The three men watched the boy and the warehouse for months. Most often they trailed his forays into Overton Park to get pot from some of the aging hippies who he would then sleep with in exchange. It didn’t seem to make a difference to the boy, his feet planted firm in the dirt, shorts around his ankles, bucking with verve against the older men in their pleasure groaning. He always used a condom, one of the men noted. The others smiled at this, as if they just heard it was a fine day outside, sunny, not too warm.
Aside from these park excursions, the men knew that the boy went to one of the local universities, a private one, filled with too-much-money, not-enough-good-sense types. Two of the three men had gone here in their youth. They remembered hooking up one time in the observatory, after sneaking in one Wednesday night. Years later, when they met again for this newer purpose, it took them a while to figure out how they knew each other, as they hadn’t exchanged names back then, the hot run of jism on their thighs name enough for both.
The boy attended class regularly, from what they could see, not stopping to talk when people yelled his name across the quad, Cole, hey Cole!, often eating alone outside of the library. From afar, the boy seemed to relish this apartness, and as the men knew of his sexual appetites and drugs, they traced each odd smile they saw from him back to what he believed no one knew.
They often saw the boy along South Main, as he stopped into American Apparel. From the window, one of the men could see the boy turn in front of the mirror outside of the dressing room, casting long glances at the way his ass appeared in the expensive pants. He retained an almost mythic quality about him in this way, staring into the mirror, yet always avoiding his own eyes, knowing the men he had sex with rarely looked into his eyes. Oftentimes the boy would steal clothes from the store, the man watching him from outside better at spotting this than the employees. The boy shuffled out of the store, the smallest of grins playing along his face. The men thought that he must do it because of the thrill.
He wore his black hair slung low across his forehead, obscuring his eyebrows, his green eyes. From what the men saw of him at the park, the boy was slightly muscular, his calves bulging as he fought his buckling legs, being fucked by the older men in the park at dusk. Not muscular enough to be a problem, the men thought, each turning the boy over in his own mind, already thrusting inside of him, spending hot across those impossibly full lips. His back was crossed with thin scars, white and jagged, the thought of Pollock crossing one of the men’s minds. More of a thing of beauty, of mystery, than disfigurement.
The fact that no bums slept in this warehouse, at least not in the months of its observation, pleased the men. Its downtown location proved to be remote enough that no one would be able to hear, should anything happen. This area was one of the run-down parts not yet gentrified by the city or private developers.
They had taken care to procure the things necessary from a Goodwill near the main university in town. Old mattresses, a card table, tools, and blankets formerly owned by college students. After the months of watching and waiting from benches and storefronts, behind racks and tables and foliage, they were ready.
Cole stepped into his room after walking back home from campus. Tossing his bag and jacket, he walked over to his desk, unplugging his headphones and placing his iPod into its dock, the song only pausing for a moment in transition. He stuffed a towel into the crack in the door and opened up a leather-bound edition of Paradise Lost, of which he had carved out the middle and made into a stash-box for his pot and pipe. The music led him through this ritual of smoking as through every part of his day, except class, when he could choose the sounds, canceling out the drone of conversation, thinking of the park, the way he had to squint because of the light through the leaves and the slight tinge of pain coming from behind. Today was a jazz day though and now “Blue Moon” soared through the room, and as it lowed, a great emptiness filled Cole’s heart. With the click of the next song, Cole decided to walk down to the park after all. He could do his homework later.
The truth was, Cole loved older men. Even before the thing with his father, Cole liked their eagerness to be with someone younger, their joyous acceptance of youth and their inhabitance of it, for that moment. Unlike Cole, most of these men were calm and clean from waiting near the bathroom or some out in the bushes within the nature trail. Cole ran forty-five minutes every day, and then would prowl, sweaty, breathing hard, muscles alive beneath his skin.
Coming through the Japanese maples, red light flooded the path. Cole ran into this great swell of light, his mid-thigh blue shorts and white tank top discolored, rippling in purple shadows. He caught the eye of a tall man as he rounded the corner towards the bathrooms and drinking fountain. Cole returned his slight nod and jogged to a stop. He bent over and drank from the fountain, catching some in his hand and running it through his hair, over his gleaming face.
How’s it going?
