ‘our’ table in the corner when I started to ask about the trip. He was sipping a double bourbon and working on a beer. Other than camping, I hadn’t seen him touch a drop of hard liquor in years. “We’re going to Manhattan, Kansas. I know you applied to Kansas State, so call them Monday and tell them you’ll be there Tuesday for a tour because you really have your heart set on attending.”

“But they haven’t accepted me yet.”

“Doesn’t matter. Once they see the girth of your brain and that handsome face in person, like me, they won’t be able to say no. Todd, my company is building a new plant between Manhattan and Topeka. They’ve offered me a promotion and a good raise to relocate. I told you the only reason I’ve stayed this long is to get you through school. That’s three months from now. You’re a man, and it’s time to start making your own decisions. I can’t make you come with me, but don’t ask me to make the choice, Todd, between us both having a life and staying in this hell hole.”

“What if I don’t get accepted?”

“There’s a new technical school. That’s why we’re building the plant there. If you agree to come to work for them when you graduate, they’ll pay half your tuition to learn a trade they need. Look at it as a backup plan. I know your heart is set on college and a degree. I want that for you. I just don’t think I can leave you here with Frankie. Neither of us deserve that.”

“I have one question, Tony?”

“What’s that?”

“Do they have Oreos in Kansas?”

We left for the flattened heartland after he got home from work Monday night and pulled into Manhattan at the crack of dawn. It was nothing like I imagined Kansas. The town was very pretty and picturesque nestled in all those gently sloping hills. The campus itself was even more beautiful. I had no trouble convincing them how set my heart was on attending.

After dinner, we hit a couple of local bars to get a feel of things and headed back to the room. Tony was lying on one of the two beds propped up watching television. When I crawled in beside him instead of taking the other, he didn’t say a word as I inch wormed my way over to his side slowly. I’d covered nearly the entire distance when he raised his arms, stretched and yawned. After he turned off the T.V. both his hands wrapped around my body and pulled me the rest of the way to nirvana. “There, you happy? Now go to sleep.”

I tried, honestly, I tried. But the only part that worked was below the waist as my prick grew steadily against his thigh and one leg snaked over his. Sleep just wouldn’t come with the stickiness building up in my briefs. Tony’s dick was already halfway where I wanted it to be when I got up the nerve thirty minutes later to test the waters and trace its outline with my fingers. By appearances at least, he was asleep even if his cock wasn’t going nighty night. It needed a kiss almost as much as I needed a taste.

But nobody can eat just one inch. There were still eight to go as my mouth managed more of it than I thought possible. Somewhere around the sixth mile I began gagging and the jig was up. “Todd, what the fuck are you doing?” I assumed the question was rhetorical and went back to my happy place playing with the pogo stick I’d been deprived of as a child.

The rejection was overwhelming as he pulled my head away and told me to stop. I don’t know if you’ve ever snatched a lollipop out of a toddler’s mouth, but he at least had the sense to pacify me by taking my hand and wrapping it around my own swollen prick. “Here, try that. I’m sure you know how it works. I told you, Todd, not until after graduation.”

“Fine, but can I at least have a goodnight kiss?” Nothing about his lips were ordinary in a step-fatherly sort of fashion as they smothered mine and stayed there until I blew a fuse in a fist-pounding fury. Granted, it was frustrating as fuck, but at least he’d shown me his intentions were less than honorable, even if annoyingly noble. 

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? : Part Three

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

The last day of school we all stayed late signing each other’s year books. My last, best and most important autograph was from Claude. I didn’t have to ask him, he smiled and volunteered when we spotted each other in the hall. ‘Thanks for a great year, Todd. Almost wish I wasn’t graduating. You’re a real character. Hope you never change. Hang in there, your day in the sun is coming next year. Stay in touch. I’m going to miss your smiling face. All my best, Claude.’ It had his phone number and I floated home on cloud nine.

Some people are just genuinely kind and decent. He was one of them, and so was Mrs. Folts across the street. She was sitting on her front porch swing waiting for me to get home. I waved and she motioned me over. I sat down next to her and she said, “This was a big day for you, Todd. One more year to go. I’m so proud of you. So how were your grades?”

“Two A’s, two B’s and a C in math.”

She pulled a card out of her apron. “Your daddy sent another check for your birthday. Should I put it with the others?”

“Yes ma’am. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. You know if you weren’t doing this for me where the money would get spent.”

“I certainly do. It’ll be right here when you need it. Be careful, she’s on the warpath this afternoon. Ever since Tony walked in the door thirty minutes ago, she’s been having a real go at him. And happy birthday by the way. Come see me before you go on your camping trip. I have a little something I’d like to give you.”

“How did you know about the camping trip? I haven’t told anyone.”

“The way I figure it, anyone that isn’t deaf around here knows by now. But you boys have yourselves a good time. Lord only knows you both deserve a break.” I kissed her cheek, said thanks and headed for the war zone.

It was all quiet as I walked up to the door. She must’ve been taking a break to fix herself another drink. Soon as my hand turned the knob, she was refreshed enough for another round. I cracked it open, but stayed safely outside in case she still had some strength left in her major league pitching arm.

“You’re spoiling him. He already has anything a damned kid could want. What are you trying to do, raise him to be like that miserable son of a bitch? You’re supposed to be his father, not his friend. And what am I supposed to do for three nights here by my goddamned self? What if someone breaks in and rapes me? Would you even care, Tony?”

“Would you, Frankie, as long as his dick was big enough? I doubt it. Talk about poor, miserable son of a bitches. God help the man if all he’s got is six inches. And as for Todd, the only reason he has clothes on his back is because of me. You spend the child support checks at the fucking liquor store and bar. How many times have I come home and the lights were shut off because you were too drunk or poor to pay the damned bill?”

As I walked in the front door she was slamming the back one. “Hey, Tony. I would ask how your day was, but I already have a pretty good idea. We can call off the camping trip if all it’s going to do is start World War III.”

“Hell no. Screw her. My buddy is bringing the gear we’ll need. I took two vacation days off. It isn’t like we ever go anywhere anyway. I have plenty of them. Congratulations by the way. I’m proud of you, Todd. Go set your things down. Let’s go celebrate and blow off some steam on the other side of town. We can stop at Pig Stand on the way home. I really just need to get the fuck out of here. That camping trip can’t come soon enough.”

Driving by some dive called The Hideaway, I yelled, “Stop there! That’s my favorite bar!”

“Todd, what the hell are you talking about? You’ve never been to this place in your life, and neither have I.”

“If I’m a man now, I get to pick the waterin’ hole sometimes, Hoss.” My Bonanza’s Little Joe definitely needed work. “And I just like the name. This can be our place. Frankie doesn’t have know everything.”

Were sitting at a dark table in the corner when I touched his hand and asked, “Tell the truth, Tony. Why do you really stay with her?”

He moved his hand away, folding it into the fingers of the other one.  “Why don’t we save this conversation for the camping trip. We’ll have plenty of time to talk. Can we do that?”

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t asked. It isn’t my business.”

“No, Todd. It is your business, very damned much your business. But let’s save it for the trip. And by the way. you picked a good place. I like the name, too. Here’s to another year under your belt, Hoss, and one more to go! You can do this, and so can I. Cheers.”

Mrs. Folts called a few days later and told Mom her cat was stuck in the tree. Frankie didn’t know the woman had never had a cat. It was my signal to sneak over to her house. The gift she had was her late husband’s fishing rod and tackle box. She’d cleaned them well enough they both looked nearly new. And I nearly cried at what I knew was the meaning behind her gesture. The only times in my life I’d been fishing, were with him.

From the minute we got there, I knew Tony’s buddy had his shit together as far as outdoor living. I seriously wanted to move and live in a tent soon as we piled out of the truck. But I’d already had the time of my life hitting the stores to stock up on supplies; it was all about the adventure and I was having one. By the time we’d finished setting up the camp and unloading, it felt like we were actually moving in. It was a fuckload of work, but we were set. And I didn’t get my ass up from that folding chair until the sun went down.

The next morning I asked, “Why haven’t we ever done this before, Tony? Man, this is the life.”

“I think you know why, Todd.”

“No, I really don’t. If we’ve ever had an argument, I don’t remember it. I always thought you and me got along better than most.”

