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  1. #51
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Glad you understand... THis Brendan business.... could get painful.

  2. #52
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    Re: The houses in rossford




    DAN MALLOY HAD a religion class he taught in the middle of the day that was dismally disappointing and constantly made him shake his head over the academic and eternal fates of students. After this he took a little lunch and retired to the church for a while. At a young age—for a priest—he had been made assistant pastor of Saint Barbara’s, and now he ran the parish outright. One of his privileges, and a necessity due to the lack of priest and mounting responsibilities, was stealing as much time as possible to sit quietly in the church, collecting himself in its silence.

    He was doing just that when Brian Babcock arrived to practice organ. He played at the evening mass. Maybe today he was giving organ lessons, or maybe he was practicing with a soloist for Sunday. Sometimes he had kids over from the university where he was doing some teaching now. It was nice. And Dan would hum to the song if he knew it. That was his form of prayer.

    Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
    Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free
    Rolling as a mighty ocean
    In its fullness over me
    Underneath me, all around me
    Is the current of Thy love
    Leading onward, leading homeward
    To Thy glorious rest above

    The truth was Dan did not understand God. He always felt he should understand him or talk to him better. But really he just felt sort of stupid around him. He felt like he half got whatever the stain glass windows meant, whatever the Stations of the Cross were trying to tell him. Saint Cecelia, smiling pacifically from the window above him, with the western light coming through her, and painting the stone floor, surely knew something. If he could learn it, maybe one day he could wear that smile too.

    Oh the deep, deep love
    All I need and trust
    Is the deep, deep love of Jesus

    Oh the deep, deep love of Jesus
    Spread His praise from shore to shore
    How He came to pay our ransom
    Through the saving cross He bore
    How He watches o’er His loved ones
    Those He died to make His own
    How for them He’s interceding
    Pleading now before the throne

    The music had stopped for sometime and Ban stirred when he heard the hard soles of Brian’s feet walking closer to him. Brian was a man in charge, a man Dan wished he could have been, handsome with dark eyes and a planed face, possibly Portuguese, curly dark hair, a commanding walk, always impressive clothes.

    “Brian, that was wonderful music. You always make the church such a nice place.”

    “Thank you, Father,” that short tight bow, the one Brian always gave. Brian was so in control. “Do you have time for a confession?”

    Confession always shocked Dan because Dan, who was always sure of his own incompetence and personal sin, could never believe that other people felt the same way.

    “Of course,” he said, nodding quickly. “Do you want the confessional?”

    “I think so. Today, I’d like tradition.”

    Dan nodded.

    “Bless me father, for I have sinned.”

    “I bless you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Dan made the sign of the cross through the lattice.

    “It has been… six months since my last confession.”

    “What do you have to confess?”

    “Hatred, Father. Evil…” Brian said. “Deep inside of me.”

    Dan remembered saying something like this, long ago, and the priest saying, “Surely not, child.” Dan resisted the urge to repeat that to a man his age and said, “I can’t believe that.”

    “I hate someone,” Brian said. “And I hate myself for doing it. It’s not always there. But it comes up, and it’s so ugly. And then… I hate myself.”

    “You know… in the Bible it says God hates nothing he has made. That includes you. You should try to love yourself.”

    “What does that mean?” Brian demanded sharply, through the lattice. “How do you… try to love yourself? How do you love yourself when you see such meanness in you? How do you get the meanness out? God! I mean… Lord… I want to… get rid of that. I used to be a good man. I think I was. But now… I don’t like the man I am, the man I see sometimes.”

    “Why don’t you tell me what’s going on. A little more specifically. So I can be more helpful.”

    Brian took a long breath and rocked back in his seat.

    “Father… Dan… I, I fell in love with someone. I fell in love with someone who belonged to someone else, and I told myself it didn’t matter. And I waited for the first crack in the relationship and when it was there, I jumped right in. I broke up someone’s relationship. I started having an affair.”

    Dan knew all this. It was ancient history. Did Brian imagine that Fenn hadn’t told him? Dan supposed he hadn’t. He took the professional tone.

    The priest said: “But it’s over now?”

    “It’s been over a long time. I was told, I was told by the person I was… having this relationship with that we would never be anything; that they were very much in love with the person they were cheating on. And… what we were doing was just… lust.”

    Dan could tell it was hard for Brian to say these things. It came out very slowly.

    “I said that I was fine with it. I didn’t care. But when we were caught that ended the relationship. And even though I stayed away from this person for a while, in the end we kept at it and I kept hoping that one day… It would be serious. I really would be loved. It’s been a long time. Years, really. And… I try to move on. The person who I wronged has moved on, found someone else now. But we—the—”

    “Brian, I know you’re gay so you can drop the pronouns. They make this story a lot harder for you to tell.”
    Brian breathed out a long sigh.

    “You’re right. You’re right. I thought he would love me. I keep hoping he’ll love me. This guy whose relationship I destroyed. And occasionally I go back to him. We… occasionally fall into the old routine and I can’t stop hoping, and he won’t stop loving his ex. He’s over at the hospital with him right now. And… even though I wronged him, and he’s in a really bad away… I can’t stop hating him.”

    AT LAST PERIOD, Will stopped by Brendan’s locker. Brendan had been talking to Stanley Kirkpatrick, and Stanley nodded and left and then Brendan said, “What’s up, Will?”

    “It’s just,” Will said.

    “It’s just what?” Brendan laughed. “You ready to go to the hospital? Isn’t that a strange question? You are going with us? I thought you were?”

    “Yes,” Will said, “of course.”

    “Cool. You can ride shotgun.”

    “I just wanted to say I was sorry about this morning. I wasn’t calling you gay. I don’t know what I was doing. But I wasn’t trying to—”

    “Will,” Brendan put a hand on his shoulder, “it’s cool. Shut up and let’s go.”

    “You know, before I found out what was going on, and Layla was all quiet this morning, I thought it was me. I thought it was my fault cause I did something wrong on the date. When she told me the truth I actually felt relieved. Isn’t that horrible? As long as it wasn’t my fault, I was relieved.”

    Brendan turned Will a half exhausted smile and said, “You worry too much, Klasko, you know that?”

    “WELL, WHO THE HELL IS THIS NOW?” Lula Stubblefield demanded. “Get my glasses, Anne. If I’m going to have company, I need to see him. And, Adele, my makeup bag.”


    “Don’t grandma me.”

    From beside the bed, Fenn looked up, “Thomas.”

    “Yeah,” he said, giving Fenn a small wave.

    “You,” Lula said, loading that one syllable with immense disappointment.

    “Lula,” Fenn said in a warning voice.

    “It’s because I love you,” his grandmother murmured and Fenn nodded while saying to Tom, “I told you that you didn’t have to be here.”

    “That’s what I said,” Todd, standing beside Tom commented. “Half the county is outside in the waiting room.”

    “If I knew having a heart attack would make me this popular,” Lula said, “I would have had one along time ago.”

    “Don’t say that, Grandma!” Adele told her.

    “Adele!” another man stuck his head into the room.

    “Oh, not you too!” Lula said.

    Adele lifted a finger and resituated her purse over her shoulder before heading out of the room.

    “Adele,” Hoot was saying, “now, I was glad to bring you here, but I got things to do.”

    “The first of them is get those divorce papers ready,” she said. “Now, don’t worry, Hoot. You can go. But Layla’s going to want to be here, so do you think you could pick your own daughter up?”

    “I don’t think I can do that, baby—”

    “No—” Adele put up her hand. “Do not call me baby. Or anything else. And, if you can’t be any use to me, then you ought to leave.”

    Hoot opened his mouth to say something, but then turned away and walked toward the elevator.

    Adele stood there for a moment and then suddenly was surprised by a hand on her shoulder.

    “Todd!” she turned around.

    “You all right?”

    Adele nodded, pressing on a smile.

    “I’ll be all right. I need to go over to the school and pick up Layla. Since Hoot won’t even do that.”

    “Don’t you worry,” Todd told her. “I can do that.”

    “No—” Adele began. But she relented, smiled and said, “Thanks Todd.”

    He nodded, heading to the elevators behind Hoot.

  3. #53
    Sex God CharmedFan28's Avatar
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Interesting segment! A lot of love triangles! Great continuation of the story.

  4. #54
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Thank you, and I wrote a response to you last night, but I must have not hit send.

  5. #55
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    Re: The houses in rossford




    In Lula’s hospital room her daughter, Anne, and her grandchildren were sitting while Tom stood.

    “Well, you look really good, Mrs. Stubblefield,” he told her.

    “Well, yeah,” she agreed, finishing off her face, and putting the makeup sponge back in the bag, “You know what they say, ‘Black don’t crack.’”

    “Yes,” the toilet flushed and out a voice said from the opening door, “and with the right amount of plastic surgery sometimes it doesn’t even smile or have the ability to raise its eyebrows.”

    Tom covered his face and met the eyes of the man who stood beside Fenn.

    “Lee Philips, cousin of the suffering,” he said, offering his hand. “Don’t worry. I always wash after pissing.

    “And you would be…?”

    “Tom Mesda.”

    “The cheating ex, yes. Well, good to finally meet you.”

    Tom opened his mouth, but Fenn only said, “Lee lacks discretion.”

    “Lee lacks the desire to bullshit,” Lee Philips said. “I never saw the point in it. Besides, whatever you did, here you are, so you can’t be that bad. And speaking of discretion and the lack thereof, everyone knows it wasn’t your indiscretion that ended things. You let Fenn go, and he flew away.”

    “You talk entirely too much,” Adele told him.

    “Fenn’s a damn bird, once you let him go, you might never get him back.”

    “Oh, shut up,” Lula said, before Fenn could say anything. She looked at her grandson and told Lee, “You’re right, of course. But shut up all the same.”

    “Yes, Aunty,” Lee said with mock sorrow.

    “Besides,” Adele added while everyone tried to recover from Lee, “Todd has Fenn, so he can’t be that much of a bird.”

    “I don’t appreciate being talked about like I’m not in the damn room.”

    But he was, and Lee added, looking over at Tom, “That’s because Todd had the good since to never let him go.”

    “Oh, cousin, so that’s Tom!”

    “Yeah, that’s Tom.”


    “Well, what?”

    “It’s just…” Lee began. “I didn’t know he looked like that is all.”

    “Everyone says that.”

    “Well, shit, yeah. I mean, the boy—the man—is beautiful. All that… curly hair and those dark eyes. Those eyes. And he’s so shy. Is he really shy?”

    “Yes,” Fenn said. “When I met him, it took a month to get past hello with him. It was like pulling teeth.”

    “And then it was worth it?”

    “For almost ten years it was worth it.”

    Lee let out a whistle between his teeth.


    And then Lee said, “Do you still love him?”

    “In that best friend way. Yes.”

    “No, I mean in the ‘would you be jealous if someone was after him?’ kind of way.”

    “Oh, my God!” Fenn said. “What’s wrong with you? You were hitting on him, weren’t you? In my grandmother’s hospital room.”

    “I will confess,” Lee lifted his eyes to the fluorescent lights and put a hand over his heart before whispering, “I would make sweet love all night long to that boy, if you didn’t mind.”

    And then, releasing his pose he added, “Or even if you did.”

    The elevator opened and Tom came out with a tray full of drinks.”

    “Here you go, guys.”

    “We’ll talk about this later,” Fenn muttered.

    “I’m sure we will.”

    “Talk about what?” said Tom.

    But just then another elevator swung open and out came Todd, followed by Paul and Noah.

    “Guess who I found in the lobby?” Todd said. “By the way, Layla left, already. It’s a good thing I had the sense to call first. Apparently, she’s coming here with some guy named Will.”

    Fenn smiled. “I guess the date went well, after all.”

    “What date?” said Tom.

    “Never mind. Tom, this is Noah, and this is Paul, and we have something we all need to talk about, tonight.”

