Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Rust Belt by Jessica Freely

Seth is scarred, body and soul. When he meets lonely, virginal David, their shatteringly erotic encounter makes anything seem possible, even love. But in a desperate town, the past is hard to escape.

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“Want some Thai noodles?”

Seth looked up from the trash can he’d been sorting through and into the most beautiful brown eyes he’d ever seen. They belonged to a young man about his own age, on the short side and slight of build, with blond hair and cute, pert features. Seth had seen him around before, had covertly admired his ass as he made his way to and from his job at the little book store across the street. But until now he hadn’t realized how much he looked like the Kid. The resemblance hit Seth like a mallet to the face and he took an involuntary step backward.

“Hey, easy. I’m not going to hurt you. I just saw you and…” He lifted a Styrofoam box. “I couldn’t finish my lunch and I thought you might…”

Seth blushed, though whether it was because this guy actually thought he was afraid or simply because of being caught rummaging through the trash, he didn’t care to examine. He ducked his head and accepted the noodles. “Thank you.”

“No problem.” The guy turned and walked back across the street to the book store. It was a cozy place with a green awning and old-fashioned brass fittings on the door. It stood sandwiched between a bakery and the Thai Restaurant.

Seth watched him go, noting the way his brisk strides made his butt move. Sudden wistfulness overcame him. “Not for you,” he whispered to himself.

The guy, Seth decided to call him Books, really did look a lot like the Kid, but that was a bad thing to dwell on. If he opened those floodgates he’d drown in a tide of bad memories. Instead, he went over to a nearby bench and opened the Styrofoam box. Steam and chili spice wafted up and he lowered his face over the still-hot noodles, breathing in the aroma. The red pepper stung his nostrils and cleared his sinuses. His stomach, ever the pragmatist, rumbled and he dug in, allowing no more thoughts of things he couldn’t have or change.

God the noodles were good. Hot, with strips of chicken and little ground up chunks of peanuts. Seth couldn’t remember the last time he’d had anything as good as this. And there was a lot of it, too. Enough to take back to his little hidey hole under the overpass and finish later.

Mouth bulging and stomach rapidly filling, Seth sat back on the bench and let one of those rare waves of sated ease wash over him. Hunger and remorse were distant things in this moment. Soon they’d be back to keep him company, but for now, he was free to think on other things.

Like Books, for instance. He’d gone out of his way to give Seth this food, literally: the restaurant was on the same side of the street as the book store. Most people wouldn’t do that. Most people were too caught up in their own lives. Even the ones who did notice him usually shied away, uncomfortable or afraid. Seth was tall, rangy, with long unkempt hair and a black beard badly in need of a trim. With his army jacket from Coats for Hope, he resembled a crazy Vietnam vet. It took a fair amount of guts to walk up to a guy like him, who was pawing through a trash can, and offer him your leftovers. But Books had, and he’d crossed the street to do it.

Seth had seen Books walking to work and back every day. He was a book store clerk without enough money for his own car. He probably could have used these leftovers himself.

There weren’t enough brave, kind people in the world. Sitting there on the bench, staring at the book store as he ate, Seth made up his mind to look out for this one. This little business district was surrounded by a lot of not-so-cool neighborhoods and abandoned industrial areas.

The Kid was dead. There was nothing Seth could do about that and maybe there never had been. But keeping Books safe represented a new opportunity for Seth to do something useful with his misbegotten life.


But when Books really needed him, Seth wasn’t there.

It was three weeks since the leftovers incident and every night Seth made sure to be around the book store at closing time. Not wanting to alarm Books, Seth shadowed him from a distance.

The weather that night was typical for November: cold and drizzly. Seth hung back more than usual because the fine mist in the air would carry the sound of his footsteps farther. He desperately did not want Books to notice him, and that made him wonder, was he really protecting him with this nightly secret escort, or just stalking him? The fact that once he got back to his sleeping place under the overpass, he would jerk off to visions of Books as he had done every night for three weeks made a good case for the stalking rap.

So maybe it was these doubts or maybe it was just his ever-demanding hunger that made him go with the trick instead of continuing to shadow Books.

The business district dwindled away past Seventh Street and the next several blocks were dominated by an old derelict stamping plant, its surrounding parking lots, and an abandoned warehouse that now served as a cruising ground. Seth was walking past the warehouse when a car pulled up and some guy leaned out the window. “Hey, I’ll give you a twenty if you blow me.”

Seth turned a trick or two from time to time. Often it was the difference between a meal and another day going hungry. Just like right now. He hadn’t had any luck dumpster diving for the past two days. His stomach was so tight it was wrapped around his spine.

But he’d made a vow, and it’d be kinda hard to protect Books with this closeted suburban queer’s cock down his throat. Seth glanced up and saw Books turning down the street that ran alongside the plant. It was only a few more blocks from there to his apartment.

“Hey, deerhunter, you want the money or not?” The trick waved a twenty at him.

He really did. And Books was almost home. Seth’s hunger took over and he nodded and reached for the money.

He was on his knees in the alley around the corner, clutching the twenty in his fist and about to go down on the trick when he heard the shouting -- angry voices and one frightened one from the direction of the old stamping plant.

Shit! Books!

He stood up and shoved the twenty at the trick. “I’m sorry,” he said, and he took off toward the plant.

Jessica Freely

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