Sunday, July 03, 2005

Small Town Boys - Chapter 12

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
Chapter 11

The Answer — 1992

Donny went home around dusk. They had spent the afternoon quietly around the pool, Mike working on his lines for the scenes to be shot the next morning and Donny cueing him. The dialogue sounded a little forced to Donny, like the writers were trying to make the characters sound cool, which wasn’t easy when the subject was politics. The subject of moving in didn’t come up again.

The only interruption was a phone call in the late afternoon from Marty, which Mike took inside on the cordless. He was gone about ten minutes then came back with a tight grin. Donny didn’t ask what the call was about. Mike peeled off his shirt and dove in the pool.

Eric was mowing the front yard. Rob, as usual, was gone for the weekend; he would leave Friday after work and go visit his parents, returning late Sunday night with plastic bowls of food for the week. It saved on groceries.

Eric waved as Donny got out of the truck and kept on pushing the mower, an old hand-powered reel model they’d found at a garage sale for ten bucks. Donny went to his room and changed into clean clothes and rummaged through the fridge for a beer. He was settling in on the couch when Eric came in. He had been mowing without his shirt and the smell of cut grass followed him.

“Hey, what’s up?” he asked casually.

Donny shrugged. “Not much.” He leafed through the TV section. Nothing worth watching was on. Eric disappeared into his room and came out in a tank-top and sweats.

“I’m thinking about going out to get something to eat. Rob won’t be back with the leftovers for hours. Wanna go?”

They went to a small sandwich shop and ordered hamburgers and iced tea. The place was nearly empty.

“So what’s up?” Eric repeated, this time not as casually.

Donny looked at Eric and shrugged a little. Other than the time at the beach, he’d never talked to him about Mike, and other than the time at the beach, he’d never talked to him about being gay. But he seemed to know that something was going through his mind. Donny picked up his straw. “He asked me if I wanted to move in with him,” he said, carefully watching Eric’s reaction.

Eric was unfazed. “Really?”


“Wow. I didn’t know you two were that serious.”

Donny shrugged again. “I’m not sure we are. I mean, I like him a lot, and...” he grinned a little, and Eric grinned back. “Yeah, that too. But...”

The waitress brought their drinks, and they busied themselves with the preparation of squeezing the lemons and adding sugar. Eric took a long sip through the straw. “So what did you tell him?”

“That I’d think about it. I mean, there’s our place. I don’t want to leave you guys in the lurch.”

Eric shook his head. “Not a problem. We can always find someone else. Hell, Greg’s making noises like he’d like to get his own place.”

“Yeah, but if this doesn’t work out with Mike...”

“So you move back. Tell you what – give it a try, see how it goes. If it works out, great. If not, we’ll keep your room ready.”

“For how long?”

“As long as it takes you to find out.”

“I’ve never lived with anyone before. I mean, other than at home...or with you guys.”

Eric leaned back and chuckled. “You’ll know in a week,” he said with assurance. “Ten days at the most.”

“How do you know?”

“That’s how long it took me.”

“You lived with someone?”

“Yeah. When I was in college.”

“For how long?”

“Senior year.”

“Then what?”

“He got a job in Texas.”

“That was it?”


“Didn’t want to go to Texas?”

“I had other plans.”

“Like what?”

“Well, not living in Texas, for one thing.”

Donny laughed at that. “Was it serious?”

Eric shrugged. “I guess it was, for a while. We were dating each other for a few months, and it was great and we each thought, wow, this is the one, yeah, let’s do it, so we got an apartment and moved in together. It was really exciting, y’know; every kid’s dream to have his own place – come and go as you please, eat in the living room, that kind of thing. That lasted about a month. Then it got to be that we really didn’t know each other that well and this living together wasn’t making it any easier; we both had school and friends and family, and after awhile it was sorta like, huh, what’s next? It was convenient. Then I guess we both got on each other’s nerves, and the only way to get over that was just admit that, hey, the only reason we’re even speaking to each other is ‘cause we like the sleeping together part.” He stirred his tea with the straw, making the sugar crystals swirl like snowflakes. “I think it was kind of a relief to both of us when he left.”

“Still friends?”

“Oh, yeah – he calls when he comes to town and we go out and have a beer or something. But...” Eric paused. “I’m not saying that’s going to happen to you.”

“Who knows?” Donny said. “I think he just wants some company, to be honest.”

“Well, there are worse reasons to do it.”

Donny called Mike when he got home. “Thought about it.”


“Let’s give it a shot.”


“Yeah. See how it goes.”

“See you tomorrow after work, then.”

Monday after work Donny packed up enough change of clothes for a week, call-forwarded his phone to Mike’s number, and drove to the house. It was a little before six and traffic was still heavy. The house was dark, so he sat parked on the street and waited for Mike to show up.

A half-hour went by. Donny wondered if somehow he’d misunderstood what Mike had said. A police car drove by, then a few minutes later the same patrol car came by from the opposite direction, slowed as he passed the truck, then went to the corner and stopped. Donny, not wanting to be mistaken for someone casing the house to rob it, decided to leave. He found a piece of paper in the glove compartment – the back of an old packing slip from 84 Lumber – and wrote Mike a short note, stuck it on the garage entry door, and drove back to his house. Eric was not home and Rob was in his room studying and barely acknowledged his arrival. Donny put his duffel on his bed, unforwarded the phone and called Mike’s number. He got the machine and hung up before the beep. He went to the kitchen, opened a can of Dinty Moore beef stew, and ate it while watching the news on Channel 4.

Eric came home a little later and looked quizzically at Donny sitting in the living room watching TV. “I thought this was the day...?”

Donny glanced at him. “He wasn’t home when I got there. I left him a note.”


“No big deal.”

He tried calling again at eight. Still no answer, so he went back to watching TV. For a moment he wondered if Mike had changed his mind and this was his way of telling him, or if something was going on at the studio and he couldn’t get away. He searched for something on TV to take his mind off it and got caught up in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie.

Mike called shortly after ten as Donny was getting ready to go to bed. “I’m sorry. We got really behind today and I just had to go get something to eat.” He sounded tired and slightly drunk.

“It’s okay.”

“Too late to come over?”

“Yeah, I think so.”

“Okay. Tomorrow then. I will make sure I get out of there by five. I swear.”

“It’s okay.”

“You’re coming over tomorrow, then, right?”

“Yeah. Goodnight, Mike.”


Eric stuck his head in. “So...what happened?”

“He said they got behind.”

“Shit happens on movie sets.”

“That’s what I figured.”

Eric nodded. “Hey, stop by my office tomorrow morning. Greg and I have an idea that we want to bounce off you and the gang.”

“Sure. What is it?”

Eric grinned mischievously. “Tell you tomorrow. But I think you’ll like it – or at least be intrigued by it.”



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