Two Men in a Pickup
OK, I know what you're thinking. The point of this whole story is that Don and I eventually end up in the sack. If you read this far, expecting that, I should have warned you sooner -- it was never in the cards.
On the other hand, if it had happened, it might have gone something like this. . .
We hang around the hospital until it's after dark. Kirk is groggy with drugs and drifts off in the middle of sentences. Not that he's all that coherent normally. Dan slips away for a while looking for the bullrider to maybe harass him some more, but the guy's checked himself out and is probably half way to Tucumcari by now, dragging his leg in a cast.
When we walk outside, there's a sliver of a moon hanging low in the blue-black velvet of the western sky.
"You hungry?" Don wants to know.
"Hungry and tired," I say.
The pickup door groans as Don pulls it open and swings his long body onto the hard seat. I walk around to the other side and get in beside him. His face is silhouetted by the lights from the hospital across the way. He hits the ignition and the engine turns over.
He looks over his shoulder, leaning toward me, as he shifts into reverse and backs away from the fence we're nosed into.
"What did Mike have to say?" I ask him. "You were on with him a long time."
"Nothing much," he says. "Old times, you know. You get to talking like that when it's been a while." He starts to say something else, looking into my eyes with half a grin.
"What?" I say.
He shifts gears and drives toward the street. "Nothing. I wasn't gonna say nothing."
At the Frontier Bar, the restaurant has closed down for the night, but the cook will make us hamburgers if we wait in the bar. We order a couple beers, and notice that the place is returning to what's probably normal. There are a few stragglers around town, but the last bull has been ridden, and rodeo cowboys have to get on down the road.
Don pulls out his wallet and hands me a bill for the burgers. "I'm going across the street for a bottle of Jim Beam," he says and walks out the door, headed for a bleary-windowed liquor store.
I'm watching the room from the reflection in the mirror over the bar. A guy in a Cat hat gets out of a booth and with his back to me bends over the juke box to punch in buttons for tunes. The box kicks into action and the silence is broken with the first chords of Patsy Cline's "Crazy." If this was a movie, it would make the perfect soundtrack.
I'm kinda watching the guy, and he's taking his time, hunting the panel for what's apparently just the right song. He's wearing well-scuffed work boots, and his jeans are frayed around the heels. There's the corner of a red bandana sticking out of one back pocket.
I must be crazy horny, because I'm thinking I'd like to walk up behind him and run my fingers down the seam between his pockets, as far between his legs as I can reach.
"G-12!" his partner calls out from one of the booths along the side wall. "Just hit it!" he says louder and takes a long draw on a long-necked bottle of beer.
The guy looks for the song and says, "Hell, no. I ain't playin' that shit." Then he hits two buttons and strolls back to the booth grinning.
"Since when did you get so particular?" the other guy says.
The two of them sit, smoking cigarettes, and I'm wishing I wasn't so damn far from the farm and Mike's warm, moist body on a summer night.
The bartender drops a brown bag of burgers and fries on the bar, and the smell of grease, grilled meat, and potatoes hot from the oil is making my stomach stand up and go gimme, gimme, gimme.
I take a last glance at the two guys in the booth against the wall while the bartender gets my change. He's ringing up the sale on a clunky old cash register, ka-ching!
Then I'm strolling out of there, slipping my fingers into the bag for a fry. But they're still too hot to handle.
Don isn't back from the liquor store, so I lean against the tailgate of the truck. I can see his hat nodding as he's talking to someone inside, probably the clerk. Another truck rolls by with Indians riding up front and one in back.
The guy's got a dusty black hat with a feather and a long braid, lifting two fingers to me in a V-sign as he goes by. I wave back and adjust my crotch. He grins and gives me a thumbs up, then his face fades to black under the brim of his hat until the truck passes under the next street light.
I feel my dick making a move inside my shorts, and there's an ache deep down that's got Mike written all over it.
Don suddenly swings open the door of the liquor store, setting off a little jingling bell. The door slams shut behind him and he's striding toward me across the street, boots clumping on the asphalt. He's got a six-pack in one hand and he's holding up a bottle in a paper bag in the other.
"Got the food?" he's saying.
"Got it." I point to the burgers I'm holding in the other hand.
"What do you say to a moonlight picnic?"
We jump into the truck, and Don heads out of town.
"Where we going?" I ask him.
"I'm just following my nose," he says.
"No you're not."
He laughs, pulling a beer from the six-pack and holding it between his legs while he pops the top. Then he hands it to me and opens another one.