Good, just running.
I see that. You look like you need
to relax. Take a load
Yeah that sounds good.
The man thumbed his hard-on through jeans, gestured to his car. Cole shook his head.
I do it here, or not at all.
Smiling, the man gestured into the bathroom then and Cole felt for the condom wrapped into the waistband of his pants. Inside the last stall, the man already has his pants down and stroked his dick, already slick with spit. Again Cody shook his head, held up the condom. The man’s mouth crooked slightly, as if off-put, but he grabbed the wrapper and slid out the shiny latex, almost the same red, Cole thought, as the maple-light. The man entered Cole, who bent his knees slightly and bucked against him, slow at first, but then building into a fury. The man almost couldn’t believe this wild young thing—going at it like it was his whole life. Cole felt purpose in every thrust, every time he cried out, when the man would swat his ass. All of this filled Cole with comfort; something deep inside of him was at rest here, with the stranger inside of him, Cole’s hand grabbing the stall door to steady himself, the dingy light, fear of someone walking in in every second’s shadow. The man said, Hey and Cole turned around. He caught the man looking into his eyes, and then Cole blushed, turning away, and pumped against the stranger even harder.
Fifteen minutes later, as the tied-off condom whirled down the drain, the man shook Cole’s hand
That was fucking awesome man. You’re good. What’s your number? What’s your name?
but Cole said nothing, walking out of the bathroom, his legs slightly shaking. Picking up his pace a bit, he switched his iPod back on, the sound of Coltrane whisking him towards home.
The night before, the men had the card table laid out in the back room of the warehouse. Snatches of the river in the window, far-off. Scurry of rats throughout the whole creaking thing, coughs of the men echoing into the thin dark.
Lester James always dealt, and fashioned himself a poker dealer from a previous life in the mythic West. At forty-five, he looked like a model from an old beefcake magazine, although his stomach had given way to beer and the years. His face hinged on a big black moustache, which he wore out of principle, as he believed it to be better than any poker face. Although defined by the state to be unemployed, Lester James caught his break a couple of times a year for huge home-made batches of crystal meth, cooked at his cousin’s in Missouri, which made him enough to pursue his other interests. He rarely used the stuff itself, but for the week they had planned out, well, as the Germans said, Krieg ist Krieg und Schnapps ist Schnapps . Himmler, maybe.
Daddy hated playing cards, but hated losing even more, so he became quite good at poker. Neither Lester James nor Henry knew why he was called Daddy. Maybe it didn’t matter. He always kept a pistol tucked between his jeans and the small of his back. A trucker of fifteen years, Daddy had developed a keen interest in picking up young guys in rest stations, having them in his truck, making them say they liked his big cock. He never seemed to tire of this. And he had it bad for the boy when Henry had said, I found the one, black hair, muscled, but not too muscled. Henry had had him in a bathroom at the park. Said he knew how to fuck. Said it took him all he could not to cum in the first couple of minutes, that tight ass.
Henry was nervous. He wasn’t sure about this plan at all, but he had never shared anything this important with anyone. His father used to be a minister, but had left the calling after his mother died. Henry left soon after. Before his mother’s death, Henry and his father played cards all the time. His father, though a man of God, loved poker, and played for money, giving Henry some at the beginning of the game. He didn’t want to cheat the boy, but he felt like if you weren’t playing for money, you were just wasting your time. They stopped playing when Henry turned fourteen and his father took other interests into consideration.
Henry would have waited outside of every bathroom in Memphis, waiting for the one to go home with him and make a life together. He knew it would happen. One day, he would wipe the cum off his face and the other man would look at him and take his hand and say, you don’t have to do this, here, anymore—I’ll take care of you from now on. He knew he had to get the boy. The boy had looked at him, and blushed! What a thing! As the cards were dealt around, Henry’s heart sang with the look from those green eyes. The Jack in his hand winked at him. He laid down his cards, took the pipe from the corner of the table and took a large hit. The electric taste filled his mouth and the Jack winked again, writing I love you Henry on the heart next to him, gore draining down the card.
As they played, the men worked out a rotation of when each would get the boy, who would film, group scenes, and the like. They would wear masks, all the time.
