"No, sweetie, I don't want to hear about Key West again. That's your little impossible dream. I'm getting my dream right here, thank you very much."

"I'm telling you it's neither a dream nor impossible, Jewel," I said, as I mixed two cappuccinos for a pair of matrons incongruously dressed to the nines over by the front window. You only needed to look out of the window and up and down the street to realize that there wasn't anything in Clarksburg, Ohio, to dress to the nines for. Nearly half the storefront windows on the three-block Main Street were soaped over. The dusty little burg too far away from both Springfield and I-70 to attract any real business was dying. So was I--dying from boredom from being stuck here.

Dying from the boring sex. What good was it to come out as gay in middle America when the gay sex scene where I was was so boring?

"Soon as I've got enough money scraped together," I continued, "I'm going to blow this joint. Key West was a real eye-opener. That was what real living was like--not like you and I face in this town."

I took a long look at Jewel. That wasn't his real name, of course. He had been Jerry most of the lifetime we'd known each other, growing up in this hick town, hanging together as the only two from the town who would admit to having the "affliction" the townspeople didn't want to give an honest word to--even though I could name a few leading lights around here who were equally afflicted.

Jewel, the other guy who worked behind the counter with me as a coffee maker--in a more sophisticated town we'd be called baristas--was more "out there" than I was. We both were wearing tight slim jeans and cut-off T-shirts that showed our sculpted abs and pert belly buttons as a lifestyle statement. But Jewel was pushing it. He wasn't into a sex change or anything, but he swished around like a junior high school cheerleader; grew his auburn hair long, down to his shoulders; and used heavy makeup on his face.

I said nothing, as his "coming out" became more pronounced. He was my best--just about my only--friend, and I wouldn't have even this job in the Coffee Palace, the only shop with pretentions on the dying three-block main drag in Clarksburg, if it hadn't been for him. As it was, we were key to the ambiance of the place. Most of the square-cut, "upright" citizens of the area surrounding the village drank their coffee in one of two diners. We were here for the eclectic crowd. The wealthier matrons who wanted to pretend Clarksburg wasn't still in the Middle Ages and students from the colleges in nearby Springfield--Wittenberg and the community college--who wanted to brush against gaydom but didn't want that known where they went to college.

I had the job because Phil, the owner, did guys and preferred them cross dressed. His choices in Clarksburg were down to Jewel, and Jewel didn't agree to work either for or under Phil unless I was given a job too. Happily, Phil, middle-aged, dumpy, and rarely in the mood, wasn't attracted to me. I wouldn't put on a bustier and garter belt for him in private. I would, though, occasionally meet up with one of the supposedly upright citizens of the area for a quickie in the back of their car.

Despite the drought here, I did need occasional reminders that I wanted to be fucked by another man.

I had thought that was something--an occasional furtive suck or fuck--until I'd gone to the Florida keys for a week and gotten into one long fuck fest with men to be drooled over. Now, there was nothing more I wanted to do than to get out of this town to some place freer and more interesting in the way I'd experienced in Key West.

The topic had come up today because of the cut-off T-shirt I'd worn to work. Jewel and I both were wearing them, but whereas his had the saucy word "Anytime" across the front, I, steeped in misery from a "nothing happening" life, had chosen one saying "Anywhere Else" on it. Phil had scowled at me when he'd seen it and might have sent me home to change if the early morning rush hadn't been so heavy.

Jewel had asked, "Where else, for instance?" and of course I had answered "Key West." He knew I would. It was him picking at this scab, not me.

Twenty minutes later, almost precisely at 2:30 in the afternoon, the daily phenomenon set it. The customers had deserted the coffee shop, not to return until 4:00 p.m., when once again they would be there in force, each in her or his own section of the room--matrons in at least pairs in the windows; artsy college students, mostly males and most of these nervously looking around, in the center of the room; and in the afternoon hours, the last hour and a half we were open, occasionally a middle-aged man from the area skulking in the shadowy corners. Men who watched the other two groups: the women, to ensure their wives hadn't shown up, and the center to speculate on picking a likely young man off.

This was what kept the Coffee Palace open--this last hour and a half of business--when nervous young male college students came in to hook up with a middle-aged local who would as likely shoot you dead for even hinting they were interested in young men. But I knew who they were. Men like the senior Realtor and owner of Slocum Reality down the block, Jim Slocum, that leading citizen and head of household for a bouncy blonde wife, three tow-headed teenagers, two dogs, and a cat.

College students from nearby Springfield weren't the only ones who sometimes left the Coffee Palace at 5:30 with these upstanding town fathers. Sometimes, when I was desperate for attention, it was me.

No one I'd ever hooked up with from Clarksburg was anything like that week I'd gloried through in Key West the previous summer, though. A quickie blow job on the sly or a lap fuck in the backseat of a car or one bent over the hood of a car in a deserted, shadowed park lot. That was it here. Everything on the sly and quick and furtive. Vanilla at its blandest.

