Infestation Pt. 2

infestation 2

“Are you swearing off men completely?”

Barton’s pulse quickened with relief. Vince had unwittingly offered Barton a way to refuse him without resorting to ridicule. “None of us should be hooking up right now.”

Vince nodded.

“We’d relapse together.”

Vince nodded.

“Our friendship would hit the shitter.”

Vince nodded.

“I know how much you care about…” Barton felt a prickling sensation upon his shoulder. He felt a cluster of them. “Is something crawling on me?”

“Hold still.” Vince swatted at the cockroach, giving him another excuse to hit Barton. The bug leapt from his shoulder, landing on the balcony, oblivious to the attempt on its life.

“Jesus, that fucker’s big.” Barton shuddered.

Vince managed a flimsy smile. “There’s still the matter of my birthday.”

“Remind me the day before.”

“It won’t cost a cent.”

“Hmm, okay…”

“It’s not what you think.”

Barton’s leg shook like a paint mixer. Once you put a price on a man, decisions become easy. The two men had been speaking a while, so Barton scanned the courtyard for any neighbors notorious for starting rumors. No one seemed to notice them sitting closely like lovers.

“Good,” Barton said. “You can’t ask for anything sexual.”

“I’ll wait till you’re wearing a towel and a smile, wandering the halls.”

Vince laughed at his joke; Barton did not. Vince composed himself and offered a pained smile. “Dearest big brother, would you please kiss me on my birthday?”

Barton stared through him, jaw hovering and unsure where to land. So simple a wish from so vulnerable a soul—when was the last time Barton bent over for that alone? But Vince didn’t complete the equation, not remotely. No one would blame him for doing what he must.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“A kiss isn’t sexual.”

“What is it, then?”

“I knew you’d shoot me down.”

“It’s not you, not at all.”

Vince rose from the bench, pushed his hands through his hair. “Almost curfew.”

“Vincent,” Barton whispered, reaching out, not expecting Vince to take his hand.

And then, what Barton feared: the tears. “You’re doing me a favor, you know. Everyone knows rehab romances never work.”

Barton swept past Vince and blocked his exit. “Stay. I’ll get some smokes. They’re right inside.” He stepped toward the door. A squishing sound followed a sharp crack. “What the hell?” Barton lifted his loafer to discover the thrashed remains of a pest impossible to identify.

“Slay the dragon, big brother.” Vince laughed. Barton had no choice; he laughed, too.

Barton swiped Goof’s pack of Camels from the nightstand. He studied his roommate, absurdly grateful Goof would never learn how Barton broke a poor faggot’s heart. One cigarette and the night would end. He crossed the room, opened the door but went no farther.

Vince slept on the bench, grunting softly as if making love. Surely, he hadn’t slipped into dreams in less than a minute. Irritated he had to wake Vince, Barton reached for his shoulder. He drew back, however, seconds before his hand landed on the cockroach creeping up Vince’s neck.

“Motherfucker!” Barton shouted.

Vince’s eyes snapped open.

“Dude, kill it!” Barton cried. “It’s right there! It’s—”

“What the hell are you talking about?’

“Kill it! It’s fucking filthy!”

Barton’s guest jumped to his feet, inspected his clothes, the bench. No bugs anywhere. Barton panted like a sprinter crossing the finish. Vince observed him with a wry smile.

“Poor big brother. That was close.”

Barton collapsed onto the bench. “I can’t handle that shit.”

“Where’d you get the smokes?”

“Inside. I told you I had some.”

“You mean my apartment?”

“No, mine.”

“Your apartment is in the next building,” Vince said, spooked. “It’s on the second floor.”

Confused, Barton checked the door’s number. The brass numerals read 115; Barton and Goof lived in 206. He backed away, convinced Vince was in on it, ignorant as to what “it” might be. Goof called Barton’s name from the far end of the courtyard. Not responding, Barton dashed upstairs and never looked back.

Before room 206, Vince sat waiting, legs crossed at the ankles. “You left before I could finish.”

“How the fuck did you do that?” The words shot out like jets from a spray.

“I had a dream about you, big brother.” Vince rose, minus all the naked need Barton had associated with him since they met. He approached Barton with the certainty of the masked killer in a horror film. “It was my birthday, and you didn’t kiss me.” He gazed at Barton. His voice sounded hollow and smooth, like a customer service greeting. “Isn’t that an awful dream?” He wrapped his arms around Barton. “I’m so glad I woke up.”

Their kiss transpired like an assassination, the target besieged before spotting danger. Vince forced his tongue inside Barton’s mouth, the men’s teeth clicking like tap shoes against marble, hands frantic. Barton preferred kissing men over women; he lacked the insight to speculate why. His eyes clenched shut, his breath caught. There is no moment more heartbreaking than the end of a kiss.

“Took you long enough, fucker.”

Barton broke away from Vince and found Goof standing in the doorway of room 206. Shirtless, his slender chest caught the amber light from the streetlamp. Shaking, Barton peered over his shoulder and discovered that only the motel parking lot, its chipped asphalt and fading yellow lines, lay behind him. His eyes bugged with amazement.

“You’ve been gone a whole hour,” Goof said. “There’s a smoke shop five minutes down the interstate.”

“Sorry.” He didn’t know who deserved an apology.