“It isn’t you, Todd. It never was. I like you, better than most too, way better. You said you wanted to have this talk, and I’m going to have a shot of coffee in some bourbon since we’re on the subject of your mother.”

I laughed and held out my coffee cup. “Be gentle. This is my first time, but this is my big adventure and I fully intend to enjoy trying new things. So what about…”

“Your mother, Frankie, hates it Todd, if I show you the least bit of attention or affection. She always has. I figured this out a long time ago. In her pickled brain, she thinks I should be your father, but if I tried to be your friend, that would be some bullshit line I’m not supposed to cross because it reminds her too much of your actual dad.”

“Well fuck me! I guess that’s why when you put your hand on my shoulder when I was fifteen, I was like it was the first time you’d ever touched me.”

“I remember. It was the night you two were arguing and you stood up for yourself. I can’t protect you from her, Todd, I never could. But you were able to protect yourself and it looked to me like you were becoming a man. Now you are, and it’s time for both of us to show it. Let’s just get you through this next year. That’s the only reason I’ve stuck around this long. Don’t blow this. You can push Frankie, but don’t shove.”

“Does that mean we can’t be friends?”

“We are friends, better than most, as you like to say. Just not in front of your mother.”

Wish I could say I didn’t read a lot into those words, but I did. Maybe too much and too many, but he’d given me plenty of material for my mind to run wild with since I was having an adventure anyway.

We’d baited our hooks and set out the rods. It was getting hot, I went back to camp for two more beers, and brought back towels. “We’ll need more ice tomorrow. Things melt fast in the great outdoors, including me. How about a swim? Nothing seems to be biting. Maybe if we stir the water in that direction…”

Frankie had never tried to make me feel ashamed of my body. That would’ve required some forethought. We just didn’t prance around the house naked, and privacy was nothing more than benign neglect. She didn’t care enough to invade mine. The feeling had always been more than mutual, so stripping out of my clothes in front of someone other than her didn’t seem like a big deal. Only when Tony took off his, it became a deal, a very big deal, at least in my mind and crotch.

The water was cold enough to cool both my eighteen year old heads, we looked like wrinkled little Martians when Big Tony and I climbed out of the water, and we sat on the towels to dry. Long as I didn’t look and stayed in a persistent vegetative state everything was fine.

Not that I would’ve cleaned and eaten it, but I did catch one fish. Tony made me kiss it on the mouth before we threw it back. “They grow if you kiss them. He’ll remember you.” I laughed, even though it made me think of Claude. His had grown when I kissed it, and he definitely remembered me. Gross as it was, I kissed the damned thing twice for good measure and tossed it back.

Everything was so still that night other than the fire. The clouds had trapped the day’s heat. I was getting toasted, but didn’t want to get roasted, and we moved the chairs back while the flames burned down. I was still hot when I unzipped the sleeping bags and made a makeshift mattress in the tent. He didn’t say anything. We laid down and went to sleep, but the next day was just as warm, if not warmer.

The damned fish were biting, and after I’d kissed the third one, I was ready for some ice for my lips and a hotlink sandwich for my belly. We went to the store and took our second swim of the day. Everything was okay. Our gourmet dinner was summer sausage, cheese, crackers and baked beans in the can. The crazy fucker even made sure there was a fat pickle on the side. “Eat it. It’ll wash the taste of all those fish out of your mouth.”

When I announced later I was fat, happy and going to bed, he said, “I need to take a piss. I’m right behind you when I finish this beer.” I don’t think I’d ever felt more at peace than lying there watching his back dancing in the shadows against the wall of the tent. Even when he stood up and pulled his shorts down, I thought Tony was putting out a fire, not lighting one.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? : Part Two

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

We heard Frankie’s car screech out of the driveway saving the rest of her hit and runs for the neighbors or anyone unlucky enough to be walking their dog on her perilous quest for more compatible drinking companions. Tony laughed and said, “Boy, she was already lit, but you really set her off like a firecracker. Been awhile since I’ve seen Frankie with that much get up and go.”

Both of us were laughing until my fingers started teasing the hair under his armpit. He flinched and said, “Will you stop it, Todd?”

“Why, are you ticklish, Big Tony? Can’t take it after all?”

“Fuck your scrawny ass. I can take it, can you?”

Knowing he was bluffing, I reached across him for the other pit and found myself on my back in his lap. I held out my arms to the elbows and said, “Go ahead. I’m not ticklish. No, not there either. Sorry, try again.” All it was doing was making my dick pay attention the closer his fingers got to my stomach and waist. I did actually giggle a little possibly when his nails raked across my belly and I felt myself popping a full boner.

It was torture I wasn’t prepared to take. Maybe I wasn’t quite eighteen, but I was close to eight and it showed, so I sat up, excused myself and shot him the rod on the way to bed. They say the first time is the hardest. But it never got easier, only more complicated as my mind and hand began cranking out thoughts along with the images that started fueling my fantasies. Rolling over for Rover was one of them and it was new, brand new. The pillow I hunched between my legs wasn’t. But it had always been beneath me and my own finger wasn’t trying to worm its way up my ass. That was decidedly different and so was my stepfather’s attitude the next day when I came out of the shower wearing a towel.

“Good morning,” he grumbled as we passed in the hall  while trying not to meet my gaze or smile. I got dressed and sat down with a bowl of cereal.

“How did you sleep?” I asked.

There was no teasing in his voice. I’d awakened grumpy tiger. “Figure it out. When your mother came home at three, she’d drank herself awake if that tells you anything.”

“Sorry. I thought I was having a bad dream.”

“If you heard her, you were. I have to get ready for work. She won’t be up till noon. Whatever she cooks, don’t eat it. I’ll bring burgers. Extra cheese and bacon, no pickles, right?”

“You bring it, Dad, I’ll eat it.”

“Don’t call me that. I’ll never be old enough to be your father, son. Go to school. You bother me, kid.”

Memories can be very elastic. We were sitting down to eat and I said, “Damn, they put pickles on it, again! I like the big ones. These taste all wrinkled up and limp like some old Martian.”

“Then pick them off. I probably wouldn’t eat an old Martian either. Next time a big one, I promise. Todd only likes the big ones, on the side. Got it.”

I actually did have to study for finals, excused myself after thanking Tony for dinner and went to my room. Not that it was a good idea to save math for last, but trying to avoid the inevitable was my best subject. I was cussing the worksheet Mrs. Adkins had given us, promising, “Some of these questions will be on the test. Don’t bother trying to memorize someone else’s answers. Everyone has to show their work. “Fucking old hag! God I hate you!”

Tony came in wearing his pajama bottoms. “What’s all the racket in here? I thought your mother had come in and the two of you were going at it.”

“No, she’s still at the bar. It’s these fucking math problems. I’ll never get this shit.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Not unless you know how to calculate the circumference of a circle.”

He started laughing. “Maybe it’s length times girth. I’ve got a tape measure.”

“What the hell is girth?”

“Girth, you know, like how big around your dick is.”

“Seriously? That’s the same thing as circumference, Tony. How big around something is. The length doesn’t matter.”

“You have a lot to learn, Todd. To some people length is the only thing that matters.” The fucker was cracking up as he patted my head and said, “Goodnight, son.”

“Girth my ass,” I mumbled after he closed the door. Pi was something you ate in my world, not a way to figure out how big your dick is. They’re both round and that’s all they have in common. I closed the stupid book and went to bed wondering how long Tony’s was, or if mine would measure up if we compared them. I was dreaming of pie, someone was cramming it in my face and I woke up to the noise of loud banging and screaming.

After she’s run out of steam, things quieted down. I assumed he was fucking her and tried really hard not to think about it as I put on my underwear and headed for the kitchen to rummage around hoping to find something sweet. I didn’t even see Tony on the couch when I flipped on the light. There were only four Oreos. Frankie knew where the liquor store and bar were, but the grocery store? It was a strange place in a land far, far away. I poured a glass of milk, tore off a paper towel and turned around to flip out the light. That’s when I noticed him lying on the couch in his white briefs. I thought he was asleep and just stood there in the doorway studying his body until it started doing things to mine. When I flipped off the light, he opened his eyes.

“Oreos? That sounds good. I didn’t know there were any left.”

“This is it. That’s all there is.”

“Can I have a bite? Just one in some milk.” I put the glass on the coffee table and offered him the paper towel as I sat down in front of him. Instead, he opened his mouth being silly. I dunked the cookie and inserted it in his pie hole. The fucker bit my finger and laughed about it while he chewed and swallowed.

