Saturday, May 14, 2005

Small Town Boys - Chapter 3

Note: One of my quirks in storytelling is jumping back and forth in time between chapters. I've added titles to the chapters to clarify the time frame of each.

Chapter Guide

The Summer of 2000

Sundays were quiet days. He got up around seven and strolled over to the Gateway, read the paper, then came back home. He did laundry, reading a mystery novel on the tiny patio while the dryer tumbled, and then folded clothes and put them away. By noon he was ready for a sandwich.

He came across the battered Circle-K matchbook from the night before. He’d pulled it out of his jeans before washing them. Chris had scribbled his number on the inside, and Donny, after a false start, picked up the phone and dialed. Four rings, then the machine: “Hi, this is Chris – leave a short message and I’ll call you back.” Beep. Donny was just as brief, then hung up. He washed some dishes, remade the bed, and was wondering what was on Showtime when the phone rang. It was Chris. They talked for a bit, agreed that last night had been fun, and after a few more minutes of tentative chatting, Donny gave Chris directions on how to get out to his house. Chris said he’d be there around five. Donny tidied up a little, swept the back patio, and took a shower.

Chris showed up on time, parking in front of the house and strolling up to the door. Donny offered him a beer, and they sat on the patio and talked. Chris was a grad student from Texas. He had another year to go. They drank a couple of beers each, then Donny made hamburgers. They ate quietly, cleaned up the kitchen, and then went to the bedroom. Afterwards they sat on the bed and ate some ice cream. Chris left around nine, giving Donny a hesitant peck on the cheek. Donny took another shower, pulled on some gym shorts, and sat on the patio in the dark and smoked. He thought about summer in Michigan.

Without really planning on it, he and Chris began to see each other fairly regularly for the next six weeks. It was always on weekends, and more often than not Donny went into town, combining the trip with stopping or going to a movie. They both knew it was just for the fun of it; good recreational sex without all the heavy overtones of commitments and falling in love. By the end of August Chris’s classes started up again, as did his graduate assistantship and his part-time job.

The Saturday of Labor Day weekend Donny stayed late at the Gateway. The feed store was closed, so he had pancakes and bacon and read the whole Albuquerque Journal. The place was more crowded than usual. Tourists on their way through east or west dropped in off the interstate, and there was a local wine festival in the next town north that drew a crowd, too. Donny took a seat in one of the back booths and read.

Four people – three men and one woman – came in together and took the next booth. They were definitely from out of town. They were casually dressed, but elegantly so. One of the men still wore sunglasses, even though the fluorescent lights in the café weren’t that bright. They were all in their mid-thirties. The woman wore some subtle make-up and turquoise jewelry. Donny figured they were down from Santa Fe or Taos for the wine festival. Celeste’s daughter Eva greeted them and brought them coffee and menus. Donny didn’t pay them any more attention until one of the men said, “Excuse me,” for the second time. Donny looked up.

The speaker was a good-looking man with light brown hair, green eyes, and Donny instantly recognized him as one of those actors you’ve seen a lot of but can never remember their name. He’d been in a lot of movies and TV and a couple of years before had been listed in People magazine as one of the Bright New Faces in Hollywood. Most recently he’d co-starred in a short-lived medical drama.

“Can I borrow your sugar thing? Ours is out of Sweet & Low,” he said.
Donny passed him the sugar packet rack and went back to the crossword. Celeste came out of the kitchen and came over to their booth. She greeted the actor, calling him Tim, and Tim introduced his friends. Donny couldn’t help eavesdropping, and he learned that Tim was originally from here, that he was building a house out south of town, and that he had just finished a part in an action movie playing the hero’s best friend…and therefore got killed off by the bad guys. “Dead on page fifty-seven,” he said. Everybody laughed. Donny folded up the paper and left the café.

It clouded over that afternoon and was raining lightly when he drove out of town towards Albuquerque. He and Chris went to dinner at a little Greek restaurant near the campus, then went to his house, stopping on the way at a Walgreen’s for condoms. Chris had a new housemate named Janice, and so they sat and visited with her for a while before going into the bedroom and closing the door. Chris cautioned that they should be quiet, but Janice turned up the TV, and so they didn’t care if she heard them over the roar of canned laughter on a sitcom.

It was still raining when he left. The roads were slick and the lightning lit up the canyon on the interstate. He drove slowly, letting the big semis pass him in a blast of rain. By the time he got home it was almost midnight. The house was dark. He clicked on the light by the sofa and saw the little red light on the phone machine blinking. For a moment he stared at it. Since he’d lived there the only person who would ever call and leave a message was Chris, and he knew he was asleep. He hit the Play button, and the tape rewound for what seemed like a long time. Then it stopped, the machine clicked, and a very familiar voice began speaking. Donny stood and listened without moving. The message ended, the machine beeped, and Donny hit the Play button again. Once again the voice filled the room. Donny sat down on the sofa.



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