Marco in the Park

by Nick Brady

Part 18

Wednesday morning we were awakened just after 8:00 by a sharp rap on the door. I poked Marco and we both sat up, pulling the covers up to the waists of our still naked bodies.

"Come in," I called to what I hoped was our breakfast.

Johnny opened the door and wheeled in the breakfast cart. He looked quickly to see two guys sitting up in the kingsize bed, naked from at least the waist up. He never batted an eye.

"Good morning fellas. You ready for breakfast?" Rather than setting up the side table, he pulled a pair of trays from underneath the cart, covered each with a white cloth napkin and set our breakfast on our laps as we sat side by side.

"Now if you need anything else, just let me know." He gave us a friendly smile and left the empty cart just inside the door.

Marco laughed. "That Johnny is OK. I think it would take a lot to throw him off balance."

"Don't you imagine he has seen almost everything in his job?"

"No telling," Marco said, looking with interest at his pancakes. "Look, he even remembered the peanut butter and jam."

"I bet Johnny gets some nice tips," I guessed.

"We don't offer this kind of service at Luigi's, that's for sure," We both laughed and dug into our breakfast.

An hour later we were finished with breakfast, had dressed and were out the door. We decided that we would take a day trip to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art over near Bentonville. The drive took less than an hour and we found a place for Marco's Honda in the covered parking lot.

"Wow, the building is cool. Parts of it look like a turtle," Marco said, pointing to the dome shaped roofs arranged around a central plaza.

Once inside we found ourselves in a large lobby area with exhibit rooms on either side, as well as a very large and attractive restaurant and an inviting gift shop. We looked for a place to pay for our admission and found to our pleasant surprise that the facility was sponsored by Walmart and the admission was free.

"I love this place already," Marco exclaimed. "This is my kind of museum."

There was a tour available but we decided to just wander around and look for ourselves. Marco was fascinated at the variety of art there.

"Man, they have all kinds of things here, realism, abstract paintings, textiles, sculpture, everything. And it is mostly American art with a few European masters. I have heard of some of these guys, Thomas Hart Benson, Frederik Remington, Thomas Eakins, and not just North America, here is a painting by Diego Rivera. Wow, here is a Picasso, and a huge painting by Thomas Moran. I love this."

We wandered into a section of Native American art which held great fascination for Marco. "Look at these paintings. This is not the usual 'Trail of Tears' stuff. These are paintings about Indians, their costumes and villages, the way they looked before they took up western dress and customs."

"Man," he said, "I wish I could draw like this."

I smiled at him. "Maybe you could. Have you ever tried to draw anything except old cars?"

"Well, yes as a matter of fact. I used to like to draw horses, especially horses running, and I liked to draw little scenics. I will bring home some of the things from the watercolor class next semester. I am just doing that for fun, kind of, but I can get really excited about this kind of stuff."

"Pursue your passions Marco. You have your whole life ahead of you. Don't rule anything out," I told him. He looked thoughtful.

By 1:00 we were getting hungry and headed for the restaurant – 'Eleven' it was named cryptically. It was a beautiful open area with curved glass walls, a serving line for the food and rows of tables under a big domed roof. It was really a work of art in itself.

Marco looked over the menu posted on the wall. "Look, it says, 'American Comfort Food'."

I opted for a grilled chicken salad and Marco went for the Angus Burger served with fries. When we looked over the menu we figured out why the name of the place was Eleven. The most expensive things on the menu were only $11 dollars. The food was great. Marco claimed it was as good as any burger he had ever eaten, and for Marco that was quite a compliment.

After we ate our lunch we strolled outside to look at the gardens. There were nice walking trails beside clear spring fed creeks, a shady lagoon complete with white herons and lots of lovely landscaped flower gardens. Even though there was not a lot of color in late December they were still very pretty. We hiked down a paved trail beside the babbling creek that curved back through the trees.

"This is as nice as the Philbrook garden and a lot more of it," he declared as we followed the creek back a good distance. There was a bridge across to the other side let that us return back to the museum. "Right, Crystal Bridges," Marco guessed at the origin of the museum name.

