Sometime later, Shaun stirred and wondered briefly what time it was. For a moment he was confused by his surroundings, but then he felt the warm cloak of flesh against his back and the arms that held him and his chest filled with a surge of feeling he couldn’t put a name to. He smiled to himself and hoped it would last. He was startled out of his reverie by a deep rumble from Kenn, who stretched, yawning, his whole body shuddering with the intensity of it; his arms and legs outstretched like a cat. Then he collapsed his arms and legs back around Shaun as he exhaled; and unselfconsciously, nuzzled into Shaun’s neck and kissed it.
‘Did you sleep?’ Kenn asked.
Hauling in a deep breath, Shaun replied, ‘Yeah’ on the out-breath, ‘You?’
‘Yup’ came the reply ‘Deeper than I have in a while. We should get up’
‘What time is it?’ said Shaun quickly, not wanting to break the spell.
‘Hell knows!’ Kenn rumbled, ‘But the sun’s low’ as the golden glow of it lit them from the windows leading onto the deck, and flooded his eyes, making him squint.
‘I suppose I ought to get going’ Shaun murmured ‘My stuff will be dry by now’.
Kenn felt a pang of loss and said, ‘Sure you don’t want to stay for supper? I could run down to the store and pick something up?’
‘I better not’ Shaun sighed, ‘I promised Mom I’d help out with some stuff today after I’d finished here.’ He turned his face to Kenn’s, still nuzzled in his neck, ‘I just hadn’t figured on it taking so long!’ He smiled, and they both spasmed a laugh. Kenn tightened his grip about the younger man, feeling he wanted to squeeze them into one being.
‘Guess I better let you go then’ As if invoked by mention of the outside world a phone rang. Kenn groaned and reluctantly released his hold on his companion. He staggered up, again stretching mightily, oblivious to Shaun’s shy appreciative gaze, and ambled through into the front of the house, scratching his crotch, to pick up the handset in the hall.
He wandered back through as it continued to ring and punched the ‘answer call’ button. ‘Yup?’ he said, as he gazed down at Shaun lying spread out on the back of the upturned sofa, lit once again by an almost spectral radiance as the sun streamed through the blinds, the barred shadows laying dark lines across his thighs and torso. The voice on the other end of the line nearly made him drop the phone.
‘Mrs Monkton! ... I mean err, Kat! Hi!’
Shaun jumped as if he’d been poked with a cattle prod. To Kenn’s amusement the younger man covered himself up with the cushion he’d earlier used as a pillow. Shaun made frantic head shaking, ‘I’m not here’ gestures, and Kenn was tempted just for the hell of it, to pass him the handset. Instead he said, ‘Uh huh? ... Yeah? ...yeah, sorry I kept him late he’s been a real hel...What was that? ...NOooo. Not at all, He’s been great. I’ve got more stuff lined up for him if he wants it.’ Shaun looked at Kenn pleadingly. ‘No. ...I sent him out for some gear he should be back soon.’ Shaun fell on his back with relief. ‘No. ...No, no, that’s ok. I’ll give him a ride home... What? ...No not at all ... Ah I see. ...Oh! He left his phone at home...’ He stretched this last phrase out as if suddenly understanding the problem and rolled his eyes disapprovingly at Shaun then laughed at something he heard and said, ‘Punishment? ... A little harsh, but I’m happy to oblige. I’m sure I can find something appropriate’ Shaun rolled over on his side and stuffed the cushion in his mouth, as Kenn ended the call. ‘Sure will. Yeah. ...Bye!’
‘You bastard...’ Shaun started, laughing, but was forestalled by Kenn diving on him and tickling him so that he groaned and wriggled, begging for mercy.
‘Take your punishment boy’ Kenn roared in a mock schoolteacher voice, as they flopped back on the upturned sofa.