“You dick, haven’t you heard not to bite the hand that feeds you? See if you ever get another cookie out of me.” I started to get up and he grabbed my wrist.

“Just one more? I promise, no teeth this time.” He let go of my wrist and pointed a finger at his gaping mouth. It was so comical and I’d never seen him as playful. Playtime at our house usually involved sweeping up broken glass or plastering a wall depended on how plastered Frankie happened to be herself that night.

I couldn’t help myself. “Okay, but just one more, and no teeth this time. I mean it fucker, you’d better not bite me.” That damned finger was still pointing like a silly kid.

“Ewww. You licked me.”

“Hey, you said no biting. What’s a little spit between buds? Besides, that finger had cookie on it.”

“Now your chest does too, bud.” It was only one finger, but that chest hair felt good to all of them as I wiped the front and back of my entire hand several times while popping one of the two remaining Oreos in my mouth and moaning exaggeratedly. When I was ready to eat the other one, he started whining and making puppy begging sounds. I bit off half and held up the other teasing him thinking he might beg and sit up. He both bit and licked my fingers.

I didn’t use his chest again, rather the towel and said, “Rover’s a bad dog! You go night night. And if you piss on the carpet again, you’ll be a dead dog like the last one.”

He took my hand and put it back on his chest covering it with his. “Thank you, Todd.”

“For what? The cookies?”

“No. For not being your mother. You’re nothing like her.”

“God, I hope not. The thought of that could give me nightmares. If it does, I’m coming back in here and Rover will have to move over.” Except for possibly rubbing his chest, nothing about it had felt sexual, at least in my conscious mind, until I crawled under the sheet and started to hug the other pillow in my own bed.

When Mrs. Adkins handed back our graded math finals and I’d made a very respectable 74, I was the most elated middling student in the world. It did remarkable things for my self-esteem knowing my future and high school graduation were assured the following year.

Frankie was uncharacteristically complimentary when I showed her. “Well, at least you passed, so I guess miracles do happen. I’m going to the grocery store since you won’t stop eating us out of house and home. Be here to unload the groceries when I get back later since you do most of the eating.”

Tony came in from work and asked where she was at. When I told him the grocery store, he got a worried look on his face and said, “How frightened do you think we should be?”

“Let’s see. The ice cream will be melted all over the trunk. The frozen food will all be thawed out, but if we get the meat and milk in the refrigerator soon as she shows up around midnight, we may not get food poisoning. If she doesn’t show up until three, we’ll both die of botulism. Oh, and I have something to show you.”

Once he’d looked over the two page test, he smiled and said, “That’s great, Todd. I knew you could do it. Told you that brain of yours has plenty of girth.” He gave me a big bear hug and kissed my forehead. He hadn’t done either of those things since the night they’d married when I was eleven years old. “Since this may be our last meal, or at least a decent one for awhile, why don’t we go out for pizza? Let me grab a shower and change.”

“Sounds fantastic. I’m right there with you.”

Five minutes later I was, right there with him after he’d yelled from the shower, “There’s no soap. Can you check under the sink?”

I opened the door and said, “I don’t have to. There isn’t any. I used…”

He slung open the shower curtain and yelled, “That fucking bitch!” giving me an eyeful as he wiped the water out of his own.

“Relax, big guy. I used dish soap this morning. Let me get it.” When I came back and handed him the Palmolive, he was still standing there in all his glory and I was green with envy wishing it could be me washing that man-sized back.

He smiled, bowed and said in a halfway decent Chinese voice, “Ah, thank you number one son.”

I laughed. “Don’t call me that. I’m way too old to be your son unless you were making babies at thirteen.”

We were sitting at Papa Sali’s Pizzeria when he ordered a pitcher of beer and two glasses. I looked at him weird. “Hey, you’ll be eighteen in two weeks. And speaking of that, any ideas what you want to do for the big rite of passage? You’re a little old for ponies and clowns. God help us both if your mother were to try and bake a cake. So what’s your heart’s desire, hoss?”

Sensing he probably didn’t want the completely naked, unvarnished truth, I said the first thing that came to mind. “I don’t know. Something fun that doesn’t include Frankie. Maybe a camping trip? The only ground I can imagine her sleeping on is our yard or that pea gravel parking lot at the bar.”

He thought that was a riot and raised his glass still laughing. “Then camping it is, birthday boy. Welcome to the world of men.” He had no idea how much I liked the sound of those words as the waitress interrupted my fantasy and sat the pizza on the table. “I have a buddy at work. He practically lives out of doors when he isn’t on the job. I’m sure he’ll let us borrow some gear. All I’ve got is an ice chest I keep hidden from your mother so she won’t sit it next to her chair in the living room and never get up again.”

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? : Part One

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf

“Mom, you’ve had way too much to drink, again. How many times does that make this week? I made a C in math. So what? At least I’m trying finish school. That’s more than I can say about some people who can’t even balance a damned checkbook.”

“Don’t you dare curse at me you mouthy little son-of-bitch! You’re just like your father.”

“Which one? Math may not be my best subject, but I can count to five, even if I am only fifteen.”

“You know exactly which one I mean!”

“Oh, my real father, the one who walked out on us when I was two because of you?”

Big Tony came in the kitchen looking all tired, beleaguered and sweaty in his muscle shirt. “Frankie, will you leave that boy alone? The two of you need to pipe down, I’m trying to watch TV in here. Todd, go to your room and work on your damned math. Frankie, you can go… well you know where you can go.”

He went back and slumped on the sofa while she staggered out the back door, probably intending to kick the dog which had been run over three years before when she’d left the gate open and couldn’t hear him barking at the rear tire trying to tell her she was in no condition to drive.

I walked into the living room sighing heavily out of pure fed-the-fuck-up exasperation. Tony held his arm across the back of the sofa motioning for me to sit down. “I know exactly how you feel. But try not to argue with her.” Tony had never been mean to me, but he’d never shown the least affection either. I guess that’s why I was so surprised when he put his hand over my shoulder and leaned my head against his arm. He brushed through my hair with his fingers and said, “It’s late. Go upstairs and hit the math books, Todd. I’ll find something else to hit your mother with.”

It didn’t take a geometry genius to know what he meant. Mom only liked men with large endowments. If she’d cared more about their bank accounts… But like countless other times he’d fuck her lights out, infuse a little jizz with the gin and she’d go into a coma until the next morning. Then we’d begin the whole process again.

I didn’t bother to turn on a light. I just closed the door, took off my clothes and crawled under the sheet contemplating the object of my evening’s desire. None of the regulars held any real interest at the moment I slid my drawers down. But Claude, there was some something about him that held some sway with me, and not just that lowrider between his legs. I hadn’t even noticed that part until he made the varsity basketball team and my day.

After that point I did start to notice, a lot of things about Claude, and it wasn’t just what he was packing in his pants, but the smile just beneath his too large nose every time he saw me checking to see if it was maybe athletic socks and they’d shifted or he’d forgotten to wear them. If girls could stuff a bra with toilet paper guys were certainly not immune from the urge to be big man on campus either. But in those basketball shorts running up and down the court nothing about him struck me as boastful or trying to grandstand. He was a real team player. So I laid there until I popped a load think up ways I’d like him to play one-on-one with me.

James Mobley and me had shown each other out peckers the year before and checked out our fledgling pubic hair, but the immature fucker giggled like we were still twelve or some shit. I found that quite annoying, enough so, I never went back for another round of sneak-a-peek. I guess in my mind I figured if it wasn’t self-evident, it wasn’t worth my attention or admiration. And by 11th grade, Claude was obviously a best in show kind of guy even if he had played second string to the older boys in 10th.

But a year of perpetual horniness and full blown puberty can make you do things to put yourself out there and become more assertive in going after what you want. I was killing time one Thursday after the final bell stalking his locker as casually as possible in my fevered state when Claude came walking by, nodded and smiled, though he didn’t stop. It wasn’t a part of his ritual, so I followed mostly out of curiosity knowing there was no practice or a game as he headed toward the gym, took a ball out of the closet and dribbled down the court. After he sank a couple of baskets, I got up the nerve to walk in and ask if he minded some company. He shrugged, tossed me the ball and vaguely played defense against my evidently superior lack of hand eye coordination.

