“What took you so goddamn long, boy?” Margene demanded. “I been calling your name since the commercial.” On the big-screen television, a perky blonde with dazzling teeth cooed about the efficacy of scented douche. Whenever Margene needed another wine cooler or wanted to empty the ashtray, she wailed for her son, Dewey, to leave his computer and assist her. He shuffled from the back of the mobile home, past all the piles of cardboard boxes lining the hall, and into the living room where Margene held court. Cigarette dangling from her lips and remote control clenched in her grip, she growled for Dewey to complete the tasks her sloth made untenable.
“I was chatting with someone,” Dewey answered.
“You shouldn’t talk to people that don’t exist.”
“Whaddya need, Mama?”
Margene was little more than a skeleton gloved inside pore-ridden flesh. Her ribs, her shoulder blades, and her hips realigned as she looked at her son. Why was it so hard to label her as frail? “The methadone ain’t kicking in like it should,” she said. “We got Xanax left, right?”
“Well, shit, take a look,” she said.
Dewey bowed his head. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt brave enough to openly glare at his anorexic, needling mother. Knowing each day brought nothing but more demands, more game shows at thundering volume, more Virginia Slims—the concept of future was too painful to contemplate.
The tiny bathroom shared a wall with the living room. While scanning the medicine cabinet, Dewey heard a huckster bark about his batch of used Fords, little kids orgasmic over fruit punch, and finally a plea for those who’d taken a growth hormone to join a class-action lawsuit.
He found the bottle of Xanax behind an empty jar of Oil of Olay. Three or four pills rattled. His reflection in the glass of the cabinet confronted him. His mouth grew long, the corners turning neither up nor down. Fat fuck, he thought. Not fat like your daddy in heaven, but give it time. It’s a slippery slope, little pig.
“Goddammit, boy!” Margene cried. “You get lost in there?”
“Just a second, Mama.”
Dewey had tricks, maneuvers to make himself more appetizing to the men he approached on the hook-up websites in his room. Most ignored him or wrote nasty replies to his lame attempts at introduction. He pressed his hand beneath his jowls, momentarily mashing his double chin. Relieved that this ruse provided hope, he cupped his hands over his two drooping pecs. No, that asshole kid down the road was right: they were bitch tits. He lifted the sagging flesh of each breast up and to the side. What if his pectorals bulged with firmness as they did in his fantasies?
There were other attempts at self-deception. It was an elaborate series of gestures, rehearsed like a stage soliloquy. In less than a half-hour, Christopher would arrive. Tall, lean, and smooth Christopher with his eight-inch cock. It had taken three weeks of explicit text messages and online chatting to convince Christopher to drive to the mobile home park outside Longview. That, and Dewey promised to provide him with an eight ball of crystal meth for the privilege of sucking that long, thick cock.
The Xanax tablets rattled in their bottle, reminding Dewey he still held it. He planned to persuade Margene to take all the pills. While he wouldn’t entertain Christopher in his bedroom, he wished to neutralize his mother to be safe. Christopher knocking on the door and waiting would allow plenty of time for Margene to humiliate her son. When Dewey offered her the pills, she stared at him as if he were a stain.
“You trying to knock me out silly, boy?” she asked, eyes narrowed to slits.
Dewey shuffled his feet, stared into a far corner. He could hide nothing from her. “Someone’s coming over,” he muttered.
“You ain’t got no friends.”
“Yes, I do.”
“You never bring ‘em here.”
“I don’t wanna bother you.” He gestured toward the television. “Judge Judy is coming on.”
Margene lit another Virginia Slim and took the Xanax bottle. “Is he one of those faggots?” she asked, her voice low and froggy, as if the word were difficult to pronounce.
“The government ain’t paying me to run some queer whorehouse, boy.”
“Take the pills, Mama. Don’t get excited.”
After more pleas to Dewey not to disgrace the Langtree family name, Margene dismissed him. He sprinted back to his bedroom and checked his cell phone for text messages. Nothing. Don’t panic, he told himself. Christopher was on his way. Maybe he didn’t text when driving. Dewey lay atop his bed knowing rest was not in his future. He’d smoked some crystal meth an hour ago. Without it, he would’ve cancelled, certain that humiliation loomed. He waited for a knock on the door.
Too wired to sleep, he went into a sort of trance, so fixated on the wheeze from the air conditioning unit outside his window, he failed to register the quick trio of knocks at the front door. Another three knocks followed. Christopher was nearly an hour late. Dewey didn’t care. He was thrilled the young man had come at all. Men had flaked on him in the past, even after his promise of crystal meth.
As Dewey dashed to the front door, he caught a glimpse of his mother motionless on the couch. Even Xanax didn’t hit that fast. Maybe it was all the wine coolers she’d guzzled since Good Morning America. If she hadn’t taken the Xanax, maybe he could sneak one himself. He didn’t want Christopher to detect his deep-rooted conviction that something would go wrong, and soon.
The vision that revealed itself once Dewey opened the creaky screen door filled the fat young man with hope. Suddenly, his sad and sordid world seemed alive with possibility, with the knowledge this gorgeous man would surrender to him as he pleased and flattered it. Dewey had already decided he would swallow Christopher’s load if given the chance. He muttered hello, asked if Christopher had any problems finding the place. Dewey rambled about the hardships of living in the backwoods, how grateful he was for company.