‘Man, I really gotta go’ Shaun sighed, and gently beat Kenn away with the cushion. He stood and stretched then reached down a hand to pull Kenn up, ‘I’ll help with this mess first though’ he said. Between them they managed to right the couch which indeed bore a dark stain on the backrest, ‘...Oops!’ said Shaun.
‘Ach! It’ll be fine’ said Kenn, ‘We’ll see how it dries then worry about it. Do you want to take another shower before I drive you home?’
Shaun shook his head, ‘I do need to use the john again though’
‘You know where it is’.
Suddenly self-conscious of his nakedness, Shaun backed off to the bathroom smiling shyly at Kenn, but enjoying the play of light across the older man’s physique. ‘I think I will take a shower if that’s ok?’
‘Knock yourself out’
Once he’d closed the bathroom door Shaun checked himself out in the mirror. He’d half wondered if he would look different. As if his ‘changed status’ would have some outward manifestation on his face. He had expected to feel pain and there had been some at first, but only slight, a sort of bruised pounding of his innards that felt... warm! That was the best he could come up with; the warmth in his ass was like the feeling he had in his mouth about a half hour after eating his Mom’s chilli. He snorted at the comparison. That was “one Hot Tamale” he quoted and laughed to himself.
Remembering to adjust the shower setting he allowed the hot water and steam to warm into his bones a little; luxuriating in the warmth, he stood with his hands against the wall and his head bowed letting the jet pound into his shoulders and back then lifting his face through the torrent he leaned back and let it beat onto his chest and down his belly. After another minute or so of indulging he soaped up and rinsed off. Turning off the jet, he considerately reset the gauge back to cold then sluiced his hands down his torso and legs, and stepped out of the stall and dried him-self off. Realising he’d entered the bathroom without any clothing, God alone knew where the blue shorts were, he tied the long towel firmly around his midriff and went back into the kitchen.
To his surprise Kenn was there already dressed, in a clean polo-shirt, faded jeans and track shoes. He was just retrieving his keys, belt and the contents of his pockets from the soiled jeans in the basket as Shaun returned.
‘Hi! Good shower?’
‘Yeah. I should dress’, he walked round the bar heading for the garage door. As he brushed past Kenn the hairs on their arms sent a frisson through them both, Kenn sighed and aimed a slap at Shaun’s towelled behind, which Shaun anticipated and dodged. ‘Gimme a break’ he said, ‘Isn’t this where we came in?’ Jeff laughed and growled ‘Brat! Get dressed an’ I’ll drive you home’. Shaun grinned and headed into the garage.
Now that the sun had shifted round it was dim, and the light coming from the skylight was a pale grey, hitting the bench and weights. Shaun paused and surveying the scene, sighed. What a wild day! Who knew? He dressed quickly in the stiffened cotton of his jock, sweatpants and T-shirt that had all dried to the shape of the weight bars. His socks had dried but the high-tops were still slightly damp. He put them on anyway. Then on an afterthought before returning to the kitchen, he pushed up the door through which he’d originally entered the garage. The dusk was warm after a hot day and the crickets had started their chirruping. Leaving the panel up, he went over to the faucet and detached the hose, coiling it up. Then he disconnected the high-pressure unit from the power outlet, coiled its cable and brought them into the garage.
He jumped when Kenn’s voice said cheerfully, ‘There you are! I was beginning to think you’d run away’.
‘Sorry Mr Blake. I just thought I ought to bring the gear in before it got too dark.’
‘Oh! Thanks, you didn’t need to but thank you. And ...can we drop the... “Mr Blake”? Makes me sound like I’m your grade teacher! My name’s Kenn, Chip... or... What is your real name?”
‘Shaun? I like that. It suits you.’
‘Most people call me Chip. My Dad always was...is.’
‘But you’re not your Dad are you?’
Shaun shrugged, ‘It’s what I’m used to I guess’
Kenn frowned but said no more about it. ‘Come on let’s get you home. I’ve had an idea I’d like to share.’ He indicated they should leave via the garage door which he closed behind them. ‘Why didn’t you finish drying the pick-up by the way?’
