Berkley left his barstool just long enough to feed a few quarters to the jukebox, and when he returned a giant leather clad geek with thick glasses sat in his stool and his beer was gone.
Berkley cleared his throat to take issue at the slight, then noticed the large caliber revolver hanging in black leather down the leg of the giant’s grey clad thigh.
The large youth started to offer to move, but Berkley shook his head.
The bartender had moved his beer two seats down, so Berkley took the new seat.
The bartender and the giant were planning a hiking trip for the weekend, and their discussion was loud and annoying.
Thank God, they had good music in the jukebox, thought Berkley as he downed the last of his brew. He had not intended on getting drunk, but he could feel the urge coming upon him now.
Why shouldn’t he get drunk?
He had nowhere else to be.
He had nowhere to be tomorrow either.
In fact, from where Berkley was sitting, there was no good reason not to pick a fight with the giant in leather. What could a few bullets do to make his day any worse?
It had started early this morning. The coffeemaker had quit and after fighting with it, Berkley had chosen to face the day un-caffeinated.
Traffic was awful, and Berkley was worried that he was going to be late again, but he had to get gas before he drove across town.
In such a rush to fill his tank, Berkley spilled gasoline down his finest wool trousers. There were no paper towels at the pump, so the handsome Arab boy inside the security booth pushed several wet wipes through his pay slot.
Traffic lightened up on the interchange, but slammed to a standstill again just this side of the mall.
Mr. Gilmore was in a foul mood, and threatened to dock Berkley’s pay the next time he was late.
Mrs. Gilmore smelt at Berkley and ordered him to go home and change, but her husband refused to hear more about it, as there were already three customers in the store and someone needed to sell to them.
The used car smell of gasoline and wet wipes lent Berkley no confidence, and he drove off the spare customers before Mr. Gilmore came back from his smoke break and fired Berkley on the spot, with Mrs. Gilbert’s full support.
The Civic would not start, but Berkley got it into gear on the hill away from his most horrible year’s job. He drove away from the mall, vowing to avoid retail for ever after, and got back on the interchange towards the west side.
Berkley wanted to head home, strip off his clothes, take a hot bath, and then re-enable one of his lapsed porn site memberships, but the traffic had gotten worse.
With the threat of another hour in standstill traffic, Berkley got off onto the emergency lane and headed to the next off ramp.
The cop that wrote his ticket for using the emergency lane inappropriately was handsome, but he simply smiled at Berkley’s stupid explanation of car trouble.
Berkley was still able to get off the interchange, and many others were seeking surface street solutions as well, so Berkley turned into the first available parking lot, and that was this south side, biker, dive bar.
The sign, high above what must have been an abandoned fast food restaurant, said “Fight Club, a bar”.
Beside the door where blacked out windows, and several neon beer signs, but above the door was a hand painted sign that read, “No one talks about…”.
The bartender brought Berkley a second drink, but only at a commercial, as the women’s wrestling had come onto the big screen behind the bar.
The other TVs were set to sports like kickboxing, rugby, and Nascar, but three out of seven where set to women’s wrestling now.
Berkley swigged his beer.
The giant geek adjust himself in his tight grey slacks several times, while he and the bartender watched the thick arms and barely bound cleavage of their favorite female wrestler in a red-satin singlet with pink fringe.
“I wish Lucy was goin’ campin’ with us.” The giant spoke to the bartender, but glanced over at Berkley also.
Berkley caught himself before making a snide, but biting commentary, and realized that the jukebox had been turned down to allow the three or four buddies that seem to be connecting with the lady brawlers to hear the grope by grope commentary.
A single woman sat at a side table, working on her own beer. She was thick enough to be a wrestler, but her occasional scowls dismissed that possibility.
Berkley was getting ready to give up his drunken brawl idea, when he heard the static bark of a personal walkie-talkie radio.
The giant pulled aside his leather jacket lapel, and grasped the handset.
“Deputy Bob here Sally, what was that again.”
The radio made a bunch more crackling and squawking sounds, then “Bob” nodded to the bartender and prepare to stand up from his stool.
It was probably good that “Four-eyes” was leaving, but then the giant adjust himself again, and Berkley corrected himself.
This giant is a giant, thought Berkley.
“I’ll be right back Jeff, I need to step out to the car for a few minutes.” Bob walked cautiously down the bar towards the front door, almost stumbled but caught himself, and then swaggered with macho when he swung out the door.
Berkley settled in now, sipped on his beer, and watched Lucy trounce the petit bruiser in black.
Berkley saw nothing in wrestling of interest, whether men, women, or even midgets, but there was showmanship in the verbal abuse Lucy tossed at her opponent.
