The Girl for Me
Once in the car, in his ruined snow-suit and with nightmare hair, the alcohol and exhaustion began to over take Danny. He gave the keys to Kevin and fell asleep.
The bounce from a pot-hole woke him up, and he looked around. "Kev? Where are you going?"
"You said you wanted to go home..."
"I meant your apartment, silly."
"Uh... oh..." Kevin's apartment was 'home' now? Kevin was dumb-struck. Really? Home?
"Wake me up when we get there."
Next morning, Kevin was just about to push the toaster lever down when he heard moaning from his bedroom. He smirked, and poured two cups of coffee – cream, no sugar.
"Mornin' sunshine," he said, with sarcastic cheerfulness.
"Oh, god... my head hurts, Kev..."
"I bet. Here – I brought you some coffee. It'll help."
"No it won't."
"Drink it anyway."
"Hey," Danny carefully sat up in the bed, trying to avoid any rapid movements. Suddenly, he realized he was naked under the sheets, "Where's my clothes?"
"I took 'em off after you passed out."
"You... you stripped me?"
"Yeah. Then I ravished your helpless body, roughly caressing your milky-white skin, and taking you tender peaks into my mouth while your turgid member-"
"Stop it!," Danny said, beginning to chuckle, "Don't make me laugh - it hurts. Where'd you learn a word like 'turgid', anyway?"
"I shoulda known. God Kev... I feel so sick..."
"Uhm... yeah. Need to go to the bathroom?"
"Not really. Why?"
"Uh... oh, no reason. C'mon – I made breakfast. I hope you like your fried eggs runny. I like it when you break the yolk and it sort of just floods all over the plate and into the sausages. I like sausage rare, by the way. Pink and cold in the middle - hope that's okay."
"K – Kevin..."
"Actually, I usually eat a few raw as I'm frying them. They're juicier that way. You should try it."
"Or, if you're too sick to get outta bed, I could bring you some sardines. I'll put 'em on a sandwich for ya. With mayonnaise. And ketchup. I like bananas on mine, but I suppose-"
Danny's hand flew to his mouth as his cheeks bulged out, and he ran to the bathroom to power-heave into the toilet bowl. Kevin followed him in no hurry. He dampened a washcloth and waited for Danny to finish.
"Y-you.. f-fucking..." Danny stuttered, still panting, saliva dripping from his mouth, and snot from his nose.
"But ya feel better now, dontcha... Here." He handed Danny the washcloth, and got another one ready.
"I'm... I'm so gonna get you back..."
"Here's a fresh toothbrush," Kevin pointed to it, "Help yourself to my dresser and closet for underwear and clothes. When you're ready, I'll be in the kitchen. Toast. Just toast. You'll be fine, babe."
I'm SO gonna... Babe? Danny thought, Heh, I kinna like that... "babe"...
Kevin wasn't even to the kitchen yet when he heard, "Aaaaaahhhhh! Oh shit! Oh shit..."
"What the fuck happened to my goddamn hair!?"
"It was on fire... Christ, Danny... you scared the hell outta me!"
"Oh my god... Oh my – look at my hair!"
"Be glad it's not your head. We'll get it taken care of. There's lots of cute styles for short hair..."
"I don't want short hair!"
Kevin rested his chin on the other boy's shoulder as he continued to gaze into the bathroom mirror. His hands held Danny's hips. "Get over it babe. You'll still look cute," he said, and kissed him on the neck. "You do remember the fire, right?"
"I wasn't that drunk."
"Just checkin'. C'mon, get cleaned up – burnt hair smell doesn't suit you. We'll find you a nice beauty-shop after we eat, okay? And then we can go shopping for ski-clothes. That'll make ya feel better."
"Uh... I don't know if I have enough money left to-"
"You can owe me. As long as you don't go buying more Evil Henchman gear."
Danny chuckled, "Nah. But no pink – Whatever I am, I'm still not a Screaming Queen."
"Okay. No pink." Kevin turned around and went back to the kitchen.
Danny thought, Well... maybe a LITTLE pink...
"Okay," Kevin said, just inside the aptly-named Hair Salon, "I'll just wait at-"
"You aren't going anywhere, Kev. You're going to be here the whole time, watching me. I don't know this place – we're only here because it's open on Sunday. You're going to watch everything they do to my hair. Your job is to stop them if they do something bad."
