While Danny keeps the home fires burning, Mike gets stranded with Don in a winter blizzard, and they recall a warmer and eventful night in the summer of '56.
It's a winter evening, still early. Mike and Don are in Omaha, heading back home from a livestock show at the Ak-Sar-Ben. Don has been talking to stockbreeders, all excited about an idea he's got to get into the business himself.
Mike has gone along for the ride, thinking a day away from the routine would probably do him good. Have a little fun with his old high school pal. Besides go to work every day, it's the first time in months he's gone off somewhere without Danny.
"Hey, go," Danny said when they talked about it one night. Danny was in bed under the covers in his flannel pajamas, reading a book, while Mike was about to get in beside him, pulling down his wranglers and then standing there in his thermal underwear while he considered taking off his socks.
The bedroom was cold, as usual, though the propane heater in the TV room was on full blast. "That's my central heating," he'd told Danny when the weather turned cold back in October. "It's in the middle of the house anyways."
He knew the bed would be cold, too, and he jumped in, moving quickly across the sheets to Danny's side.
"Damn, your hands are cold," Danny said, as Mike slipped his fingers under Danny's pajama tops.
"Come along to Omaha, bud," he said. "Don's got himself a new three-quarter ton. There's plenty of room for three big men like us."
"Get serious," Danny said. "Anyway, Don didn't ask me."
Mike felt his cock stirring in his thermals, his knees pressing against Danny's legs. "That don't matter," he said. "You know better than that."
"I know Don. The two of us make him nervous."
"C'mon. That's something he's gotta get used to."
"Not as long as he feels outnumbered," Danny said.
Mike laughed and pressed closer to Danny, burying his face in the side of Danny's neck.
"Your nose is cold, too," Danny said.
Mike didn't care. He felt the tightness in his back and shoulders letting go as he lay in the warmth of Danny's body, and he hugged him, the glow in his crotch beginning to grow stronger-something was growing down there anyway.
"OK," he said. "But don't come crying to me that you wished you woulda come along,"
"No chance of that. You can go look at bulls' balls and talk about artificial insemination."
"With some handsome rancher?"
"I don't care about that either," Danny said. "I'm gonna stay right here, and I won't be freezing my ass somewhere where I don't want to be."
Mike pulled his hand from under Danny's pajamas and reached between his legs, feeling for the soft full pair of his testicles. "Speaking of bulls' balls, how're yours hangin'?"
"Pretty close to home these days," Danny said and put his book and his glasses on the chair beside the bed.
"Where'd you get these is what I wanna know," Mike said, rolling Danny's balls around against the palm of his hand. "Your dad have big nuts? Your granddad?"
"How the hell would I know that?" Danny said.
"Word gets around."
"Yeah, right," Danny laughed, pressing his legs together around Mike's hand.
And that was the last said about the trip to Omaha. Mike slid across Danny and with the weight of the blankets piled over them sank into Danny's warmth, wrapping arms and legs around him and giving him a deep kiss.
As Danny kissed him back, Mike felt Danny's hands sliding down his back and into his underwear, stroking his butt.
"Your ass is even cold," Danny said.
Mike didn't answer. Just kissed him again, his cock hard between them.
Sitting now with Don in the truck, he's pulling at the crotch of his wranglers, remembering how he held Danny in a long kiss while he felt for the draw-string on the front of his pajama bottoms, slowly pulling on it until the knot fell loose.
Then he was under the covers, sliding Danny's pajamas down, his hands moving along the smooth skin of Danny's hips, his fingers finding Danny's cock, warm and plump and angled across one thigh.
"It's strong down here. You wash yourself after you jerk off?" Mike said.
"What do you think?"
"I think you don't," Mike said and put his nose down by Danny's stiffening dick to breathe in the funky smell. "But I kinda like it."
Riding along with Don, the blast from the heater fogging up the truck's windows, he's lifting his butt off the seat now to tug some more at his crotch.
They're heading out of Omaha, on the way back to Grand Island, and daylight is fading fast as snow falls steadily from the darkening sky. The right lane of the road is still clear, but the passing lane is getting snow-packed.
They've stopped to gas up at a Conoco. There was a restaurant where they had prime rib and a couple beers, and Don flirted with the waitress, calling her "gal," and tried to strike up a conversation with a couple of women from California in ski jackets.
