“I’d been on the river since mid-afternoon, putting my old boat into the water as soon as I got off from the prison.  A day guarding those assholes and a fellow had to do something.  Beer iced down in the cooler and my rod I may or may not use lying along to the side of my right foot.  The sound of the motor sputtering and misfiring echoed over the calm slow moving waters as I headed down stream. I told myself I had no destination, no place I needed to be. I was just out in my boat, cold beer in one hand and the other reaching back to steer.  I’d been on this river since I was a snot nosed boy and knew every curve, every place the bank was eroding or where to watch for sandbars which were constantly shifting positions, especially during the stormy fall and winter months.

“The river wasn’t like it use to be when my great great-granddaddy lived on it, back in a time when you could still eat the fish you caught in its waters, waters that still ran clear most of the time. But that was a long time ago and the waters are dirty now, leaving a ring around the hull of my boat I could no longer scrub off.  It was those fuckin’ paper mills and all the cow shit and hog shit getting into the water that ruin it. You could smell the water and if it got into your clothes, well, damn, you couldn’t wash that shit out.  But still, I loved being on the water, gliding along just looking at the changes along its banks. Some subtle, minor changes in the growth along its banks or the way it was eroding away along a particular curve.  Then there were the major changes, places being cleared for some house, or closer into one of the towns along its banks, some business backing up to it. The side for dumpsters and power lines and stacking pallets, the side no one wants to see, but ya could see from the river, all of it. Every last trashy bit.

“I came to the familiar curve and slowed down as I always did, the place where the kudzu vines were quickly consuming, every inch of the ground covered and now the trees being engulfed seemingly overnight. It sadden me to see it, the way Cotton’s old place was disappearing from sight, the abandoned mobile home nearly covered by that fuckin’ vine. Stupid sons of bitches, the ones that brought that shit over here. For erosion control they said. Well fuck, that shit is controlling erosion and everything else. And it is taking Cotton’s mobile home. But Cotton doesn’t care, not now.

“He’s been gone damn near two years now and I miss the son of a bitch. The nights we worked our way up and down the river in his old john boat, the old five horse motor a real piece of shit but ole Cotton could get it to start every time. We drank beer and rode for hours, most of the time barely talking. Then we’d go back to his mobile home. It was a rusted sagging mess even back then. Hell the front door wouldn’t even latch, but he didn’t care. ‘Ain’t no one going to break into this shit hole’ he’d say whenever I suggested he get the door fixed.

“Everyone thought Cotton was just another dumbass drop out, one more of the local boys who wouldn’t amount to shit and for Cotton they bet against him even more, for his folks abandoned him when he was fourteen, just up and left him when they took off one day. It tore at him I know, but he rarely said anything about it. He worked for Mr. Goodwin up in Flomaton at his tire shop every day after school and when he was old enough he quit school for good and worked full time at the store. I thought he weren’t no good with money the way he lived in this run down old mobile home and never had any nice clothes to speak of. But I was wrong. He had been saving it up, every penny he could spare went into that bank account.

“I pulled my boat up to the bank at the same place he had always pulled up, the place where the bank had a low shallow slope that made banking the boat easy. I eased out of the boat and looked back across the river at the way the sun was just below the tree tops now casting the river in shadow. I made my way up the bank and stood at the edge of the kudzu. I just stared at that mobile home, what I could still see of it as I thought of all those nights I spent here with Cotton. Just the two of us, drinking beer and listening to the radio, Cotton usually kicked back in that recliner we found by the road one day, one put out as garbage. The seat was busted open and the fabric was so worn, but to Cotton it was still perfectly good and soon we had it in the back of his pickup hauling it back to this mobile home. I had to admit the old recliner fit right in with all the other old furniture, the sofa with a sheet tucked over the seat cushions and the side chair, from some dining set, one arm loose. The room was as haphazardly put together as it could be but it was Cotton’s home and for me it was a place of far too many memories, of times I ache for even now, nearly two years later. I can still see him, shirtless, old jeans that gapped around his narrow waist when he was stretched out, his long legs dangling off the end of the foot rest.  I can see how his dark olive skin was so smooth, not a blemish on it, the way it contained his lean body, the narrow waist, the flat chest and upward along his slightly long neck to his angular jaw.  And then there was his thick hair that always needed combing, the source of his nickname, hair so blonde it was nearly white and even as he aged it didn’t darken up much, always so light and the more he was outside in the sun the lighter it got.