Additional supplies and food would be gathered as needed. Whoever wasn’t filming or fucking would be the lookout. From the second floor alcove, one could see the entire entrance to the warehouse grounds and not be seen, due to the blackened out panes mixed in. Daddy would do all of the cooking on the camp-stove, because of his experience out on the road. Henry volunteered to wash the boy twice a day and as necessary, and to accompany him to the bathroom, which he felt might make the boy like him more. The names they decided to go by were close enough to their own that they could remember them in front of the boy. By the third game, the men had everything worked out, and in this way, the matter was decided.
The next day, Cole left class and went to the park, his heart pumping hard already from the thought. He had taken some new running shorts from the store yesterday and couldn’t wait to see how they’d service him. They even had a small tuck-in pocket in front, perfect size for his key and a condom.
Darkness began to taint the air as Cole arrived at the park. He normally came earlier, as Overton wasn’t the safest of parks, and coming later lessened the chances of an eligible guy hanging around for a good time; however, it did diminish the chances of being caught, were he to find someone. Cole began on his normal route through the wooded area and around the lake. He stopped by the zoo parking light to catch his breath and listened for a moment to the animal sounds of night. Cold came into the air as he circled back towards the bathrooms and, from a distance, saw a figure step into the light. Smiling, he picked up the pace, though not so much as to be noticeable. He was young, just twenty, but didn’t want to appear eager ahead of the sex itself. As he drew close, he saw that it was the same man from the other day. Normally he tried to discourage “repeat offenders,” but it was getting late, he might not find someone else. Just in case, he decided to go for another lap. As he ran by, the man asked if he was going to run around all night. Cole heard him through his headphones, but didn’t let on. The man said it again, louder. Cole knew the man was trying to joke around with him, but the obviousness of it annoyed him.
Cole never broke speed, heading straight into the woods again. It was getting late now and Cole regretted brushing the man off like that. He’ll probably be there when I get back, though. Unless someone better came along, he would have to do. Cole wasn’t one to troll about the gay bars in town, because of the notoriety and his age. Too there was something about the park that appealed to him, the exercise beforehand, the thrill of having found someone by chance. At a gay bar, all illusion was lost. Men came to a bar like that for sex and sex alone. Cole liked his pretense, and also believed in the back of his mind that this might be a phase. Going to a gay bar made him face the fact, as a group. Even the name of the place—a gay bar. Too much.
The cool night felt good against Cole’s hot skin, his sweating armpits. He licked at his lips as he drew around again to the bathroom. The man was still there and, as Cole hadn’t noticed before, with a book. He was reading. As Cole approached the water fountain, he removed his headphones, smiling at the man as he put down his book. The cover looked like it said Jonathan Edwards, but Cole couldn’t quite make it out. He asked the man.
Oh yeah, my father used to preach. It’s just a biography, though.
It was obvious the man didn’t want to make small talk about it, and Cole wasn’t that interested, he just didn’t imagine a man hanging around a park bathroom for sex would go for something like that. He imagined then what the man thought of him. It seemed to him then that the whole worth of his existence was called into question, there, in the weak light before this stranger he’d fucked in a toilet stall. Cole thought that he should leave, go, to his house with its drugs and pillows and music, he shouldn’t be here with this stranger.
Where you going?
Sorry, not interested
C’mon it’ll be fun
Sorry man, I’m going
Cole started to run with the man behind him. He headed to the woods for a shortcut he knew onto Poplar. The other two men appeared from behind the bushes at the entrance and grabbed him and punched him in the gut. One of them tied a gag into his mouth while the other tied his hands, then his legs. The van wasn’t far off. They blindfolded him inside—all Cole could think of was hearing a story in church one time about a man in the belly of a whale.
He woke with blood pounding in his fists and saw with crusted eyes the duct tape that bound them as light stormed through the warehouse windows, orange, ravaging. A man in a black ski-mask stood over him, a glass of water in his hand. Kneeling beside Cole, he motioned for the boy to tip his head back. Cole opened up his cracked lips and allowed the man to pour water slowly down his throat. Three slightly stained quilts littered the floor; on top were hotel blankets and pillows. A video-camera stood close by, next to the bed nearest the window. Cole felt the lens staring straight at him. The man sat down on the bed next to Cole. His hands felt warm on Cole’s legs.
