It's too early in the morning for this shit; I've just walked into the barn and Jason's blasting the stereo. He dances up and down the isles while he works from stall to stall.
I can hardly make sense of myself or last night. I'm so tired I feel like I'm floating above the ground, dragging the tips of my toes along with me.
I had to walk home because I couldn't wake Jeff up. My butt aches, and it's no fun walking home with your ass hurting. I'm feel sad and happy at the same time, because Jeff was in me, and he shared himself; I don't know how to feel about any of it.
I'm dragging ass, I'm tired, I'm cranky, I'm irritated, I'm sore, my head hurts and I just want to curl up in my own bed and hide from the world.
I push the muck cart back into the aisle and break the bale with a pitchfork, spreading hay around Smokey's stall. I turn to the right a little and see Momma standing by the door in my side-vision.
She's got her hands on her hips like she's about to make a point of something. "So, where the hell were you last night?" She crosses her arms.
Great. Just, fucking great. I look over at her really quick, then get back to the hay like it's no big deal. "I was at Jeff's."
"I thought you said you were going to the bowling alley. Chase and I went to Safeway to rent some movies last night. Decided I'd check in on you."
Jesus jumped-up Christ. I stand up and face her, probably looking like a deer in the headlights.
"Jeff's neighbor has the new Nintendo system. It's got bowling on there, and they have these controllers that can tell you're movin' em--so it's like you're really bowling. We ended up doing that instead." She's not going to buy this.
"Are you lying to me?"
"Why didn't you just call me and let me know?"
I look at the floor. "Sorry. I guess I was just caught up in the game."
"Why didn't you just go to the alley? It's more fun than some stupid video game."
"Yeah, but the TV game doesn't charge by the round. They've got Tennis and Boxin' and stuff on there, too."
She sighs. "Okay. Just you remember this next time. I want a call if plans change."
She pauses. "You look owly."
"We didn't sleep much."
"Well, after you're done with your chores, I want you in bed. I don't want you fightin' with your brother or sister because you're being ornery."
She walks up and hugs me. "You smell like cigarettes."
Fuck. "Jeff's mom smokes like a chimney."
"Hmm. Okay." Momma slaps my on the butt. "Get your stuff done." She walks out, spots Jason dancing around down the hall. She looks back at me with a smile, nods toward him, and pulls the plug on the stereo.
Jason turns around like he's pissed, like it was Chase or me that done it. "Momma!"
She cackles and plugs it back in.
* * *
Richard Kelly spent a few years as a rodeo clown in his mid-twenties before he got into raising livestock. He met his wife, Grace Whithers, at a rodeo in Riverton, Wyoming. Much later, after they were wed, Grace knew 681 was trouble from the instant he was unloaded from the truck and put with the other cows in the pasture.
Grace W. Kelly is of no particular relation to the 1950's American actress Grace P. Kelly. At least I don't think she is.
* * *
I stare at the clock, just waiting for the big hand to strike the thirty. The bell is taking forever, and it's almost lunch time. In a few minutes, I won't have to be in this dull classroom anymore, this cinder-block cage with white-washed walls and fluorescent death-rays. It's all stained brown carpet and dirty desks--not even a window to look out of windows. There's a pistachio green filing cabinet in one corner, and it smells like a dank basement. There's a set of double doors that lead to a storage closet. The room's right next to the small gym, and they keep the mats for wrestling locked in there.
What a shitty place for a geometry class. Shitty little room. Shitty teacher. Shitty feelings.
My mind's been running like a wild hound all week. I can't wait for Friday afternoon, to be free for two more days--only to be stacked with five more back-to-back days of hell. It might not be so bad if I wasn't in this particular classroom, because it feels claustrophobic.
The bell chimes. Everyone in the class tries to get out, leaving like a prison full of inmates escaping through a wide-open door. I'm at the back of the room, so I can get out pretty quick if needed. I've got three more classes left, then I get to go home. I've got homework, but, hell, at least it's anywhere but here.
I turn a corner, go up the steps, and walk down the hall. People have this way of looking at you that makes you feel guilty about all sorts of things. Nobody knows what's up with me and Jeff--if they did, I'd probably already be dead--but it feels like everyone in the world can see it written on my face.
I spot Jeff coming from the other way, and we lock eyes; it feels dangerous. He doesn't grin at me like he normally would, he just stops in front of me. "Off to lunch?"
