One

 

1955

 

“I WANT to go for a swim.” Jack hopped off the bed, ignoring the small twinge in his ass, and grinned across the mattress. Sam still wore most of his clothing, although his shirt was rumpled and his pants were unfastened.

“It’s too cold out, kid,” said Sam.

“Cold? It’s at least seventy.” Back home in Nebraska, everyone was still bundled up in thick coats and wool hats, cursing as they slipped on the ice or shoveled the sidewalk for the hundredth time. Wouldn’t they all turn green if they could see Jack with his suntan?

Sam zipped and buttoned his trousers, did up the buckle, and drained the tumbler of whiskey he’d left atop his dresser. He rummaged a moment in one of the drawers before grabbing something and tossing it at Jack.

Jack caught the fabric neatly. “Bathing suit?” he asked when he unfolded it. “I thought you liked me like this.” He spread his arms wide, putting himself on display. He knew what Sam saw: tight muscles, trim waist, decent-sized cock.

Jack turned around, showing Sam the butt he’d said was so spectacular he wished he could put it on the big screen. “I’d make posters of that ass,” Sam would say. “Better’n Grable’s legs or Monroe’s tits.” Then he’d usually give the body part in question a good squeeze or a healthy smack. Now, though, he only growled, “Doris is here.”

Blinking slightly, Jack stepped into the swimsuit. It was dark blue with white piping, and tight even on him. No way it would fit Sam, once trim and handsome—Jack had seen photos—but now with a substantial paunch. And a bald spot that threatened to conquer his entire scalp. “I thought she was in New York.”

“She was.” Sam smiled and used his palms to stretch the skin tightly across his cheeks. “She had some work done. She’s hiding out here until the bruises fade. Don’t tell anyone. Top secret, right?”

“Yeah. Of course.” Jack looked down at the garment. “Whose is this?”

“Yours now. Merry Christmas.”

“Yeah, but—”

“How the hell do I know? Probably somebody sent it to me. Companies are always sending me shit, wanting me to put it in one of my films.”

That didn’t explain how the suit got into his dresser. But Sam’s mouth was turned down at the corners, so Jack dropped the subject. “Gonna come with me?”

“Nah. Got calls to make.” He jerked his chin toward the door. “Scram.”

Ignoring the abruptness of the dismissal, Jack loped down the long hallway. As always, he marveled at the wall-to-wall carpeting. None of the scuffed wood and worn lino from back home. Someday when he bought his own house in Beverly Hills, he was going to put carpets everywhere—even in the bathrooms.

He skidded to a halt when he reached the kitchen and discovered Doris sitting at the table, leafing through a magazine. Her blue bathrobe matched her eyes exactly. Her blonde hair, usually carefully styled, was pulled into a ponytail, and the dark circles under her eyes made her look tired. She gave him a wide smile. “Hi, Jacky! When did you get here?”

“A couple hours ago. Sorry—I didn’t know you were here.”

“I was still in bed. Beauty sleep.” She pursed her lips before taking a swallow from the glass in front of her. It looked like orange juice, but Jack would have bet that a good portion of it was vodka.

“Pfft. You’re too beautiful already.” She was still pretty, actually. When she’d married Sam, she’d been a real knockout—Jack had seen those photos too—although never quite stunning enough for the leading-lady parts. She usually played the sister or the best friend. Of course, she hadn’t appeared in anything for years, although sometimes after a few drinks she’d explain that she was planning a comeback. Sam would just roll his eyes and puff on his cigar.

“You look pretty cute yourself, kiddo,” Doris said. “Are you giving an old lady a thrill or heading for the pool?”

“You’re not old, but why not a little of both?” He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

She laughed and flapped her hand at him. “Go. Get in a few laps before Sam decides to drag you back into his bedroom.”

He felt his cheeks color before he exited through the sliding glass door. The first time Sam had brought him home—to his house in Los Angeles, not this one in Palm Springs—Jack had been thrilled to have captured his attention. Even back in Nebraska, everyone knew who Sam Richards was. Hell, he’d been nominated twice for Best Director! But when they walked inside the mansion, Jack barely had time to be awed before Doris made an entrance into the living room, glass in hand. Jack almost died of embarrassment. But she’d been nice to him then, and later that night, in the privacy of the bedroom, Sam had explained that he and his wife had an understanding. She kept quiet about Sam’s boys and he kept her well supplied with luxuries. “It’s a business arrangement,” Sam said. “Works out for everyone.”

Even now, nearly a year later, Jack still felt disconcerted when Doris openly acknowledged that Sam was fucking him. But she continued being nice to him, so he guessed he didn’t really mind that she knew.