I made you a grilled cheese. Are you hungry?
I’m going to take the gag out now, but if you yell, I’m going to punch you in the stomach as hard as I can until you shut up. Okay? No one is around to hear you, anyway.
The words seemed strange to Cole, passing out of the stranger’s mouth through the little hole in the black mask. He could tell the man was hard already, the front of his pants strained and there was a thin edge of heat behind his voice when he spoke, as if he might breathe on you and catch you on fire. The whole time he talked, he kept on rubbing Cole’s leg, squeezing his calf, stopping to purse his lips, the softest of grunts rumbling behind them. He stopped and undid the gag, helping Cole sit up a bit. From the card table nearby, the man pulled a plate with a grilled cheese sandwich and then removed a knife from his pocket. Thumbing open the blade, he began to cut the crusts off, throwing them onto the floor.
It’s not the Ritz.
Putting the knife away, he drew a small bag out of the same pocket. It held small clear shards. He shook two out onto the plate and closed the bag, putting it back. The little shards gleamed against the light and looked weird next to the grilled cheese which was crustless and cut into triangles. Having peeled back bread on one of the pieces, the man dropped one of the shards onto the cheese. He popped the other into his own mouth.
What is that?
It’s not going to kill you, or knock you out.
Cole decided not to press the issue. If it was drugs, at least that might make this—whatever it was—more manageable. If not, it couldn’t be much worse. And for some reason, he believed the man. Cheddar, warm and sharp, slid down his throat as the man fed Cole the bites of sandwich. The piece with the shard was last and Cole chewed it longer than the others, tonguing the shard just a moment. Its metallic tinge tainted the whole sensation and he almost spat it out, but the hard stare of the man kept him from doing so and he swallowed, his mouth alive with the chemical taste and the cheese.
Can I have some more water?
I’m going to leave now, but someone will be here to check on you every so often.
Don’t you go anywhere now.
Winking, the man got up and brushed at his jeans. He placed the gag back into Cole’s mouth and tied it firmly around his head. Cole was frantic to know anything about what was going on, but he knew that if he tried to ask, it wouldn’t matter. The man left Cole lying on the mattress in the dusty half-light of the warehouse.
A strange pressure began to seize hold of Cole some time after the man left. He could feel strain building behind his eyes and suddenly the light seemed to take on a new dimension. His cock began to stir beneath his running shorts. A tingling sensation ran along the underside of his skin. His feverish eyes scoured the room, taking inventory. Any kind of cutting object or surface was well out of reach. His feet and hands were bound so that he could barely move his body for minute adjustments, the thought of actually standing seemed impossible. Spit smell hit his nose hard as he began to smell more vividly than ever before. The gag in his mouth grew larger and larger until he felt the whole thing stuffing every inch of his body, his skin bulged with the wet weight of this gag. Even the small white scars on his back roared from the depths of the memory of feeling, having been called up by the drugs. He thrashed about in a whimpering way on the mattress, feeling all over again the thin metal sting on his back, over and over, his father standing over him with the wire hanger,
you fucking faggot I’ll show you what happens to little faggots you think I won’t beat it out of you like hell I’m gonna try and
no Mark no Stop it Stop it I’ll call the police and
he gets this from your brother anyway it runs in your fucking faggot blood I’ll beat it out of you I don’t care if I kill you you don’t even exist.
The great wall of sound filled Cole’s head and he breathed so hard into the gag, almost choking on all of the spit. Orange light filled the room, he could see every speck of dust floating in its lazy little dust life through the air. Move faster. The room crowded with the motes of dust; he could hardly breathe from all of the dust in the room. Closing his eyes, Cole tried to calm down just a bit, fight whatever it was he chewed up with that sandwich. The whole inevitable nature of his situation hit him and he rocked back and forth on the mattress, as much as he could, thankful that at least his tears cleared up all of the dust in his eyes.
At nightfall, the three men came into the room and threw the thin blanket off the boy. A light had been brought in and was set up behind the camera. All three of the men undressed, leaving their masks on. They were already hard. Cole, wide-eyed, cried out with relief as the gag was taken out and laid on the card table. One of the men brought Cole to his feet and pointed him towards the door.
