submitted April 2, 2005
Categories: Sex On The Ranch
David was half way through his steak dinner, thinking it was likely the best food he’d had in a month, when he noticed the two cowboys at the next table. He was so entranced with the tender and savory meal he’d not even noticed them come in. They were not much older than him but they had the look of experienced wranglers. Kind of similar, both slim and browned from the sun, both faces deeply creased about the eyes and mouth. They leaned over soup bowls but the one facing David caught his eye. That one seemed especially interested in the forkful of red meat he held poised. David blanched at the stare and dropped his eyes.
When he next glanced their way, they were both watching him. They displayed a matched set of wide, friendly smiles. He had to return the mute greeting or feel like a pure snob. Besides, the pair of smiles was a welcome change from the distracted and hard faces he’d been seeing around Kansas City. First time he’d seen anything like a down home Texas welcome this far north. So he smiled back, nodded and lifted his glass mug of beer in a salute to the two men.
The one facing him lifted a hand in a cheery wave. They had no beer, no drink of any kind. Matter of fact, their table looked mostly bare and David was suddenly embarrassed at the luxury of his own small feast. No wonder the men had a hungry eagerness about them, they no doubt envied the spread of victuals he had before him.
He signaled the waiter, had a pair of beers sent to their table. A man of the world could be generous to strangers, show appreciation for the rare friendly face in a crowd. That’s how David liked to think of himself, a man of the world. It was a phrase his grandfather had used with odd respect. It signaled a high level of achievement. That David had never before been outside his home state until this week hardly mattered, he thought. Being a man of the world was a state of mind, had absolutely nothing to do with his travels or experience. It rather meant …
“Howdy, friend.” A slightly grimed palm stuck under his nose interrupted his musing.
“Ah? Oh, hello.” It was the men from the soup table. David tried to rise but a warm hand pressed down on his shoulder.
“No, no… don’t stand on no ceremony with us. You just sit and we’ll join you. Came over to thank you for the drinks. Mighty fine gentleman you are, yes sir! Not from around these parts, are you?”
“Oh .. You’re quite welcome... Not necessary to …” The partner in the blue shirt was pumping his hand, now, holding on firmly and hardly seemed willing to let go for the other man to have a turn.
“I’m Jim and he’s John … twin brothers, can you see it? The resemblance? Only I’m the best looking one, right?” And the other agreed with grinning mirth, “He got the best face but I got everything else. You see us both naked and you wont believe we’re twins at all! Why I got more …” But the blue shirted one shushed him, “Don’t start talking dirty, now. This here is a clean gentleman not one of them trail hands you used to dealing with!”
David felt his face about to crack from the forced smile he wore. His hand hurt, too, as it got swapped and squeezed in rotation. The men took chairs on either side of him and scooted close. A warm thigh pressed him from each direction and a blue shirted arm enclosed his shoulders. In all, it was a bit more friendliness than David thought seemly but it was not entirely unwelcome. He guessed he just needed to get to know these Kansas people a bit. They weren’t all that much different from good old Texas folks.
“And your name? What you called, pardner?” The red shirted twin leaned in close.
“Uh, David … David MaCabe.” This announcement stirred another round of handshaking and shoulder patting. David grabbed for his beer mug the first time he got a hand free. It appeared the only way to avoid another warm grip from a sweaty palm. The men matched him, turned up their mugs and drained the last contents. “Meeting you like this, why that calls for another drink! Don’t you think, John? We have to show David a good time while he’s in our town, right? We got enough to buy him a round, don’t we?”
John produced a few coins from a vest pocket and slid them around the table top, three coppers and a nickel. “ ’Fraid not, brother. We done pumped dry again. Should have split the one bowl of soup like I said … more money left for beer.”
“Please. At my table, I’ll buy the beer.” David raised his chin, more than ever a man of the world, a man of worth and deep reserves. His few hundred dollars tucked away was a fortune to men like this. He liked the comparison, liked to feel a rich man. These men liked him the better for it, too.
Their table became a festive party after a few beers came and went. The waiter smiled and laughed at their jokes and the patrons around them grinned and nodded at their laughter as it rose, sometimes, above the piano music from the corner. John (at least, David thought the one in the red shirt was John) got the conversation back around to his topic of comparing their naked bodies … not the sort of talk to make David comfortable … only this time Jim (in the blue shirt?) didn’t stop him, rather he argued about the merits of length over thickness. David squirmed, uneasy with the confined heat of the twin bodies and direction of the thrust in verbal bantering.