"How would I know if-"
"Can I help you guys?" one of the stylists, just finished with her customer, said.
Danny hesitated, "Uh..."
"Show her," Kevin said.
Danny sighed, and lifted the Yankee's ball-cap off. Chestnut brown hair spilled unevenly down on either side. The back, on the other hand, fell down to his shoulder-blades as it had before.
"Oh my..." the stylist said, "What happened?"
"Uh..." Danny began, but was too embarrassed to finish.
"Fire." Kevin added for him.
"Ah. Well," she pointed to pictures on the walls – of male models, "we can go spiky, like that guy, or I think there's enough for that look the blonde has there, or-"
"I like that one," Danny pointed to a female model's picture, "Except – can I keep the length in back?"
"Ah, the Mr. Spock...." she said. It was kind of reminiscent of the standard Vulcan coif, as if Mr. Spock hadn't seen a barber in two months, "... and, well, you can keep the pony-tail – but that'll look dangerously close to a mullet..."
"Kev?" Danny asked.
"Actually... what about that one over there. The red-head." Kevin pointed to a different picture.
"Well, what if you left off the curls?"
The stylist interjected - "That'd pretty much be a classic bob – you can go a lot of directions from there. Even change your mind."
"See?" Kevin said smugly, "You can change your mind later. C'mon, Danny. It's cute."
"Oh – all right. If that's what you think... You'll have to look at it more than I will anyway."
It began – the whole thing, starting with a wash. The stylist's name was Sandra, and she, Danny, and Kevin chit-chatted about the fire (to Danny's dismay), mullets, and other things. Eventually, the stylist got around to asking her burning question: "Are you guys... together?"
Danny and Kevin looked at each other, but Kevin only raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
"I'm sorry – didn't mean to-"
Danny cleared his throat, "Yeah. Yeah we are. We're, uh... together. But, well... I'm not really, uh..."
"He's a little shy about being queer, Sandra. I think he's new at it."
"I am not! I've been gay way longer than you, you... you..." Danny saw that Kevin was smiling at him. "You got me. Youuuu got me... asshole..."
Sandra giggled, "I thought so. I hope you don't mind me saying but – it's really obvious. You guys are-"
"SO cute together – gawd," Danny sighed, "Why do I even bother... Everyone says that, Sandra."
"Do you want me to leave a pig-tail?" she asked, "It's still cute – and won't look like a mullet."
Danny looked at Kevin.
"Yes," Kevin said.
"Yes," Danny repeated.
"Seriously. SO obvious..."
Linda Flornoy – who's brother had set Danny up with his disastrous date - tapped him on the shoulder as Danny was making his way to the steam-table line in the cafeteria. "Hey Danny. Cute 'do!"
"Hi Linda. Yeah... thought it was time for a change. So what is it today on the line - you know?"
"Pot roast, I think. I'm sticking with the burgers – never can quite tell what it was they roasted in the pot. Hey, uh, listen. How come you don't ever come sit at the Team Table with the rest of us?"
"Oh. Well... I don't... uh..." Danny just had it set in his mind that it was not going to happen this time, at this school. It had been bad enough at the last one, in Houston. He hadn't really given it much thought – especially when he'd seen just how homophobic St. Augustine's seemed to be, when he'd started there. On the other hand – that did seem to be changing...
"It's been so great since that senior Kevin Denner came out! Everyone's doing it now – or at least supporting it. My best friend came out to me – okay, that was a little weird – but gawd, Danny, it's like the Thing now and you're missing it!"
"Yeah, well... 'Things' tend to die down after awhile – and then everyone just feels stupid, and there's usually backlash. When I was in Jr. High, goth was the 'Thing'. Everyone was doing it. Then, a year later, if you showed up in all black with eye-liner, they'd laugh you out of the school. Or worse. And when you come out, y'know – it's not something you can ever take back and say 'I was just kidding'. So... I dunno, Linda... seems like it'd be okay now, but I just don't know if it'll last."
"Yeah, I see what ya mean... I guess it takes a lot of courage to come out. If everyone were to cop out – well, I mean, the ones who haven't sat at the table yet, it'd be... then again, like you said, the ones who have can't take it back... And the school can't do anything about it either – that'd be sexual discrimination. And besides – eating at the Team Table doesn't mean you're gay; just means you're cool with it. Just means you're evolved. Oh, come on, Danny... you don't have to say anything – just sit with us. Besides – there's some cute guys you might wanna meet. I mean seriously cute," she sighed deeply, "The really cute ones are always gay. Why is that?"