I’m going to take the boy outside to pee.
The other two went about setting up the camera, adjusting the lights. The man picked up Cole as if he was a bride being carried into the bridal suite in some hotel and carried him outside into the expanse of dirt behind the building. Stars filled the sky above the sliver of water Cole could see through the warehouse gate. A handsome yellow moon shone down full on both of their faces. Wresting down Cole’s shorts, the man noticed the little pocket with the condom and key. He kept silent as Cole let loose a thin stream of piss, rank and yellow from being kept inside of him all day. The man pulled up Cole’s short and drew out the condom. It thudded softly on the other side of the gate.
I don’t need to tell you what’s going to happen.
But I will say, we’re not going to kill you.
Just be a good sport, I’ve seen you work.
After a few days of this, we’ll let you go, okay?
You’ll never find us.
But we’ll always have a little something
to remember you by.
Dragged from his stupor of self-pity and the drugs, Cole recognized the man then. He was the one from the bathroom, the one who liked the way he fucked. The one who had looked into his eyes.
The other two men smoked out of a small pyrex pipe, holding the lighter underneath the bowl to heat up the little crystals inside. One of them almost dropped it as he passed the thin hot pipe to the other.
Hey, we’re all anxious, but I don’t want
to have to buy one of these every time
you got cum squirting out your gills.
The other man set it down on the table. Cole was thrown onto the mattress. One of them clicked the camera on, the lens opening up, a little red light coming in behind it. Light blared down on the group of men as they positioned themselves on the mattress around the boy, each jockeying their hard dicks close to his mouth, his ass. Cole could hardly see. As one of them slid into Cole from behind, one of the others called out, Action! and snickered a little, giving the boy a pert slap on the cheek.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Hank tells me you suck a mean cock.
You like that? You like that big dick?
After it was over and the lights and camera were put away, the one they called Hank took the boy outside and, using a small basin and a washcloth, wiped down his genitals and face and thighs. He could hardly look at the boy, whom they had made cum. He was so hard during all of it, it was as if he wanted this pummeling by the men. As if he wanted them to cum on his ass, one man lubing him up for the next. Henry so much wanted to ask the boy if he was okay, but this seemed foolish to him at the same time. He wanted to apologize for earlier, with his threatening talk. He wanted to take the boy into his arms and say, I’ve seen that look in your eyes, I know you want this, do you want me like you want this?
Few grey clouds drifted across the black field of night. The moon had shrunk to the smallest circle of light and all of the stars seemed shut up in their tight homes of darkness, as if coming out now, again, would be too much for the scene below them.
That night, Henry slept in fitful handfuls, the silence of the warehouse rising above the scuttle of rats and settling noises of the whole large structure. It was too much for him. He got up many times throughout the night and went to look at the boy. Lester James slept on the mattress next to the small, bound figure. Henry’s heart was an open door and the strange shadowy figure of guilt stood there, blocking out the light. He wanted to wake Lester James out of the room and curl up next to the boy whom he’d battered about earlier, seeding his hot ass with all the drug-fuel and lust gushed out in spurts. Walking back to his own mattress, Henry noticed one of the boy’s shoes on the floor. He picked it up, smelled it, and laid back down, clutching the shoe in his hands. He slept and dreamed.
Here, open up, put this in your mouth and keep it there I’m gonna light it for you, I just need you to take a breath Good good boy nice and slow Be sure to hold it in too, because then you won’t feel anything but this humming inside you I’m awful sorry we have to keep you trussed up like this, I know your hands and feet must be pretty sore At least I take the gag out I know the others don’t leave it out the whole time unless they’re It does taste metallic, doesn’t it?
