Monday, June 27, 2005

Making It Up As I Go Along

I may have touched on this topic before. To the two or three of you who have read the Writing on Writing series at Bark Bark Woof Woof and repeated way back at the beginning of this blog, I apologize if this is repeating something I've said before. However, the latest chapter of Small Town Boys (see below) made me think about one rather important aspect of my writing process.

It may come as a shock to learn that I do not plan out my writing -- my fiction writing, that is -- before I sit down to write. (Some might say that I don't do that with my blog writing, but neener neener to you too.) I meet the characters, get to know them, and then let them lead me on to tell their stories. That may sound as if it's random and borders on the episodic, but I'm usually able to find a discernible thread in them and I trust the characters to show me how the story comes out. If it leads nowhere, I stop. Actually, I never begin. More often than not I've killed a story idea when there's no there there, and the characters go away. Don't worry; they usually come back with better material the next time.

I don't know exactly when I thought of the idea for Small Town Boys, but it was when I was living in Colorado and working at a cafe in a small town, waiting tables to supplement my income from two other part-time jobs I had, so it had to be sometime around 1990. It was going to be a story about a diner in a little town in New Mexico, and the title was going to be Tucumcari Tonight! That was from the billboards you see along Interstate 40 that runs across New Mexico, advertising the town of Tucumcari and hoping that travellers would stop and spend the night in one of their many motels that stretch along old Route 66. In fact, the first chapter of Small Town Boys and the description of the people and the cafe are from the first draft of the story. The plot was pretty simple: life in the small town is disrupted when the governor shows up to cut the ribbon on the last stretch of the interstate that is opening, and he stops in for a glass of lemonade. (Something like that actually happened when I was working in the cafe in Colorado. Governor Roy Romer stopped in for a take-out meal on his way through town. The governor was in and out in about five minutes. Most of the people in the diner -- all Republicans -- were speechless.)

Well, obviously I never got very far with Tucumcari Tonight! If I had, you'd be reading it here. But about five or six years after I hatched that idea I was toying around with it when Donny Hollenbeck showed up, much like Bobby Cramer had: a fully-formed character right down to the brand of cigarettes he smokes and the way he looks at life. He is not as obsessed with finding the reasons behind things as Bobby is. He is an adult and takes things pretty much as they come. Bobby has yet to achieve that, and from what I get from him, he never will. Donny, as one of my readers pointed out, has a somewhat melancholy yet lighthearted outlook on life. How come?

As J.R.R. Tolkien once said, "the tale grew in the telling." When I picked up the story of Donny Hollenbeck living in a small town in New Mexico when he'd obviously lived someplace else and had a somewhat mysterious past, I wanted to know what it was. Yeah, I know it sounds like I'm playing games -- c'mon, you're thinking: you must know the whole story -- I assure you that while I have a very good idea about the overall story arc and I am sure that I can get the story to a satisfying conclusion that will answer most, if not all, of the the questions, I do not know the little details that will make up the story itself because the characters are still growing as I write. There are things that they know that I don't, and only when I get to where I need to know them will they tell me. I guess it's one form of job security for fictional characters: hold out on the author until the last. Donny is doing just that with me. I know where he is going...but he's taking me back on this journey with him so I can see how he got there. In many ways I am making it up as I go along, but I also feel fully confident that I am being guided by the one person who really knows the story better than I do.


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Small Town Boys - Chapter 11

I was in the middle of writing this chapter when I stopped working on this novel in 2001. I know exactly where I was in the narrative when I stopped. When I picked it up again I did not make any changes to what I'd already written in this chapter except for several corrections of typos and punctuation. Here's a challenge for you, dear reader: see if you can spot the point where I stopped and where I picked up four years later.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2, Part 1
Chapter 2, Part 2
Chapter 2, Part 3
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10

The Question – 1992

“Just drop me at the curb and get going.”

Donny saw an opening between a minivan and a Hertz shuttle and cut into the inside lane. A skycap sauntered over to them, but Danny was already pulling his bag out of the back. He leaned in and grabbed Donny’s arm. “Thanks for everything, twin. I’ll call you when I get there.”

“Okay. Got everything?”

“Yeah. Take care,” Danny replied. “Say thanks to Eric, too. He’s a good guy.”

“I know.” He looked into Danny’s eyes and they locked gazes for a second. The message flashed between them and they both nodded. Danny shut the door, waved, and darted between the milling passengers and stacks of luggage at the skycap counter. One last look and he was gone. For a moment, Donny stared after him, then clunked the truck into gear and made his way out, back to the freeway, and to the office. He buried himself in work, skipped lunch, and went home without going to the gym. Danny called while he was eating a sandwich.

“Made it back, twin.”

“I guess so. Thanks for coming.”

“We should do it again.”


“You’re coming to graduation next year.”

“Damn right.”

“I’ll see you before then.”

Eric came home around six. He pulled a box of Banquet frozen chicken out of the freezer and turned on the oven. “You want some of this?” he asked Donny.

Donny rinsed off his sandwich plate and put away the bread and bologna. “No thanks.”

“Suit yourself. There’ll be plenty of leftovers.”

Donny went into the living room, scanned the TV guide, and saw nothing of interest. He went to his bedroom and piled the laundry on the still-unmade bed. Eric was whistling in the kitchen, rattling cookie sheets, making noise. “Dammit,” Donny muttered to himself. He grabbed the laundry basket and went out to the garage, threw in the clothes, and slammed the lid down.

“Your phone’s ringing,” Eric shouted from the kitchen.

It was Mike. He was sober, and said nothing about the previous night’s call, and Donny didn’t say anything either. The shooting was going slowly…the weather wasn’t cooperating, and some of the crew was slower than expected. He would be home Saturday morning, so come over.

“Okay, sounds good,” said Donny.

“Yeah. See ya.”

He went back to the living room, thumbed through the TV guide again, and settled on a rerun of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Eric brought in his plate of chicken and canned corn and watched it with him. They didn’t talk. Donny caught himself glancing over at Eric every so often. At the next commercial he got up for a beer. “You want one?” he offered.

“Great, thanks.”

Donny handed him the bottle. Eric took a swig and said, “Heard from your brother? Get back okay?”

“Yeah. All’s well.”

They watched the rest of the movie in silence, and Donny went to bed.

Saturday afternoon Donny pulled up at Mike’s house and saw several other cars parked out front. Curious, he went to the back door by the garage. The door was open and he could hear voices inside. He knocked and called out, “Hello?”

Mike came to the door and pushed it open. He was wearing a Capitol Hill baseball cap and had a beer. “There you are!” he laughed, pulled Donny inside and gave him a hug. “Damn, I missed you,” he whispered. “Come on inside and meet some of the other people in the show.”

Several people were standing around in the kitchen. Two women were pulling groceries out of shopping bags, and a short man who bore a striking resemblance to Steven Spielberg was uncorking a bottle of wine. Mike introduced the women: Minza and Audrey were production assistants, and the man was Harry, one of the sound engineers. Donny was introduced as a “friend from back home.” They were all very nice and Harry, after a grimacing grunt, got the cork out and shook Donny’s hand.

“Get you something?” said Mike, and Donny took a beer. Minza and Audrey started to make a salad, asking where all the utensils were. Mike pulled out bowls and spices and then indicated, with a quick nod of the head, for Donny to follow him out to the pool area.

“We decided somewhere over Kansas that we needed a good old-fashioned cookout tonight, and since I have the place…. You don’t mind.”

“No, it’s cool.”

Mike glanced at him and flashed a quick grin. “Just hangin’ out with the gang. It’ll be fun. And they’ll all blaze outta here in time for us to…” He nudged Donny and winked.

“If you say so.”

“I’ll chase’em outta here with a shovel if I have to.”

Donny was about to reply when the doorbell clanged and more people came in. Mike went back inside. Donny sipped his beer and stayed out by the pool, watching some leaves drift into the skimmer before following Mike.

By six-thirty twenty people were sitting in various places around the house and pool, all talking and laughing, drinking and smoking. Donny had met all of them and quickly forgot their names, except for Rory Donovan, the lead in the series that he remembered from movies and TV. He was quiet, well dressed, and seemed a little aloof. When Mike introduced him to Donny, they shook hands, and Donny saw the automatic smile and nod, and he knew that five minutes later, Rory wouldn’t remember him.

Mike laughed and smoked and drank with them, then took over the grille and made hamburgers and vegetable shish kabobs for the vegetarians. Donny listened to some of the conversations, but it was all about TV and movies and studios and agents and production: things he knew nothing about. He got a plateful of food and went out to the patio to the umbrella table. He ate alone. Jimmy Buffett music was playing somewhere.

It got dark and the lights came on in the pool. He started his third or fourth beer and decided that this was fine – Mike was having fun with his friends, the food was good, and it was a Saturday night. It wasn’t like they were married or something.

After a while he got up and wandered back inside. The smoke from the grille had drifted into the house, but he also detected the faint scent of pot. He took his plate into the kitchen, passing Mike in the doorway.

“Hey, where you been?”

“Out by the pool.”

“Get enough to eat?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Did you meet everyone?”

“Yeah, I did.”

“Aren’t they great?”

“Uh huh.”

Mike glanced around and then whispered, “Look, they’re all gonna be heading out real soon, I promise.”

“It’s okay, Mike.”

“Man, I’m really really ready to get you alone.” Donny heard the same edge in his voice that he’d heard the night he’d called drunk. He looked in his eyes. They were bloodshot and glassy. “You ready for it?” Mike whispered, his breath smoky.

Donny nodded, and Mike furtively patted his crotch. No one was watching them, anyway.

By ten o’clock the party was over. Minza stayed behind to help clean the kitchen and collect the stray glasses. The housekeeper would be there in the morning. As soon as Mike said goodnight to Minza and closed the front door, he made his way out to the pool. Donny was on one of the chaises, nearly asleep. Mike came upon him silently, then whispered, “Hey.”

Donny opened his eyes. Mike was standing over him, swaying a little. He patted his shoulder. “C’mon.”


“Uh...the bedroom? Like I’ve been waiting for like who-knows-how-long, and I’ll bet you have too.”