“The image of Cotton rose up vividly in my mind as I stood there with sweat trickling down my face, it so hot my breathing was shallow, slow breaths.  Images of him lying in the recliner with sweat beading up on his skin, of him walking through the room with jeans barely hanging on his hips or the times I showed up and he had been in the shower coming out to greet me in just a towel.  I saw his body and knew all along my weakness, my desire and fear; fear knowing I was different and fear Cotton was not.  I lay on his sofa buzzing on cheap beer barely aware what music was playing or what Cotton was saying at times. It was as if all my senses were focused on sight, my eyes so focused on his body my other senses just shut down.  There were so many evenings I struggled to be in the same room with Cotton and yet, nothing could pull me away. 

“This went on far too long. Neither of us hung out with our other classmates from high school and neither of us dated. I assumed he didn’t date for lack of money or some sense of being to down on his luck, an abandoned boy that the daddy’s of all the girls thought of as a loser.  I didn’t date for other reasons and when Cotton asked me about it I lied. Lied through my teeth for I was afraid to tell him the truth.

“As I stood there eyes just staring at the mobile home and yet not really seeing it I was startled to see movement in one window. I watched as something moved up from the floor and realized it was a raccoon and as quickly as it came into view it was gone. I wondered what it thought of its surroundings, wondered how long it had been inside and if it was home now. The mobile home once again a place of shelter.  It grew darker and mosquitoes began to swarm around me so I turned and headed back to my old boat. After a few pulls I got the motor started and began my slow ride back upstream. There were no other boats on this section of the river and I could let my mind once again wonder, wonder back to the times Cotton and I shared.

“I was nearing graduation and the excitement of finally finishing school made me more restless than usual.  I’m not sure who started it, what dare or playful taunt caused it to happen but one Saturday night we began to wrestle. Cotton was stronger, taller, longer limbed and he quickly had me pinned down, his sweaty body on top of me as we looked each other in the face, he telling me to say ‘uncle’ and I refusing, enjoying the feel of him on top of me, the undulating of his body as he breathed hard. And there was the sweat that ran from his white blonde hair, down his face and dripped down on my own face. I remember how my cock flexed in my jeans, how it grew thicker making me embarrassed, afraid Cotton could feel it. I think he did, for he suddenly jumped up off of me and headed to the kitchen asking me if I wanted another beer.

“We didn’t wrestle again for several days but things were different. I could sense it, the feel of some tension in the air. I saw him look over at me, his blue eyes really looking at me as I lay on his sofa evening after evening. I had up till that time rarely pulled my shirt off like Cotton did for I didn’t think my body was anything to look at, what with my fair skin and even skinnier than Cotton.  But I saw the way he looked at me, his eyes moving over my body. At times I think he was actually looking at the crotch of my jeans. I would actually adjust my cock and see his eyes widen slightly and his eyebrows rise up just a bit. So after a few days I began to take my shirt off too, telling Cotton how hot it was inside his mobile home. ‘You need an air conditioner, just one of those small window units’ I would tell him. The central unit on the mobile home hadn’t worked in years and the fan he had in the living room just blew the hot air around the room giving no relief.

“I lay on the sofa and ran my hand over my slick wet skin, feeling the heat of it and each time I watched Cotton watch me. At times he would watch my hand move down my chest and over my stomach and he would be doing the same thing. I’d watch how he imitated me, the same slow slide downward till fingers moved along the top jeans, slipping underneath the loose waistband. I could feel the top of my boxers. I knew he only felt more skin and I wondered if he felt the hair that fanned out over his cock. He wore his jeans so low on his waist I wondered what it be like if it was my hand instead of his that was raking along the top of his jeans. I wondered what I could feel.

