Boys Of Life by Paul Russell
Date of Publication: March 8, 2016
Country boy Tony is seduced by a smooth talking pornographer, who brings the young man to New York to star in a violent sex film. An escape, a marriage and a murder follow the story’s cinematic arc of innocence, betrayal, redemption and revenge.
Even if their adventures were sometimes so cruel as to be revolting by our standards, if they were obscene in such a grand and total way as to become innocent again, yet beyond their ferocity, their eroticism, they embody the eternal myth; man standing alone before the fascinating mystery of life, all its terror, its beauty and its passion.
The first time I met Carlos Reichart I was standing in the Nu-Way Laundromat folding up a bed sheet, which is probably a strange way to meet the one person who’s going to ruin your life.
It was September, and there was this light drizzle coming down past the windows of the laundromat. The fluorescent lights made everything look even more depressing than usual—concrete block walls painted yellow, these blue and green palm trees painted over the yellow. The concrete floor and the stale heat smell that comes from dryers.
The Nu-Way was the only laundromat in Owen, Kentucky, and doing laundry there was one of the things I hated most. The clothes in the washers went round and round, and in the dryers too. In two weeks there you’d be back again, washing the same clothes over and over. That was exactly what your life was.
I remember hearing on the radio, years later, about some tropical depression out in the Atlantic that was being upgraded into a storm. We were making a movie on this estate in the Hudson River Valley, and Seth Rosenheim, Carlos’s cameraman, made the joke, “That’s what happened to Carlos—a tropical depression upgraded into a storm.” What it suddenly made me remember, though—those words tropical depression—was the Nu-Way Laundromat: maybe the clothes spinning in the dryers, and those green and blue painted palm trees that were supposed to cheer the place up but only made it more depressing. Or maybe because I met Carlos on a day when it was raining and somewhere, some ocean, it really was the season for tropical depressions and storms.
I was tugging bed sheets out of the dryer, stuffing them back in the plastic garbage bags I’d brought. When I looked up, this man was staring at me. He was sitting on the wooden bench that ran along the windows in the front of the place, and he had a little spiral notebook in his lap, the kind you buy for school. He must’ve been writing something down, only he’d stopped and was looking around. I guess he’d seen me because he was staring, and when I glanced up we were looking right at each other.
I expected him to look away, but he didn’t, and for some reason I didn’t either. But then I did, I went on folding those sheets. I had this feeling he was staring at me the whole time, and when I looked back at him it was true, he hadn’t moved. It was this questioning look, like you give somebody when you think you might’ve seen them before, or you might know them but can’t remember from where. Only he looked like he knew exactly who I was. That’s what I felt—here was somebody saying, Oh, I know exactly who you are even though I’ve never seen you before. Like he’d been waiting to meet me for a long time and he’d known he would—he just didn’t know when or where it would happen and now here it was.
Maybe I’m making all that up, but I don’t think so.
There wasn’t anybody but us in the laundromat. I hadn’t noticed him till I noticed him staring at me. He was maybe forty years old, not gone to flab anywhere but tight like the head of a drum. With his high cheekbones he looked like he might have Cherokee blood in him. His black hair was combed back from his forehead, and he was wearing this black long-sleeve shirt buttoned all the way up to the collar. His eyes were black too, crazy glittery eyes like country people sometimes have, and that thin hard hollowed-out face. Only he wasn’t any country person. He was definitely somebody from somewhere else.
I kept on folding sheets, but he was starting to bother me. I felt like he was studying me, but when I looked up again he’d gone back to writing in his little spiral notebook. Just then, he looked up right when I was looking at him—it was like I was the one who’d been looking and not the other way around, and he’d caught me.
There was something about those eyes, more like some animal’s eyes than a person’s—some really smart animal that’s always on the lookout, the way you see hunting dogs go on the alert. Like even here in this laundromat some keen sense of smell in him was sniffing out things other people wouldn’t pick up on.
I pretended I was trying to see past his head to something passing by on the street. All of a sudden he came bolting up at me from where he was sitting. I must’ve looked surprised—he sort of raised his eyebrows in a friendly way and sailed right past me to the washing machines, where he started pulling out clothes and tossing them into the dryers. He probably opened up fifteen washing machines, nearly every one in the place, and threw his stuff across into that many dryers. I had to laugh—each time I thought that must be all of it, there was still another washer for him to open and pull clothes from. He stopped loading the dryer and looked at me. What’s so funny? was what that look said.
