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Authors: Christopher Bram

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BOOK: Hold Tight
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“How are we doing, Father? I mean…
Mr. Jones
,” said the woman. “Will you mind if these two gentlemen go ahead and use the room?”

The bald man consented with a polite bow. He held up an empty glass. “Is it possible, Valeska…?”

“Uf course. For such a constant friend as you, anything. I will tell Juke.” Pulling the door closed, she mumbled, “Drink me out of house and home, the hypocrite. So it is all yours. Leaving us with only one thing.”

“Quite so,” said the man, taking a billfold from inside his jacket. He handed her a bill while he looked at Hank, as if the money proved something. Hank was used to money changing hands for this. Sometimes people paid him; now and then, Hank even paid them. Money made some people more comfortable with this, but it was of no matter to Hank.

“And it has gone up a dollar since the last time,” said the woman. “The war, you know.”

The man smiled, shook his head and gave her another dollar.

“Fine.” She opened a door across the hall from the parlor and waved them inside. “I will be seeing you later. Enjoy.”

The room was small, with scuffed linoleum patterned like a turkish carpet, and cabbage roses on the wallpaper. It looked like any room in any boarding house, except the bed had no blankets, only sheets. When Hank heard the door click shut, he spun around and grabbed the man.

His hands were all over the man, inside the beltless trousers, under the shirt tail, over soft cotton drawers and stiffening cock. The man kept his teeth together when Hank kissed him. He laughed when Hank got himself tangled up in the suspenders. The man unhooked the suspenders, stepped back, kicked off his shoes and shed his trousers, then insisted on undressing Hank himself. He was already familiar with the uniform’s complicated fly and thirteen buttons. Hank couldn’t keep still; he touched and grabbed, undid the man’s bow tie and shirt, yanked the man’s drawers down so he could get a good look at him. Hank often had sex with clothes just opened or rearranged, like when he was hitchhiking or making do in a storage locker or the bushes, but what he really liked was stark nakedness, the way it had been those first times, when an aunt’s hired hand had shown him what they could do together after their swim in the pasture pond, squirreling around in the warm, wet grass while cows watched. Girls were for marriage and families, guys for getting your ashes hauled.

In heaven and naked, Hank lay back and grinned while the man loved him with his mouth. Because he was paying, the man still seemed to think it was up to him to do everything, but Hank didn’t mind lying still for this, a cool mouth and tongue admiring his cock. He held the man’s crisp, brilliantined head with both hands, then stroked the man’s neck and shoulders. Hank’s hands were callused, so the man’s skin felt very smooth. Hank slipped a bare foot beneath the man’s stomach and brushed his leathery toes against the wispy hair and hard cock. With his other foot he stroked the man’s bottom.

Hank wrestled the man up to him so he could feel more of him. After Hank’s cock, the man didn’t mind Hank’s tongue in his mouth. He still wore his socks and garters, which Hank pried off with his big toe. The man had a city body, spongey where it wasn’t bony, but the patches of warm, cool and lukewarm skin felt good. Hank hummed and moaned and laughed without fear of who might hear them. They were safe here.

When Hank spit into his hand and reached between the man’s legs, the man shook his head in a panic and said he didn’t do that. So Hank got up on his knees, straddled the man, spit into his hand again and did his own ass. The man watched in blank bewilderment, said he didn’t like that either, then laughed and said, “You’ll do anything, won’t you?”

They ended up on their sides, curled into each other, their cocks in each other’s mouth. Sucking while getting sucked was like having two people talk to you at once, but Hank enjoyed the game of doing to the man what the man did to him and, even upside down, the guy knew how to suck cock. The man was cut, so there was a round head with eaves and a smooth stalk to tongue. Hank pressed his foot against the cold wall and rocked himself into the man’s mouth, his own full mouth murmuring and moaning around the man. Hank still wore his dogtags and they were thrown over his shoulder, jingling and rattling while the bedsprings creaked. When it was time, Hank pulled his mouth back and let go with a string of yelps as it flew out of him. Before he finished, he was back on the man, twisting around to work his tongue against the best inch. The man was spitting and swallowing, trying to breathe again, but then he gave in to Hank, closed his eyes and lay very still. Until the weight in Hank’s mouth became harder than ever and, simultaneously, seemed to turn to water. The man finished with a shudder, gritting his teeth and sighing through his nose.