The final hour was spent in the gift shop. There were lots of books on art and the usual brick-a-brac that inhabits a gift shop. What fascinated Marco were the reproductions of some of the paintings in the museum collection. He fell in love with a reproduction of 'The Indian and the Lily' by George de Forest Brush. It was a Indian man almost naked except for a breechclout and deerskin leggings which came up over his knee. He was carrying a white swan over his shoulder and was crouched down pointing to a white water lily. It was about 20 inches square and mounted on a white mat. It was very striking.

"Man, I really like that," Marco said.

"Well how much is it?" I asked him.

He looked closely at the price tag. "In a nice frame it is $219 dollars. Just on the white mat it is $49."

"$49 dollars is not bad for that." I suggested.

Marco stared at it. "You really think so? Man, I really like that."

I smiled at him. "When you see something that really grabs you, you should go for it. We can put it on the wall in our living room. Go ahead." I encouraged him.

"I guess we could enjoy that for a long time. OK, do you think I should get it?" Marco asked.

"Hey, it's your money, You don't need my permission. Let that be the first item in your personal art collection."

Marco bought it, held it up and admired it for a long time. They wrapped it up nicely to protect it and we carried it out to the car. By now it was getting late in the afternoon and we wanted to get back to the hotel before it got too dark.

On the drive back to Eureka Springs we talked about what we had seen at the museum. "What did you like best?" I asked.

"Gee, it's hard to say. That whole place is cool. I liked everything about it."

"There wasn't anything in particular that stood out for you?"

Marco thought a minute. "Well, I really like the Native American drawings. I love that picture I bought. There is something about it that fascinates me."

"You have a passion for things like that. You are interested in a lot of things, but you really light up when we visit an art museum. That's been true ever since I've known you. I will be very interested to see what you do in that art class. You might decide that is something you want to get into," I suggested.

Marco shook his head. "Nah, I couldn't do that. I can't afford to be a starving artist."

"Why not?" I asked. "You make pretty good money just working part time at Luigi's, and besides, your husband makes a good living. How much money do you need to make? It might take time before you are able to make money with your art, but that is no reason to completely give up on the idea."

"But I don't want to live on your money. I need to pay my own way," he argued.

"You aren't a drain on our finances now. What makes you think you will be if you pursue art at least as a hobby, and hope that it might lead to more than just that? I'm not suggesting that you devote yourself full time to being a struggling artist, but you should keep that as an option. You might make a great computer programmer, but you don't have the same level of passion about computers as you do about art. Just be open to the idea, you know what I'm saying?"

Marco nodded his head. "I guess I see what you're getting at. Let's see what happens next semester." Then he smiled at me. "You really want the best for me, don't you?"

"That's right kiddo. I want you to do what makes you happy. One grunt in the family is enough."

He glanced over at me. "But you did the expected thing. You went to college and found a trade you could make a good living at. Is that not really what you wanted to do? I mean, what did you have a passion for?" he asked.

"Well, I guess I like what I do well enough, but I can't say that I have ever been passionate about programing. I'm good enough to make a living at it, but really it's just a job. I always loved art and music, but I don't have a real talent for either one. There may be something in your Seminole genes that enables you to be a fine artist."

He kept his eyes on the road but broke out in a big smile. "OK, I will try to be open to whatever happens. I just don't want to disappoint you."

"You won't Marco. All I am saying is don't sell yourself short. I believe you can do a lot more than you think you can."

It was dark when we got back to our hotel. We were both pretty tired and were more interested in eating some dinner and spending a quiet evening than doing the club scene again. We put away the few things we had acquired from our day at the museum and sat back for a few minutes. Marco unwrapped his reproduction and put it on the mantle of the little fireplace in the sitting room and we sat back and looked at it.

"He's alive," Marco said.

"How do you mean?" I asked.

"Well look at him. He has been hunting. He has that big white swan over his shoulder, and now he is crouched down and leaning over to touch that white flower. He is going to move at any moment. See the tension in his body. He is alive and full of energy."

"Right, that's another reason he reminds me of you – alive, full of energy and reaching out for something," I smiled.

Marco leaned back and looked very contented. "I'm sure glad we decided to seduce each other that night back in the park."

"I thought I seduced you," I told him.