“Then it happened again. I had tossed him a bag of chips over to him without thinking how they were already open. They flew from the bag when he caught it covering his chest and stomach.  He acted mad, told me I did it on purpose. I had laughed at him and suddenly he was on me pulling me down to the floor where we wrestled with each other till I was once again on my back and he on top. Pieces of chips tuck to our sweaty skin, both of us breathing hard as we lay there face to face. Slowly, without thinking, I had brought my hands to his waist feeling the heat of him through my fingers, the slickness of his sweaty skin. I kept my eyes locked on his as I tightened my grip on his waist. He pushed down with his hips making me acutely aware of my erection.

“I don’t know what gave me the courage to say it but I looked into his eyes and told him I’d do whatever he wanted as I wrapped my arms around his waist and pulled him down tight against me. ‘I know’ he had whispered back just before he kissed me. He ground his crotch down on my own and my cock flexed with its hardness. I let my hands slide downward along the curve of his back till I felt the waistband of his jeans. My hands slipped within the loose jeans and I soon felt his bare cheeks, one in each hand, firm, smooth, their curvature perfect within my hands as I squeezed them. He moaned into my mouth as our bodies undulated against each other. I felt one of his hands touch my stomach, slide down between us as he raised up, felt it struggle with my jeans, working to undo the button then tug impatiently on the zipper till I felt his hand manipulating my erection through my boxers. Fingers worked the front of my boxers, moved along the hard shaft of my erection and I pushed upward encouraging Cotton to keep going. Then I felt his bare fingers touch me, slide along the length of my shaft and rub over the head of my cock. The memory of the touch, that first one, is still so strong I tugged on the front of my jeans even now with how it affects me.

“When Cotton rose up I quickly began to work my jeans and boxers down, pushing downward, frantic to get them off. Cotton rose up on his knees and took each leg of my jeans and tugged them down. Soon I was naked, my cock angled up over my abdomen, flexing up and down with my hardness. I watched Cotton undo his own jeans, working the button loose and then sliding the zipper down revealing his flat abdomen, the small patch of hair then the base of his cock and as he spread his jeans open I realized his cock was not as thick as my own but it was much longer. Not until Cotton pushed his jeans down his thighs did his whole cock come free from its confines.  The long cock stood straight out in front of Cotton and I reached up and took it, felt the arrow shaped head in the palm of my hand and I pushed down the shaft as far as I could reach and Cotton pushed his hips forward till my hand pressed tightly to his abdomen.

“I remember how scared I was wondering if I could take all of it, if I could actually let Cotton put all of it in me but I wanted him so badly, wanted this moment for so long I relaxed back, arms over my head as I let Cotton take each of my legs holding them to his chest. He moved over me, slowly, folding me in half and I had felt myself open up to him, felt the way my ass came up off the floor and turned up to Cotton, spread open, waiting, willing.  I felt the weight of Cotton as he moved over me, felt his cock touch me along one thigh, rub along the side of my cock, nudge up against my sac and finally, me pleading with Cotton to do it, to put it in me, I felt his cock touch me there, rubbed over my opening stroking my desires. It pressed firmly against me and I felt the way it was painfully stretching me open, slowly penetrating me. I had my hands on Cotton’s cheeks pulling him down, urging him onward, as I felt inch after inch slip into me. Cotton nibbled my ear, tugged on the lobe and nipped at the skin of my neck, whispering in my ear how good I felt. I pushed upward again just as Cotton pushed down and I felt him sink into me all the way, my opening suddenly relaxing to his penetration and we both cried out. His abdomen pressed against my ass and I knew all of his cock was in me, I could feel it, this odd fullness, the way it made me feel complete, the two of us locked together. Cotton had held still till I could only feel his steady breathing against the back of my legs.