    Tom looked from Paul to Noah and smiled cautiously. “Well…. All right.”

    The elevator doors opened again, and out came Layla, Dena, Will and Brendan.

    “Damn,” Fenn said.

    “We all wanted to be with Layla,” Dena told them.

    “Lee?” Layla blinked.

    “Cuz,” he drawled.

    “Is she so sick you needed to come from…?” Layla began, then said, “Where the hell did you come from?”

    “From going to and fro in the earth and walking up and down in it. And no, you don’t have to worry. She’s fine.”
    Fenn, who always felt that it was important to introduce everyone to everyone else, did so and Brendan stopped, tilting his head, when he met Paul.

    “What?” said Dena.

    “I just feel…” Brendan began, “I feel like I’ve seen you somewhere before.”

    Paul looked awkwardly to Fenn and Noah, and then Noah said, “Probably in a porno. We used to do that before our boss got busted for possession of cocaine and other illegal substances.”

    While Paul was opening and closing his mouth like a dying fish, Brendan blurted out, “Johnny Mellow!” Dena looked at him with a raised eyebrow, and Tom cried, “You work for Guy Clintock!”

    “How do you know that?” Fenn demanded.

    Lee whispered: “Who?”

    And Layla shrugged.

    “Well,” Fenn said, still eyeing Tom, “since my ex is apparently already acquainted with Paul’s—we call him Paul now, folks—work, I’m sure he’ll be glad to know that he’ll be taking over Chris’s part in Twelve Angry Men.”

    “You can act?” Tom said.

    “You should know,” Fenn said.

    Dena looked at Layla and both girls covered their mouths.

    “He’ll be wearing clothes this time,” Fenn added, heading back to his grandmother’s room.

    I’LL BE HERE just long enough to make sure Lula’s okay, and then I’m on my way back to Kansas.”

    “You came all the way from Kansas?” Tom said.

    “No,” Lee told him, taking out his cigarette roller and a pouch of tobacco. “I came all the way from Chicago. But I was on my way to Kansas.”

    “Never seen Kansas.”

    “It’s very… flat,” Lee said, putting a filter in the roller and reaching for papers. “And very dry.”

    “And the Black folks are backward as fuck,” Tara added, saying, “Roll me one, Lee,”

    Todd said: “Then I don’t know why you don’t stay around here a little longer.”

    They were in a Red Lobster, which Fenn always thought was ten degrees colder than it needed to be, and Lee pressed down the roller and out it came the cigarette.

    “Do you know…” he began, waving the cigarette around as his cousin reached for a lighter, “that they want to ban smoking in this restaurant? Thank you, cousin,” Lee took a long drag and let out the smoke. “What the fuck is the world coming too?”

    “We’re in the last days,” Fenn tut-tutted in a nasal accent. “We’re in the last days!”

    “The sun will turn black as night,” Lee lamented in a country preacher’s voice. “And the moon will turn red as blood. A third of the stars shall fall from the sky—”

    “And smoking will be made illegal in all restaurants throughout the state of Indiana,” Todd added, reaching for a cheese biscuit.

    “Amen,” Lee and Fenn intoned. “Amen.”

    “You all are so alike!” Tom rejoiced.
    “That—” Lee began

    “—is not a compliment,” Fenn finished, and they both laughed.

    “You’re both in the arts,” Todd said. “You both smoke—”

    “We’re both Black,” Fenn pointed out.

    “You’re both near sighted,” Tara pointed out

    “I believe in contacts,” Lee said to Tom, who cocked his head.

    “You’re both sort of… scoundrels,” Todd said.

    They both pretended to look shocked.

    Tara added, “Let’s not forget that you’re both queers.”

    “What?” Tom said.

    “You thought it could only strike once in a family,” Lee raised an eyebrow.

    “Well, now usually it does,” Todd said.

    Fenn chuckled. “I bet it doesn’t.” The cousins clicked cigarettes like toasting drinks and Lee added with a meaningful gaze at Tom, “and we both have the same tastes.”

    “Don’t be vulgar,” Fenn said, though he didn’t really seem to mean it.

    “And now the reason for this dinner,” said Lee. “That we all had to be at. That was so important that Tom and I both be here? Were you trying to hook us up? Pass your ex off on me?”

    Tom went red. Fenn cleared his throat.

    “The two of you can work that out on your own time. This has to do with me being a scoundrel.”

    Lee looked at Tom, shrugged, and said, “Well, now, what the fuck doesn’t?”

    Above them there was a great ripping, a thunderclap.

    “Damn, rain,” Tara said, “Let’s go and see if it’s started up yet?”

    She returned a moment later and reported, “It’s biblical out there, baby. It’s more water in the sky than sky. Like God just emptied out his bathtub.”

    “Well, we’ll just have to be careful,” said Lee. “But onto what Fenn was going to tell us.”

    Fenn nodded, and leaning in, he began in a whisper, “I found—”

    And then he stopped.

    “That’s right,” Tara said. “Write it down.” She reached into her jacket and pulled out a notepad. “That’s how they always fuck it up on the soaps. Someone says some shit out loud where they shouldn’t. Write it down.”

    Fenn, unnecessarily, cleared his throat again, and wrote for a while. Then he passed it to Tara.

    “Shit,” she said, and passed it to Tom who frowned and passed it to Lee.

    “Four hundred—”

    Fenn slammed a hand over his cousin’s mouth and said, “And I’m not giving it back, and everyone at this table is sharing in it.”

    Lee took a breath and sat back in his chair.

    “Who else knows?” he said.

    “Dan Malloy, Noah and Paul.”

    “What about Adele?” Tara said.

    “No,” Fenn said, firmly, and Tara nodded.

    “Four hundred thousand dollars,” Tom said, as he drove through the rain, Lee Philips beside him.

    “That… That’s the end of our troubles.”

    “What were your troubles?”

    The theatre was in the red, and unpaid for. Now it can be in the black—for a week at least—and be ours outright. I’ve been afraid really, to do some of the things I wanted to do with the theatre. Afraid because we’re always broke. And of course, Fenn and Todd can pay off the house. You know. Practical things like that. But good things. What are you going to do with your share?”

    “It’s not our money,” Lee said. “I mean you’re getting your share because the theatre is yours and Fenn’s. So Tara would get some too. But that money is Fenn’s.”

    “True. But do you really believe he’d sit there and tell us about… four hundred thousand dollars, if we weren’t all going to be dipping into it?”

    “How many of us are actually dipping into it? And no, I still don’t think it’s a community pot by the way. Make a turn to your right on Birmingham.”

    Tom nodded and the car waded through the water, stopping at the red light on Birmingham.

    “Maybe we should have just spent the night in the restaurant,” Lee said.

    Tom’s mind was on the money.

    “Paul and Noah, You and me and Father Dan, but he doesn’t count—”

    “Priests need money too.”

    Tom dismissed this with a shake of his head. “He’ll never take it. And Todd and Fenn count as the same person pretty much.”
    “I doubt they’d agree with you.”

    “Well, financially they do. And Tara. And that makes…”

    “Seven shares by your count, and by your count six that matter.”

    The light turned green, and Tom turned the car through the thick water, saying: “That makes about….four hundred thousand divided by… six…”

    “Roughly sixty-seven thousand.”

    Tom looked at him. “How did you do that? I was never that good at math.”

    “It’s not math,” said Lee. “It’s money. Now turn left. Here on Armitage. Right up there…”

    “Oh, I remember this house. Fenn still lived there with his mom when we first met.

    “So you’re really going back to Kansas in a few days?”

    “In a few days. But not tomorrow.”

    “That’s great. I mean… maybe we could get to know each other.”
    The car stopped in front of the two storey with the wide porch still visible through the dark rain.

    “I suppose we could,” Lee said. “But why?”

    Tom rolled his eyes.

    “Just… I find you intriguing.”

    Lee chuckled and turned from Tom for a second, and then said, “I think you find Fenn intriguing and you think I’m like him. Which is a compliment, really. But don’t tell him. However, we are two very different people.”

    “I know that. What are you saying?”

    “I’m saying you’re interested in me because you think I’m Fenn come again.”

    The thunder drummed to a crescendo and then boomed.

    “That is so not true,” Tom said.

    “You sure?”

    Tom opened his mouth and shut it.

    “That’s right,” Lee said. “Don’t say you’re sure when you’re not.”

    Lee opened the car door and before he stepped out, Tom said, “Wait. I got an umbrella.”

    “Well, if you give me your umbrella, what will you do?”

    Tom seemed to be thinking about this for a second, and then he said, “Well, I could walk you up to the porch.”

    Lee snorted and said, “You could. Sure.”

    Tom reached behind him, pulled out an umbrella and, as he opened the car door, Lee’s ears were filled with the sound of the storm. A second later, Tom had rounded the car and said, “My socks are soaked. Com’on.”

    Together they went up the walk to the porch and then Tom said, “By the way, for whatever the reason… I really would like to get to know you. All right?”

    Lee nodded and said, “All right.”

    Tom smiled.

    “Great. Now… I better high tail it before your aunt opens the door and sees me. I don’t know how Fenn’s mom feels about me.”

    Thunder rolled slowly across the sky, and Lee said, “Run now, and I’ll give you a five second’s head start before I ring the doorbell.”

    Tom nodded, smiled, and ran down the steps.

    “Ahh!” he shouted.

    “Yes, Tom,” Lee murmured, turning toward the doorbell, “the umbrella only works if you open it.”

  6. #56
    Sex God CharmedFan28's Avatar
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Interesting weekend portion! This story is progressing well and as you can tell I am hooked lol! Keep up the good work!

  7. #57
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    There's plenty more to come. If you need something different, don't be afraid to check out The Skin of Things. Have a wonderful weekend.

  8. #58
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    I meant to post this late last night....




    Layla came into the kitchen and was about to head out when her mother said, “The kitchen’s big enough for the both of us.”
    Layla nodded, and reentered.
    “I thought…” she began, “You looked like you might want to be by yourself.”
    “No,” Adele said. “No. I very much do not want to be by myself.”
    Layla got a glass from one of the cupboards, put it under the icemaker and watched the cubes tinkle slowly—they needed to call the repair man—into it before filling it with water.
    “Your dad brought me to the hospital today,” Adele said. “It was just like old times until he said, ‘I got things to do. I can’t stay here all day.’”
    Adele laughed and took another sip from the large wine glass.
    “And then, I realized, it was exactly like old times.”
    Layla smiled a little and sat at the table. Her mother did not turn around. It was actually easier this way.
    “You know,” Adele said, “you start to wonder, ‘when did he turn into this?’ Into what you’re glad went away. When did he change? And then you realized it didn’t happen yesterday… Or last week. The first time you saw it was on that third date. But you wanted to ignore it. All the bad stuff started out as little stuff. You told yourself it would go away. Eventually. You told yourself—I told myself… a lot.”
    “Mama, did you love Daddy?”
    Adele turned around.
    “I married a man called Hoot. Only love does that.”
    “Do you still love him?”
    “I’m a Houghton,” Adele said. “You’re a Houghton. You’ll learn we don’t cling to things.”
    Layla frowned, and then she said, “I want to cling to things. I want someone I want to stick to. Grandma, great-grandma, you…. I…”
    “Lula was never married, my mother wasn’t married long and apparently I can’t keep a marriage going either,” Adele said, plainly. “And you hope you’re not cursed in the same way?”
    “I like Will.”
    Adele smiled and turned to the window a moment.
    “Well, now, that is news. It was good of him to come to the hospital. It was real sweet. Sometimes white boys can be a little sweeter. A lot easier to train.”
    “Oh, Mama.”
    “That’s what our men say about white women. Now, if it’s good for the gander it’s sure in the hell good for the goose, and maybe you and Fenn have learned something the rest of us need to.”
    Then Layla said, “Mama, Dena and Brendan and I went to the motel Daddy was staying at. We went the other night.”
    Adele looked at her daughter. “What for?”
    “I wanted to see that other woman.”
    “Oh, Lay-La! Good, Lord!”
    “I had to see her.”
    “Well, I don’t, and I don’t want to hear about her.”
    “But I have to tell you about her. She dropped him off. We followed her car. To her house. She lives on the northside, off Wichita Drive.”
    “And she has a son,” Layla said. “A son my age.”
    “LeeLee, what are you saying?”
    Layla scowled and finished her water, the ice settling in the glass as she sat there.
    “Are you trying to say…? No,” Adele shook her head. “She must have been married before.”
    “I saw him. He looks like Daddy.”
    “I don’t believe it,” Adele said. “I don’t believe it. I won’t…” She shook her head.
    “You do believe it,” Layla said. “Don’t you?”
    They were both very quiet for a moment. Outside the thunderstorm was ending, the clouds rolling sounded damp and muffled.
    “Yes,” Adele said.