"They are not. Just seems that way to you. Besides, I'm already taken."
"Really? Not one of those college guys, I hope."
"Oh, god, don't remind me. No."
"I'm so sorry about that Danny – I could kill my brother..."
"All right, Linda – that's about the hundredth time you've apologized. You're forgiven already, okay? Forget it. It wasn't even your fault. It wasn't even his fault."
"Okay, so you're not gonna tell me, are ya... Come sit at the table with me, Danny."
"Need me to protect you from the lesbians?" Danny joked.
"I can handle the lesbians myself, thank you very much. Rebbecca Dunlap put her hand on my knee the other day – but she was just feeling me out. I let her know I wasn't interested. No problem. Oh... wait, I get it – you're afraid of the other boys, aren'tcha..."
"Please. Let's not get all immature about this. Next you'll be calling me chicken."
"You started it..."
Danny sat at the Team Table with Linda. Before lunch was over, he was out of the closet. It was just hard not to be when everyone seemed so... supportive. By the next day, he was a celebrity – the boyfriend of Kevin Denner, now referred to as "Gay-timus Prime". People he didn't even know were asking to shake his hand, slapping him on the back, and saying 'way to go!' and such. Even a few of the teachers. It was amazing. The tide was turning at St. Augustine's Academy.
"So Kev! Daniel Rainier, huh?" Josh said. Kevin nearly sprayed him with 7-up, but Josh only smiled and continued, "Congratulations, you dawg – he's seriously cute. And that's from a straight guy!"
"He's telling people. Word gets around, y'know. Although truthfully, I have an inside source – my brother's a junior."
"He's telling people?"
"Yeah. Hey... I hope that's not a problem or anything... I mean, you're out, and he's out... I haven't just stepped in a big pile of shit, have I?"
"No, no, nothing like that. I'm just surprised is all. I thought he was gonna keep it a secret. He was even kind of pissed at me for, uh, coming out." Kevin paused for awhile, and then said, "Heh. I 'came out'. I'm 'out'. Whoa. I hadn't really thought about it like that before..."
"Are you kidding me? You're fuckin' famous for it, man! They call you 'Gay-timus Prime'!"
"Oh great. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard..."
"Hey! Don't go puttin' down the Transformers, Kev. I'll kick your ass, and I don't care if you're gay or not. Or, for that matter, how cute your boyfriend is."
"All right, all right..." Kevin laughed, "Transformers rule. Happy now? By the way – you drive a pick-up, right?"
"Ford F-250 Heavy Duty Crew-Cab Diesel Four-Wheel-Drive Dually. 'A pick-up'... I'm insulted."
"Sorry. So, uh, you think you could help me move this... uhm... Friday? I'm finally getting my own apartment."
"Yeah, no sweat. Okay if I bring my brother? I like to keep an eye on 'im on the weekends... Make sure he's not hanging around the wrong bunch, if ya know what I mean."
"Okay, that'll be fine. I'll text you the address later. So... a couple of gay guys isn't the 'wrong bunch'?"
"Don't be stupid."
Kevin winced inwardly at the word, "Yeah – I get that a lot. Thing is, it wasn't so long ago, I'd have said that they were."
"Seriously? You mean you turned for Daniel?"
"Well... well, yeah. I guess I did."
"Aww! That's the sweetest thing I've ever heard!"
"Cut it out. You're sure you're not gay, Josh?"
"Hee. Hey – if you guys ever have a fight or anything, lemme know, okay? He's in the book?"
"You'd better be kidding..."
"Oh, I am! And you're jealous! Damn, Kev – you make it too easy!"
"Fuckin' straights... I'm watching you, Josh."
"It's me, Dad..."
"Oh, Kev... Look – we need to talk. Where have you been staying? I've tried everywhere I know, and-"
"Uhm... Dad? I called because I got my own apartment now. I'm coming by tomorrow with some friends and we're gonna load all my stuff up."
"Kevin... you don't have to do that. You're welcome to live here at the house."
