Garth stretched his arms over his head, and yawned as he surveyed the few remaining people picking through his collection of goodies, things that at one time had meant something to him. Now they were simply a way to get some needed extra cash, to clear out the junk before the final push, the move out. He felt a bit dejected thinking of it all, but then, hell it was life.
Besides, ever since Ken had left, it really hadn't been the same, not even close to it. Selling the house, moving clear across the country would be a real break, a real new beginning. So why take all the old memories with him? It didn't make sense, plus the way things were, every extra dollar would come in handy on the long drive away from here.
First he had lost his job, which had been a shock. After almost 20 years working his way up the ladder at the plant, it was all gone in a blink of an eye. Shortly after, Ken left. No real explanation, just like the factory owners, just a 'sorry but time to move on' bullshit excuse. Yes, it made him angry, and he knew people could see the scowl on his face, the one over at his collection of CD's seemed to notice it the most, though he doubted if he would understand. He was just way too young, and judging by his long hair, his thin frame, the guy couldn't be more than 20 at best, more likely 18.
Christ, to be 18 again or 19 or even 20, would be great. Not a care in the world, a sense of invincibility that he had back then, all gone now, in the blink of an eye. Working hard, moving up to where he was running an entire shift of guys, all gone because of cheap crap from abroad. And the Politicians, with their sympathetic words, but empty promises, only made it all worse. The whole town had seemed to just sag when the factory closed, and the owners, well they were off at their fancy digs at Martha's Vineyard, consoling themselves with domestic cavier instead of Russian. Like that really helped him and the hundreds of others suddenly unemployed.
Ken hadn't even tried to be supportive. He had shrugged, asked him what did he expect, then proceeded to bag and leave him there, alone, facing unemployment and worse, by himself. Well fuck him, fuck the company, and fuck the politicians too. He wasn't going to just cave, like others. He didn't go to the bar every night, to drown his sorrows, instead he got his resume together, got his house listed quickly before the others even thought about it, and made his plans.
He wasn't a quitter, but he would be damned if he'd just sit back and watch the bank take his house, watch the Politicians promise him the moon and deliver cheap domestic cheese instead. He sent out hundreds of resumes, all across the country. Sure, at his age, 45, it wouldn't be easy, but he had learned stuff, had some experience that should count for something, and lo and behold, over in Washington State a company agreed.
The salary wasn't as good as he had, but at least he'd not be starting all over as a stock boy, or gopher. He would have some responsibilities and the company was small enough, that it might not move towards outsourcing. Plus, the owner was local, not some suit who showed up once a month to go over the figures. He lived near the plant, and was there everyday, so maybe it would last.
Then too, it was close to Seattle, which meant at least some night life that was more gay friendly than around this place. He really was feeling bitter, but as he watched the thinning crowd picking over his belongings, he felt relieved too. It was time, even at his age, to get real, to stop daydreaming. He knew from the start that Ken was just there for the ride, and yeah they had some good times, but it had always cost him, not Ken.
Looking at the kid again, he wondered what his story was. He had tattered jeans, bit threadbare and Garth figured if the kid had ten bucks on him, it would be his life savings. The hair was long, straggly looking and dirty. His face was a bit ashen, but that could be from simply being unwashed. He really should just go over and shoo him away, as there was no doubt he was just killing time.
Still, he liked his look, and while some of his so called friends would call him a cradle robber, he did have a yen for the more younger type. One reason why Ken had gotten in behind his defences. The guy still looked like he was in his early twenties, even though he was 33. Now this kid, well he had that look, that hungry look that always gave Garth a bit of a lump.
Mind you, he didn't really have the patience for it anymore, for the chase, the hunt. Sex was good, when he got it, but since Ken had left, there had only been two brief little ventures in the sex department. Not that he couldn't get it up, but he was damned if he'd play the games, nor was he willing to offer the other inducement of cash. Hell, be rather stupid to pay for a night of sex with some hustler, when he was selling everything he owned to just survive.
Pickings were slim at the best of times in this burg, but he had always managed. A little extra expenditure on drinks, maybe dinner, and he got what he wanted. Even now, at 45 he wasn't a dog. Working the line with the others, despite his elevated status as foremen, helped keep his look from showing his advancing years. He was nearly 6 foot, and could still fit into a 30 inch waist pair of pants. His legs were full, and his arms didn't sag under the arms either. His stomach was flat, and sure he could pinch maybe an inch, but that was it.