Donny followed him and they collapsed together on the bed. Mike pulled his shirt off, struggling a little, then kicked off his shoes. He grinned at Donny. “Okay, your turn.”

Donny complied, then looked at Mike. “Y’know what...I’m really tired. I don’t think I can....”

Mike stared at him for a moment. “Yeah – y’know, me too.” He glanced down at his crotch. “I mean, you’re really hot, but tonight I think Big Jim wants the night off.”

“’Big Jim?’”

“Yeah,” Mike said sheepishly.

“You have a name for your dick?”

“Doesn’t everyone? Don’t you?”

“Uh...I call mine ‘my dick.’”

“Oh. Okay.” Mike stood up, shucked off his shorts, pulled back the covers, and patted the pillows. “Why don’t you just sleep over? You’ve had way too much to drink.”

“Yeah, okay.” Donny got undressed down to his briefs and got in bed. Mike slid in next to him and turned out the light.

“This is nice,” Mike said softly in the darkness. “Just sleeping together is nice. We don’t always have to have sex, y’know.”

“Yeah,” agreed Donny. “And not like the other night.”

He felt Mike sit up. “Huh?”

“The other night. Monday night when you called me. Remember?”

There was a long silence. “Monday night?”

“Yes. You called me from the hotel. You were pretty explicit in not only what you wanted to do, but you even gave me a demonstration.”

The light came on and Donny saw Mike staring at him with a mixture of wonder and just plain puzzlement. “I gave you a demonstration?”

Donny mimed jerking off. “You remember.”

“I remember calling you on Tuesday because it was going slowly and I wanted to tell you to meet me here tonight. But...I called you Monday night? And I...?” He too mimed jerking off.


“You’re making it up.”

“I have a witness.”

“A witness.”

“Danny was in the room. You were loud enough on the phone that he could hear you.”

Again Mike stared, this time across the room at the large-screen TV as if somehow the answer was there. “Jesus,” he muttered. “I remember getting to the hotel and checking in. I remember having room service. I remember getting the call sheet and Tony calling me to remind me to wear my black shoes. Tony is the costume guy. I remember...watching TV and having a couple of drinks...” His voice drifted off.

“Then what?” Donny prompted.

“I don’t know. I went to sleep, I guess. I woke up the next morning and got dressed and did the shoots and everything. I had a little hangover, but I chalked it up to jet lag. I jerked off over the phone to you?”

Donny nodded. “Yeah.”

“Well, how was it?”

“You sounded like you enjoyed it.”

“Oh, well...if I’m going to do it and not remember it...I’m glad it was good. How was it for you?”

“Uh, not so good. But I’m not into phone sex.”

“Oh. Did your brother like it?”

“Not his thing, either.”

“Hm.” Mike turned out the light and settled back down into the pillows. He pulled Donny to him to cuddle for a bit. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. Just next time, I’d rather be there.”

“I don’t normally black out.”

“That’s good to know.”

Donny drifted off to sleep a little later. He decided that if Mike didn’t remember the phone call he wouldn’t remember the part about “I love you.”

It was barely light the next morning when Donny felt Mike caressing his shoulder. He responded, and they made up for the night before. They went back to sleep until the sun was fully streaming in through the windows. Mike got up and padded into the kitchen to make coffee. Donny joined him.

As Mike poured his coffee, he said offhandedly, “How’d you like to move in here?”

Donny was so surprised all he could do was stare, which Mike took as reluctance. “Well, that was a dumb thing to say, I guess.”

“Uh... well, no. I mean, no, it wasn’t a dumb thing. I mean....” Donny didn’t know what he meant.

“You don’t have to decide right now.” Mike said. “Think about it, that’s all. You’ve got a lease on that place you’re in now, right?”

The lease was in Eric’s name since he had the ready cash for the deposit, and it made things easier if one of them got a chance to move out. Like now.

“Yeah, but.... Okay. I’ll think about it.”

“Good. Look, I gotta go out for a while, but stick around. Let’s just hang out when I get back. We don’t really do that a lot. There’s English muffins in the fridge.”

Mike took a shower then left for an interview with a freelancer for TV Guide, so as he ate breakfast, thoughts raced through Donny’s mind. Sharing a house with someone as a lover would be a new and exciting experience, especially someone who was on the verge of being a celebrity. It also occurred to him that the rent on this place – even if he paid just half of it – would be more than the house he shared with Eric and Rob... probably as much as the whole place. But he knew Mike knew how much he made; he’d been upfront about it when they were talking once about housing costs. Would he expect him to pay half the rent and utilities? And what would he tell his parents? “Hey, Mom and Dad, I’ve moved into a house with an actor who likes to have sex with me.” He couldn’t imagine that phone call.

Neither could he imagine what Danny would say. Yes, he could. “Jesus, twin.”

“Well, we spend a lot of time together as it is.”

“Yeah, but that’s like going steady. Living together is like getting married.”


“So how much do you know about this guy? Does he have any other guys he hangs out with?”


“You know that for a fact.”

“Well, he’s never mentioned anyone else. And he’s so busy he hardly gets to see me except a couple of times a week.”

“So he says. You’ve heard about those Hollywood types.”

“Mike’s not Hollywood.”

“What about the other night when he called you from Washington. He was so shitfaced he doesn’t even remember calling you.”

“Once. And he didn’t get like that when we were in Palm Springs.”

“You know that you’ll never be able to go anywhere with him. You won’t even be able to go out to dinner together, and if he has friends over, you’ll be just another guest. What the hell kind of life will you have? You’re not gonna be just living with Mike, you’re gonna be living with Lance Michaels.”

Mike came back just before noon.

“How’d it go?” Donny asked.

Mike shrugged. “Just another bunch of questions about the show. I think they’re getting all these interviews on background so when the show takes off – if it does – they can pull them out and boost the profile. All they wanted to know was how it was like to work with a screen legend like Rory Donovan. So, did you eat?”

They sat on the patio reading the paper. Donny decided to wait until Mike brought up the idea of living together; maybe he’d thought better of it in the cold light of day. Finally Mike put down the paper and said, “So, whaddaya think?”


“Moving in here.”

Donny lit a cigarette. “How much is the rent on this place?”

Mike shrugged. “What difference does that make? Someone in Marty’s office pays it.”

“Well, if I’m gonna live here...”

Mike waved the words away like they were smoke. “Not an issue.”

Donny shook his head. “I can’t live here for nothing.”

“Why not? If you were my wife I wouldn’t ask you to pay rent.”

“Oh, is that what this is? A marriage proposal?”

Mike looked at him with a small grin. “I guess it is.”

Donny blew out a long stream of smoke. In the few seconds it took to exhale he re-ran some of the reservations he had, plus a few more. What was he like to live with? What was he like when he was tired or bored? The drunken phone call – was that a sign of something? What about Eric and Rob? They were counting on him to help keep up his end of the rent. And what about the times when he just liked being alone, not doing anything, not having to be expected to do something? Mike was a nice guy and they came from the same background, and he obviously felt something more for him than just being a fuck-buddy...but how did he really feel about him? He took a drag on his cigarette and gave Mike back the small grin. He started to speak but Mike beat him to it.

“You want to think about it, don’tcha. I dropped it on you. I’m sorry...but I’m that way sometimes.”

“Yeah,” Donny said, grateful to have an opening. “I do want to think about it. It’s ...” he stumbled for the words, then smiled again, “it’s a lot to think about.”

Mike patted him on the arm. “Take your time. You let me know. It’s just...I like having you around. How about some lunch?”

Mike went in to make some sandwiches, and it occurred to Donny that even someone like Mike, who spent his days surrounded by people looking at him, could be lonely, too.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Small Town Boys - Chapter 10

Chapter 1
Chapter 2, Part 1
Chapter 2, Part 2
Chapter 2, Part 3
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9

A Weekend with Danny - 1992

Donny hung up the phone and wandered into the kitchen. Eric was making a salad. “Hey, how was your weekend?” he asked.


“You see my note?”


Eric wiped off the knife. “He sounds like you. Do I sound like Greg?”

“Sometimes,” said Donny, swiping a piece of tomato off the cutting board. “He’s coming out here.”

“Your brother? When?”

“Next Friday. Memorial Day weekend.”

“The four of us should get together. Twins night out. We can freak out a waitress or something.”

Later he called Mike to tell him.

“I’d like to meet him. How about we have dinner some night? We can go to The Great Wall. It’s a little Chinese place I know of. Small, quiet, and they have good food. How about Friday night?”

This caught Donny off guard. “Uh… well, sure,” he said.

“Great. I’ll call you later this week.”

“Love ya.”

“You too. G’night.”

The thought tracked through Donny’s mind that this trip wasn’t just a spur of the moment idea. Danny never did anything spontaneously, but planned everything out to the last detail. He always had. The train set in the basement went together slowly as he measured every turn, every piece of track, even drawing out the layout on graph paper. Schoolwork was done in sequence, the assignments neatly followed. When he was the quarterback, plays were not sketched out on a clipboard, but written down, memorized, and followed like high-speed choreography. His military career was a natural choice. Donny wondered what prompted the planning and the execution of this particular mission. He resisted the powerful temptation to call him back and ask. If he had wanted to tell him, he would have.

The flight from Denver was on time. Donny waited in the gate area where he could see down the jetway. Danny was wearing civilian clothes, but he walked like a soldier, and his short hair and stern expression were unmistakable. They saw each other at the same time, broke into identical grins, and once Danny had broken out of the line, grabbed each other in a powerful embrace. “Good to see you,” said Danny.

“You too. Damn, you’ve gotten strong.”

“It’s all that good PT they make us do.” Danny squeezed Donny’s biceps. “You’re no slouch either.”

“Got any other bags?”

“Nope, just this carry-on.” Danny held up a GI duffel.

“Great.” They headed for the parking lot. “So, what do you want to do?”

“The tourist bit, I guess. Never seen Disneyland. I should go see Ron and Barbara. But I just wanted to see how you were doing out here in La-La Land.”

It took fifteen minutes to get to the truck and get out of the parking lot. Friday night traffic was heavy, and they moved slowly up the freeway. They talked about home, how things were going at the Academy, and what kind of work Donny was doing. Donny said nothing about where he’d spent the last weekend.

