MEN are—by nature—stupid creatures.
I think I can speak with some experience on this. Both as a man and, well, a gay man. It’s bad enough to be one of the stupid creatures. It’s quite another to be attracted to them. Cursed at both ends: brain and dick.
My older brother, Mike—a fine example of a man doing a stupid thing—was sitting next to me in the new Range Rover I’d bought. He wordlessly grumbled as he sipped from the burnt, bitter coffee we’d gotten from a convenience store down the street. An open bag of Funyuns sat between us, keeping my stash of Twinkies company. I thought fondly of the young Korean man I’d rather have keeping me company than my brother, but Jae-Min was probably hard at work in my living room, where I’d left him.
We were sitting across from a sex shop called Back Door Lover. It wasn’t a high-end shop, not like one of the perfumed, delicate places on Sunset named things like Pandora’s Box, or Chocolate Starfish. The shop was a cinder block square building set among other low-rent businesses. A twenty-four hour taco stand sat on one side of a tiny parking lot it shared with the shop, and a computer repair shop sat a few feet away, on the other side. There wasn’t a five-dollar cup of coffee place for miles. This neighborhood ran to greasy donuts and quick oil changes, with a scattering of cookie-cutter apartment complexes.
We’d parked across the street, so we could clearly see the shop, and the alley that ran between it and the computer store. The taco shop did a steady business. Pity it was mostly between a drug dealer and his customers in the parking lot.
Surprisingly, the Back Door Lover Sex Shoppe did a hell of a lot of trade, up until it closed at three thirty in the morning. Mike and I watched as the last customer shuffled out, clutching a plain paper bag of magazines to his chest. The moonfaced college kid who worked the night shift rolled a thick metal gate down over the front doors, cutting off our view of the shop’s interior. Moments later, the shop’s neon sign flickered, then went dark.
It was hard to get comfortable, even in the Rover’s lush seats. The scar tissue from where Ben shot me kept clenching up, painfully twisting the nerves along my shoulder, chest, and rib cage. My more recent gunshot wound was a picnic in comparison. That just throbbed, and mocked me with twinges whenever I lifted something heavy.
“I can’t fucking believe I’m sitting here at 4:00 a.m. watching the front door of a porn shop.” Mike gritted his teeth, grinding them loud enough for me to hear him across the seats. “God damn it. Why do I let you talk me into these things?”
His hair, a hedgehog bristle on his square head, stood up even angrier from the hours he’d spent running his hands over his scalp. He took after our dead mother more than I did, having inherited her thick black hair and Asian features. Taking more after our Irish father, I envied Mike’s hair. Its fury at the world was something to behold.
“’Cause Bobby had a date,” I reminded him. “And technically, this is a sex shop. It says so on the side of the building. You can’t miss it. It’s in bright pink fluorescent letters. We’re here on a case for a client, remember?”
“Your client has an inventory loss problem.” Another slurp of coffee, and Mike’s almond-shaped eyes became slits. “I have better things to do on a Saturday night than babysit my brother on a stakeout, so he can catch someone ripping off dildos.”
“You’re sitting here because you replaced your kitchen’s cork floor with Spanish tile.” I brought the binoculars up to my face to check out the couple walking by the sex shop, but they were more interested in checking each other for tonsillitis than breaking into the now closed business. “Wet Spanish tiles are hard to walk on when you’ve got feet. Imagine what a bitch it is if you’re missing the bottom halves of both your legs.”
“I was supposed to know that?” Mike slumped down in his seat. “I thought it would look nice. Be a surprise for her when she came home from New York.”
“Yeah, well, maybe she’ll think that once she forgives you… and rips out the fucking tile.” I reached for my coffee, and swallowed as much of the hot, sweet, bitter brew as I could. “Right now, you’re stuck here with me, watching a sex shop. And for your information, a client is someone who pays you. I’m doing this gratis, as a favor for Bobby.”
“Who’s on a date,” he grumbled. “Nice best friend.”
“I do not stand in the way of a man getting laid,” I replied.
“Car One, come in. Over.” The walkie-talkie I’d set on the console squawked with a harsh hissing noise. I reached for the handset before Mike could grab it. “Car One, are you there? We’ve got a situation at Car Two. Over. Kkkrrrawwr.”