"I'll... uh... I'll be bringing my boyfriend with me tomorrow, Dad. He wants to meet you. Believe me – I tried to talk him out of it."
"Your... so you're serious about that, then."
"'Fraid so. Hey, it kinna surprised me too... And actually, it's sort of more complicated than that, but yeah, boyfriend. I don't suppose you could just sort of... get over it, huh?"
"It's just not right, Kevin. It's unnatural. You're not serious about it, and it won't last, but you'll be stuck with the stigma for the rest of your life. You're making a mistake."
"Right. Well, we'll be starting to load up around 5. You gonna be there or not?"
"I'll be here."
"You sure you're up for this, Danny?" Kevin asked as they parked in front of his house. Josh and his younger brother Martin were already there waiting, leaning on Josh's enormous 'truck', as he liked to call it.
"As I'll ever be. There's Josh. Damn – he always reminds me of a bulldog."
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
"Eww! Bad thing! Why?"
"'Cuz he thinks you're cute. I'd be careful, if I were you."
"But you said he was straight..."
"Just telling you what he told me. He did say he was straight, but, uh... so was I, once. Remember?"
"Why Kevin! You're... you're jealous! Oh my god, you really are!"
Kevin looked at him gravely. Yes he was jealous. Mostly because he couldn't imagine why anyone like Danny would pick his dumb ass to get involved with. Danny could have his pick of anyone – gay, straight, even girl, if he wanted to try that out. How the hell had Kevin ended up with him? "Well, if I am – it's not a laughing matter. Anyway, C'mon. Let's go meet my Dad. Try not to take anything he says personally, okay?"
"Reminds me of the funeral, Kevin. It's not me I'm worried about."
Kevin's father was waiting for them at the foot of the stairs - "Dad, this is my friend Josh, and his brother Martin..." he paused while they each shook his hand, "And this is... Danny Rainier. My boyfriend."
"Nice to finally meet you, Mr. Denner" Danny said politely. Kevin's father was shaking his hand rather overly-firmly, as if trying to make a point. Well – Danny had strong hands, too. He squeezed right back.
"Daniel..." Mr. Denner said, with only a trace of condescension. It wasn't his son's gay boyfriend that bothered him. It was Kevin's attitude about the whole thing. Didn't he know that homosexual relationships never last? He'd read somewhere that active gay people took more partners in a week than normal people did in a year – sometimes in a lifetime. If Kevin wanted to play around, then fine. Do it on the sly. Not like this.
Danny felt the tension between Kevin and his father. It sort of reminded him of how he'd been with his mom, before he'd come out to her.
"Okay, Dad – we're gonna get started getting stuff down from my room. Then there's a few things in the garage, too," Kevin said defensively, trying to get out of the situation.
"Do you have a garage at your apartment?" his father asked.
"Well, no, but-"
"Then perhaps those things should just stay here."
To Daniel, it sounded like they were both looking for a fight. He looked around and tried to think fast. There were pictures lining the stairs. Family pictures from the past, it looked like – a house here, a beach there, people posing with fish, a poster-sized photograph of a group of people on a golf course... No – hold on. That's not just 'a' golf course...
"Isn't that St. Andrews?" Danny asked, pointing to the picture.
"Pardon me?" Mr. Denner said to him, taking his attention from Kevin, "Oh, yes. Yes it is. We held a family reunion there, years and years ago. One of my favorite places on earth, St. Andrews."
Before Mr. Denner could terminate the conversation, Danny said, "Yeah, it's nice. My dad and I played it once, when he took a vacation in Scotland. That picture's from the 18th green, isn't it?"
"Why yes. You have a-"
"Hey, Danny?" Kevin interrupted, putting his arm around Danny's waist and pulling him tight, "Maybe you two can chat it up later, we have stuff to do now, huh?" With that remark, he slid his hand down to the other boy's behind and squeezed a buttock – in full view of his father.
"Kevin..." Danny said, "Cut it out."
"He's just trying to make me mad, Daniel" Mr. Denner said, and added coolly, "He's good at that."
"I'm just trying to show him why I'm leaving," Kevin said, sliding around until he was tight against Danny, face-to-face, arching their backs away from each other in order to have distance even to talk.
"Kev – what the-" and Kevin kissed him, but Danny immediately shoved him away.
"Dammit Kevin! Would you grow up!?"