“Hey,” Donny said as they waited for traffic to move, “how about dinner with a friend of mine tonight? Chinese.”

“The food or the friend?”

“The food, wise ass.”

“Great. Who’s the friend – someone from work?”

“Just a guy I know. Name’s Mike. Mike Lankowski. He’s an actor.”

“Really? How’d you meet him?”

“Hanging out at the beach, got to talking. He’s from Michigan. He’s shooting a new series for the fall.”

They pulled up to the house. No one else was home. Rob was working, and Eric was still at the office. Donny dropped Danny’s bag in his bedroom, showed him where the bath was, and took him through the house. “Hey, this is nice,” said Danny. They went out to the patio. Danny looked at the neat yard and the palm tree in the corner. “It’s good, twin.” That was all he needed to say; Donny knew what he meant.

Mike was waiting in his car outside the restaurant, and got out when Donny parked the truck across the street. Donny introduced Mike to Danny, and they shook hands. “Heard a lot about you,” said Mike, and Danny shot his twin a quick look of amused curiosity. They got a table in the back under a velvet painting of a dragon, and Mike sat with his back to the door. The conversation drifted from small talk about living in California to being in the Air Force to what’s on television. The food was good, the restaurant was quiet, and when the meal was over, Mike picked up the check in spite of the twins’ protests. They stood on the sidewalk and said goodnight, shaking hands once again. “Good luck in your career,” Danny said to Mike.

“Same to you,” Mike said. “I admire you for doing it. Donny thinks you’re the next head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

“Oh, hell no, not me,” Danny grinned. “Just a lifer, hoping to make colonel before I die. And good luck with your series.”

“Thanks.” Mike gave Donny a pat on the shoulder. “Have fun with your brother. I’m heading to D.C. tomorrow. I’ll call you.”

“Okay,” replied Donny in an upbeat tone, hoping there wasn’t any exterior sign that they were anything more than just buddies. Mike twirled his car keys on his finger and snapped a jaunty salute to both of them. He caught a little rubber as he pulled away from the curb.

“Nice guy,” said Danny as they climbed into the truck. When they got back to the house, Eric’s door was closed, the stereo muffled. Donny got a couple of beers and they sat on the patio. Some moths battered around the floodlight over the back door. Danny sank back into the plastic straps of the lounger. “So,” he said casually, “are you in love with him, or is it just for the sex?”

Donny took a moment to light a cigarette and put the match out in the plant saucer that served as his ashtray. He looked back into his brother’s steady gaze. There was no point in saying anything other than what he knew his twin could already see in his own eyes, and a smile grew on both their faces at the same time. “Well,” he said, blowing out a stream of smoke, “the sex is pretty damn good.”

“That’s great. Like I said, he’s a nice guy.”

“That he is.” Donny took a long swallow of beer. “So. Is it obvious?”

Danny shook his head. “Not to anyone else, I’ll bet. But…”

“Yeah, I know.”

“And I kind of knew, anyway.”


“When I called last weekend your housemate said you were away for the weekend with some friend. I guess it was with him, right?”

“Yeah. Palm Springs.”

“And then, remember when I went back home at the end of March on leave? I went to a party over in Perrysburg with Tom and Rusty Weaver. Some friend of their sister was getting married, so they took me along to balance out the male/female ratio or whatever. Anyway, I was sitting out on the patio around ten o’clock, just watching everyone else get all shitfaced, and Scott Welles staggers out, drunk as a skunk. He sits down on the wall next to me, stares me in the face for a moment, then reaches over, pats my crotch, and whispers, ‘How about one more time, just for old time’s sake?’ Before I can even remove his hand he gets this horrified look, says, ‘Holy shit, you’re not Donny, you’re Danny,’ and pukes in the myrtle.”

“What’d you say?”

“Nothing. He was so embarrassed I thought he was gonna start crying. He starts in on how you were the only guy for him and all. I guess he thought I knew everything about you and him.”

“D’you tell him you had no idea what the fuck he was talking about?”

“Nah. After a while he kinda sobered up. I guess barking chow into a flowerbed does that for you. He said it was good to see me, to say hello to you, and excused himself.”

“So that was it, eh?”

“Pretty much.”

Donny put out his cigarette. Eric’s stereo had stopped. The noise of the night insects was steady and deep. A couple of houses over a dog barked three times. “I wondered how I was going to tell you,” Donny said quietly.

Danny finished his beer. “Sorry to rain on your parade, twin. But if it’s any consolation, I knew before Scott blurted it out.”


Danny shrugged. “I just knew. Something… somehow.”

“Twin communing.”

“Yeah, okay. Or maybe it was hearing you jerk off when we were kids.”

“I waited until you were asleep.”

“I only pretended to be asleep.”

“I only pretended to jerk off.”

“Yeah, right.”

“You want another beer?”


When Donny came back outside Danny was standing by the back fence looking at the roses. “What kind are these?”

“They were here when we moved in.” They sat in the loungers again.

“So was Scott your first?”

“Depends on what you mean by ‘first.’”

“First guy you had sex with.”

“Not really.”

“He wasn’t?”


“Yeah? Who?”

Donny lit another cigarette. “Craig.”

Danny let out a soft chuckle. “No shit?”

“No shit.”

“Well, damn.”


Danny chuckled again.

“What?” Donny repeated.

“Me too,” said Danny, and laughed.

“You’re kidding,” said Donny.

Danny shook his head. “About a week before I went off to my first summer of camp, we were up in his room up in the attic. Hot as hell under that roof. He had this stash of old Playboys he’d swiped from his brother. We were looking at the pictures and both of us got a hard-on. Well, he pulls out his wiener—”

“And he dares you to suck it,” interrupted Donny.

“Yeah,” nodded Danny. “I told him no, but then he starts to go for my dick. We wrestle around for a while on his bed, and he pulls off his pants, and – well, I had a boner too. Hell, I’m fifteen and a soft breeze could get me hard at that age. Anyway, he really wants to suck my cock. I mean, he’s begging for it, ‘Aw, c’mon, lemme suck it.’ Well, I figured if I let him do that, he’s gonna want me to do him. But I don’t want to, so finally I just flipped him over and fucked him.” Danny took a long drink from his beer.

“Wow,” was all Donny could manage.

“Yeah. He wasn’t wild about it at first, but after some strategically applied Vaseline he got into it.”

“I didn’t fuck him,” said Donny. “We just jerked off out at Lorenzen’s quarry.”

“He’s getting married, y’know.”

“He is?”

“Yeah. First weekend in July. Some girl he met at college. She’s from Defiance. The baby’s due around the first of October.”


“Hey, maybe I should go to the wedding. I mean, what the hell – I busted his cherry for him – the least I can do is wish him well.”

“So,” Donny wondered, “have you been with any other guys since then?”

Danny shook his head. “Nah, just that one time, and it wasn’t that much fun. Guess that means I’m straight. Well, of course, you know there was the usual horny teenager circle-jerk stuff in school and that kinda crap, but that’s it.” He took another long pull on his beer. “I take it you haven’t told the ‘rents.”

“About Mike?”

“About any of it.”


“You gonna?”

“Think I should?”

Danny shrugged. “Do they need to know?”

“What’s to tell? We’re just….”


“No,” said Donny with a tone sharper than he meant. “Friends.”

Danny raised his eyebrows. “C’mon, twin, don’t get pissed off. You never answered my question.”

“What question?”

“Do you love him?”

Donny lit a cigarette. “I don’t know.”

“Fair enough.”

A door in the house closed, and Eric appeared in the patio door. “I didn’t hear you come in.” Introductions were made, Eric got a beer, and they sat and talked. Danny said he remembered Eric and Greg from junior high school, and Eric asked polite questions about the Air Force. Donny listened, joining in when necessary, but he spent most of the night rocking gently in his chair looking at his brother. So now he knew. It was like a weight had shifted.

They sat out until after midnight. Getting ready for bed, it was like they were back home, falling into the wordless routine of sharing the bathroom and undressing.

“I see you’re till going the jockeys route,” Danny said as Donny pulled off his jeans.

“Yeah. You’ve gone boxer?”

“Works better with the uniform.”

Donny sat on his bed and watched as his brother put his clothes away. How long has it been, he thought, since they slept in the same room; a year, two years? He realized how much he missed his twin, how much he needed the other voice that he knew so well. Mike, for all his friendship and passion as a lover, was a complete stranger compared to Danny. And as if he was hearing these thoughts, Danny sat on the bed next to him. “I’ve missed you,” he said softly, and they hugged each other, at first fighting back the tears, then letting them go. For a long time they held each other in silence, then Danny kissed his brother on the cheek. They got into their beds, Donny turning out the light, letting the faint glow of the streetlight and the incessant chirp and buzz of the night bugs take over the room.

“I was going to tell you,” whispered Donny, in the same whisper he had used when he and Danny talked after the lights were out.

“You didn’t have to. I knew.”

“You keep saying that.”

“Well, I figured one of us had to be gay. Isn’t that the old story about twins? And since I knew it wasn’t me…”

“Hey, I wasn’t the one who fucked Craig. We just jerked off.”

“I can’t be gay. I’m in the Air Force.”

They giggled and waited instinctively for their father to tell them to go to sleep. Then Donny sighed, “I’m glad you’re here.”

“Me too. Goodnight, twin. I love you.”

“Love you too.”

They went for a tour on Saturday, using Eric’s directions and a street map. They pulled up outside Disneyland, but the lines and the crowds made it unappealing. They drove up the freeway to Hollywood, saw some of the sights there, and then drove out to Malibu, along the coast. That night they went to dinner with Uncle Ron and Aunt Barbara in Whittier, catching up on family news. Ron hadn’t seen the twins together in ten years, and he regaled them with stories of his years in the Army and his two tours of Vietnam. They left the house late with a Tupperware bowl of chicken pasta and a promise to come back soon.

Sunday afternoon Eric announced that Greg was coming over that night for dinner.

“What can I do to help?” offered Donny.

“Nothing. I’ve seen you cook.”

“Thanks a lot.”

“We’re just gonna barbecue some steaks and do baked potatoes. It’s not like a big deal or anything.”