This whole business is nothing but sinful but sometimes that’s all life is is one sin after another until you’ve paved a road to hell and back and back Here have another hit you’re young, you’ll come out of this with your whole life ahead of you and look at me, all I’ve got to show for it is buggering some hot young thing against his will, some little thing I’d follow into a bathroom hoping for a good time not even a second look, just a I’m washing my hands, I’m not even looking you in the eye kind of thing going on and the money But you enjoy some of it, don’t you? I’ve felt around to that little cock of yours and found it hard, pulsing against your boxers, just aching aching for some release you can’t fake that I know porn stars’d pay a lotta money for a boner like that come on, you enjoy some of it now, don’t you? You see the light coming in through the window there? Looks like a spider web doesn’t it? You feel that humming now don’t you? I see it in your eyes, the way they move back and forth, the way they look at me with longing I know you like me best don’t you? Call me daddy again Of course I’ll give you another hit, you’ve been such a good boy good boy your young little lungs drawing in full and out again like the light coming in, its course pulsing with the movements of clouds I always thought God was in the clouds, watching me and when he was unhappy the clouds would block out the light and I would feel the cold come in strong over my arms the small hairs springing up in the absence of God and then one day I realized there wasn’t a God at all because the clouds would move away, the light would still be there and I would have gotten away with it No matter how many times the sky would never stay covered in clouds and I would have his money hidden in my socks, still slick on the inside with him, steam rising off the pool of blood I’m sorry, am I frightening you? My father would never ask if he was frightening me, he would just hold my head in place, my hair gripped so hard, my eyes closed until it was over and I could wipe the rest of him off my face, my snotty nose Now go wash up if you tell your mother I’ll kill you The clouds would move away and there was no God and I knew then that I would always be alone in this wide world, that there were no gods, but spiders, hovering over the dark of the earth, their webbing eager to catch and hold eager to find young prey like yourself to catch and hold them in a now don’t say anything to the others about this, I just wanted you to know, I just wanted you to know that none of us are gods is all
Throughout the week, hours and hours of silence burned in Cole’s ears, held there in the stale air of the warehouse, as he watched spiders work their little abdomens. How the light shifted, so slowly, down and up the wall. It was out of the silence that he could hear his own heart asking, why do you do these things? why do you sleep with strangers? what is it that wants these men inside you?
And he would have to listen, there, for the first time in a long time silence filled his waking hours, becoming as gradient as noise itself. The silence that suffocates the room, the silence that is blank and wind noise and susurrus of rats and dust, silence of feeling pierced without anything inside you, silence where you forget to exist and hang, slowly revolving, the air around your body moving in the million smallest ripples.
Although Friday night was Lester James’ night, all three of the men took turns plugging away at the boy, though over the course of the week the novelty of it had worn off. Lester James spent himself on the boy’s face and immediately pulled his pants back on, wiping the rest of himself on his jeans. He was in the mood to play poker, and now that the week was over, the footage safe in a suitcase, he was going to do just that. The fact was, Lester James loved cards, but not as much as he loved money. Even with his flourish at dealing, even with his love for the games, he cheated every chance he would get, if it helped him out. Always kept a spare set of aces, and since he dealt, it was no problem slipping one in to his hand. He dealt out the hands to his fellow players, pinching the deck into a bell shape and then releasing them into the air, only to be caught by his other hand. Daddy and Henry had grown tired of these tricks after the first few games, but saying something would only provoke Lester James, and it had been a long week for all of them. There was something too between Lester James and Daddy. A couple of times, they took turns fucking each end of the boy, gritting their teeth at the abandon of it and looking deep into each other’s eyes as if each thrust was meant for the other, not the boy. Bruises played along the boy’s face and ass after those two had a go at him, the mottle of purple and yellow unreal against the peach pallor of skin.
Henry took Cole outside to wash him off one last time before they left him the next day. The moon screamed down from above, soft lilt of the river water resounded through the warehouse gates, becoming an insistent clanging that held in both of their ears as Henry washed the boy with tenderness, hoping to look into those eyes and have his love returned, all those years absolved, in a glance of green eyes. Gunshot resounded into the loud tremor of the evening and the boy looked at Henry and Henry felt afraid.
He ran into the warehouse and saw half-heads and blood and smelled the rank of insides and smoke. Lester James still had two aces in his hand, which he would wait to play forever. Two aces of hearts, now isn’t that the most incredible thing, thought Henry. Who wouldn’t remember two aces of hearts in a game?
Thunder shook the windows held in their old frames. Rain spattered the dusty glass. Henry ran back outside to Cole, whom he’d left half-kneeling in the dirt. The boy was crying, or maybe it was the rain. Henry took him into his arms.
Shhhhh, shhhhhh. It’s okay now.
I’ll take care of it.
I’ll take care of everything.