"Long way from the ski slopes out here in Nebraska," Don said to them. But neither of them looked interested in pursuing the subject-like in his cowboy hat and shit-kicker boots he may have been too local color for them.
"Say something," Don had said to Mike, thinking apparently that two of them making inane remarks would somehow make a difference.
"I could tell them you're married," Mike said.
"Go fuck yourself," Don said and forked French fries into his mouth.
Marriage has never been Don's strong suit. He seems not about to go AWOL again, like last summer, and as long as he's got his father-in-law about to bankroll a breeding operation, he's probably in it for the duration. But he doesn't let it stop him from going after just about anything in a skirt.
What that's like at home for his wife Carol is anybody's guess. Maybe she's too sick of him to care. His boys need a daddy-in fact he's fathered another one that's on the way-and maybe his boots ending up under the bed now and again is enough of a husband to have around.
Somewhere in the stretch of exits around Lincoln, the snow is getting worse and darkness has descended. Ice starts building up on the windshield wiper blades. Traffic slows around a station wagon that's rear-ended a furniture truck, and a half-mile beyond that there are police cars and a wrecker where a bus has gone off the road.
Mike starts to notice that traffic has stopped coming from the other direction. And as they fall into line behind a slow-moving 18-wheeler, it begins to dawn on them that they may not be getting home tonight.
Finally, they come upon a patrol car parked sideways in the road, rollers turning, and a statey in his Smoky-the-Bear hat directing traffic off the highway. Don, of course, has to know what's going on and rolls down his window as they drive past. The patrolman, bundled in a heavy coat and waving a flashlight, tells them the road is closed up ahead; the snow has been coming down too hard and fast for the snowplows.
"Thank you, officer," Don says, like he has some deep abiding respect for the law, which Mike knows he doesn't. And they continue onto the exit ramp, where down the cross road they can see a new Holiday Inn in a wash of floodlights and flying snow.
They debate whether to get a room for the night or just hang out until the road opens again. Turns out the motel is full anyway, but they discover there's a bar inside, and sitting at a table in the dimly lighted gloom they order beers while something that sounds like Montovani plays weakly from speakers in the ceiling.
There's not much to talk about, and they sit drinking, Don leaning back in his chair and stretching his long legs out where anyone walking by would have to step over them. He takes a look around the room and says, "Well, lo and behold."
It's the two California women from the restaurant, sitting in a back booth, sipping on drinks and smoking cigarettes. Don is out of his chair without a word and ambling in his slow cowboy gait over to the bar.
Shit, Mike thinks, watching him, he's ordering a round of drinks for the two women, and next thing he'll be inviting himself and Mike to join them.
"What'd you do that for?" he says when Don gets back.
"Little fun to pass the time, that's all," Don says grinning. "What's the matter with you anyway?"
"Not a damn thing."
"It sure used to give you a rise in the old levi's."
Mike starts to see where this is all going. Don is hoping to relive the old days. Get back the Mike he used to know. When the barmaid delivers the drinks to the women in the back booth, Mike doesn't watch for the reaction. Just looks over at Don, who's waiting to flash them a big grin. Which he does, beaming with all his manly charm. After a minute, he gets up and walks over to them.
When he comes back, he's still grinning. "Guess what," he says. "They've got a room here. Betcha if we play our cards right we can get us an invite. And you know what that means."
Mike shakes his head. "I'm gonna look for a phone and call Danny," he says, finishing his beer. "He's probably getting worried."
"You do that," Don says. "I'll go over and keep them company till you get back."
"No, then we're gettin' our sorry asses outta here," Mike says, standing up.
Mike says nothing. Just walks back to the motel lobby.
In a little, dimly lighted alcove he finds a pay phone and digs a dime out of his jeans. He picks up the receiver, drops in the dime and dials the operator. A young male voice answers, sounding friendly with an out-of-state accent, and takes a number from Mike to call collect.
After four rings, Danny picks up, and they are talking, Mike feeling his heart in his chest and the pulse softly rising in his body. The many miles of cold winter night between them melt away for a moment. And he knows that what he wants more than anything is to put his arms around Danny.
"You OK, bud?" Mike says.
"Yeah. Ted and Bobby are here. They were out this way, but the roads are bad. They couldn't get back home." Danny tells him the snow is coming down and blowing hard. Piling up in drifts around the farmhouse.