“Danny and I’ll cut the grass and tidy up the house.”

“Fair enough.”

Greg arrived at six with a bottle of wine and a six-pack of Heineken’s. He shook Danny’s hand and smiled broadly. “The last time I saw you, you were throwing a long bomb to some kid for a Hail Mary, and Dennis Kasperzak sacked the crap out of you…but the kid caught the pass and you beat us.”

“I remember that,” said Danny. “He hit me so hard I heard birds chirping, just like in the cartoons.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, he’s now running the film counter at the K-Mart in Bowling Green. How long are you here for?”

“Till Tuesday morning.”

They went out to the patio and opened the beers. Eric poked the coals on the grille and ripped the top off a bag of Fritos.

Greg looked at Danny for a moment. “Y’know, I know you’re identical twins, just like us, but…there’s a difference.”

Donny tensed a little. “Yeah, like what?”

“Search me. Just something.”

“Well,” replied Danny, “I’m left-handed…Donny’s a rightie. Are you both the same hand?”

“Yeah,” said Greg, waving his right hand, and Eric brandished the barbecue fork with his right hand.

“I’ve also spent the last six years in military training, while he’s been bumming around… college dropout, carpenter, you name it.”

“Oh, yeah, that must be it.”

“You guys don’t look all that identical yourselves,” countered Donny.

“That’s because Greg refuses to get his butt out of the office and go to the gym,” said Eric. “He’s the ‘Before’ picture on the Charles Atlas ad, and I’m the ‘After’!” He clownishly flexed a veined bicep and they all laughed.

“So, how do you like L.A?” Greg asked Danny.

“It’s nice,” said Danny politely.

Greg didn’t believe him. “C’mon, tell the truth.”

“He’s not impressed,” injected Donny.

“You’re right,” Danny said, putting down his beer and scooping up some Fritos. “This town is like Toledo with cancer. It just goes on and on. There’s no point to it.”

“No point?”

“Cities are supposed to have a reason to exist. New York is the entry point. Boston’s a seaport. Chicago is the lake port. Minneapolis is where they ship the grain from the grain belt to send it down the Mississippi. St. Louis is the Gateway to the West. Hell, even Detroit has a reason. But this town – there’s nothing here to justify its existence. The Big Earthquake could happen tomorrow, shake it into the Pacific, and no one would ever notice. Did you know that a hundred years ago the only thing that they had here was orange groves? Now it’s just one big strip mall.”

“The weather’s nicer than any of those towns,” said Donny, slightly defensive about his newly adopted hometown. “Besides, it’s got a reason. If it wasn’t for Hollywood, this place would still be orange groves.”

“Hollywood looks like a pretty run-down place.”

“The streets, maybe,” said Eric, “but it’s still rockin’. Movies, TV, music; there’s a lot going on. Not to mention our business.”

“Computers?” said Danny doubtfully.

“Shit yeah. Special effects, computer-generated graphics, sound effects, and even animation. They’ve already started to take hold. And we’re going along for the ride.”

“Didn’t know that,” said Danny. “But I don’t go to a lot of movies.” He looked at Donny. “You know about all of this?”

Donny nodded. “Yeah, we sell a lot of stuff to production companies.”

Eric speared a steak and placed it on the grille, causing a hiss of sizzling and small grease fires. “The sky is the fuckin’ limit,” he said. “Gruggie, get the salad.”

They ate and talked late into the night, finishing off the beer and wine. By the time Greg decided to go home, Eric vetoed the idea of him driving, so he made up his spare bed and he spent the night. The next morning, after several head-clearing cups of coffee, they went to the beach.

They arrived after ten o’clock. Being a holiday weekend, it was already crowded, and they walked nearly a quarter of a mile before finding a place to set up camp. They stripped down to swimsuits and spread out the beach towels. Greg handed Danny suntan lotion. “Do it all over, Dan. You’re whiter than the belly of a Safeway chicken.”

A hundred yards away a bunch of kids were playing beach football. A long pass landed the ball near them, and Danny trotted over and picked it up. One of the boys, fourteen or so, ran towards them, but Danny rifled it back to him, and the boy caught it neatly. “Thanks, mister!” Danny waved and sat down again in the sand.

“Mister?” teased Eric.

“It’s his awesome build,” joined in Greg. “The kid was intimidated.”

“You’re both full of it,” said Danny.

“Nice toss,” said Greg. “You still play?”

“Nah, just fart around – touch pick-up games now and then.”

“Want to see if they’ll let us join in?”

Danny looked at Greg to see if he was serious. “You’re serious?”

“Sure. Tell ‘em we’ll split up between teams.”

“What the hell. How ‘bout it, twin?”

Donny had dug himself well into his towel. “Nah, you go ahead. I’m still a little overhung from last night.”

“Me too,” said Eric.

“Suit yourself.” Greg and Danny trotted down the beach and caught up with the kids. Donny watched the pantomime as they introduced themselves, shook hands all around, and offered to join in, one on each team. There was a general nodding of agreement from the kids, and they formed up ragged lines to play.

“I was never crazy about playing football,” said Eric.

“It was okay,” mumbled Donny, his eyes closed, feeling sleepy from the sun.

“Yeah, well, you were a jock.”

“Was not. I just played ‘cause I went to a small school. I just liked bashing into people without getting hurt.”

“Your brother’s a great guy. I like him.”

“I like yours, too.” A moment later Donny thought of something and sat up. “You called him ‘Gruggie’ last night.”


“Yeah, I heard you. ‘Gruggie, get the salad,’ or something like that.”

“It must have slipped out. I don’t remember saying it.”

“Was that his family nickname?”

“No, that’s what I called him. No one else did.”

“What did he call you?”

Eric was silent for a moment and for an instant Donny was afraid he’d crossed a line.

“I was ‘Airy.’ Sometimes ‘Airy-Fairy,’ but mostly just ‘Airy.’”


“Repeat it anywhere else, and you’re a dead man.”

“No,” said Donny chuckling. “I think it’s cool.”

Didn’t you guys have names like that?”

“Not really. He just calls me ‘Twin.’ I call him Danny.”

“Once in a while Greg calls me ‘Redundancy’ since he’s the older one.”

Donny laughed. “I’ll have to remember that.”

Eric stretched out his legs. “I don’t have to tell you what it’s like. You know what he’s thinking, don’t you?”

Donny nodded. “No secrets.”

Eric let out a long whistling sigh. “Well, speaking of secrets…”

Donny pulled off his sunglasses and squinted, an ominous course of adrenaline making its way through his body, making his fingers tingle. “Hmm?”

“Remember the other night when you and Danny were talking on the patio after you came back from dinner? I had the light off in my room…I guess I got so wrapped up in what I was doing that I just didn’t turn on the light. Well…I heard you two talking. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop.”

“Oh,” replied Donny.

“I’m sorry. I figured I better tell you. I suppose I could just have kept my mouth shut, but I wanted you to know that… well, I heard.”

“Okay. Guess I should have told you.”

“Not unless you wanted to. But in a way, I kinda wished I’d known.”

“Well, it’s not something I tell people.”

“I’m cool with it. Very cool.”

“You are?”


“So why did you kinda wished you’d known?”

“Well, it doesn’t matter now. It’s…”

“What, you wouldn’t have hired me? You wouldn’t have gone in on renting a place with me?”

“Fuck no,” said Eric with a note of disgust, “you know me better than that.”

“Well, why do you kinda wished you’d known? Is it because you’re my boss as well as my housemate?” Donny said, watching Greg running to catch a pass and tumbling into the sand.

“Whoa,” said Eric. “I’m not your boss. We’re not that kind of place…we all work together. Yeah, Greg and I are the guys that started it, but we’re not some fucked-up corporate structure.”

“You sign the checks,” Danny replied.

“Big deal. Someone’s got to. The reason is that I’m gay, too,” Eric said off-handedly.

Down the beach someone scored a touchdown and kids were jumping up and down and shouting. Someone tried to spike the football, but it buried itself halfway into the sand.

“I didn’t know that,” replied Donny.

“Yeah, I kinda figured you didn’t.”

“I take it Greg knows.”

“Where do you think ‘Airy-Fairy’ comes from?”

“Ah ha.”

“But you know, now that I’ve been thinking about it, I guess I could have figured it out on my own. About you, I mean.”

“Yeah, how?”

“Oh, like your comings and goings some nights. I figured you were seeing someone, and no one goes off to Palm Springs by themselves. That sort of stuff. Not that I was prying or anything. So how’d you meet this guy?”

“Here,” said Donny. “I went to the beach one weekend in March. He was sitting near me, and we started talking.”

“What’s he do?”

“He’s an actor. Just started shooting a series.”


“You said that like you had a problem with him.”

Eric shrugged. “I don’t even know the guy. It’s just that…well, actors…”

“What about them?”

“The gay ones I know – and I know some – are pretty closeted people, especially if they have any kind of name recognition. Remember what happened to Rock Hudson? They denied he was gay and that he had AIDS until the day he died. It was the world’s worst-kept secret, but it wasn’t until after he was dead that they even said he had the disease, and it took a spokesperson for the hospital in France where he died to tell the world. And you know, it’s weird, ‘cause the entertainment industry is full of gays in every part of the business, but they’re still working on the mentality that if Joe Sixpack in Buttfuck, Ohio gets the idea that there are fags in movies and TV they won’t watch it. It’s a bunch of crap.”

“So what’s that got to do with Mike?”

“Think about it. You’re never gonna be able to live with him or hang out with him in public. People magazine will never run a feature article on him and his happy homo home life, unless he gets so big that no one cares. What’s his full name?”

“Mike Lankowski. His screen name’s Lance Michaels.”

Eric did a slight double take. “Tall, kinda blond, buff guy that looks a little like a young version of Ted Danson?”

“Yeah, you know him?”

“Seen him on TV.” Eric nodded approvingly. “Not bad for your first Hollywood romance. My best shot was the son of a well-known director when we were in high school.”


“Nah, just the usual teenage stuff – jacking off, groping. He went off to NYU and lives with some actor in Greenwich Village.”

Donny squinted at Eric. “So, are you dating?”



“Always…but not seriously. Don’t have the time, and most guys our age are only interested in just getting laid. Been there, done that.”