"Umm, yeah." I've gone the whole week without seeing him, and he suddenly pops up now.
"What's your deal?"
"Feel funny. Don't know."
He scratches his arm and nods sideways. "Follow me."
"Why? Where're we goin'?"
"Gonna come or not, Susan?" He starts walking forward, bumping my shoulder when he passes by.
We walk down the hall, toward where the old pool used to be. They closed it down in the eighties because someone tried to dive off the balcony. They missed the water and killed themselves, landing flat on the deck. Momma says she remembers it; it was in the newspaper about the time Ronnie was born.
The hallways are clearing out.
Jeff turns into this recess that joins the hall. There's a set of double-doors in there that have always been locked, and I've never even seen what's inside. I always figured it was a janitor closet or a boiler room or something.
Jeff pulls out his wallet and gets out this thing that looks like a cut up credit card--cut in the shape of an L. He puts it through the crack of the door, slides it down and pulls it back toward him. The door opens a crack.
He hisses like an angry rattlesnake. "Shhh! Can it, Susan!" He pushes me through the door into the darkness. He shuts the door behind him quiet-like.
I just stand there. I can't see anything but a strip of light on the floor reflecting on the white tile.
Jeff brushes past me. I hear him rubbing something, and suddenly a light comes on down a short hallway. The light's soft, coming from around the corner. It's still pretty dark, but we can see where we're going. Not sure what this is until we walk around the corner and down the steps.
We come into a large room, about the size of the gym. There's a big, empty concrete pit, painted blue, with four thick black lines across the bottom. The room is stuffed with boxes, desks, chairs, and filing cabinets. In the pool there are big steel drums in the shallow area, about fifteen of them, and some are covered in tarps. One of the barrels has [Br]-Bromine stenciled on the side.
"Dude, we're gonna be in deep shit if we get caught in here."
Jeff shrugs. "We're not gonna get caught. They only come in here once or twice a year." He pulls my arm. "Come on."
I have a bad feeling about this, and about being caught in here.
He leads me into this little room off the deck--an old coach's office or something. There's a couch someone shoved in here without much thought, and it sits up against the desk at a weird angle. He pushes me down on the couch, takes off his backpack, and sets it down next to the desk.
He walks over and works my pants off.
* * *
Ronnie's out of town looking at a college in Idaho that he might go to this spring. He took a few months off after graduating to catch his breath and help his family out with the horses for a little.
Mattie and I are watching movies, since there's nothing else to do this time of year. Guess I could be out fartin' around with Brooke, but I really don't want to be seen out and about because I don't want a run-in with Jeff.
When we make love, I love him. Other than that, I love to hate him. We don't talk like we used to, and right now, I'm perfectly happy sitting here with Mattie. It feels safe.
Mattie's mom is upstairs cooking a few pumpkin pies, and it smells so good. Mattie said she was testing out a few new recipes for Thanksgiving, and here in an hour or so, I'd be willing to bet she'll invite us upstairs to a big slice and a tall glass of milk.
I love this time of year, what with all the cooking.
I put my head on Mattie's shoulder, like he's done so many times before, and I hold his arm.
He breathes in like I surprised him. He puts his cheek against the top of my head when his nerves settle a little bit. "What's wrong?"
"I feel funny."
"You coming down with something?"
I sigh. "No... no."
"What is it?"
"I feel... Hell, Mattie, I haven't felt like myself in a long time." I nuzzle his neck. Right now, he’s my safety, and my rock. "I'm just so fuckin' confused about everything."
"Wanna talk about it?"
"Why not? Did I do something?"
"No, Mattie. I just can't drag you into this."
"Are you in trouble?"
I hug his arm. "Over my head, but I'm not in trouble. I mean, I probably would be if people knew what was going on, but..." I hesitate. "I don't know what."
He cocks his head to the side. "Shit. Did you get Brooke pregnant?"
My eyes shoot wide open. I sit straight up and give him the stink-eye. "I'm not dunkin' those donuts, dude. I like Brooke, but not that much."
Mattie grins and laughs. It's the first my heart's felt at home since the first time I saw Jeff—when my world turned upside-down.
"Is it a secret?" he asks me.
"That's what best friends are for. For secrets." He nudges me.
"I reckon so."
"Aint you gonna tell me?"
"Mattie, it's a secret!"