“Baby, I need it up the ass,” Sister Pussy cried, indifferent to other guests in other rooms. Goof yanked Barton into the room, leaving him no chance to note the numerals posted on the door. Goof had lived with him in room 206, and now Goof waited in a room facing the interstate. The door slammed shut. Goof nibbled Barton’s ear, a gesture more menacing than affectionate, then strolled past. Goof smacked Sister Pussy’s bare ass. She bent over the bathroom counter. She wore her greasy blonde hair in pigtails; Barton knew she meant to please Goof, not him.

Again the canned Southern accent: “Dear Bart, can’t you see I’m dying for a man?” Her lewd wink and small jiggling breasts stirred Barton with their guaranty of victory. There was no risk, no possibility of rejection. This was pussy for pussies.

Goof held an iPhone in front of him. His rotten teeth emerged like a submarine from the ocean’s surface. Barton’s unease ticked higher; it was Goof’s dope and his party. Barton had paid for the room, but he felt naïve calling it his. After twenty-five years, he knew the rules and restrictions of this subculture; he knew them like his mother’s face.

“My ass might close up tight without some real dick real soon,” Sister Pussy said.

“Gimme one more line.” Barton stumbled toward the coffee table.

“Chill out a bit,” Goof advised. A cheetah tattoo stretched vertically down his side, the beast dashing for his armpit; it undulated when he yawned, fists aimed at the ceiling. “Wanna give sister girl a booty bump?”

“I guess.”

“After you seed her ass,” Goof said, eyebrows jacked like he planned to blow her house down, “I’ll do one for you.”

“This is bullshit!” Sister Pussy cried. “Fuck me, pronto!”

Goof shrugged, rolled his eyes. He patted Barton’s shoulder. “House rules: Gotta keep the bitch happy.”

Barton ignored Goof as he snapped shots of Barton penetrating Sister Pussy’s ass. During Barton’s absence, Goof or his sister had cranked the heat to full blast. Barton sweat like a boy in junior high gym class. Each thrust of his cock roused louder, more piercing screams. He didn’t stop. He couldn’t stop. She called him Billy. It didn’t matter.

He couldn’t understand why the flashback—if that’s what one would call it—abruptly ceased before he and Vince parted, both devastated, one quietly and one with tragic fanfare. After Vince’s confession, the two shared a cigarette. They chatted about therapists, the sob stories doled out during group. No cockroaches lurked, just a chorus of crickets and an army of stray cats roaming the courtyard. Vince promised never again to ask for a kiss, fumbling the words. Barton’s heart drummed so loudly, he pulled Vince against him hoping for silence. They embraced like parents grateful their child landed in a fireman’s arms. As the seconds passed, a damp sensation fell upon Barton’s throat, his stubble scratching Vince’s cheek. A kiss—so simple, so essential. Without hesitation, Barton kissed Vince’s throat. His guest moaned so softly that Barton first believed he, himself, had made the sound. Giving Vince comfort made Barton feel worthy; he’d forgotten that feeling. His lips lingered until Vince pulled away, surprising Barton. Anyone would’ve bet that he would conclude their unwise but unavoidable embrace.

“We’re friends, Vince.”

“Will you miss me when I’m gone?”

“I’ll never tell.”

“We all have secrets, big brother.”

Vince vanished from the rehab a week later. His generous disability check proved too tempting. Goof claimed he saw him leaping over the complex’s iron fence in the dead of night. No one informed Barton of his fate; he made no inquiries. He basked in Vince’s adoration like a coed sunbathing beneath an overcast sky—the rays never emerge, but skin burns gold by day’s end.

“You damn near wore my ass out,” Sister Pussy declared. Goof caught Barton’s eye and began to stroke himself, his other hand capturing still shots of this passionless moment.

“Don’t stop now,” Goof ordered.

“You bisexual boys know all the tricks,” she said.

To dodge her litany of filth, Barton resumed fucking her. Sister Pussy moaned and shook and hollered and declared her ass belonged to Billy. It’s Barton, Goof reminded her. Barton began his final assault. The first thrust slammed her head against the edge of the bathroom counter. The sterilized plastic cups tumbled from the surface. Barton didn’t notice the streaks of blood smeared across the counter’s edge. Sister Pussy coughed and gagged.

The dozen cockroaches she vomited dropped to the carpet without ceremony. They fell from her lips like snow upon a manger. Not until dozens more bugs skittered and crawled across the room did Barton shriek and yank his cock from her ass.

“What the fuck?” she cried.

“Jesus,” Goof said, “did you get this room at a group rate?”

Barton leapt upon the bed, curled into the fetal position as he did whenever alone for the night. This was quite often. The moments crawled, parasites feasting on his fears and regrets. Perhaps if the creatures found what they wanted, they’d go away. Find who they wanted.

“Stomp the fuckers!” Sister Pussy cried.

“It’s kinda fun,” her brother added.

They clomped and screamed like an inner-city dance troupe. For them, the joys gleaned during sex differed not one bit from those gained during destruction. This epiphany crept up like a toothache: Barton was not like them.

Vincent, Barton thought. Vince would know what to do. He gaped like a crash survivor at the amateur exterminators. No matter where or how hard they stomped, the bugs would not fucking die.


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.

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