SAM BENITO squinted in the sunlight as he carried the large bag of sunflower seed from the feed store to his customer’s car. He’d been inside long enough the brightness caught him by surprise.
“You know, I really do appreciate you boys carrying my stuff out to the car for me,” said Mrs. Schroder as her car beeped and the rear door swung up. “In addition to supporting small businesses, that’s one of the big reasons I shop here. It might just be for the birds, and it’s cheaper at Walmart in Woodland Park, but I like the fact that you boys load things for me. These old bones just aren’t as limber as they used to be. It’s about all I can do to get the bags in the house anymore. I think I might have to start buying smaller bags.”
Sam gently put the bag in the back of her SUV. “We’re just happy you still shop here. Glenda’ll be thrilled to hear that Walmart is cheaper than her again. She’s barely making anything on the birdseed as it is. But as long as you and the other regulars keep buying it, she’ll keep stocking it.”
“That’s good.” Mrs. Schroder walked to her driver’s door as Sam swung the rear door shut. “You boys keep up the good work. I’ll see you again in a couple of weeks.”
“Thanks.” Sam smiled at her. “You have a good day, Mrs. Schroder.”
She got in the SUV, closed the door before waving at him. “Don’t work too hard.”
He stood there for a moment and watched her drive off. Sam liked helping the older customers out with their orders. A fair number of the customers at High Altitude Feed were older than they liked to admit, and he didn’t mind lending a hand. Glenda, the feed store owner, requested that her employees help customers out with their orders if they weighed more than ten pounds. The Lake George locals appreciated it.
“Why does she call us boys?” Geary Ellis, the newest worker, asked. “It’s not like any of us are kids.” Geary leaned his lanky form against the closest wooden post that ran along the roof edge.
Sam glanced at the vehicle as it went over the hill east along Highway 24. “It doesn’t really matter to her. We’re younger than she is. It doesn’t matter that I’m approaching middle age. Besides, doesn’t it make you feel younger?” He knew Geary was a few years younger than his own thirty-six.
“I don’t know. I’m at the point that I’m ready for people to start taking me a little more seriously. Calling us boys makes me feel like I’m not really mature. People don’t take immature people seriously.”
“As long as you don’t act immature, that’s all that matters.” Sam walked past Geary, back into the feed store. The pleasant smell of bagged feeds with just a dash of fresh herbs hit him. It was one of the things he liked about working in the small store. The smells and general feel of it were so much more comforting than his high-paying corporate job had ever been. The fact that the pace was mostly laid back didn’t hurt either. He held the door for Geary. “You coming back in?”
Geary heaved himself off the post and followed Sam. “I guess. Is there anything we need to be doing right now?”
Sam shook his head. “The latest feed truck was unloaded this morning. The hay is tarped just in case it rains this afternoon. So unless Glen comes in with something to do, we should be fine.”
“Do you call her Glen to her face?” Geary walked around behind the counter and sat on the stool there. “I’m not sure I’d risk it.”
Sam laughed. “Glen and I go back a few years. Before I started working here, back when I still had a corporate job down in the Springs, I used to get all my horse feed here. We became friends. Most of her friends call her Glen. When you become her friend, you can too.”
Geary scratched at his short brown goatee that Sam thought looked good on him. “I’ll keep that in mind. My folks used to get stuff here back when they had more livestock. Dad’s last horse died a couple of months before I moved back in. Mom only has one now, and she picks up stuff in the Springs. I remember Glenda from before I went away for school, but we weren’t friendly.”
Sam settled into the wooden chair by the woodstove not far from the counter. Since it was a warm spring day outside, the stove was cold. “I can tell you this much. She remembers you. She wouldn’t have hired you if she didn’t. I can’t remember the last time she hired someone without knowing them.” He was about to put his boots up on the stove when the door opened and their next customer came in. Sam didn’t mind the interruption. For him it was just small talk. Like the others that worked in the store, Sam was still getting to know Geary. Until they all knew him better, that was all he was likely to get. High Altitude Feed was more of a family than anything Sam experienced in the corporate world. But they were a quiet family. Until trust was earned, it was unlikely any of the real secrets would come out.