Before I knew I was going to say anything, I said, “You got a pretty big family.”
“You might say that,” he said. “You got a pretty big family yourself.” He was looking at the stack of laundry I’d piled up—with my mom and my brother, Ted, and my two little sisters, there were five of us. “You married?” he asked me.
“Do I look old enough to be married?” I said. I was sixteen.
“Around these parts,” he told me, “sure. Don’t you people marry when you’re about twelve years old?”
He had this sharp accent, and I knew then he had to be this total stranger to Owen. Nobody in Owen ever talked that way. It sounded sort of snide. I couldn’t know at the time that was just the way he was with strangers; you’d never guess it, but he was this shy person really.
“Hey, just kidding,” he said. “Don’t you hate doing this stuff ?” He took in the whole room. “I mean, isn’t it the worst?”
“It’s pretty bad,” I told him. “But you really do have a lot of clothes. Using up all the washers in the place.”
“See,” he explained, “I’m doing laundry for a bunch of people.”
“That’s nice. How’d you get suckered into that?” I wanted to pay him back for that line about my being married.
He looked at me with a kind of odd look.
“Suckered?” he said.
“You know, doing everybody else’s laundry for them.”
“Just think,” he said, like it had any kind of connection with anything, “we’d never’ve had this stimulating conversation if I hadn’t brought all their laundry in here.”
“Yeah, right,” I told him.
I’d finished putting my laundry into garbage bags, but since it was still raining outside I hopped up on a washing machine to sit and wait for it to stop. I wished it wasn’t raining because I sort of wanted to be out of there. I was afraid this guy might talk to me some more, and I didn’t really have anything else to say to him.
And I guess he didn’t have anything else to say to me either—he finished shoving everything in the dryer and then went back to his bench and started writing in his notebook again. From where I was sitting on the washer I couldn’t really see him. Not that I wanted to, but something kept getting the best of me and I’d look over my shoulder to where he was. But he was never looking up at me, which I was glad for. He just kept writing in that notebook.
I couldn’t figure out what he could be writing, and I sort of wanted to ask him, but I didn’t want to start us talking again—so I sat there trying to be as blank as I could and watched the rain, listening to it drum the roof and wondering if it’d take long to get a hitch back to the house, or whether I’d have to walk it in the dark. The more I thought about all that, the more depressed I got. Like everything else, it was something I seemed to be doing all the time with no stop to it.
I wondered where he could be from, what reason he was stopped in the Nu-Way Laundromat with more dirty clothes than practically the rest of the town put together. There was something I liked about him, the way he sat there writing in that notebook and never looking up at me even though I knew he knew I was still there some kind of lonely feeling I got looking at him, some queasy kind of loneliness I knew from when sometimes I’d lie on my back on the ground and look into the sky wondering if it ever had an end to it and knowing it didn’t. It nagged at me, this feeling, which was why I kept glancing over at him the way I did. Like maybe I could surprise something and then I’d know what it was I was looking for and not being able to find.
Part of it was, to be honest, I was just bored sitting there waiting for the rain to be over and watching the whole row of dryers with their loads spinning behind glass and the rain just kept on and finally the dryers came to a stop.
They’d been stopped a minute or two and he hadn’t made a move.
“Your stuff ’s all ready,” I told him.
“Thanks,” he said. “You can go now.” He started tucking stuff away into garbage bags.
“It’s raining,” I told him. “I don’t want to get wet.”
“Smart kid. And I see you’re into the garbage bag fashion statement too.”
“It’s just that I have to walk. It’s easier to carry that way.”
“Yeah sure,” he laughed. “I know a garbage bag buff when I see one. Where do you have to walk?”
“A ways,” I said. I thought maybe he’d offer me a ride, but he didn’t, he just concentrated on stuffing his bags full of clothes. Okay, I thought. I’m out of here. If he sees me walking in the rain he can get the point, or if he doesn’t, then fuck it. But I didn’t go. It was still raining, and I just sat there watching him stuff piles and piles of clothes into his garbage bags, probably fifteen in all, till finally he was done. He looked over at me and grinned this tight grin, like something was paining him. “So,” he said with that sharp accent of his, “you want to help me stow these in the van? Since obviously you plan to sit there all night.”
