Summary: Starsky knows that spending ten days in the land of 10,000 lakes will make his beloved partner very happy, and a happy Hutch is a happy Starsky right? Maybe not so much. Do locusts show up on everyone's summer vacation?
Sequel to Bathrooms I Have Known.
Third in the Golden Boy series.
Genre: Series, Zinefic
Warnings: Author Chooses Not to Use Archive Warnings
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
by Mary Louise Fisher
"This is stupid."
"Shut up. I'm doing research," I told him.
"This is not research. It's too weird."
"And learning all you can about necrophilia isn't? Now, hold...still." I was trying to see what it was like to fuck a corpse. I was trying to use Hutch as the deceased. He was not making it easy.
"You weigh a ton," the 'body' complained as I put more of my weight on it. He was undressed. That part was fine. I wasn't. Not good. My problem was, if I got up to get naked, my corpse was going to take off.
"I'll go on a diet. Make like a stiff."
"I can't do this. It's just not right."
"It's not right because you keep yapping. A real corpse would make nice, a real corpse would cooperate, a real corpse would shut the fuck up. You've acted in plays, right? So, act like you're dead." He gave me one of his Christian martyr, "I'm trying to please this crazy Jew" sighs and stopped squirming. "Okay, now close your eyes."
"My eyes would be open, lieutenant." He was right. This was getting weird. Maybe I'd have to rethink the whole thing. I stopped pinning him and rolled off onto the hotel carpet. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it and don't move. I've got to think."
"God, we'll be here all day. Ow!" I reached over and gave his left nipple a quick twist just to show him who's boss. Yeah, like I have anything like control around here. Which is why my vacation this year was not only a research trip for Hutch's new book, but an opportunity to spend time in Minnesota with his family. Was I happy?
I blame myself, I really do. The mistake I made was not so much getting in deep with a goy from WASP-land, but downloading that information on necrophilia. Suddenly: He knew, he knew! The new hook wasn't going to just be a non-fiction account of Rene Nadasy, the vampire killer we encountered in the mid-70's while we were cops. No, the book had to be about all kinds of weirdos (my term), or sociopathic aberrant behaviors that resulted in unusual homicides (his term.) Wow! (also his term.) And, we could start with Minnesota's very own sicko, Carl "I Sleep with Corpses" Swenson.
Did you ever notice how when someone you love is involved in something, you get involved, too? I figured I might as well get into the research and try to get some at the same time. It only seemed fair.
"Starsky, I'm cold. I need a cover." I climbed back on top of him. "Not you."
"You once told me that my warmth was what attracted you to me."
"And that until I came along you felt half-frozen inside."
"I mean it."
"And I was like your own personal sun."
"What the hell do you do, take notes?"
I tapped my head. "It's all in here. I remember every lying word you ever said to me."
"I wasn't lying."
"I know. Let me get undressed and you can really feel my body heat." I straddled him and got my shirt off. "Remember that poem you wrote about me being like fire burning all your resistance away?"
"How I'm like a bright flame?" I got off him, stood up and unzipped. "How I'm passionate fire?" I peeled off my jeans. "How I'm like fire?" I got back on the floor.
"You already said that."
"How you want me to give you all I've got?"
"I never wrote that."
"You said it."
"Tuesday night." I spread his legs apart with my knees.
"I'm not just here for your amusement, you know that, don't you?"
"Who says? You've been my own personal Coney Island for years, babe."
He let out with the "My partner's superior skill, cunning, and logic has left me exhausted, he's got me on the ropes, his persuasive power has convinced me that my writing can wait" exhale. "What do you want me to do?"
I gently but firmly opened his inner thighs with my hands. Then I replaced my hands with my mouth. I started llcking and sucking right where his skin is so soft and sensitive. I wanted to get that area nice and wet. I noticed my corpse was breathing heavy, when I lifted myself up and pulled his legs back together. Then I stretched out and got comfortable on top of him. I started worming my way between his moist inner thighs with my heated up and getting hotter dick. The deceased liked that. I started working it real slow just to give him an idea of what I could do, if he let me. Then I thought, he's a corpse, I can do what I want! That got me thinking about the real attractions of a dead body.
A corpse was quiet; that was a plus. It held still; another point in its favor. It didn't ask if you remembered to enter the debit in the checkbook when you went out in the middle of the night to buy it peppermint ice cream at that store all the way across town because it said it was hungry for some. It didn't get moody, tell you to get lost, or ask you to turn down the surround sound speakers because it was trying to meditate. It didn't bring a book to bed with it. And, it didn't write.
It also didn't make little moany sounds underneath you and start moving back. It also wasn't all alive and breathing and soft and supple. It was stiff and hard. Which I noticed he was. A big point in favor of the living.
"Good?" I was really starting to pick up the pace. His thighs had warmed up with the friction and were damp with perspiration. He was moving under me and matching my movements. "Close?" I didn't get an answer. "You okay?"
"I'm a corpse, remember?" We shot at the same time. It felt like junior high making it like that. Okay, like the boys school Hutch went to, anyway. I thought maybe I'd get a little snooze in; he made a really good floor futon. I was starting to dream of room service, high cholesterol, high price, his treat. "My back's starting to hurt." I was off him in a shot. Back trouble I didn't need. Research, writing, and a trip to the lake was fun enough.
"You need to take a good long soak in the tub," I told him, trying to sound decisive and understanding at the same time.
"Come in and wash my back?"
"You got it."
It wasn't that I didn't want to be here. If he was somewhere, that's where I wanted to be. And I knew a long, long time ago that being with him was better than being without him. It's just that there were times when being partners with someone for good and for always — when the choices that you made to love, cherish, support and try to ignore those annoying little habits that made the person who he was — got in the way of your happiness, needs, desires, and choice of vacation spot.
When I first knew him, he was a cop like I was. We were in the academy together. Hutch was class president; I was top marksman. We got to be partners; we made a difference. I was straight; he was straight.
