Garth hadn’t dressed properly for the frigid weather. He wore only jeans and a loose sweater over a black T-shirt. No overcoat, no scarf. He paced beside his green Nissan, waiting for Rufus. He’d arrived at Fat Dog Liquor at seven that night just as he’d promised Rufus. It was nearly seven-thirty. He fought the urge to take his money and just buy a bottle of rum to take home to Josh. Occasionally, one of the customers shot him a baffled or suspicious look. Garth considered waiting in his car but doubted his dealer would remember what he drove.
Tonight was special for Josh and him. After Josh finished his prison term for a minor drug charge, he and Garth plotted online for a time they could get together, get high and get naked. Garth was more than willing to have sex sober, but Josh was so plaintive—and persistent—for some crystal meth to enhance their pleasure. Garth was dialing Rufus’s number before he realized it. He carried fifty dollars in his jeans, separate from the money in his wallet, afraid he would weaken and buy yet more meth for his night with Josh. Garth knew it would be his last time with him, and he wanted it to be spectacular. Josh had a boyfriend, a young man with too sterling a reputation to allow Josh any indiscretions.
After another ten minutes, Garth heard the clanking whine of a vehicle approaching on the highway. A rusted white Toyota chugged toward the liquor store. Garth was surprised that he recognized the vehicle. It had been, after all, nearly six months since he and Rufus saw each other at a failed tryst organized online. Indeed, Garth had been hesitant to call, but he also hadn’t felt like schlepping two hours to Dallas just for meth, regardless of what Josh wanted.
Rufus entered the lot. Against his better judgment, Garth flagged him down by waving his arm as if wanting rescue. Garth’s dealer waved in return and parked a few spaces away from him. After nearly forty-five minutes spent waiting, Garth shivered, his breath visible. Still, he smiled as Rufus rolled down the window and beckoned for him.
“I was beginning to worry,” Garth said.
“Sorry, I had to help out my mom.”
Rufus was a few years younger than Garth, who last month spent his thirtieth birthday alone. Rufus had gained a few pounds since their last meeting, his cheeks filled out and the start of a double chin hanging beneath his actual one. His dishwater blonde hair stood in a mad pattern of spikes. He wore a red flannel shirt and denim overalls. Shamefully, Garth felt disappointed that his dealer had lost his lithe beauty. He badly wanted to be with Josh that night but didn’t see why he couldn’t fuck someone else—a prelude to the carnal adventure waiting back in Tyler.
Rufus asked if Garth minded leaving his car in the lot. Garth leaned against the truck’s door while they spoke. He was flirting with Rufus, an old habit he hadn’t thought to shake—more a product of reflex than design. Rufus didn’t seem to notice Garth freely giving quick smiles and easy laughs at the least provocation. After a slight hesitation, Rufus assured him that they’d return to the liquor store no later than nine. He assured Garth the clerk wouldn’t have him towed. Garth had no faith in the benevolence of liquor store workers but decided not to haggle. The sooner he finished this business, the sooner he could ravage Josh.
The two men drove down the highway to Frankston. Rufus lived with his mother but not in the same house. Rufus festered in an old camper 500 yards from his mother’s seven-room shack. Garth, of course, had never seen inside the latter. As they neared Rufus’s place, Garth again recalled his rendezvous with him. He’d driven to Frankston well after midnight and returned to Tyler an hour after sunrise. The tweak was potent, and neither man could stay erect. They settled for a few hours of stroking, sucking, kissing, both too wired to feel disappointment.
“You still live alone?” Garth asked.
“Sometimes my friend Blackie comes over.”
“He coming over tonight?”
“It’s not like he calls in advance.”
Garth chuckled, amazed at his shamelessness, amazed other men never objected.
“We need to make up for last time,” Garth said. This flirtation was, for him, a preemptive strike against Josh, an early revenge for Josh abandoning him. His young friend had told Garth online that tonight would be their only night; he had too much to lose.
Rufus smiled and shook his head. “I can’t promise anything.”
“No one asked you to.”