“I’ve done worse,” I told him.
“Yeah? I want to hear about it.”
“No really, I do.”
“How about giving me a ride home instead?”
We were lugging the bags out to his beat-up orange VW van in the parking lot. He opened up the back. “Careful,” he said, “don’t just go slinging things around. You’ll break something.”
“What’s all that stuff ?” I had to ask. The back of the van was totally full of junk—worse than some handyman’s station wagon.
“Equipment,” he said. “Cameras and whatnot.”
“You take pictures?”
He made some sound like “anngh.”
“It’s this movie project,” he said. “All these clothes, they’re for my crew. They go through them like diapers. I was the only one not hung over today, so here I am.”
“A movie project,” I said. “Like what kind of movie project?”
“Like a movie movie. Like we’re making a movie,” he said as he piled the last bag on. It made a pretty impressive heap. “I’m Carlos Reichart,” he told me all of a sudden. “I’m not famous, so don’t pretend you’ve ever heard of me, because you haven’t. Now hop in and let’s go.”
The front seat was as filled up with junk as everywhere else in that van—pieces of paper torn out of a spiral notebook and tools and empty beer cans and Barbie dolls missing an arm or a leg.
“Excuse the mess,” Carlos said. “I didn’t exactly expect to go ferrying local youth around town.”
“You never know,” I told him. It got to me, the edgy way he had of talking—but at the same time I felt pretty easy with him. It was strange. I wasn’t sure if he was pulling my leg about making some movie— but that was okay, he was still the most interesting person right at that moment that I knew in Owen.
“But let’s talk about you,” he said. “What I’m always curious about is other people. People who live in little towns and carry their laundry around in garbage bags. I don’t know anything else about you except that. I’d like to, though. Maybe I’ll write a movie about you.”
“Some movie that’d be,” I told him.
“Well, you never know,” he said. “But right now—where’re we going? Where’s home? Or we could go somewhere and talk. Surely you don’t have to go home and cook dinner too? But are you hungry? What time is it? I have no idea of what time it is, but I haven’t eaten all day—I’m starving. That pizza place serves takeout, doesn’t it? What’s the drinking age in this part of Kentucky? Ten? Eleven? We could get a six-pack and takeout pizza and live it up in the back of the van.”
It almost made me laugh—he sounded like he was afraid if he stopped talking I might say something, and then everything’d be ruined. Like I might bolt in between sentences. I never heard anybody like that before, and I guess it interested me.
“Sounds okay,” I said, not knowing exactly what I was okaying out of all those things he said, but definitely excited by the prospect of some beer. I knew my mom wasn’t coming in till late—it was a Friday, and lots of Fridays she was out all night. And my little brother, Ted, could take care of my sisters fine. He definitely had sense enough to heat up something or other from a can.
We picked up a pizza and two six-packs and then drove a ways out of town to where the road turned off to Tatum’s Landing. You could put boats in the river there if you wanted to—there was this concrete apron that sloped down into the water. With night coming on, and the rain, nobody was out there.
When we’d climbed over all those garbage bags full of laundry, his and mine both, into the back of the van, Carlos said, “Pretty cozy, huh?”
“Well, at least it’s different,” I told him, which it was definitely that.
I downed those first couple of beers like no tomorrow, which he did too, and then once we were both on our way to relaxing, he started asking me questions again. Did I go to school, what was it like at home, did I have a lot of friends? He kept watching my face the whole time he was talking, the way nobody ever watches you. He kept asking me questions. I guess I was sort of flattered.
“Yeah, I go to school,” I told him. “It’s pretty feeble. I live out on Route 27—back the other way out of town.” Like Carlos could care less or anything.
“A farm?” he asked, like that was what he wanted it to be.
“Nah,” I had to tell him. “It’s just this trailer. It’s me and my mom, and I got a brother and some sisters. It’s okay, it’s better than this house we used to live in that was falling down at the time.”
“And where’s your dad?”
I sort of had to laugh—I guess I never knew what else to do. “My dad,” I said.
I hadn’t talked to anybody about my dad in a long time—it wasn’t something any of us ever talked about.
“I’m just this stranger,” Carlos told me. “Don’t say anything you don’t want to.”
“No, I got no secrets,” I told him. “I don’t care.”