Okay, we thought we were straight, but the whole time we were with women, we were emotionally closest to each other. We had some "must have been drunk" experiences with each other. But what really changed things was me getting shot in 1979 and almost dying. I saw who was there for me. I saw who went out of his way to get me root beer and tacos and M&Ms, so I'd be happy. I heard who read me soft porn novels out loud and who acted out the woman's and the man's part, so I'd be entertained. I felt his touch that made me feel like a person and not just a patient. One day he put Vaseline on the end of my dick, because it was sore from having a catheter jammed in it. I knew then that the three of us could be very happy together.
It took awhile — a couple of years, in fact. But it was worth it. It still is worth it, twenty-five years later. Because you know, true love takes time, and tactical maneuvers. That's why we have The List. Through the years we came up with the things we've agreed to agree on without arguing about them...too much.
1. I love him. He loves me.
2. We only do each other. (Monogamy, which sounds like the name of a river in Pennsylvania, is the only place Hutch will float his boat.)
3. I'm a cop. He's a cop. (Except now he's an ex-cop, who also writes books, lectures, and consults internationally as a criminal profiler.)
4. I like TV. He likes books. If I have the TV on in the bedroom, then it's okay to open a book and read. If I don't have the TV on, then it's no books or book talk in the bedroom. (We just renegotiated this after our last big fight.)
5. Sex is important. (Maybe more to one of us than to both of us some of the time, especially when one of us is writing.)
6. We give time and money to good causes.
7. Super Bowl is sacred. (This I believe with all my heart.)
8. We do Hanukkah and Christmas. (Winter Solstice, one of us makes like a Druid, while the other one watches and drinks hot chocolate.)
9. Our families are our own problems. (Yeah, right.)
10. If the dog or cat pukes, he cleans it up.
It was a good list. It worked...most of the time. I believed in it. But it seemed to me that it was time for him to sign off on my revised and updated "It's important to me" list before we went any further. Now seemed like a good time to hit him with it.
I decided to wear my reading glasses and a tie for the meeting. I knocked on the bathroom door. "Can I come in?"
"I've been waiting for you," he said as I opened the door and walked in, briefcase in hand. "What are you doing?" He started laughing. He was stretched out in the hotel tub. I decided to ignore the fact he looked blond and delicious.
"What'd you do, use a whole bottle of that vanilla bath oil?" I asked as I put the toilet lid down and took a seat. "It smells like a bakery in here."
"Want a taste?" He wiggled his dick at me. I felt that as a Revised List top-flight negotiator, I had to forget how good it felt when he was in my mouth. I peered at him over my new glasses. He said they made me look professorial and sexy. I thought they made me look four-eyed and old. I preferred his description.
"We need to talk," I told him as I put a towel over my lap to hide my hard-on. I had his attention. He knows that it's serious, when we say that. He was all ears. I opened up the briefcase and pulled out my revised list. "I have a statement to read first," I said, just like I was holding a press conference and not talking to my lover while he soaked in a bubble bath and I sat on the throne.
"Whereas, awhile ago, my partner was so wrapped up in his idea for the great American novel that I became Mr. Invisible. And..."
"I thought we resolved this."
"Not to my satisfaction." I made like a lawyer. "There are several points of fact that require revision."
"Want to wash my back and litigate at the same time?"
"Want to sit on the edge of the tub and read it to me?"
"I'm too much of a distraction?"
"I don't want to get the paper wet."
"May I proceed?" My ex-corpse didn't answer, so I figured I had the go ahead. "Whereas, my partner was living in his writing robe, which looks like a cross between a dog blanket and a kilt and I got sick of seeing him in it..."
"You gave me that robe."
"Yeah, ten years ago. Burn it, herewith. And, whereas, I deserve a home-cooked meal because my partner nags me to eat right and lay off the junk food."
"Excuse me? 'Nags'?"
"Nags, for my own good."
"Accepted. Go on."
"Whereas, I've sworn to protect and serve and to fuck only him..."
"I dispute the word 'fuck'. Insert 'have sex with' instead."
"Insert it where?"
"Anywhere you want, counselor. Are you sure you don't want to wash my back?"
"Later. And wherefore, because of the ratty robe, the empty refrigerator, the life of a chronic masturbator, and my partner's damn book, I got so fed up I left for a week..."
"Was it really that long? Can you add some more hot water to the tub? It's cooling off."
"You're in the tub; you do it."
"You're closer to the faucet."
"I'm busy litigating."
"But it feels better when you do it. Please?"
Shit. Now I felt like I had to get up and turn on the faucet. He's so annoyingly self-sufficient, it's hard to come up with things that he needs.
I put the briefcase down and put the paper in it. When I stood up, the hotel towel slipped off my lap and on to the floor. I leaned over and turned on the hot water. He scrunched up his legs, so he wouldn't get burned. He looked good all wet and naked.
"It felt longer than a week. I was wrong to ignore you like that."
"It was like maybe half a week, but I had to be a man."
"I know. Use the sponge and the French soap on my back." I soaped up the sponge and starting circling his shoulders and back with it. "Why is your wiener all plumped up so fat and juicy?"
"It looks like it would taste really good."
"Yes, but, by all means let us litigate." He reached over and turned off the hot water.
"Why the hell can't you turn it on, if you can turn it off?" That's what I wanted to know as I stomped back over to my 'desk'.
"What — the faucet or your dick?"
"I win," I told him. The rule was, in name-calling if you can't come up with a good one immediately you lose.
"Damn, I'm usually quicker than that. Proceed."
"Herewith and therefore and foreskin..."
"Shut up. And, upon my return, even though I tried to make it up with my partner in bed, my penis was uncooperative and..."
"You aren't still upset about that, are you? It can happen to anyone."
"Not to me."
I stared at him like a hanging judge. Peering at him sternly, over my new reading glasses that I refused to wear in public and which I'd already sat on twice since bringing them home from LENSCRAFTERS last week. But, I guess I came off looking more like a middle-aged homicide detective sitting on the commode lid in a hotel room in Minneapolis on the second day of his summer vacation, because he laughed at me and was not intimidated in the least. I would have to use that never-fail technique: begging. "Can I please talk? Please?"
"Sorry. Go on."