“What’s your opinion, David? Longest or thickest? Which does the most good, huh? Man like you, I’ll bet you pack a big ol’ Texas size tool, don’t you? Probably put us both to shame!” He leaned close, spoke in the young man’s ear. “Ten bucks to find out, my friend. We show you a real good time for ten bucks, keep you up all night … if you know what I mean?” The man’s breath on his ear made goose bumps creep up David’s spine. He felt a chill sweat break out over his face. He tried to ease Jim’s hand out of his lap without seeming rude or offended.
“Uh, uh …” He eased his chair back from the table, back from the sweaty fingers that tugged at his legs, his pants, his fly! “Uh, I’m pretty tuckered out tonight, boys. Been bouncing in that stage coach all day … and the beer makes me sleepy, you know? This has been great fun, yes sir! Don’t know when I’ve laughed so much, had a great time… thanks to you fellows. But …”
“Hey, Come on, little buddy! Party ain’t even started yet. You already got a room upstairs? What number? We’ll come up after you … sneak in quiet. They wont even know we’re in there. We can …”
“No. No, I don’t think so … Afraid I wouldn’t get much shut-eye with you two around!” He made a weak laugh.
Jim pulled him close, back to ear breathing nearness. “Five dollars? You got five, right?”
John tried a different tactic. “You gone make us sleep in the stable? We got no money for a room, pardner!” These words seemed to have a calming effect on David.
“Oh. You need a place to sleep? Is that all?” His generous smile came back, a look of relief flooded his face. “Here … you can get a room for two dollars … a bath and everything.” He repressed a twitch of his nose. John snatched the two folded bills and stuffed them into his vest pocket. “Sorry I can’t invite you to my room. Visitors aren’t allowed, you know… and I really need to get some sleep.”
He managed to rise from his chair, at last. The grasping hands reached for him and the flow of words continued to beseech him but he backed into someone and the twin’s faces went suddenly flat and quiet as they looked over his shoulder. David turned to apologize and immediately stepped away from the tall stern stranger.
“Is there a problem here boys?” His voice vibrated with a deep resonance that spoke unaccountable authority. His long handled mustache drooped down each side of his wide mouth and seemed to form a constant frown. The brim of his low tilted hat left his eyes in deep shadow.
“Uh, no sir. Everything’s fine, now.” David glanced back to see the twin’s contrite expressions. “I was just about to retire, my new friends begged me to stay awhile, that’s all.”
“New friends, huh?” The man’s eyes measured David then moved to carefully assay the roughish pair at the table. “But the party’s over; that right, boys?”
“Yes sir. Thanks for your kind consideration but there’s no need for concern.” David felt his chin rise up and his brows arch in his best sophisticated manner. He wanted to impress this man for some reason. Couldn’t possibly let him see how glad he was to have someone intercede on his behalf.
“Oh?” The stern face softened with a twinge of amusement. “Have everything in hand, do you? Then I’ll just wish you good night, young man.” David could swear he saw a grin in the shadows as the man touched the drooping brim of his wide hat. But he was gone into the crowd of diners before David could reply. He almost wished he’d stayed. There was something wonderfully safe about his nearness. Now, with his absence, the slight panic came back and the twins rose to take his arms.
“No, no!” He shook them off. “That’s quite enough!” He tried to emulate the stranger’s stern demeanor, not very well done, however. He sounded a bit more petulant than stern. “Good night, sirs!” He turned and made his way quickly as possible to the lobby. He wouldn’t be seen running from the pair but he was quite fed up with that company and wished only for the quiet of his room and bed.
“Think we was wrong about him, Jim?” The brothers conferred over their dregs of beer.
“Nawh. He’s a ripe plum, that’s for sure. But he’s scared; doubt he’s ever admitted it to himself. Got a hard-on right quick. He’s randy, just scared. Probably raised up being a church going boy. He needs a good fucking, that’s all. How much he give you?”
“Two dollars. Pocket change for the likes of him!”
“He’s loaded all right. Got a money belt around his middle and a wad in his pants pocket. If we get into his room we'll get it all!”