Hank wiped his mouth, climbed around and stretched out beside the man. “Whew!” he said. “I needed that.” He lay his leg over the man’s legs and took a deep breath.

“Well,” said the man. “You certainly seemed to enjoy it. How old are you?”

“Twenty.” Hank gazed gratefully at his cock and the man’s.

“I see. You’ve clearly been around. Uh, could you please let me up? We should be getting dressed.”

“Naw. Let’s stay like this. Wait a bit and have another go.”

But the man was done for the day, maybe for the week. Beneath his politeness, he was slightly miserable. Still, better that than goo-goo eyes. Hank let him up and watched him wash off at the pitcher and basin on the dresser. His backside looked like dirty dough in the light of the bare bulb in the ceiling. Hank sprawled on the bed, hoping to change the man’s mind, but the man didn’t look at him until he was back in his suit.

“Is my bow straight?” he asked. There was no mirror in the room. He approached the bed and held out his hand. “That was thoroughly enjoyable,” he said, shaking Hank’s hand. “Good luck to you. Take care of yourself overseas.” And he went out the door.

Hank smelled the brilliantine on the pillow one last time, then pitched himself out of the saggy bed. Yankees were no stranger than anyone else. The room was suddenly cold, the wash water colder. Hank quickly dressed, wet his hand and flattened his hair. He wondered if there was time to find someone else before midnight, when he reported back to the Navy Yard.

There was nobody out in the hall. Then Hank saw a colored boy sitting on the stairs with a bundle of sheets in his lap. The boy slowly stood up. His hair was as straight and shiney as patent leather.

“You took your sweet time, honey,” said the boy, only he sounded like a girl. He batted his eyes at Hank like a girl, and curled one corner of his mouth. “Miz Bosch!” he hollered. “The seafood’s out!” He went into the room muttering, “See what kind of mess you and your girlfriend left me.”

The horsefaced woman came out from the parlor. The radio was louder and someone inside was laughing. The woman grabbed a handful of sleeve at Hank’s elbow. “Your friend is gone but you are welcomed to stay. I have a visitor who is having a paaaardy.” She pulled Hank down so she could whisper, “You do not have to do anything. Just stand around and act like you are having a good time. There is food and beer. Yes?”

Hank didn’t want to leave. He let the woman drag him through the door and heard her announce, “Look what I have. A saaaylor.”

The bald man and pale boy still sat on the sofa, but there were new faces here. A laughing fat man with a moustache arranged food on a table: piles of sliced meat and cheese on sheets of delicatessen paper, a loaf of machine-sliced bread still in its wrapper, a handful of Hershey bars. “Yes, welcome, welcome,” the fat man boomed. “The more the merrier.” Behind him stood a thin man with violet eyelids, hennaed hair and hands like spatulas. He eyed Hank and smiled.

A soldier in khakis sat with one leg over the arm of the armchair in the corner. He seemed quite at home, and bored. He glanced at Hank with the same cool arrogance soldiers always showed for sailors.

“Yes, sir, a good time is worth all the ration stamps in the world,” said the fat man. “Hey, Valeska. Where’s that beer you promised?”

The horsefaced woman closed the door behind her, then immediately opened it again to tell the bald man the room was ready. The man and boy walked out, one behind the other, without a word.

“Thank God!” said the thin man when the door closed. “Now we can let our hair down.”

“Now, now,” said the fat man. “It’s not her fault she’s a priest. Just another victim of life’s dirty trick. Here, son. Help yourself to some of this fine salami. A growing boy like you must keep his strength up,” he told Hank.

“He can help himself anytime to
salami,” said the thin man.

Hank made himself two sandwiches while the men teased and flirted with him. Sex always left Hank hungry. He liked the men’s friendly noise, but he didn’t feel like touching them. The soldier, on the other hand, looked awfully good, even if he looked like the kind of guy who pretended to do it only for the money. Hank remembered how much money he had left and wondered how much the woman charged for use of the room. That would be a hoot, if he and the soldier went off together, leaving these two with their chocolate and salami. But the soldier only sat listlessly across his armchair, rocking his raised foot to the jingle that played on the radio.