“Looking for love, huh.”

“Yeah. To quote the Beach Boys, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice.’”

The football game broke up and Danny and Greg ran off into the water, calling to Donny and Eric to join them. They dove in and swam for a while, then went and found a hot dog stand for lunch. The beach got very crowded, and they left around four. Since it was Danny’s last night, they agreed that another dinner together was in order, this time at a restaurant. They had a good dinner and got a classic double-take from the waitress when she realized she was waiting on two sets of twins. They gave her a generous tip.

When they walked into the house, Donny’s phone was ringing and he grabbed it.

“Hey, how’s my hot stud?” a voice shouted.

Donny held the phone away from his ear. “Mike?”

“Oh man I am so fucking horny I wish you were here I’d get you naked so fast and throw you on the bed…”

“Mike, where are you?”

“Washington Dee-Cee the nation’s capital. Actually, some fancy hotel in Maryland. Nice place…huge room, fully stocked minibar, huge bed. God, I want you now.”

Danny was standing in the door. He mouthed, “Who is it?” Donny held his hand over the phone. “Mike. And he sounds like he’s shitfaced.” Danny scowled.

“Hey, Donny, you there?”

“Yeah, Mike. How’s it going?”

“Oh, great, man, except I’m all alone in this big bad town with no man to screw around with…And I gotta huge boner.” Donny heard muffled sounds like cloth rustling. “I’m tryin’ to get undressed.” The receiver clunked down something, then there was a long silence, followed by shuffling sounds. Donny looked at Danny and shrugged.

“What’s going on with him?” Danny asked.

“He put the phone down. Said he was getting undressed.”

The phone was picked up again. “Hey,” Mike said, “your hot brother still there?”

“Uh, yeah, he leaves in the morning.”

“Oh, man, I’d love to have a three-way with you two guys…man, that would be so fuckin’ hot. Every man’s fantasy—twins, man, especially if they’ve got hot bodies. Ohhhh…..” There was another long silence. Donny gave his brother a puzzled look.

“What’s going on?” Danny whispered.

“No idea,” Donny whispered back. “Mike? Hey Mike?” He got no answer for a moment, then heard a familiar groan of pleasure. Another few moments passed, another groan, then something knocked the receiver on the other end on the floor with a loud clunk. He heard a distant “Oh, man….unhhhh!”

Donny gaped at the phone, then at his brother. “I think he’s jerking off.”

Danny recoiled slightly. “You’re kidding.”

“Sounds like it.”

A few moments later, the phone was picked up. “Oh…man…I just shot a huge load. What about you?”

“Uh, yeah, sure…it was great.”

“Mmmm. Wish I could see it.”


“Mmmm. I love you, man.”

“Love you too.”

“You do?”


“Cool. Oh, man, I better get a towel. I’ll call you, okay?”


“Kiss your brother for me, okay?”




The phone went dead, and Donny hung up. “Well, that was weird.”

“Did he?” asked Danny, making a jerking motion with his fist.

“He was drunk as hell.”

“Does he do that a lot? Get drunk, I mean?”

“First time I’ve ever heard of it.”

Danny shook his head.

“You want some ice cream?” said Donny.

After they were in bed, lights out, Danny said, “You told him you love him?”

“I did?”

“Yeah. Just before you hung up.”


“Do you?”

“He said it first.”


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Getting to Know You

Those two or three of you who are a regular visitor to this blog may be wondering why I've been, well, ignoring it. First, I didn't promise I would post every day like I do at Bark Bark Woof Woof. Second, I've been devoting a lot of my writing attention to Small Town Boys while Bobby Cramer takes a well-earned break. After all, I did write nearly one hundred new pages in it and spent a lot of time doing substantial revisions to the earlier pages, rounding out Bobby's life before the story really begins and finding a lot of those little annoying things like anachronisms (it's 1979 and that was a long time ago) and tyops typos. Third, I've been putting some of my writing -- mainly Small Town Boys -- on The Practical Press.

TPP has been running for about two months now, and I have found the experience to be amazing. This is the first time in my writing career where I've participated in a cooperative venture like this -- well, at least since high school when our English class put together a mimeographed literary magazine as a senior project. This time the format is much more forgiving, and we have a little wider audience.

The most impressive thing has been the outpouring of writing. We have at least three serialized novels in progress (and I may have missed one or two), a series of short stories, poetry (and not all of it meeting the criterion of "Bad Poetry Friday" -- it's very good), and one or two pieces of playwriting. Apparently we all had a lot of stuff we were working on just waiting for a place to publish.

If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, then the pen is the voice of it. Through these writings I have gained insight to some of the people who make up the core of this group. I know what they love, what they hate, what frightens them, what awes them, and what touches them. They may not have revealed all their secrets -- writers, after all, must keep something for later -- but they have allowed us as readers into their world for the moment, and through that we have also seen what touches us. While we write alone and I have yet to meet any other members of The Practical Press in person, I feel I know them. Writing, in the end, becomes a collaboration between the writer and the reader... we are connected by the words.

I remember the first time I met a famous playwright whose work I had admired for many years. We became friends and as I learned about him and his life and what mattered to him I began to understand his work more deeply than I did when I just read the scripts or saw the performances. I remember thinking that now it all made sense -- why a particular scene, for example, was crafted a certain way. I felt like I was let in on a secret the rest of the audience would never know. But I think that no matter how well I knew him, it didn't change the the meaning of the play or the impact of the characters and their actions. I'm beginning to feel the same way about my fellow writers, and it is a comfort and an inspiration.

Labels: ,

Small Town Boys - Chapter 9

Chapter 1
Chapter 2, Part 1
Chapter 2, Part 2
Chapter 2, Part 3
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8

A Weekend at the Villa - 1992

The next afternoon Donny left work at five, skipped the gym, and drove over to Mike’s house. They had a beer on the patio, and after a perfunctory interval of idle chat, went to the bedroom. He was home by seven. Eric was in his room working on his computer and hardly acknowledged that he was there.

They got together three or four times a week. At first it was just recreational, but after the first week or so the preliminary chatting would go on longer. Afterwards they’d lie together and talk, or get dressed and sit in the kitchen snacking with Mike doing most of the talking. On Saturdays Donny stayed for dinner and they’d watch TV. Donny said nothing to anyone about it, mainly because no one asked. Eric was completely absorbed in writing software and Rob began getting ready for med school, which started in July, so even if his roommates had noticed his nocturnal habits, no one said anything.

One night in the middle of May Mike asked Donny if he’d like to go to Palm Springs for the weekend. Donny said sure. The next day he told Eric he’d be away for the weekend and got a distant “have fun.” He packed a small bag and drove over to Mike’s after work. He was waiting for him, and after parking the truck in the garage, Mike got behind the wheel of the BMW. He patted Donny on the knee and said, “Glad you could come.”

“Me too,” Donny replied.

Traffic was heavy in town, but soon they got on Interstate 10 and picked up speed. Mike was mostly silent on the drive out, except to say that they were going to The Villa

“’The Villa’?” Donny asked.

“The Villa Castelfranco di Sopra. It’s a country club. Marty belongs to it.”


“Marty Simmons, my agent. He set this weekend up.”

They arrived just before dark. The driveway was behind a large hedge on a secluded street, far away from the downtown area, protected by an iron gate. A uniformed guard stepped out of a small shack to greet them. Mike gave him their names and handed him an envelope. The guard read the letter, and asked for some photo identification. They each showed their licenses. He looked them over thoroughly, walked around the car, jotted down the license plate, and made a phone call. A few moments later the gate swung open. The guard handed back the ID’s and waved them through.

Donny was a little curious about all the security. “Welcome to Palm Springs,” was all Mike replied.

The driveway curved up in front of an Italianate two-story mansion with a red barrel tile roof and columns. The valet, a handsome young man in a vested uniform, greeted them by name, unloaded the car, and took it to the parking lot.

The front doors opened into a large marble-floored courtyard covered by a shaded glass canopy. The walls were lined with large paintings and tapestries and clusters of potted plants and palms. Ten-foot high double doors led out of the courtyard to other rooms, some lit by large chandeliers. An interior balcony ran around the second floor level. A large marble staircase climbed to the balcony. Soft music was playing from one of the rooms to the side, and Donny could hear voices and the clink of silverware.

A liveried bellboy greeted them and led them to one side of the courtyard. The registration desk was a huge and ornate desk with gold inlay on the top. Mike handed the clerk the envelope. The clerk read the note, nodded and smiled and had them sign in on the large leather-bound registry. He gave the bellboy the room key and said the dining room was serving until ten. The bellboy led them up the wide stairs, around the balcony, and down a hall past several doors and branching halls. He finally came to Room 5, opened the door, and turned on the lights.

The room was decorated in the style of the rest of the villa with ornate furniture, including a sitting area with a desk and chairs, a dining table, and French doors leading out to a balcony. The bedroom was almost as large with more antique style furniture, and the bed, with drapery swung from the high headpiece, was a king-size. The bellboy showed them where the light switches and air conditioning controls were, turned on the lights in the bathroom, and swung open the hidden doors that revealed a small but fully equipped kitchen. He asked if they needed anything. Mike said, “No, thanks,” and gave him a five. “Enjoy your stay,” said the bellboy and left.

“Whew,” said Donny, peering around the room. “It’s like a museum.”

“Yeah. Marty wasn’t kidding. It really is like a palace.”

“That was nice of him. He must really like you.”

“Well, there is a reason”


“Well, yeah,” said Mike, breaking into a big grin.


“CBS picked up the pilot.”

Donny looked puzzled. “The pilot?”

Capitol Hill. I shot it last winter. It’s an hour-long series about a bunch of people who work for a senator in Washington. Lots of drama and inside politics and sex – you know, typical TV fare. I play the assistant chief of staff. Well, we got picked up for the fall. We start production next week. And, in honor of that, Marty made a call and got me a weekend here…with the guest of my choice. Only thing is, tomorrow I have to do an interview with People magazine. You know, background and stuff for the show. But other than that, we have the whole weekend to ourselves. So, what say we go get some dinner, and then see what happens?”