He frowns. "Why not?"
"What about Joey then?"
He sits back a bit. "What about her?"
"Well, you told me you tell her things you can't tell me. What was it?"
He sighs and looks off at the wall; I got him in his own trap.
"Mattie, have you ever kissed someone?"
He looks at me funny. "Nobody oustide'a my family. I mean, not kisses like that, but... Why?"
"What do you think it's like? Kissing someone?"
"Well, you kissed Brooke. You should know."
"That's different. It was a kiss on the cheek at best."
He scoffs. "If that's what you wanna call it."
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
He leans forward and rests his elbows on his knees. "Dude, you were tasting her tonsils."
"You always watch people making out?"
"Besides, she kissed me. I'd have been fine with a kiss on the cheek." We sit in quiet for a minute, just think between ourselves. "Is there anyone you ever wanted to make out with? Just to do it?"
His eyes have that glossed dream look to them. "Yeah," he whispers.
"What'd you think it'd be like with them?"
"Close your eyes, Mattie. Just think about it. What would it be like?"
Now Mattie's a chameleon; he matches the maroon throw pillows on the couch. He closes his eyes. "Umm... soft lips. The most gentle kiss in all of Montana. Something that I'd never be able to forget. Eyes as green as... as a forest."
He's thought about this before. "You think that's how a kiss should always be?"
He opens his eyes and nods. "It's the way I always imagined it'd be. What'd it be like for you?"
I close my eyes and picture Jeff the first time we kissed, when we shot-gunned. I picture the warm light of the afternoon. I feel my heart beating hard in my chest, and a warm feeling crosses my body.
I remember back to a time when Jeff was just a dream, and out of my reach. Back when he was a figment of my perverted imagination. "Brown eyes, like a sunset on fire. Soft lips. Warm to the touch. Warmth all over, I guess. It’d be like we're connected somehow--like this could be the one I'm with forever."
Mattie squeezes my hand. I can't think like this anymore—I can’t use Mattie as a mask for Jeff. He doesn't deserve it.
Thoughts of Jeff flicker in my mind; the best of him and the worst of him. It's all so real now, Jeff bending me to his own twisted mind. I'm starting to freak out. "Forceful. I can't decide, or… or make up my own damn mind. Won't let me. It's all I see, and it's too much. It's suffocation, Mattie. Pressing... against my... my face hard. It feels like sand paper. I can't do it... Why, Mattie?" I'm starting to get worked up. I can hear it in my own voice, that I'm about to cry. "Wh-- why..."
Mattie whispers, "Lem." I feel something brush my bottom lip, softly. I open my eyes and find him staring at me. He's got his thumb on my face, running it across my lip. He reaches my cheek and puts his whole hand on the side of my face.
"Why's it gotta feel so different than I thought it would, Mattie? Why do I hurt so much inside?" I squint a little, and let the tear out of my eye. Feel it roll down my face and stop at Mattie's hand. "God, I'm so stupid."
He shakes his head, talking softly like he understands all the things wrong about me. "No, you aren't."
Orange eyes like... like a sunset on fire; they light the room. He must have been workin' up the courage for a long time, because I've never seen him like this. There’s an understanding expression, and a sad grin on his lips. He leans over to me, hand still on my face, looking me up and down to make sure.
“Why?” I whisper.
He puts his lips on mine. It’s not forceful, like Jeff. It’s just soft, and warm, and gentle. The most gentle kiss in Montana.
I squeeze my eyes shut tighter, feeling a few more drops on my face. His breath splashes across my skin. This is a moment of misery that gives me comfort for some fucked up reason.
He pulls back and puts his forehead against mine, stroking my face.
I don't know what's going on anymore. "Mattie..."
He holds me there, close to him, cheek to cheek.
I kiss his ear softly. "I don't know how to say what's on my mind anymore."
"Mom always said these'd be the most awkward years of your life. The ones just before you leave home."
"She has no fuckin' idea." I kind of laugh when I say it.
He keeps his voice soft and low, and it sounds like a calm breeze when he says, "I love you, Lem."
"I guess I've kinda always had the feeling you--"
He brushes his head to the side and plants another one on me—just shuts me right up. He pulls me over on top of him.
This is a whole new dimension of strange, here.
I feel the rolling inferno inside him, sweeping me like wind through a wheat field. In just this one minute, he makes me feel safe and looked after. Ronnie was wrong. I've never been the one looking after Matthew. He's been looking after me. He’s been my conscience, and my shadow.