"Whereas and anyway, with my dick down and my ego shattered, I locked myself in our bathroom until my partner got inside... The bathroom, I mean..."
"Right. However, I was there and I do recall being inside more than the bathroom."
"Yeah, well, that too, big boy. So, after we made it up, my partner, the writer, assigned me a section of the research for his next book. Which I willingly and graciously did."
"You downloaded everything you could find on necrophilia."
"Like I said."
"I wouldn't call that research."
I tried the judge look again. This time it seemed to work. "I therefore, herethere, foreskin and eatit submit Starsky's Revised List for your listening pleasure."
"God," he whined. "If I stay in this water much longer, I'll turn into a prune."
I cleared my throat real lawyer-like and began to read.
1. I love you, even though you are a writer.
2. I like to pitch, but catching is good, too.
3. If the animals puke, you clean it up.
4. When I'm home, I get the pleasure of your company.
5. Super Bowl is sacred.
6. Your family is your problem. My family is my problem. (Yeah, right.)
7. My job is stressful. Keep that in your blond mind.
8. You are amazing. And, no matter how hard I try I'll never catch up with you.
9. I love you and nothing and nobody is ever going to change my mind about that.
10. Don't pencil me in your agenda, like I'm a cllent you see once a week. Write it in permanent marker across the page! I have needs, too. I need to know I'm still the one.
"David, you are. You know you are."
"Good. Sign here." I didn't even mind when he pulled me into the tub on top of him. I had a second copy in my briefcase for him to sign later.
The sun was almost shining when we left the Twin Cities and the Minnesota State Archives, where he'd done his research on the infamous Carl Swenson. I popped some traveling music in the cassette player. It was a hit-the-road hard rock anthology we put together of all our favorite play-it-loud-and-turn-up-the-bass songs. It was good freeway music. Hutch was smiling at the world — he was going to the lake. He loved the lake; I loved him. So, that's why I was going to be spending my summer vacation in the land of 10,000 lakes and 10,000,000 mosquitoes.
When he starts talking about the lake, I know that it's time for him to go back home for awhile. First of all, there are two lakes he loves. There's The Lake, which is Superior and where his hometown of Duluth is located. We weren't headed there. What can you say about a guy who grew up around a body of water that they say "never gives up the dead"? Think it might make someone cold and deep at times? I once stood with him on the shore of Superior right before a bad storm. It reminded me of the power of God and Hutch when he's in a bad mood. He's what you call a Laker. Looking at him, you'd think of that song about "a child of the sky and the sun and the deep blue sea." Appearances can be deceiving. But overall, I'd call him a sunny day with the potential for frost.
The other lake, also called "the lake," in order to confuse landloving New York Jews, was a body of water way the hell out of the way from civilization with nothing but trees and birds and birds and trees and not a taco stand in sight. You take I-94 up to Route 71, then you get on state route 10, which connects with Highway 4, eventually, up in Mahnomen county close to Naytahwaush, just this side of Swensonville. Then, if you haven't driven too far north and ended up in Canada, you look for the big rock that marks the private road you need to be on in order to get to your cabin on the far end of Lost Limb Lake.
Hutch says a long, long time ago the lake was named for the great big oak tree that used to be nearby. He says that during a huge storm the tree was struck by lightning and it lost its biggest branch. He says that, but I don't believe him. First of all, there's no great big oak tree anywhere nearby. He called me silly and showed me the stump of what might have been some kind of tree and said this is where the tree used to be. I pretended to buy it, but as far as I'm concerned it's safer to stay out of the water, just in case the lake was named for the guy who lost his leg when some giant eel or freshwater shark attacked him.
It was starting to get overcast. It was summer in Minnesota, intermittent sunshine between clouds. Hutch was chewing bubble gum to the music. It was time for a performance. He was getting ready to blow a really big bubble. You could say, what's a grown man with a Ph.D., a consultation service and a popular book doing chewing bubble gum in time to Bob Seeger? Personally, I liked it. It kept his jaws in shape. Plus, he was a good blower. Gum, I mean.
He was always a gum chewer. I think it was nervous energy and dieting. We'd sometimes do a double shift, when we were street cops and all he'd have was water and chewing gum. It was usually Doublemint. The guy had good breath, I had to give him that. He was considerate about things like that, or excusing himself if he belched. After he knew me awhile, he could burp out loud with the best of them. I taught him all he knows about using root beer to cure indigestion. Like I tell him, "You gotta burp, bubee. It's good for you."
So, I was used to the gum chewing. I just never knew about the bubble blowing. When I was doing time in the hospital after my shooting in '79, Hutch was doing all he could to be there for me. We weren't really lovers, yet, so he had to find other ways to cheer me up. Anyway, one day he was sitting there chewing some gum and reading the paper, while I tried to watch TV. It was a soap opera and every time it got hot between the guy and the girl, there'd be a commercial break. Plus, the guy — Trent or Kent or Brent, or something — was thinking of cheating on his wife with, this Mandy or Candy or Brandy. He was a doctor and she was a nurse and they had the hots for each other. Maybe that's why you could never get an answer when you pushed your call button; they were all busy doing each other.
I gave out with one of my "I'm hurting, I'm bored, entertain me" hospital sighs. He looked up and closed the paper. He was sitting right by me, but when he had his eyes on the paper, I felt ignored. I felt better when he was looking at me.
"Do you need something?" he asked, real nice.
"I don't know. I'm bored."
"I know." He patted me knee and I felt a little better. "Want me to read to you?"
"Want to watch TV?"
"There's nothing on."
"How about a wheelchair ride down to the gift shop for candy?"
"I don't know, maybe later." I felt well enough to know I was going to recover and shitty enough to be in a bad mood. I needed him to give me something to smile about.
"Want to see me blow a bubble?"
"Want to see me blow a bubble as big as my head?"
He had my interest. I knew he was very talented, and this was before I had any real idea of his talent in bed. I knew he was musical and artistic, he could act, and cook — his meatloaf was to die for. I didn't know he could blow giant bubbles with chewing gum. I was intrigued.
