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Old 12-09-2016, 11:03 PM
Chris Gibson (Offline)
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Default The Houses in Rossford part one of chapter eleven



“Oh, God! Oh… Oh!”
He touched his hair. He buried his hands in his hair and bit his lip, he moaned and wailed and held onto his back. Their thighs moved together, their groins pressed together. They came and came and sighed.
Brendan gasped with the shock of his orgasm. His toes curled, and his body went tight on itself before releasing. For a long time he lay still before he rolled over, still breathing a little heavily.
For a long time Kenny McGrath also lay, catching his breath, his fingers steepled in his hair. He massaged his brow and lay still, breathing softer and softer. Brendan reached over to put a hand on his chest, but Kenny gently pushed it away.
“You need to go, Brendan,” he said.
Kenny sat up. “You need to go, Brendan. I shouldn’t have done this.”
“Whaddo you mean?”
“I mean… I mean you should go. Please go.”
“But you said… I came over. You said you wanted us to—”
“Look,” Kenny said as Brendan climbed out of bed and began dressing. “I don’t know if I was just horny, or… I don’t know what. But I can’t be with you. I can’t.”
Brendan figured he didn’t have the right to protest right now. He smoothed his shirt and took his hands through his hair.
“I didn’t mind when it was just heat. I should have minded. I can’t do the affection thing. I can’t. I don’t trust you, Brendan. I’m still angry at you. I still…”
Kenny stopped talking and looked at Brendan as if he’d never seen him before.
“I still kind of hate you. I hate myself for wanting to be with you. But… I can’t give up hating you. Not after everything. Not yet. I’m not ready.”
Brendan nodded his head and went to the bedroom door.
“Can you understand that, Brendan?”
“I can understand it. But… Do you think it’s going to last?”
Kenny climbed out of bed. He pulled on his shorts and reached for his tee shirt.
“Whaddo you want from me, Brendan?”
“I…” Brendan shrugged. “I dunno.”
“If that’s all you can say, man, then it looks like you just got what you wanted. And so did I. So what’s the problem?”
“What you said,” Brendan said. “Before. The day I broke up with Dena, when I came to you, how you said we were… in love, we were going to be together. That’s what I want.”
“Well, I wanted it to.”
“Don’t you still?”
“Not with you. Not right now. Bren, I don’t even look at you the same. I don’t look at anything the same.”
“You don’t trust me.”
“I don’t trust myself,” Kenny said. “Clearly I can’t make a sensible decision. Or else we wouldn’t have done what we just did.”
. “We just made love,” Brendan said. “Do you really feel bad about that?”
“Bren, we fucked,” Kenny said. “And it was good cause you were horny and I was weak, and if you want to know the truth: right now I pretty much hate myself.”
Brendan nodded.
“I guess that’s my cue to go.”
“Yeah,” Kenny said, chewing on his lip.