That was mostly because my eyes were focused on entirely different balls and his hands which kept reaching for his shorts to make minor adjustments since he wasn’t wearing a jock while doing all that jumping, I must’ve been a bit too obvious because he stopped, bounced the ball at me and said, “Todd, do you mind telling me what you find so damned fascinating?”

In case he didn’t know, the power of lust compelled me to look again. He glanced toward the door, pulled down the front of his shorts and flopped it out saying, “Is this what you want to see?” Obviously I couldn’t speak. All I could do was nod my head up and down silently until he flipped it back inside, took the ball out of my hand and walked away. Only he didn’t head toward the door as I assumed he would, more or less ending my life. Claude went behind the bleachers and I knew for a fact there were no doors.

I’m sure willpower can come in handy for those who have it. I didn’t possess any regarding Claude or his demanding gait. When I caught up with him behind the bleachers his shorts were completely down almost to his knees. “Well, are you going to just stand there? Suck it. Isn’t that what guys like you do?”

It gave me a sense of belonging to something greater, mysterious and more powerful than myself being reborn on my knees hoping to find favor. It certainly had flavor. Taste, texture, body, God what a body, it was both satisfying and filling. My mouth and tongue had virtually no clue what to do with the presents of his All Mighty’s majesty, so he ended up baptizing me somewhat by hand as I drank in the spirit and learned what it meant when God said, “Come” to me.

The next time it happened, old reliable, Frankie came in from the kitchen to take her usual chair, missed considerably and slipped into the floor with a groaning thud landing squarely on her ass. I slid onto the floor off the off the sofa to crawl the few feet and try wresting her awake. Tony put his hand on my shoulder. “Don’t. She’s fine where she is. Take it where you can get it.”

Strong fingers pressed into my shoulder, giving it several good squeezes up and down my shoulder blade. Then my neck and other shoulder before I said, “That feels really good,” and moved between his legs for the full treatment. He was working over my skull when I moaned, “You’re putting me to sleep.”

“Good. Then go to bed. Next time, it’s my turn.”

Claude was not nearly as reliable or predictable as old Frankie. He didn’t hate me. He looked down on me only because he was four inches taller like Big Tony. It was toward the end of the school yearwhen we found ourselves alone again. I licked my lips to moisten them. “Not this time, tiger. I’ve got a big date tonight.” My entire puberty may as well have been spent in cold storage for all the good it was doing me.

Like every other red-blooded American young man, I went home wanting to slash my wrists because some guy wouldn’t let me suck his dick. I just didn’t take it personally because I knew that’s not the way he’d meant it.

Tony probably did. I was nearly seventeen. Even my brain felt like it was growing that night with Mom slumped over the kitchen table in her typical clear-liquor coma. He came off the sofa, spread my legs and sat down between them. “Your turn. Give me the works. I could use it. Don’t spare the rod, Todd. I can take it.”

Doing my best, I tried giving him the full treatment. My hands and fingers weren’t as powerful as his had been, but I could feel all those muscles responding as I dug deeper beneath the flesh. Tony seemed to have them in abundance with those broad shoulders. Most were sore and tender until he started relaxing and let my fingers inside where he was trying to hide a few of those kinked spots, presumably from a record breaking five years of marriage to a mean drunk.

My fingers were burrowing between his ribs working their way up. He’d sort of raised his arms until my thumbs reached a particular place for some reason Tony felt like was off limits. It seemed odd when his arms clamped down on my hands, he stood up and lifted both of us off the couch. “Thanks, that felt great. I wish your mother could do it like that. Don’t stay up too late. I’ll get Frankie. Goodnight, Todd.”

I turned off the TV and went to my room while he grappled with his gallon-chugging gal so I didn’t see her hitting the wall as Tony bounced her down the hall. Lying in bed I felt under my arms. Nothing there other than hair, it was no big deal. My fingers were too tired for any mischief as I drifted off to sleep and thought I forgotten all about it.

But old memories, even the ones buried deeply in the body or mind most of the time, have a way of exposing themselves. Frankie and I were in the kitchen fighting while I struggled to get scorched spaghetti out of the bottom of a pot, exposing each other to absolutely nothing new or different. “I’m going to college. This is my last summer before graduation. I’ll find something to do, but I’m not about to work my ass off. I have the rest of my life to look forward to that. And I have a lot of applications to fill out.

“So you think you’re that smart? Collage material like your father? Lots of ‘applications’ to fill out?”

“If I was that smart… I’d only need to apply to one college. And I’d sure be smart enough to…”

“What? Say it you little coward!  Coward! Walk out on us just like he did! Isn’t that what you really mean, jelly bean?”

No. I’d be smart enough to get myself an education and you some help.”

She was fucking furious and walked nearly upright struggling toward the kitchen door to run over my dog once more. The way I felt about her at that moment, she was damned lucky she didn’t have a dog I could run over.

But Rover did have his armpit opened wide on back of the sofa when that old memory came flooding back. And I could sure remember where I’d made his legs kick the last time I’d touched that certain spot.

Noah’s Arc: Part Five

Noah's Arc

Five years is a long time to wait wandering in the wilderness trying to figure out if you’re going to live, die or ever be made whole again. Other than the sheer terror of the unknown, we stopped planning for the future and started trying to live in the moment. The aspects we couldn’t control or predict became some of the most enjoyable parts of our life. I suppose many people thought we were strange for laughing in the face of adversity, but a good picnic or horseback ride can be healing for the body and spirit. Ultimately, I think the challenges brought us closer together. We stopped seeing each other as individuals and became a team, indivisible, unbreakable and undaunted.

However absurd the notion might be today, after hitting legal and medical wall after wall, I had to adopt my own fucking husband who was five years older than me. We still laugh about that, but it wasn’t particularly funny at time. Not even the medical community is immune from the debilitating disease of being complete assholes with pinched-off sphincters. And the government wasn’t much better at playing nice when it came to my little guys.

You would’ve thought I was asking to colonize Mars with Ebola victims at taxpayer expense when I requested to have two breeding pairs brought over from Maria Island. The L.A. Zoo was willing to adopt and host them, but the government was scared shitless I was trying to introduce plague-ridden vermin to an otherwise unspoiled world. We’d given a name to the affliction, DFTD, devil faced tumor disease. It was decimating the population on Tasmania’s mainland, but those on Maria Island were completely unaffected. Try convincing a bureaucrat of that. Finding doctors who were actually human that would treat Craig was by far the easier of the two tasks when they learned neither of us were carrying the AIDS virus.

We eventually prevailed after several years long protracted court battles, but the process was more bone crushing than the little guys’ jaws at a family feast of freshly mowed down wildebeest. One good thing came of all the lawsuits and legal actions. We finally got them added to the Endangered Species list and the Tasmanian government decided to take a fucking clue for a change and became willing to relocate healthy populations from the mainland to the smaller surrounding islands and started culling the diseased population. We arranged deals with five other zoos and with some success trying to breed them in captivity. But the real effort went into creating a Captive Devil Insurance program to identify the most genetically diverse of the species and remove them from the wild populations. They really flourished and have grown from eighty when we started to over five hundred.

When Craig was at his sickest, he wanted to talk about what would happen if he were to die. We hadn’t had sex in over a year and he suggested I go out and find some strange or maybe a boyfriend. “And do what, pray tell? Sorry lover, I’m not remotely interested in having this conversation. So you can get that bullshit out of your mind right now.”

The one time something did happen, I’m not even sure you’d call it having sex. I was at UCLA presenting a paper on DFTD and looking for funding to develop a vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease. There were two very nice looking guys about thirty sitting in the front row. Every time they’d whisper to each they were both staring at me on the stage and smiling knowingly. It was quite distracting being cock teased by the one who kept rubbing his crotch.

After the event I’d gone in the bathroom to pee. Not ten seconds after I’d unzipped my pants, the dynamically horny duo appeared at the urinals on either side of me to relieve themselves by hand so to speak. The crotch rubber was already half hard when he flopped out a very nice looking cock and started stroking it. His buddy attempted to grab my dick and I pushed his hand away trying to resist the urging of my own stiffening rod.  In what I guess you’d call a compromise, the three of us stood there and jerked off together, which was actually quite hot.