“Good—if you don’t, I won’t,” he told me, again looking at me like he did all the time. I remember wondering at the way he kept looking.
“There’s these two theories about my dad,” I told him.
“Theories?” Carlos asked.
“Depending on who you talk to,” I told him. “One theory says he’s laying out in the Wahrani swamp.”
“What?” Carlos seemed really alarmed.
“Yeah. Where he got knocked off by some of Mr. Hodge’s men for getting himself involved in this liquor running scheme over in Christian County. See, it was a dry county back then—six years ago. So that’s one theory. But then this other theory goes, my dad just up and left one day. My mother thinks he’s in Louisville living it up right now.”
“And what do you think?” Carlos asked.
“I don’t think anything. I was just this little kid back then. All I know is, my dad used to beat up on my mom a lot. Or he’d go lighting into one of us.”
“What do you mean, lighting into you?”
“Well, if she wasn’t around. You know, at night. He’d go asking us where she was, and it didn’t matter what we said, he’d still light into us. So we just always made stuff up.”
I had to laugh—suddenly I was remembering something.
“What’s so funny?” Carlos asked. He was taking all this in, like it was serious stuff—which I guess it was.
I told him, “I was just thinking.” I had to laugh again before I could go on. “This one time, my brother, Ted, heard my dad stomping back to the bedroom where we were sleeping, and I guess Ted just couldn’t take it one more time. So he went diving under the bed. Which when my dad saw that, it gave him this total fit. He completely forgot about my mom and went tearing after Ted, and the whole time Ted’s yelling, Leave me alone, and my dad’s yelling how Ted better not be hiding from his own dad. He’s cussing and screaming, and Ted’s screaming, and my dad finally manages to grab hold of Ted’s underwear, which is all Ted’s wearing, being asleep and everything. So here’s Ted screaming and my dad tugging at his underwear to try to pull him out and Ted hanging onto the bedpost for dear life. Then pow! The elastic band just pops and my dad goes flying across the room.”
Carlos was still studying me.
“I guess you had to be there,” I told him. The way he watched me made me sweat.
“It’s a pretty funny story,” he said. “It’s a hoot.” He said it in this way that you couldn’t tell whether he thought it was a hoot or not.
“It wasn’t too bad for me,” I told him. “Live and let live—that’s my motto.”
“It’s a good motto,” said Carlos. “It’s my motto too.” He handed me another beer, my fourth or fifth I guess. I remember thinking how great it felt to be talking like I was. I didn’t have too many friends, none really since everybody I knew at high school was so feeble-minded and boring. So most of the time I didn’t say anything much to anybody. But Carlos really did seem to want to know about me. It’s funny I never thought that was weird, it was just something I accepted about Carlos from the very first. Plus I never minded telling him anything he wanted to know, which I wouldn’t normally do with somebody.
He just let me talk, and he listened, and he never told me much about himself in return. So you could say that even ten years later I still don’t know major facts about him.
Not that major facts tell you anything. The Carlos I knew was never the major facts that everybody else knows—his movies and his awards and what all the magazines said about him. What I knew was the Carlos who’d sit there and listen to you ramble on about anything and study you like you were the most interesting person he’d ever met.
It’s stupid little things I remember—the way he never ate a slice of pizza till it was cold. I chalked it up to his being so interested in listening to me talk—but later I learned he always did that. He was scared of burning his tongue; I mean, the way other people are scared of drowning, or snakes. Maybe that’s bizarre, but it’s why Carlos never drank a hot cup of coffee or ate a bite of hot food straight from the oven.
It’s a stupid little thing, but it’s Carlos. It’s just as much Carlos as all those movies he made and everything the newspapers said about him after he got famous, or maybe I should call it notorious.
“So what I want to know, Tony,” Carlos asked me, “is what did you think about all that stuff with your mom and dad? I mean, when you sat down and thought about it. That’s pretty rough stuff.”
I had to shrug. “I guess I never really sat down and thought about it,” I told him.
“But don’t you ever try to put it all together? How one thing leads to another, what it all means?”
All I could do was make a face.
“I’m dead serious,” he said. “You really should think about these things.” He leaned forward, like he had some secret to tell me, and I remembered thinking how he was looking right through me like some maniac, all bright black eyes I couldn’t look away from. “Otherwise,” he said, “if you don’t think, then who’re you going to be? How’re you going to know anything? Look—try this: every night before you go to sleep, choose one thing you remember and then think about it. Try to think what came before it, and then what came before that, and try thinking back as far as you can.”