    There was a knock at the door and Tom was surprised because two yawns and a shower ago he’d planned to get to bed a little early. Part of him hoped that, impossible as it was, Lee Philips had shown up. How far would he have to walk in the rain to get here? And how crazy would Lee have been to have done that?
    But while he was musing about this he opened the door and saw the incredibly handsome countenance of Brian Babcock.
    “Brian… Come in.”
    Brian did.
    “Guess what?” Tom said, thinking that if only he could get a head start in the conversation he could stop Brian from saying whatever it was he’d come over to say. Why couldn’t he just have called?
    “Our struggling theatre… is no longer struggling.”
    “Did Fenn fix that too?”
    “Yes!” Tom snapped suddenly. “You’re damn right he did. Just like magic. His grandmother almost died of a heart attack today and two days ago we lost the star of our play and were wondering how we could pay for the theatre, and now we can pay for the theatre! Now you can have that raise you always wanted. Now we don’t have to cancel or postpone the play. God, Brian, can’t you be happy?
    “He didn’t do anything to you. You did it—we did it—to him!”
    “This afternoon,” Brian said, “hating myself, I went to confess the way I feel, all right, Tom? The way I am. I’ve never told anyone about what I did.”
    “We did it together.”
    “No,” Brian shook his head. “I decided that I was good looking and smart and should have whatever I wanted. I wanted you and Fenn was in my way. I decided that. I got on the high horse that every gay Catholic ever did. You know, we’re more Catholic than the pope to cover up for… the notable fact that we’re gay. And I thought I was so… good.
    “So what was there inside of me that decided, that willfully decided I should try to seduce you?”
    “Look, Brian. It takes two.” Tom walked away from him, leaving Brian to close the door. “I don’t like the idea of me as some dumb prey, and you scheming to get me.”
    “You may not like it, but that’s how it was. I tried to make you want me.”
    “I did want you, Brian. Please…” Tom shook his head. “I loved Fenn. I hate thinking about how I screwed that up.”
    “You said the only thing between us would be sex. And I said I was fine with that. And we kept it up until we got caught.”
    “Yes, Brian,” Tom said in a low voice, jamming his hands into the pockets of his pajama pants. “I was there. I remember it all quite vividly.”
    “But I had forgotten. I made you want my body, didn’t I? It’s a nice body, isn’t it?”
    “Brian, you’re a nice person.”
    “But you don’t care about that. That’s not why we started sleeping together, because I was so nice. I was in love with you, Tom. I… I did not get what I wanted. Fenn could have stayed with you if he realized that what I set out to do is get you and make you love me instead of him. I never had you.”
    Tom sat down on the couch, legs apart and blew out his cheeks.
    “And I don’t have Fenn. And I haven’t for years. I’m over it, now. Why don’t you get over what you can’t have?”
    “I can’t have you? Flat out.”
    Tom looked up at him.
    “Brian, when we start talking this way I just see how beautiful you are. You are, Brian. That’s the problem. I can’t sort my heart out from my lust.”
    “In daylight, though? Whatever time of day it is you love—”
    “I don’t wanna talk about Fenn. It’s not day, right now.”
    “God!” Brian shouted.
    Tom sighed, “What?”
    “I don’t even like you! You know that? Tomorrow morning I won’t like you, and I know you don’t like me. I can’t work side by side with you and not care. When we’re fucking each other, in the moment, it’s like we’re in love. Feels like we’re in love, or… something. You, throw me off.”
    “You came here so we could fuck. Did you?”
    “No! No. I… I came cause I was mad. I… don’t know. I came because…. Whenever we do what we do I’m not lonely. I feel like there’s someone as screwed up as me….” Brian sighed. “I’d rather be screwed up in your bed than screwed up and… wound up, by myself.”
    Tom didn’t talk for a long time. He sat, staring at the floor, his flesh prickling. He was tired of fighting Brian.
    “So…” Tom said, at last, “you’re going to stay the night.”
    Brian tried to laugh, “Two hot bodies, a free screw where you know what you’re getting.” He added harshly: “We both need to fuck.”
    “Don’t say that.”
    “That’s what it is, Tommy.”
    “I guess.”
    “You want me to stay, right?”
    Tom nodded.
    “Thomas Mesda, I have a bachelors from Curtis and a PhD in music theory from Loyola. Calves from hell from being a dancer. I was… I was voted most likely to succeed. I was a prom king. Every guy envied me cause they didn’t know I wasn’t straight. So I have pride. All right? I have some fucking pride. Tell me, ‘Brian, I need to fuck you.’ Or I’m out that door.”
    Tom looked up at him, horrified. Brian looked back at him. When Tom said nothing, Brian shrugged and turned on his heel.
    Lee Philips is not coming through that door.
    Suddenly Tom shouted, “Brian, I need to fuck you, all right?”
    Brian let out a deep breath. It made him shudder, like he was about to cry or collapse.
    Instead he nodded his head, turned around and said, “All right.”

    “Are you going to give me a cigarette or do I have to ask for one?”
    “I guess,” Fenn said, turning over and reaching for the pack, handing one to Todd. “You had to ask.”
    He leaned over Todd, striking the lighter and very briefly, Todd’s torso covered in black hairs all along his breast to his navel and the little trail that went south, was briefly illuminated in red light.
    In the dark, smoke left Todd’s nostrils in a white, uncurling tendrils. He lay on his back beside Todd and Todd slipped his larger hand into and around his.
    “Do you know… now that we’ve decided to keep it,” said Todd, “I’ve started thinking about what we’ll do with it. You know?”
    Fenn didn’t say anything. He just nodded and crushed out his own cigarette stub.
    “It’s just enough that we cover everything, but still have to think about… a future, about what we do with it.”
    “Do you want to think about it right now?”
    Todd’s smile cut across the dark as he stretched across Fenn to put the cigarette in the ashtray beside him.
    “No… not right now. Right now I just want to do this all night.”
    He kissed him. He kissed him again. They stretched and tied their limbs together like a knot and Fenn could feel Todd’s mouth against his throat. Outside the rain was still pouring. It was cool, but he felt the air thickening. He felt the thickness of Todd’s black hair, pressing his hand into it, stroking it, smelling the dampness. He kissed his ear.
    “I want to finish that film,” Todd murmured, just as they were drifting off to sleep. “I want to do something with all that work. I want… I want to make something really good. Maybe this money will help.”
    “Todd, anything you make will be good.”
    Todd, whose head was still in the crook of Fenn’s shoulder, kissed his neck.
    “Thank you for being a fan,” he said.
    “I don’t want to think about the money right now,” Fenn said. “I don’t want to think about anything.”
    Todd lifted his body up and kissed Fenn again, and then kissed the center of his chest and then down his belly. And then down further.
    “What the fuck are you doing?” Fenn murmured as Todd’s lips kissed his penis.
    The shape of Todd’s head looked up at him wickedly. He could just see the lines of his lover’s face. Todd grinned before speaking.
    “Keeping you from thinking.”

  9. #59
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Interesting new part of the chapter! I am still a bit anxious about them all keeping the money they found. I hope nothing bad happens as a result of it.

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    It more than likely will : 0 !!!!!!

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    Re: The houses in rossford


    Noah lay on his back listening to the noise against the wall.
    “What’s going on in there?” he said with a laugh.
    “I think you know what’s going on very well,” Paul chuckled.
    “No, I was just saying it. And all this time I thought it was really Johnny.”
    On the other side of the wall, the bed began to squeak with a greater urgency and Noah said, “You think we’ll ever find something like that?”
    “Noah,” Paul said, turning on his side, “we find something like that everyday. It’s our job.”
    “Ah… no,” Noah said as it came to an end. “We don’t find anything like that. Because it is our job.”
    “True,” Paul said at last. He sighed. “Aw… I was hoping there’d be more.”
    “I am so horny,” said Noah.
    “Noah?” Paul said, at last.
    “Yes?” his voice was light across the darkness.
    “Noah, I know we don’t have cameras or anything… And you’re not going to get paid. But… you wanna tie one off for old times sake?”
    Noah chuckled, rolled off of his pallet, and pulled down his briefs, approaching the bed as Paul sat up on one elbow, mouth open, eyes shining from the semi darkness in appreciation. He pulled back the sheet and welcomed him in.
    As Noah came into the bed, the boy chuckled, reaching for Paul’s waistband and he commented: “I thought you’d never ask.”

  12. #62
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    Re: The houses in rossford





    In the back of the car, Milo Affren, aged seventeen, was trying to do something with his shoulder length brown hair, make it look a little cooler, and he was telling his grandparents:
    “I love you all—”
    “And we love you too,” Barbara Affren said, reaching into her husband’s pocket for a stick of gum.
    Because Bob was trying to drive, he growled: “Damnit, Barb, I’ve told you about that—”
    “And,” Milo continued, “I think it’s cool that you have this religion thing and all.”
    “He things it’s cool, Barb!” Bob crowed.
    “Oh, that’s good. I can sleep in peace now,” she said in a sweet voice, winking back at her grandson.
    “But, I don’t see why I should have to be dragged into it with you.”
    “Quick Bob, get in the parking lot before Tina Deagler does. She always wants to take our spot. Quick, now!”
    “I’m not going to break the traffic laws just because you’re too lazy to walk, Barb.”
    “You’re a mean ole cuss. Isn’t he a mean ole cuss? Look what I gotta live with. Would you just see?”
    “And,” Milo, continued, “I would just rather stay home on Sundays.”
    His grandparents ignored him as Bob trawled about the parking lot of Saint Barbara’s, searching for the optimum space and, at last, settling in the third row beside the church.
    “Bob, he wants to know why we make him go along to church with us,” Barb said. “I think you’d better answer him.”
    “Well, one, your parents are godless heathens and I blame that on your mother. Your father’s weak. Jack always was easily influenced. You need some religion in your life, and that’s thing one.
    “Thing two: you’re a good kid, Milo. You’re a lot like me when I was your age. Cept you’re better looking. But see, I was a hooligan—”
    “I’m not a hooligan.”
    “Of course you’re a hooligan! That’s why your parents sent you to us. Cause you’re a hooligan!”
    “And hooligans don’t get to stay home on Sunday,” Barb said, reaching for her lipstick and smacking on a last dab.
    “So the bottom line is,” Bob said, “You have to go to church because we have to go to church, and there’s no way in hell we’re going to leave you in the house alone.”