Heading out of town, we pass the ice cream drive-in, and soon we are swallowed up in the prairie night. I reach into the the paper bag, getting a burger for each of us, both wrapped in thick waxed paper.
He's taking both hands off the wheel to unwrap his. I'm already sinking my teeth into mine, and it's the best hamburger I've ever tasted. I'm thinking of the steer who got branded, lost his balls, and grew up on some rangeland like this, to make of himself such a fine meal. We are both too busy eating to talk. I fill my mouth with beer and wash down the grease and ground beef.
After two or three miles, Don is slowing down to turn onto a side road, the truck's tires rumbling over dirt and ruts as soon as we leave the pavement. Ahead, the headlights pick up a high stack of hay bales along the edge of a pasture. He swings through an open gate into the field and around behind them, kills the engine and douses the lights.
All at once I can see nothing, plunged into utter darkness. The moon is somewhere on the other side of the stack. Even if someone came up or down the road, they would never notice us. Gradually, I start seeing stars out the windows, and the landscape emerges in faint light.
Don throws open his door, which groans again, and he's stepping outside. A dome light has come on over the back window, and he reaches in to switch it off. Then I hear him unzip his fly, and there's the sound of him pissing a steady stream into the hay stubble.
When he's done, he reaches into the cab, grabbing the beer and whiskey. And I hear his crunching footsteps going round behind the truck and the tailgate coming down.
I take the bag of burgers -- there are two more -- and the fries and step out into the night. Walking around to the back, I find him sitting on the tailgate, opening another beer. I set the paper bag between us and sit down with him.
We finish off the food, the last fry still warm in the bottom of the bag, working our way through the beer, and then Don cracks open the bottle. He takes a jolt of it and hands it to me. It fills my mouth with a pleasant burst of fire that erases all memory of what I just ate.
"Good stuff," he says, as I hand the bottle back to him. It is the first word either of us has spoken since we left town. He tilts the bottle to his mouth again and takes another drink.
I sit, staring out into the night, feeling full, a warm glow rising in me right up to my scalp. I want to be back on the farm with Mike, but this will do for second best.
We continue to drink in silence, passing the bottle back and forth.
"So what's next?" I finally ask him. "Where you headed from here?"
He takes a long time to answer, and I finally glance over at him. He has leaned back on his elbows, his long legs dangling over the edge of the tailgate, his hat tipped back on his head.
"I always wanted to see Calgary," he says. "I guess I'd like to get that out of my system."
"Any place else?" I ask. "Any thing else?" I add, wondering what else might be in his system.
"Get laid," he laughs. "A lot." He stretches out flat on his back, flipping his hat up onto the hay bale that's been riding around with us over hell and half of the Panhandle. He lets out a big sigh, staring up into the sky. "Fuck, look at all those goddam stars," he says.
I seem to have the bottle of whiskey and knock back another slug. My head is already swimming, and I'm feeling warm all over, my ears and nose beginning to tingle.
I hand the bottle back to him and he's rolling onto one elbow to raise it to his lips. I can hear him swallowing, two-three times, then he drops onto his back again, bringing the bottle down with a thud on the floor between us.
"You and Mike ever fool around?" I ask him.
"Ha," he says. "With each other?"
"Yeah." I lie back now, too. The bed of the truck is hard, but I'm already beginning to feel no pain. Looking up, I'm thinking the stars could do a better job of holding still.
"When we were boys, maybe," he finally says, like maybe I could get him to talk about it if I kept trying.
"Maybe?" I say.
"Didn't you ever?" he starts to say, and then laughs. "Hell, I suppose you did."
"No, I didn't," I say.
"You expect me to believe that?"
"God's honest truth," I say and hear myself slurring the words.
"Your ma find you under a cabbage, too?"
"No lie. I was --," and I know I'm not ready to tell him what it was really like for me growing up.
"You was what?" His voice is softer now, like he wants me to trust him. And I don't.
"I was alone a lot. I didn't have a buddy like you had Mike."
We're both silent for a while. "That's no good," he says. "That's a damn shame. A boy needs a buddy." And he seems to mean it.
I take a drink from the bottle without lifting my head, and manage to snort some of it up the back of my nose. I'm suddenly sitting bolt upright, coughing and gasping.
I realize that he's shaking me and pounding me on the back. "Easy, pardner," he's saying over and over. "Easy, easy!"
"I'm OK, I'm OK," I tell him, my voice tight and wheezing. And though my eyes are watering, I am already feeling more embarrassed than just desperate to breathe again.