“Okay,” I said. “Sure.”
“See where it gets you,” he told me. “I guarantee—you’ll find out all sorts of things. Useful things. You’ll be amazed.” He pointed to his head. “It’s all in there. You discover you’re a totally different person from the one you think you are.”
I’d stuffed myself on pizza and he hadn’t had a bite. But his eyes were fired up with a kind of excitement. I was pretty skeptical.
“The kind of nightmares I have,” I told him flat out, “I can just see the trouble I’d go getting myself into if I was to lie there thinking about things before I went to sleep.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Exactly. That’s why you have those nightmares. You’re not thinking about those things you need to think about. And they have to get out somehow.”
Maybe if Carlos had left me just with that—gotten up and walked away right there—then that would’ve been enough. That would’ve done it. Who knows? Here I am ten years and a few thousand miles down the road, and there’s not much else to do except lie around and think. And think and think. Who knows? It hasn’t helped the nightmares any—Carlos was wrong about that. But sometimes I get the feeling, if I think about things long enough, if I try and remember the way things happened and not the way I might wish they’d happened, then—who knows? Maybe I might really be able to think my way to something that’s on the other side of all this mess. I don’t know.
Carlos finally took his first bite of pizza, which by that time was bone cold. He folded the wedge in two before eating it, and I noticed how his fingernails were cut smooth down to the quick. While he ate, I told him about the part-time job I’d had for a while loading flats at the lumberyard till it closed down and I hadn’t found anything else since then, and how I was going to drop out of school and as soon as I was eighteen I wanted to apply for a job as a penitentiary guard since they made good money.
All of a sudden, in between bites, he looked up at me, right in the eye, and said, “I bet you’re a big hit with the girls around here. I bet you’ve got fifteen girlfriends.”
It kind of took me by surprise. “Don’t I wish,” I told him. “It’s emptier than the moon around here, girlwise.”
“Tell me about it,” he said. He wasn’t eating anymore, just looking at me.
I tried to think of something interesting to tell. “Well, I used to go out with this girl,” I said. “It’s sort of amusing, I guess. There was this guy Wallace, he worked at the lumberyard too—in fact, he was how I got the job there. He was older than me by I guess about five years. Anyway, we used to go out with these two girls. What happened was, they were sisters, and Wallace wanted to go out with the younger one, only her mother wouldn’t let her go out unless her older sister was chaperoning. So the way Wallace got around that was, he set me up with the sister, who was about three years older than me, and Wallace went out with the one who was my age. We’d go out on these sort of double dates.”
“Yeah?” Carlos said.
“Yeah. There wasn’t much to it. Those girls weren’t really into much.”
It felt good and drowsy to be lounging around in the back of that van, with the rain still coming down steady and it getting dark outside. It was our last beer.
“Like what?” Carlos asked.
“Surely they were into something?”
“Oh, kissing,” I said.
I had to laugh. “A little hand action,” I said.
Carlos just kept studying me. He had thin dry parched-looking lips.
“Tell me more,” he told me.
“There’s not really anything to tell,” I said.
“Oh, there’s always something to tell,” he said.
He made me laugh, he was so curious. He had this way of sucking in his cheeks that made him look even thinner than he was.
“Well,” I told him, “if you have to know.”
“I don’t have to know,” he said. “But I’d like to—I’m new around here.”
“Yeah, well. We’d park somewhere and Wallace and his girl were in the front seat and me and the sister in the back, and we’d all be necking around. You know—the windows getting all steamed up and it was almost like those two girls’d gone and rehearsed everything in advance.”
“What do you mean?” Carlos wasn’t going to let me out of this story once I was into it.
“Well,” I said, “they’d both say almost at the exact same time, like they clocked it—okay, that’s enough, you got to take us home now.”
“That’s a drag,” Carlos said. “So did you take them home like they wanted?”
I’d totally forgotten those girls, but now I was hating them all over again. “So what else were we supposed to do?” I said. “It was so frustrating. Jeez was it frustrating.”
Carlos stopped chewing on his pizza. “Did you ever come when you were with them?” he asked me, looking at me with this look that made something turn over inside me.