Rufus punched the brake, and the truck skidded, almost fishtailing. Gravel smacked against the undercarriage. Dust rose before them, illuminated by the soft headlights.
“What the hell happened?” Garth asked.
Rufus spun the steering wheel with his large, muscular hands, and the truck jutted onto a dirt path split down the middle by a row of weeds. It rumbled down the path. “Sometimes I forget where I live,” he muttered.
“You already tweaked?”
“I smoked a bit before I left.”
Garth relaxed against the seat. He exhaled a deep breath and let the rhythm of tires rolling upon the unpaved driveway rock him. He gazed out the window into the starry night. He looked for the moon but couldn’t find it.
Garth’s cell phone rang. He slid his hand into his jeans and pulled out the phone. Josh’s name appeared on the screen. He smiled in apology, but Rufus seemed too intent on the driveway to notice. “Just a second.”
Rufus chuckled. “That your boyfriend?”
“Not quite.” Garth pressed the phone to his cheek.
“Where are you?” Josh asked. His voice was high and soft but with a brazen directness that Garth found disconcerting unless heard in person. “You got the stuff yet?”
“I’m running a little late.”
“How late? You got any porn around here?”
“I just met up with the guy,” Garth answered, his voice more clipped than he intended. Briefly, he doubted the wisdom of letting Josh wait alone in his apartment. “Watch a movie. I’ve got plenty,” he said.
“Not the good kind.”
“You know I don’t watch that shit. The real thing will be there soon.”
Rufus chuckled, glancing at the young man beside him. Garth flushed to realize his planned rendezvous with Josh seemed comical.
“When you coming back?” Josh asked.
Garth placed his hand over the mouthpiece. He again asked Rufus how long it would be before the dope arrived. Rufus didn’t give a specific time but once again assured Garth they’d return to the liquor store before nine. “Tell stud-boy to be patient,” Rufus said.
“I’ll call the moment I’m back on the road,” Garth told Josh. “You’ll be there when I get back, right?”
“Sure, I’ll be here,” Josh said, his tone flat.
Garth slipped the phone into his pocket. The truck ambled up a small hill. They reached its peak, and Garth saw Rufus’s camper and his mother’s shack. The camper sat to the far right, and the shack crowded the base of another hill located on the left. The driveway angled sharply toward the camper.
Something in the distance caught Rufus’s attention. He peered through the windshield then punched the gas and gained speed, the truck thrashing the two men back and forth in their seats. They were no more than one hundred yards from the camper, amber light pouring through the window. Curious, Garth took a last look at the mother’s shack before it disappeared from view. There, too, a light shone from one of the windows. The others were haphazardly boarded. So much paint had peeled from the shack, it was impossible to know its original color. Pink curtains diluted the light escaping the room, made it seem inviting. A hand pulled back the curtain, and a large form appeared in the window. From this distance, it was impossible to make out the person’s features, but Garth guessed this was Rufus’s mother and guessed she must be very fat. She blocked nearly all the light. Garth wanted to confirm his suspicion but thought it unwise to distract Rufus.
The wheels of the truck crunched the gravel as Rufus stopped in front of the camper. The two men exited the vehicle, Garth wrapping his arms around himself to ward off the cold. He felt a sudden urge in his bowels then remembered the only bathroom on the property was in the shack. The camper was a squat, compact unit. A power line strung from a rotting utility post dipped dangerously close to the camper’s roof. Memories rushed back of he and Rufus crammed on top of the mattress in the high corner of the camper. To avoid falling off the bed, Garth had needed to angle and contort his body while making out with Rufus. They now heard a sitcom’s canned laughter escaping the camper.
“Looks like you’ll meet Blackie after all.” Rufus smiled, but distress flickered in his eyes.
“Is he cute?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Rufus opened a squeaking tin door and ushered Garth inside, his hand at the small of Garth’s back. His skin prickled at this perhaps subconscious flirtation.