"Check on Ranger?"
"He's in the barn. Fed and watered. I closed up the doors and put down lots of bedding in his stall."
"He's in here with us," Danny says. "About as close to the propane heater as he can get."
And Mike explains about himself and Don, stopped in Lincoln until the snowplows get the road open again. And he stands there pressing the receiver to his ear, wishing he was home.
"I've been thinking about you in your PJs," Mike says as quiet as he can.
Danny laughs, tickled by this.
"I'm so horny," Mike says, touching the front of his wranglers, "I'd fuck you right now if there's any way I could."
And as he talks, he stares into the darkened restaurant, where chairs are stacked on tables and the help has gone home early. Outside the windows, he can see snow whirling in the parking lot lights.
When he's done and hangs up, he finds Don standing behind him, one shoulder against the wall, arms crossed over his chest.
"Why are you being an asshole about this?" Don says, sounding pissed. "You never used to pass up a chance to get laid."
Mike gives him a level look. "We're not in high school anymore, Don. Things have changed."
"They sure as hell have," Don snorts. "You fuck boys now."
Mike stiffens a little and glances around to see if there's anybody near enough to hear them. Out in the lobby a clerk is standing alone in a pool of light, working at something behind the front desk.
"You wanna get laid, go ahead," Mike says. "I'm not gonna try and stop you." He keeps his hands at his side, ready if Don gets a mind to take a swing at him.
But Don just stares at him. "I wanna know what the fuck's got into you. Who did this to you?"
"Nobody. I figured it out on my own."
"In the service?"
Don doesn't move, arms still across his chest. "All those years in high school," he says. "Did you feel that way then?"
Mike swallows hard and thinks ahead where all this talk might be going.
"Did you?" Don says, not sharply but insistent.
"Yeah, I guess I did," Mike says finally.
"Well if that don't beat all." Don's arms swing down now and he turns where he stands, as if to walk away, then steps back around again to face Mike. "So all that time you were nothing but a cocksucker?" He glares at Mike now. "Did you want to suck my cock?"
"Yeah, Don, and maybe you don't remember, but I did."
"Bullshit." Don's voice rises, and the clerk at the front desk looks over at them for a moment.
"I did," Mike says, keeping his voice down. "More than once."
"C'mon, we jerked off together a couple times, but that was it."
"No, you're wrong about that, Don. I did it whenever you were too drunk to remember. Or too drunk to care. I did it the night before you and Carol got married."
"Bullshit. You're fuckin' making this up."
"No, I'm not." And Mike tells him how it happened. . .
* * *
The stag party had been Corky's idea. Corky had an older brother, Gary, who could buy them cases of beer and fifths of Seagram's and Southern Comfort. Their dad had a cabin out at the lake, where the boys could all get together and get drunk with Don on his last night of being single.
It was a Friday evening in late July. The western sky still light, the mosquitoes were biting, and there were locusts warming up in the trees, filling the humid evening with their racket and, with the prospect of several cold beers, making you feel like summer had swallowed you up whole.
Mike and Corky picked up Don at his house, where he'd been changing the oil in his truck. He had to take a shower and get dressed before they left, and they waited for him in his cluttered room, looking through Mad Magazines and a couple well-thumbed Playboys while they sat on his bed.
Corky was a farm kid, from just outside of town. Wore a blue FFA jacket to school and showed Hereford steers at fairs. He had a raunchy sense of humor that came from being around animals and growing up with three older brothers. Gary was the oldest, already married and divorced-never finished sewing his wild oats, as people liked to say.
Which made him something of an idol to the boys, racing around country roads and stirring up a cloud of dust in his bright red CJ-5 Jeep. Corky sort of took after him. Like Gary, he wore a white tee shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to show off his sunburned arms to the biceps.
Don came out of the shower, his short hair wet, and a damp towel around his waist, his big lump of a cock pushing out the front of it. He pulled off the towel, lifting one leg to wipe his crotch, then tossed it on the floor as he searched in a drawer for some underwear, his bare ass turned toward them as he bent over.
"You ever have a case of them blue balls?" Corky said, eyeing the back of Don's testicles hanging between his legs.
"Not for a while," Don said, stepping into a pair of jockeys.
"I reckon that's 'cause you get it regular," Corky said. "I'd be a happy man for just a little tail now and then."