I never told Craig about it because regardless of whether he’d given me permission or not, it wasn’t something I was interested in repeating and he had more than enough on his plate to worry about as did I. After two surgeries, multiple bouts of radiation and three chemo protocols, the last one completely experimental and administered by the NIH, we both began noticing a marked improvement three months later. Possibly I’m overblowing things, but Richard fucking Nixon and his ‘War on Cancer’ inadvertently saved my husband’s life no matter how smarmy and sweaty the man always appeared on television. After he resigned and came back to California, I always sent him a birthday card every year as my way of saying thanks until the old ‘I’m not a crook’ croaked.

In 2000 we went to the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney to celebrate our 40th anniversary. I was only working three days a week by then and Craig probably hadn’t had a hammer in his hand for at least the last five years. I doubt my staff or his two crews missed us for the month we were gone. As a very hush hush anniversary present, I’d quietly arranged to rent the entire compound of tree houses where we’d spent our honeymoon, invited a number of his close friends who arrived a day before us and were sworn to secrecy for the long weekend while we renewed our vows.

It was quite the party. Everyone stayed blasted the entire time until we put them all on a plane and milked it one more day trying rid ourselves of the worst hangover I could recall ever having. But I think the best part was this hysterical aboriginal witch doctor priest character who performed the service in full voodoo drag and presented us with necklaces instead of rings. I had to pretend I didn’t know they were festooned with Tasmanian devil teeth. And not one person harassed me for marrying my own son…

Our 50th was more of a staid, quiet affair with only 500 guests. In lieu of gifts we asked for conservation donations to our foundation which netted $200,000 in a surprising show of generosity. We did manage one dance together in Granny’s ballroom, but Craig couldn’t remember most of the steps or half the guests’ names. He’d started having memory problems two years before when I had to take away his car keys after he’d gotten lost on his way home from a doctor’s appointment and the police had to find him.

On more lucid days he could see what was happening, we sold his company to his right hand man, George, and I basically retired to keep an eye on him knowing it was a matter of time before things would take their inevitable toll. Eight months after the big anniversary party, I woke up one morning and found him unresponsive in bed next to me. The phone was in my hand to call 911 when I hung up instead and went downstairs to the clinic for a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. Craig’s vitals were really low and I made the choice to let him go instead of prolonging things and putting us both through all that Herculean end of life bullshit that I knew the hospital would undertake regardless of whether it was needed or wanted. Two days later the man who’d bedeviled and bedazzled me for fifty years was gone.

It took another year of back and forth with the Historic Preservation Society and City of Sacramento to give them the house and land because I wanted all excess profits to go to the foundation. They finally came around when I agreed to raze the clinic and have it rebuilt on a smaller piece of commercial property the assholes owned and were willing to trade in exchange.

UC-Davis was in the early planning stages of building a new state-of-the-art science facility and I offered to endow a chair for the naming rights to the building at the princely cost of $200,000 per year for ten years. But it was worth every penny watching them lift that engraved stone into place over the front door, ‘The Craig R. Richardson Center For Advanced Animal Sciences.’ My Realtor, a very dear old friend, gave me a pair of binoculars after we closed on the brand spanking new condo across from campus so I could have coffee with Craig every morning.

Admittedly it was lonely adjusting to life without him, but I soldiered on and tried to keep myself busy. Then one morning I was reading the San Francisco Chronicle and saw an article discussing the problem of college kids living in their cars and going to food banks. I’d never heard of such a thing and was quite outraged when they mentioned a student from UC-Davis. I called the reporter and asked for Jeremy’s last name. The bitch refused to give it to me. I called her editor and tried to explain I wasn’t a predator, but had a place the boy could stay and walk across the damned street to school. He was at least helpful enough to say he’d try to contact the kid and give him my number. A week passed and I never got a callback. So I said fuck it and started throwing some weight around on campus until they were able to figure out who he was and sent the guy to see me. It was love at first sight that Saturday when he knocked at the door. I gave him the binoculars and told him that was my dead husband’s name over the other front door across the street.

While he was going to retrieve his things, I called the clinic and told the office manager to give him twenty hours a week at twenty dollars. She balked and said, “Sir, we start technicians at fifteen dollars. You should know that.”

“Sharon, do I sound like I give a good goddamn? We can always raise it to twenty five when I find someone cheaper to replace you. Tell Bryce I’ll bring him by this afternoon.”

Jeremy stayed with me all three years until graduation, learned to play bridge and became a very decent cook. Even then, I thought I’d have to throw him out until six months later when he invited his girlfriend Carmen to dinner and she showed me her ring. That ended that, but he still insisted on vetting anyone new personally before letting them meet me. It was quite the surprise when he called to say he’d found someone he liked. “Noah, you’ll love him. His name is Chip. I’ll bring him by tomorrow and take you guys to lunch. And I expect you to behave.”

I had no idea what that meant until Jeremy unlocked the door and walked in with his friend in tow. The kid looked eerily like Craig had when we were young and first starting out. Obviously he’d been given some ‘coaching’ and knew more about my little devils than the average bear. He was also gay so I agreed hesitantly to let him stay for a ‘trial period’ which lasted two years.

Two months after he’d moved in with his boyfriend, he showed up one night with a black eye wanting to come back. I laughed and said, “Absolutely not. The two of you need to work it out. He probably doesn’t like that damned rap music of yours.”

“Don’t be an asshole, Gramps. You know he’s a cowboy from Texas. They all hate rap.”

“Then it was just a love tap. Don’t duck and don’t run, son.” Walking to the kitchen for a bag of frozen peas to put on his eye, I rubbed that old scar on the back of my head knowing I was right.  The next year when gay marriage was legalized, Jeremy and Carmen took me to the little devil’s wedding and I don’t remember hearing a single, solitary rap song, even at the reception.

Noah’s Arc: Part Four

Noah's Arc

“…My house, the land it sits on and its titles, along with its full contents of furniture and fixtures, for the sole and exclusive purpose of establishing a veterinary clinic and private residence for said heir. Should this provision of my last will and testament be challenged by any other heir or claimant, named or unnamed, having been executed in sound mind and body, all proceeds are to be given to the city of Sacramento for purposes they may deem as useful and appropriate. Further, my attorneys have been instructed to use all resources necessary to see these provisions executed until the entirety of my assets have been exhausted fully.”

The bulk of everything else went to my father and his two brothers. Myself and the other grandkids, except Darren, got two-hundred thousand in a mix of cash and company stock. Mine was sold the day it came into my hands. I wanted nothing to do with the manufacture or sale of arms. Generations of my family had seen them cause enough harm.

Father was furious, even at six million, and I’d no sooner walked in the front door than he pointed at it and told me to, “Go live in your own fucking house!” It was completely petty of him to throw me out like that, but I quietly gathered my belongings over the next few days and moved to a small apartment near campus. My only excesses were phones in the bedroom and living room both, and a fucking phone bill that kept Ma Bell in business.

Not every day, but those calls became more important than eating or sleeping. When I got the keys that counted along with the title to the house nine months later, I knew the instant I walked in the front door what needed to and would happen. I sat in the entry hall and cried like a baby at the memories of what had been, the present and what was about to become.

Between my first and second year of school, I made one trip back down under. Craig and I both worked our asses off trying to get his contracts completed. For rest, I went to Tasmania once and Maria Island twice to try and understand better how my little devils behaved with no predators and far less chance or being poisoned or becoming road kill. I was so completely drained, I slept nearly the entirety of that long flight back to San Francisco praying that my dick would recover by the time I saw Craig again.

It did. The only reason I remember is because we got a room at the airport when I picked his ass up six months later rather than getting arrested for public indecency and extreme acts of sodomy. Obviously, Craig had never heard of or experienced jet lag.

Christmas Eve was our first new night together in a very old house. I’d refused to let him see it until we dragged in a fresh-cut tree through the front door. It was a very tight fit, not the Douglas fir, but my ass as Craig got the grand tour until four in the morning. The only room off limits was Granny’s bedroom. I was saving that as his present for the next day when we unwrapped the other sorts of packages. It had been a wedding present from her husband, my grandfather, and I wanted to honor that tradition in the same way.

The fucker was too big to carry over the threshold, so we improvised and I gave him a piggyback ride for ten or twelve feet before collapsing en route to one of the fireplaces where our stockings were hung by the chimney with care. It had been a hard choice deciding with two of them choose from, but the one closest to the bed was where Granny and I had always sat gazing into her crystal ball and her telling me what she saw.