"Who's side are you on, Danny?" Kevin asked. He was unused to being rebuffed.
"I'm not on anyone's side, dammit! I'm just-"
"Well, me an' the guys got work to do. When you're done flirting with my dad, maybe you can come help. No wonder you wanted to come. C'mon guys, let's get started."
Danny and Kevin's father watched as Kevin, Josh, and Martin tromped up the stairs, leaving them alone in an awkward silence.
"Uh... I'm sorry about that, Mr. Denner, he's just-"
"Was it your fault?"
"Uh... no..." Danny replied uncertainly.
"Then don't apologize," Mr. Denner said, still staring up the now empty stairs.
"Well... then I'm sorry for... well, the whole gay thing. I understand you don't like it – your son and me. So... I'm sorry I'm a homosexual, I guess. That is my fault."
Mr. Denner looked slowly down the stairs until his eyes came to a stop on Danny. There were wrinkles between his eyebrows. "You're sorry for being gay?"
"Well... yeah. I mean, because-"
"No - no, don't explain. Apology accepted." He seemed on the verge of chuckling, but didn't. "I'll check on you boys a little later. Oh – those other two, are they..."
"Ah. Just wondered."
"Oh, all finished are ya?" Kevin asked, taping up a box-full of something. It appeared that Kevin's idea of 'packing' was to wipe each horizontal surface with a sweep of his arm into a box. "So, you two gonna date now or what?"
"Very funny, Kev. I was just trying to ease the situation a little, you know... Look – you're moving out of his house. Isn't that enough? Do you still have to be an asshole to him?"
"Danny... I love you - but do NOT tell me how to talk to my Dad! Okay?"
"He doesn't seem so bad, is all-"
"Danny? I'm serious..."
Danny sighed. Yes, it probably was a mistake to try to... come between them... or take sides... or whatever. What was going on between Kevin and his father was their business. Although, frankly, Mr. Denner wasn't at all what Danny was expecting – and Kev was being a brat. But oh well. Best to let it go. Especially in front of Josh and his brother – he could imagine how uncomfortable they must have felt.
"All right, Kev. So... you're just stuffing boxes? Shouldn't you go through things first – see what all you wanna take?"
"I wanna take everything. Here – just start filling boxes, okay? Soon as all the little-stuff is boxed up, we can start dumping drawers."
Danny did as he was told in silence.
Kevin's "bedroom" was huge – bigger than many apartments. And there was... stuff... everywhere. Apparently Kev was a pack-rat, and this was what 18 years worth of "good stuff" looked like. He grimly began packing away CD's from one of the two – two! - six-foot-tall CD stands. Kev would no doubt have just dumped them out helter-skelter into a box somehow. Danny was doing it carefully, stacking them neatly.
When the box was full, he taped it shut and carried it downstairs and outside to the waiting truck. This went on, in relative silence, for almost an hour.
But Danny was getting frustrated. So much junk! Finally, he couldn't take it anymore.
"Kev – this Nintendo. All these games. I bet you haven't touched any of this stuff in years. It's ancient! Why don't you just give it away, or throw it away, or-"
"Sentimental value, Danny. Just box it up. How we doin' on boxes?" he asked.
"Uhm... we have lots. But Kev, c'mon, this stuff is junk! Why are you carrying it from one place to another? So you can finally throw it away after you move it a few more times?"
"I didn't ask you here to critique my stuff, y'know. Just to help me move it."
Josh and Martin – about to lift the flat-screen tv - looked at each other worriedly. Outside, in the hallway, Mr. Denner was just coming up to see how they were doing. Hearing the sharp words, he stopped before he reached the door to listen.
"You're never gonna use this again. Does it even work? Do you even know?" Danny said.
"Would you just shut-up and put it in a box, please? It's mine – not yours. I wanna keep it."
"Uh, guys?" Josh broke in – he was looking for an escape route, "I think the truck's about full for one load. Don't wanna stack it too high, or stuff will fall off. I think me and Marty should make a run to the apartment and unload it. Then we'll come back for more."
"Yeah, good idea, Josh," Kevin tossed him some keys, "You remember which one it is? Autumn Woods, Utica and 51st. Apartment 108. It's on the key."
"Right. Good," Josh said, relieved, "C'mon bro, let's make a run..." They left gratefully.
"Okay Kev – we ran them off. I hope you're proud of yourself."
