Last updated :
Feb 20, 2018 1:45pm (added comma after drunk, )
Feb 18, 2019 2:57pm-3:17pm
Feb 18,2019 9:25am-9:57am
Feb 17, 2019 2:19am - 2:33am
Feb 16, 2019 2:13pm - 2:24pm
Feb 16, 2019 11:48pm - 11:55am
Feb 16, 2019 5:25am - 9:57am
"Would you like a drink?"
“A little bit.”
"I ran up the hill."
"From Castro Street?”
"Yes," the boy said sitting in the armchair closest to the fireplace and crossing his legs.
“Why didn’t you drive?”
“I didn’t feel like it.”
"Running uphill? That's a good reason to be out of breath.”
“Was it up to 17th to Twin Peaks or up Corbett directly to Pemberton steps?"
“I prefer Corbett to Pemberton steps the way I always come.”
Abel looked down at his crotch, the thing throbbing sideways. “You know,” he grinned crossing his legs, “I miss you terribly when you’re not here."
"Even when I'm painting in the Green Cottage?"
"But of course, even then.”
"I started a new portrait.”
“Do I know him?”
“No, I don’t think so."
“Where did you meet?”
“Under that bridge?”
“No, it was at the top of the hill at 19th Street," the boy said studying red embers in the fireplace; then looking back at Abel flashed a silly smirk.
“Oh, the gay beach?”
“If that’s what they call it.”
“Was he blond?”
The boy swallowed and, sweating, wiped his forehead. “He had dirty blond hair.”
“Yeah, he was ok,” The boy said getting up. He took off his leather jacket and scarf, dropping them in the chair and went over to the fireplace snatching the poker from its rack and stirring embers that revived into flames.
"Was it a nude portrait?"
"No?" Abel raised one curious eyebrow.
"Just his face," the boy closed his eyes, his lips trembling when he murmured, “Nothing more.”
“Was he paid for this sitting?”
“He wanted a burrito.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Nothing more than that.”
"Steak, chicken or burrito de cerdo?"
"It was a fat steak burrito with extra meat,” he said squeezing the poker in his hand and opening his eyes in soundless horror. "I forget the name of the place because I can’t pronounce it in Spanish. It’s on Valencia Street near 16th. You took me there Halloween night before you introduced me to Castro."
“And you danced and got drunk and danced and danced with a guerrilla in the Pendulum.”
“Yes,” the boy remembered and smiled, “but I wasn't drunk, and everybody, not just me, danced and danced with that guerrilla who was sexy, exciting.”
“Well, I didn’t. I supposed I was the only one sober enough not to."
“Are you drinking now?” the boy said noticing Abel’s club soda.
“No, I am not drinking, it's club soda,” Abel said sipping his drink and putting it back down on the table. “Oh, that restaurant you can’t pronounce is Puerto Alegre. Can you pronounce it now?"
"Yes,” the boy rolled his eyes. “Puer-to A-legre.”
"Bravo!" Abel cried clapping his hands so loud the noise popped the boy’s eardrums.
"Abel.” The boy looked anxiously around the room. “Isn’t Mrs. Erikson sleeping?"
"Mrs. Erikson?" Abel said, his right hand clenched into a fist. "I don't give a goddamn if my excitement rouses that woman. If Zelta fell down a flight of stairs tonight and broke her silly neck I would not shed a tear."
"I'm sorry that Mrs. Erikson has hurt you,” the boy said putting the poker back into place; then came back to his seat pushing his jacket and scarf aside. “I hope someday you'll be able to tell me why you dislike her so. I promise I'll listen."
This pleased Abel wholeheartedly. He grinned, chin up and was content his boy had a compassionate heart and wasn't always so selfish. That raging beast that had overwhelmed him with unseemly thoughts of his mother faded. "What is done is done," he said calmly. "I'm simply happy that you care. But let's not talk about Zelta. I much prefer to hold you in my arms and kiss you."
The boy crossed his legs and looked down at his manicured fingernails with trepidation; they were neat and trimmed just the way Abel preferred. It was the tip of them he suddenly recalled exploring another person. He shook his head, then looked at Abel waiting on the sofa like a supreme authority. He took a deep breath and got up. On tiptoes, he went over to him like an obedient puppy and gave him a reluctant smooch as cold as ice.
Abel was unhappy by this worthless kiss. He pulled the boy down between his legs and drew his mouth to his. "I do love you, Zeno Dexter Elliot," he said, "and tonight you can rest assured I won't lecture you on the importance of fidelity. You're home. However, I must demand that you take extreme caution when you're out and about. According to the media, an incurable virus as ugly as Santa Ana winds is spreading in the worst unimaginable way among sexually active men."
"Who said I had sex?" Zeno climbed up. "I swear I was in the Green Cottage working all day."
"It's not wise to swear, my boy, especially when you choose to utter an untruth. Do you think for one minute I believe this ludicrous story of your meeting a trick in Dolores Park and painting him not nude?"
"I was there in the studio. That much is not an untruth."
"I'm unconcerned if you spent the day in the studio, Dolores Park or under a windmill in Golden Gate Park with your hands on your hips. I’m simply suggesting you’re careful when you’re out and about and among foolish men who could very well be carriers of this mad Red virus.”