He ran down to the gift shop for more gum, while I waited. I figured why not put money on it? Make it a bet. I needed some cash for the vending machines. I figured fifty bucks would be just about right.
I lost the bet and he lost his moustache. I appreciated its sacrifice.
It was starting to rain. I had to turn the windshield wipers on. I hated having the wipers on. Back and forth, back and forth, the monotony of back and forth. My whole life starts slowing down to the sound of them, and I start thinking too much. Was being in Homicide what I really wanted to do now that I was pushing fifty; was the caseload ever going to get lighter; were people going to stop killing each other over something as stupid as a bag of potato chips? The misty rain was like tears and sadness cried out. I was turning into a Laker, even while I drove.
"The exit." We were still finishing each other's sentences. "I see it, I see it. I'll have to..."
"Hey, time lost is time not spent in the Land of Lutherans and man-eating mosquitoes. Let me drive."
"Sorry. Want me to take over?"
"Later." I'd need his sense of direction, when we were trying to find the friggin' rock.
"Why don't we stop for awhile?"
"What about getting there?"
"So? We'll get there when we get there."
"You sound like my mother."
"I know. That's one of her sayings."
"A gentile making like a Jewish mother. Now, I've seen it all."
"Want to see it go in and out of my mouth?"
Suddenly, I felt happier. There was a reason to go on living. My thickening dick said so.
The rest stop was wonderful. I mentioned that he's very creative, didn't I? He handpainted some of the decorative tiles in our bathroom at home. From far away, the pictures look abstract; close up they look suggestive. Real close up you can tell it's two guys, who look an awful lot like us, getting it on. Most people don't even see them because they use the guest bathroom. Huggy Bear noticed the poses the first time he saw them. He's got a mind that works that way.
I was letting him drive. I needed to close my eyes. He put on some go-to-sleep new age music with wind chimes and breezes and some chick in the background going "Ooh, ooh." Maybe she was getting off. I don't know. It was peaceful and he liked it I and I liked him, so that chimey chick was fine with me.
I could hear that it was starting to rain harder. Welcome to Minnesota, folks, they've got to fill those lakes up with something. I started thinking that it would be f funny if it rained the whole time we were here. Then I cursed myself for thinking like that. I couldn't cross myself to undo what I just thought even though Tony Moretti, who I grew up with, showed me how. Poor Tony died in 'Nam, from what they call "friendly" fire. Meaning our own guys killed him. Shit, I was turning into a Laker again.
I think that most of them are like that because they're always cold. I think being cold really corrupts your cheerfulness. If you're comfortable and not cold all the time, you can see the humor in things. But if ou're freezing your ass off ten months out of the year, you get grim. I know most of them came from places like Sweden and Norway, places where you can run into the abominable snowman on street corners; that probably affects your point of view. And, most of them go to some kind of church on Sunday where they sing songs with numbers for the title and expect you to put money in the basket passed under your nose. All I can say is, if they are the chosen, they're also frozen. Hey, frozen chosen! That's a good one.
"What's so funny?" the driver of the red rental car wanted to know.
"Nothing," his clever and handsome passenger replied.
You ever notice how a lot of people only go home for funerals? We weren't like that. We saw my mother a couple times a year and avoided my brother, Nicky, as much as possible. We saw Hutch's people a couple times a decade. But everybody was still breathing when we showed up.
What was interesting to me was I had mother-in-law problems without having a wife. I'd call that ironic. Mrs. H. had to know by now that short of croaking, I wasn't ever going to leave her son. But every time I see her, she's still with the surprised look on her face: "Oh! It's you."
I remember the first time I came home with him. It was November in Duluth. The weather was bad, but what else was new? Thanksgiving isn't a bad time to walk into the lion's den, though. You got to show up and face the relatives sometime and let them get a good look at you so they can talk about you behind your back and discuss your lousy table manners and lack of couth. Plus, if you're a man, all you have to do is eat a lot, say how good everything tastes, have a couple drinks and watch football. People don't expect you to do much more than that. Back then, I was known as Ken's "friend." Or, if his mother was doing the introductions, I was "Ken's police officer friend, who Ken met when Ken was learning all he could about the criminal justice system so that Ken could further his career with a doctorate, which Ken is pursuing right now, so that his real potential can be met and I can have something to brag about at bridge club, and this nobody, whose hand you're shaking right now, obviously had nowhere else to go and no other invites for our Protestant holiday so my kindhearted, talented and intelligent son, Ken, invited him to dine with us, and this shlepper had the nerve to actually show up." Well, it sounded like that to me, anyway. (Hey, no wonder he wants to be called Hutch.)
We got in late on Tuesday. Mrs. H. gave us separate rooms on different ends of the house. She probably wanted to give me cement overshoes and a place in the harbor, but this was the best she could do. The next morning, we were downstairs sitting in the breakfast nook. (Go figure — they had a nook, but I wasn't going to be getting any nookie anytime soon.) She's pouring us coffee.
"I wasn't able to get the kind of salmon his people eat," she says to her son.
"Mother, this is fine."
"I tried to get him lox. But our grocer said it would have to be special ordered from Chicago. And since you only mentioned to me that he was accompanying you when we spoke on Sunday, I wasn't able to order any in time. The grocer said it was too ethnic to carry."
"Ethnic? Pickled herring is ethnic. Most food is ethnic at one time or another."
"Yes, well... I just wanted to let him know that we didn't have any, if he was expecting it."
"He wasn't. Were you?" Who, me? I had a mouthful of so-called bagel with pickled herring and cream cheese on it. So all I could do was shake my head no. "See. This is fine, Mom." I noticed he wasn't eating any.
So now, even though she still acts like ifs a surprise when I show up with him, I can say that she doesn't make any special effort at all to get my people's ethnic food. In fact, the last time I saw her, she tossed some toast on a plate and aimed it at me. And it wasn't even rye. So if I wasn't actually one of the family, I wasn't company either. I call that progress.
It was really starting to rain. Hutch had the wipers on overdrive. If it rained any harder I'd have to make like a hood ornament for us to see the next turnoff.