“Cotton finally began to move, to bring his hips upward, slowly, impossibly high, till his cock was nearly slipping free then he pushed downward sinking every inch back into me.  Slowly, gently, he did it over and over, working his cock in me till I was begging him to fuck me harder, as I wrapped my arms around his neck pulling him down to me, kissing him roughly between my pleas. His hips began to move faster and I rested my hands on his hips feeling the rhythm of his movements, the way he pulled upward and drove back into me, faster, harder, his pace quickening. 

“It didn’t take long this first time and I felt my own cock flex between us, the way his body rubbed over it as Cotton fucked me, the way his slick sweaty skin moved over the sensitive head till I felt my own release. I ejaculated hard, thick wads spattering between us, hitting me under the chin and roping across my chest. ‘Jesus!’ Cotton cried out as I came and he drove his hips in hard short thrusts. ‘Fuck…fuck’ he whimpered as he began his release deep within me, his cock ejaculating wad after wad as his hips just kept up their thrust slicking up his cock as it piston through his own load.

“We had laid on the floor only a short while when Cotton had rose up on his feet, his cock still hard, the shaft and head wet and slimy, cum dripping from the slit. ‘Come to bed with me’ Cotton as stated, his voice low, undemanding, merely stating it was time to move to his bed and I reached up and took his hand letting him help me up. My own cock was still half hard and I felt the cum trickle down my chest as I followed Cotton to his bedroom.

“The memory of that first time was still so strong I came up out of it as if in a trance only to realize I had run my boat up on a sand bar, the motor just idling behind me as I realized I was staring off into the darkness. I killed the motor and sat there, shocked at the sudden silence of the river. It took only a few seconds for my ears to register the sounds of night. The buzz of insects, the occasional splash at the water’s surface and the sound of an owl off in the distance, somewhere within the woods broke the silence.  I sat there letting the memory of that first night come back to me, the way we walked down the short narrow hall to the back bedroom. Cotton pushed the door open revealing his unmade bed, the sheet tangled up over it and two pillars lying haphazardly on top.

“I’d been in the room before but it had been different this time, intimate, protective of what we were going to do, would do for nearly a year till…

“I suppressed the thought of how things turned out, pushed it from my mind and came back to that night, our first night together, not as friends but something else. Cotton guided me to the bed and had be lay back across it, feet still on the floor. I assumed he was going to take my legs, lift them up and enter me again, sink that long thin cock into me. I wanted him to. But he surprised me by climbing up on the bed straddling my waist. He pumped his hips back and forth rubbing his ass over my cock. I grew fully erect quickly as my slick cock lay over my abdomen, squeezed between our bodies feeling Cotton move on it, feeling the way he bore down on me. I ran my hands up his thighs feeling the smooth skin, the flex of muscle beneath as he moved. I ran my hands upward over his stomach to his chest moving them in circular patterns feeling the hard nub of each nipple as I raked over each of them. Cotton leaned down to me and soon I felt his lips against my own, felt his tongue penetrate my mouth and duel with my tongue. I felt hot, my heart racing in my chest and I pushed upward pressing my cock to his ass.

“Cotton rose up and reaching behind himself he took my cock, the shaft thick in his hand and he held it up as he lowered his body. I felt his tight opening push against the head, felt the weight of him as he pushed down till the head of my cock squeezed through stretching him open. His body shivered, shook with the pain of the penetration and he held still for a moment, his opening squeezing the head of my cock almost painfully in the most pleasurable way. ‘Cotton’ I whispered and he looked down at me and smiled as he moved downward, my cock suddenly slipping easily into his opening, stretching it wider as the thickest part of my shaft sank into him. He moved down till I felt his weight sitting on my hips and my cock fully buried in his body, the softness, the heat of it with the tight ring of his opening squeezing the base of my shaft. I pushed upward wanting to get more of myself inside of him.

