IT WAS cold outside. It was really cold. Freezing cold.
Todd Burton, freezing himself, watched as a man with a big industrial broom swept what was an obviously already shoveled sidewalk. The snow was falling harder than ever and was piled everywhere.
Jeez, it’s snowing like a son of a bitch out there. Todd glanced nervously over his shoulder into the lobby of the apartment building. No one seemed to be watching him.
What the hell am I going to do?
If this had happened to him a week ago, it wouldn’t have been so bad. Not good. But not nearly as bad.
Luckily, one of the building’s residents had let him in out of the cold in the first place. A big guy–good-looking, tall and wide—wearing a long woolen (and obviously warm) coat.
Todd would have done almost anything for that coat. His pale-tan lightweight fall jacket barely kept out the chill of late autumn. It didn’t stand a chance against the snowstorm outside the warm lobby.
“You’ll wear it and like it,” his mother had screamed. “We ain’t made of money!”
If he hadn’t chosen to wear a sweater to the New Year’s Eve party last night, he didn’t know what he would have done. It was the only thing keeping him from being chilled to the bone. His gloves were a joke—the simple one-size-fits-all type bought at Family Dollar, with a hat purchased at the same place—and all but useless. He might as well have been naked.
So it had been a stroke of luck when the big man had asked Todd why he was standing under the awning of the Oscar Wilde apartment building.
“Waiting for a ride,” Todd replied, even though it was a lie. He was no more waiting for a ride than he was waiting for the results of a pregnancy test. But it got him out of the frigging cold. Todd flexed his wet toes in the confines of sneakers worn to death. His feet were still frozen and aching after nearly an hour. Lord yes, his toes hurt.
This sucks, he thought. This sucks zombie dick.
“What am I going to do?” he muttered as the snow, abundant as the feathers from a high-school-girls’ pillow fight, fell thickly to the ground. Icicles, looking like the teeth of some primeval creature, hung just outside the large plate-glass windows. I’d hate to be the poor guy that one of those fell on.
“Still waiting?” came a voice from behind Todd, and, startled, he jumped and let out a cry. He spun around and found himself gazing up into the face of the man who’d let him into the building. No longer in his winter wear (where was that coat?), the man had changed into jogging shorts and a T-shirt that stretched over a massive chest and proclaimed that he was 2CUTE2BSTR8.
It took Todd a moment to figure it out, but when he did, his mouth dropped open. Too cute to be straight. The guy was queer. It was a little more than Todd’s small-town naïveté could take in. This guy? A fag? It just didn’t seem possible. The guy was a powerhouse. A total class-A stud. This was no swishy, limp-wristed, pink-wearing gay boy.
The man eyed him suspiciously, and Todd realized he needed to say something. “Uh-uh, yeah, I don’t know what’s taking… uh, George… so long.” Piss. Did I actually say “uh George”?
The man nodded, went to retrieve his mail, and on his way back, stopped again and looked Todd up and down. But this time his gaze lingered just a bit. Todd felt his stomach give a weird sort of flip-flop.
“Look,” said the man. “Watch yourself, okay? The building manager has been known to have a shit fit when hustlers come in the building for, well, whatever they come in here for. Just don’t get caught.”
Todd stiffened. Hustlers? Did this guy think he was looking to sell himself? Before he could think of how to respond, the man crossed the lobby and disappeared into the elevator.
He thinks I’m for sale! Todd shook his head. Cursed under his breath. Do I look like a hustler? he wondered and thought about the boys who sold themselves in the park. Maybe I do, he realized, horrified. He touched the scruff on his face—he hadn’t shaved today and his facial hair grew like wildfire—and looked down at his dirty jeans and worn-out sneakers. Would someone want to buy something so… dirty? He tried in vain to catch his reflection in the big lobby windows. Not enough light in here, he thought.
He glanced around the lobby, seeing what at one time must have been elegance, but was now just a few levels above run-down. Brass elevator doors, once shiny and beautiful, now tarnished with age; hardwood and marble floors now scuffed; banks of fluorescent lights hanging from the ceiling; what looked like the faded remains of a huge mural—all probably gorgeous when the building was made. All just sad echoes of a different age.
Todd thought of the man who had let him into the building. From the look of his business attire Todd was surprised he didn’t live in a much fancier place. That coat hadn’t come from Walmart. Couldn’t the guy afford an apartment in a better building?