"Want to stop?" he asks.
I know him. I know that he views this storm as a fucking man against nature challenge, something to pit his intelligence and strength against, something to get an adrenalin rush from, something to inconvenience me with. I see this typhoon as a good reason to maintain permanent residence in California and to only visit his state of birth (a) when forced, (b) when coerced, (c) when bribed, (d) all of the above.
"No," I answer.
Hmm, I hear doubt; I can use this. But, how? He needs to save face; I need to get out of the damn car before I become overwhelmingly claustrophobic and start screaming, *Let me out, let me out!' "Can you see the white lines?"
"What white lines?"
I notice he's hunched over the steering wheel, his glasses have fallen down on the end of his nose, and his forehead think-wrink looks like the Grand Canyon. "Pull off." I make a command decision.
"Where? I think we're on the Little Green River bridge. But I'm not sure."
"Oh," I say. Well, at least we'll go together. I'd rather have it that way anyway. And who's to say what side of the road we were on even as we panicked. Death in the shape of an eighteen-wheeler could be barreling down on us, we'd be road kill on the Little Green River bridge, end of story. And why did they have to name their stupid rivers for colors, anyway? I've seen the so-called Green River — it's brown. And it's not little, it's big. But downstate is the Big Green River, which the Little Green River fed into, and now I was starting to sound like a geography lesson in my own brain, or like Hutch, which could be the same thing.
"What do you think?" he wants to know.
I notice that there's some significant chunks of hail now landing and probably denting the hood; we'll be charged for that. It's gone from raining cats and dogs to cows and horses. It feels like the car is swaying on the road or maybe it's this deathtrap of a bridge that's moving. We're not going to be creamed by a semi, we're going to be crushed in the twisted wreckage of this eighty-year-old bridge those cheap motherfuckers were too penny-pinching to replace before I came here on my summer vacation. Oh yeah, oh yeah, he thinks I didn't read that book about dangerous bridges. I made a point to look up his state of Minnesota and in his state there were listed ten bridges, and, this one, the frigging Little Green River bridge was number three on the list! It used to be number four on the list, but the hundred-year-old bridge that was number one collapsed, so everyone got to move up a notch. Was I thrilled to be in the know? Terrific, we were going to be drowned in a rental car and charged extra for it because we didn't return it on time, our genitals eaten by fishes and us getting none of the pleasure. "I don't know, what do you think?" I said, trying to sound strong and coming off like I was a thirteen-year-old kid whose voice was changing
"I think we'd better try to push through."
By all means, push away, our lives are in your hands. Well, at least we'll go together. Whoosh! A blast of wind hit us. We went sideways, fishtailed and started losing traction on the road. This was it. "I love you!" I yelled. He didn't respond; he was too busy trying to regain control of our tomb. Then, as quick as that, we could see the road again. It was just back to raining small domestic animals.
"Must have been a squall line with tornadic activity," he says. What can you expect from someone who thinks the Weather Channel is great TV? "Wow! That was incredible." He sounded like he just had sex or something. Maybe he should light up a cigarette and enjoy the afterglow of his orgasm. "You okay?" He turns to me and I can see the love in this eyes and the sweat on his face.
"That was kind of scary, huh?" He's reaching out and grabbing my hand.
"Hey, piece of cake, sweetheart. Piece of cake."
After we finally found the big rock that marked the private road, and after we f got stuck in the mud, and after we walked a mile and a half, we found out that the water was high so our cabin was flooded. That's when I heard my first Minnesotan comment on the rain. (It was not going to be the last.)
"Weather's been a little wet this year," said Mr. Swenson. He was the man who took care of opening up the cabins for the handsome, leanly muscled, dark haired detective (who only wanted to be back home, relaxing in his black Nappa leather 13-position rocker-recliner heat massage chair, that he had to buy for himself with his own money rather than receive as a gift, even though he dropped hints as heavy as cast iron, watching the Sports Network, remote in one hand and beer in the other, a big bag of Nacho Cheese Doritos nearby) and his selfish partner. "You can stay with your folks at their cabin, though. It's high and dry."
I'm thinking no, no, no. Say no. You can read my mind Half the time, you act like you can. Say no! Right now. Decline the pleasure of imprisoning me for ten days t with my in-laws. Refuse. Don't put that kind of stress on my heart and on my sex life. Say it now, say it loud. N-O!
But, missing any mental messages I might have been sending him, or choosing to ignore our highly attuned connection, or overriding our ability to communicate without words, or maybe he just didn't hear me, he said, "Okay. Can your son help us carry a few things up to High Point Cabin?"
Yeah, they named cabins, too, along with rivers and bridges. I wasn't feeling too bad about something called High Point, though, since a river they called green was really brown. I figured while we were at it we could rename our usual rental Underwater Cabin or Fish from Your Kitchen Window Cabin or What's a Little Water and a Lot of Mosquitoes When You're Really in Love Cabin. I was thinking of these things while we climbed Everest. For once, the fuckers named a thing right!
Maybe it was because I had no strength left after making like a sherpa all day. Maybe it was because I was soaked through and now had water on the brain. Maybe it was because, by then, I knew I was going to be doing a life sentence with him and divorce was no longer an option. Maybe it was because all the tall, blond, blue-eyed Vikings had me outnumbered. Who knew?
But when Mrs. H. showed us our accommodations after letting us know that "Betty and Tom Swenson were flooded out, too, and I had to give them the guest room, so you won't mind sharing this room, will you?"I said,
"This will be fine. Thanks." She nodded her head, looking pleased with herself, and left us in our honeymoon suite, a broom closet with a bunk bed.
I dropped my last lead weight load of Hutch's research and reading material in the middle of the floor and sat down on top of it. I felt just like yesterday's newspaper, after it had been left overnight in the gutter in the rain.
"Cozy, huh?" he said as he looked around our cell.
"Yeah, just like a closet."
"It's only for a few days."
"Ten. Count 'em."
"Top or bottom?" He ignored my comment and started to get undressed. His jeans were sticking to him and he had to wiggle them off.
"Top or bottom?" I asked him hopefully.