He's got a big hand on each of my shoulders, like he's keeping me from keeling over. Then his face swings around to mine, and before I can inhale he's planting a big whiskery kiss right on my mouth.
I'm here to tell you, this is truly the last thing I expected. Even if I had wanted it to happen. If you've been paying attention and not just wishfully thinking, you know Don has a whole lot invested in being as all-man as a man can come.
His lips pull away from mine, but he's still holding me, looking into my face.
"How drunk are you?" I ask.
And damned if he doesn't answer by leaning forward and putting his mouth over mine again, his tongue licking across my lips until I open them and let him slide on in.
I suppose I don't put up any resistance. I suppose I even kiss him back a little. And when he doesn't show any sign of letting up, I reach with my hand to touch the front of his shirt.
When I close my eyes, I realize I'm pretty well tanked. My brain is swimming laps in my head, and there's a whole different galaxy of swirling stars. I open my eyes again to get my bearings, and I'm noticing that my fingers have slipped between the snaps of his shirt, fingers stroking across the hair on his chest and finding one of his nipples.
He moans a little and pulls away, his arms still around me, holding me hard.
"I wanna know what it's like when Mike--," he says in a quiet voice, "--when Mike makes love to you."
If there's a left field beyond left field, this comes from beyond even that. I realize now that he's been drinking hard and heavy, all the time working himself up to this.
"Whoa," I say, like I'm catching my breath and letting this sink in. Which I am.
"Come on," he's saying nuzzling up to me. "Me and Mike had the same girl once or twice. What's wrong with havin' the same boy?"
Nothing, I figure, but in my scrambled brain somewhere there's a voice that keeps on saying, "Whoa. . ."
I check to see whether that voice is registering anywhere else in my body, and I'm noticing that there's all at once a major shift going on in my levi's. No objection there, that's for sure. And I've got my whole hand inside his shirt now. Don sticks his warm, wet tongue in my ear, and that little voice is just saying, "Aw, shit. . ."
You probably want this detail by detail, and I have to tell you the details get kind of jumbled at this point. You may remember I have this problem, under the influence.
I guess we kind of sink back onto the bed of the truck, because he's flat out when I pull open his shirt all the way and start licking his chest and sucking on his nipples.
"Does he like this?" Don says, and I assume he means Mike.
"What I'm doin' now?" I ask. I'm stroking his belly with one hand, brushing the top of his jeans with my fingers.
"You bet," I say. As his stomach relaxes, I slip my fingers under his belt. "And he likes this, too." I push in my hand to find his dick.
He sucks in a deep breath of country air, and my fingers close around him. He is hot and getting hard.
Don's dick has been a subject of my curiosity since the night he walked into Mike's kitchen, ducking through the door and pulling a chair up to the table for a plate of Chef Boyardee. You already know I gave him a quick once-over in the men's room at the tavern, with that kid from the road crew standing between us. And then again finding him in the motel shower all wet and naked and woebegone. But short of admiring his penis as a noble member, with its thick flap of foreskin, I wasn't all that keen on the rest of the man. For me, that's always made a big difference.
But my brain is pretty well out of commission at the moment, sloshing in a bucket of beer and Jim Beam, and what I'm experiencing is something more like plain old-fashioned appetite for what's in the man's shorts. And what Don's got pretty much fills the bill.
I start pulling on his belt buckle, but right away both his hands are pushing in to do the job for me, and he's pulling open his jeans. Then that big cock rolls out onto his belly.
I decide to contribute to the effort and scoot down to step off the tailgate. Standing between his legs, I get a good grip on the top of his jeans and heave them down over his knees and down to his boot tops. I stand there for moment looking at him stretched out nearly naked, his chest covered with hair but the rest of him almost sleek. His body's not compact like Mike's, but loose-hipped and long-jointed, lying there like he just fell from the sky.
I stroke with my fingers up the inside of his thighs, and I'm watching the expression on his face, his head turned to one side, eyes closed. Only his arms move as he stretches them out away from him, and for a moment he arches his back, his dick hopping up in little jumps toward his belly button, going from nine o'clock to past ten and pushing eleven.
I'm wondering what's going on in his mind. Am I Mike? Are they high school boys again? Is it a Sandhills fishing trip? The night before his wedding? I have a strong suspicion it's not this night, with me, in this hay field.