“I know I’m not supposed to tell you this,” Paul said walking around the boxy Element, “but I don’t really know anything about cars.”
The young man in the tie and blue slacks looked at him.
“I mean I lived in LA, but I always had a battered car. And people say that you need a car there, but lots of people don’t have cars and they’ve always got buses. I’ve never really been into cars,” Paul confessed. “Basically, I need it to get me there and back.”
The car dealer laughed and Paul, who had spent his life acting, studied him to see if he was acting. Some people talked fast, so fast you couldn’t keep up and that was when you knew they were trying to lie to you.
“Do you have a large family?” the man said.
“No. No, this is just for me.”
“Well, then you don’t even need to be looking at an Element.”
“It’s sort of ugly anyway.”
“I know,” the salesman nodded in sad agreement. “Isn’t it? When I was little the cars were so much better. They were gas guzzlers, but they were better.”
“My dad used to have this huge El Camino.”
“Oh, God, mine too! He still has it. I wanted to drive it. It’s like sitting in a boat, right? But now with the price of gas and everything-”
“I know.”
“Hey,” the young man said to Paul. “Let me show you something little and economic.”
“That isn’t ugly?”
“That isn’t ugly.”
“By the way,” the young man said, “I love that Land Rover. I don’t know why you need something new.”
“It’s not my Land Rover.”
“Oh. Would you like your own?”
Paul grinned and said, “Not really. I kind of just need something for me. A Rover’s more like a family car.”
“Well, when you get a family, come back and I’ll sell you something. Ask for Kirk, personally.”
“Oh, and if I ask for Kirk, then I’ll get a deal?”
“No, if you ask for Kirk,” he said, raising his auburn brows over mischievous blue eyes, “you’ll get Kirk Hanley. And I’ll give you a deal.”
“Hanley. Like the Hanley on the outside of the car lot.”
“Yeah, Hanley Honda. Gotta love the alliteration. Especially since we don’t really sell Hondas anymore. And Hanley Ford next door. My sister does that place. Women like to come and shop there because she feels less sinister.”
Paul said, “You do seem rather un-sinister for a car dealer.”
“Well, it’s the used ones who are really sinister,” Kirk said, rubbing his hands together.
“Unfortunately that means you’re in trouble, because we sell those too. C’mon.”
Kirk led Paul out the door and into the back lot facing Demming Street.
And then he said: “Look at this.”
“It’s a Jeep. Gets good mileage. A few years old. It’s a 2004 which makes it a hell of a lot cheaper than a 2008. I tuned it up myself.”
“You can fix cars?”
“You’re damn right I can,” Kirk thumped his chest. “You wanna take it on a test drive?”
“The usual procedure is I come with you to make sure you don’t steal it, and to talk off your ear about how great it is. Let’s go.”
Paul wondered if it was this boy’s—he was hardly more than a boy, and not very tall, sort of like Noah—shtick to be this winning and likeable.
“I have to try to like you less.”
“Really,” Kirk said, closing the passenger door and pulling his seatbelt on. “And why is that?”
“Because your charm could be part of your shtick.”
“True,” Kirk agreed. “I was born with charm, but I was born selling cars so…” he shrugged.
“Why don’t you just fasten your seatbelt, start the car and enjoy the shtick.”
The Hanleys owned five lots all between Demming and Dorr, the used one faced Demming, and they headed southwest on it, down the Strip.
“I’ve seen you somewhere,” Kirk said. “Your face is so familiar.”
By now Paul was used to the fact that anyone could be a closet homo, so this man could have been sitting around watching Johnny Mellow.
“Have you ever heard of Johnny Mellow?” said Paul.
“No. But—that’s it!” he interrupted himself.
Johnny Mellow could sneak out and blacken Paul’s day. Johnny Mellow could take him down into a depression. Here he was, becoming normal, and this Kirk could only think of Johnny Mellow.
“You were in that play last weekend. You were Biff. You were really good. I mean, it was kind of funny cause I just sort of found myself wishing I knew you. Can you believe that?”
Paul stared at Kirk for so long that Kirk had to shout for him to stop for the red light.
“Yeah,” Paul muttered. “Yeah. Yeah. That was me! Thanks.”
“You were fantastic,” Kirk said. “I used to want to be an actor. The good thing about that playhouse is you don’t have to travel so far out to see something. You know? You can see something nice here. I like that.”
“Yeah,” Paul said, his mood lightening. He felt good. He wanted to be recognized for something beside Pizza Slut.
“Can I ask you a personal question?” Kirk said.
“Kirk, you can ask me whatever the hell you want.”
Kirk burst out laughing.
“Well, good. That thing you said, about not expecting to ever have a family…?”
“Yes?” Paul.
“Is it because you’re gay?”
For the second time in five minutes the car dealer caught Paul off guard.
“I only ask,” Kirk explained, “because, you know, I used to feel the same way too. But…. Anything’s possible. Provided you find the right man.”
There was a red light as they approached Emerson. Paul turned to survey Kirk, and he said, “You don’t mince words do you?”
“No, I don’t. There’s not enough time. So…?”
“So what?”
“At around eight o’clock tonight one of us is going to pick the other up. Should it be me or you?”