His face showed the years a bit more than his body. The lines across his forehead were etched and only growing more pronounced, and the bags under the eyes seemed to only be getting darker with time. His nose had a bit of a curve at top and just before the tip, from being broken more than once. It wasn't easy working a production line, and sometimes a good right cross helped solve a few personality conflicts. His face showed it more than he liked, but he thought it added character to him.
Some of the younger crowd at the local gay bar said so, though in all honesty they were hoping for a paying customer, and when he made it clear he wasn't about to be one, they just drifted off. The way the kid at the CD's looked, he knew he would be one of them, too. He had that look, that glance that said he was available, for the right price.
Funny how he could spot the working boys, while the others he knew had trouble figuring out if the guy was queer, never mind on the hustle. Still, as much as the kid looked interesting, looked like he could be fun for a quick romp, he wasn't about to waste his cash. Not now, not after all the shit that had gone on. He shook his head, and let himself sit back up, thinking maybe it was time to call the sale off.
He had been out there since 8am, and it was nearly 4 now. What was going to sell had long since been taken away. The remnants just weren't going to make him any cash, and would wind up either in the trash or the free pile. Still some of the stuff, might make it into the back of his car, but room was limited.
Garth stood up, and began to pick up the boxes or put the loose items back into boxes. He was stacking them near the garage door when the kid by the CD's came over, looking more at his dirty sneakers than at Garth. He seemed nice enough, but he did have a bit of the 'road odor' to him, that made Garth cringe a bit.
Finally he stood up and stared at the kid, who finally glanced up, shuffling his feet as he haltingly asked if Garth would like some help putting stuff away, in exchange maybe for a sandwich. The way he said it, the way his voice sounded, touched Garth, and while he was about to say no, he noticed the scar down the kid's face.
Asking how he got it, he felt suddenly sick as the kid told him. It was like a story from hell, and was said in such a dry tone, devoid of any emotion that Garth couldn't help but wonder if it was even true, but then looking into the boy's face, he realized it was all true, with perhaps a lot left out. When he asked why, he felt strangely connected to the kid, as he said 'because he was gay'. The face looked up as he told him, the eyes seemed to be suddenly filled with a bit of life, and the tone of his answer had a bit more strength too.
It impressed him, as he sort of stepped back a little, glancing at the young man. It was odd, but he felt strangely impressed, and instead of saying no, he just nodded to the stuff up at the far end of the yard. The kid dropped his pack next to the house wall, and began to move up to the street. Garth noticed how nicely he filled the seat of his jeans, but he still felt the tremble inside, from what he had said.
He leaned up against the wall, watching as the kid began to put stuff back into boxes. It was quick, deft, but done with care, with pride even. The stuff was really just junk, but the kid seemed to treat it like it was gold. He even wiped a few things with the back of his sleeve, before stacking them inside the boxes. Rather impressive as the young man wasn't slow either, he moved with the minimum of effort, wasting no time in doing the job, but in doing it well. That struck a chord with Garth, who just enjoyed the show.
It had been a while since he had seen anyone take pride in their work, in how they did even the smallest task. As the boxes were filled, the kid brought them down to Garth, who stacked them inside the open garage door. It was done in no time. As the last box was placed on top of another, he noticed how the kid just stood aside, waiting patiently, looking pleased, but still with that hang dog expression.
'Come on, let's get inside' he said, as he closed the door and headed towards the front door. The kid trailed behind him, and once inside, he looked around at the bare rooms, the empty spaces. Off in one corner was still a small little sofa, a card table in the dining room, and boxes piled up in one corner was all that was left to show that someone lived in the place.
Pointing towards the kitchen sink, he told him he could wash up there. 'What's your name?'
'Appreciate the help Cory, now what would you like, I have some roast beef left, bit of ham too I think.'
'Anything you can spare will be fine, uh, thanks.'
'Huh? Oh, uh yeah, guess so'
'That uh, that story you told me, that for real Cory?'
He didn't know why he asked, but he had to. The way the shoulders suddenly tensed up, the back going rigid as he washed his hands under the faucet, told their own story.
'Yes' was all he said, and he didn't look around, but continued to just wring his hands under the hot water. It was like he was trying to ignore him, to not show any emotion.
'Didn't your Mother do anything?'
'Sort of, I uh, it really is no big deal, least uh, not now.'