“Yeah. I felt up his belt. I trusted you to get to know the contents of his pants!” John grinned, not so much generous as taunting.
“I seen his key, when he pulled out the money … room two twelve. We might give him a visit later on, you think?”
“Hell, I bet he swoons like a choir boy!” They laughed together, devilish laughter.
..................... David was unlocking his room when the tall stranger emerged from the shadows of the stairwell and sauntered near. He touched the brim of his hat. “I see you got away from them vultures all by yourself.”
“Well …” David dropped his chin in relieved honesty. “Not sure I could have got loose without your intervention. I meant to properly thank you but you …”
“You could handle ‘em. You got a glint of steel in them wide blue eyes. I seen it. They didn’t. They thinking to rob you, you know it?”
“Mmm, yes sir. I don’t think I’m so charming I drew them to me by my clever conversation!” David grinned but found the man watching him without humor. “And I never thought I was so attractive that perfect strangers might solicit me for sexual entertainments!” He laughed in spite of the shocked disapproval he saw on the stranger’s face. “If you hadn’t stepped up at the right moment I may well have been raped and robbed, both! … and by both! It’s actually funny now the threat is over. Me? Raped? My lord!” He laughed.
“Who says the threat is over, friend?” The deep voice came flat and blunt. “Did they ask your name? They can get your room number from the desk. You better put a chair under your doorknob … don’t open the door until morning, understand? No matter what you hear from the hall. This town is full of desperate rough men, cattle drives don’t run no more … drifters coming back from California without the gold they dreamed about … Men that would eat up a lamb like you, leave nothing for the rats to chew on…”
The kid’s face lost its amused lift, went droopy and worried. “A lamb? I protest, sir …”
“Ayah, that was uncalled for. I was thinking of an Old Testament sacrifice. Now I’m thinking you shouldn’t even be in that room on your own. Do you have a gun?”
“Sir? No … A gun?” The kid’s eyes went white all around.
The man grabbed the doorknob and shook. It did seem to rattle a bit too much for security. “That ain’t gonna keep them out! I can see the money belt under your shirt, you think they didn’t notice it?”
“You really think they’ll come?”
“I’d bet on it. I would, if I was a man like that.” The tall man slowly nodded.
“Think like your enemy. That’s what my grandfather used to say.”
“You’d come for me? If you was like them?” The kid seemed to relish the idea.
The tall man gave him a look that went from his shiny black shoes up his custom made suit and his starched white shirt, rested on his open smooth face. “Ayah! I’d never have let you get away!” David saw the wicked little smile again … just a smirk in the shadow of his hat. It came and evaporated fast as a will ’o the wisp. He wasn’t even sure he’d seen it.
“In this hard place, you look like a big old pot of sweet sorghum, a warm cone full of wild honey. Man wouldn’t have to be all that desperate to set you for a target.” He shook his gaze loose. “Look, son! You ain’t sleeping in that room, you hear? You just swap keys with me. Take my room down the hall. I’ll take this one and we'll let them vultures try and come in on me, huh?” He mustache widened in a smile as if he might enjoy the fracas.
“Do you have a gun?” The boy eyed him, wary.
“Ayah. I got a big gun, son. Big enough, anyway.” One squinted eye drooped in a slow wink.
“I bet you do, at that!” David pinched off his grin. “But why take the chance? You won’t get any sleep if you put up in there. You’ll lay awake waiting for them to come. I’ll stay in your room if you’ll stay there, too. Let them find this room empty. They’ll think I ran off, got clean away!”
“You’d trust me? You don’t know me. What if I took that money belt off you, huh? I look that safe and worthy?”
“This?” David patted his belly. “This is just a little traveling money, not all that much. If you need it I’ll give it to you… ?”
The man cocked his head, studied the boy’s pink smile.
“At least I know you won’t rape me, that’s something sure!” David felt his dimples deepen, tried to hold back the giggle that threatened to bubble up from his chest.
“Oh yeah? Think I’m too old, huh?” The man arched an eyebrow, self consciously wry.
“Not that … I’m just sure I wouldn’t say no if you tried. That’s all.” David's giggles evaporated in the seriousness of the thought.
“Ah … Don’t talk like that!” The stranger slid a hand across his mouth and his amiability disappeared. “That ain’t nothing to be joking about… makes you sound like a foolish girl! Go on, get your bag or whatever. My room’s right down there.”