Eyes and ears.
I swallow over the lump in my throat. "I love you, Shadow."
* * *
The lights are down. A blue nightlight casts funny shadows in the basement.
I can make out the details and monuments on Mattie's face--the darkened sockets and a glint off his eye.
The haunting sound of a sad steel guitar plays on the stereo, softly as a breath of air. It feels right for this predicament. Mattie's always been a sentimental fool when it comes to music.
We're both naked, sitting on top of a soft blanket spread out across the floor. We're side by side, but facing different walls. Our right shoulders touch each other, his right arm propping him up lies across my chest, and his hand is next to my leg. I have my arm around his side.
Half an hour of kissing brought us here. I can't taste the salt on his lips anymore, just the mint on his breath. I can feel the texture of his tongue, his grace and delicate nature. This feels like something right, like a poem where paradox meets purity.
I will only hurt him. We both know it.
I rest my chin on his shoulder and stare off into the darkness. Once I find my courage, I kiss his collar bone, moving down to a spot near his sternum. I can smell the blossoms again, light and sweet. I explore his belly button with my tongue; a shallow outtie resting on a lithe torso.
He gasps and lies back on his elbows, arching his back, and squeezes my forearm. He's as hard as a rock.
I kiss the head and stop. Whispering to his belly, I ask, "Mattie, is this what you want?"
He's quiet for a moment. "I don't know what I want, Lem. As long as it's got to do with you."
I feel wretched that he waited for me—that he waited to tell me this. He wanted me like this and I didn't even see it. I want to feel right about this. I want to love him, and Jeff. I want to love Brooke the way I should, but can't.
I lean down and take him into my mouth, running my tongue around the ridge under his head. Licking up the gully and stopping at the opening at the top, I make my lips right and take it all the way in. I look up at his face while I suck him off.
He's still propped up on his elbows, arms tucked in at his sides, with his eyes closed.
His smooth skin, a precious few strawberry blond wisps lay flat against his body, soft like the hair on his head. There's a freckle on the left side of his scrota, and his balls are hanging low from the heat of the basement. Thin, peach skin. A light handful of fig fruit.
I have my best friend in my mouth.
With trembling hands, he grabs me and licks it all the way up--kisses it--drops down so his wet lips are tickling the base. He hovers over me, moving his leg over top of me and putting his knees on either side of my head, and brings himself down a bit. His nuts bob up and down with his thrusts, meeting my nose each time.
I can see his button, his little pink notch. I think about it, good and hard, but fight the urge to do it. I can't let this go on any past where we are now, for the sake of Mattie.
Shit, maybe it’s for my own sake. I don’t know anymore, but I can't drag him into this, my perversion. My little black box. My rotten heart.
I keep looking into it, tasting Mattie's dick, letting him thrust it down my throat. His smell is clean: a mix of his manhood, his sweat and his musk. It makes me feel queasy, wanting to do to him what Jeff did to me.
I Can't, wont.
It's not gonna be too much longer, for him or for me. His chest vibrates, like he's purring. Moaning. I could touch it... no!
I've known this kid for ten years: knew everything about him 'till now; knew everything but his taste, and his love.
He gasps, but keeps sucking me. I feel something warm shoot down my throat, his cock throbbing in my mouth. Try to swallow it, all but there's too much. With his pumping, and the amount of it, it starts running down the side of my face; this warm, thick bleach--spicy and bland.
I drop my load. Mattie stops sucking, keeping his mouth on me with suction, and swallows every bit of me. After a minute, he walks on all fours to turn around, sitting across my hips, and leans down close to my face. He cleans off his stuff with his tongue and pushes it back into my mouth, sticking his tongue in.
I feel guilty about everything right now, like I spirited him to this.
He lies down, his full weight on me, and snuggles his face into my neck.
"Mattie, I can't let you be this way because of me."
He looks sideways at me. "I'm not this way because of you."
"I don't want people to treat you different, even if you aren't."
"I'm not gay. I can love you like this and still be normal. You're the only person in this world I want to be with, Lem." He squeezes me, resting his head on my shoulder. "I could be your everything."
My heart sinks. I said that to Jeff once, in a stupor. I could be everything for you. I'm just like Jeff. Just as despicable, and just as fucked up.