"I'm not propositioning you. Pick a bunk." He was standing there naked and damp. But I knew there was no chance of raising the flagpole right now.
"Bottom bunk means I'm wedged in and I feel like I'm in a coffin."
"Take the top, then." He was drying his equipment with my clean tee shirt — ain't love grand?
"Top means that in the middle of the night I break my neck, when I get up to pee."
"Those are your choices, pal."
I hate it when he's so matter of fact about my distress. It must be some kind of Scandinavian trait. "I'll take the top."
I could see on his face that he wanted the top bunk, so why the hell didn't he just say so in the first place? "I'll take the bottom," I said, being kind and generous and deeply aware of my partner's needs.
"Make up your mind."
"Hey, I made up my damn mind over twenty years ago, and look what it's got me — ten days in a closet with you."
"It's better than ten years in a closet." He was smiling down on me with a loving look. I knew he was remembering how we did everything we could those first ten years we knew each other not to admit we were in love with each other. "I'll flip you for the top bunk."
"Heads," I said.
"Tails," he said.
"We'll work it out later, okay? You know, we used this as a storage room, when I was little."
"No kidding? What was it, a linen closet?"
"I've got to go out and talk to the folks. How do I look?" He was all polished up, crisp looking in Dockers and a blue shirt. I, on the other hand, looked like a wet rat on a Styrofoam raft adrift upon the sea of life.
"Like a million bucks," I told him.
"Don't mention it"
"No, you're not."
"I said I'm fine; stop bugging me."
"I'll unpack later."
"Get some rest?"
"Sure." He shut the door and went out to be charming and cheerful, leaving me alone in solitary confinement. I noticed it was still raining.
I decided there was no point getting chapped thighs, so I got up and worked on getting my jeans off. The so-called room felt stuffy, so I went over to open the window. I was standing there in my black briefs and pulled up the shade. Betty and Mrs. H. were sitting on the porch talking to each other. I was looking right at them; they were looking right at my crotch. I pulled the shade down real fast and it shot up like an out-of-control rocket right out of my hand. Betty smiled at me; Mrs. H. was still looking at my crotch. I pulled the shade down real slow and cursed it for the traitor that it was. Intimidated, it stayed down. At least now they knew what Hutch saw in me.
Then it hit me. Our room was right on the wrap-around front porch. One window opened on the front of the lodge and the other window opened up on the side porch. It was all screened in to protect us from the man-eating mosquitoes. Here I was, a gay Jew in the midst of straight goyim, in a cage, with my pants down. It seemed to be raining harder.
It wasn't too bad, really, that first night in our little broom closet for two. He actually tucked me into the bottom bunk making sure I was okay and had enough covers. I felt like he was the camp counselor and I was a little kid on his first night away from home. I got a really sweet kiss on the lips, then he got into his bunk. I could hear him settling in and getting comfortable. He's one of those sleepers who are easy to share a bed with. Once he gets in position, he's pretty much like a dead alligator beside you. I need to move around more, but since there was nowhere to go in the shelf I was on but into the wall or onto the floor, that was that It got real quiet up in the penthouse.
"You asleep yet?"
"Starsky, I just got in bed. How could I be asleep?"
"Right. What are you doing?"
"Listening to the rain."
"Remember the time we were on stakeout..."
"And it was raining?"
"Yeah. Then it was pouring," I said.
"Then it was raining some more?"
"Yeah. Then we ended up in that swimming pool."
"And we had to strip off in that laundry room and dry our clothes?"
"Yeah." We both laughed. "You know, I wanted to help you dry off with a towel?" I told him.
"Why didn't you?"
"I guess the time wasn't right."
"I wanted to dry you off, too."
"You want to..."
"Not tonight. It's time to say good night and go to sleep."
"I'm not sleepy," I told him.
"If I say you a poem, will you be a good boy and go to sleep?"
"Is that my only choice?"
"Okay, Shakespeare, poem me."
He exhaled and got quiet and then said this to me: "When the rains came, the dry earth drank. Its thirst was quenched and it grew happy. Flowers grew in gratitude. I would be a rose, if you would wear me over your heart."
"Did you write it?"
"In your head?"
"Do another one."
"Sweetheart, I really need to go to sleep."
"Right. Okay. Good night"
"Night. Love you."
"Love you, too."
I could tell by his breathing he was falling asleep. It was a nice sound to listen to. The rain was becoming more of a drip, drip, drip, so maybe it was going to stop soon. I tried to get comfortable, I really did. I started thinking about a movie I'd seen about submarine warfare in World War II. These two guys from Brooklyn — one's name was Fred or Ned or Ted, and the other one was Ron or John or Tom — join the Navy together. This one guy gave his top bunk to his best buddy. When the enemy torpedo hit, the bottom bunk guy was blown to bits because he had so unselfishly given his bunk away. The guy in the top bunk had to live with the guilt of surviving because he was the star of the movie. But later on he died, too, because the ship sank. But it was the sharks that got him or an eel or something. I forget. But he was smiling when he was going under and saying, "Wait for me, buddy, I'll be there soon." I was starting to feel depressed and claustrophobic. I was already uncomfortable and cramped. It was going to be a long night.
In the morning, it was raining. It rained on and off for four days. It was different kinds of rain: heavy rain, soft rain, dripping rain, pouring rain, stinking rain, rainy rain, fucking rain. Off and on, on and off, with intermittent deluge followed by partial damp. But did he mind? Why ask? We had to adapt to the circumstances, you see, and go with the flow. Yeah, I thought. Let's see what kind of flow we get when the dam breaks on us, blondie. Bottom bunk man drowns, so you're safe.
He went for walks in the rain; he sat on the porch and read books. He took naps. He wrote on his laptop. He ate apples and read what he'd written. He visited with the Swensons, the other people who swam over, who weren't related to the Betty and Tom Swensons, but were called Swenson, too. He went off with his Dad and the team of Swensons to look at the lake, at the mud, at the damn dam in the damn rain. He visited with people who knew him when, and didn't know me now. He patted my head and gave me an apple to eat. He handed me a magazine with an article in it about conserving Minnesota's natural habitat. I used it to level out one leg of the bunk that seemed unstable to me. He didn't even notice. His brain was water-logged. My dick was a shrunken artifact of a long lost world of passion and heat, forgotten in all the wonders of the water-wet wllderness we were dwelling in (his words), or the unending inconvenience and boredom of being stuck in the mud in the ass end of nowhere (my words).