'Didn't you go to the Police? I mean that had to need stitches.'
'No stitches, it didn't bleed for long, and I did put some stuff on it, but no stitches.'
'And the Police? Did you go to them?'
Cory turned from the sink, to look at Garth. There were tears dripping from his face, as he looked at him, trembling a bit too. His face was stretched in a strange agonized sort of way, that tugged at Garth's heart a bit, and gave him a feeling of pity, of sorrow. To think a father could lash out like that, just because his son was different, was gay, made him angry too.
'He was the Police' he said, and turned away. His shoulders seemed to heave for a minute or two, then he bent over the sink and began to wash his face. Garth stood there, stunned and yet also feeling a bit frightened as well. To think of what it must have been like, to be treated that way and have no one to go to, no one to help, to step in. He felt sorry for Cory, but he felt his mind telling him to back off, to not get involved. Besides, he was leaving, soon too. There was no sense in getting involved or even trying.
Turning away he began to pull the food out of the refrigerator, to make the boy his sandwich, and to avoid any further discussion. It felt wrong, and he could feel the struggle going on inside of him, as he piled the sandwich with the roast beef. It wouldn't make it go away, but maybe it would stop his blasted heart from aching, or lecturing him. He hated feeling this way, and besides, as his mind told him, he was leaving, didn't know the kid, know the circumstances, plus, there just wasn't room for such involvement.
Garth grabbed a large glass from the cupboard and with the plate he took it over to the card table. He then brought the half full jug of Milk over, filling up the glass and leaving the jug next to it. He looked over, to see Cory staring at the plate, his eyes wide as he noticed how high it was piled up with meat. The way he licked his lips told Garth it had been more than a day or two since he had last eaten.
It gnawed at him, as he pulled the chair back and then stepped back, watching the young man sit down, and take hold of the food. He turned and glancing up at Garth, he thanked him. There was even a hint of a smile around his mouth, that gave him a rather attractive look. For some reason, he felt rather pleased as he left Cory to enjoy his food.
He rummaged in the refrigerator, and found a can of peaches, and there was still a bit of dream whip left in the container. He quickly grabbed a bowl, putting the can of fruit into it, then topped it with the remaining dream whip. No idea why he did it either, other than feeling sorry. Inside, his mind was urging him to not prolong it, while deep inside, he felt bad for not wanting to do more. But as his mind kept telling him, there really wasn't anything more he could do.
Cory finished about half the sandwich, then stared at the other half. It was odd, and then he turned to look over at Garth.
'Do you mind if I save this half for later?'
He felt his heart break, felt it trying to change his mind, though he knew he wouldn't. Instead he told him to go ahead and eat it all, that he'd give him another to take with him.
The pleasure that showed on his face was gut wrenching. It was as if no one had been nice to him, not when he had been at home, or since. It pissed him off too, because how hard was it, to be nice? Yet even as he thought about it, he could hear his heart bitching, saying yeah how hard, but you planning to let him go. He hated having a conscience, but he had been burned enough lately. He just couldn't go through more.
Garth let it drag out, and he could see that Cory was reluctant to leave, but really, he just couldn't let him stay. Instead he felt inside his pants, feeling the crumpled bills from his garage sale. He had done okay and while Cory was in the bathroom, cleaning up and all, he counted the cash he had earned. It was what he had expected as he took a pair of twenties and a ten, stuffing the rest back into his pants.
Cory came out, looking a lot cleaner, and younger too. The dirt had shown a rather sun tanned face, free of blemishes. The eyes still had a bit of life in them, now that he was cleaner and fed. In other circumstances, Garth knew he would be attracted to him.
'Thanks, for the food and all.'
'No problem, uh, how old are you?'
'I see, well thanks, it was nice to get all that cleaned up fast. You did a good job.'
'Sure, uh, I uh, uh, thanks, the food was good, and well, thanks.'
It was awkward, and he wished for a moment that Cory wouldn't leave, that he could find something else for him to do, or hell, just to stay. He felt like he was throwing him back to the wolves, but he had his own life to worry about. The moving van would be here first thing, then he'd pack his car, and be gone. He sighed, wishing things would be different.
'Look, you don't do drugs or anything do you?'
Cory was about to open the front door, and stiffened, then turned to look at Garth. He had that dogged look, a bit of deviance in his face as he shook his head.