The pool was that exceptional turquoise color that seemed to exist only in California, and the sunlight glinted so strongly that he wished he’d worn sunglasses. He grabbed a towel from the teak cabinet next to the house and spread it over a lounge chair. Yeah, probably it was a little chilly for swimming. But the pool was one of his favorite things about this house, and he never missed a chance for a dip. Back in Omaha, he’d never met a single person who had a swimming pool in their backyard. It was possible nobody in the entire state of Nebraska had their own pool. He was for sure going to have one—a big one—when he bought his own house.

He stretched his arms wide, then high, took a deep breath, and dived into the deep end.

The cold water momentarily shocked his system. If his balls hadn’t already been squished in the tight briefs, they’d have tried to crawl into his body. But he began swimming with smooth, steady strokes. He’d made both the varsity swim and baseball teams, although neither impressed the majority of folks in a state bonkers over football. He certainly didn’t impress his parents, that was for sure. His dad said sports were frivolous, as were the school plays where Jack always got the lead. “When I was your age, I was working,” Dad said. “Helping support my family.” Jack’s mom fussed over his grades. She told him if he studied a little harder, maybe he could go to a junior college. Maybe even get a scholarship.

But none of that mattered now, as he was doing laps at a famous movie director’s house in December under a bright blue sky.

 

 

SAM HAD promised a quiet weekend, but by eight that night, the house was full. This was a select crowd, one Jack had seen many times before. There were men Sam’s age. Rich men. A lot of them were in the industry, but others were lawyers or businessmen. And there were young guys Jack’s age, every one of them good-looking. Most of them wanted to be actors, but some called themselves assistants or personal secretaries. Some of the attendees were well-known leading men. At first Jack had been both awed to meet them and amazed that these matinee idols liked dick, but he was over that by now. He knew the score. In front of the cameras, you pretended to moon over some pretty starlet. And when the press went away, you could gather with some like-minded fellows who’d be sure to keep their traps shut. Sometimes Jack contemplated which actress would be his beard, when he was famous enough to need one.

A few women showed up too, but Doris was notably absent. Hiding in her bedroom, perhaps. That was too bad, because Jack liked talking with her. As it was, he spent most of the night stuck with a portly man who owned several Cadillac dealerships and had awful breath, and a sneering kid the man introduced as his “nephew.” Both of them made veiled allusions to three-ways and found excuses to touch him. Jack tried to escape, kept trying to catch the attention of the agent he’d had his eye on for weeks, but Mr. Caddy got in the way. It was damn frustrating.

To calm himself down—and to help him refrain from socking Mr. Caddy and Junior in the noses—Jack drank. Not beer, like he was used to back home, and not the fancy, fruity concoctions Doris sometimes gave him, but whiskey on the rocks, just like Sam. He had several. And when someone handed him a marijuana cigarette, he had some of that too. He was left feeling tired and bleary but not especially happy.

After Mr. Caddy palmed Jack’s ass for the umpteenth time while Junior snuggled close enough for Jack to feel his hard-on, Jack had reached his limit. He lurched away from them and stomped off in search of Sam, who might at least convince his buddies to keep their hands to themselves.

He found Sam, all right—scrunched into a quiet corner of the patio with a dark-haired boy kneeling in front of him, sucking his cock. Sam held a cigar and gazed over the moonlit pool. Jack made a small noise and Sam turned his head to look at him. Sam’s expression didn’t change, and he made no move to push the boy away.

Cursing under his breath, Jack slipped back into the house.

He worked his way through the crowd, snagging a bottle of booze as he went, and walked down the long hallway to the room at the end. He stepped inside and closed the door. Sam and Doris called this the guest room. It was nearly as big as the whole house where Jack had grown up. The carpet was gold, as were many of the decorative accents, and there was a private bathroom. When Jack visited Sam in Palm Springs, he spent a lot of time in Sam’s bed, but he always slept in this room, by himself.

He kicked off his shoes but left the rest of his clothing on. Propping himself on the bed, he uncapped the liquor and began to drink.

 

 

JACK SLEPT until almost noon and woke with a throbbing head. Still wearing his rumpled, smoke-smelling clothes from the night before, he made his way to the kitchen. He’d been half hoping Doris would be there, but instead he was greeted with a frown from the Richards’ housekeeper, Juana. “Morning,” he mumbled.

She nodded stiffly and scrubbed at the counter.

“Can I get some coffee? And something to eat? Please.” He wouldn’t have minded fixing his own meal, but the few times he’d tried, Juana had yelled at him in Spanish. He didn’t know what she was saying, but he was positive it was nothing good.