Mattie, you deserve so much better than this.
* * *
Jeff and I are parked by the lake, looking down the dirt road toward town. The grass is brown and dead, and there are small snow drifts, about a foot high, stacked up on the sides of the road. Big puddles of muddy water gather on the surface of the dirt road. The sky looks dirty, white and gray.
Jeff hasn't been the same since the night we first fucked.
I've been keeping a tally: thirteen. Thirteen times in two weeks has he been inside me. Thirteen times he left behind his calling card, his cum. Thirteen times he opened up my vulnerability. Thirteen times has he used my ass for his own purposes, to slam me and be done with me. It feels wrong, but I can't say no. Not to Jeff.
I'm sitting in the middle of the truck right up against him. Jeff flicks the butt of his cigarette out the window, and hits a snow bank square. He puts his arm around my shoulders, pulls me over, and starts kissing me--slobbering on my lips. His breath tastes bad, acidic, and I know I won't be able to get the taste out for days.
He undoes my fly and starts jerkin' me; grabs me by the attention stick. He starts trying to work my shirt off, breaking the kiss long enough for me to catch my breath and say something that's been in my brain. "So, does this mean we're boyfriends or something?"
He looks me in the eye, but keeps working at my shirt. "I'm no fuckin' fag."
I grab his hand. "So, for my own piece'a mind, what the hell you call this?"
He fucking smacks me across the face. Just smacks me, like I'm just some bitch to him. It dawns on me that I really am just a piece of ass.
I hold my face and stare at him, watching him try to put things together.
His eyes stay angry and volatile.
Suddenly, he puts a hand on my forehead and shoves me back, grabbing me by the arm and turning me over. He rips my pants down around the bottom of my butt, spits on my hole and pushes me down on the seat. "You fuckin' like this? Huh? You like cock in your ass? Like being a little faggot?"
He pushes my pants all the way off with his foot.
I feel his dick against my asshole. He just pushes it in, and he doesn't do it slowly, either. If he wasn't holding me down with his weight, I would have jumped clear across the cabin holding my ass. It burns, and it feels like it's tearing.
My mind tells me I want this, that I need to be punished. This is what I deserve, isn't it?
"You like it? Being gay? You want it?" He grabs the back of my shirt and yanks back, almost choking me. "Gonna give it to you good."
One thrust after another.
The sad thing is I'm still hard, and it's starting to feel good. On the other hand, I don't want to be here anymore, or be anywhere near Jeff.
"You like this? Huh?"
"What the fuck if I do?"
It only takes a minute or two, but he cums in me and pulls it out. "Fuck. You got blood on my dick. Should make you clean this off." He's sitting up now, using my shirt to clean himself.
I sit up, clinching my broken cheeks together; I can feel my hole throbbing. I'm sitting up on my knees, facing the driver-side window with Jeff behind be. I turn, put my feet on the floor and start getting my pants back on. Bastard. "Thanks. You're such a gentleman."
I get my pants snapped up and zipped. "You really did fuck that kid in Coeur d'Alene, didn't you?"
"If I did, you really think I'd tell a fag like you?"
"I aint no fag. Never said I was, did I?"
"Little queers like you an' Mattie always run around in groups. He deserves a better friend than you."
It hurts, more than my ass. "Fuckin' leave Mattie outta this." I try to punch him in the face, but I graze his forehead, and he gets me by the arm. Jeff yanks me toward him, and wraps his arms around me.
"You're half the man Mattie is. He's not gay." I try to squirm out of his grasp.
He talks into my ear. "Why? You afraid I'd fuck his little ass? Split him in half? I bet he'd be a better fuck than you."
I spit on his face.
"You shit!" He starts pushing me toward the driver-side door, keeping his arms tight around me. He reaches out for the door handle and pops it open.
I get an arm free and elbow him in the ribs as hard as I can. He just pushes me out of the truck. I fall forward and land flat on my face.
He throws my coat at me, starts the truck, slams the door, and takes off.
I stand up, take a step forward and flip him off as he drives away. Once I brush myself off, I pull my jacket over my arms and take to walkin'. It's starting to get a little dark, and I've got eight or so miles before I get home.
The cold breeze picks up, licking at my back, and wraps its frosty fingers around my neck, chilling me to the quick.
Fuck Jeff. Fuck this town. Fuck Montana. Fuck my life.