“You’re a good friend,” Kenny said.
“I’m just a good listener,” said Milo Affren.
“I… Do you carry a torch for Dena?”
“I don’t carry shit for Dena,” Milo said, spreading his hands out across the kitchen table in the Affren kitchen.
“I don’t know. I knew she was with Brendan, but I hoped that something might happen with us. And, well, it didn’t so…”
“But now it could,” Kenny said. “Now that we’re all free.”
“Free? You make it sound all spiritual. Are you carrying a torch for Brendan m’lad?”
“No,” Kenny said. “That shit screwed me up. I was straight as an arrow before him. And I might go back.”
“You had a girlfriend?”
“Yeah. A while ago.”
“And you were sleeping with her?”
“No!” Kenny sounded shocked. “I mean, hell. I’m just eighteen.”
“Dude,” Milo told him, “I don’t think you were ever straight as an arrow. I mean, nothing wrong with that. I just think Brendan turned you on to what you were. You’ll find around guy who’ll make your bells ring one day.”
“If I can get rid of Brendan first.”
“What’s that?” Milo stirred.
In a low, defeated voice, Kenny leaned in and told Milo:
“We’re still fucking each other.”
“Oh, gross!”
` “No,” Milo waved it away. “Not the whole gay thing. But the whole…. I don’t get what’s so hot about the guy. And he’s banging everyone!”
“He’s not like that. He’s—”
“And you’re justifying him.”
“I’m not,” Kenny said. “I’m just…”
The kitchen door swung open and Barb Affren walked in.
“You don’t have to get quiet just because of me,” she said.
“We’re not, grandma,” said Milo.
“You kids think you started everything, but I’ve done some stuff in my time,” Barb said, reaching into the cupboard and pulling out the Saltines. She went into the refrigerator and gathered up dip and soda.
“Like I bet you didn’t know to pay my way through school…” she said at the door, “I was a stripper.”
And then she bumped the door with her behind and was gone.
“Is she serious?” Kenny said.
“With grandma? I don’t put shit past that old broad. But back to you?”
“No, Milo!”
“Back to you,” Milo insisted.
“You’re still in love with Brendan? Aren’t you?”
Kenny shut his mouth tight, and chose to plead the Fifth.

“I JUST FEEL SO BAD about everything that’s happened,” Dan Malloy said over coffee.
“Yeah,” Fenn said. “And yet… didn’t we already know? I mean, I feel bad for my niece, no one telling her the truth. I hate to say this,” he turned to Todd, “but my sympathy for Dena is pretty slim.”
“Brendan came to me,” Dan said, hands clasped. “He came to me and told me how he thought he might… not be straight.”
“Be gay,” Todd supplied baldly.
“Yes. And he even told me about how he thought he’d start something with Dena. To… fix himself. I didn’t know what to do. Or what to say.”
Fenn refilled his cup and noted, “You could have told the truth.”
Dan looked at him. “No, Fenn. I couldn’t have. I’m a priest.”
“Strike One!” Todd sang, “for the Catholic Church!”
“I’m not a shrink,” Dan continued. “Or even Oprah. I can’t just say exactly how I feel or talk about myself. Brendan was coming to me as a symbol of the Church, and as that symbol I could not say or betray anything that was not in line with the Church.”
“You know what I think?” Todd said.
“What?” Dan sounded a little irritated.
“I think Brendan came to you as a wise person who could help him, and I think you failed him. That’s what I think. Strike Two for the Catholic Church.”
“I think you’re too hard on him,” Fenn said to Todd.
Dan said nothing.
“I think when people go to certain places for certain answers they know what they want to hear, and what they’re ready for. Brendan wanted to be a heterosexual. The only seventeen year old whose conduct I need to be concerned about is Layla’s. But I’ll say that what that boy did was shabby, and you can’t blame Dan’s or—for that matter—Dena’s stupid behavior on him.”
Todd began: “Dena wasn’t stupid.”
“She was stupid,” Fenn insisted flatly, and sadly, as the door opened and Paul walked in, face shining.
“Father Dan!”
“Paul,” Dan nodded.
“I need to talk to you.”
“As a symbol of Catholic Church?” Todd said smiling tartly at Dan, “Or as himself?”
“As a man to a man.”
Dan thumped the table and stood up.
“Let’s talk, then,” he said.