"Don't bullshit me," Don said. "You been screwing some girl over in Fullerton. I heard it."
"News to me," Corky said. "My peter ain't seen the inside of anything but my shorts." He lay back on the bed, arms behind his head. "Coulda been Gary you heard of. He's got 'em everywhere."
If Don's peter had seen the inside of a rubber, Mike was thinking, he wouldn't be in this mess now-six weeks out of high school and marrying a pregnant girlfriend.
"Where you goin' on your huh-nee-moon?" Corky said, smirking. Don had a suitcase open on the floor. His mother was probably packing it for him.
"That's for me to know and you to find out," Don said. He was putting on a short-sleeve shirt now, the back of it falling over his butt. In front, his dick looked stuffed into his underwear, pointing off to one side in a lazy curve as he buttoned the shirt over his chest.
"You goin' there in your truck?" Corky said.
"You ask too many questions," Don said.
"Bet your best man here could tell me," Corky looked over at Mike.
Mike shrugged and watched as Don took a clean pair of jeans from a drawer, shook them out, and bent over to step into them.
In fact, Mike didn't know. Hadn't even asked. He was already thinking about what he'd be doing as soon as the wedding was over and Don and Carol were gone. Monday he was going to the Post Office in town to talk to the Air Force recruiter.
"Are we going or not?" Corky finally said, suddenly rolling upright and letting his boots hit the floor.
And in two minutes they were stomping down the stairs from Don's room and walking single file through the kitchen where his mom was washing supper dishes.
"Don't stay out too late," she said, like anything she wanted had made any difference to Don for a long time.
"We'll get him back good and early, Mrs. T," Corky said, grinning. "Gotta get his sleep for the big day tomorrow."
"You'll see he gets home all right, Mike?" she said, wiping her hands on a dishtowel as they headed out the door. After all this time she still trusted him.
"You bet, Mrs. T," Mike said. But he knew if the night was anything like he expected, it would be dawn before she or anyone here laid eyes on Don again. And knowing Don, in his last hours as a free man, he'd be lucky if he could walk straight-or even see straight.
The three of them piled into Mike's pickup, Corky in the middle, his short legs snug in his jeans and pressing out wide against Mike's and Don's. Mike could smell his aftershave, which soon filled the cab, even with the windows down.
"Ever think about splashing a little less of that stuff on yourself?" Mike said.
"It keeps the skeeters off," Corky said. Then he elbowed Mike in the ribs. "Gonna be any women at this shindig?"
There'd been talk that besides the alcohol his brother Gary would be supplying a female or two for the evening. They'd each chipped in ten bucks. All of this unknown to Don.
"Just us men," Mike said, glancing over at Don, who was peering into the sun, a dull red glow setting behind a low bank of clouds in the west.
Out at the lake, there were already six or seven guys at the cabin, standing around, leaning on their cars. A charcoal grill at a house down the way was sending up clouds of smoke that drifted under the trees.
Corky had a key to the cabin, and when they went inside, they found ice in the bathtub and cold bottles of Hamm's and Pabst Blue Ribbon. Gary had come and gone; he'd told the boys he'd be back later with the "entertainment." This caused a stir of excitement. Someone thought there'd be a stripper.
They crowded around Don and slapped him on the back, wishing him good luck. They grabbed their first bottles of beer and made the first quick toasts of the evening before slugging down long swallows. Mike figured each of them was dead glad it wasn't him on the way to the altar.
Don beamed and looked red in the face, perspiring in the sweltering heat of the cabin. And as the sun sank out of sight and shadows grew along the shoreline, more cars and trucks pulled up on the road out front and the crowd grew.
After a couple more beers, voices and laughter got louder and there was some pushing and shoving, a scuffle on the front porch that took out a screen, and some guys headed down to the lake to piss in the bushes and smoke cigarettes, waiting for darkness to jump naked into the water and swim out to where the yellow reflection of the rising moon washed around a floating diving platform.
Mike felt detached from it all, like all this was already behind him. He had stopped feeling like Class of '56 as soon as graduation was over. He and Don, who had once spent every day and most nights together, had seen little of each other for months.
And after tonight when Mike got home, the house would be empty. Mike's dad was on the road more than ever. He'd met a woman in Florida and was spending half his time down there.