They were getting ready for bed when David thought about it. He was just about to pull his white flannel night shirt over his head when he suddenly turned to watch the man fold down the sheets on the big bed. The sight of his long, lanky and naked body almost made the boy forget what he was about to say. “I’m David MaCabe, by the way … guess we ought to get the introductions over before we sleep together, huh?”
The big cowboy turned and gave him a hard stare. “You gonna wear that dress to bed?”
“It’s a nightshirt … my grandfather always …”
“Looks mighty like a dress to me. Too hot for night clothes, anyway. A man sleeps raw when he gets to sleep in a real bed with real sheets. Oh …” His gaze reached David’s face. “I’m Ted Manning.” He offered his hand in social form.
“Glad to make your acquaintance, Ted.” The hand shake was perfunctory and hasty. Manning drew away as a man unaccustomed to touch. He climbed onto the bed and held up the sheet.
“Leave your gown for winter time. Come on … I’m sandy eyed, already.”
David tossed the night gown to a chair but paused with one knee on the mattress. He lifted the sheet higher, watched the lamp light’s amber shadows as they slid over the cowboy’s tan and pale body. “I'll apologize for staring, Ted. But the sight of man’s strong body is a good thing to savor … good for me, anyway. You don’t mind if I look at you, do you?”
“No mind about it, son. Just a body to me. No secrets. A mess of knotty lumps and scars and scratches … useful at times, mostly a source of pain and regret for having been treated so poorly. You should look in a mirror; you want to see something smooth and pleasing to the eye. You look like a new book that ain’t never had the pages folded down, not a wrinkle or a stain.” But he closed his eyes and snuggled onto his pillow. He was asleep immediately, or seemed to be.
David turned down the lamp, reluctant to call in total darkness. He lay awhile watching the sleeping face beside him. When Ted began to snore he snuffed out the lamp and rolled into dreams.
The gray light of a cloudy dawn lit the window when David opened his eyes with a sudden start. It took a few minutes of concentration to realize this was not his attic bedroom over his grandfather’s ranch house. The pearly light was deceiving. An easy tilt of his head and he studied the hard carved face on his shoulder. Ted slept peacefully, his snores worn away to a low rumble in his deep chest.
Their sheet was kicked down to the foot of the bed and naked legs lay twined at knee and thigh. A slow but powerful passion built up in heated blood and a flush of cooler perspiration. David savored the giddy excitement as his tensed belly muscles drew up into a knot of close fear and anticipatory but delighted shame. The older cowboy had shoved his loins up hard against David's hip during the night. Their two bodies fit together like a twist of soft rope. Another mood, beyond the surge of lustful impulse, swept over the younger man. He knew the flash and quick pulse of body heat, but there was something more here... Something new but not at all strange. Years of sleeping alone, of being apart from any close knit brotherhood had sharpened his hunger for trustful and easy touch. His grandfather, his uncle, the ranch hands … they all treated him like a special and prized target of attention but they didn’t touch more than a rough hand to his chin or hair. Often as he wanted to throw his skinny arms around his grandfather and hold him close, so often it became as a constant ache, he held that embrace in check. At no single moment did it appear the old man would welcome such an unaccountable rapprochement. While the thing felt full natural and desirable inside the boy’s head, it looked to be only foolish and mockish if carried out.
Yet, here, now with this near stranger … an unaccountable comfort seeped out in easy flow. With his contemplation of that sure tender satisfaction the spike of his passionate lust drooped into ebb … but not for a long minute as the cowboy stirred and shifted. A hard and fevered lump pressed against his soft hip and David’ thoughts swerved back to immediate consolations and gratifications of a fleshly nature.
Like a minnow squirming through thin shallows, the youth slid lower on the mattress and shifted under weighty limbs without a ripple strong enough to wake the man. His soft cheek came to press into a moist and warm abdomen that smelled of old hay and leather gear. The hollow under his chin, where the skin grew fragile and delicate, caressed the cowboy’s physical emanation of dream’s fancy. He dreams of a sweet woman, David thought, a woman of kindness and rich generosity. He felt the act fit him as player to the footlights. He played the role with largess and honeyed service. As a woman loves a man, he gave relief and affirming affection.