    “Dena! Nell!”
    “He always finds us,” Nell muttered as she stopped in the middle of her brisk march for the side door. Dena sighed and nodded. “No matter how crowded the church is.”
    “I just wanted to introduce you all to a new member of our parish,” Dan Malloy told the two women as they approached the vestibule where he stood. They were relieved to see it was only the Affrens who were with him.
    “Bob and Barb’s grandson will be finishing the year with us,” Dan said. “He’ll start tomorrow.”
    “My name is Dena,” Dena said, pushing her hair back from her face.
    “She’s a singer,” Dan said, “and she used to sing in the choir.”
    Dena gave the priest a lopsided smile.
    “Any chance you might come back?” Dan said.
    Milo decided to save her by offering his hand and saying, “I’m Milo. I’m a hooligan.”
    “Oh, Lord, Milo!” Barb blew a raspberry.
    “Well, that’s what Grandad says.”
    “And Grandad’s right,” Bob insisted. “You’re never too old to be turned over my knee, boy.”
    Milo gave Dena a look and shook his head.
    “Hey,” Nell said. “Dena’s seventeenth birthday party is coming up, and that would be a great way for you to get to know people. How about you come, Milo?”
    Barb swatted him on the back of the head.
    “Say yes, and act like you have some manners.”
    Milo said, “Yes.”

    “IS THIS YOUR party list?” Todd asked, snatching it from his sister. He was leaning against the kitchen sink, ankles crossed, and swigging the last of a Mountain Dew.
    “Yes, and that stuff will corrode your insides.”
    “You’re set against Mountain Dew.”
    “I’m set against pop. It doesn’t serve any purpose but to rot out your insides and clog your arteries with sugar.”
    To demonstrate her rage, Nell beat the round wooden table with a towel in lieu of a gentle polish.
    “I don’t know how much medical research you did for that, sis.”
    Nell shrugged and set to buffing the table, violently spraying it with Pledge.
    “This table is filthy!” she declared. “Dusty!”
    “It’s a kitchen table. It will always need to be cleaned,” Todd said. Then, “Oh, what the fuck is this?”
    Nell looked up at him and threw the towel over her shoulder.
    “I don’t know, Todd. What the fuck is it?”
    “You can’t invite him. You can’t have this guy at Dena’s party.”
    Frustrated and not really needing to look, Nell said, “What guy?”
    “This guy,” Todd said, impersonating a moron, and jabbing at the name.
    “Uh… He’s Dena’s father. And he wants to come. And I think she wants him. She has every right.”
    “But you can’t invite Kevin!”
    “What?” Nell said, suddenly angry. “I can’t invite Kevin because it pisses you off? What about me, Todd? Don’t I have every right to be pissed off? Don’t I have ten times the right to be pissed off at him? And at you too?”
    Todd put down the soda bottle.
    “You’re right, Nell,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
    “No,” Nell shook her head and sat down, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t blame you. You should be mad. I really shouldn’t blame you. You were a kid. I was so mad because it was you, Todd.”
    Todd said nothing. He put his hands together and lay against the kitchen sink.
    “But,” Nell said after a while, “no matter how I felt then, I choose to get past it now. And for Dena’s sake, little brother, you’re going to have to do the same.”

  13. #63
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Ooh bonus chapter! Great start to Chapter 5 and some interesting new characters!

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    Re: The houses in rossford

    It's about to get.... FUN.

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    Waiting for the light to turn, Paul asked Fenn: “Okay, so yes or no, do I look sexy?”
    “What the hell kind of question is that?”
    “An honest one,” Paul said. “If you answer it honestly.”
    “Are you out to look sexy today?”
    The intersection at the center of town was a red light where Birmingham crossed Dorr, and on every corner was a shopping center.
    “I’m always out to look sexy. This is Midwest sexy.”
    Paul was wearing a snug fitting black short sleeve and a straw cowboy hat. He as driving the Land Rover because Fenn didn’t like too. Todd was visiting his sister and someone needed to get the shopping done.
    “You’re just missing the bit of grass you should be chewing.”
    “Ah, damn!” Paul said pounding the steering wheel.
    “You know, if you don’t get out of the car with it on, then yes, the cowboy hat does really top of the outfit.”
    Paul shrugged. “I was just trying something out.”
    “Well,” Fenn said, as the light turned green and they made a left for the grocery store.
    “You already know what you look like. I mean, Guy hired you for a reason.”
    “In porn they have all sorts of guys. In straight porn you’re not supposed to be paying attention to the guys. In gay porn it’s all different sorts. What they really like is a country fresh face with a country big dick.
    “I have a theory that when you put on a cowboy hat it makes your dick look bigger. I have borne that out in past work.”
    Fenn thought about that and then said, “You know what? I’m not sure why, but that just feels true.”
    “Damn, no parking spaces!” Paul muttered.
    “Do you need me to put a nude scene into the play?” said Fenn. “It could spice things up. What we’re going is going to be a little dull compared to what you’re used to.”
    “Ah, there’s a space!” the Land Rover lurched forward, jerking Fenn, who caught the door handle.
    “Are you kidding me?” Paul demanded, swinging into a spot and making an old man flip him a bird. “This is the shit I always wanted to do. This is real stuff that I can tell my family about.”
    “Um, you really pissed that guy off.”
    “I guess I should be sorry.”
    “I never thought of you having a family,” Fenn confessed, climbing out of the black vehicle.
    Paul started talking, loudly, at first, as he tucked in his black shirt and rounded the Land Rover.
    “Mom was a little under the weather, but she’s better now. My aunt’s pregnant. Again. It’s like she opens her legs and babies just fall out. My cousin’s still in seminary. Get that.”
    “What’s that like?”
    “I have no idea. We don’t actually talk. And my brother and sister are still in high school, but Claire’s getting ready to graduate.”
    “It’s a big family.”
    “No bigger than yours. You should come to East Carmel sometime.”
    “East Carmel?”
    “Yeah, what’s wrong with that picture?”
    “What’s right with it? White folks don’t know! You could wear that cowboy hat and chew on the grass and nobody would think anything of it there.”
    “Are you trying to call us hillbillies?”
    “Yes,” Fenn said. “My cousin Lee got arrested there once, just for being Black after sundown.”
    “That’s not…” and then Paul said, “Actually, it probably is true.”
    “I went to school in a small town where people just looked at you funny. Just like this?” Fenn gave Paul a stupid, vacant eyed look, “if you were brown.”
    “Well,” Paul said, pulling off the cowboy hat as they entered the Martins, “that is because if you grow up in East Carmel the only Black people you ever see are on reruns of Sanford and Son and The Cosby Show. I’m pretty sure I gave the same dumb look the first time I saw a Black person. Or most people for that matter. We don’t get out much. No, really, come with me next time.”
    “Yeah, I’ll think about that.”
    “You’ll more than think about it,” Paul pushed a finger into Fenn’s sternum. “You’re gonna come. It’ll be nice.”
    Fenn shrugged and shook out his legs leaning forward on the cart as he pushed it through the cold store. “Get that pasta over there. No, the generic one. Thanks. You know, that was a horrible parking space. You could have gotten a closer one.”
    “I could not have.”
    “So what?”
    “You and Noah?”
    Paul shrugged. “What about me and Noah?”
    “That’s what I’m asking. Are you all… together? I didn’t think you were. Ah, olive oil!”
    “We’re not… not together,” Paul said. “I don’t know what it is.”
    Fenn said nothing.
    “It’s your fault.”
    “How…? You like fish.”
    “I’ll eat it, but I don’t want it. You see,” Paul said. “It’s your fault because that second night we were here… we heard you and Todd. And it just made us so hot, we thought… What the hell. And then, we already know each other. So… Ooooh, Doritos!”
    “They’re not on the list.”
    “I’m getting them anyway.”
    “Well, then you’re paying for them.”
    “You’re really serious about this whole not deviating from the list, aren’t you?”
    “You keep deviating from the list and soon you’re broke.”
    “But, Fenn… You’re not broke.”
    “Well, for now, we’ve got to live like we are. And we’re going to keep living like that.”
    Then Fenn said, “I like Noah.”
    “I do too. I always did.”
    “So are you dating?”
    “No,” Paul said. “I just really like having sex with him. And he’s a nice guy. Does that sound sleazy? Sorry, I’m getting that French bread.”
    Fenn shrugged. “Fair. Oooh, jelly donuts.”
    “Yeah, I’ll get six.”
    “Fuck it, get, two dozen. It’s four of us in the house now. By the way, I don’t think it’s sleazy. Just real.”
    Paul sighed and leaned across the cart.
    “This thing I’ve got with Noah… Sex on a regular basis with someone I like. Sleeping with someone. Waking up with someone you care about… I’ve never done that before.
    “But I also know that’s its not being in love. Not what I think of. Not what I’d settle for. I dunno. I don’t want to settle for anything.”
    “Lots of people have less than that going for them in a marriage, or a gay relationship for that matter.”
    “I know that. But, I need more than that. And—ooh, fish fingers!”
    “Put that away. Seriously.”
    Paul sighed and turned from the fish fingers.
    “You and Todd aren’t settling. You have… You have something I envy. I never envied anyone’s relationship. I want that. I want someone who will just… I don’t know, turn my life around. Do something to my world. Like in those movies.”
    “Oh, Paul! I had no idea…” Fenn chuckled.
    Paul looked at him.
    “That you were a romantic!”

    “Will that be credit or debit?”
    “That’ll be debit.”
    “All right, slide your card through.”
    Fenn did.
    Brendan frowned and straightened his apron. “Could you try that again?”
    “You know,” Fenn said to Paul. “Every time this happens I always get afraid that someone had taken all my money, or I’ve miscalculated and don’t have a dime to my—ah—”
    “There it is,” Brendan said, cheerfully, as if he’d experienced a personal triumph. He took the little red pencil, circled the bottom, and said, “You’ve saved fifteen dollars and got ten gas points.”
    “That makes me so happy, Brendan,” said Fenn. “I can’t tell you how happy that really makes me.”
    “Mr. Houghton, I can never tell when you’re joking,” Brendan said with a grin and Fenn handed the receipt to Paul saying, “Mr. Houghton? It makes me feel so old.”
    “Well, you are old,” Paul said, taking the card.
    “I know,” Fenn lamented. “And I hate it.”
    “Have a good day,” the boy who piled the last of the groceries in the bag said with a grin and a shake of his head.
    “You too,” Fenn said, and helped push the cart a few feet toward the busy exit.
    “You know,” he murmured to Paul as they threaded the cart through trawling cars cars, “if I were a few years younger, and single again…”
    “Bagboy fantasies?”
    “I can’t help myself.”
    “I did a movie like that,” Paul murmured, as they headed out onto the blacktop. “It was actually called Bagboy Fantasy…”

    But by then they were long out of range of the dark auburn haired boy who had inspired their conversation. That boy was complaining to Brendan.
    “They only gave me ten hours this week.”
    “Don’t complain.”
    The boy shrugged, and then stood at attention. “New customers.”
    Brendan grinned and said, “Welcome to Martins, how is your day?”
    “Fine, thank you,” the new customer said.
    “We’re all so happy here!” the bag boy murmured behind Brendan, who nudged him, sharply and said to the old woman before him:
    “Do you have any coupons?”
    “Alrighty,” Brendan nodded and the bag boy poked him and mouthed, “Alrighty.
    “Who was the funny guy who just left?” Brendan’s bagger said out loud as he dodged the other boy’s kick. Diligently, he separated the cans from everything else as the produce came down the belt. Some people didn’t know how to bag at all. They just threw crap in.
    “Oh… that was Fenn Houghton. Runs the playhouse near downtown. Ah… goes to Saint Barbara’s, so you should know him.”
    “My family goes to Saint Agatha.”
    “Oh, really? Well… You know Layla?”
    “Lawden? Yeah. She’s seeing Will Klasko, right?”
    “Yeah. Will that be credit or debit?”
    “All right. Swipe your card, please. Do it hard and quick, the machine’s been having some trouble today.
    “Right, with Will Klasko. Anyway… that’s her uncle.”
    “Oh…I thought I’d seen him.”
    “Do you want cash back?”
    “Alright ma’am.” To his bagger: “You’ve probably just seen him at the store, Kenny.
    “You saved twenty dollars by using your Martins card, and earned 15 gas points. Have a great day.”
    “Do you ever feel like a loser?” said Kenny.
    “Wha?” Brendan found the question suddenly offputting.
    “I mean the whole, welcome to Martins… having to memorize everything, the whole script.”
    “Having to memorize everything and the whole script pays my car insurance and lets me be able to take Dena out. ”
    “I guess, but it just seems like they don’t pay us enough to remember all that.”
    “Honestly,” Brendan said, “I don’t even think about it. Except with someone like Fenn Houghton. You know, people who are sort of… real. They really are talking to you. So you really do have to talk back. Which is cool… But it makes it harder, makes you stumble over yourself a little bit.
    “Will that be credit or debit?”
    “I know,” Kenny said as new food came down the belt. “But that’s the worst part. For me. I mean, not even thinking about it. That’s what I mean by they don’t pay us enough. To just be nice, to just smile on cue. To just… There’s something wrong about this sh—”
    “Stuff,” Brendan said.
    “Sir, you saved thirty dollars and earned forty gas points.”
    He turned around and told Kenny, “Keep slipping up like that, and you’re going to earn unemployment.”