THE LATE afternoon spring sun made the inside of Sam’s truck almost too hot. He rolled down the windows and let the cool Colorado mountain air circulate around him as he drove home. The tired feeling that seeped into his muscles reminded him he’d done a good day’s work. The last two hours there had been a steady stream of customers, most of whom bought several bags of feed for their various critters. It kept him and Geary moving. But he enjoyed the hard work. It helped him maintain his body without having to go to the gym every day, like he’d done through his twenties and the first part of his thirties. He actually liked his body more now. It felt more honest, built up from real physical labor and not just lifting weights.
The road curved, and his driveway came into view. A small red sports car came barreling out of it. Three shirtless young men were in it. Sam frowned. He couldn’t remember his son, Iggy, having any friends that drove a red Corvette. They looked just a little too old to be friends of Iggy. As he turned down the driveway, Iggy’s car wasn’t there.
Three big dogs ran out to greet him as he got out of his truck. Sam bent down to scratch their heads. “You all been good today?” The two yellow labs wagged their tails and licked his hands while the German shepherd sat down just behind them and patiently waited her turn.
After greeting all the dogs, Sam walked into the house. The heavy incense was the first thing that hit him. He sighed.
“Hey, Charlie, I’m home!”
There was no response. Sam ventured farther into the house. The kitchen was empty and cold. I’d been hoping he’d have something ready for me when I got home. Iggy’s going to be hungry, if he didn’t get something to eat already.
A couple of the cushions from the couch lay haphazardly on the floor. Sam picked them up and put them back in their normal places as the shower in the master suite came on. I wonder what he’s been doing that he needs a shower this time of day? The dogs hopped up on the couch and laid their heads down. That’s not a good sign.
He continued on into the master bedroom. The smell of pot, lube, and sex hit him. Sam frowned. So that’s who was in the sports car. “Charlie, I’m home,” he repeated as he walked into the bathroom.
“Oh, hey, Sam.” The shower muffled Charlie’s voice as steam rolled out into the bathroom.
“A little late for a shower, isn’t it?” Sam asked. It didn’t take much to figure out the reason; he just wanted to hear what Charlie would say.
“I wanted to get cleaned up before you got home. Just running a little slow. Or are you early?”
Sam took a deep breath. I really don’t want to go there right now. It’s been a busy day, and I’d like to relax a bit. “I’m right on time. I figure Iggy will be home in a few minutes.”
“Shit, I’m sorry. Some fans stopped by, and time got away from us. Do you think you could start something for dinner? I’m beginning to get hungry.”
Leaning against the sink, Sam crossed his arms. He was starting to grow tired of the scenario that kept playing out in their lives. “So, how much work did you get done today?”
“Oh, you know, I don’t really keep track of that. Plus, I’ve been bogged down on the current chapter. It’s just not flowing for me. When those fans showed up and wanted to talk, I decided to take a break. I think it was just what I needed. They managed to get past the blockage I had. Tomorrow I might really get something done.”
Biting back the retort that almost escaped his lips, Sam moved from the sink to the toilet.
“Hey, don’t flush that!” Charlie screamed as Sam started to pee. “You know I’m trying to conserve water.”
Sam flushed the toilet before tucking his cock away and zipping his pants.
Charlie screeched. “Shit! Damn it!” He threw open the shower door and stood dripping on the white tile floor. He glared at Sam. “You know the water goes straight hot when you flush the toilet and someone’s in the shower.”
“Sorry.” Sam washed his hands off in the sink.
Charlie grabbed a towel and ran it over his unnaturally smooth body. He’d obviously been to the Springs and gotten a wax earlier in the day. For some reason Sam couldn’t understand, after Charlie’s first book sold, he’d started waxing. He said it made him look younger. Sam didn’t like the look. To him, it looked fake, like the spray-on tan. “You’re not sorry. You do everything you can to torture me. If I didn’t know that you’re not into S and M, I’d swear it gives you a hard-on. But then I know those don’t come easy to you these days either.”