Only when it was over and the last shiver died away to stillness, and then did the dread coil through him and the blush of his cheeks glow with shame. The stillness remained. Ted continued his sonorous growl of hollow breathing. David kept his pose even while the deflated promise withered from his damp lips. Long he lay still. So long and still he slept again.
He woke to a bright room and an empty bed. After he’d looked around, assured himself that all trace of Ted was removed, the leather valise and saddle bags, the riding gloves from the dresser, the shaving gear from the wash stand … then he breathed deep for a great dismal sigh but even that awful wind couldn’t express the emptiness he felt … the return of emptiness, he reminded himself. A man can’t lose what he never gained.
There should be tears, now. He didn’t wonder. There should be regret but he knew, instead, a soft gratitude of having been so close to a goal he had believed unattainable. Now, he thought … It could happen; it could even happen to me. One day I may meet a man that …
A squeak of floorboard and a rusty rattle of doorknob and hinge brought him from interior musings. The room's only door swung open and Ted entered bearing in one hand a tin tray with two large mugs of steaming coffee.
“Morning, had to wake the cook to get this! She said nobody ever gets up this early of a Sunday. But I figured we’d best get you and your money belt out on the road before any of the wolves about here sees the way of our trail… and here, I brought you these from one of the stable lads, he looked about your size. Duds that won’t bring so much attention to you, better suited to riding, too.”
David sat up, blinked and showed his dismay with a wrinkled forehead.
“Just have your coffee; we’ll talk over the plans when you’ve washed your face.”
Half the cup of bitter sweet brew was sipped off before David felt the ill ease of sitting naked before this man … this man he’d … “I should get dressed, sorry. I’m not quite awake and still not sure what you mean to do with me …” He lifted the brown and worn clothes from the burlap bag Ted had tossed at his feet.
“I know the feeling …” But Ted only muttered to himself. David didn’t catch it.
“Pardon me?” He glanced up.
“Don’t be in a hurry to pull them rags on. Finish your coffee. No reason to be ashamed of your natural body. Pride, rather, I’d think. Don’t be quick to hide what’s so well made and handsome. Health and youth, it’s a blessing I’ve used up too fast! I don’t begrudge it on you, though.” Ted’s attention to his naked body did more to raise his shame than the words did to allay it.
“I’ll just pull on the breeches … feeling quite embarrassed if you must know. Doubt any other has seen so much of my skin since I was out of diapers!”
“You’ll soon get used to it. I don’t intend to let you out of my sight until we have you well settled and content in your mountain lodge. Taken a shine to you … no surprise to you, I guess, but it still quite shocks me. Any event, I’ve nothing else to do about here so I’ll ride you escort … If you allow, son, and it pleases you …. Montana, was it?”
David stared at him. “You’d do that? Go with me all the way to Montana? But why? Ted, I can’t ask you … I hardly know what...”
“Don’t need to ask me, son, just allow me the pleasure. Not another thing I can think of would please me more.”
“But why? Is it the money, Ted? I wasn’t joshing you last night … if you need a stake I’ll go you on trust. I will! I’ll go to the bank and get whatever you need …”
“I never thought about the money … no, that’s not it.” The cowboy scratched at his chin. “Not sure why, son … but I’m sure I couldn’t look around and find another like you in a thousand miles … sure I wouldn’t want to try. Been living around so many mean and hard men I forget what God invented us for. Told you last night, you’re a soft spot in a hard land. You approve of my company, I take it? Never seemed ready to get shed of me, daylight or dark?”
“No, I … of course I approve of your company!” David grinned. “If you didn’t sleep so heavy you’d know exactly how much …”
“Then we’re partners, right?” Ted interrupted with raised brows and an outstretched hand. “Partners for as long as you want me around, okay?”
David took the offered hand, pressed the calloused palm. “Oh, I’ll never hold you to that length, Ted!” He laughed a light and mirthful gaiety that lit Ted’s face in reflection. “I can’t imagine growing tired of your company. Why, when I woke and you weren’t here? I can’t say what …”
“But I only took my gear down to the stable … not free of me so easy, bucko! Did you think I’d walked out on you? Sorry if I left that impression … never!” This last word quivered with an emotional tension. He grabbed the younger man and pulled him into a fierce bear hug. The strong and encompassing embrace brought a sudden gasp from David.
“Oh… never!” He quoted back to the large, warm chest.