I laughed—nobody had ever asked me anything like that before.
“Well, did you?” Carlos asked me again. I got the feeling he thought this was funny—which I guess it was, me and Wallace trying all the time and never getting to home base with those girls.
“Nah,” I told him. “They’d always cut out way before that.”
Hearing that must’ve relaxed him. He took another bite of pizza and chewed it up. “That must have been pretty rough,” he said.
“Well.” I didn’t know why I was telling him all this. Like I said, I never talked to anybody like this. “See,” I told him, “usually after we dropped them off, Wallace would ask me if I wanted a beer, which I usually did, and then he’d just go crazy about what cockteasing cunts those two girls were, and how if they didn’t watch out they were going to be in for a surprise one night. Stupid pig cunts, he’d call them.”
“That’s funny,” Carlos said. “Stupid pig cunts.” He said it like he was trying it on for size.
“So then what would happen?” he asked.
“We’d sit on the floor in his living room. We’d drink beer.”
“Yeah?” He daubed at the corner of his mouth where a string of cheese was.
“We’d watch each other jerk off,” I admitted.
It felt strange to say that to somebody I’d just met, especially somebody who was more than twice as old as I was. Especially somebody who was making me sweat under my armpits the way he did—nervousness, I guess. But it also felt, well—exciting, like here was this secret thing I was suddenly talking about.
“Sounds kind of depressing,” Carlos said. “Did you do anything else?”
I shook my head. “The yard closed and Wallace moved away. I didn’t see those girls again after that.”
“Did you want to?”
I shook my head. I’d never really thought about it. “I guess not really,” I said.
We’d finished the beers. I wished I hadn’t told Carlos that story— suddenly I felt more depressed than I’d been all day. But all at once he reached out and put his hands on my shoulders so that we were face to face looking right in each other’s eyes. I felt full inside, like something in my chest had expanded a couple of sizes and was pressing against my heart and lungs. I was a little drunk. I dared myself to keep looking into his eyes.
He held me there at arm’s length, not saying anything, the two of us studying each other. There was this fine stubble on his chin, and I noticed how his eyebrows met above his nose. I could smell my sweat there in the van, and maybe his too, this sweet-sour smell.
I was very aware the whole time of beer building up in my bladder, and how I really needed to piss something awful. But that didn’t stop me from returning Carlos’s stare right back into his eyes and locking him there, not moving, just letting it go on between us to see when it would have to break.
After what seemed like forever he said in this quiet voice, “I thinkyou’re very special. Do you know that?”
“What I know,” I told him, reaching up and putting my arms on his shoulders the way his were on mine, “is that I really, really have to piss.”
He laughed out loud, a really loud laugh, and leaned his head forward onto my shoulder. “You’re funny,” he said. “You’re crazy. Go piss. I have to piss too.” I relaxed a little and managed to haul myself over all those garbage bags and open the side doors of the van. Carlos followed me. It wasn’t raining so hard as before, but it was still raining. We stood in the rain next to each other and pissed these long streams of piss, mine clear and Carlos’s dark yellow. Carlos aimed his so that it intersected with mine, and they hit the ground together in one single stream.
I could tell Carlos was staring at my dick the whole time I was pissing. Well, I thought, it wasn’t like I hadn’t glanced over at his. When he finished he didn’t stuff himself back in his pants. He just stood there with it hanging out, waiting I guess for me to finish. Which I did, and zipped up.
He reached over and put his hand on my belt buckle. I didn’t move. I didn’t brush his hand away. I didn’t do anything.
He crouched down in front of me, looking up at me the whole time with our eyes locked. Then he undid my jeans and slipped them down. I kept saying to myself, Tony, do something, but I couldn’t do a thing. It was that animal thing in him, which I picked up on from the first. I felt his hands on me and I couldn’t move. My dick was starting to crank up under his touch, and I realized it’d been half-hard back there in the van when we were talking, only I hadn’t wanted to admit it.
Before I knew it he was touching my dick with the tip of his tongue. He ran his tongue up and down the sides of it, and then he slid it in his mouth.
I’d never felt anything like that—before I knew what’d hit me, whoosh! I gave out this huge groan, and there I was shooting off in his mouth. But he didn’t seem to mind, he just kept going at it harder than ever until finally he came up for air.