He imagined himself in uniform, doing his basic training somewhere. All these guys, sweaty faced and shouting over the noise of each other, would be some distant memory. And while all this kept going on, as one after another of them met girls and got married, he'd be living his own life.
Don weaved over to him, grinning, already half drunk. "You'll get me home tonight, won't ya, buddy?"
"I'm your best man. That's my job," Mike told him.
Don pounded him on the arm and said, "Cause I feel like gettin' good and loaded."
"I'll be lookin' out for you," Mike said. But Don had already turned away and was throwing his arms around the shoulders of two other boys.
Mike looked at him as he stood there, his face inches from another guy's, the two of them trying to sing, "Since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell. . ." Both loud and way off key.
Heartbreak Hotel, Mike thought, still watching Don. What would you know about that, my friend?
It was late when Gary showed up. And the cabin soon filled again with guys who'd been outside. It was still hot, and several pulled off their shirts. Sweaty shoulders and naked backs glistened in the lamplight.
Gary had a woman in tow, the "entertainment." She was tall, dark-haired, with big breasts, in a red paisley halter-top and short shorts. Her name was Dixie.
They worked their way through the crowd, finding Don, who'd taken a seat at the kitchen table, where five of them had been playing poker for quarters and smoking cigars. In the fluorescent light from overhead, the air around them was a thick blue haze.
"I want to say hello to the groom," Dixie kept saying. She was Gary's age, or older. Mike had never seen her before.
The guys around the table grew quiet, eyeing her as she bent down toward Don, smiling. And Don looked back at her blankly, like he'd forgotten what a woman looked like-then gawking at the size of her breasts to remind himself.
"Are you Don?" she said.
"Yeah," he said, smiling back at her.
"I'm Dixie. Pleased to meet you," she said and turned so she could squeeze onto his lap, putting her hands onto his shoulders and letting her breasts brush against him. From across the room, Mike couldn't hear all she was saying. But her intention seemed clear enough, as she started unbuttoning Don's shirt.
Gary stood on the other side of the table, watching them and grinning. And some boys started going, "Woo-hoo!"
Before long Dixie had his shirt open and was stroking his chest with long red fingernails, squirming around in his lap and inviting him to press his face into her breasts. There was a round of applause when he did. The whole room was now focused on the two of them. Guys were pushing and peering over shoulders to get a look.
After a couple more minutes of this, Dixie was up on her feet and pulling Don by the end of his belt to a sleeping porch off the kitchen, and those who'd crowded around the table pushed back to make way for them. Don had a shit-eating grin and kind of stumbled along after her, either drunk or not sure it wasn't all just a big joke.
But Dixie meant business. She was there to show Don a good time. And she seemed pretty well practiced at it. He disappeared through the door after her, his shirt already hanging off his shoulders.
The room emptied as several guys pushed onto the porch after them, and nearly everyone else went out the front door to run whooping and hollering around the cabin to watch through the screens. When Mike got to the porch door there were four or five guys around Don, lifting him off the floor and pulling off his boots and jeans. In the dim light from the kitchen, he could see that Don's shirt was already gone, and in a flash of white, his jockeys went next, his big cock flopping out and swinging between his legs.
And in a chorus of rising cheers, Don was carried head first into one corner where Dixie seemed to be getting herself into a welcoming position on a narrow cot. On the count of three, they hoisted him up to their shoulders, his bare ass in the air, and then lowered him slowly over her.
Dixie was making some kind of protest, and Gary's voice finally rose above the others, telling everyone to leave so the two of them could be alone. There were groans and catcalls.
"Get the fuck outta here," Gary shouted. "Let the man do his stuff. He don't need no audience."
And in ones and twos they drifted away into the darkness, most of them heading down toward the lake. Some coming back inside first to get more beers from the bathtub. . .
* * *
"So that's how it was," Don says. They are sitting on the carpet now, opposite each other in the alcove off the motel lobby, leaning back against the wall. "I don't remember a whole hell of a lot about that night."
"You don't remember Dixie?" Mike says, unbelieving.
Don grins and stretches out his legs, hooking one boot over the other. "Oh, I remember her all right. She knew a thing or two."
"What don't you remember?"
"Most of what came after that," Don says with a fading smile.
Mike sighs. Someone goes out the front door of the motel and a draft of cold air stirs around them on the floor. Mike shoves his hands in his coat pockets and pulls it closer around him.
"Dixie was just the beginning," he says.