The colored boy came in, carrying glasses and a pitcher of cloudy beer. Hank watched him more closely this time. He didn’t mind the boy being colored—he liked that; it reminded him of home—but Hank had never seen a colored so womanly. The boy moved like a willow and swung his hips as he walked. Hank thought only whites, like the thin man, could be that way. The boy moved so gracefully he seemed boneless.

He set the pitcher on the table and caught Hank watching him. He did not look away but stared right back at Hank. He straightened up and perched the back of his hand on one hip. “What’s the matter, Blondie? You a dinge queen?”

The fat man began to laugh.

“A what?” said Hank.

“If you ain’t, don’t go eyeballing me, Willy Cornbread,” he sneered.

Uppity northern niggers: Hank couldn’t make head or tail of them. He meant no harm by looking at the boy.

There was another program on the radio. New music came on, something click-clickety and South American. It snapped the soldier to life. He jumped up and began to jerk his knees and butt in time to the music. “Hey, Juke!” he called out to the colored boy. “Samba, Juke!”

The boy curled his lip at Hank and sashayed toward the soldier, already stepping with the guy as he approached him. They danced without touching at first, then the soldier actually took hold of the boy’s hand and put his own hand on the boy’s hip.

Hank couldn’t believe it. The soldier looked Mexican or maybe Italian; he probably didn’t know any better. But the fat man and thin man were amused, not shocked. And the two were good dancers, there was no denying that. The colored boy’s baggy pants shimmied like a long skirt as he twitched inside them. The soldier’s khakis tightened, went slack, then went tight again around his butt and front as he stepped to the music with all its extra beats.

“It must have been a sister who designed your uniforms,” said the thin man as he passed Hank the glass of beer he poured for him.

Hank watched the soldier and drank. The beer was homemade and tasted like wet bread. The soldier’s hair was black and curly.

The song ended and the dancers finished with a twirl. Hank applauded with the fat man and thin man. Colored or no, it had looked like fun. Hank wanted to be able to dance like that. He set his glass down, wiped his mouth and stepped in front of the soldier.

“Can you teach me that dance?”

The soldier was grinning over his samba. He grinned at Hank, then burst out laughing. “
swab? I’d sooner dance with your cow, farmboy.”

Hank was used to being taunted by Yankees, and there was nothing to gain by slugging the guy. “I can dance. Honest. Try me.”

“No thanks, bub. I don’t want my tootsies tromped on.”

“You can dance with me.”

It was the colored boy, looking up at Hank with a brazen smile.

He couldn’t be serious. He was mocking Hank, sneering at the hick. His brown face was full of fight.

“This I gotta see,” said the soldier, stepping back to the radio, tapping it as if that could hurry the program to the next song.

Hank just stood there.

“What’s wrong, Blondie? You afraid you’ll get soot on your hands?”

“No. Where I come from, whites don’t dance with coloreds, that’s all.”

“Do tell. But do guys jazz with guys where you come from?”

“Sometimes.” Hank didn’t see what that had to do with it.

“But yeah. I know. You don’t talk about it. While coons is something you talk about all the time. And that’s all the diff. Come on, Blondie. Time you broke another golden rule.”

More samba music was playing.

Juke did a box step to it, wiggled in a circle to it. “White dance. If this nigger can do it, you should too.”

The boy was needling Hank, and Hank didn’t like it, not in front of the others, especially the soldier. Maybe the soldier would like him if Hank showed he could dance with the boy. He moved his feet like Juke moved his.

“There you go, baby. Ain’t so bad, is it?”

It wasn’t, so long as Hank kept his eyes on Juke’s two-toned shoes.

“Now move that tail of yours against the music. And step light. Shake that cowshit off your brogues. There you go, Blondie. Ain’t you fine. Just like you and me was wiggling between the sheets.”

Hank stopped dead.

Juke continued dancing. “What’s the matter, baby?” No matter how sweetly he talked, his eyes had never lost their fight. “Oh, sorry. I forgot. You don’t dig dinge. That’s okay. I don’t dig crackers.”

“You’re crapping me!”

“Am I ever, honey. And it feels so good.”

Hank grabbed the front of Juke’s shirt, but the boy was too small for Hank to hit. “Why you riding me like this? What did I do to you?”

Juke only pinched a smile at him, cool as ice.

The soldier rushed over. “Let the kid go,” he said as he pushed his way between them. “Get your hands off him, you damn hillbilly.”

BOOK: Hold Tight
6.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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