“I have a date. Or, at least I’m supposed to have a date,” Paul said.
“Well,” Dan said hesitantly. “That’s good… Right?”
“I don’t go on dates,” Paul said.
“I’ve never been on one before.”
“Really?” said Dan. Then he smiled. “Neither have I.”
“Not a real date,” Paul said. “In the old days there were things where I would go to dinner with someone, you know… as part of the service. But that’s not the same thing.”
The priest nodded.
“This guy… I think he’s nice. I think we could get along. I really feel good around him, He made me feel good, Father. He saw me in the play. But when he said he knew me, I instantly went back to… ”
“You thought he knew you from something else. Like a film.”
“Yes, exactly like a film. And… he doesn’t know what I’ve done, and I don’t know how to date someone, what he expects, what’s moving too fast or to slow or even if I can. If I can move at all with someone I really like. I don’t know what to do.”
Dan Malloy was silent for a while. He scratched his unshaven chin, then said,
“You’re thinking about canceling on him, aren’t you?”
“Honestly. Yes. All I know is fucking people. That’s what I do. I fuck guys. I don’t even have real friends. Aside from Fenn. And you I guess.”
“You guess?”
Paul grinned, “Well, then I know.”
“You do,” Dan said. “And I think you also know that the one thing you can’t do is cancel on this man.”
“No,” Dan said. “You can’t run away from everything that scares you. You said you wanted a new life. You wanted to do new things. You’ve gotta do this. All right?”
“All right, I guess.”
“Look, this isn’t confession, and you’re not a kid, so I can tell you everything that’s on my mind. Do this, Paul. Don’t spit on the chance to find a good guy—”
“If he is a good guy—”
“If he’s not you’ll figure it out by the night’s end.”
Paul nodded.
“And you don’t have to tell him anything you don’t want to,” Dan added.
“Make it through tonight before you think about confessing your deepest secrets.”
Paul nodded.
Then he grinned and shrugged.
“I’m gonna go through with this.”
“You’re damn right you are.”
“He’s really cute, Fath—I shouldn’t be telling you this.”
Dan shrugged.
“I’m not made out of stone,” he said. “I wasn’t always a priest.”
Paul thought about this and blinked, and then he said, “Father, can I ask you a question?”
Anticipating the question, Dan folded his hands together and spoke.
“Before there was a Todd, or a Tom for that matter,” Dan said, “I knew Fenn. And I could feel and do whatever I wanted, and love him as I chose. As we chose.”
Paul’s eyes waited for more of an explanation, but all Dan Malloy said was, “Things happened the way things were meant to, and Fenn is who he is, and I ended up being Father Dan.”
Paul opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Dan said:
“And since no one else ever came along, being Father Dan makes me happy.”

“Well, I like you both,” Claire said.
“I’m not saying she’s not a good person,” Julian clarified. “It’s only…”
“Look, I get it,” Claire said, throwing up a hand. “I don’t get along with Matt half the time. In fact, I could sell him to gypsies. That said, I think you should do as I say and not as I do. She’s your sister, you should work something out.”
“Layla’s attitude is not my fault,” Julian said, turning to look out of the restaurant window onto Demming Street.
“First, this man who has had nothing to do with me my whole life turns up in our house, because his wife couldn’t tolerate him anymore, and then I’m saddled with this sister giving me the evil eye. Cause I took her father? I don’t want him. To be honest, I don’t want my mother, either. God,” Julian broke off, looking out the window, “I can’t wait to start school this fall.”
“Good,” Claire drummed the table. “Let’s find another topic. Like, where are you going?”
“Well, I had thought about Carmel about an hour and a half from here. And there was the Art Institute in Chicago. I already got rejected from The University of Chicago.”
Julian shrugged, “But that was to be expected.”
“All right,” Claire said quickly. “Here’s what I think you should do. Don’t go to the Art Institute because that’s probably bullshit anyway, and you should learn something real. Don’t go to Carmel either.”
“Why not?”
“Because,” Claire said doing a drum roll on the table, “I’m going to Loretto!”
Claire nodded. “Pretty sure of it. It’s far enough from East Carmel for me. And I can keep an eye on Paul.”
“Well,” Julian said, closing his hands and smiling to himself, “that is something.”
“You bet your ass its something.”
“Claire, I’m really glad you came down here.”
“Actually I came up here,” she said. “And between meeting you again and spending Sunday in East Carmel… there wasn’t a big contest.”
“I’ll come down next time. We could do the cruise lap.”
Claire shook her head and rolled her eyes.
“You’re really a horrible person, you know that, Julian?”
“Thank you. Oh…” Julian stopped.
Claire followed his eyes.
Out in the parking lot there was an old, thin blackened man she thought she knew. She was sure of it, and he had climbed out of his very old, very large rust bucket of a car and was walking around Julian’s. He frowned and pushing his glasses up, then headed for the restaurant.
“Jul’yen!” he croaked. “Jul’yen!”
He marched over to the table and smiled saying, “I know this pretty thing.”
“Yes,” Claire said, remembering suddenly. Layla’s grandfather.
“What’s up?” Julian said, turning to him casually.
“Don’t what’s up me, boy. I ought to whoop your ass,” he muttered negligently. “Youth ain’t got no goddamn respect these days.
“Tell, your mama I’m staying with her and that son of a bitch for a few days. Tell ‘em I’m camping out there cause that ornery bitch and her mama won’t have me. Tell ‘em.”
Julian shrugged and looked woebegone.
“All right,” he said. “The more the merrier.”
As the bow legged old man sauntered out of the restaurant, Claire leaned across the table and hissed, “Julian! How do you know him?”
Julian frowned at her in confusion.
“He’s my grandfather.”