  16. #66
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    I hope that Paul and Noah see how much they like each other. Brendan seems to be in denial about his sexuality still. Keep up the good work!

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    Alas, there's so much that SHOULD happen, that may not. If only people inside of stories could see what we see about them so clearly.

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    “Would it be wrong if I didn’t go to Dena’s birthday party? Todd said.
    “Uhh,” said Fenn, who was deeply engrossed in clipping his toenails on the other side of the bed, “in all honesty, since you’re a grown up, it probably won’t matter.”
    “That’s what I was thinking.”
    “There are probably too many adults who are going to be there any way,” Fenn said. “Personally, I think Nell went overboard.”
    “Did you know Kevin will be there?”
    “Oh,” said Fenn. “Really?” Then he said, “Why?”
    “Nell says Dena wanted it that way.”
    “Well, then Dena wants grown ups I guess. I guess she’d want you.”
    “She brought you up too,” Todd added. With a teasing smile he said, “She seems to think you’re fun or something.”
    Fenn cracked a toenail, and he tossed it at Todd.
    “I have no idea why,” he said.
    “Oh, you’re so gross.”
    “It’s just a toenail. Can I guess,” Fenn asked, putting down the clippers, “that the reason you’re so put out with this party is that Kevin Reardon will be there?”
    “Of course that’s the reason,” Todd said. “I don’t want to see him.”
    “I don’t want to see him either. I remember the first time I met him. It was at Nell’s wedding and he was talking about the sins of sodomy.”
    “How ironic is that?”
    “And then Tom says to him, ‘Well, you know we’re a couple?’ And that’s when Kevin looks at me with this real, real toothy smile. I’ll never forget it. And he starts shaking my hand. He says: ‘We can still be friends because the Bible says hate the sin but love the sinner.’”
    “I don’t remember all that,” Todd said. “I was still a kid. I do remember…” Todd screwed his face up, “He shook your hand and screamed.”
    “Yes,” Fenn nodded.
    “That was because after he said that, I stabbed him with my steak knife.”

    Later on Todd admitted: “The same thing fazed me too. You know, I was at the grocery store, too, and this kid calls me sir. This was right out of college. I was twenty-three. He said, ‘Thank you sir,’ and it sort of crushed me. I started asking everyone how old I looked.”
    “I remember that,” Adele said. “I just didn’t know what all brought it on.”
    “That damn kid!” Todd said as Noah and Paul put away the food.
    “Can I talk to you?” Noah said to Paul as he was handed the bread.
    “Like now. Like as soon as possible.”
    “Cool.” Paul was about to put the Doritos away when Todd called:
    “Are those Doritos?”
    “Um hum.”
    “Sweet! Send em over here.”
    “You never get Doritos,” he said to Fenn.
    Paul hummed to himself and sang, “Told you so.”
    Fenn just scowled as Paul tossed the bag toward them.
    “You know what I noticed?” Fenn said.
    “That you should always get Doritos?” said Paul.
    “Well, yes, Paul, I guess I’m noticing that, now. But what I noticed before, about all of those teenagers…?”
    Todd, his lips cheesy, raised an eyebrow, waiting.
    “By the time you’re thirty, they’re all your age again, and no one’s calling you sir. I mean, Todd, after all, at one point in time I was a grown up, and you were one of those teenagers.”
    Todd laughed and said, “Hot damn, you’re right?”
    “How long have you known each other?” Noah asked.
    “Me and his sister grew up together,” Adele said. “Well, I guess me and Fenn and his sister.”
    “And Todd was this snot nosed kid who just used to tag along,” Fenn added, stealing a chip.
    “I was never snot nosed.”
    “He used to eat his own snot!”
    “Now, that’s a gross libel!” Todd threw a chip at him.
    “It’s gross,” Fenn said, “But not such a libel. Is it?” he turned to Adele.
    She shook her head and laughed.
    “I do remember,” Todd said, raising a finger, “being an extremely cool high school student.”
    “Well, by then we were all grown, anyway,” Adele said. “I’m talking about childhood. Or, specifically, your childhood.”
    “Your snot nosed childhood,” Fenn grabbed his nose.
    Todd feigned a frown and Fenn said, “But I love your snot nose.”

    Brendan frowned again and put his key in the ignition, turning hard.
    Again the engine roared, coughed, squealed and died.
    Brendan was about to twist the key again when Kenny stuck his head in the car and said, “You can abuse it all you want, I don’t think it’s gonna happen today. You don’t have jumper cables to do you?”
    “No,” Brendan said.
    “Well, neither do I. You want a ride?”
    “I live near Edgefield.”
    “Cool. That’s not far out of my way.”
    Brendan climbed out of the car, inquiring: “Do you need gas money?”
    Kenny laughed. “I don’t need anything from you, but for you to get in the car.”

    “So whaddo you do for fun? How come I never see you?”
    “Well, aren’t you in the cool crowd?” Brendan said.
    Kenny laughed.
    “There isn’t a cool crowd.”
    “Yes, there is,” Brendan protested. He listed on his fingers, “You’ve got all the folks who are in physics and AP classes and work on the newspaper and quiz bowl and the swim team. Maybe water polo.”
    “That’s a big group. A lot of people do that.”
    “No,” Brendan disagreed. “I mean that’s one group of folks. And then you got everyone in band and choir.”
    “That’s you.”
    “Pretty much. And the folks that do all the plays and the art classes. And then there are all the sports nuts.”
    “I am not a sports nut.”
    “You’re on the Lacrosse team. And you do track and field. That’s like what all the majorly cool folks do.”
    Kenny cackled and pointed ahead, “That’s the beginning of Edgefield.”
    “I live off of Callahahn.”
    “Oh, okay. Then that makes you one of the rich crowd!”
    “Shut up.”
    “Hey, if you’re gonna make fun of me I can make fun of you.”
    “I’m not making fun of anything. I’m just telling the truth.”
    The light turned red.
    “So,” said Kenny, striking a pose. “Does that make me cool? Do I look cool right now?”
    Brendan snorted.
    “Right now you just look goofy.”

    “So, what’s up? Whaddit you wanna talk about?”
    “Well,” Noah said, “I was gonna go see my mom for a few days.”
    “Great,” said Paul.
    “And then I was thinking about… I don’t know, getting out of here.”
    “See,” Noah said, “You’re loving this place. You never really wanted to be a pornstar.”
    “And you did? I can’t imagine anyone does.”
    “Some folks love it,” Noah said. “Didn’t it… Didn’t it make you feel alive? Didn’t it make you feel on edge?”
    “Yeah, sure,” Paul said, jamming his hands in his pockets. “It was like being on smack.”
    “Well,” Noah said, “yeah. The whole, I’m gonna fuck someone, or get fucked. On camera. I’m going be seen. There was just… something…”
    “Naughty about it.”
    Noah looked up at Paul and smirked. “Naughty is taking a lollipop from the corner store. This was… Paul, you gotta admit, there was something flat out high about what we did.”
    “And now?”
    “You fit in. You found Fenn. You’re acting at the playhouse and shit. This is your home.”
    “It’s your home, too, Noah.”
    “I need to do something exciting again.”
    “Like what?”
    “Like make another movie.”

    “Are you shitting me?”
    “No, Todd,” Adele said, reaching for a Dorito and crunching into it. “But I almost shit myself when she told me.”
    Fenn shook his head and murmured, “I knew Hoot was low, but I never knew he was that low.”
    “You never thought Hoot was low until I ended it.”
    “No, sister,” Fenn corrected. “I always thought he wasn’t worth shit. But how do you tell that to your sister?”
    “I wish you had.”
    Todd and Fenn said, at the same time, “No you don’t.”
    Adele covered her mouth and laughed.
    “No,” she nodded her head. “You’re right. I wouldn’t have heard it. I wouldn’t have heard it to the end.”
    She looked up at them.
    “How could I have been so stupid?”
    “Love makes you do stupid things,” Todd said, sympathetically.
    “No,” Adele shook her head, savagely. “Stupidity makes you do stupid things. Blindness makes you do stupid things. Wanting something bad to be good… so much. That makes you do stupid things.”
    Adele was quiet for a while, brooding over her cup of coffee.
    “Layla swears that that boy is Hoot’s.”
    When she said nothing, after a time, Fenn said, “And you want to go see the boy for yourself.”
    “I want to talk to Hoot myself.”
    “Well, I think you should,” Todd told her. “I think we should go over there and confront him.”
    “Yes,” Todd said. “Aren’t we in this together?”
    “Of course we are,” Todd shook his head, doggedly. “You shouldn’t go alone. Anytime you want to go over there we’ll drive, and we’ll stay in the car and wait for you to go up and do what you have to do.”
    “It won’t make anything better,” Adele said.
    “It might,” Fenn told her.
    “You too!”
    Fenn nodded.
    “I… don’t want to do that. I can’t do that,” Adele protested. “I can’t know.”
    She waited for one of them to say something. When no one did, Adele looked at them.
    “Well,” it was Todd who spoke, “see, I think you really do want to know, only you’re not strong enough for it now. I think deep inside you do know and you can’t bear to have it confirmed.”
    “But Todd’s right,” Fenn said, “When you’re ready we will go with you. You won’t be alone.”

  19. #69
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Sounds like Paul and Noah aren't on the same page with regards to their future. I still hope they become boyfriends. It seems like Brendan has a crush but maybe I am reading too much into it lol.

  20. #70
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Just keep reading...

  21. #71
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    Re: The houses in rossford



    “Mom!” Nell heard Dena call as her daughter entered the house.
    Years of being a mother had taught Nell that Dena’s calls were never as urgent as they sounded, and there was plenty of time to walk slowly to the kitchen. She could even shout:
    “Come out of the kitchen and help me with the groceries!”
    “Awriight, mom!” Dena came running out, as she went to the station wagon she said, “It’s Dad.”
    “Oh, shit!”
    “Be nice!” Dena sang as she headed out of the front door.
    Nell stood there with a grocery bag in either arm and waited for her daughter to be out of earshot before murmuring: “No… I won’t.”
    In the kitchen, after putting groceries on the round table, she picked up the ugly yellow phone that reminded her of the seventies and said, “Kevin?”
    Always that breathless joy, like they were old friends.
    “Hey, yourself.”
    “You sound a little tired.”
    “I am a little tired, Kevin. Now, what the fuck do you want?”
    Over the phone, Kevin cleared his throat.
    “Um, I wanted to know what you wanted me to bring to the party next Saturday?”
    “You don’t have to bring anything. Except for Dena’s present and half the bill for the party. And, of course, child support.”
    “Of course,” he said, sounding chastened..
    There was a quiet space and Dena came in with two bags.
    “Kevin, what? I’m really busy right now.”
    “You don’t really want me to come? Do you?”
    She looked around, made sure that Dena was sufficiently out of earshot again, and then said, “Of course I don’t want you to come to the party. I don’t ever want to see you again. I don’t want to talk to you.”
    “I know that,” Kevin said. His voice hardened, but Nell could tell he was trying to sound gentle. “And I don’t look forward to being stared at and hated. But Dena wants me there. I swore two things. I would never fight you for custody—”
    “You think you could have won it?”
    “Nell!” Kevin caught himself. He must have been taking a breath on the other end of the phone. He said, in a much quieter tone, “And the second was that I would always be there for my daughter.”
    “Yeah.” Suddenly Nell hated him for saying that. She said, “You go do that. See you on Saturday, Kev.”
    And she hung up the phone.