Garth reached out with his hand, saw Cory shrink back from him. He stopped in his tracks, then slowly opened his hand with the crumpled bills.
'Good, it isn't much, but maybe it'll help for a few days.'
'I can't, I can't take that.'
'Course you can.'
The way his eyes looked down at the money, then at Garth's face was hard to take. He could see the wheels turning, knowing exactly what the younger man was thinking.
'I only packed a few boxes, you already paid me, I can't take your money.'
He held his hand out, towards Garth. There was a glimmer in his eyes, telling him he really did want to take the money, but that he was afraid of what it might mean, of him. Garth felt saddened by it, and determined too. It was the least he could do, besides it felt right.
'You can use it, no strings, go on, a sandwich and use of the bathroom isn't much pay, go on, its okay.'
Cory looked up at him, then wiped his eyes with the back of his arm. Tears were welling up as he reached out, his hand shaking as he did. The fingers were trembling, but as they touched Garth's hand, he felt a strange jolt of electricity. Cory looked up at him, and he could see the gratitude in his eyes. The young man took the money, then suddenly he leaned over and wrapped his arms around Garth.
It felt strange, as the young man clung to him, and he could feel his tears on his shoulders. He felt his own hands reach around, to grasp the young man. There was no mistaking the feel of his bones, pressing into his body. He felt himself shake a bit, as he held the young man for a few seconds, then Cory pulled away, mumbling an apology.
Before he could say a word, the young man was out the door and moving quickly down the sidewalk. Garth felt like he should rush out, call him back, but once more his mind won the day. He watched, feeling a small tear well up at the corner of his eyes, then as Cory disappeared down the street, he closed his front door softly.
Looking around, he felt more alone than ever. It was different, strange and eerie really. It felt worse than when Ken had just upped, and left. He had felt more relieved then, than now. Now he was feeling edgy, upset really but it had been his choice. He could have stopped him from leaving, but he hadn't. Besides, he kept trying to tell himself, there wasn't time to help, that it wouldn't work out, that he was 45 and what would an old fart like him be able to offer an eighteen year old?
It was stupid, crazy and out of character yet he couldn't help himself. All he could do was think of Cory, of that scar, those eyes, the voice. Washing his plate, his bowl, made him shake a bit, feel like somehow he had not done enough. Yet, what else could he do? He was leaving town in the morning, the state really.
Okay, maybe he could have given him some more cash, or even maybe suggested other ways for Cory to earn some money. Thinking that he felt worse. Last thing he needed was to feel guilty for taking advantage of the kid's circumstances, to get off. Maybe that was why he didn't stop him? He knew it would go to that, and as attractive as Cory looked, he just didn't want that kind of guilt to take with him.
Even the television held little interest for him, as the night marched on. He felt restless, uneasy, wondering if Cory had found a safe place to sleep, or if he was off looking for drugs. To be his age, not on drugs, was rather hard to buy, but then somehow, he knew inside, Cory had been telling him the truth. That led him to think about what kind of man his father was, what kind of mother she had to be. His parents had been strict, his father would haul out the leather strap on occasion, but when he told them he was gay, they were shocked, stunned for a day even, but they never lashed out at him. Not once did they yell at him, call him names, or raise a hand to him for it, and that was back in the days when being gay was no where as socially tolerated as it was today.
He never really appreciated that, until now. Thinking of Cory, of how he must have felt to be yelled at, to be threatened and hurt like that. Bad enough strangers would do that shit, but his own parents? He must have been terrified, and add to that his father being a Police Officer? It had to be pure hell, and here he was, a supposed good man, doing nothing to help, shoving him out the door to face it all again.
As he reached for the remote, to once more flip through the channels, he heard his doorbell ring. Glancing at his watch, he wondered who would come calling at this time. His friends had all said their goodbyes a few days back, and the neighbours, well they had their own headaches to deal with.
Opening the door, he was surprised to see Cory standing there. He opened the door, wondering what it was that had brought him back.
'You forget something?'
He handed Garth the three crumpled bills, thrusting them into Garth's hand, mumbling he couldn't accept them then turned and he was already have way down the sidewalk, before he got over the shock. He called out to the boy, who stopped, and looked at him.
'I have coffee, if you want?'
It sounded so lame, yet he saw a brief smile cross the boy's face, as he turned around. He looked at Garth, then his shoulders sagged a little, as he began to walk back towards the house.