Shaun blushed in the fading light. ‘I did!’ he explained, ‘But the hose blew. I got soaked and... You know the rest.’
Kenn laughed as he climbed in behind the wheel of the Tundra. ‘Jump in’ he called as he pulled his door to.
‘Where’s the Ford?’ Shaun asked as he clambered onto the passenger side of the big bench seat. He glanced around, again gripped with a twist of envy at the new-car smell of leather and plastic, and the roomy spaciousness of the giant vehicle.
‘That’s what I wanted to talk about’ Kenn returned, as he turned the ignition and the Toyota rumbled into life. He flicked the lights on and placed one arm along the back of the seat as he peered through the rear window and reversed down the drive. He swung onto the road and headed towards town.
As he drove he outlined the plan he’d come up with while Shaun had showered and dressed.
‘I left the Transit outside ‘Williams’ in town. I’d forgotten Old man Thornton’s keys, and because the traffic was crazy I decided to run back rather than tangle with Broadway again’.
‘That’s why I didn’t hear the engine?’ Shaun mused. Kenn looked puzzled then grinned as Shaun smiled and said, ‘Trust me! Today would have gone a whole lot different if I’d heard you coming back!’ They both laughed and fell silent.
‘Thank God for Old man Thornton’s keys’ Kenn murmured quietly. He flashed a small smile at Shaun who gave the same smile back then looked out his side window suddenly embarrassed and feeling all twisted up again.
After a long silence during which Shaun gazed into the gathering dusk and Kenn concentrated on driving, Kenn cleared his throat and said ‘Anyway’ on a long drawn-out breath as he indicated right and turned the wheel. ‘I was thinking. Your license is clean yeah?’ Shaun nodded. ‘Ok that’s a start. I’m guessing you don’t have any wheels of your own, given your Mom always drops you off. Hmn?’
‘I have a bicycle!’ Shaun said defensively. Kenn chuckled, his eyes still on the road.
‘Yeaah!’ Kenn drawled, ‘Anyway...As I was saying’ he said, as they pulled up at the signal on the corner of Broadway and East Market. Shaun could see the battered Ford parked across the junction. ‘As you don’t have... motor, transport. How would you feel about taking the Ford home tonight? Then you could pick me up on the way over to Tivoli tomorrow morning.’ The signal changed and indicating, Kenn turned through the crossing and pulled up smoothly next to the old Transit van. He turned the engine off and the rumble died to a loud silence.
Shaun was staring at him, ‘For real?’ he said, almost dumbfounded.
‘Sure “For Real!”’ Kenn mimicked back. ‘I said I could use another pair of hands on the job, I wasn’t kidding, ‘specially since I’m behind a day... all thanks to you!’ As he said this last part he adopted a serious tone and expression, but couldn’t sustain it and laughed. ‘Damn!’ he said softly as he shook his head. Shaun laughed too but flushed a deep crimson from the collar of his T-shirt to the roots of his hair. He was grateful for the disguising cover of the vehicles dark interior. ‘Seriously though,’ Kenn continued once he’d regained his composure. ‘Here are the keys to the van. You’ve driven it before. You ok with the stick-shift?’ He slung the keys across to Shaun who caught them and nodded staring at Kenn in awe. This was turning into what was by far the most amazing day of his life. ‘It’s OK!’ Kenn rumbled, ‘I trust you... I know where you live!’ he added with a grin.
Shaun was silent for another few seconds then just whistled softly, shaking his head. ‘Who ARE you?’ He said looking into Kenn’s handsome face.
Kenn grunted a laugh, ‘Just an ordinary guy with a busy schedule and a... vacancy...’ He trailed off as conflicting thoughts collided in his head. ‘Anyhow? We got a deal?’ He spat lightly into his palm and flicked out his right hand across the bench seat.
Shaun echoed his gesture and their hands slid together in a tight handshake. ‘Deal’ He said.