Blackie slouched on a small padded bench built into the side of the camper. An old episode of The Golden Girls aired on the TV. Tiny Sophia regaled the ladies with a Sicily story. Garth turned his head to hide from Rufus his disappointment. Blackie was not an attractive man. He was at least forty, his pinstriped shirt open far enough to display wiry gray chest hairs mingling with darker ones. His hiking boots were smeared with dried mud. Sour concentration didn’t leave his face even as he hit the glass pipe.
“We got a problem?” Rufus perched on the opposing padded bench.
“There’s always a problem,” Blackie replied.
Garth knew what they were discussing bur masked the panic seizing his gut. The rumble in his bowels, however, couldn’t be stopped.
“When I called the guy,” Blackie said, “he told me to come out later for the shit.”
“My friend’s shit?” Rufus asked, indicating Garth with a jerk of the head. After Blackie nodded, Rufus asked if the guy wanted them to come to him. Garth began the evil arithmetic alerting him he might not make it back to the liquor store by nine.
“I was just waiting for you to get back,” Blackie said. “My cell battery’s dead.”
“So what does that mean?” Garth asked.
Blackie set down his pipe and stared evenly at the visitor. “It means cool your heels while we go get the shit.”
“He’s only twenty minutes away,” Rufus assured Garth.
“Then twenty minutes back?” Garth’s voice was high and strained.
Rufus sighed. “Sure, buddy. If Wonder Stud calls, tell him to chill.”
Blackie hefted himself from the padded bench and tossed on a charcoal pea coat. He asked Rufus if there was enough gas to get there, and Rufus nodded. Numb with shock, Garth dropped to the bench vacated by Blackie. Blackie caught him gazing wistfully at the glass pipe left in the ashtray.
“Feel free to smoke some,” Blackie said, smiling. “It’ll pass the time.” He marched out the door, slamming it shut before Rufus could follow. Seizing the moment, Garth asked his dealer if he could promise that Garth would have to wait no more than forty-five minutes.
“Sure, buddy.” Rufus patted his shoulder. “The guy’s a little sleazy, so we won’t be long.”
“Then why was he waiting for you here?”
“I meant the guy we’re driving to see.”
“This whole set-up is sleazy,” Garth muttered.
“Welcome to the wonderful world of drugs.”
Garth crossed his legs, hoping the sensation in his bowels would abate. It did not. “I gotta go.”
“Dude, you need to relax. Why would I ditch you in my own house?”
“I have to go the bathroom,” Rufus hissed, embarrassed.
“Just go outside. I piss out there all the time.”
Garth swallowed. “I have to do more than piss.”
Rufus frowned, a crease deepening between his eyebrows. Garth was disconcerted to see how quickly it aged his friend’s face. His hands locked behind his head, chin tilted toward the ceiling, Rufus advised his visitor to slip inside his mother’s house and use her toilet. He warned him the house was messy, warned him he might be disgusted. Garth insisted he didn’t care then asked if his mother was home despite knowing the answer deep in his gut.
“She’s always home,” Rufus said, flushing
“Will she mind?”
“She’s got her wine and her TV. She won’t hear you.”
“Dude, I promise.”
Bereft, Garth listened as Rufus’s truck rumbled away, noises growing distant until they disappeared altogether. On the TV, Blanche regaled her roommates with a tale of sexual escapades. His bowels still full and heavy, Garth tried to sit quietly, somehow believing these endless minutes would pass more quickly if he stayed as still as possible. His gaze instantly fell upon the glass pipe resting in the ashtray. He’d planned to abstain until he and Josh could get high together but wondered if taking a hit might relieve the mounting pressure in his bowels, or at least make him forget about it.
Read part two here.
Thomas Kearnes holds an MA in Screenwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. His two collections are “Pretend I’m Not Here” (Musa Publishing) and “Promiscuous” (JMS Publishing). His fiction has appeared in Litro, The Adroit Journal, The Ampersand Review, PANK, Word Riot, Eclectica, SmokeLong Quarterly, Johnny America, Five Quarterly, wigleaf, Storyglossia, Sundog Lit, A cappella Zoo, Spork, The Pedestal, Digital Americana Magazine and elsewhere. His work has also appeared in several LGBT venues. He is studying to become a drug dependency counselor. He lives near Houston.