The ornate dining room, steeped in golden colors and softly lit by wall sconces and candlelit tables, was about half full. The maitre d’ escorted them to a small table overlooking the large patio and swimming pool. The waiter brought their drinks and a plate of appetizers. As they munched Donny looked around. The other diners were dressed nicely and were chatting quietly. They were all ages and shapes and sizes, but they all had one thing in common. Donny nudged Mike.

“Did you notice that this place seems to be men only?”

Mike glanced around. “Well, yeah. What did you expect?”

“I don’t know…what was I supposed to expect?”

Mike chuckled. “Didn’t I tell you?”


“I thought the Val Kilmer lookalike valet and Dean Cain clone bellboy would clue you in. Castelfranco di Sopra is one of the most exclusive gay resorts in the country.”

“Gay resorts? Never heard of that.”

“Hell, they’re all over the place. You just don’t see them advertised in the mainstream press, but if you know where to look, they’re everywhere rich people go. And this place is the best.” Mike scanned the menu. “Well, since Marty is picking this up, I’m gonna have the lobster and the best wine in the place.” He picked up his scotch and soda and held it up to make a toast. “Here’s to Marty, here’s to Capitol Hill, and here’s to a great weekend with both of us in as little clothing on as possible.” They clinked their glasses and, on cue, the waiter came back and took their orders.

The next morning Donny was awakened by the smell of coffee. He sat up slowly, a little groggy from the wine with dinner. He heard china rattling in the other room and a moment later Mike came in carrying two steaming mugs of coffee. He handed Donny one and sat on the edge of the bed.

“Sleep well?”

“Yeah, how about you?”

“Like a champ. ‘Course, after what we did last night, anybody would have.”

Donny grinned. They had come back to the room after dinner and gone right to bed. They’d made passionate love, and after finding a carton of Ben and Jerry’s in the kitchen freezer, ate most of it. They went back to bed and made love again, finally falling asleep around midnight. Donny slowly drank his coffee, set the mug on the nightstand, and nudged Mike.


Donny flipped back the covers.

Afterwards they took a shower and made a breakfast of English muffins and juice. Mike went to get dressed for his People interview. “What are you going to do?” Mike said from the bathroom.

“Hang out, I guess. I’ve got that Tom Clancy book to read.”

“Why don’t you go to the pool?”

“Oh, shit,” replied Donny.


“I forgot my swim suit.”

“Who goes to Palm Springs without a swim suit?” asked Mike, brushing his teeth.

“Me,” said Donny. “I didn’t know I’d be swimming.”

“Anyway, you don’t need one. The pool and spa are ‘clothing optional.’”

“Forget that.”

Mike laughed, spit into the sink and went to his suitcase. “Yeah, I’m not wild about that myself. Still have that Midwestern moral streak, I guess.” He tossed Donny his blue Speedo. “Here. It should fit. If it’s too tight, well, what the hell. Around here nobody’d mind. They’d probably appreciate it.”

Donny pulled it on. “What about you?” he asked.

“I brought another. Hey, looks good on you.”

“Never wore one before.”

“Well, it’s a natural fit.”

Donny put on a shirt and sandals and took a beach towel and his book. Mike gave him a squeeze on the arm. “Should be back by two, three at the latest. Don’t get sunburned.”

“Okay, see you later.”

Donny found his way to the pool and spread his towel out on one of the sun loungers. Several other couples, a few going clothing optional, were already setting up camp. They looked at him, nodded, and went back to their reading or conversation. Donny pulled off his shirt, spread on some Coppertone, pulled down his cap, and started to read. He was several pages into it when someone said, “Excuse me, is that lounger taken?”

Donny glanced up. A couple was standing next to him. One was tall, thin, with bristle-cut hair and an aquamarine Speedo. His companion was heavier but in good shape, in surfer jams. They both looked to be in their early forties. They were carrying towels and the thin one had a daypack.

“No, go ahead,” replied Donny.

“Thanks.” They spread out their towels and situated themselves on the loungers. Donny went back to reading. But after a few moments the thin one said something about enjoying the book that Donny was reading, and pretty soon they were making conversation. They introduced themselves as Ben and Julian – Ben being the thin one. They lived up the mountain in Idyllwild and came down once a month or so for a long weekend. Ben was an architect and Julian was a lawyer. They had been together for ten years. Donny didn’t tell them much about himself except that he was from Los Angeles.

“Where’s your friend?” asked Ben. “We saw you together at dinner last night.”

“Oh…he’s… taking care of some business this morning.”

“Ah, a working weekend. Lucky you. He has to work, you get to lounge around.”

“Something like that,” replied Donny, not really wanting to explain where Mike was.

A well-muscled pool waiter in a tank top and green neon shorts came by to offer drinks. Mike got a Coke and Ben and Julian had Long Island Iced Tea. They chatted more, went into the water, and when it was time for lunch they went to the poolside restaurant and had taco salads. Donny listened as Ben and Julian talked about friends, trips they’d taken, places they’d like to see, and the ordinary things that made up their lives like getting the plumbing fixed and what color to paint the bathroom. It dawned on him that their lives were as blessedly ordinary as any married couple he knew – not unlike his friends and family back in Ohio. Until now, the idea of two men sharing a married life seemed like an abstract idea of distant proportions, like a trip to Mars or something like that. But here it was, right in front of him, and the way they talked, it sounded as if it was a natural and immediate a thing as breathing. Donny wondered if it could happen for him.

They moved into the shade after lunch to avoid the heat, and Donny dozed off. Someone on the other side of the pool laughing loudly woke him up, and he sat up. Julian and Ben were sitting at an umbrella table playing gin rummy. The waiter came by, asked him if he was Mr. Hollenbeck, and handed him a note. It was a message from the front desk. Mike had called and said the session was running long, and he would be back by six. Donny swam a couple of laps in the pool.

At five Ben and Julian packed up. “Maybe you and your friend would like to join us for dinner?” Julian asked. “They have a pasta bar over by the gardens here. Nice and casual.”

“I’ll ask him,” Donny replied.

“Great. Give us a call. We’re in nine.”


They left, and when he got to the end of the chapter, Donny did too. Most of the other pool couples were gone.

He took a shower, changed into khakis and watched TV until 6:45. He decided that if Mike wasn’t back by seven he’d call Ben and Julian and see if it wasn’t too late to eat with them. He was reaching for the phone when Mike came in.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said. He dropped three spiral-bound books on the living room table and flopped in a chair. “Jesus Fucking Christ.”

“Long day?”

“You ever try being witty and charming and smiley for eight solid hours? That’s hard work.”

“Can’t say that I have.”

“Well, I’m here to tell you it ain’t easy. First there was People. Then there was background stuff for TV Guide and their Fall Preview issue, then a group of entertainment writers from all over the country. Then lunch with the producers. Then meet the ad agency people. On and on. Smile. Be charming. Keep saying, ‘this is going to be the biggest hit of the fall season.’ Blah-blah-blah.” He heaved himself up from the chair and went to the refrigerator. “So that was my day. What’d you do?”

“Hung out at the pool.”

Mike twisted the cap off a Heineken’s. “Literally? Did you go natural?”

“No. There were some that did, though.”

“Yeah? Keepers?”

“Well, I didn’t whip out the old Lufkin and measure, but I’d say no. Just your average dicks.”

“That’s the way it is…the guys who go natural shouldn’t, and the ones you want to never do.”

“I met a couple of guys…talked with them for a while. Nice guys…one’s an architect, the other’s a lawyer, I think. Invited us to dinner.”


“The pasta bar in the garden. I looked it up on the guide. Five kinds of pasta and sauces and salad. All you can eat. You interested?”

Mike shrugged. “I guess.”

“Or I can have the bellboy bring us a twenty dollar room service pizza.”

“No, let’s eat with your friends. But first I’m gonna shit, shower, and shave.”

“I’ll tell ‘em we’ll be there in half an hour.”

Mike headed to the bathroom, but came back after a minute. “You didn’t tell them who I was, did you?”

“No,” replied Donny, picking up the phone. “Should I have?”

“No…I just don’t want to spend another minute today talking about the business, that’s all.”

“Hey, if they recognize you, you’re on your own.”

Mike snorted and pulled off his shirt.

The path to the pasta bar led through the formal garden. It was huge – the size of a football field, running from the pool back to the far fence line, fading into the twilight, softly lit by hidden lights. Mazes of hedges, bedded plants of all shapes and colors, and trees ranging from tall palms, overhanging willows, and squat aloe and cactus were arranged in rows and intricate curves between the gravel paths and sandstone walkways. They followed the signs to a circular area at the end of the garden. A red and white striped canopy stood amidst a group of small tables. Underneath the canopy white-jacketed servers stood behind the steam table and served the food. Soft mandolin music played through hidden speakers in the hedges.

Ben and Julian were already seated. They shook hands, introductions were made, and if they recognized Mike they gave no sign. A waiter brought wine, salad, and a basket of bread rolls, and then they stood in line to load up on pasta. Donny took linguini and pesto.

They had a quiet dinner. Ben did most of the talking, telling the story of the villa. Right after World War II Walter Lockhart, the gay son of a Chicago banker, moved to Palm Springs intent on building a house modeled after some of the villas he’d seen when he’d been stationed in Italy during the war. He bought the land, commissioned an architect, and by 1950 had the house and grounds completed. He named it Villa Castelfranco di Sopra after a tiny village near Florence that he’d visited. He lived in the villa for twenty-five years and died in 1976 of lung cancer, leaving his entire estate to his partner, Paul Jeffries.

Mike interrupted. “Paul Jeffries? The producer?”

Ben nodded. “The same.”


Ben continued. “Mr. Jeffries didn’t want to pay the upkeep on the villa. It was costing millions just in taxes, so in 1980 he thought about selling or subdividing the property. But Walter’s friends and family convinced him that it would be a terrible loss to sell out, so he decided to open it up as a private club – membership by invitation only. It soon became the best-kept secret in the gay community, and even today the only way to get in is by invitation or through a reference by a member. And the privacy surrounding the place is legendary. See those hedges?” He pointed at the thick evergreens towering in a straight line marching in either direction, fading into the darkness. “Those are just the cover. Behind them are heavy thorn bushes, and behind that is a twelve-foot high smooth cinderblock wall with razor wire and trip wires across the top that runs around the perimeter of the estate. There are security cameras that cover every inch of the grounds – Smile, you’re on Candid Camera – and discrete guards everywhere.”