Honestly, I’d imagined the scenario as more sexual and less architectural, but you’d have to be married to Craig to fully appreciate why he wasn’t paying more attention to my package at that particular moment, or the next thirty. And he gave not one single fuck about the goddamned stockings I’d made all by myself without the aid of a single power tool excepting a glue gun, primarily because I didn’t know how to sew and had no interest in learning.

But he loved our room, the bathrooms, the dueling fireplaces, the sitting area  and the study. I told him the closets had to stay, but the furniture was a goner, not to get too attached. “All this dark carved wood is depressing, Craig. And much as loved her, I’m not sharing our bedroom with Granny. Your furniture that’s in storage, we can put it in one of the other bedrooms, but I want something completely new and different in here. Everything else is negotiable except these hideous drapes. And that crystal ball by the way, it stays. I’m pretty fucking sure that’s where she saw you in the first place.”

“Any other demands My Lord?”

“Just one, since we’re on the subject of gazing at grazing on balls.”

By the time I had to start the next semester ten days later, we’d survived New Years, come up with the basic design for the vet clinic and moved completely out of the apartment. Life became a work in progress for lack of a better term, but we were trying not to be a pain in each other’s ass except when and where it counted the most. The walk to school was no longer a two minute trek, but a twenty minute drive, and the city’s planning and zoning commission along with the Historic Preservation Society were the only banes of our existence.

Obviously Granny’s crystal ball didn’t foresee those wrinkles, including the ones under my eyes as Craig and I tried to juggle all the competing demands of modernity and the past. It finally came down to building a separate facility which couldn’t be incorporated into the original house. That seemed ridiculous considering  we owned the fucking place and the four acres surrounding it. But they got their fucking wish, I got my clinic, barely in time for graduation and all of it floated my boat enormously.

Don’t fucking ask me how it happened, I still couldn’t tell you, but I thought under the circumstances I was Superman and Craig was everything but a boy as I wondered in amazement how it had all happened. My kryptonite turned out to be the little devils and the details that started slowly seeping, trickling into our lives about the same time we’d barely begun to live it. Craig had plenty of work, I was basically overwhelmed, and then Tasmania called.

Not me, but the University. The proposition was that I’d write a doctoral thesis on the ‘uniqueness’ of the little devils and everyone thought it was a swell idea. But not everything happens the way you imagine or according to what people say. It was a death sentence for the next three years while trying to juggle a medical practice, a husband and very demanding older home. Several times I thought I’d break, which I did often and repeatedly.

Cuddled, or huddled in his lap was my only refuge in the storm of events. Walking the stage again with that infernal Ph.D. in hand, I thought we’d accomplished an entire lifetime of goals and ambitions by 1970. The last time I’d looked in the mirror we were both young and full of life. Demands suck in general, and we tried to impose as few of them on each other as possible. Anything a singular pair of lifetimes might require, we’d done it, and done it well, at least according  to our own estimation.

Someone getting sick was a fluke. It wasn’t me or Craig, rather ear tag W422.  “Let it go,” I said. “Probably ate bad road kill.” Five years later I was saying the same thing. Craig and I were an isolated affair, so were the bedeviling little devils and their disease. “No, that’s impossible. I’m not coming over there. “Let a toxicological lab send me some results. I’ll be happy to look at them.”

It never happened and they never came. Except in mine and Craig’s semen count, the population decline wasn’t terribly noticeable. But we were no longer measuring in those terms. Things rise and they fall, one size did not fit all, at least in any of our cases. I told the first client, “Sorry, I don’t know what to say. He isn’t well.” Like my other devils, I thought he was under the weather. Two years isn’t under the weather. Everything was so gradual. We were getting older, the average lifespan of a little guy was maybe five years in the wild. It was all natural evolution over time, or so it seemed.

My big devil was made of stronger stuff and not nearly as short-lived. The only thing he ate was me and dinner, not road kill. And there wasn’t a reason on earth he or I could see for a healthy, robust man to contract breast cancer until I was laying in bed one night and asked him about a small lump as I was stroking his chest and trying to fall asleep.

“That’s absurd, Noah. Men don’t get breast cancer.”

“Please don’t argue. Just get an exam and chest x-ray. Only one of us is the doctor here. Have them take a biopsy. I need to see the lab results.” He’d rolled over grumbling when my lights came on. All of them. I’d never gotten back the results from Tasmania and had been too busy at the time to follow up. The next day, everyone went to the doctor, my small devils and the big one. Two weeks later I was trying not to panic as I discovered we had cancer, regardless of the type or how rare it was.

Everything in my life changed overnight. I’d been a boy on a boat trying to explore the worlds of men and beasts, which are not necessarily exclusive… pet a fucking kangaroo for God’s sake and a few good men down under. I had no inkling at the time that wasn’t what Granny saw in her in her crystal balls, if she saw anything at all. The only certainties were that all my devils had problems and it was up to me to figure it out and heal them if I could. I’d asked for it, spent my life pursuing these objects of intense desire and it was time to shift gears trying to salvage what I could in a rising, murky tide.

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” I asked the oncologist. He didn’t like my attitude.

“Well, Dr. Winchester, medicine isn’t an exact science, and Craig’s condition isn’t one we run across every day. If one thing doesn’t work…”

“Then you’ll run out the clock and I’ll still have a dead husband.”

“I wasn’t aware two men could marry.”

“Fuck you, asshole.” I had other dragons to slay, heal, whatever. But in no way did the man float any of my boats. And while all these idiots were jerking off using the lube of puritans, everything I cared about was trying to die around me. The path of least resistance was not the one I chose. It completely changed the trajectory of our lives. Everything came to be about survival of the fittest and time management while I grew into the largest learning curve of my existence. It was all a race against the clock, and fuck prisoners, I wasn’t about to take any, not a single one onboard.

Dr. Dolittle  stopped dicking around. It took fucking acts of congress and the Los Angeles Zoo to get my boys what they needed, but we survived while the world tried  to melt around us and fall apart. None of it was easy. I relegated Granny’s crystal ball to the fireplace mantel in the bedroom and began taking things as they were flying fast and furiously by into my face, one disaster after another. Craig’s battle scars and the fatigue were setting in, but most of the time when I came to bed I’d kiss him and put his finger on the back of my head.

“You owe me, buddy. Remember that first night? I didn’t throw in the towel, bloody as it was. I need you to hang in there. I did, and I’ve never regretted it for a single moment of our lives. Don’t be a quitter, Craig. Fuck, we’ve survived every other goddamned thing on the planet. We’ll survive this, too. Promise me. I’m promising you and the kids. We’ll get through this somehow.”

Noah’s Arc: Part Three

Noah's Arc

I woke up before Craig did holding the pee I needed to take while laying there studying the the profile of his face and fleshy pinkness of those beautiful lips. My head hurt, my dick, my bladder and any other organ that wasn’t supposed to be moved. But my fucking heart? It just wouldn’t stop skipping and beating all over my chest. I’d seen and experienced any number of beautiful things, but none so precisely fitted to the specifications of my imagination.

Lawrence was more real than the voice of my childhood cat, Whiskers, during one of Granny’s séances, but he’d never been dirty, sweaty or bloody. Craig was all of those things and infinitely more as I trailed him into the shower that morning. Carefully drying my head off, he drove it straight into a cloudbank of sky-high possibilities. But those now indelibly etched last words, “I’m not ready for you to go home yet,” were seared into the other wound he’d made on my skull. “I’ll work in the apartment across the hall today. I’m waiting on materials for a another job anyway. But don’t leave, Noah, with a boat. Promise I’ll come rescue you at lunch.”

After he kissed me and walked out the door, I knew I was completely fucked up the river without a float, lifeboat, raft or any other goddamned device to navigate the roiling waters of welling emotions inside me without creating another exit wound that didn’t have a fucking chance of ever healing completely.

I’ve had theories about many things. One of the earliest was, ‘Life only gives you so many chances.’ That proved not to withstand the test of time. Every single breath is another chance. But the one about, ‘Don’t be a fucking idiot…’ pretty sure I’ll be hanging on to that one. Except for the broken jaw and cracked skull, I knew I was blowing it to hell and back if I walked out that door at Craig’s. But the conflicts were an unsolvable dilemma no nineteen year old is equipped to deal with appropriately.