“Did he just hiss into the mic?” My brother’s disdain was as sour as the coffee. “Are you shitting me? What is this? Are we in the fourth grade?”
“Not everyone plays real-life Army Soldier like you do, remember?” I clicked the send button before Trey could spit into the speaker again. “Trey, what’s going on back there? Do you see someone?”
Trey, the recipient of said favor for Bobby, and owner of the Back Door Lover, was in charge of watching the rear entrance. It was a strategic move on our part. Trey was a bit of a pig, and even sitting across the street in a beat-up Toyota Camry, he’d cruised the men coming out of his own sex shop. I’d partnered him with Mike, while I sat in the back with Trey’s current fuck-bunny, a frosted blond twink inexplicably named Rocket. I thought separating the lovers was a good idea. After twenty minutes of Trey’s lascivious comments about men’s asses and cocks, Mike threatened to cut off my balls if I didn’t do something about it.
We’d switched places, moving Trey and his car to the back. Mike jumped in with me, reasonably more than half-afraid Trey would look for something else to do with his mouth besides talk in the dark alley behind the store.
Unfortunately for us, Trey had three situations while covering the back door, including the panicked reporting of a possum, digging through the dumpster he shared with the taco shop next door.
“Stop me if I’m wrong,” Mike interrupted by poking me in the ribs. “But it looks like someone’s coming out of that sleaze shop with some of your client’s shit.”
I’d never played with dolls of any kind, so it came as kind of a surprise when an oddly shaped balloon poked out a small opening set high up on the Back Door Lover’s outer wall. It convulsed, then shot out, catching air. The brunette blow-up doll’s freed limbs unfurled, and it pinwheeled in the air, then floated down to the ground.
A blond version popped out next. Its bright, nearly pink vinyl body floated upward momentarily, catching the faint breeze before it drifted down to land beside its brunette sister. Even in the shadows, its creamed-corn-yellow hair shone, and its wide, surprised mouth was obscenely bright in the darkness.
What came next was even more of a surprise. The doll was followed by what looked like a size nine red Converse en pointe.
“Son of a bitch must have been hiding inside.” I was in awe, really. The man was scarecrow skinny and able to contort himself into a pretzel to get out of the shop’s exterior air vent. It couldn’t have been more than a two foot square, but he slithered free of the opening like he was made of gelatin. He landed awkwardly on a pile of boxes stacked in the tight alley between the Back Door Lover and the computer place, but recovered before he could fall. Mike and I were out of the car before the thief’s feet could hit the concrete.
That’s when the gunfire started.
A quick shove from behind, and I was tasting the pebbles and oil on the street. Mike’s heavy weight landed on my back, and what little air I had left in my lungs rushed out, leaving me gasping. I was more than mildly insulted when Mike pushed me down onto the asphalt and covered me with his body. I didn’t need my older brother to protect me. Besides, he was a lot shorter and smaller than I was, so he wasn’t really much use as a body shield.
“Get the fuck off of me.” I shoved Mike away. The walkie-talkie in my jacket pocket screeched with Trey’s screams. I was up as soon as Mike’s weight lifted, yelling at my brother as I headed to the back of the store. “Go after the guy. I’ll check on Trey.”
Throwing himself to the ground apparently made my brother deaf, because he ran behind me, as fast as his stumpy little legs could carry him. I was still spitting grit out of my mouth, and the road rash on my hands was beginning to sting. I wasn’t in the mood to be generous.
I was even less generous when I came around the corner of the building to find Trey sitting next to a battered green dumpster with his pants and underwear down around his ankles. Trey twisted slightly to look at us coming toward him, and what I could see of his skinny, bony ass wasn’t a pretty sight. I had no idea what the hell Bobby saw in the man’s stick-figure body and hooked-nose face. Trey’s cousin and resident twink seemed more like Bobby’s style.
The twink, Rocket, stood between Trey and the car, twitching nervously next to the remains of a shot-out headlight. His T-shirt had disappeared sometime after they’d moved to the back of the store, and his mouth looked suspiciously swollen. If anything, he was skinnier than Trey, nearly cadaverous, and pale. I could count the bones of his spine, and I was half-afraid the weights on his nipple rings would topple him off balance, pitching him forward. He held a brick in his hand, clutching it like it was a Bible.