“Why so much?” Donny asked.

“Well,” replied Ben, “how much do you think some rag like the Enquirer would pay to have pictures of some of America’s richest and best-known names hanging out at a gay resort? They’d kill for stuff like that. And believe me, they’ve tried every way known to man to get in here: bribery, sneaking in with the food vendors or suppliers, even hiring a helicopter to circle the place. But they’ve never succeeded.”

Mike looked up from his dinner. “So are you guys members?”

Ben nodded.

“How’d you get invited?”

Julian spoke for the first time. “My father was the original architect.”

“And I was one of his assistants,” added Ben.

“So that’s how you met,” said Donny.

Ben grinned. “I was working in Otis’s office and this incredibly good-looking guy comes in, wearing jeans and a flannel shirt, like some lost lumberjack, and here we are in a high-rise office in downtown Chicago. Everyone else was out at lunch or something, so I just stood there and gaped at him for about ten seconds. Finally I get the nerve to say something brilliant like, ‘Can I help you?’ and then Otis comes out of his office, gives him a hug, and says, ‘Ben, this is my son Julian.’ Well, I wanted the floor to open up right there and swallow me, but…”

“He was cute, standing there looking all important like he was some big shot architect himself,” chuckled Julian. “He looked like he wanted to either call Security and throw me out, or take me into Dad’s office and do me right there on the couch.”

“Well, how was I to know? Otis never kept any pictures of the family in the office, and when I heard he had a son named Julian, I pictured some nerdy little CPA, not this muscle stud from the University of Wisconsin Law School.”

“So that was it, huh?” said Donny.

“Pretty much,” said Ben. “We had lunch one day and the next thing we know we’re building a cabin in the mountains of southern California.”

“That’s great,” said Donny. He glanced at Mike, who gave him a small grin and shrugged.

After dinner the four of them walked back to the villa along the softly lit path. Ben rattled off a list of well-known people, past and present, who had spent time there, including some eyebrow-raising names of senators, congressman, and even clergy.

“They’re all gay?” Donny asked incredulously.

“Well, maybe not actively, but if you’re invited here as a guest, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that you’re familiar with the scene, so to speak.”

Julian said, “Paul keeps a very tight rein on the list of who gets invited. He personally approves every guest.”

“He lives here, I take it.”

“Yes. And he knows who you are.”

Donny looked at Mike. Mike nodded. “I gave him what he wanted to know about you.”

“Like what?”

“Name, address, phone number, place of employment. Don’t worry, it’s not like they run an FBI check on you.”

Donny thought about it for a moment. He had no clue – if anyone had called work asking about him, he was sure Eric or Greg would have said something. “Well, yeah…got nothing to hide.”

Ben and Julian invited them to go with them to the piano room for a nightcap, but Mike declined with thanks, explaining it had been a long day. They parted in the courtyard, exchanging pleasantries, and said goodnight.

In the room Mike kicked off his shoes. Donny got a glass of water from the kitchen. “Did you know about all the security shit?” he said.

“Uh huh. That’s why Marty chose it. I can’t just trot off to the Best Western Palm Springs.”

“No, guess not,” Donny said. “Nice guys,” he added.


“Ben and Julian. Nice guys.”

“Mmmm,” Mike agreed.

“Ten years. That’s a long time.”


Donny opened the French doors and went out onto the balcony. The air was still warm and the sky glowed from the lights of the city capped by the dark line of the mountains to the southwest. The outline of the walls framed the gardens. He could hear the faint music of the piano room below. Someone down there was laughing. It sounded like Ben. Mike came out and stood next to him. He said, “It’s really beautiful here, isn’t it. Kinda makes you wish you could stay forever.” Donny agreed. “You know what,” said Mike softly.


“I’m really horny.”

They closed the doors.

Donny woke in the faint light of early morning. His watch read 5:30. He could feel the warmth and presence of Mike, still asleep, next to him. Donny remembered their lovemaking, and his cock stirred. Resisting the temptation to roll over, he slowly got out of bed, pulled on his jockeys, and went to the bathroom. Mike didn’t move.

He started the coffeemaker, then went out to the balcony. It faced west, so he could see the first rays of the sun starting to color the San Jacinto Mountains to the south and west. Other than some birds chirping in the hedges and trees, the morning was still and warm. Down on the pool patio a gardener in a white uniform was quietly sweeping the path down to the gardens. One of the pool attendants with a long pole and net dipped leaves out of the pool. He leaned on the railing, vaguely aware of the fact that he was standing there in his underwear. But no one looked up, and soon they finished their work and were gone. The coffeemaker sputtered to a stop. He got a cup and came back outside. Now the light was filling the sky and a slight breeze stirred. Los Angeles and McKay-Gemini seemed very far away.

He heard sheets rustle, and he glanced into the bedroom. Mike was still asleep; he was just rolling over. Donny wondered idly if they were in love. If the passion they shared in bed was any indication, there was more going on than just two guys having sex. But beyond that, what? How much did they really know about each other? Mike never asked Donny about his work. He’d never been to the house, met Eric, or shown an interest in doing so. Donny asked Mike how things were going in his career and usually got a noncommittal “okay” in reply. In fact, the news about Capitol Hill was the first time Mike had ever shared a specific piece of work-related news with him. Maybe these things come in time, Donny thought. After all, he’d only known him a couple of months. And as long as they could still have the fun and pleasure of making love, it didn’t really matter that much anyway. He finished his coffee and went back to bed. Mike sleepily reached out and pulled him towards him, his warmth rising from the depths of the covers.

They stayed in bed until after ten, then showered and dressed for the pool. The staff had set up a brunch buffet service by the pool, so they ate there and settled into loungers. Mike had brought the spiral-bound books, which were scripts for the first three episodes of Capitol Hill. He read through them, repeating his lines to himself and marking them with a yellow highlighter, oblivious to the other people that started to settle into the pool area, most of them going the clothing-optional route.

After an hour or so, Donny got up and waded into the pool, then swam several laps. When he got out, an older man was sitting on his lounger talking to Mike. He was handsome, with a trim build, a full head of steel gray hair, smooth skin, and a deep bronze tan. He was dressed casually, but his clothes were of high quality: Ralph Lauren Polo shirt, Armani slacks and spotless Nikes. He stood up when Donny approached and gave him an appreciative smile. “Oops, this is your chair,” he said.

“No problem,” replied Donny, picking up his towel and drying off.

“I’m Paul Jeffries,” he said, offering his hand.

“Donny Hollenbeck. Nice to meet you.”

“Glad you could join us. I hope you’re having a good time.”

“Great, thanks. This is a beautiful place you have here.”

“Thank you. I was just telling Mike that it’s nice to see some of the younger set joining us out here. We’re always looking for new faces to mingle with the old wrinkled crowd. Not to mention some nice bodies to go with them.”

They all laughed at that. One of the waiters stopped by and offered drinks. Donny and Mike asked for beers. Paul asked for a club soda, then pulled a chair from one of the umbrella tables and sat down. Donny sat on his lounger and found the Coppertone.

“Well, Mike, congratulations on the series. Your first, isn’t it?” Paul said when the waiter was gone.

“Yes, it is.”


Mike nodded. “Yeah, a little.”

“That’s par for the course. But once you get going, you’ll do fine. How many episodes have they asked for?”

“Thirteen…but that’s normal, I guess. If we do okay they’ll probably pick us up for the whole year.”

Paul nodded, and the conversation went on into the ins and outs of network TV production. Donny listened politely but said nothing – it was mostly gibberish to him, and except for the occasional familiar name of an actor or director, he understood very little. The waiter brought their drinks, and after a pause to take a few sips, Paul and Mike went back to their chat. Donny picked up his book and put on his sunglasses.

After about fifteen minutes, Paul stood up. “I need to get back to the office.” Mike stood up, too, and Donny got up as well. They all shook hands again. “Come back soon,” Paul said, smiling at both of them.

“Sure,” said Donny, “thanks again.”

“My pleasure.”

They watched him stroll around the pool, stopping and chatting with some of the other guests. He waved to them again as he went inside.

“Wow,” said Mike. “That was really cool.”

“He’s a nice guy.”

“No kidding. And he knows everyone in the business. I mean everyone. And he’s not an asshole.”

“You thought he would be?” said Donny.

“Well, you know how it is… all these big-shot producers are supposed to be pricks. I mean, that’s how everybody thinks they should be: ‘Yeah, baby, let’s do lunch; my people will talk to your people and we’ll do the deal,’ while they’re snorting cocaine and fucking everything in sight, male and/or female.”

“Guess he’s not like that.”

“Nope. And…I think he wants me to join here.”

“He invited you?”

“Well, not in so many words. But he kept saying that this place needs to attract younger members.”

“So, would you?”

“Well, yeah…but it’s a little steep. The initiation fee alone is a hundred grand.”

Donny let out a low whistle.

“The application fee – non-refundable – is five thousand. Annual dues are twenty thousand.”

“Guess that keeps out the trailer trash, huh” said Donny.

“Yeah. And the background check is extensive. You have to provide five character references as well as a complete credit report. And there’s the medical examination.”

“Uh huh. A complete physical plus regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases and drugs. Paul’s real careful about shit like that. Smoke a joint here and he’ll boot your ass out.”

“Jeez, it’s like joining the CIA.”

“Except the CIA doesn’t accept gays. That’s the exception here.”

“One hundred thousand dollars,” repeated Donny.

“It’ll be a while before I join,” said Mike. “So, enjoy it now.”

“I am.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon by the pool, Donny moving into the shade when it got hot. Mike put away the scripts and swam ten laps.

“We’d better think about hauling ass,” he said as he dried off. “Traffic on the interstate’s gonna be hell with everyone coming back to town from the weekend.”

They went back to the room. Housekeeping had swept through and cleaned the room. Two small envelopes, one addressed to each of them, were on the dresser. Mike glanced at his and put it with his books without opening it. Donny read his. It was a hand-written note on creamy embossed paper from Paul Jeffries. I hope you enjoyed your visit to Castelfranco di Sopra, it read, and that I can look forward to welcoming you back in the near future.