Zeno hated it when he sounded this way. So goddamn fatherly, so goddamn right about everything. Always blabbing something with his "big know it all mouth". He pushed his hands in his pockets and strutted over to the window and stared at houses clinging down the hillside with their lights shimmering like romantic candlelight. The fog had dissipated, and, in the distance, the lights of Oakland and Berkeley hills stretched beyond the top of San Francisco’s illuminated skyscrapers cluttered at the edge of the bay. He wished he was there in the cold on a dock by the bay, away from here and all Abel's questions and unsolicited advice.
He swung around abruptly glaring at Abel with blazing eyes. In three years, he still had his manly good looks, but his brunette hair had turned salt-and-pepper. Thinner and thinner atop his pasty weathered head.
"I want my darling boy beside me where he belongs," Abel motioned him to a spot on the sofa. "I have a surprise."
He held his tongue, said nothing at all and rejoined his lover on the sofa without even a whimper.
"Do you still love me?” Abel demanded. “Your man? Your teacher? Your lover as I am?"
"Of course, all those things, just as you’ve said."
"Then look me in the eye, Zeno, and tell me that distinctly."
Zeno opened his mouth, but no words came. He thought about the studio he called Green Cottage, the house up Pemberton steps, all the new expensive clothes, boots, jewelry and looked down at the emerald ring on his index finger Abel gave him in Amsterdam. Finally "I love you, sir" spilled out.
Abel squeezed him in his arms. "Thank the Lord, baby, you said you love me," he exclaimed. "That is most important to my heart."
"I'm glad you brought me here..."
"Always remember it was I who made this entire journey to San Francisco a reality."
Zeno leaned his head against Abel’s chest and felt safe, secure so close to daddy. Nothing more than that. He took a deep breath, smiled and wrapped his arms around Abel's slender waist. He was happy and closed his eyes.
"I am the best thing that's ever happened to you," said Abel stroking the boy's kinky black hair. "We will never hurt each other or stop sleeping together because we are a permanent couple. I told my therapist today I felt I was ready to make love to you. Guess what? (An abrupt laugh) Just before you came home tonight I was aroused. It's true! I am ready to make love to you. That's my surprise. Reach down right now, my boy! Reach down and feel what is..."
But he stopped after hearing Zeno snoring with a sudden gargling and squawking against his chest and a terrifying pause like he’d just run into the devil in his worst nightmare.
* * *
About three miles southeast of Pemberton steps Travis Weatherford, a blond with stormy Nordic good looks and green eyes, snorted the last line of cocaine from a mirror in his Bernal Height’s flat on Mirabel Street. The feeling was dazzling, soothing. Things looked clearer now, and he was pleased listening to piano solo and gazing into a fire burning in the hearth with the smell of wet burning wood enhancing his euphoria.
Later he added another log and settled back with thoughts of a painter he’d met in Macombe Alley when the telephone rang disrupting his thoughts. He leaned lazily over, picked up hoping it was already the painter. Instead, it was Tyrone Belin...
"Tyrone," Travis said into the receiver with a slight Texan drawl.
"Yassar, Clarence's brother.”
"Why hello, Tyrone," he tried sounding cheerful and swallowed a dry lump in his throat. "Where is Clarence?"
"Dat's why I is callin', sar."
"What's wrong?" Goosebumps spread over his skin, little blond hairs stood up on back of his neck. He sank deeper into the chair feeling a chill down his spine. "Where is Clarence?” he said.
"He was here, sar."
"Then he's finally come back to his senses and on his way back to San Francisco?"
"No sar. Clarence. He gone away..."
"I don't understand." A pain in his chest. This feeling of foreboding doom agonizing him so. He pulled his fingers through his hair.
"My brother is dead."
"What do you mean dead? Who the fuck are you?”
“Clarence’s brother like I say.”
“You’re telling me he’s dead? Dead? Just like that. Dead.”
"We's done buried he dis past Friday. Momma says ya oughta be tolds."
"So you're just now telling me about this after burying him a week ago?"
"Sar, we's real upset down here, too. It happens so quick. Nobodies knows how sick he is when he comes down. He gots so weak and slim and dem sores. Open sores all over he face, he wholes body. It gots to de place where he can't eat no mo! with dem sores in he mouf. Lordie, we be almost to scared ta touch he. Doc up in Alicetown scared, too."
"Oh my God," Travis cried, tears rolling down his cheeks. "He went back there to die, didn’t he? Dammit." He gritted his teeth. "What a fool I've been." He stared into space furiously, pulling his hair and cursing God under his breath. He didn't hear Tyrone's desperate stutters anymore. "I gotta go, Tyrone. I can't talk now. But thanks much, buddy. Thank you..." He hung up the phone, shaken and frozen to the spot.
Then it struck, the painful aching, the burning misery. Long guttural wails echoed from his mouth as he screamed out his sorrow. The pain wouldn't ease. He caught a terrific chill thinking about it and smashed the mirror he had used to line cocaine, and then the lamp, leaving him weeping in the shadows of a dying fire.