“Cotton then moved upward, slowly, my cock coming into view, slick, wet, impossibly thick. I knew my hand barely fit around it and now it slipped from Cotton and I was surprised how he took it, all of it. When he moved downward I couldn’t help it, I pushed up. Soon we were in rhythm, our pace frantic, as Cotton rode my cock, roughly, up and down he moved, rocking the bed, the old box springs squeaking loudly as we fucked. Cotton’s dark skin glistened in the dim light coming in from the hall, sweat covering him quickly due to his exertions, the pace at which me moved on my cock, almost brutal in the way he took me, all the way each time, his own cock smacking my stomach noisily leaving a wet slick smear where the head landed each time. The room filled with the noise of our bodies coming together, the struggle of the bed to hold us, to support our fuck and the odor of our bodies covered with sweat and the scent of cum. The room was consumed by our fuck.

“I took Cotton’s cock in my hand, felt the way it slipped easily through my fingers, glistening slickly and I stroked it trying to stay in rhythm with our fuck. Cotton would drop down all the way, take me completely in his hole and rock his hips back and forth pumping his cock through my fingers. I was close and knew I wouldn’t last much longer, my cock aching for release.

“Then I felt the warm wet spatter of cum on my face and chest, the scent of cum filled my nose as I felt Cotton flexing in my hand, each ejaculation making his cock jerk in my fingers. I pushed upward hard and felt his ass squeeze my cock, spasm around it as he came and it pushed me over the edge. I came hard, thrusting upward with each ejaculation. Cotton leaned over and held me down, my wrist pinned to the bed as he worked his hips on my spurting cock. He rode me till I grew flaccid, grew too sensitive for any more manipulation and I begged him to stop.

“I looked at the moon as it rose slowly over the trees then I glanced at my watch. It was after nine thirty, far too late to be out on the river in my old boat. I used a paddle to push off the sandbar and got the motor running after a few pulls. I headed onward, back to the boat ramp. I felt my loneliness on the river, the only sound I could hear the motor struggling to push us upstream. It didn’t make sense to pine for Cotton the way I did, constantly remember our time together and wondering why he left the way he did, just disappeared one day. I had no one to talk to about it, no one who would understand this thing between two men.  As I round another of the bends in the river I let my mind go back to that first night. That hot humid night that never seemed to cool down. That glorious night that Cotton and I crossed a line and I found myself showering with him after our sex, the two of us under the cool water, soapy hands moving over each other, feeling every curve, the smoothness of skin with the lean hard muscle of our young bodies beneath. He kissed me gently under the spray of the water, held our bodies together till both of us sniggered, then laughed aloud at what we had done, at the way we viewed each other so differently afterward. ‘You staying with me’ he had whispered in my ear as he pushed me against the wall and kissed me again.

“We had lain in his bed in a tangle of arms and legs, every place we touched was soon wet and we moved slowly, drowsily over each other. Sometime in the middle of the night I was backed up to Cotton and felt his long lean body pressed against me, I felt his cock, stretched out hard, pushing between my thighs and beneath my sac till the head was out in the open. I let my fingers move over the sensitive head, barely touching the soft spongy head. Cotton’s arm came over my side and held me tight to his chest as his hips pulled back. It happened quickly, his cock finding my opening and breached it penetrating me all the way. Soon Cotton rolled me over on my stomach as he moved over me, as his cock pushed inward all the way. I took him, all of him, pushed upward for every inch. He fucked me so slowly this time, his hips moving in a gentle rhythm that drove me crazy, made me moan with every deep penetration. I grabbed at the sheet and pushed upward, undulating my body beneath him, worked my hips with his to feel him sink into me, to drive my desire, my need for him. I thought of how that fuck seemed to last forever that time stood still as we moved together. Now I look back and know it wasn’t much longer than any of our other fucks. But it was intense.

