As a bright moon drifted slowly above San Francisco bay, Zeno Elliott sketched young pretty boys seated behind tables stacked with tabloids, weathered paperbacks, half empty glasses and ashtrays overflowing with cigarette butts in Cafe Encounter.
"What pray tell is this?" a boy, in front of Zeno's table, demanded, and the boy cleared his throat a second time.
Zeno looked up, met the boy’s startled blue eyes and pouty lips, and he liked the way the boy's small mouth was shaped. “Pardon me?” he replied.
"Are you some kind of an artist?"
"A painter exactly,” Zeno said, looking at the boy’s short blond hair cut as low as a military private excluding a long frosty bang swept off to one side of his forehead and the bang fell parted over one blue eye.
"Can I see just how you've sketched me?"
"What makes you think I was sketching you?"
"You think I was really reading over there? No, I was watching you strip me down to absolutely nothing."
Zeno shoved the pad across the table, reached for his latte and looked at the boy’s drab short-waist bomber on his long slender torso.
The boy picked up the pad, studied the sketch. Finally an abrupt grin settled across the boy's lips. "You're very good," he blushed, shoving the pad back across the table.
"I'm Patrick by the way." The boy extended his hand. "Patrick Delanney."
"Zeno Elliott." The boy’s slender grip was firmer than Zeno anticipated, and Zeno jerked his hand away.
"Mine if I sit?"
"If you wish. It's still a free country the last time I checked."
Patrick grinned, dropping in the opposite seat. "I see that you're funny, too."
"Pardon my unintentional humor.”
"You come here often?"
"Not exactly. I am here now."
“I detect a faint accent. British, the Caribbean islands? A little of both."
"I am neither British or Caribbean. American as you."
"Born and bred in Fort Wayne, Indiana, myself. Where about were you born?"
“Does it really matter?”
“It does for tonight under the milky way. Yes. Tell me?”
"I was born on a tiny island no one’s ever heard about...in South Carolina.”
“What’s the name of the island?”
“Queen Ester Island in the lowcountry between Savannah and Charleston.”
“Never heard of it. You’re correct. I don’t believe anyone in the world has ever heard of Queenie Island, North Carolina.”
“Queen Ester Island, South Carolina.”
“South Carolina. I stand corrected. I would never have surmised you were a southerner. No accent. None at all.”
Miles Davis’s “Blue in Green” played over stereo like a melody of songbirds mating in paradise.
“You mean,” Zeno started, “ya’ll expecting me be sayin’, I’m from Sous Care’line-na an’ all? Ain’t that just like de southern twang ya’ll wanna hear from a southerner who lived all he life out on Tar Heel Road? Honey, I almost broke my back pickin’ all dat tobacco in dat hot sun dat just made us poh black folk blacker than a crow. I be so glad boil weaver got holds of all dat king cotton way ‘fore I was born.”
“Awesome. A natural comedian as well.” Patrick shook his bang from out of his eye and reached underneath the table and caressed Zeno’s knee gently. “What else do you do, Zeno Elliott?”
“I told you already," Zeno snapped and picked up his latte. "A painter. Nothing more.”
“Don’t be naive. You haven’t moved your knee an inch. You want more. You want me as badly as I must have you.”