"What're you talking about?"
"You're being a jerk, is what! Kev – I know it's your stuff, all right? And I can understand being attached to some of it. But – an original Nintendo? And were you planning on taking that filthy recliner, too? Or this beat-up old desk?"
"I'm not going to sort through everything right this second, Danny! I just wanna get outta here, okay?"
"No it's not 'okay'! You're a fucking millionaire, Kev! And you're asking your friends to carry all this crap out for you! For free, I might add!"
"Okay." Kevin huffed, dropping the tape-gun on the floor, "Fine. You wanna sort through all this stuff? Fine. Apparently YOU'RE the one in charge of this move – so you just go right ahead. I'm sure you know what's important and what's not! You do it! I'm... I'm fucking outta here!"
"Oh, for chrissake, Kev..." Danny said to his back, but Kevin kept right on going, "Kev! KEVIN!"
Kevin stormed out the door and bounded down the steps, slamming the front door behind him.
Sitting on the un-made bed, Danny said to himself, "Fuck."
Mr. Denner strolled into the room, "For the record, Daniel, you're absolutely right. I was nearly thirty before I even tossed away my very first computer. Hadn't used it in a decade. But I kept carrying it around – all through college I had it, although it was far too ancient to use, even then. Dragged it to Florida for my first job, then out to California. Amazing, now that I think about it. I had so many... things. Finally threw it all away. Except my telescope. Gave that to Goodwill. I'm sure they threw it away - but I couldn't bear to." He inspected the recliner, and thought better of actually sitting in it. He pulled out the desk chair and sat there.
"Yeah – he sure has a lot of crap. Sorry about all – uh, there I go, apologizing for what's not my fault again. He'll be back, Mr. Denner. And I suppose we'll have to take absolutely every damn thing in here out... and put it right back into his apartment."
"Call me 'Robert'. He did seem rather perturbed. How long do you give him?"
"Maybe an hour. I don't know what his problem is..."
"I'm going to guess two hours. Bet you a dollar. And his 'problem' is that he's anxious to get away from me, I imagine. Start his new life and all. Just him and..." He cleared his throat rather than finish the sentence.
"We're not moving in together, Mr. - Robert. I'm not quite legal yet – not for another year. But yeah – he's having a hard time, I guess. What with moving away from home and all. And... yeah, you. He... he, uh, says you call him... things..."
Mr. Denner sighed heavily and collected his thoughts for awhile before he spoke, "Yes... I probably have. What exactly does he say that I call him, if I may ask."
"Oh. Well... he says you call him 'stupid' a lot."
The older man considered that. "Hmm. I don't know what I should say to that. What do you think? Is he the brightest bulb in the marquee?"
"He can be. I know it doesn't show much, but if you push him, he can come through. And he's really good at being able to tell things about people... It's kind of amazing, really... Anyway, he'll graduate okay. Did he tell you the scores he got on the New Hampshire Standardized Test? I helped him study for those. It seemed like he didn't even know how to study, before I came along."
"No... he didn't tell me. My brother did. His Uncle Keith. Keith seems to be closer to him than I am... I get the feeling now that Keith knew about you, too..."
"Uhm... yeah, he did."
"That figures. Everyone knows what's going in my son's life except me," he sighed. "Anyway – yes, the scores were quite impressive. You did that?"
"Well... I helped him do it, you might say."
Mr. Denner stretched his legs out, then stood up and walked around the room, as if inspecting it. It was wrong of him to have called Kevin 'stupid'... it was just, dammit, the boy seemed to go out of his way to piss him off! Oh well. At least he was going to graduate high school.
"I see," he said simply, meaning to end that part of the conversation. Besides, he had other things he wanted to know, "I hope this doesn't upset you, but – oh... say, I didn't know he still had this..." He picked up an old beat-up baseball glove from the floor – obviously too small for Kevin's hands. "Daniel, would you mind if I kept this? I doubt he'll even know it's gone. I bought it for him when he was ten."
"Uhm... yeah... Yeah, sure. Technically, he did leave it up to me, I guess... You were hoping that what doesn't upset me?"
"Oh. Yes – I wanted to ask you: just how many... boyfriends... have you had, Daniel? I hope it's not too insulting a question."
"Uhm..." it was rather insulting – what was Mr. Denner getting at? "Before Kevin? One. Back in Houston."