Freddy, the store’s clerk, stood in front of him, looking surprised to see us. His mouth gaped, mimicking the blow-up dolls’ orifices. Unlike Rocket, he wasn’t clutching a brick. He had a wicked looking .357 pointed straight at Trey.
I skidded to a stop, and Mike slammed into my back. Freddy screamed, flailed, and the huge gun in his hand went off.
Several things happen to people when a gun goes off around them. Some scream. Others dive for cover. I, for some reason, did something my brother just did to me. I grabbed Rocket and covered him with my body to protect him.
This time, my brother chose instead to raise his hand—a hand with fingers clenched around a mean-looking Glock, which Mike dropped to aim at the sex shop’s round-faced, pimply clerk.
Rocket squeaked and tried to squeeze out from under me. The cloying scent of a bad grade of pot, and grimy boy sweat clung to him as tightly as he held onto his pet brick. His squirming turned to near seizures, and he swung his arms, smacking me across the cheek. Of course it was the hand with the brick. I saw stars and rolled over. If Rocket got shot at, maybe he could deflect it with his brick, like Wonder Woman.
“Drop it.” You’d think Mike was the former cop instead of me. He had the voice down. He probably practiced it while standing in front of a mirror.
It was enough to make Freddy drop the gun. It clattered when it hit the cement walkway, and I flinched, half expecting it to go off. Standing up, I brushed flecks of cement and boy debris off my jeans.
“What the fuck do you have a gun for?” I went to pick up the weapon. It was heavy, and the powder reek coming off it smelled dirty. Trey uncurled from the fetal position he’d taken on the ground. His skinny frosting-white ass disappeared from view as he sat up, and he gave me a sheepish smile when he saw me frown at his nakedness. “Pull your pants up, Trey.”
That’s when I noticed he had a glass juice bottle hanging from his dick.
“He’s stuck,” Rocket mumbled, scratching at a mosquito bite on his skinny arm. “His cock’s stuck.”
“Yeah, thanks. I kind of noticed that, Rocket.” I motioned for Freddy to step back, and he shuffled quickly, his eyes pinned on my older brother. The container was an iced tea bottle, a wider mouthed opening compared to a soda bottle, and Trey’s considerable girth was lodged firmly down its long neck. “Well, I guess that’s what Bobby saw in him.”
“Fucking hell.” Mike spat on the ground. “I’m going to go see if I can find the skinny guy with the fake chicks. You deal with this shit.”
“That asshole had a gun,” Freddy stammered, after Mike stalked off. “He was going to shoot me! He had a fucking gun!”
“To be fair, so did you,” I said, holding up the weapon I’d picked up. Shouldering Rocket aside, I approached Trey and looked down at his captured dick. “Trey, what the fuck happened?”
“I needed to pee.” Trey shrugged. He also smelled of pot, sweat, and the added bonus of sex. “Freddy locked up and came outside to get high with us. Then, I needed to pee.”
“There’s a bathroom inside of the store,” I pointed out. “Your store. The one you own.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think about that,” he admitted. “I had the empty bottle, and then Rocket started doing some things, so I got stuck. Freddy was going to try to shoot it off, but he missed.”
“He could have shot your dick off, stupid.” I looked away as Trey was still sitting bare assed on the filthy cement without pulling up his pants. Considering we were in back of a place where people bought lube and dildos, I’d have kept my naked butt as far away from the ground as possible, but it didn’t look like Trey was all that worried.
“He was going to hit it against the dumpster, but Freddy said it wasn’t a good idea,” Rocket mumbled. “We thought we’d try the gun first.”
Rocket’s tongue kept wandering through the piercing on the side of his lower lip, turning the skin red. I wondered if I’d ever been that young and stupid. Looking at Trey sitting on the ground with his legs spread wide open and with a glass sarcophagus around his dick, I didn’t think I’d been born that young and stupid.
“And the brick?” I was afraid to ask. “What were you going to do with that?”
“Oh, yeah. Right,” Rocket looked down at the brick, surprised to find it in his hand. “Trey told me to do this before Freddy said he could shoot it off.”
For a skinny, twitchy stoner, Rocket had great aim. The brick flew tight, hitting its target cleanly: right onto Trey’s glass-encased dick.