"No, I was the one who got you to go the park. I thought I seduced you." Marco said.

I chuckled, "Maybe you're right, maybe we seduced each other. I suppose it was just fated to be."

Marco sighed and shook his head. "I told you how I think that worked. I really think it was a God thing."

I shrugged, "Can't argue with that. Listen, it's getting late. Do you want to go out for something to eat? If we want to go down to the dining room we still have time to eat in the hotel."

"Sounds great. Let's go."

We entered the dining room to find a couple of middle aged women at a table and the rest of the place deserted. When we sat down, Johnny walked up and handed us a pair of menus. "Hiya fellas. How was your day?"

"It was great," Marco said. "We drove over to see that new Crystal Bridges museum."

"Oh, that's real nice. You should be over there in the spring when all the redbuds and dogwoods are blooming. It's really pretty."

"I Looked at Johnny and shook my head. "Do you ever sleep? You seem to be everywhere, all the time."

He laughed. "Oh yeah, I sleep. I generally take a nice nap in the afternoon when it's quiet around here. I get to do a lot of things in the off hours. Eureka is a fun place to live. Are you guys enjoying your stay? You sure do make a nice couple."

"Thank you," I said. "We are sort of on our honeymoon this week."

"Sure, I knew that. I can spot a pair of lovebirds a mile away."

"I see. Are we that obvious?"

He chuckled. "Pretty much. Well, y'all want some dinner tonight? We are going to close pretty soon."

I pushed the menu to one side. "Johnny, you know what's good. What do we want for supper?"

Johnny grinned. "Well, if I was you, I would order the Lamb Ragout. It's a real nice lamb stew with lots of vegetables and served over a bed of steamed rice. I can bring you a salad to go with it and some fresh hard rolls with butter. You won't need anything else, and it's really tasty."

Marco looked enthusiastic. "That sounds nice. I have only eaten lamb a couple of times, but I liked it." I nodded in agreement.

"OK," Johnny picked up the menus. "And that's Italian dressing for you, Ranch for you, and unsweet ice tea for the both of you, right?"

"You got it," I told him. He disappeared with the menus and returned in a minute with salads, rolls and two glasses of tea.

Marco grinned. "We could use a guy like that at Luigi's. He's OK."

We started in on our salads. "Now there is a good example of what I was talking about. That guy likes his work and he's good at it."

"You could be right," Marco agreed.

By the time we finished our salad Johnny appeared with our lamb stew. "I may have given you too much but you don't have to eat it all. We can't hold this over until tomorrow and it's too good to go to waste. Now," he said, rubbing his hands together. "For desert I got a baked apple. That is a nice Granny Smith, peeled, cored and filled with red hots then baked in a flaky pastry shell. They're real good, and I'll put a scoop of vanilla ice cream next to it. I can bring that when you finish your supper." We enthusiastically nodded our agreement.

He was right. There was a lot of the stew. Marco got outside of most of his but I had to leave quite a bit on my plate. When Johnny came to clear the dinner plates he put down two of the most beautiful pastries we ever saw.

"Now you fellas let me know if you need anything else and I will see you at breakfast. I can bring you your usual, or you might like a Swedish waffle. They are really good."

"What's a Swedish waffle?" Marco wondered.

"They's a waffle made out of flour, whipped cream and a little sugar. They're real light and crisp and taste real good. I can bring some nice link sausages with 'em too if you like. They'll make your coffee taste good."

I laughed. "Bring them on. You haven't steered us wrong yet."

We ate our baked apple dumplings and swore they were fantastic. When we finished them we waddled back to the room and stretched out on the bed.

"Man, we sure ate good today," Marco groaned. "I think I am ready for an early bedtime tonight. What do you say?"

I agreed, we peed, brushed our teeth and cuddled up on the big bed. We talked about our plans to drive over to Branson the next day then hit the sack.

Thursday morning we woke up about 7:30 and after freshening up in the bathroom decided to enjoy breakfast in bed again. We climbed back in bed and covered ourselves up to our waists while we waited for the now familiar knock on the door. Sure enough at just after 8:00 Johnny delivered our Swedish waffles.