Now she nodded again. He sat at the table, wincing every time she slammed a pan or rattled cutlery. But the food smelled good and the coffee even better, and he thanked her when she brought him an omelet with toast and a steaming mug of joe.

She sniffed disdainfully and walked away.

Jack was using the toast to mop up the last of the egg when Sam entered the room. He wore a suit and tie, and his hair was carefully combed. He walked over to Juana and said something too quiet for Jack to hear. Within minutes the vacuum was roaring in the living room, signaling that Juana had left them alone. Sam sat opposite Jack. “Hand me that ashtray, kid.”

Jack slid the thing across the table. He watched as Sam shook out a cigarette and lit it with his gold lighter. After a single puff, Sam wordlessly offered the cigarette to Jack and lit another for himself. “I have to head back to LA,” he announced.

“I figured you were overdressed for Palm Springs.”

“You can stay here if you want. Doris might like the company.”

“I didn’t come here to keep Doris company.”

Sam quirked his lips slightly but said nothing. They smoked in silence, not quite making eye contact. They finished their cigarettes and Sam lit two more. Finally he looked at Jack. “You weren’t trying to convince yourself I was going to fall in love with you, were you?”

Jack pressed his lips together and shook his head.

“Good. Didn’t think you were that stupid. I know you sure as hell aren’t falling for an old bastard like me. Hell, I don’t even know if you really swing this way. Would you rather be screwing girls, Jacky?”

“I don’t like girls.” Jack had dated a few girls back home, and he’d had sex with three of them because they were willing and any sex seemed better than none. He’d got his rocks off, but it wasn’t earthshaking. When he beat off, he thought about men.

“Ah, girls are all right. They smell nice. But you have to seduce them, at least a little bit. Even the ones who want you badly have to pretend they don’t. I’d rather stick my dick up a tight ass like yours.”

“Or in a mouth like that boy’s last night.”

“Yeah, he’s real pretty, isn’t he? Mouth like a fucking angel. Thinks he’s going to be a movie star, but with skin dark as his, he’s never going to play anything but bit parts. Indians, Arabs, maybe a wop or a kike.”

Jack happened to know that Sam’s last name had originally been Rosenberg, but he didn’t point that out. Instead he stubbed out his cigarette. “How about me?”

“You look plenty all-American, kid. Those lips and those cheeks are maybe a little too pretty for some parts—you’d make a crappy PI—but you can do a leading man. You could be a young Monty Clift.”

Despite his headache, Jack perked up a little. “Really?” Montgomery Clift was from Omaha, just like him. So was Marlon Brando. “How about James Dean?”

“James Dean’s dead.”

“I know.” The accident had happened a few months ago, and Jack had cried for hours when he found out. He’d never even had a chance to meet the man who’d inspired him to head to Hollywood. “So now they need somebody else to play those kind of parts, right? I could do it.”

Sam looked at him for a long moment, then nodded. “Yeah, sure. You could do Dean.”

“So when are you gonna give me a part like you promised?”

“I gave you a part in my last picture.”

“I was hardly more than an extra. I had three fucking lines, Sam.” He’d played a hotel bellhop, which meant he had to wear that stupid uniform with the ridiculous hat.

“Gotta start somewhere. James Dean didn’t start with top billing. And I made sure you were listed in the credits, didn’t I?”

Jack scowled. His character hadn’t even had a name. He was just “Bellhop.”

With a loud sigh, Sam leaned across the table and cupped Jack’s cheek in one palm. “I gave you a bigger part in this picture, didn’t I, Jacky?”

“Yeah, you did.” The movie was set in a high school, and Jack was cast as a leader of a rival gang. He wasn’t a star by any means, but he was in a half dozen scenes and had several pages of dialogue. And the character had a name—Mikey Collins. “And I appreciate it. It’s just….”

“You want big.” Sam chuckled and patted Jack’s cheek. “Give it time. You gotta have patience in this game.” He stood, scraping his chair noisily.

“I’m trying to be patient,” Jack said with a sigh.

“I know. So look. Take a few days here, make Doris feel young and glamorous. Keep her from going nuts by herself. Head back to town on Tuesday and I’ll take you out somewhere real nice for dinner, maybe buy you a couple new outfits. We start rolling on Thursday.”

“Okay. Thanks, Sam.”

Sam walked around the table and bent down to give Jack a long, deep kiss. He tasted like tobacco and whiskey. When he straightened up, he ruffled Jack’s hair. “See ya Tuesday, kid.”