What that left me with was wanting some of what I'd experienced in Key West--not knowing anything about any of that before; not experiencing any of it since. Wanting to get out of this nowhere town. To somewhere more exciting. Could I live full time in Key West? It scared me to think of doing that, though, a small-town hick like me. I had the looks, I thought. But the style? No way.

And I was frightened to even think of getting the sex that had turned me on the most.

At the both mysterious and predictable café clearing at 2:30, I walked to the front window and looked out. Nada. People didn't just clear out of the Coffee Palace. They'd cleared out of the center of the dying village. I went out onto the sidewalk and looked up and down the road. A few cars were parked at the curb. There had to be people around somewhere. Just not anywhere I could see.

I lifted my head and arms and gave a howl. Nada. No one came to the windows of the few stores open to see what was happening over at the Coffee Palace. No one came out onto the street.

I went back inside and behind the counter. Jewel wasn't here, of course. This was his "quality" time with Phil. I don't know what they did at home at night, but they certainly did it here, in the kitchen during the mystical hour and a half downtime in the afternoon. I guess it gave them a little thrill to do it here, where there was a chance a customer might walk in and want more than coffee and somehow would get as far as the door into the kitchen and see what was happening back there. Any sandwiches or anything like that were made by Phil, who wasn't just the shop owner, he also was its cook, accountant, and floor scrubber.

I had to be a little jealous of them--of Jewel and Phil--I thought. They at least had a little danger and "something-other-than-vanilla" in their lives. It almost made me want to put on a dress and join them. Almost; except. Except that someone had to man the counter just in case. And the big except--Phil was an ugly pig. A one-time muscle man who had gone soft and to fat and who had lost three too many fist fights. All of the men I'd met and hooked up with in Key West were gods, not Phils. To pander to Phil's fetishes would definitely be going in the wrong direction.

Jewel just didn't know. He hadn't experienced anything better. Better that he not, I thought. Key West had ruined me for real life in the Midwest.

With a sigh, followed by another "just to be sure" look beyond the front window to the deserted street, I pulled my stash of Drummer magazines--the gay male BDSM mag from the seventies through the nineties--out of my personal drawer under the counter and started scanning through a well-thumbed Drummer issue.

Some of this, yes, in Key West. But only the mildest elements of it. Still, even the thought of what little of it there was was stirring me. I felt myself harden as I thumbed through the magazines and looked at the photos and illustrations and read the captions.

My long sigh segued into a rumbling sound from beyond the café window, a sound that grew louder until, there, appearing on the street just outside the window, as if he were one of the models from Drummer, was a black-clad figure on a muscled-up Harley-Davidson. I looked down at the magazine and blinked my eyes and looked back up, through the window. It was like the man was walking off the page of Drummer as he swung his black-booted leg over the saddle of the cycle, lifted the monster machine on a kick stand, and turned and looked at me through the window of the café.

He couldn't actually see me from the outside, of course, but it seemed like he could more than see me--that he could read my whole pathetic life with his eyes boring into me.

I gave a little gasp and a shudder, already fantasizing him inside me, as he strode to the door, opened it, and walked in. It was 2:45 in the afternoon. No one came into the coffee shop between 2:30 and 4:00. I knew I was in a dream. But it also seemed all so real. I knew my hard on was real.

He stood inside the door, looking around, his eyes taking me in, undressing me, and then moving on, around the room, seeing it all--all the dreary hick townness of it. His eyes came back to me, and a little smile formed on his mouth.

He looked dangerous. Swarthy, Italian, sensual, and pouty--a little cruel even. A shiver went up my spine. And he exhibited as being in total control of everything around him. Dominant. He certainly was in instant control of my emotions.

He was dressed completely in black, which went with his dark complexion and the black curly hair on his head, a lock of which hung down on his forehead. He took a couple of steps toward the counter, and I gasped as he came more into focus.

Still all in biker's black, tight black leather pants, polished black boots, a black leather jacket hanging wide open. It was the shirt, though, that had me gasping--and more what it caged. The shirt was a black mesh athletic muscle shirt, and inside that, on his bronzed skin, was a caged animal. A full chest tattoo, mostly in a dark blue, with black outline and a few highlights in orange and red. Some sort of lizard was caged under his black-mesh T. The head was in the hollow of his left shoulder, a flicking red tongue reaching up and lapping around the man's neck. An appendage reached up to his right shoulder, claws digging in there. The body of the lizard--or dragon, I guess, as I looked more closely at it--slanted down from his left to his right side, disappearing into his pants--making me, yes, want to see him pantless to be able to see where it went from there. Where was the tail? Was there a tail? The dragon's right front appendage wrapped around the man's chest on the left, reaching who knew where?

This couldn't be real. This had to be a hallucination--stepping out of the pages of the Drummer magazine I'd been thumbing through.

But then he became all too real. "You open? Can a guy get a sandwich and a beer here?" he said, his voice baritone low, as he strode forward and perched on a stool on the other side of the counter from me.



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