With his usual smile he placed the trays of breakfast on our laps and asked, "How are you guys doing this morning?" Johnny uncovered the waffles and a big plate of sausages, filling the room with a wonderful aroma. Next to the waffles was a bowl of fresh strawberries.

Marco's attention was immediately directed to his breakfast. "Wow, this smells great!"

Johnny smiled. "Well I brought you some peanut butter and jam, but the waffles have powdered sugar and whipped cream on them so you might not need that." He left the cart next to the bed with the orange juice and coffee within easy reach. "What are your plans for today?" He asked.

"I think we are going over to Branson today," I told him.

"Oh, lots to do there. The Dixie Stampede is a great show. Are you thinking about doing that?" Johnny asked.

"Yes, I hear that is a lot of fun," I replied.

Johnny gave us a knowing look. "If you do, take some forks with you. They will serve you a meal but they won't give you anything to eat it with."

"Why not?" Marco wondered.

"I don't know, it is a joke they play on you I guess, but either bring your own forks or eat it with your fingers." he chuckled.

"Thanks. We will do that."

Johnny left with a smile. "Let me know if you need anything."

Marco sampled his waffle and grinned. "I feel fat already."

"Eat, drink and be merry, next week we can diet," I told him, tucking into a link sausage. There were no leftovers.

Marco leaned back with a sigh. "OK Mr. Tour Guide, what's up for today?"

"Well sir, have you ever been in a cave?"

"You mean a big cave with those things that hang down from the ceiling?"

"Right. Those are called stalactites. The ones the come up from the floor are stalagmites. It's like ants in the pants, the mites go up and the tights go down," I joked.

Marco laughed. "That's a good way to remember it."

"It is. My 8th grade science teacher told us that and I never forgot it. Anyway there is a place called Cosmic Cavern that is about half way to Branson and I thought we might stop there on the way. You good for that?"

"Yep. I'm up for anything. You haven't led me astray yet," Marco grinned.

We put our trays on the cart and dressed then put the cart in the corridor for Johnny. On the way out of the hotel we stopped in the dining room to collect a pair of plastic knives, forks, spoons, and some paper napkins for our dinner with Dolly Parton.

It only took about 30 minutes for Marco to drive to the cavern while I navigated with the little GPS on my Samsung.

Once at the cavern we parked the car and Marco bought our tickets. We got on a little buggy which took us to the entrance of the cave with a small group of half a dozen others, two old ladies and a young family with two very excited little boys. We stopped at the entrance to walk through the cave. Our guide had a lot of information and pointed out various formations as we walked through. It took about an hour and a half and we marveled at the formations.

There were lights that lit up the inside. The guide had a little spot light that he used to direct our attention to a lot of things – blind fish down in the clear stream that flowed through parts of the cave, bats hanging from the ceiling, even little blind salamanders scurrying up the walls. Marco was struck by the transparent tubes of what the guide called 'soda straws' that were clustered in some places.

"This is really beautiful," he said with his usual enthusiasm.

"It is," I agreed. They have to be careful of people who want to break these things off for souvenirs," I told him.

Soon we came to where the stream opened up into a deep lake. The guide said that the depth was unknown, that divers had never reached the bottom. We were permitted to take photos and we took quite a few for our trip collection. We took several 'selfies' in front of some of the formations that were lit with colored light.

"It's nice in here," Marco said. "I thought it would be cold."

"That's right," our guide said. "It stays a constant 64 degrees in here all year around. This is the warmest cave in the Ozarks."

The cave turned out to be quite educational. The little boys kept up a constant stream of questions and Marco got a kick out of them. Of course when we left we had to visit the gift shop. They had little bags of dirt that were supposed to contain natural gem stones that could be 'panned' in a running sluice of water outside. The little boys were hot to do that and their parents picked up several bags for them to sort through. Marco picked out an assortment of colored gemstones already washed and sorted and bought that for a souvenir along with several colorful geodes. We thanked our guide and got back in the car to head for Branson.

There was a lot to do there, too much for one day. Silver Dollar City is also in Branson and is sort of a smaller scale Disneyland, with rides and all kind of crafts being created and displayed. We could have spent a full day there, but decided that it would have to wait for another time.

"They have a lunch ride on an old paddleboat that goes around the lake. What do you think about that?" I asked him.