Hedging my bets, I crept out to a payphone and called Granny. After listening patiently, she had the gall to say, “Sounds like you have a real problem on your hands. Must be exhausting. Glad you’re having such a good time, dear. Be sure and keep that head doctored. Mine’s off to the hairdresser’s now.” I was still sitting on the sofa trying to wrap my own around the fact that she’d hung up on me. When Craig walked in I wanted to puke in his shoe with that smile of his saying, “What would you like for lunch my injured sojourner?” The asshole and my grandmother were obviously part of some greater cabal hellbent to see me meet life on life’s terms even if it was breathing down my neck forcing me to make rash decisions about where to lunch while I was fucking trying to recover from a massive head trauma, or two, possibly three if I counted Lawrence.

I’d had the fucking proverbial bird in my hand as well as my bushes, both of them. Granted, Craig did things to me, some of them involving medical records and procedures. I expected to soon have the scars to prove it. But there was some mystical quality about him calling out to me, “I’m starving. Are you ready yet?”

I wasn’t. Not remotely. Yet he somehow battered down my defenses saying shit like, “How about fish and chips? We could have Barney Banana on the way home.”

My resistance was all but worn out, completely exhausted. I broke down, admitted defeat and confessed my undying love of bananas under intense interrogation from his Gestapo-like lip services smacking me around. Never having a real fighting chance in the first place, my meager arms surrendered to my captor who led me away to someplace on the bay, obviously intent on drowning my miserable ass in a slow walk with fate I’d never bargained for, seen in the cards or from Granny’s crystal ball.

Cruelty can’t begin to describe what it felt like when he offered to go get my things from the hostel and stow them at his place while I traipsed around the continent. Craig wanted nothing except everything, and that included me. Why was not remotely one of the questions, but I decided to play his game. The only problem was that Craig wasn’t playing. Smart as a whip and dense as a stump, it still took me the longest time to come to the realization that life would probably never offer me better choices than those directly in front of me, regardless of my age or preparedness to make such choices.

When I announced that I was planning a leg of the trip to Canberra, Melbourne and Tasmania, he shrugged it off and said, “I’ve got a big job to bid in Canberra. If you could hang out for a couple of days and maybe help me a bit, I’d love to go to Tasmania with you if I’m not crowding. Haven’t been there since I was a kid. Strangest damned place, almost prehistoric. All sorts of things you’ll never see anywhere else. I could use the breather to be honest. And being the mangy, worthless dingo I am, anything that would give me few more days with you, Noah, would float my fucking boat, mate.”

Sarcophilus harrisii, the world’s largest flesh loving carnivorous marsupial mammal, other than possibly myself on a good day, is better known as the Tasmanian devil. Shortly after Craig and I got off the puddle jumper from the mainland, I fell in love with two sets of bone-devouring wild dogs and their powerful jaws. The little devils became a passion for me, the larger bipedal one became all consuming and I could easily see devoting a lifetime to the endeavor of studying him, every single inch from every perspective, as the man completely set about utterly shredding my soul limb from limb.

Craig made no effort to convince me he was the right one. He didn’t have to knock me over the head with a brick or drag me in a cave by what was left of my hair to get my attention. He’d already done that the first hour we’d met. After three days of observing him and them in the wild, I was hooked on both and the fixation would last a lifetime. Three weeks is the gestation period for the smaller variety of devils, lightening fast for mammals. But large as he was, it only took three days to birth the idea that Craig was something I couldn’t live without and had no intention of doing so.

I still consider those nights we spent in our thatched-roof treehouse on the edge of the coastal lowlands facing the ocean, that time, brief as it was, will always be my honeymoon no matter where we might travel, how exotic the destination or duration of the trip. When he boarded that small plane the fourth morning and flew away leaving me standing there on the airstrip, it ripped my heart out waving goodbye and I just knew I could never do it again without the assurance he’d be back.

The next week I spent alone in Tasmania taught me things I could’ve never hoped to learn in a textbook, mostly about myself and what I truly wanted from life. I had no idea how to make either dream come true, but the visions could not have been more clear. Most of what I’d planned as my itinerary was scrapped along with my intentions to sow as many wild oats as possible on the year’s walk about down under. The only things I wanted to be under were Craig or a pile of leaves watching his small cousins going about their business of fucking and foraging while I took field notes or hit the high ones when he and I got really wild with our senseless acts of animal husbandry.

By my third trip to Tasmania, I’d made a number of acquaintances, filled two suitcases with literature, white papers, field notes and the contact information on nearly everyone seriously studying them along with enough bones, skeletons and skulls to open a voodoo shop. Worshiping the little devils and my prized big one became my unholy grail.

Table saws, bands saws, jig saws, I saw and learned how to use them all when intently studying the curvature and contours of Craig’s ass while he was bent over one or the other. I almost forgot the ever-needed coping saw because it was a hand tool, not one that requires an electrical outlet, and something that became a point of jealousy since it saw almost as much action as my hand or tool while Craig and I learned to appreciate and share our passions for our work and each other.

As for any question about whether or not we were in love became a moot point after the first couple of months. Watching the clock and calendars tick by, every conversation of the sort came to be about mechanics and logistics. Long distance relationships were one thing, but navigating the continental divide was an entirely different matter. Neither of us knew exactly what to do until Granny intervened and settled the issue for once and all by deciding to die on me. But at least she’d stopped hanging up after that first call…

We were in bed asleep one night when the phone rang and Craig handed me the receiver. “It’s your mother, and she sounds very upset.”

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

“It’s Granny. Your father is on his way to the hospital now. They took her by ambulance. You need to take the first flight home. Tell me where to wire the money for a ticket.” I asked Craig for his checkbook. He got up, went to the living room and brought it back after flipping on the light. I read her the numbers, told her I’d be there soon as I could and hung up.

“Do you want me to come with you?” was the only question he asked.

“No. I’d like nothing better, but knowing my father, this is probably going to get ugly if Granny actually dies. The last thing I need right now is introducing you into that pit of vipers. He and I have never had ‘the talk’ about me, and having you there would only complicate this.”

He got on the phone and by some miracle, there was a new route between Sydney and San Francisco. I nearly died myself when he told me how much the fucking ticket cost, but he’d already bought it. Qantas wanted to charge me another arm and leg for the books and bones. Even Craig said hell no to that and had them shipped. I’d never had a real urge to smoke weed again, except on that goddamned flight. If I’d gotten the munchies though, I would’ve died from food poisoning it was all so inedible.

Granny was gone when I called home while waiting for my friend to pick me up at the airport. She’d died minutes after my plane left Sydney. The funeral was an unmitigated disaster and I was so deeply ashamed and disturbed by people’s behavior, I never spoke to half of them again. If you want to see barbarism at its very worst… Tasmanian devils have better table manners when fighting over the bones of the dead.

Nobody knew what was in the will. She’d changed it over time according to who could be the biggest prick. The grand prize went to my cousin, Darren, who’d tortured me until I was I was old enough to give his face a new outlook on life and free cosmetic dentistry. He got five dollars, and I nearly pissed my pants watching him storm out of the conference room at the attorney’s office.

My dad was just about as furious when the lawyer read, “To Noah Winchester I leave my sincerest regrets that I didn’t raise my own children better. In addition I bequeath the following…”

Noah’s Arc: Part Two

Noah's Arc

The Youth Hosteller’s Handbook was supposed to save my ass and a bloody fortune. If the second night was any indication, I’d be dead or bankrupt in less than a week, not the six months I’d budgeted for. And to think I was worried about Great White sharks and venomous snakes…

Walking around the city that first day was something of a surreal experience. Nearly everyone looked enough like me to pass for a relative. I expected there to be an ample supply of hot blonde guys, but not all of them skin grafted from my body onto a different skeleton. In a police lineup if they asked a witness to pick the non-local, I would’ve been the last chosen. Other than my complete lack of a British accent, I blended in as well as any man on the continent. That was certainly not the case in California.

I’d budgeted five bucks a day like the travel guides suggested, an equal amount in the bank as a reserve if things happened to go completely awry and had most of my itinerary mapped out like the rest of my very organized, neat and tidy life. One thing I noticed immediately was how everyone seemed to be smoking a pipe or at least holding one as a fashion accessory. After a lunch of two chinco rolls which looked and sounded like big, fat, deep friend Mexican flautas, I was stuffed at the mind boggling cost of thirty cents and under budget enough to invest in a pipe and pouch of tobacco.