Sam turned off the water in the sink a little more forcefully than he’d intended to. They’d gone almost a week without a fight. He’d hoped they might set a new record for peace in the house, but apparently he was wrong. “Maybe I’m just trying to get you to notice me. Did you ever think of that? What with all those little fanbois in and out of here all the time, I think you stopped noticing me as anything more than your cook and housekeeper.”
“Well, at least my fans can get hard and keep it that way. They find me attractive.” Charlie dropped the towel and thrust his smoothly waxed pelvis toward Sam. His large flaccid cock looked out of place without any curly blond hair around it.
“Whatever.” Sam turned to walk out of the bathroom. “Will you just go put some clothes on?”
“Why, don’t you like looking at me anymore?” Charlie followed him into the bedroom. “I’m good enough for everyone but you.”
Sam spun around and glared at him. “There was a time, many years ago, when you didn’t need anyone but me. Do you remember that? I was the only man for you. I don’t know how many times you told me that. Was that all a lie?”
Charlie put his hands on his hips. “You stopped seeing me! Now when you look at me, it’s like I’m diseased.”
“I keep remembering the young man I fell in love with when we were in college. You were so handsome, caring, and honest. I keep hoping I’ll see him, but all I see is this.” He gestured to Charlie’s naked body. “This isn’t what I fell in love with. I don’t know what you did with him, but I’d like him back.”
“Dad, Charlie, you guys here?” Iggy called from the living room. “What’s for dinner?”
“I guess I’ll go fix something for dinner.” Sam turned to leave. “Why don’t you put some clothes on?”
Charlie caught his shoulder. “You realize that you’ve changed too. You were so driven back then. You wanted to make enough money to make me happy and keep me and Iggy in the best. Now look at you, working at that pathetic little feed store for just over minimum wage. If it weren’t for me, we wouldn’t have this house and land.”
Sam shook his head. “Charlie, Iggy’s home, let’s not go there right now.”
“Why not, don’t you want your son to know his dad’s gotten lazy and lost his edge?”
“Iggy knows what’s going on.” Sam had explained it all to Iggy and Charlie when he got laid off and took the feed store job as the only opportunity he could find after months of looking. “You won’t be able to tell him anything he doesn’t already know. He also knows that I’m happier now, and my happiness means more to him than it does to you.”
“I don’t believe you. You’d never tell Iggy the truth. You don’t tell me the truth.”
Sam glared at Charlie. “How dare you! I always tell you the truth. I always have and always will. You’re just not willing to hear it. If I tell you right now that you’re tearing me apart and that I can’t stand it when your ‘fans’”—he made exaggerated air quotes—“stop by and you have these orgies with the little twinks you love so much. I think one of the problems is I’m too much of a real man for you. You never listened to me when I told you that I hate it when you wax your body. I fell in love with the natural you, not the strange little Ken doll that you want to be.” He glanced down at Charlie’s crotch. “But you’ll never pull off the Ken doll act with that cock. Cut it off. Maybe you’ll feel even better about yourself.”
Charlie reared back like Sam had just slapped him. “You used to love my cock. How dare you tell me to cut it off! My fans love my cock. They say it’s my best feature.”
“Then maybe you’ll get one of them to pay you something for it. Oh, wait, you have to pay them to come worship at it, don’t you?”
Charlie reddened. “Get out! Get out of my house! You never loved me. I’ve known for years that you don’t love me. If you loved me, you never would’ve left that door unlocked years ago.”
Sam turned and stomped out of the room. As he slammed the door shut, the pictures on the wall rattled. “Come on, Iggy, we’re going to go find some food. What do you say, Woodland Park or Fairplay? Actually, if you want, we can go to Denver.” He didn’t care, as long as they were out of the house for a few hours. Maybe when they got home Charlie would be asleep or at the very least have forgotten why they were arguing.