"If it includes lunch I will like it," Marco laughed. He bought us a pair of tickets and we hung around until it departed at 12:00.

The Branson Belle was a replica of one of the big paddlewheel driven river boats that plied the Mississippi River back in the days of Mark Twain. The multi-story boat was all white and the big paddle wheels were painted a bright red. Inside were tables and a central stage for some entertainment. We were served a nice lunch and enjoyed several bands, a magic act and a cute girl singer. The two and half hours passed by very quickly as we cruised around Table Rock Lake and enjoyed the sights. There were some beautiful homes on the hillsides. We wondered what it would cost to live in one of them.

By the time we got off the paddle boat it was about 3:00 and we couldn't decide what do next. There were lots of things to look at. We considered the Branson version of Ripley's Believe it or not, a Hollywood Wax Museum, an antique car museum, there was a lot to choose from. We killed a lot of time just wandering around and window shopping. Finally Marco spotted something that interested him. The sign said 'World's Largest Toy Museum'.

"How cool is that?" Marco exclaimed. "I would like to see that."

Inside were a million toys both antique and recent – pull toys, wind up toys, action figures, all kinds of toy cars and trains. We walked quickly past a huge collection of Barbie dolls.

"I had one of those," Marco said, pointing at some plastic boxers on a platform. "You push the little buttons and they bang away at each other until one of their heads pop off," he laughed.

We came to a collection of small pedal driven cars that little kids could ride around in. One of them was a little red fire engine that I had coveted as a small boy. "I always wanted one of those," I said.

Some of the toys were things that we remembered, some were before our time, but they were all fun to look at.

Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede started at 8:00, Marco bought our tickets and we walked around the big building that looked like an oversized southern mansion. We shuffled in and took our seats looking out over a large dirt floored arena. The entertainment began almost at once.

To tell the truth, I had expected this whole thing to be kind of corny, but it was a terrific show. There was a lot of good music, some country style and some kind of bluegrass, but all very good. The musicians and dancers were extremely talented and it moved quickly from one act to the other.

Almost as soon as the show began the smell of roast chicken filled the air. Attendants started to distribute our 'fabulous four course meal'. It actually was a nice dinner, a small roasted chicken, baked potato, corn on the cob, a roll and a little apple turnover, all nice and hot, and not a fork in sight. As the food was passed out people began to ask for something to eat it with. The reply was 'just a minute' but it never came. Marco and I exchanged knowing looks, pulled out our utensils from the hotel and began to enjoy our meal. We got funny looks from those around us.

In about 45 minutes the 'stampede' began. One after another acts with beautiful horses, trick riders, even a herd of stampeding buffalo. Marco was as excited as little kid. I had to remind myself that in some ways he was still a kid and I was not far ahead of him. We really enjoyed it.

The show was over a little after 10:00 and we walked back to where we had parked the car. It was a chilly night and we were grateful for our coats. By the time we drove back to Eureka Springs and our hotel it was almost midnight and we were tired.

Once in the room, Marco announced, "It's late and I'm kind of pooped. I'm a little horny but I don't know how much energy I have tonight."

"You are always a little horny," I chuckled. "How about a quick jerk?"

Marco grinned and went into the bathroom to pee and brush his teeth. The shower would have to wait until another time. I was right behind him and then we both undressed and climbed into the big four-poster. We fluffed up the pillows and scooted back into a semi-reclining position and lay very close together, our bodies touching from knee to shoulder.

I took his cock in my hand and began to stroke him carefully, amazed at how quickly he stood to an erection. I liked the feel of his uncut cock. I was grateful that he had his foreskin and that his pubic hair was long and silky. Some young guys like to shave themselves and to my mind looked like plucked chickens. Marco was all natural and felt good in my hand.

Marco returned the gesture and we were soon jacking off each other like a couple of schoolboys on a sleepover. Sometimes simple pleasures are the best.

"Race you," Marco giggled and we both increased our pace.

In a few minutes Marco coated my fist with his juice and I was not far behind. Once again, his youth had gotten the best of me. We wiped ourselves off with a hand towel then slid down in the bed and pulled up the covers. Just another day in paradise.

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