All there was was the weather. And all there was was comments about the weather. And all there was to talk about was the rain. I couldn't believe that these people could have whole conversations about the sucking rain!
"Been a wet year, so far."
"Kind of like '88, and the high water."
"Humidity's high, too."
"Think we'll have to build an ark?"
"Remember that summer when it rained for three weeks straight?"
"How about in '73, when the dam broke?"
"Think it will stop soon?"
"There's a frontal system supposed to move through later today with more rain."
"Over four inches fell the other day at Bear Point."
"Bet those bears were wishing they had an umbrella."
Do you see what I mean? Do you understand why I was spending time in the rental car in the parking lot of the local gas station called Swenson's? Can you begin to get a grip on why I was thinking of a bullet to the brain? And he was talking weather right along with them. He sounded like a goddamn weather man, talking about highs and lows and fronts and systems. It was like he became Stepford Hutch once he got here was one of them.
And, at night, they would play Scrabble. Scrabble! A game like going to school. A game he liked to play and was good at. A game I really couldn't see where the appeal was, even during a monsoon. But there he'd be. All of them with those church pew letter holders, sipping glasses of ice water with lemon in it. Not a beer in sight. Sitting there like they were actually having a good time. They'd ask me every night if I wanted to play, and every night I declined the pleasure of trying to think up big words that fit into little squares.
I took to secretly drinking in my cell. I stashed a liter of root beer in my dirty clothes bag. These people were all about ice water and lemons and making up stupid words. For snacks, they'd chew on crackers that looked like deer food at the zoo and gnaw on some kind of smelly cheese. I was hiding a big bag of potato chips, too.
Men in prison may be able to turn to their cellmates for sex. But mine just informed me that we couldn't, because everyone was on the porch and they might hear us. Men in prison mark off the days until their release with big black Xs on huge wall calendars. I didn't have anything like that. Men in prison write long letters to bleached blond women named Stella or Della to tell them about how bad they feel not being on the outside. All I had was a pocket calendar, a partner who was ignoring me and a Spiderman notebook.
Rain makes different sounds, do you know that? It can plop, plop, plop, or pitter-patter, or it can pounding pour, or it can whoosh and swoosh and sloosh and floosh. But any way you listen to it, it still can drive you nuts. I tried for poetry, I really did, but all I got was this: I hate the rain, I really do. It makes me mad and think PU.
Anyway, by the fifth day it stopped raining and there was rejoicing in the land. It never actually felt dry, but at least I wasn't living in a rubber suit anymore. It got me to thinking how some people are actually turned on by wearing vinyl and feeling sweaty. Take it from me, it gets real old, real fast. Mr. Accuweather informed me that the front that had stalled had moved on. For two seconds, I was happy. Then, the plagues started.
It was around sunset and there was this whiney, whirry, creaky, chittery sound starting to come from everywhere, all around me. It was like a thousand tiny voices calling to me or to each other and it was making me nervous.
"What's that?" I asked him.
"What's what?" We were sitting on the porch steps side by side.
"That." I pointed out into the shadows.
"Oh, that. Locusts."
"Locusts? You mean like Moses and locusts?"
"These are really cicadas."
"Cicada-schmada. Are they bugs or what?"
"Where the hell are they?" I was getting up and moving away from the steps, where the locusts couldn't see me.
"In the trees."
"In the trees?" And the whole place was surrounded by trees — pine trees, oak trees, maple trees, locust trees. Trees full of talking bugs, all chirpy and conversational, probably discussing taking a piece out of me. I moved up the steps fast, wrenched the screen door open and made my escape. I heard it slam shut as I left my partner to his buggy fate.
I don't dwell on being Jewish. Tm not all that religious. But I started feeling like this vacation trip was some kind of judgment brought down on me for something I might have done wrong at some time. And, though I was on God's side, He wasn't all that interested in how I might be feeling. Because next, we had the plague of frogs.
We had frogs everywhere. Little brown-green, warty toady things were popping up all over. If you went outside, you'd step on them and they'd make a squishy sound underfoot. They didn't die from it; they'd just flatten out into the mud, which was everywhere. (Mud, which I knew first-hand about because on the last day of the rain I'd gotten the rental car stuck at the bottom of the private road right next to the frigging rock!) And then, they'd pop right up again and hop away. It was creepy the way there seemed to be more and more of them. Hutch said it happened like that sometimes, and wasn't it amazing? And wasn't nature something? And off he went with the camera to take portraits of slimy little aliens.
One hopped up onto the top step awhile ago, and I used my foot to encourage it to leave. It was airborne for ten feet or more. Then I felt bad because I had used it to make a field goal in frog football. Then I thought, maybe hell tell his froggy buddies about the bastard on the porch who kicked him and they'll all go away. But maybe what they'll do is all get together in a vigilante posse and come after me. Maybe these are just the first wave and they all have big brothers! Maybe I should take a Valium and lie down.
On the seventh day, the flies came. They were bigger than any fly I'd ever seen on any garbage can in any place I'd ever been. They'd hang on the outside of the screened porch with their suction cup feet and surround us. Hutch said they were warming up their fragile fly bodies, after all that rain. I wanted to call an exterminator or spray them with about a gallon of Raid, but no, that would be environmentally unsafe. They were living beings, too, and blah, blah, blah. Yeah? I thought. Let's see how you feel about it when one of them takes a dump on your crackers and cheese.
On the eighth day, Mrs. H. decided enough with the flies already. She started spraying them with fly remover. She told her son that it was recommended by a naturalist somewhere. Personally, I think she was just telling him that. She showed no mercy; it was shoot to kill! When Hutch tried to read the contents of the bug spray, she grabbed the can right out of his hand and wouldn't give it back. I admired her take-no-prisoners attitude.