“Oh man,” I said to him. It was like somebody’d gone and knocked the breath out of me. I was sorry I’d come in his mouth without telling him I was going to—I thought he’d be upset. “I didn’t mean to do that, really I didn’t,” I said.
He wiped his mouth but kept on crouching in front of me. Then he started to laugh. He couldn’t stop laughing—and I had to laugh too, so hard it was almost like crying. Laughing at how crazy it was, what’d just happened with us.
You know,” Carlos said when he finally stopped laughing enough to get his words out, “I’ve got you now. I’ve got you.”
“What do you mean?” I had to ask. Suddenly I thought—maybe he’s crazy. Maybe he’s some kind of lunatic.
“Here’s a scientific fact for you,” he said. “A person’s semen contains every piece of information about that person. It’s all coded in there, genetically. And you know what? I think that’s miraculous, Tony, I really do.” Then he started laughing all over again. All I could think of was to grab both his ears and ease that laughing mouth of his back down onto my dick, which hadn’t stopped being hard even after I came.
That shut him up, and it felt great to be inside there again. I started pumping into him, pushing my hips against his face till I came again.
This time he jumped up and sort of scooped me into his arms, and before I knew it he’d kissed me. It was pretty surprising—his tongue just pushed on in, and it was like he had a mouth all gooey with snot. Only it wasn’t snot, I figured out in a flash.
“Yecch!” I pulled away from him. I didn’t want a mouthful of come, even if it was my own. It tasted slimy and disgusting. And I didn’t exactly like a guy trying to kiss me, either. “Why’d you go and do that?” I said.
“Oh, I don’t know.” Carlos was still clinging onto my shoulders and talking right in my face. “Passion of the moment. That’s what I love about you crazy kids.” He let go of me and did this little dance. “All that energy,” he said. “I bet I could make you come three times in a row if I wanted.”
I was getting back into my pants and it was my turn to laugh.
“Any more and it’ll fall off,” I told him.
I wasn’t feeling bad or anything. In fact, I was feeling pretty great, even if he had tried to kiss me.
Back in the van, driving back to town, he didn’t have much to say— but every once in a while Carlos would start laughing to himself, like he was remembering something—or like some little kid who’s so pleased with himself he just doesn’t know what to do.
“Well,” he said. “All in a day’s work. Anything else I can do for you?” We were driving down Main Street, and I was looking at everything thinking, It all looks the same, it’s like nothing happened to change anything. And I guess I felt glad about that.
“You could buy me,” I said to Carlos, “a bottle of Canadian Club whisky.”
I knew it was straight out of the blue, but what the hell?
“A what?” he said.
“Yeah,” I told him. “A bottle of whisky.” I pointed out the Main Street liquor store, which was the only thing in downtown Owen that stayed open in the evenings.
“Never a dull moment with you kids,” Carlos said. He swung the van over to the curb and hopped out. The van was still running, the keys were in the ignition. “Now don’t try to drive off or anything,” he told me. I don’t know where he thought I was going to go.
When he came back out, he handed me the bottle in its paper bag. “Notice,” he said, “how I’m not asking any questions.”
I just smiled at him. I was feeling pretty content. “It’s time for me to go home,” I said.
My mom’s car was in the drive. We stopped by the steps that led up to the trailer, and I pulled the laundry bags from the back of the van and hefted them onto the steps so they wouldn’t get in the mud. “Thanks for the ride,” I told Carlos. It didn’t seem like the right thing to say, but I couldn’t think of anything else. I couldn’t believe everything that’d happened.
“So—see you around,” he said, like the whole thing had been kind of amusing to him.
I stood there watching the taillights of his van down the road. Then they were gone and it was just me. I felt incredible and scared at the same time, and completely empty too. I took a swig from the whisky bottle and then stashed it down under the trailer, behind one of the concrete block foundations. Then for about half an hour I just sat on the steps beside the black plastic garbage bags that were tied up to keep the laundry dry inside them. It was chilly out there, the clothes I was wearing got soaked though with the rain, my hair was all stringy and falling down in my face. But that was okay, that was what I wanted.
About Paul Russell
Paul Russell is the accomplished author of various works of both fiction and nonfiction, including several award-winning novels, anthologies, poems, short stories, essay, and book reviews. He is a Professor of English at Vassar College. He lives in upstate New York.
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