"Really? Only one? I had thought that... well-"
"You had thought what, exactly?"
"If we may be frank with each other – I had thought that homosexuals took... partners... quite a bit more often."
"What? Where the- I mean, where'd you get that idea?"
"I don't actually remember. Strikes me it was a reputable source... although, I'll admit, it was a long time ago."
"Yeah well... maybe the leather-set in the gay-bars in New York City do, or Los Angeles. I mean, yeah, there ARE gay guys who screw around a lot I imagine. Straight guys do that too, y'know."
"I wasn't meaning to imply-"
"Excuse me sir – yes you were. I'm not a slut, Mr. Denner! Before Kevin, I'd never even – uh..."
"I've never seen an old gay couple around, Daniel. Have you?"
The man had a point there – no, he hadn't. On the other hand – with people like Mr. Denner around, was there any wonder? "No, I haven't. But if you did see an old gay couple, how would you react? Maybe that's why you don't see them. Why would they want to make it known – especially to you?"
Mr. Denner frowned, still playing with the glove.
"Hey – I just remembered – I have seen an old gay couple, sort of. That woman who delivered the eulogy at your sister's funeral. Was her name Birdie? Anyway, her name was Mary, I remember that. And she and Birdie had been together like 40 years!"
Mr. Denner only said, "Point to you. Mr. Rainier."
After a pause to cool down, Danny said, "Yeah, well... I'm not trying to be, uh, confrontational or anything. I really don't want to get off on the wrong foot with you..."
"You will never make a bad impression by speaking your mind, Daniel. Especially when you're right – but even when you're not. It's rare these days to find people who will speak their minds without equivocating. So you believe that gay relationships are as stable as normal ones, do you?"
It was a direct question, and Danny took his time thinking about it before he answered. "It seems to me that 'stable relationships' are kind of rare amongst you straights, as well. I can't really answer the question, Mr. Denner. You're right – I've only seen one long-term gay couple. Then again... my mom got to see my dad for one week last year, at Christmas. When's the last time you saw your wife? Kevin never even mentions her."
"You now have two points."
"Uh... right. Sorry – I shouldn't have made it personal, like that..."
"No, that's quite all right – I'm afraid I set the precedent for 'personal questions'. You still have nothing to apologize for – and you've racked up two hits on me in spite of that. I have to say – you're nothing at all like I thought you'd be. I rather imagined you'd be more like one of his old girlfriends... But let us not discuss that. You've given me some things to think about, Mr. Rainier – but you'll excuse me if I'm still unhappy about... well, nevermind," he had been about to say 'my son's gay boyfriend', but when he'd reminded himself of Kevin's previous female acquaintances – suddenly Daniel didn't seem so bad a choice, after all. If only he could have been a girl! That would have made all the difference in the world! That would have been... normal!
And... that was the important thing, wasn't it? To be normal? Like everyone else?
"Do you know what I do for a living, Daniel? Has Kevin ever said?"
"No..." Danny could tell a leading question when he heard one.
Mr. Denner sat back down and crossed his legs on his knee, getting comfortable. "I'm what used to be called a 'corporate raider'. We were a somewhat unpopular breed in the '80s. Now we're seen as just another part of the financial landscape. What I do amounts to herding cattle – except the 'cattle' are the stockholders of corporations. The herd-mentality is strong in the business world, Daniel – I take advantage of that."
"I guess what I'm trying to say – in my obtuse way – is that being 'normal' is something I wouldn't wish on anyone. 'Normal' people never question anything – they take it for granted that someone else has done the thinking for them, so they don't need to think for themselves. Like cattle."
"So when some old fart – like me – begins to question your 'differences', don't let it get to you."
"Yes. Well – enough business. So you played St. Andrews? How did you do on the 8th hole? That's one of the double-greens, you know..."
"... so then the Carnoustie Effect started to really get to me – I mean, I was right there in the frog hair next to the sand-trap, when I just got the yips so bad I couldn't think! I didn't even know I was trying to putt with a mashie till my Dad said something!"
Mr. Denner laughed, and as he did, both he and Danny heard Kevin's Mustang pull up in the drive way. According to Mr. Denner's watch, Kevin had been gone around 45 minutes.
"Well, Daniel – I'd better get out of here now. You're about to have your hands full, I'd imagine. Oh, and I owe you a dollar, apparently."