I let my fingers touch his balls, which lie heavy between his legs, one over the other. Then I bend over him pressing my face into the warm, soft hollow of his crotch, the thatch of dark hair there springing against my lips, the smell of him rich and thick. His dick takes one last jump to twelve o'clock and with my tongue I lick him from stern to stem. Over and over, until he is squirming under me and pressing his rough hands against my ears so hard that before I can stop him my glasses bust apart again.
"Shit, I didn't mean to do that," he says, holding the pieces in both hands.
"Forgot to take 'em off," I say and shove them in my shirt pocket. "My fault."
I haven't had much experience with foreskin, and Don's got plenty to work with. I take the end of his dick in my mouth and run my tongue around the tip of it. This seems to suit him just fine. He grabs himself at this point with one hand and has the other behind my neck, trying to get more contact.
Used to the shape and taste of Mike, I'm noticing all the differences as well as my foggy brain will let me. The milky, dusky smell of him is one thing. The salty, syrupy ooze spilling over my tongue as thick as an oil slick. That's another.
He's bigger, too. I take as much of him in my mouth as I can, since that seems to be what he's in a hurry for, and do what I know how to do.
I let up when my jaws get to aching and just lick him, balls and all, until he wraps his fingers around himself and settles into a handjob with quick strokes and a steady rhythm. He's gulping down air like a man on the verge of drowning.
I feel like telling him to slow down, we got all night, but he's way ahead of me, like it's an eight-second ride and he's hanging on til the buzzer. He wouldn't hear me anyway.
Just as I'm wondering what Mike would be doing if he were me, Don sits up and puts both hands heavy on my shoulders. I think I know what's coming. And, yeah, Mike would go along with it. Anything for a buddy.
Don slides out from under me, drops to his feet in the hay stubble and is fumbling with my belt buckle. I start to help him, and as soon as I do, his hands lift away and he steps back. Then quick as I've undone the last button, he takes me by the legs and flips me over like bulldogger. I feel him yank down my jeans from behind and he's got me bent over the end of the tailgate.
This is not exactly my idea of romance but, face it, I'm drunk and getting drunker. It beats sitting in a motel room somewhere falling asleep while I'm watching something stupid on TV.
I'm getting ready for the next part, trying to relax, and wondering if Don knows how to do it. I feel his legs pressing between mine and his hands on my hips, holding me in place. Then he hocks up some spit, there's his fist bumping against my ass cheeks as he rubs it on himself, and before you can say jiminy cricket he's starting to work his way into me.
I suppose I kind of gasp. He's a lot to take in all at once, and he's apparently used to gliding home with just a stroke or two.
I'm not going to get tedious with details here. You're familiar with the process. Don is not much for finesse or lingering on the nuances. He's more old school -- wham, bam, etc. If I'd been hoping for more -- and I wasn't -- I'd have been disappointed. Hard to say -- Mike might have been, too. In fact, I know he would have.
There were a few long strokes, and then we moved pretty quickly into the short ones. He was shoving hard into me, and I was half glad I wasn't looking into his face.
I like the way Mike just beams when we're doing this. The whole thing just tickles him, like he's a kid with a hot fudge sundae. But how many Mikes are there in the world? You tell me.
Don grunts as he's unloading into me and then falls forward hot and sweaty onto my back, just lying there breathing against my neck. He says something slurry and whispery that I can't make out, and then I think he dozes off for a while. I'm feeling the full weight of him pressing down on me.
I finally shift a little to give myself more room to breathe, and he stirs himself back to consciousness. I feel his body lifting and the long, long length of him like a hammer handle, sliding out of me.
I just lie there, hearing him pull up his pants, zip his fly, and buckle his belt. The truck bed shifts under me as I feel him hoist himself onto it, and out of the corner of my eye, I see him reach for his hat and pop it onto his head.
Then after a moment, I hear him clear his throat, and I feel his hand touch my back. "You OK?" he says, and I'm surprised by what sounds like a note of softness in his voice.
"Yeah," I say, feeling like if I give any more thought to it, I will probably throw up.
He squats down beside me, boot soles scraping on the gritty surface.
"Musta hurt a little," he says, like he's searching for something to say.
"Only when I laugh," I say. I ease onto my side and sit up, thinking about bending over to pull up my levi's, but stop when my bare ass hits the metal. My head feels like a sinking ship.
He sits down beside me now, an arm around my shoulders. The sharp smell of his armpit drifts up to me, and I kind of snap to for a minute.
"Hey, buddy," he says, and he hops down to start pulling up my jeans. I finally have to stand so he can get them up over my butt. "You need help with the buttons?" he's asking, because I'm so unsteady I'm just leaning against him.