There was the pinging from the elevator as the doors opened, and speak of the devil, it was the same man. He was carrying what looked like a plate and a mug and was heading in Todd’s direction. When he got closer, the wondrous aroma of coffee hit Todd and he saw the man had a sandwich as well. To Todd’s surprise, the man handed them both over. His mouth fell open. The day had been one of the shittiest ever in a year of total shit. And here, out of the blue, a complete stranger was showing some small-town kindness?
Todd only hesitated for a second, all but snatched the food and coffee from the man, sat down on the windowsill, and practically gulped everything down. Both were a relief beyond words. Todd almost swooned. He hadn’t had so much as a bite all day, and with barely twenty bucks in his pocket and no idea when he’d get more, he’d been afraid to buy so much as a dollar grease burger from Mickey D’s. He ate the food so fast he barely tasted it. Oh! And the coffee filled him with a warmth that finally let him shake off the cold that had plagued him all day. He actually gave a shiver as it lifted.
“I’m Gabe,” said the man.
With only a few bites left, Todd nodded but didn’t offer his own name.
“What are you doing out in this weather, anyway?” Gabe asked.
Todd stopped chewing. Boy, was that a question and a half. He swallowed hard. How did he explain it? It was awful. He was ashamed. How did he tell a complete stranger that he felt like a total failure?
Todd gave the guy a quick look, then a longer one. The guy was huge. A good head taller, at least, than Todd’s five foot nine and downright massive: really built. He obviously worked out. A lot. Like the guys in the muscle mags that Todd collected.
(“Jesus, Todd, how many of these things do you fucking have?”)
Not like the men who were all gnarly and knotted like mutants or something, but the nicely built, Hollywood TV-star kind.
(“It don’t make no sense a boy your age having so many of these. You a faggot or something?”
“I just use them for exercise tips.”)
Gabe’s pecs looked as big as dinner plates, and Todd could see the man’s abs even through his shirt. His waist seemed almost as small, his hips as narrow, as Todd’s, impossible as that should be.
And good-looking. Really good-looking. The man had short light-brown hair (dark-blond? It was hard to tell) and light blue eyes (the color of a country summer sky) and a face like a movie star. This guy could have any woman he wanted. Why had he chosen to go gay?
“Okay, so if you don’t want me to know—”
Know? Know what? Did I miss something?
“—can I at least get that name?”
What the hell? “Why do you need to know?”
Gabe shook his head. “Okay, Mr. Uh Todd Whydoyouneedtoknow, I’ll leave you alone.”
The man started to turn away, and suddenly, Todd didn’t want Gabe to leave. “I was kicked out of my apartment,” he cried out in a rush.
Gabe stopped, turned back.
“Surprised the shit out of me too. Got home this morning from a New Year’s party, and the lock had been changed.”
Gabe’s eyes widened just a bit. “Damn.”
“What kind of asshole kicks someone out on the streets in this kind of weather?” Todd asked. He began to wring his hands. “I thought there were laws that protected you from that.”
“I believe there are, but that’s not going to do you any good right now,” Gabe said.
“No shit.” Todd sighed. He looked at the man again. God what he’d do to look like that. He’d worked out all through high school and bought weights for home, but no, he just couldn’t do it. There was a level of baby fat that didn’t want to go away for anything.
(“Ha! Look at you, working out! You trying to get a body like the guys in your magazines? Give it up. Ain’t gonna happen. You Burtons have the bodies you have. Skinny as shit.”)
At least he didn’t look like his stepfather, with his big beer gut and his flat ass. Todd was in decent enough shape, but he’d come to realize he’d never have a body like Gabe’s. “You really queer?” he asked without thinking. His lack of a filter from thought to spoken word had bounced him against the walls of authority all his life.
“You don’t think before you speak,” his freshman teacher—Mr. Grombeck—would say over and over.
“The word is ‘gay’,” Gabe said, “and yes I am.”
(“I remember when gay was a good word. Homos have ruined that word!”)
“It still is,” Gabe returned.
Shit, I said that out loud? He heard me. He must have six million dollar ears.
“Gay is a joyful and happy word.”
Gay and proud of it, Todd thought with wonder. “Sorry,” he said and meant it. After all, the guy had helped him when no one else would. So what if he chose to fuck a dude instead of a girl? It was his choice.
“Any idea what you’re going to do in the meantime?” Gabe crossed his arms over that expanse of chest. “You got a place to stay? A friend?”
Todd felt the last of his strength leave him and his shoulders slumped in defeat. “No.” The people he’d met since moving to Kansas City had been total jerks. Or drug addicts. Thieves. Users. Girls as well as dudes just trying to get him into bed. All he’d wanted to do was get out of his small town and into a big city. Fat lot of good that had done him.
