This week, we have a guest blog post from a fellow Albuquerque (and native Okie) author Mark Wildyr. Hope you enjoy his short story.
|Courtesy of Pixel|
By Mark Wildyr
Experienced at looking below the surface of things, Winston Barstow instantly picked up on the attractive youth lurking beneath an accumulated cover of grime. Cursing the rush hour traffic, Win fought his way around the block for a second look at the boy striding down the opposite side of the street.
Yep, the kid would be prime when he cleaned up: pleasingly masculine gait, broad shoulders. Definitely worth a second look. Eighteen or nineteen, Win judged, as he circled the block for the third time. When the guy trotted across the wide intersection called Five Points, a traffic cop’s nightmare, Win eased the car to the curb, risking the wrath of drivers behind him.
“Need a ride?” he called through the open window, hoping his appearance wouldn’t discourage the kid. Experience had taught him that his large size often put off strangers, but it also allayed suspicion that he was gay. He looked and acted all man, all very big man.
The youth’s gray eyes narrowed suspiciously as they swept the sleek Cadillac Seville. He nodded once but appeared wary as he climbed into the passenger’s seat, spilling soot and grime onto the rich leather upholstery. Easing out into the traffic, Win ignored his rider for a moment before holding out his hand, eyes still on the road ahead.
“Win Barstow,” he said. “Where you headed?”
A grimy paw gripped his hand in a firm shake, but there was no reply. The man glanced over at the boy who laid a finger on his lower lip and shook his head.
“You can’t speak?” he asked tentatively. The boy shook his head again. “But you can hear all right?” That brought a nod. “Then we oughta be able to communicate just fine.”
The boy grinned, and a small tablet materialized in his hand. It was one of those plastic toys children inscribe with a stylus and then lift to erase the writing.
Under Win’s persistent prodding, the youth scribbled a few sketchy details about himself. Dominic Starling was an orphan or a runaway, Win wasn’t sure which. He lived alone near—but a world away—from Win’s exclusive penthouse condo. He eked out an existence at odd jobs down at the railroad yards. Intrigued by this handicapped kid’s upbeat attitude, Win offered the boy some clothes left behind by Mario his last lover, an affair that ended so badly he had shied clear of further involvements.
Although he eagerly accepted the offer, Dom stubbornly balked at getting out of the car when they halted at Win’s building. Too dirty, the boy wrote in frantic protest. Need to clean up! Understanding the youngster had to be handled gingerly, Win agreed to bring the clothes to a nearby park the next afternoon. The kid relaxed as soon as the Seville turned down a long street that grew more dilapidated with each passing block. Win enjoyed a final look at the youth’s trim form as he jogged out of sight around the corner.
Win parked in the secure underground garage below his building in a pensive mood. Although only forty-eight, he was already semi-retired from an immensely successful career in turn-around management. He had personally acquired, salvaged, and resold half a dozen faltering companies over the past twenty years, becoming wealthy in the process.
Precisely at six o’clock the next afternoon, Win pulled into the lot near the tennis courts at the park where Dominic waited. Win’s throat seized up as he watched the boy approach the Caddy. What was it about the kid that grabbed him so much? He mentally compared Dom to Mario. Hell, there was no comparison! Mario was sleek and beautiful and vain and practiced. This kid’s grace was awkward, his demeanor strangely innocent for one who lived on the streets. And he had a stronger maleness than the Marios of the world could ever attain.
He was surprised that Dom’s hair was a windblown brown. Last evening he’d thought it was black… soot, probably. Dom looked halfway clean today. Most likely washed out of a basin somewhere. Win realized the boy was taller than he remembered. Probably a good six feet, although his he carried no more than 170 pounds.
Dom waved hello and stooped at the driver’s window. “Get in,” Win said.
Apparently, the boy had decided to trust him because he promptly walked around the front of the car and piled in. Win reached over the back of the seat and plopped a brown paper bag into Dom’s lap. The boy’s eyes grew into saucers as he hauled out the rich duds. His soul was in his eyes as he turned to Win. The need to refuse such an expensive gift was plain to see.
“Forget it. They won’t fit me, and my friend’s not coming back. They’re yours. Same for the socks and underwear in the bag. Those are brand new, not even out of their packaging. Hope everything fits.”
The words brought a dazzling smile. However dirty the rest of him got, the kid kept his teeth clean. Win took the next step.
“Look, you need to clean up in a proper bathroom. Come on up to my place and take a good shower. Then you can try on the clothes, and we’ll see what alterations they need.”
Something akin to panic clouded the boy’s eyes.
“It’ll be okay. I park right near the elevators, and we’ll be in the penthouse in a minute flat. I insist!”
Dom didn’t agree, but neither did he bolt as Win negotiated the few blocks to his building and navigated down into the underground parking area. Dom was slow to exit the car, but once inside the apartment, the kid lost his reticence. He scurried from window to window, gawking at the city spread out below them. He found Win’s telescope set up in the study and pointed out small boats in the narrow river meandering in a wide, sandy channel and scanned the dense cottonwood bosque lining either bank. Dom scurried out on the rooftop terrace and leaned over the railing so far Win feared for his safety.
It turned into a pleasant evening. Dom emerged from a long shower clothed in his new duds. The kid preened unconsciously as he examined himself in the full-length mirror on the back of the closet door. Win was stunned. Although he had been convinced an attractive youth lurked beneath the grime, he hadn’t truly appreciated what a jewel the boy was. Gleaming, soft, brown hair. Handsome, engaging features. He was solidly handsome without being too perfect, too regular, too fragile.
In that moment, Winston Barstow realized his life had changed. He did not know if Dominic Starling would ever respond to him physically. But it didn’t matter. He had responded to friendship, and Win recognized that was sufficient. He wanted this boy… this young man in his life on whatever terms Dominic wanted.
Leaves us wanting more, doesn’t it? Thanks to Mark for helping out this week. Let me know what you think of his story at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the March 21 release date of The City of Rocks approaches, I’d like to give you my contact information and the DSP Publications links:
Don Travis Email: email@example.com
Facebook: Don Travis
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-city-of-rocks-don-travis/1126419974
As always, thank for being a reader.
New blogs are posted at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.