"I'll get 'em," I say, and I sit down again. "I'm OK," I say, lying, and he seems to want to believe me.
The next morning, I wake up about sunrise, sprawled across the seat of the pickup. It takes me about five seconds to realize that I need to get up and out of there as fast as I can make my legs move. I get about three steps from the truck and bend forward, puking my guts out on the ground.
When I'm done and there's nothing left but the last dry heaves, I'm realizing that besides the sharp pain ringing in my skull, I'm probably going to live.
"Hey, pardner." I hear Don's voice behind me, and when I turn he's leaning there against the back fender, shirt all buttoned up and tucked in, his hat brim pulled down, shading his eyes in the glare of the rising sun.
He steps toward me grinning around a big wad of snuff and hands me something from his shirt pocket. "Here," he says. "I put your specs back together."
I take them. "Thanks," I say and set them on my face.
"A mite pale around the gills, but you're lookin' more yourself," he says. "Ready to go into town for some chow?"
"Yeah, I'm starving," I say, still bent forward, both hands on my knees, sour drool dripping from my bottom lip. . .
But like I say, that never happened. . .
We say goodbye that morning outside the restaurant, where after two days we already feel like regulars. The waitress still remembers us.
We give each other a manly handshake. And he is off on the road, heading north by northwest, I guess you'd say. He doesn't even stick around until Mike gets there, to drive Kirk and me home.
Rich is waiting for us when we finally get back to the farm. It's like four in the morning, and I think he's been up all night. He's a sweet kid; Kirk doesn't deserve him.
Oh, yeah, Kirk's fine. Healed up pretty quick and after his tongue got back to normal was soon his usual motor-mouth self again. If anything, he has more piss and vinegar now than ever. Did he learn anything from that escapade? I doubt it. Maybe he's told some of it to Rich, but we'll never know it all.
The Fairlane, of course, is totaled. I never see it again. A miserable check comes from the insurance company after a couple weeks, and it's still in the bank. Someday I'll get another set of wheels without a Playboy decal in the back window. Turns out my friend in the Peace Corps isn't coming back for it anyway. He quit the Corps and says he's found a nice place in San Francisco he likes.
Mike is a little curious about what happened to Don. He's getting into bed with me one night, slipping off his boxers so I know he's thinking ahead to whatever he's got in mind after lights out. I tell him about Calgary, and he laughs trying to remember the high school boys they once were making plans to go anywhere there were cowboys and ranch jobs.
"Yeah, he mentioned that," Mike says, "the night you called me from the hospital up there."
Which brings up something I've been curious about. "What did you two talk about that night anyway?"
Mike shrugs. "Nothin' much. Shit we used to do."
"Stealing his uncle's car once. Hitch-hiking to Kansas. Picking up girls." He laughs, remembering something.
"What else?" I ask. He's beside me naked, pulling us together, about to kiss me.
"I told him to get you drunk and fuck you," he says.
"Is that right?" I say, pulling back.
"I was just joking," he says. "He didn't, right?"
"No, I think I can say nothing like that happened." But that's all I say because he's covering my mouth with his open lips and warm tongue, his hand already sneaking down between my legs.
Come September, Mike thinks I should be back in school, but I figure there's no big rush. It'll still be there if I wait a year. Anyway, there's this novel I've been wanting to write, and one of these days I'm going over to my dad's and dig my old Royal typewriter out of the closet.
When the corn is picked come October and there's frost on the pumpkin, the farm work will be good as done for the year, and there'll be months of cold weather and snow to spend the days sitting at the kitchen table, not far from the coffee pot, writing like Hemingway or Henry Miller, a story with maybe lots of sex -- about growing up and discovering something unexpected and bittersweet about life.
Before all that, though, Don returns from Calgary or wherever he finally got to, and he's been home and moved in with Carol at least a week before we hear of it.
On one of those last warm days of early fall, Mike and I are at the Dairy Queen, slurping on cold, runny cones and talking about it. "Tell me something," I ask him. "If they don't get along, why does he want to be with Carol?"
"He probably doesn't," Mike says. "But he's got three kids to raise. And, fucked up as he is, he knows he has to do the right thing." Drips from the cone drop onto his fly; he wipes them up with one finger, and then licks it with his tongue. "Besides, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."
About things like this, I can still be a little slow -- parts on order, as Mike likes to say -- and so I have to think about it for a while. Eventually, it makes a kind of sense.
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