“What about the friends you partied with last night?”
Todd jerked. A few people he’d met at Gilham Park a month or so before—a far different park than the one that catered to male prostitution—had asked him if he wanted to party, and, desperate to get away from his tiny studio apartment, he’d agreed. He’d no sooner gotten to the party than a couple of boys younger than him tried to give him some crack. No way was he going there. He might be small town, but he knew that stuff was no joke. A couple of beers later and he was buzzed and sitting alone in a corner watching the freakiest things. Two, then three, guys making out on a couch. Another guy with his head under the skirt of a girl who couldn’t have been legal. Lots of drugs, but mostly marijuana. He’d even taken a few hits of something that made the pot he’d occasionally smoked with his friend Austin seem like grass clippings.
Then, right after midnight, two girls who had been watching him, giggling (when they weren’t kissing each other), had pulled him into a dark bedroom, yanked off their tops, and tried to get him to have sex. One girl with no bra and huge breasts had grabbed his hand, pressed it against one tit, and squeezed his fingers over it. He couldn’t yank away fast enough, and he didn’t know why. “No,” he said, then got the hell out.
“No,” he said again to Gabe. “No way.” The people at that party hadn’t been his friends.
There was a pause, and Gabe looked him up and down once more. Not rudely, but it made Todd feel weird anyway. He couldn’t quite describe the feeling. The guy wasn’t drooling or any fucking thing like that, but still….
(“Perverts. They like little boys. They kidnap them and they cut them….”)
Gabe was a guy. And despite parades and gay marriage, the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and gay and lesbian support groups in high schools, men with men wasn’t—
(“… normal! They ain’t normal!”)
—anything he was used to. The guy seemed nice. Had given him food. Gabe had shown him more kindness than anyone else in this fucking city, so—
“Look,” said the big man, “I’ve never paid for it, but you’re awfully cute, and it would give you a place to stay for the night, and….”
Todd started. “What?”
“I mean it’s not going to be like Pretty Woman, where I have to pay extra to get you to stay the night, right? I mean, I’m getting you out of the snow and—”
“I’m not a whore,” Todd snarled. “And I’m not a fucking queer.”
Gabe’s face froze, his warmth vanishing as if it had never been there. He reached out and took Todd’s now empty mug. “Good luck,” he said, voice icy. “And like I said, don’t let the building manager catch you, or you’ll be back out on the street, blizzard or not.” Gabe turned and strode back to the elevator without looking back.
Great. Shit. Why did I do that? “I gotta stop losing it,” he said aloud. I could have just told him I’m not gay, not a hustler. The guy—Gabe—was nice. He would have taken no for an answer. Todd turned back to look out the lobby windows. Gasped. The snow, which had been coming down hard, was now a writhing wall of white.
“Look at that,” said someone to his right. Todd turned and saw a couple of people had wandered into the lobby from who knew where? Upstairs? An office?
“My mom just called and told me the governor declared a state of emergency,” said another onlooker. “I sure would hate to be out in that.”
No shit, Todd thought. He looked back to the elevator. But Gabe was gone, of course. Why did I act like an asshole? Maybe all he wanted to do was suck my dick. Not like I haven’t ever had my dick sucked. Just because Joan didn’t like giving them…. And of course there was the one that….
“Just look at that!”
Todd jumped at the voice and looked outside again. What had been bad had become downright scary. It was like some kind of special effect from a horror movie.
Wouldn’t it have been worth a blowjob to get out of that?
“It’s easy money,” a hustler from the park across from his apartment building—his ex-apartment building—had told him a couple of weeks ago. A day that had been pleasant, a few orange and red leaves still hanging bravely from the trees; a day when his lousy coat had kept him warm enough. “Easy money. I make fifty a blowjob. Getting a blowjob! I can shoot two, three times a day for sure. The third time not as much, but if he’s an ugly old troll, he’s lucky to get what he gets.”
The guy—a redhead named Doug—and a friend had been smoking a joint and regaling Todd with the gainful job opportunities in the world of male prostitution. “I just lay back,” he continued, “close my eyes, and pretend it’s Katy Perry givin’ me head. Who doesn’t like to get his dick sucked? And get paid for it.”
Somehow, Todd doubted Doug’s sincerity. If it was all that great, why wasn’t everybody champing at the bit to be a prostitute?