“I rounded the last bend and saw the lights at the landing, the dark shadows of a few people mingling around the ramp and the retaining wall along the bank of the river.  I tried to remember when things changed with Cotton and when the first sign of something not being right appeared but I could never find that precise moment. But I knew those last few weeks were not right. Cotton wanted so much more than I was ready to give. He wanted us to live together but I still had those old fears and couldn’t do it. He had talked of leaving and each time I had him say it was just him spouting off at the mouth, that he wasn’t serious, but I knew he was serious. I knew what he wanted and at the time I couldn’t give it to him, but I could give him his freedom so I broke it off with him, told him it weren’t right, we can’t live like this and that was it. A few days later he was gone.

“I pulled up to the bank next to the ramp and killed the motor. My old truck sat where I parked it underneath one of the night lights at the landing. I eased across the dirt and grass lot to it and within a few minutes had the boat trailer down in the water.

“I didn’t see him walk up, just surprised to hear another’s voice capturing my attention. ‘Ya need some help?’ he asked and I saw in the dim lighting at the ramp it was the Fuller boy, Thomas, the youngest of the five who had been two years behind me in school. I remember him on the bus, the way his jet black hair was such a contrast with his fair skin. I remembered being marveled at how perfect his skin was, not a blemish in sight and how he had the prettiest hair line, the way his dark hair curved over his ear and down to square off across the back of his neck. I looked at him now, taller, his body stretching this white t-shirt tight across his chest.

“Hey Thomas, what are you doing out here?”

“My friends and I were just hanging out” he replied nodding over to a small group sitting on the retaining wall. They were laughing and passing a paper bag back and forth.

“I see.”

“So you need some help…Matthew?”

The way he said my full first name, not Matt like most people, but my full name, the way Cotton had done caught me off guard and I stared at Thomas and found him staring back, waiting for my reply.

“Well my old John boat is easy enough to get on the trailer but if you want to help me get my things out of it and into the bed of the truck I’d appreciate it” I replied suddenly wanting his help.

“Where did you get the boat?” he asked and I sensed he knew where I got it. I sensed he knew full well it had been Cotton’s boat and that when he left he had mailed me the registration and the keys to the locks on it.

“Cotton left it to me” I replied as I looked at Thomas to see his response but he simply moved to the boat and got the cooler and rod out and headed back to the truck. I moved down and pulled the boat around to the back of the trailer and hooked to it. Thomas was suddenly cranking it up the trailer for me.

“You miss him…Cotton?” he asked and I felt myself suddenly holding my breath. “I knows you guys were…best friends.”

‘Jesus this was too much’ I thought as I watched the boat move up the trailer and into place.  “Yeah I miss him.”

“You ever hear from him?”

“Once… about four months after he left; a post card from Portland, Oregon of all places.  Couldn’t believe it.”

“How long were you out on the river?” Thomas asked, so full of questions I thought.

“Too long…I need to get packed up and head over to the diner.”  I had not eaten since lunch and suddenly I felt it, the need to eat.  The only place open late in this one horse town was the diner at the truck stop.

“Can I go with ya…my treat?” Thomas asked as I moved toward the cab of the truck.

“What about your friends?” I asked nodding over to the group still sitting on the retaining wall.

Thomas looked over at them and then back at me. “They aren’t really my friends…” and he hesitated to say more, a moment of silence between us that I suddenly understood. I thought of how Thomas and I had crossed paths often in town, how each time he would go out of his way to speak to me but each time stammering nervously as he did so. I saw myself from three years ago, I saw Cotton before that and understood. This unspoken thing we have out here in this place.

“You have your own car?”

“Nah, I rode with them.”

“Well, get in” I replied and I saw him smile, literally showing his teeth as he went to the passenger door. The dome light came on when we opened the door and I looked at him as he slid in across the old bench seat pushing the empty cans and papers over.  I saw how muscular he had become, how his biceps stretched the sleeves of his t-shirt and how the tail hung so loose around his waist.

“So what have you been up to Thomas since you graduated from high school?” I asked as the motor of the truck turned over and finally fired. I put it in gear and eased forward bringing the trailer up the ramp and out of the river. I headed to the diner listening to Thomas talk as I said as little as possible, just enjoying the sound of another’s voice as it filled the cab of the truck.



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