"Oh, don't worry about me - I can handle him. And call me 'Danny', please."
"Very well, Danny. Good luck."
Mr. Denner left – but he didn't go far. He wanted to know just how well Danny could 'handle him'. He wanted proof that this... involvement... with Danny was more than just an experiment. And besides; it would be interesting. He already knew that if this argument were between Kevin and himself – it would only escalate. He hid in the guest-room, one door down, left it cracked open just a bit, and listened.
"I thought you'd have it all sorted out by now, Boss," Kevin said as he surveyed the nightmare of a room.
"Where'd Josh and Marty go?"
"I sent them home. I didn't figure we'd get much done today, with you going through every little thing and deciding whether I could keep it or not."
"Goddammit Kev... Why are you being such a... such a brat? You're not usually like this... well, not this bad, anyway. It's like you got home and something just changed."
Kevin picked around his various belongings, as if considering their worth for the first time, "It's because of him, Danny. And you. He's just looking for an excuse to have it out with me about you. Oh, he was all polite and crap saying hello, I know – but he's watching you. He can't fuckin' wait to tell me what a mistake I've made... I just know it. That's what he does."
"Actually – he was up here. We had a nice talk. He's not... well, he's not so bad – but the way you act around him, I mean gawd, Kev-"
"The way I act around him?! You've never seen how HE acts around ME! Nothing is ever good enough, I'm a fuck-up, a slacker, an idiot! He tells me so all the fuckin' time! What the fuck did you two have to talk about, anyway?"
"Uh... golf, mostly."
"He didn't ask you stupid crap about us? About how we met or anything? About... being gay?"
"Well... yeah, he did a little. Nothing bad, though. He didn't call me names or anything. He did seem to be under the impression that homosexuals are constantly having sex with each other, which was kinna weird..."
"Figures. You shoulda told him that I'd – no, better - that you'd fucked me in the ass twice today. That woulda pissed him off."
He's not as juvenile as you are, Kev, Danny thought. "Look – he acts the way he does because you act the way you do, can't you see that? As good as you are at reading people, why do you have this blind-spot about your own father?"
"I don't need to 'read' him! I know him."
Danny understood now – Kevin and his father were in a Mexican stand-off, neither willing to make the first move. But, nothing to do about it right now. Kevin was too hot, and just looking for a reason to keep the fight going – exactly as Kevin had said his father was doing. Pathetic. Stupid even. If only Kevin could see – wait. Danny had a germ of an idea – but needed time to develop it. Best to cool Kevin off for awhile while he thought.
"Okay – your dad, your business. Look Kev, I'm not gonna decide what you can keep and what you can't, okay? That wouldn't... I don't wanna be that way to you, all right? So let's just box everything up like you wanted. Tomorrow maybe we can get Josh and his truck again."
"Fuck that. I'll just rent one."
Mr. Denner heard them both resume their packing; Kevin dumping things into boxes, Danny carefully stacking them. He was a little disappointed – he'd thought Danny had been smarter than to just let Kevin have his way. The boy had sure seemed to be on the ball, when he'd talked to him... He appreciated what Danny had said about how he and his son fed off each other's misunderstandings. That was probably true. IF Danny was right about Kevin's "only acting that way" around his father. Mr. Denner didn't know how Kevin acted when he wasn't around. How could he?
He listened for another ten minutes, then decided the show was over, and made ready to leave as quietly as possible.
He was just shutting the guest-room door when he heard Danny say -
"Oh, by the way – I gave your old baseball mitt to your dad. I think he wanted a memento."
"What baseball mitt?"
"I dunno – how many do you have? It was obviously from when you were a kid. You couldn't get your hand in it now, for sure."
"He wanted that?"
"Yeah. Was that okay?"
"Well... I guess..."
There was another moment of silence. Danny's voice broke it again.
"Okay, this box is full of un-opened model-airplanes and glue and paint and stuff. What should I do with it?"
"Uhm... put it over with... no. Put it over here. We're going to make two piles."
"What's the new pile for?"
"Stuff I'm giving away. We'll need a third pile too. Stuff I'm throwing away."
Danny didn't say anything snide, or humorous, or trite. Only, "Gotcha."
Well I'll be damned, Mr. Denner thought, I'll be god-damned damned...
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