    When she was seventeen Nell Meraden was accepted to Loyola but decided she’d rather go to Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel was about twenty minutes outside of Port Ridge which was, to Nell, just far enough. She imagined that if she wanted to she could go home every night, but it was far enough that traveling like that would have almost been silly. Just far enough. Adele was going down South to some Black school whose name Nell, feeling abandoned, hadn’t bothered to learn.
    She’d thought that college would be the time of her life. What surprised her, after her parents drove away, was that all she wanted to do was cry. And she did. She cried and she didn’t eat for three days. She was afraid of the cafeteria, of showing up alone, of having no one to eat with. They would see her sitting by herself and say, that girl, who is she? Why is that loser all by herself? This was just too much, so she stayed in her dorm room. She had jumped at the chance to live in a dorm room by herself, to not have a roommate. In the movies people always had to live with someone else and to Nell, who had always had her own room, this seemed like an invasion of space. Now she wished she’d thought otherwise. She would have had a dinner partner. She and her new girlfriend would have gone off to eat together. With a partner she would be unstoppable. Together they would make fabulous friends.
    By Thursday she ventured to the cafeteria for a little bit of food, which she ate in haste as soon as the cafeteria opened. Then she fled. Enough years have passed that now when she things of it, Nell thinks, it would have been nice to sit by yourself, to not be bothered. Why did it bother me so then? She was such a different person. Life was kinder to her back then and so, paradoxically, she was afraid of it more, never having been through anything.
    Breakfast she enjoyed. The cafeteria was virtually empty. It was a time to be reflective. Lunch was the busiest and the most frightening. She skipped that altogether and listened to her stomach growl.
    “How is it?” her mother asked over the phone.
    “It’s nice, Mama,” she said.
    It was hell. She wished she could go home. She wished she’d stayed home and gone to Loretto College.

    Then, on Sunday night, she went to Mass, the one reliable thing. Toward the Lord’s Prayer the priest invited them to circle the altar—he called it a table—and hold hands through the Our Father. When Mass was over, and she was walking past the fountain outside of the church, Nell heard her name called.
    At first she didn’t turn around. She didn’t believe someone was actually calling her. It must have been another Nell. But then she realized that in eighteen years she had never met another Nell, and so she turned around.
    Grinning stupidly, the moon shining off of his round glasses, a gawky, bony limbed boy in shorts and tee shirt was coming up to her.
    “Hello, I’m Kevin.”
    “I’m Nell… But, you already know that.”
    “You’re in my core class,” he said. “I sit in the row behind you.”
    “Oh… I’m sorry. It’s my first week.”
    “Yeah,” he said. “I was like that my first semester. Scared. I mean… I don’t mean to imply that you’re scared… Just.”
    “I’m terrified,” Nell said. “I hate this place.”
    “No!” Kevin said, in a wounded voice. “It’s a great place. Really. Hey, guess what? How about you go to lunch with me tomorrow, and I start introducing you to some of my friends?”
    Kevin smiled brightly. How old was he? He was very tall, but something about him seemed younger than her.
    “I won’t take no for an answer.”
    “Well… okay,” Nell said.
    “Well great.” He made a quick salute and sliced the air. “I’ll see you in class tomorrow, Nell…?”
    At first Nell didn’t know what he wanted, then she said, “Oh… Meraden. Nell Meraden.”
    “Nell Meraden? I’m Kevin Reardon.”

    “I want you to come with me, Nell,” he said.
    Looking back she wonders what would have happened if he had said, “I need you to come with me.” Would that admission of need have changed the nature of their relationship? Because as long as they were together, for her the nature of it consisted in not looking too closely, not questioning. That first boylike insistence of Kevin had given way to something harder eventually. With age he had become a more solid, handsome man. His senior year he grew a goatee, a little soul patch under his chin and over the dimple in his chin, which he never lost. It drove the girls crazy. He played basketball and intramural football until his chest and arms grew powerful, and when he played he did it with the look of a demon, all black hair and fair skin and red cheeks, a man to be proud of.
    But as he grew more handsome he grew more serious and more distant from her. By the time he was going into graduate school and she was a junior in college, Kevin was very much in command of the relationship. The one time he had come back to visit she had let him treat her like a child. When she went to visit him, Nell observed Kevin was surrounded by fellows. They nodded their heads and even occasionally laughed at his comments. But he had no friends.

    At her graduation, when Kevin was wrapping up his second year of working on his doctorate, he told her, “I want you to come with me. I want you to be with me. That’s why we should marry.” He said it just like that, and then he took out the ring and it was done. Nell didn’t remember saying yes.
    “But you’re so young,” Adele said, even though she was only a year older and engaged to Hoot.
    “Everyone else I know is getting married,” Nell said. “I don’t think I’m too young.”
    “I think marriage if for the birds,” Fenn said. And then he amended, “No, No it isn’t. They know better.”
    “Oh, Fenn, birds mate for life.”
    “And birds have bird brains,” he said. “And, incidentally, ducks mate through rape.”

    Once she had seen a mallard duck climb on top of his wife and rape her. It was near the lake, outside of town, beyond the college and the green emerald wings of the mallard flapped and flapped and its yellow bill grasped the neck of the brown lady duck. It fucked her and one squawked in pain and the other in rage and triumph. Here was duck conception. What a world! And when she thought of her marriage to Kevin, for some reason this was what she thought about.
    In point of fact, the marriage hadn’t been long at all. Their courtship had been much longer. Only a few months after her college graduation, they went back home and married at Saint Barbara’s. It was the first time most of the people she knew met Kevin. Everyone was courteous except that Fenn stabbed him with a knife, and then they’d gone back out West.
    “What a quick marriage,” her mother told her. “Your aunts swear it’s cause you’ve got one in the oven.”
    Though her mother didn’t say it, Nell felt obliged to tell her, “There is no bun in the oven.”
    There could not be. Kevin was very serious, and very devout. They’d never done anything to put a bun in the oven.
    But Kevin must have been potent, for they hadn’t been married a year when she was pregnant, and Kevin was finished with his graduate work.
    “I’d like to stay around here,” he told her.
    But by then she had found some sort of voice. And she hated being “around here”. She hated the idea of being a professor’s wife in this sterile place where she was so small and so… nothing. But pregnant.
    “I want to go back home,” she said.
    “Co’mon, Nell,” he cajoled her. “You don’t wanna go back home. Don’t be such a baby.”
    “It’s easy for you to say. You have something here.”
    “You could have something here too. If you worked for it.”
    Her eyes lit. For the first time a rage, long dormant, came up in her.
    “Kevin, I’m going back to Indiana. You can come with me if you want, but I’m going back.”
    And that was that.

  22. #72
    Sex God CharmedFan28's Avatar
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Sounds like Nell has had a hard life and Kevin was not nice to her. I hope the party doesn't turn out to be too much of a disaster.

  23. #73
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    I wouldn't get my hopes up.... More tomorrow night. : )

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    Friday night, Todd sat in the back of the house, yawning and slapping his cheeks while he tried to piece a film together, the scenes turning into variations of blue light glazing over his eyes.
    “Do you plan to come to bed?” Fenn had asked a half hour ago.
    “Eventually. Yes.” Then Todd said, “Soon.”
    He worked like this, exhausted, in a place where absolutely nothing was really getting done, until his eyes hurt and his jaws cracked from yawning. He didn’t want to lie in bed for a long time with Fenn who would ask him questions, tell him how he really didn’t have to go to the party, how Dena was old enough to know the truth anyway. Then Todd would explain that Dena did know and Fenn would say, No. Not really. She thought she knew, but she didn’t really get it. It was all just a strange amusing footnote as to why her parents were divorced.
    Something like the set up for a TV show, Fenn had once said. It was an imagined history for the characters, but not one that Dena had actually been apart of.
    “She has no concept of what really happened. If she did, things would be very different.”
    “And that’s why she won’t have a concept,” Todd had said.
    They’d argued about this before.
    Todd climbed the stairs to bed. Paul and Noah were out at one of the gay nightclubs in town and, privately, Todd was convinced that they’d be disappointed.
    “You’re finally coming to bed!” Fenn said from the darkness of the bedroom.
    “I thought you were asleep,” Todd came into the room in the dark, stripping.
    “I was,” Fenn said.
    “I need a quick shower. I smell like funk and an ashtray.”
    “Then you’re right. You do need a shower.”
    Todd chuckled, and by the hallway light pulled off his briefs and then went into the bathroom. Fenn listened to the water run for a long while and drifted into half sleep. He awoke to the gravity of Todd’s naked body climbing into the bed, weighing it toward him. Todd turning around and pushing his body into Fenn’s.
    “I don’t care anymore,” Todd said after a long yawn.
    “I didn’t want to see Kevin. I still don’t… But I think I was afraid.”
    Fenn nodded. He nodded into Todd’s back.
    “I could stab him with a steak knife again.”
    Todd turned around so that his forehead was pressed to Fenn’s, and his nose was pressed to Fenn’s nose too.
    “Baby, I might take you up on that.”
    Fenn grinned and kissed his nose and then they pressed their faces together and Fenn said, “I might do it if you take me up on it or not.”

    When Todd was fourteen, and his father recently dead, Nell came back home big and pregnant and with her husband. Kevin Reardon was tall and handsome, had a decent job over at the college, and began to take the place of a father. Or at least an older brother.
    Todd loved Kevin’s touch. He loved the way Kevin would rest a hand on his shoulder when talking, or the way they would wrestle, the twinkle in Kevin’s eyes. The sun rose and set above Kevin Reardon, and Todd didn’t have any close friends who were boys. He’d wanted an older brother, someone to show him things. Well Kevin was it.
    The Meraden house, the one that had belonged to his grandparents, and that Nell and Dena now lived in, possessed a large study like one of those in the movies with great picture windows looking out onto the soft green grass of the garden. One day he walked in and Kevin was sitting under a huge bookshelf, smoking a pipe.
    “Do you know how to do this?” said Kevin.
    Todd shook his head.
    “Lock the door,” Kevin said.
    Todd turned around and did so. A thrill ran up and down him.
    “My dad used to,” he said. “Smoke a pipe.”
    Kevin nodded, as if he’d known this, maybe he did.
    “Come here,” Kevin said.
    They sat together, saying nothing. Kevin’s breath in the pipe made a slight whistle, and the smell was smoke and apples.
    “To keep the fire going,” Kevin said, “you have to breathe in, and out. In and out. Breathe. Watch my chest.”
    Todd watched the blue white smoke. He watched, under the white shirt, Kevin’s chest rise, and fall, rise, and fall.
    And then he started, shocked by the new touch.
    “Just…. Keep… breathing,” Kevin commanded, gently.
    But Todd was wearing thin jogging pants with no underwear and now Kevin’s hands were stroking him, thrust into his pants, making him hard.
    “It’s one of those things boys do,” Kevin told him in a gentle voice, his eyes still lowered reflexively as if concentrated on smoking the pipe. “You should have learned this a long time ago.”
    It went on a while, and then Kevin put the pipe down again. In a distant place Todd heard it clink against the glass tabletop. Kevin lowered himself from the couch and got down on his knees.
    “Todd,” his voice was thin, higher than usual. “I’ve wanted to do this along time. All right?”
    And then, while Todd did not move, while his hands gripped the seat, Kevin pulled down his pants, took his penis, and pulled it into his mouth.