“So explain to me how you got into the car business.”
Across the table, Kirk pushed up his glasses and said, “I was born into it. A long and illustrious history. My grandfather had an old used car lot. My father and his brother expanded it. My sister and my cousins work there now. Three generations of caring. I mean, you must have seen the commercial with us all in it.”
“Is it a good market for a gay car salesman?”
“It’s the same market as for any other car salesman,” Kirk shrugged. “Besides, my family doesn’t know anything about that. There was never really a way to bring it up. And… there doesn’t seem to be much of a point.”
“I know what you mean,” Paul nodded.
“People always act like you’re in the closet or not. I know men who are. They sneak around and lie to everyone, and they’re always afraid. I’m not afraid, it’s just…”
“Your life is your life.”
“Right. And, until I have a guy at my side who I care about, what would I have to tell my family anyway? Instead of them thinking I’m unlucky in love and can’t get a girl, they’ll just think I’m unlucky in love and can’t get a man.”
Paul took a sip of his water and said, “My family just found out. I mean, I was living away from them. I didn’t really tell them, I showed them. They came to visit for the show, and stayed the night with some of my friends. Then they put it all together.
“I used to think that the good thing about coming out was my family wouldn’t think I was this lonely old virgin.”
“But straight people always think gay men are all lonely old virgins.”
“Or perverts.”
“They can’t really make up their mind,” Kirk laughed. He rubbed his hands together.
“My dad used to quote Saint Paul about me,” Kirk said. “Saint Paul said the married man is concerned about pleasing his wife and the things of this world, but the single man is worried about the things which please only heaven. Only he would say the Business instead of heaven, and clap me on the back.”
“So you’re the hard little worker?”
“Being the hard little worker keeps my mind off of being sick of being alone.”
There was a silence for a space, and in that moment the very winning, confident Kirk Paul had met earlier was gone. And then he came back and Kirk spoke.
“So, whaddit you do in California?”
“Mostly fail at being what I wanted to be.” Paul had seen the answer coming and planned for it early on.
“I wanted to be an actor. I don’t even remember if I wanted to go to Hollywood, but I must have.” He frowned.
“I just wanted to get the hell out of East Carmel.”
“I hear you,” Kirk said. “I wanted to get out of Rossford. I did too. Went to school out in California. Probably the same time you were working there. But I came back. And now I’m here.”
“You happy here?”
Kirk thought about it for a moment and then smiled, surprised.
“Yeah,” he said in a long, satisfied breath. “I actually am. Yeah.
“Right now. Yes.”
Kirk grinned and sipped his drink.
“That’s what I like to hear.”

“You didn’t have to walk me to the front door.”
“Well, let’s just say I wanted to walk you to the front door.”
“Thanks. I… I don’t really want this night to end.”
“Well, then, is that your way of saying you’ll go out with me again?”
Paul chuckled and put a finger to his teeth. “I think…”
“I think that’s a yes,” Kirk said, grinning.
“Yeah. I think it might be.”
“Good. That’s what I wanted to hear. I… uh,” Kirk put out his hands awkwardly.
“I guess I should—Ahh—” he broke off in a scream.
“I hate to break this up,” Claire Anderson said, emerging from the bushes. “But I really need to talk to you, Paul.”
“Hi, pleased to meet you. Claire Anderson,” she said, shaking Kirk’s hand.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“Same thing you were doing? Dating,” she smiled at Paul, appraisingly.
“Nice work, big brother.”
“Thank you,” Kirk said the same time Paul did, and then they both grinned at each other.”
“Call me,” Kirk made a phone sign to his ear.
“He’s gotta call you,” Claire said. “He’s buying a car from your lot.”
“Oh, yeah,” Kirk remembered, but Paul said, “How did you—”
“Don’t worry about it,” Claire said. “We need to talk.”

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