Then the Red Sea parted and the water receded, but we were staying put. Because even though our cabin was no longer underwater, some frogs, a black snake and a raccoon had moved in. The mud had turned back to ground again and both sets of Swensons drove off. Then his parents left to get supplies at Swenson's Bait Shop and Grocery. (I wonder if they're all named Swenson in Minnesota and Hutchinson is just an undercover name his family uses to hide their real identities and that somehow Hutch is secretly related to Carl "The Corpse-Cuddler," but is ashamed to tellme?)
Finally, even with the company of locusts, frogs, flies and mosquitoes (and why talk about the mosquitoes — they were bigger than blood-sucking birds and just another part of how I was spending my summer vacation, in a hell of natural wonders that could kill me), we were alone... at last. We waved bye-bye until we couldn't see them anymore. Then, we looked at each other and raced to the bedroom.
"Top or bottom?" he asked as we tore our clothes off.
"You gotta ask? After all I've been through?"
"How do you want me?"
"Come here and I'll show you." He was standing there looking at my great big been-over-a-week-without-you, I'm-horny, I'm-desperate, I-want-this-throbbing-part of-me-in-that-hot-part-of-you, I-really-need-you-now, let-me-give-it-to-you-good hard-on. He was wanting it and still holding back. "Hey, I'm not gonna ram it into you. You know that I love you too much for something like that."
"I love you, too. It was just that having everyone around was inhibiting."
"They're gone now. Where's the KY?"
"In the shave kit. We don't have a lot of time."
"Why are we wasting it talking? Get over here."
After some desperate preliminaries, the bottom bunk seemed like the best place to do the deed. So we were wedged in there. His legs were spread from here to next Thursday, and I was getting inside. He wants it, I want it, we're finally agreeing about something. Then I hear a car pulling up. Maybe he won't hear it, I think. Too late. He's not so far gone into ecstasy that he can't be auto-phobic.
"No," he said. "We can't." A car door opened. I'm thinking, if he hadn't kept telling me that we didn't have enough time, we would have been done by now. A car door shut. All that 100 mile an hour foreplay and we don't come? "Starsk," he hissed.
It was going to hurt him more if I pulled out, instead of pushing in the way my cock and nature intended. With his feet braced on the bottom of the top bunk, and both of his arms stuck under him, he really wasn't going anywhere, anyway. Making a command decision, I decided to go for it.
"Shut up." I grabbed my underpants and stuffed them in his mouth. (A spilt second image of a spider killing her mate immediately after intercourse hit me, but I chose to ignore it.) "Now," I whispered. There were footsteps on the steps. Bam! The screen door slammed. "Move your ass!"
All of a sudden, I was getting ass action from him like I never felt before. (Panic can heighten your experience, I think.) Wham! I'm experiencing Earthquake Hutch. He's vibrating so much, I thought I was gonna fall off. Then I'm coming. To shut myself up, I bit deep into his shoulder. (It was going to leave a mark.)
Maybe it was the gag that was such a turn-on. Or, maybe it was having his folks right outside, while I was trying to do him. Maybe it was him working it as fast as he could to do me, so that I'd finish and get off. Whatever it was, the whole experience was incredible. Quick, but incredible. And, it was knowing that he's not theirs anymore, he's mine. Yeah, I can do what I want with him, because he's mine. (Well, pretty much what I want, anyway.)
Later, around sunset, right before the Luftwaffe mosquitoes started dive bombing the human inhabitants, I was sitting with his parents on the porch. Hutch had finally recovered from our afternoon rendezvous. He was taking a little walk, to see if he still could. Walk, I mean. Mr. and Mrs. H. were holding hands. I thought that was nice. Then I remembered that Hutch told me that they still had an active sex life. Then I thought maybe they're feeling as desperate as we were and couldn't wait until the two of us got the hell out of Dodge. Then they'd run into their bedroom, tear off their clothes... and then, I didn't want to go there with that anymore.
My partner came up to the porch all smiles. "Dad, you should see the millipede colony under that rock!"
Mr. H. got up and went outside to share in the excitement. I noticed that Mrs. H. kind of gave a shudder and didn't look all that thrilled. A fly tried to land on the screen, but she nailed it with a long shot from the spray bottle. We'd never been actually alone together in all these years. I got to thinking about what to say — should I try to have a conversation, should I keep quiet, should I go inside? Going outside was not an option.
"I hate those damn things." She shivered.
I got to thinking, if Nana of the North didn't like them, they must be bad because so far she'd swept frogs out of the way with a broom, hit flies with the death spray, ignored locusts, and lived with the Mosquito Air Force. This new threat must be bad.
"So, uh," I asked casually, "what's with the millipedes?"
"Do you know what centipedes are?"
"Yeah, bugs with a lot of legs. I don't like them."
She turned and looked at me. Looked at me with, if not actual affection, then at least with some kind of pity. "Millipedes are worse. They have more legs — many, many more legs. They get in everywhere." (Wow, more good news. They were probably waiting to ambush me in the bathroom.) "We'll have to spray. I don't care what those two say." She pointed to the father-son naturalist team.
Then, something hit me. Besides the fact that I was moving out into the car and away from millipede central. Maybe she wasn't all that thrilled about being up here either. Mr. H. grew up in the country, but she was a city girl. Maybe, just maybe, we had something in common. "It must be hard for you with all these creepy crawlies up here," I said.
"It's been a challenge. I think the worst was the bat in our bedroom, when I was pregnant with my son. I just about delivered right then and there." And she smiled. All the time she was looking like she wasn't thrilled with me, it was more her being grimly determined to get through her so-called summer vacation.
"So if this isn't exactly your idea of a good time, why do you do it?"
"Because my husband loves it, and I love my husband. When he starts talking about the lake, I know it's time for us to come up here for awhile."
"I know what you mean," I said.
A wet, tinkling sound began to drift down upon the leaves. We sat together and watched our partners. They stood side by side, softly kissed by a fine mist of rain.
(On the ninth day, it was the plague of leeches.)