    “Hey, do you know Kenny McGrath?”
    “Not, really,” Dena said, “Why?”
    “Well, you know who he is?”
    “Yeah. Plays on the Lacrosse team. I think Layla had a semi thing for him but didn’t want to admit it.”
    “Because he played Lacrosse?”
    “No,” Dena smirked, as if the answer was obvious. “Because he was white.”
    Brendan opened his mouth and closed it.
    “Well, what about Kenny?”
    “I wanted to know if he could come to the party.”
    “I guess so. Everyone else is.”
    “Oh, cool, because I already told him he could come.”
    “And like you said, everyone is coming, anyway.”
    “That new guy, Milo, will be here.”
    “I don’t know him,” Brendan said. “Well, none of us does. You know, cause he’s knew. I’m thinking we ought to ask him to lunch, but he just doesn’t seem like a lunchy type of guy.
    “I heard,” Brendan said, “that back home—where he comes from—he stole a car. And that’s why he’s with the Affrens now.”
    “Well, I don’t know about all that, but I do know he’ll be at the party this afternoon.
    “Bren, I didn’t even know you knew Kenny.”
    “We work together. At Martins. Neither one of us can get enough hours. We’ll be to the party after our shift is over.”
    “That’s about five, right?”
    “No, it’s about seven. I know—” Brendan said, “But I can’t complain. I’ve been complaining about not getting enough hours. And it’s almost summer so the sun’s up longer.”
    “True, but this is the first year I’ve had a real boyfriend. It’ll be weird waiting and waiting for him, and then he shows up in a Martins apron.”
    “Well, just think about this: me and Kenny’ll be in matching uniforms, and then you can tell everyone you’re dating both of us.”
    Dena looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
    “You know,” he said, “Ménage a bagboy.”

    I USED TO go out to parties
    And stand around
    'Cause I was too nervous
    To really get down
    And my body
    to be free
    So I got up on the floor and found
    Someone to choose me
    No more standin' along the side walls…

    “How’s my girl?”
    “Good, Daddy? It’s a great party.”
    “Well,” Kevin hugged her tightly, “nothing but the best sweet seventeen for my Dena.”
    “Okay, Dad. Really, it’s supposed to be a sweet sixteen.”
    “I know that. I see TV too, believe it or not. But it’s too late for that, so you get a sweet seventeen. Fair enough?”

    I'm gonna make romance
    With your body,
    Ooo baby, you dance all night
    Get down and prove it, feel all right….

    Dena grinned at her father. “Fair enough.”
    “Happy Birthday, Dena,” Fenn said, as he and Todd came near.
    “Fenn,” said Kevin. “Todd.”
    “Scuse me,” Dena said, suddenly. “Brendan’s here! Bren!” she waved across the crowded lawn.
    “You look good, Kevin,” Fenn said. When Dena had gone to greet Brendan and Kenny, he added, “Who are you sleeping with?”
    “I mean, right now you look so good I’d sleep with you myself if I weren’t already with Stretch over here,” He squeezed a bewildered Todd around the waist.
    Kevin tried to smile politely, and pushed up his stylish spectacles.
    “Thank you… Fenn.”
    “Remember back before I knew which way you swung? Remember all those years ago? At this house? At your wedding when we met and you made that crack.”
    “I don’t remember.”
    “Oh, Kev, I’m sure there are lots of things you can’t remember, but—”
    There was a tap on Fenn’s shoulder.
    “Wha? Adele?”
    “Fenn, can I talk to you?”
    “Yes,” Fenn said. “Give me one second.”
    Adele nodded.
    “You know, how you went on about the perversities of homosexuality before you turned out to be… well… you know.”
    Fenn turned around, “Was that a good one, sis?”
    “It was a rough one,” she acknowledged.
    “Well, I have to talk to my sister right now,” Fenn told Kevin. “I’m just going to let you sit on that little irony. By the way, Kevin, you really do look fucking delicious.”
    Fenn went away with his sister, leaving Todd. The two tall men stood dumbfounded, looking at each other, and then Todd said, “I can’t talk to you. You know that.”
    He turned away and left as quickly as possible, bumping into his sister.
    “Todd,” Nell tried to get a hold of him.
    “How could you?” Todd said, suddenly.
    “How could you ask for me to be here, and have him here?”
    “We talked about this.”
    “No” Todd said. “It’s not worse for you. It’s worse for me. You don’t understand anything.”
    He grasped her by the wrists so hard that it hurt her.
    His face went red and then green and white. He shook her.
    “No!” he growled.
    Then he pushed Nell away, and pushed through the crowd to go back into the house.

    “You were right,” Adele told her brother. “I need to know. I need to know tonight. I feel… I feel like I can’t breathe. The center of my head hurt just thinking about it. I have to know, Fenn.”
    Fenn nodded.
    “And I need you and Todd to go with me.”
    “Well, do it,” Fenn told her. “If Todd’s awake and—”
    Suddenly, the backdoor flew open and Todd half marched, half ran through the kitchen.
    “Todd!” Fenn called, and then held a finger up to Adele and went after Todd.
    Todd had disappeared into the library, and Fenn rapped on the door a long while before Todd unlocked it and rolled the doors open.
    “I love you, all right?” Todd said. “But I need you to get the fuck away from me. All right? I need to be left alone. Now clear out, Fenn.”
    He shut the doors, and Fenn heard the click of the lock as Adele and Nell came down the hall.
    He put a finger to his lips and came closer to them.
    “If you’re wise, you’ll leave him alone,” Fenn said. “For the time being.”
    Nell put a hand to her mouth.
    “I’m such a fool,” she said. “I’m a fool.”

    “So, where are you from?”
    “I’m from Pennsylvania,” Milo said, pushing a hand through his hair. “Outside of Philadelphia.”
    “Good ole Philly,” Kenny intoned.
    “You’ve been?”
    Kenny turned red and said, “No. It just seemed cool to say.”
    “Is it cool in Pennsylvania?” Brendan asked, grinning at Kenny, who rolled his eyes.
    “It’s alright.”
    “Is it… different than here?” Will Klasko asked.
    “Will, of course it’s different,” Layla said.
    “Actually, it isn’t,” said Milo. “I mean, it’s a little busier. But… you know, it’s a little grey too. More East Coasty. But, otherwise, it’s not different from here at all.”
    “I think,” Layla said, “what everyone really wants to know is did you steal a car?”
    Milo’s eyes bugged out.
    “Layla!” said Dena, but Milo had burst out laughing.
    “No,” Milo shook his head. “You don’t pull any punches, do you?”
    “Hell, no.”
    “Well, then yeah, just cause you had the balls to ask I’ll tell you. I did steal a car.”
    “Why?” Will said. But Kenny leaned forward, pressed a hand to his dark curls and said, “Sweet!”
    “Cause… I was bored. Cause I wanted to know if I could—”
    “You need to leave!”
    They all turned to the back patio.
    “I just got here, Nell, this isn’t your party. It’s Dena’s.”
    “You’ve been here too long, Kevin! It’s causing too much pain. You have to go.
    In a circle, Dena’s friends sat with variations of hunched shoulders trying to pretend they didn’t hear.
    “You told me, you know what you told me over the phone?” she demanded. “You told me that the one thing you promised was you would always be there for your daughter. Well, that’s great.”
    The whole yard was silent now.
    Dena’s skin was cold and prickly. She felt a hand on hers, and was surprised to see it wasn’t Layla’s. Or even Brendan’s. It was Milo’s.
    “It’s no use pretending you don’t hear,” he whispered to her. “Go on up there.”
    “I’m so embarrassed.”


    “There’s nothing for you to be embarrassed about,” Milo said, looking around the circle. “Everyone here… is your friend.”
    They all nodded, and Layla stood up and motioned for Dena to come with her.
    At the sliding door, Adele and Fenn were standing, and Dena said, “Mom, Dad, could we take it inside. You all split up along time ago.”
    “It’s not about us,” Nell said.
    “It’s about what I am,” Kevin said.
    Out of the corner of her eye she saw that Todd had now come to screen door too.
    “It’s about what you did. What you did that I thought was just... something wrong and silly and a little harmful. It’s about what you did to Todd.”
    Dena knew that. It was history. It was legend. When Todd was a high schooler, her age, Nell had found him in bed with Kevin. It was one of those mildly shocking, but in time halfway funny stories mentioned ruefully in passing.
    “It’s old news,” Dena said. “We all… we already know about it.”
    “No you don’t, Dena,” she turned and heard her uncle through the screen.
    “It’s time you did.”
    “It is time,” Fenn spoke now, “for everyone to stop making a scene. Dena, you need to go and talk to your uncle—”
    “I don’t know what he’s going to tell her—” Kevin began.
    “Kevin, you gotta go,” Adele said. “Com’on, you gotta go.”
    Kevin opened his mouth, and then closed it.
    “Nell,” Fenn told her, “you gotta go out and keep this party going.”
    Nell opened her mouth, too. But Kevin was already being led out the door by Adele, and Nell went to the stereo.
    Fenn followed her.
    “It’s not so bad,” he said, “Maybe now you all can start to recover from a wreck that’s twenty years old.”

  25. #75
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Poor Todd! I am sad he had to go through that. I like Kevin even less now. You were right about the party lol. I can't wait for Monday to read what happens next.
    Last edited by CharmedFan28; March 22nd, 2019 at 01:49 AM.

  26. #76
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    Re: The houses in rossford



    When they needed an intramural football coach, Kevin was there. Back then Saint Barbara’s was a girl’s school and, before it shut down, Saint Carmine was the boy’s school. Todd was going there, and they had planned a camping trip but needed a chaperone. Right around the time Nell was born, Kevin stepped up and volunteered.
    “He’s like a little boy,” Nell marveled.
    “Right now he reminds me,” Todd’s mother said, “of how he was when I first met him. He hasn’t been that way in a long time.”
    They went to Duncan Shores Park, about two hours northwest, a wood by the lake. Now and again, years later, Todd went there by himself, though in their first year together he had talked Fenn into going too. The trees were so high you forgot everything and lost yourself in green and gold. They had four tents. Kenny and Reese stayed in one. Parker and Will in another, Bertram and Derrick in the third and Todd shared one with Kevin. They stayed up all night and retired to bed after smothering the fire.

    In the night, half asleep, Todd awoke filled, pressed into. He murmured, coming into wakefulness, processing it all.
    “Just be quiet,” Kevin said gently, on top of him, pressing into him. “Just be quiet, and breathe… Next time you can do it to me. Just…”
    Kevin stopped talking, his firm hands on Todd’s shoulders as he fucked him.
    “Oh…” Kevin breathed. “Oh… Gaw—”
    With a sucking sensation, Kevin pulled out of him and then, on his back, on his buttocks, Todd felt the slick heat of Kevin’s semen.
    “Oh… oh…” Kevin muttered, his voice catching.
    In the darkness Kevin was breathing hard and Todd squeezed himself from the inside. He’d never really had a consciousness that there was something inside, a place he could be entered. Now it throbbed with awareness. It didn’t hurt, not really.
    “Did you like it?” Kevin whispered solicitously, wiping Todd’s back and buttocks carefully. Kissing him at the cleft of his behind. “Did you? I hoped you would.” He stroked Todd’s hair.
    “I guess,” he said.
    But then he didn’t really know what else to say.