“You got diarrhea of the mouth, big boy,” Christopher said, laughing. Dewey stopped at once. The biggest disappointment he’d experienced hooking up with other men was how none of them were witty and charming like in sitcoms and frothy romantic comedies. Instead, they spoke in a primitive language of veiled insults and sexual commands. Christopher, however, possessed a true wit. Better yet, he assumed Dewey must possess one, too.
“I’m sorry, cutie,” Dewey said, gripping the doorframe as if he might topple. “I always get so nervous, and my hands sweat, and it feels like I haven’t eaten in a fucking week, and—”
“How are you gonna suck my dick if you can’t stop jabbering,” Christopher said and slipped past Dewey into his home. While he passed, his hand grazed Dewey’s love handle. Dewey wasn’t sure how to interpret the gesture. This was the worst time to be reminded of his weight…but beautiful Christopher had touched him! The contact hadn’t repulsed him. Christopher flashed his host a megawatt grin and casually gazed about. Dewey fought the urge to drag him out the front door. Dewey, however, was too dazzled by his guest to move an inch. Of course, he’d gazed obsessively at Christopher’s array of photos on the hook-up website, especially the one of his long, smooth body utterly nude, the image cut off at his neck. Dewey marveled at any man with the discipline—and optimism—to work out.
Even though the age Christopher gave on the website was a mere twenty-two, Dewey believed his guest could pass for a high school senior. An unkempt bush of rust-colored curls drifted atop his head like low clouds at dawn. One of his eyes was a bright hazel while the other was a pale blue. He moved with the staccato rhythms of a tap dancer, all seductive excess motion. His only flaw was that his front tooth was chipped. Dewey’s own mouth was full of neglected cavities and rotting teeth stained yellow from his daily pack of Salem cigarettes. He’d lied online when Christopher asked if he smoked. He chastised himself for forgetting to gargle with Listerine before admitting Christopher.
Christopher drifted toward the living room, but kept his head tilted upward, as if waiting for Dewey to begin a proper tour. Margene let out a low grunt. Dewey prayed it wasn’t a sign her stupor was lifting.
“You don’t wanna see this dump,” he said, sliding past Christopher to block his entrance. “I set up the perfect place.”
“You put mucho effort into silly things, big boy.”
“We have the whole afternoon,” Dewey breathed.
“Actually, I only have an hour. My girlfriend needs me to pick up a dime bag. The weed they sell in Tyler is crap.” Christopher went on to explain his visit was the product of pure coincidence—and past experience. “You fat boys are expert cocksuckers,” he muttered, smiling so wide that Dewey started counting his teeth.
Too much information and too little self-worth led Dewey to panic. Christopher had stopped by for a blowjob and some dope before returning to his girlfriend and pretending her talent for sucking dick came anywhere close to Dewey’s. The host rubbed his bulging belly without realizing Christopher watched him. Why draw his attention to that shameful spot? It only mattered how Dewey could please him.
“I picked up the dope this morning,” he announced.
“Is it good stuff?” Christopher asked.
“I haven’t tried it,” Dewey replied, the lie coming easily. He knew these hook-ups were games of deception and concealment. Each man wielded a carefully orchestrated image for the other’s enjoyment. There was no shame in this charade. Dewey had joined the website three years ago, not long after his twentieth birthday. His late father had bought the computer years ago hoping to interest Dewey in Tetris and other math-based video games.
“You have a pipe?” Christopher asked. “My roommate always asks all sorts of questions if I borrow his. You’re discreet, right?”
“This afternoon is just between you and me,” Dewey promised, thrilled to hear those words aloud. Finally, he summoned enough courage to physically guide Christopher toward the screen door still hanging open. He kept gentle pressure at the small of Christopher’s back, noticing how tightly his guest’s simple black T-shirt wrapped.
“Good. I like boys who keep their traps shut,” Christopher muttered, ducking his head to avoid the doorframe. “You let some faggot suck your dick and next week the whole fucking town knows.”
“I hate guys like that,” Dewey said quickly. “I got a pipe waiting for us.”
“Where the fuck are we going?”
“There’s a trailer down the street. No one’s lived there since Mrs. Zuckerman died last month.”
The two young men walked with purpose across the mobile home park. Some of the trailers featured scattershot attempts at decoration or comfort—a wobbly wooden deck, garden gnomes with evil faces, wind chimes that hung uninspired in the still, humid afternoon. Dewey risked a glance through a particular trailer’s window as he and Christopher walked past. He wasn’t surprised Professor Pete glared back as if waiting for Dewey to see him. That morning, Dewey had struggled with his gag reflex while sucking Professor Pete’s spongy, uncircumcised cock, pubic hairs breaking off inside his mouth. Professor Pete didn’t accept cash for his dope. Dewey didn’t have the cash anyway.
What would a person think seeing him walk with gorgeous Christopher? It was silly to speculate—he knew the answer. He was guilty himself. Obviously, whenever two people knew each other, and one was far more attractive than the other, everyone knew the beautiful one held all the power. Dewey sometimes found himself tempted to invite frankly repulsive men for quick, shameful sex—he was weary of receiving pity. Every bastard who stared at him in frank disgust reminded him of Margene. She had scorned him since his father was killed instead of him on that lonely, icy interstate three years ago. The memory of his father’s final sigh sweeping through the overturned pickup cab chilled Dewey. He’d lied when Margene had asked if his father had died instantly.
Part two coming October 24.
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.