The match ended shortly and Berkley asked for some ice water, and Jeff brought it without the slightest hesitation. Time to rehydrate before getting back on the road.
The loud commercials forced Jeff to step away and clean glasses.
A handsome enough young man, with strong shoulders and nice hair, but he did not really compete with “Deputy Bob”. Unfortunately, Jeff did not adjust himself like a fidgety seventeen year old.
While Berkley admired Jeff’s straight leg denim jeans, the door open and Bob returned. He had been gone for less than ten minutes, but seemed much more sober suddenly.
Bob explained the traffic his boss had wanted to fix, but did not explain why his boss had sent him right back into the bar.
Jeff poured Bob a new lager.
Berkley listened intently, while he tried not to, but the mirror behind Jeff was too tempting. Berkley watched Bob from between the whiskey bottles incessantly.
After a few minutes, Bob’s story and tone changed subtly, and there were veiled references to Berkley.
Berkley tried not to scowl as he looked back up to the mirror, but Bob stared directly back at him.
Bob asked Jeff something about their camping trip suddenly, but Jeff grinned and finished rinsing another glasses. What had they communicated non-verbally to each other?
Bob smiled a slightly evil smile suddenly, and sat up a bit straighter in his chair.
A bottle of Jack Daniels blocked Bob’s lips and jaw now, but his eyes looked straight through Berkley. Bob nodded in strange agreement, shook his head towards something, and then seemed to indicate that Bob was signing off, as if they had been talking on his walkie-talkie.
“Jeff, I’ll be right back. I gotta pee. Put my beer on ice for me.”
Berkley could not deny his need to watch Bob’s ass head towards the back hallway. At the last second, Bob made eye contact with Berkley and he tossed his head again, in invitation, then stepped out of sight.
Berkley looked to Jeff, but Jeff looked away with determination.
After a moments silence Berkley shifted in his seat, then he stood up quietly and walked to the men’s room. Jeff still faced away in seeming discretion.
The door made little sound, as if it was well-oiled, and within the small brightly tiled space stood a grey toilet stall, a sink, a waste bin, and a very large young man in a tight grey uniform, a black leather uniform jacket, and cute broad rimmed glasses that amplified his baby blue eyes.
Berkley was afraid that he had stumbled upon a strange religious cult, or an S&M club hidden in plain sight.
The giant looked Berkley up and down, admiringly. Berkley suddenly felt that he had been written into someone’s strangely erotic romance novel.
“Are you new to the area?” Deputy Bob loosened his black uniform tie.
“Uh… no.” answered Berkley. Berkley wondered what caliber that revolver was.
“But this is your first time in here?”
Bob looked like he wanted more.
“I’m from the west side of town and we never went out. Max hated going out.”
“Not important.” Berkley suddenly remembered the coffee maker argument and his blood pressure spiked.
Bob looked Berkley up and down one last time then decided to stop talking.
Bob walked across the small space, in fewer steps than Berkley would have, and reached behind Berkley to lock the dead bolt.
Berkley should have shook with fear, but there was something disarming and even a bit courteous in the way that Bob moved and spoke. There was nothing to fear with Bob in command.
That frightened Berkley suddenly, as he had never let a sexual partner take total control, and he had never been “the subordinate”, in sex at least.
He had been the sub in every job, and most every friendship he had ever entered into, but he had never been anything but “daddy” in his relationships.
Bob licked his lips, ever so slightly, and smiled down at Berkley, who tilted his head up and asked, non-verbally, what next?
Bob reached up with his large right hand, the one with the wedding ring, but asked permission with his eyes before he leaned in to kiss Berkley.
Berkley was still deciding when he felt the cool dry lips caress his own, and he leaned into the kiss with his entire body.
Bob kissed like a champion.
Bob kissed with confidence, and need.
Bob tried to swallow Berkley’s tongue.
Berkley wanted to understand; he wanted to know why he had been chosen, and what deal with the devil had occurred to make this happen today.
The kiss lasted long enough to get both men pressed together in each other’s arms.
Bob pulled away suddenly, and there was fear in his eyes.
“What the hell.” Deputy Bob stepped back away from Berkley towards the grey stall, and stared down at Berkley’s hip.
Berkley looked down at Bob’s focus.
Bob’s large silver revolver was heavy in Berkley’s right hand.
How had that gotten there?
“Just stay cool.” Bob was not seeming quite so macho suddenly. The passion of the kiss had drained the bullshit out of him.
“Just take your finger from the trigger, and set the gun down on the floor please.” Bob gave the last line as a considerate order, but his mojo was gone. Where was the strength of character; the dominance that Berkley needed now.
“It’s just a toy, right?” asked Berkley
There was cold weight and death in this weapon.