“Wow,” said Donny after reading it. “Never heard of a host sending a thank-you note.”

“Classy guy,” replied Mike as he stuffed his clothes into his overnight bag.

“Yeah,” said Donny, putting the note back in its envelope and pocketing it. What he didn’t mention was that under Paul’s flourished signature he had written a phone number.

They stopped in the entrance hall to turn in the room key at the desk and saw Ben and Julian come through the main entrance. They had been playing golf. They shook hands and gave Donny and Mike their cards and said they hoped they’d see them back again. “And come up to Idyllwild sometime. It’s gorgeous there. You won’t even think you’re in California.”

The valet brought the car around and the guard waved them through the gate. Donny settled back in the seat. “Thanks again for bringing me,” he said.

Mike reached over and patted his thigh. “Thanks for coming. And I mean that in every sense of the word.”

Donny grinned a little. “Yeah, I know. It was fun.”

“Well, the next couple of months are going to be hell. We start production tomorrow, and I’ll be shooting all this week and next. Then we go to Washington for some exterior shots, then keep on going until September at least. Then, if we get picked up, we’ll be going until who knows when.” He looked at Donny. “You know it’s gonna be tough to get together for a while, don’t you?”

“I kinda figured that.”

“That’s why I wanted to spend this weekend with you. It gonna be hit or miss.”

“That’s okay.”

Once they got in the interstate Donny dozed off and on. As they got closer to the city the traffic thickened until it was nearly bumper to bumper going through the interchanges downtown, driving into the reddening glare of the setting sun.

It wasn’t they got off the freeway and were sitting at a red light that Mike finally spoke. “I’ll let you know what my schedule is as soon as I find out. Should be in the next couple of days.” The light changed and in a few minutes they pulled into the driveway, the headlights shining off the reflectorized Ohio license plate on the back of Donny’s truck.

“Home again,” sighed Mike. He leaned over and they kissed for a moment. “Umm…better stop now or you’ll never get home.”

“Who says I have to?”

“Early morning for me. C’mon, stud. The coach has turned back into a pumpkin and all the mice have run away.”

Donny tossed his bag into the passenger seat of the truck and dug out his keys. “Call me tomorrow,” he said to Mike.

“I’ll try.” He went to the back door and punched in the alarm code. “See you.”

Donny waved and drove home. Rob was in the living room watching TV and Jethro Tull’s Aqualung poured out of Eric’s room. He dropped his bag on his bed and turned on the overhead light. Only then did he see the Post-It note on his door, scrawled by Eric and dated last night: Your brother called.


Small Town Boys - Chapter 8

Mike - 1992

The house was dark when Donny got home from Mike’s. Eric said the party would go past dinner, and Rob was still working. He flipped on the light in the kitchen and found a Swanson’s potpie in the freezer. He fired up the oven and went to change out of his beach clothes.

He emptied his pockets and put Mike’s card on the dresser. He looked at it for a moment. On the front it read simply “Lance Michaels” with his agent’s phone number and address. Mike had written his private phone number on the back.

He put the potpie in the oven and went to take a shower. The water made his skin tingle, and he noticed that in spite of the sunscreen, he’d gotten red on his shoulders and legs. He toweled off, applied some Vaseline Intensive Care lotion, and pulled on some sweats. He sat on the couch, watched TV until the oven timer went off, and ate off a TV tray in the living room.

He was almost done when he heard a phone ringing. With three different phone lines, Eric had set it up so that each phone had a different ring pattern. Donny’s was “ring-ring-pause-ring-ring.” He went to his room and picked up the Trimline.


“Hi. It’s Mike.”


“Got home safe, eh?”

“Yeah. Just finishing dinner.”

“Oh, sorry. Didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“Oh, that’s okay. It’s just a TV dinner.”

Mike chuckled. “Yeah? Me too. Fresh outta the microwave.” He paused for a moment. “Hey, I really had a good time today.”

“Me too.”

“You’re a great guy.”

“You too.”

“I…uh…I just want you to know… I don’t hang out at Venice Beach every weekend picking up guys.”

“I know. You told me that. I believe you.”

“Yeah, I guess I did tell you that. Hey look, I have a short shoot tomorrow. I should be home by three. You want to get together? Maybe have dinner or something?”

Donny could feel his cock getting warm. “Sure, that’d be great.”

“Cool. Come over like around five or so?”


“See you then. Looking forward to it.”

“Yeah, me too.”

“Okay. G’night.”


Donny put the phone on the dresser and sat on his bed, remembering the afternoon.

They’d sat on the couch in the sunroom, sipped their beers, and chatted quietly. Mike took off his cap and sunglasses, and Donny now recognized him from TV. Mike said he’d played a defendant on Matlock, a bad guy on a recent episode of In the Heat of the Night, and was working on a movie of the week all under the screen name of Lance Michaels.

“Oh, yeah,” said Donny, nodding. “So that’s not your real name?’

Mike shook his head. “Michael Eugene Lankowski. When I got out here and started auditioning, the first thing everyone told me was to change it to something more pronounceable, and so—ta-da! Lance Michaels.” He made a face. “It’s a kinda cornball name… I mean, why not Rock Salt or Bolt Upright, but…I guess I’m stuck with it.”

Donny shrugged. “How about I just call you Mike?”

“Works for me.”

Donny looked around the sunroom. “Nice place.”



“Yeah. Sublet, actually. A woman I know with is on the crew of a movie shooting in England for a year, so I’m basically house-sitting, except I’m paying her for the privilege. I might end up buying it, though. She’s engaged to this guy who lives in New York and when they get married she’s moving there, so what it really boils down to is that if I like the place and can afford it, I might actually go ahead and buy it. C’mon, let me give you the tour.”

The rest of the house carried on the Southwest theme. Mike explained that the owner had been on the crew of The Milagro Beanfield War and had fallen in love with the Santa Fe look and decided to do the whole house that way – carpets, wall hangings, paintings, even the tile in the kitchen. They went through the living room and into the bedroom wing, past two or three smaller rooms and then into the master bedroom. It had a large sliding door that opened out onto the pool and the patio. Mike slid open the door and stepped out onto the patio. It was shaded by tall trees and native plants, hiding the privacy fence. The only sign of the neighboring houses were the peaks of their roofs, visible through the branches. It was getting to be late in the afternoon and long shadows fell over the patio.

“This is a great place,” Donny said. “You should buy it.”

Mike chuckled. “I might. Comes furnished, so I don’t have to worry about that, and it even has a maid. Now all I need is a hunky pool boy in a Speedo to come over twice a week. Then it would be perfect.”

Donny glanced at Mike, and saw that he was looking at him with an inquiring look. Donny gave him a small smile, and that seemed to send the right message. Mike laughed softly. “Look, I hope you don’t think that I prowl around Venice Beach trying to pick up guys every weekend. In fact, today’s the first time I’ve been there in, like, months. Since last summer, and that was with some friends. So…” Mike came over to Donny and close to him. Donny could feel his warmth, and he caught a whiff of sunscreen. “Yeah,” Donny replied, “this was my first time ever at Venice Beach.”

“Matter of fact,” Mike said, “I am really careful about meeting people, period. You never know.”


“Well, there’s a lot of whackos out there…not to mention guys who would love to get you and your picture on the cover of the Enquirer.”

“Never read it.”

“Yeah, you don’t look like the type. ‘Sides,” he added, looking down at the front of Donny’s cutoffs, “not too many freelance reporters trying to get some dirt on me would be standing here with a king-size hard-on, would they?”

“Guess not.”

Mike grinned a little. “Just so you know, my agent requires that I get tested regularly. For AIDS. I’m negative.”

Donny nodded. “Okay.” It looked like Mike was waiting for him to say something, so he grinned a little too. “I’ve....I’ve never done anything that could be... y’know....”

“We’ll be safe,” Mike said.

They kissed gently touching at first, then powerfully, wrapping their arms around each other, pressing together. They took a breath, then Mike led Donny back into the master bedroom, closed the door, and pulled the curtains, making the room dim. Mike pulled off his shirt and kicked his sandals away. Donny did the same. Mike gently tugged on Donny’s belt buckle, and it made a soft clunk on the area rug next to the bed. Donny buried his hands in the front of Mike’s shorts, loosening the string and pulling them off, taking the blue Speedo with them. They both looked down at the same time. “Wow,” whispered Mike, and that was the last coherent sound they made for a while.

Afterward, as Donny sat on the edge of the rumpled bed and pulled on his shirt, Mike handed him the card. “That’s this number here at the house on the back,” he said.

“Okay.” Donny stood up and stuffed it in his pocket.

“Let’s keep in touch.”


“I’m not just saying that,” said Mike. He went to the closet and pulled on a pair of sweatpants.

“No, I know,” said Donny. “This was fun.”

Mike went into the bathroom and rinsed out the washcloth. “Can I call you sometime?”

“Sure. Whenever you like.”

“You live alone?”

“Nope. Share a house with two other guys. One’s my boss…or sorta. He’s an owner of the company I work for.”

Mike flicked off the light and came out of the bathroom. “Is he cool?”

“Oh, yeah. Well, I don’t think he knows I’m gay, but I don’t think it would bother him. He’s not too much older than me.”

“Is he hot?”

Donny thought for a second, trying to think of Eric in that way. “Yeah, I guess you could say so. He’s got a good build, and he’s funny and smart.”

“Sounds like a nice guy to work for.”

“Yeah, he is. He and his twin brother run the place.”



“That must be weird, working for twins.”

Donny chuckled. “I have a twin brother myself.”

“You’re kidding.”


“Is he gay?”

Donny stood up. “I hope not. He’s at the Air Force Academy. They kick you out for that.”

Donny wrote his phone number on the pad in the kitchen, and then Mike let him out the front door, giving him a squeeze on the arm. “See you soon.”

Donny squeezed back and went down the sidewalk to his truck.

He went back to the kitchen, cleaned up the remains of his dinner and put away the breakfast dishes. Eric still wasn’t home by the time he went to bed.

Chapter Guide