    That’s how it all began. The next two years of his life, sex and love and affection were confusing for him. He didn’t hate Kevin. He didn’t hate Kevin’s touch. In fact, he hated when Kevin didn’t do things to him, if Kevin stayed away too long. He stayed awake at night, longing for the time when Kevin would turn the door of his bedroom, come in, take off his clothes and cover him like the shower of gold on Danae. And it wasn’t one sided. Whatever Kevin did to him, he instructed Todd in. The rules were simple. When Kevin wanted it, that was when they had it, and if Kevin wanted to fuck him that was what they did, and when Kevin wanted to be fucked, they did that too. And no one was to know, but this was just common sense. Kevin never said it.
    But once, Kevin wanted it in the day. He wanted it while Nell was supposed to be out with Mom getting new little baby clothes for Dena. But she came home. She left Dena downstairs. She went to her room, which is where Kevin said he wanted it that day, and what happened was a confusion of sensations and feelings. Kevin shuttling down on top of him, slack jawed and red faced, the screaming, the stumbling, the bedcovers and Kevin’s body covering him like a shelter, barring him from his sister’s wide eyed gaze. Too much light, too much screaming, too much reality.

    “Is that true?” Dena said. “Is it all true?”
    “I,” Nell pronounced, “am a stupid, stupid bitch.”
    Todd looked at her for a long while, as if he were puzzled.
    She looked up at him.
    “You didn’t know. You didn’t know anything but that one day. What you walked into.”
    “I didn’t ask,” Nell said. “I didn’t want to know.”
    “It’s true?” Dena said.
    “All of it,” said Todd.
    “He’s my dad,” said Dena.
    “I—” she opened her mouth, then she turned around and left the study.
    “Someone should go after her,” Adele said.
    Fenn sat down beside Todd and said, “You sit still, Nell. That’s what her friends are for.”
    Todd turned to Fenn.
    “For a long time I thought it was Kevin… that turned me gay. That’s why I had a hard time with it. Now, I know Kevin just took advantage of that fact. That that’s who I was all along. It really screwed me up. For a long while. With love. With sex. You wouldn’t have known. I’d gotten through it all when I finally got with you.”
    “I don’t know, Meraden,” Fenn smiled gently, and pulled his tall boyfriend over in a rough hook, knuckling his head. “You’re still pretty screwed up to me.”

    The Land Rover pulled up to 15264 Troyer, and Todd look back at Adele, his expression asking, Are you sure you want to do this?
    Beside Nell, she nodded, opening the back door, climbed out, and rounded the car. Fenn watched his sister go up the walk. Adele looked at the two cars ahead of the Land Rover, one red car she didn’t know, and Hoot’s Saturn. She rang the doorbell.
    It took a while. Probably everyone was wondering who would arrive at night. But then the door was answered by a boy taller than she was, blinking back at with her husband’s eyes.
    “Hello, Ma’am… Can I help you?”
    “I’m looking for Hoot Lawden.”
    The boy screwed up his face, and then said, “Hold on.” He closed the door a little, leaving her out on the stoop.
    Where she belonged.
    But no, wasn’t she the aggrieved one? Wasn’t she the one who had been cheated on? Shouldn’t she just march up into that house? Ah, but she couldn’t if she wanted to.
    In the car, Nell, putting her fist in her mouth murmured over her knuckles, “We both married assholes.”
    Hoot came to the door, tired, irritated.
    “Adele, what is this?”
    “That boy,” Adele said.
    “Is that your son?”
    “Look, Hoot, you got me out on this stoop, in the middle of the night without so much as a come in or a fuck you, and I just want to know… is that boy yours?”
    “Shh!” Hoot closed the door behind him and stepped onto the stoop.
    “Keep your voice down, Dell?”
    “Is he, Hoot? Goddamn, give me some truth. Just a little motherfuckin’ truth.”
    “Yes? Yes, he’s your son? Yes, you’ve been fucking this woman basically the whole time we were married? Yes, you have a second family you got up and left me for?”
    “Yes,” Hoot said.
    “And I didn’t get up. You told me to get up.”
    “Cause you fucked up.”
    Hoot said nothing. There was just the chirruping of crickets outside, and now Hoot noticed the Land Rover by its absence of noise, because, Todd had just turned off the engine.
    “Gas is expensive,” he whispered to Fenn.
    “Adele.” Hoot said.
    She put a hand up and turned around.
    “Baby,” she muttered, walking back to the car, “you fucked up.”

  27. #77
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Great conclusion to the chapter. Some really screwed up characters, I hope they get whats coming to them. I feel so sorry for Todd and Adele.

  28. #78
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    there's so much more to come. I can't promise everyone will get what's coming to them anytime soon, but... such is life. Thanks for reading!

  29. #79
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    Re: The houses in rossford



    “Dena, I know I said we could spend the afternoon together,” Brendan began, crossing the blacktop to where she sat with Will and Layla in Saint Barbara’s portico. “But I got a call for some extra hours, and you know I need extra hours. Kenny’s about to go over so I thought I’d just ride with him. Since my car’s still in the shop.”
    Dena shrugged—what could she do?—and said, “Alright, I guess.”
    Milo was a pace off, finishing a cigarette. He climbed from the wall and approached them as Brendan kissed Dena, quickly, and turned to go back into the school.
    “I was about to take Layla to her uncle’s,” Will began. “But we can run you home first.”
    “That’s not necessary,” said Milo. “I’ll drop you off.”
    “I couldn’t ask that.”
    “But you didn’t ask it,” Milo pointed out. “I offered. I mean, unless you don’t want me to.”
    “No,” Dena said, quickly. “I do. Just… I didn’t want to put you out or anything.”
    “Well, you’re not putting me out,” Milo said. “Or anything. All right?”
    Dena nodded,
    Milo held his hand out in courtly fashion and said, “Shall we go?”
    Dena took it and nodded.
    “Now,” Milo said, as they climbed into the red velvet cake plushness of the Crown Victoria, “you may notice the distinct scent of pine coming from this air freshener swinging from the rear view mirror. That, and other things like the plastic Virgin Mary on the dashboard, are all courtesy of my grandparents, Barb and Robert Affren. Now strap yourself in and get ready for a fun ride. Where are we off to, m’lady?”
    “You know this car reminds me of a taxi cab?”
    “Do I remind you of an Arab?”
    “I am an Arab.”
    “No, you’re not! Stop.”
    “No, I am, seriously. My mother’s mother was from Iraq and my grandfather—that’s the Meraden—was from Syria, second generation. My great grandparents came from Lebanon.”
    “Oh,” said Milo. “So you are an Arab. I guess that means you should smack me on the head.”
    Dena reached over and smacked him. Softly.
    “Uh, I need to show you how to get to Randolph Street,” she said. “I just realized you can’t really know this town that well.”
    “Okay. So whaddo I do?”
    “Well, first,” said Dena, “you make a U-turn or something, because you’ve been going in the wrong direction for the last two blocks.”
    “Well, see, that’s what you get for making fun of my people.”
    “Let me turns this car around at the light.
    “Are you all right?”
    “Because you made fun of Arabs? Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.”
    “No!” Milo hit the car horn. “Because of Saturday?”
    “Oh… Oh, crap, yeah,” said Dena.
    “My father is…” Dena shook her head. “I can’t even think about it, you know? I need some fucking answers. And… Even though I need them, I’m not entirely sure I’m ready for them. All right. Now a block after Saint Barbara’s you make a right turn. Oh, sorry, I meant two blocks.
    “And to make it worse, Brendan.”
    “He seems like a straight up guy.”
    “He is,” Dena said. “But the whole thing about ‘I need more hours. I gotta go to the store.’”
    “Well, I guess a guy has to work.”
    “Not when he’s seventeen and his parents have money! He should be here, instead of working at Martins checking out people’s groceries to get some artificial sense of independence. I’m so… oh, crap!”
    “I’m sorry, I missed the last turn. You gotta turn the car around.”
    Milo sighed and pulled the car over.
    Dena, whose hand was pressed to her head, pulled it out of her thick hair and said, “Are you going to throw me out?”
    “I should,” Milo said, “but it looks like you need to talk. Wanna grab a coffee or something?”
    “I hate coffee,” said Dena, grinning. “Let’s grab a something, instead.”

    “Hell no, I don’t want to meet him,” Layla said.
    They were in Fenn’s kitchen, and Will shrugged, sorry he’d brought up the question.
    Layla did not let it go..
    “I find out that all my life my daddy was screwing someone else, and had a baby by her, who is a grown man now, who is my age now, and you think I want to meet him?”
    “Lay,” Fenn said, pacifically, “don’t bite Will’s head off for something he didn’t do.”
    Layla blinked, and seemed to see them both for the first time.
    “I’m sorry, Will,” she said. “It’s just…”
    “You don’t have to explain,” he told her. “It’s like… If I found out my dad did that it would be just like… my whole life was a lie.”
    “I feel like my life is a lie,” Layla said.
    “That’s nonsense,” Fenn told her. “Your father’s life was a life and… to hell with him.”
    “I hope Mama doesn’t go into nice mode,” Layla said.
    “Nice mode?” Will said.
    “Yeah,” Layla shook her head. “She’ll start telling me things like, well, he is your brother. Maybe you should get to know him. Or… well, you know, your father is your father. I don’t want what he did to me to interfere with your relationship with him.”
    “Um,” Fenn took a cigarette from his breast pocket, “Adele would say some bullshit like that.”
    “Well, I hope she understands he didn’t just do it to her. He did to it to me.” Layla looked as if she were marshalling her thoughts. Her brows were furrowed.
    “AND,” she said, “I don’t want to know him. That boy. And I don’t want to talk to my father, either.”
    “You’ll have to,” Will said. “One day.”
    She looked at him, disgusted.
    “No, I don’t,” she said. “Not today and not any day if I don’t feel like it.”
    Will shook his head.
    “She’s a Houghton,” Fenn assessed, “to the teeth.”
    There was a knock at the side door, and before Fenn could answer it Dan Malloy entered.
    “Father Malloy,” the kids sat straighter.
    “Danny, still in your work clothes.”
    Dan blinked and looked down at himself, pressing his index finger to his Roman collar.
    “Ah… yeah. Hey, guys,” he said to Layla and Will. Then, “Fennjamin, can I speak to you?”
    “Fennjamin?” Layla said.
    “It’s a childhood thing,” Fenn said, and stepped outside, motioning for Dan to follow.

    On the stoop in the carport, Dan said, “I think I found out what you can do with the money.”
    “Really?” Fenn said. “And you came right over on a Monday afternoon to tell me,”
    “Well, I was feeling brave, Fenn, and I wanted to stay that way.”
    “All right,” said Fenn. “Okay, what will we do.”
    “Well, I found someone with a contact who can get us an appointment with this nice little off shore Caribbean bank. If you can find someone to get to Florida with the money, and then from Florida to the Keys, and then from the Keys meet the contact who will get you to… I don’t even know the island.”
    “Is it in the Caymans?”
    “Hell, I don’t know! Sure!”
    “Well, good.”
    “Fenn, you need someone you can trust, all right? You need someone who knows how everything works and can explain it to you, so you can get to your money.”
    “Of course.”
    “And.. And I would recommend that you or whoever goes drives down there. I don’t trust planes for something like this, With security and everything.
    “And… and… we have to make sure the bills aren’t marked. Wait, no we really don’t. It’ll be in another country. No one will ask questions. Oh… oh,” Dan did a small dance of frustration, “We’ve gotta be really, really careful, Fenn.”
    “I know,” Fenn grinned at Dan. And then he frowned.
    “Ah… your contact…?”
    “Who the hell are they? I mean…. How did you get criminal contacts?”
    Dan looked instantly stupid, and then completely guilty.
    “Well, you’d never guess.”
    “No, and I never will, not if you don’t tell me.”
    “Get ready for this…”
    “Bob and Barb Affren.”

  30. #80
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Sounds like Dena and Brendan might be headed for a split. This whole money they found thing is only going to lead to trouble. Great writing and I look forward to the next part!

  31. #81
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    Re: The houses in rossford

    Stay tuned for tomorrow night's episode!

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