Berkley had fired rifles in scouting camps and with his father, but he had never held a revolver, or handgun of any kind.
Berkley appreciated the weight of it, and the look of fear that it imposed upon the giant did not suck either.
“It is not a toy. Please set it on the ground now.” Bob was talking louder now and Berkley remembered Jeff out there in the bar.
“Quiet. It will be fine.” Explained Berkley.
Bob looked genuinely confused, and his eye contact wavered.
Deputy Bob was calculating ways to regain control of the situation.
Berkley stepped back, against the cool tile beside the door. He looked deep into Bob’s eyes, and prepared to explain everything.
“When I was a boy, I was attracted to boys much older than me.
“They were my friend’s older brothers, or the track team captain, or the scout leader; but I never let anything happen with them.
“When I went off to college I was able to come out of the closet, and build a life for myself that included dating, and sex. I was happy. I was gay.
“But perhaps I never stayed happy because I had lost my desire to find a boy older and wiser than I who could take care of me.”
Bob watched Berkley carefully, but he was listening to the story. He needed to understand what Berkley was thinking.
“You are what? 26 or 27 years old?” asked Berkley.
“28 actually.” Said Bob, “Why don’t we put the gun down now, and we can keep talking if you’d like.”
“28 years old… but married to a woman… and still interested in men.” Berkley could see in Bob’s eyes that he had gotten that almost completely right. “Does she know?”
Bob considered answering the question directly, but weighed the alternatives.
“Deputy Bob,” said Berkley, “I think you are handsome as hell, but…”
Bob counted the seconds and waited, keeping eye contact again.
Bob was analyzing the situation in this little, clean, cramped space.
Bob was still waiting seconds later when Berkley realized that he had almost dozed off just then.
“I’ve had two beautiful relationships, with men that I loved very much, but they weren’t what I really needed.” Explained Berkley. “I was trying too hard. I wasn’t always being as honest as I should have been.
“But I’ve still got lots of time, don’t I?
“To get it right…”
Bob was still listening and plotting.
Bob wanted to diffuse the situation, without getting someone killed, if possible.
“Max left me this morning.” Explained Berkley suddenly. “He wouldn’t even fix me my coffee, so I…”
Bob stood solid giving Berkley good eye contact now.
The gun was too heavy for Berkley and was aimed at the floor now.
There was no need to do something stupid.
Berkley was about to explain everything.
“I own a gun you see.” Berkley explained. “I have a permit and all, but it’s a hunting rifle.
“My father used to take me hunting when I was a boy.
“Every Spring and every Fall, we went hunting together, just the two of us.
“His name was Max too. That’s why I got together with Max last year, in hopes that he was… the one.
“When my mother died last year, I had to go through her belongings.
“That was really fucking hard, and Max wouldn’t help me.”
Bob was still tense, but patiently nodded.
“I didn’t want to tell Max about the rifle, but he asked about it. I lied. I didn’t want to tell him about the accident.
“That was so long ago. How could it possibly help?”
Bob waited for a second, and then asked politely, “Tell me about the accident.”
Berkley considered the request for a moment, then sat down slowly onto the balls of his feet against the cool white tiles.
Bob waited but looked a bit concerned suddenly.
“My father… we were hunting. Duck season, I think…
“I was loading the gun, and Dad was helping me. He didn’t think I was taking it very seriously. He thought that I’d never shoot anything properly.
“So Dad’s helping me, but he forgot to put the safety on. I didn’t forget, he forgot.”
Bob waited again, and stood patiently. The revolver was on the floor now, but Berkley’s finger was still on the trigger.
“It was an accident. It wasn’t your fault.” Said Deputy Bob.
Bob waited again for some acknowledgement, but Berkley was getting more anxious.
Bob saw what was going on behind Berkley’s eyes suddenly. “And your boyfriend?”
Berkley wished that he could turn back the clock, there were things that he would like to do over. Things he would have liked to have said before he kissed Deputy Bob.
“Max refused to make the fuckin’ coffee this morning, yelled at me for not paying attention to him, then admitted that he had slept with my best friend.
“He always makes the coffee. I don’t even know how.”
Bob was being impossibly patient.
“He chased me into the garage… Idiot… he kept yelling… even when I pulled it out.
“I wasn’t an accident this time. I had to friggin’ load the rifle.
Berkley was spent now and let the revolver slip from his hand as the tears began to flow.
Bob took the gun and holstered it properly this time.
Then Bob unlocked the door and called out to Jeff.
“I’m gonna talk with him for a few more minutes.” Bob explained.
Bob crouched down and got Berkley’s attention. “Why don’t we try to get our stories straight.”
Berkley stopped crying suddenly and grinned. “Straight?”