“Don’t let him fool you, girlfriend,” said Chaz, the second young man, a kid of mixed ethnicity, maybe twenty years old. “Doug here ain’t thinkin’ ’bout Katy. Channing Tatum is his thing. And I tells you this…. We all suck cock at least now and again.” He shifted his hip, rested a hand upon it, and then snapped his fingers with the other. “Especially in these hard economic times.”
Todd had shaken his head doubtfully. “I don’t think….”
“You could suck dick? After that first time or two it isn’t a big deal,” Doug said, thereby admitting he did indeed give at least the occasional blowjob. “And if you can swallow, you make more money.”
“Why you guys telling me this?” Todd had asked, as if he didn’t already know.
Chaz took a hit of his joint, apparently not worried in the least about who might see, and passed it to Doug. “Cuz you ain’t got no job, and you’re trying like a motherfucker to get one. Am I right?”
Todd was startled but didn’t answer.
“No need to deny it,” Doug replied casually and hit the joint. “You leave your place all different times, and you’re always wearing a tie.” He reached out and flicked the thrift-store paisley one Todd had loosened but not removed. He held out his joint.
Todd shook his head.
“And because you don’t want the grass. You’re studying for a test.”
“A piss test,” Chaz explained.
How does the guy know so much?
“We know all kinds of stuff about you,” Doug said and raised an orange brow.
“Like you is from a small town, ain’t ya?” Chaz asked.
Jesus. Todd gaped at the young man in disbelief. “How do you know all this?”
The boy-men laughed.
“Because we’re all small-town,” Doug cried.
“We knows our own,” Chaz continued and snapped his fingers again. “We all comes to the city to get away from a big bad daddy who can’t keeps his hands to his self—”
“Or to make big money or get famous,” Doug added.
“Or what-the-fuck-ever, and instead we winds up sellin’ ourselves. Story as old as fuckin’ time, baby.”
Todd hadn’t taken them up on their offer. Hadn’t even considered it. I’ll never get that low, he’d told himself.
But now? He watched the swirling maelstrom.
Gabe would have been better than some old toothless “troll” picking him up off the street. At least Gabe was hot. Maybe he could have laid back and let the man give him some head. It couldn’t be any worse than those his so-called girlfriend had given him back home.
He shuddered at the thought.
Or any more disastrous than….
And Gabe would have given him a place to stay for the night.
What if Gabe wanted the blowjob? Could you do it?
Memories of a basement…
Hell. Maybe. Didn’t every dude wonder what it would be like once or twice? He remembered a time in the locker room at school. He was sitting down untying his shoes when he realized the penis of one of his classmates was less than a foot from his face. He could actually smell it, it was so close, the heat from the showers bringing out the boy’s natural male musk. Todd had toed off one shoe and as he slowly worked on the other, he was able to look up through his bangs without his buddy knowing he was checking out his cock. Todd found he wasn’t repulsed by it at all, as Joan seemed to be by his own. Why, it was rather handsome. Longer than his, it draped over two largish testicles, one hanging slightly lower than the other in a fleshy, silky-looking sack. The scrotum was hairless, and he wondered if his buddy shaved his balls (and where that thought had come from?).
“Hey Burton! Whatcha lookin’ at?”
Luckily his big mouth served him well that day. “I don’t know what the hell it is,” he’d replied rather loudly. “But whatever it is, it’s about the ugliest damn thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”
The roar of laughter was probably the only thing that had kept him from being called a faggot for the rest of the school year.
But a few days later, while Joan was making another sloppy and unexciting attempt at giving him a blowjob, gagging like he was twelve inches long or something, he’d wondered what it was like to suck a cock. What if he had been alone with that boy in the locker room and he had just leaned forward and taken it into his mouth? Or his friend Austin. The cute boy’s face filled his mind. The image of him from when they’d gone skinny-dipping over the summer. Evenings at his friend’s house. What would Austin’s cock feel like in his mouth? Taste like? Strange, those were the thoughts that allowed him to finally cum, to his girlfriend’s noisy complaints—“Toddy! You said you’d warn me.”—in a voice like rubbing two balloons together.
So if Gabe had taken him to his apartment, gotten him out of the snow, maybe he could try it? As clean-cut as the man was, Todd was sure he would be clean down there.
Strange also that Todd felt his own cock shift about then. Just in time for a bellow like an elephant that startled him so badly he gave a shout.
“Hey you! Who the hell are you?”
Todd turned to see a huge man descending on him like doom. “Goddamn drifters and hustlers always coming in my building. Get the hell out of here!”
What was he supposed to do now?