Back at the hostel late that afternoon, I heard some guy coughing in the garden outside my window. He was cute enough, seemed to know no more about smoking than myself, so I went out to join him as a novice understudy in the acquisition of emphysema. When I passed Johann my pipe, he offered me his instead. After nearly choking to death, I started feeling light-headed, slightly nauseous and realized tobacco wasn’t what we were smoking.

Stoned out of our gourds, he suggested between bouts of laughter and snot we go to someplace called Street’s Gaytime. Thinking I was about to get lucky and marveling at how unexpectedly, progressively open the Aussies were regarding sexual mores, I was thrilled to tag along. Turns out it was a fucking ice cream shop with a single flavor on a stick. But other than a dick, it was the tastiest goddamned treat I’d ever eaten and we managed to polish off six of them between us. Not until weeks later did I discover it was called “getting the munchies.”

Waddling up to the hostel, Johann invited me to his room, not for sex, but a bottle of beer he’d brought back from his trip to the Northern Territory. I still believe it was the largest fucking beer bottle I’ve ever seen. ‘Darwin Stubby’ was eighty ounces of dark stout and completely knocked me on my ass for the second time that day. Luckily the beer was only regional and I didn’t expect to be in that neck of the woods for three months, more or less the time I would need to recover.

Having read about the new eighth wonder of the world for several years, I took a bus to see the Sydney Opera House. What a bust. There was basically nothing there but a single lonely looking concrete shell precariously perched as if it might blow backward and topple over in a strong wind. I’d had my veterinary practice opened nearly a decade when that fucker was finished in 1973 at roughly 1,000% over budget. We still swear we’re going back to see it someday.

Johann had checked out by the time I got back, took a shower and rustled up something to eat. Feeling like I’d gained two pounds in two days, I decided to walk it off in the search for signs of nightlife. Australians love to drink and fight, as I was about to discover, not with knives or guns, but rather their fists. A friendly slap on the back would’ve been considered assault in the U.S. But they thought I was a local and apparently used to having the ever-loving dog shit kicked out me over a beer or game of pool.

After an hour, I’d been slapped off several barstools and took one around the corner out of arm’s length when one of the most handsome men I’d ever laid eyes upon sat down next to me and bought us another round. “Name’s Craig. Don’t believe I’ve ever seen you in here before. Where you from, mate?”

“Noah, just got off the boat yesterday from California, Sacramento to be exact.”

“Is that anywhere near Texas? I’ve always wanted to go to Texas. Where’s your cowboy hat? I’d love to have a horse, but me landlady is a real cunt about pets. Between you and me, Noah with a boat, I think she’s a communist. I mean who doesn’t want a good hunting dog or a horse? The old wombat doesn’t even like cats. Myself, I love all God’s creatures, even some of them on two legs.” He seemed to be eyeing mine intently, at least from the knees up as he uttered the words. I didn’t get the chance to answer about the cowboy hat, or any other thing for that matter. “So how bouts a game of pool, Noah with a boat. You can buy the next round when I kick that nice little cowboy ass of yours.”

The guy, gorgeous as he was, never shut up for a second. I thought it was a strategy to distract me, and if that was his game, it worked remarkably until he accidentally left me a clean shot. After jumping the eight I the cleared two and finished him off. “You little cunt!” was the last thing I heard before waking up on the floor with my head pounding and my jaw screaming. When he picked me up there was also a good-sized pool of blood beneath the back of my skull.

“What the blimey hell? Why did you move, Noah with a boat? Nobody fucking does that. It was just a bloody love tap. You’re supposed to take it like a man, cowboy, not duck. Let’s get you to the loo and clean this shite up. The corner of that table didn’t like you worth a flying fuck.”

The bartender tossed him a wet rag and he kept it pressed against my screaming skull for several minutes, but it wouldn’t stop bleeding. He even put his arm around my neck and applied more pressure. It wouldn’t stop. “Mate, I hate to say it, but I think we opened a little vein or something. Fuck me! Let’s get you to hospital. They can put a couple of stitches in and you’ll be good as new.”

“I don’t have a car, Craig. And I’m not going to bleed all over a bus.”

“You ain’t taking no bus, Noah with a boat. My truck’s right outside.” As we walked out with the rag pressed to my head, he told the bartender, “Hold our tab, Jeeves. Me and this bloody cowboy from Texas will be right back.” Those crazy fuckers were all laughing like getting hit by a diesel truck head-on was supposed to be a comedy skit or some shit. Down under, Southern hospitality actually seemed to involve a hospital, and I sincerely hoped they’d be less kind in the future if that was the case.

The doctor told Craig, “Don’t let your friend here fall asleep for the next six or eight hours. That was a pretty nasty blow. Long as he doesn’t start vomiting or trying to pass out, bring him back in a week and we’ll remove the stitches.” The guy gave me a couple of pain pills, and believe or not, we went back to the bar and took a bow when everyone started clapping and cheering as we walked in the door.

By the time we staggered back out a few hours later slumped against each other, I asked Craig for a ride back to the hostel. “The bloody fucking hell I will. You heard the doc. He said I wasn’t supposed to let you fall asleep. Texas cowboy, you’re coming home with me.”

“I’m not a cowboy, Craig. And I’m not from Texas. I’ll be…”

“Do they have horses in California?”

“Yes, lots of them.”

“Deserts and oil derricks?”

“Yes sir, plenty of both.”

“Then you’re a cowboy. Now shut the fuck up.”

“But what about the landlady?”

“The cunt said no cats or cows. She didn’t say shite about cowboys.”

It was hard to argue with his twisted logic or my blood alcohol content. Both were equally frightening. Almost as much as his apartment.

I seriously thought I passed out and was having a dream, a very pleasant one. The fucking place was beautiful down to the last detail and impossible to believe for a guy in dirty jeans and a faded, sweaty tee shirt. “You actually live here? Sure we’re not drunk and in the wrong place?”

“No. Why? I like things neat and organized. I’m too busy for clutter and chaos. Can’t stand it on the fucking job site either. Always clean, neat and tidy.”

“That isn’t what I’m talking about. My granny has money and a mansion. It looks nothing like this.”

“Oh, now I see. You mean the furniture. That’s just for show. I do architectural restoration. Clients always want to see an example of my work. It’s easier to show them this rather than knock on somebody’s fucking door every few weeks. And it doesn’t cost me a bloody thing to live here. I’ll show you the other apartment I’m working on now in my spare time. Six more to go, but her highness will have a palace and I can stretch this to maybe five years of free rent. Not a bad gig for a working boy, mate. So what do you do when you’re not globe hopping on your boat and pretending to be a cowboy?”

For once, he actually let me answer the fooking question. “I’m going to veterinary school next year when I get back. This is my big blowout, walk about and last chance for fun in the sun before I have to suck it up and start pretending to be an adult instead of the Lone Ranger.”

“No shite! I love that programme. Tonto was an aboriginal from Canada. Did you know that?”

“We don’t call them aboriginals. They’re Indians or native Americans.”

“How could the bloke be from Canada if he’s a Native American? Maybe we should check that head wound again. Here, lay your concussion down cowboy and let me have a look.” My face was in his crotch the whole time he picked through the remnants of my gaping scalp, and I still couldn’t find a good reason to argue his twisted logic.

When he asked if I was falling asleep, it may have been muffled, but I’m pretty sure he heard me say, “Hardly.” The third time I felt his fingers running through my hair, I asked for a pillow. “Sorry chap, but you’ll have to rough it. No sleeping.”

Several minutes later he asked, “What’s my name?”

“Craig.” His dick was still in my face.

Five minutes later he asked the same question. “Charles Craig Darwin.” Then “Darwin Stubby.” But his cock didn’t seem stubby in the least.

“Name?”

“Street’s Gaytime.”

“One stick or two up your ass?”

“Depends on who’s asking.”

“Are you rubbing my cock on purpose?”

“Absolutely.”

“Are you getting sleepy?”

“Not in the least.”

“Good. Neither am I, Kemosahbee.”

Under the circumstances it was hard to believe I had enough “High Ho Silver!” left to ride again, but if you’ve been hit by one speeding locomotive and weren’t stopped dead in your tracks…