The roadside waitress didn’t know any better. She was like an archetype from a distant era even in the nineteen-seventies, with her pink uniform trimmed with checkered pockets, her hair piled atop her head in hard, impenetrable curls, the lipstick that was slowly fading from the corners of her mouth. She set our plates of food in front of us and smiled. “You and your daddy heading to the beach today?”
Earl gave the woman one of his slow, lazy, and charming smiles. He could melt any feminine heart he wished with those smiles. “Yes ma’am,” he drawled, reaching around me. I thought he was reaching for the hot sauce, but instead his arm rested around my shoulders in an intimate, familiar kind of way that caused me to stir inside my pants. His other hand ruffled my hair. It was easily the kind of thing a dad might do to his son, but I was willing to wager none of the patrons of that sleepy little barbecue joint ever mulled in their heads the improbable truth of the alternative. “The kid and I are heading for a day at Virginia Beach. Laying in the sun. Swimming. He likes that. Don’tcha, kid?” With his arm still around my shoulder, he thumped me on the chest and let his hand trail down its length.
“Good day for it,” she remarked, fanning herself with the tray. “I could use a dip myself. Hah!” She flashed a toothy grin, pleased with her own repartee, then flipped her apron and stumbled back into the tiny restaurant.
We’d stopped at this little wayside place somewhere close to Williamsburg, on our way to Lightfoot, because it was one of Earl’s favorites. Like him, it was an unassuming place—cheerfully painted, without air conditioning, inexpensive, with a menu carved out on a wooden board nailed onto the restaurant’s side. We sat at the picnic tables among truckers and tourists, chewing on our pulled pork sandwiches on fluffy white hamburger buns, the meat studded with pickles and cole slaw. His arm remained behind me the whole time. He knew that everyone now viewed us as a suburban father and his sixteen-year-old son. Two innocent, masculine wayfarers on their way for an afternoon of fun in the sun. No one would think a thing of it.
“Eat up,” Earl said to me with a paternal wink. “You’re going to need your energy. Son.”
We finished our lunch mostly without talking, then got back into his car. The road back to the state route to Lightfoot from the restaurant was long and dusty. On that summer day, it was largely deserted. He pulled off close to where dirt met asphalt, beneath a tree. Without a word, he opened the front door of his car, shut it again, and climbed into the back seat. Without a word of my own, I followed suit.
“Take off your jeans,” he ordered. I obeyed, removing my sneakers and leaving the denim in a heap on the floor. He looked me in the eyes, then cupped my cheek in his big hand. “You know why I have to do this,” he said. I nodded. After studying me a moment, he pulled out his bag from beneath the driver’s seat. I knew what it contained. From inside he pulled out a short nylon cord. With protest, I crossed my wrists behind my back and allowed him to fasten them—tightly, but not too tight. I turned on my side, lifted up my legs to the leatherette seat, and allowed him to wrap another length of cord around the ankles. He wrestled my sneakers back on my feet, leaving the laces untied.
He used a bandana as a blindfold, then forced my mouth open. His gag was an improvised affair of a small wiffle ball through which had been threaded another length of cloth. I started to drool immediately, once the plastic forced my teeth apart.
At least he’d cleaned it.
Something went over my head. A hood, or a sack. I couldn’t see what it was. Then, finally after he’d very gently tipped me over the edge and lowered me to the floor between the front and back seats, he threw over me an old and dusty blanket, the kind of thing dog owners might keep in their trunks to prevent pawprints. “Make it convincing,” I heard him say. He exited the back seat, assumed his position at the wheel, and started up the car again. My body lurched and banged against the hard plastic and metal of the seat machinery, with every turn.
It was already a sweltering day, and I was covered in a blanket, on the floor of a hot car. My wrists and ankles hurt. My jaw ached from the gag. The bump down the car’s center, over the drive shaft, dug uncomfortably into my rib cage, causing me to cry out with pain every time we hit a patch of rough road.
I didn’t know exactly where our destination was—but Lightfoot wasn’t too far from the lunch stop. By the time we got there, though, my face was red and overheated, the cords at my wrists and ankles had notched deep, and I’d drooled so much through the holes of the wiffle ball that my face was wet and streaked. I knew how disheveled and desperate I must have looked.
Earl did too.
He honked the horn outside our destination. I hear the mechanical whirr of a garage door rising. When Earl drove inside, his windows were rolled up and the radio was blasting Creedence at top volume. Only when the second clanking of the door lowering back into place was complete did he turn off the ignition and open the door.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” I heard a voice say outside. “Your music loud enough?”
“You’d rather everyone heard it yelling? Real smart.” I heard Earl say, and then his front door slammed. For several moments, I could only hear them speaking, muffled and low, through the doors. Then the back door opened.
“. . . So where’d you get it?” I heard the other man asking. His voice was nasal, but deep. He wasn’t from Tidewater, that was for certain. There was a Baltimorian twang to his vowels, maybe.
“Don’t ask me that shit,” said Earl, obviously annoyed.
He yanked the blanket off me. I raised my head into the air. The disorientation I felt wasn’t faked. I was dizzy. I ached, though not as badly as if this entire scenario had been real.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” I heard the other man say. He let out a low whistle. I felt a rough, thick hand dive into my briefs. It squeezed hard at my dick and balls, and then rubbed a thumb against my hole. I squirmed and protested. “Nice.”
Two pairs of hands hauled me out of the back of the car, scraping my ribs and shoulders over the floor and doorframe as they hauled me out into the garage. At least the air there was cool. My head lolled back. I felt Earl supporting me up as presumably the other man undid the cord around my ankles. My legs were half-asleep, though, and I couldn’t support myself fully. I started to fall down almost immediately.
“Christ,” repeated the guy. “He’s a mess. What’d you do to him?”
“Never you mind.” Earl let out an contemptuous chuckle that would’ve chilled the bones of any of the patrons of the barbecue joint at which we’d eaten, not a half-hour before. “Where do you want him?”
I couldn’t see where I was going. My rubbery legs moved aimlessly as two sets of hands wrestled with me into the house, and down some stairs. At one point I found myself suddenly being shoved against a wall; my jaw made such impact against it that I feared it might bruise. “Don’t do that,” Earl said, seriously annoyed. “You leave that shit to me.”
“Okay, okay, Christ,” said the other man, backing off.
At last they shoved me down onto what felt—and smelled—like a musty old basement mattress. I yelled as they tore down my briefs. My arms went back and pulled against the sockets as one of them yanked my shirt up under my chin.
I yelled when the man entered me. That was genuine, too. He didn’t use much spit, didn’t go slow. He thrust into me with a dick that felt thick and long, splitting my hole in a way that told me he didn’t much care who I was or where Earl had presumably found me. “Little faggot,” he growled, as he stabbed into me. “Fuckin’ little faggot gettin’ what he deserves.” Any reply I would have made was garbled by the whiffle ball. He grabbed my hair, yanked back my head. “He likes it,” he crowed. “Look at the li’l shit. He likes it!”
The man was right about one thing. I did like it. I liked being handled rough. I liked the feeling of that dick in me. The guy was a shit, but his excitement was palpable. He ran his hands over my body as if he couldn’t believe his luck. His sweat rubbed off on me. I smelled like him, like musk and precum and Old Spice.
I liked being taken on that nasty old mattress with no sheets, choking on the mold and my own spit. I liked the guy’s excitement at getting what he thought was something live and off the streets, while Earl sat back and watched him use me. Later, I knew, back at his own place in Richmond, I knew Earl would wash off my body in his tub, gently, with a warm cloth. He’d rub at the chafed spots, and give me aspirin for the aches. He’d hold me, and cover my mouth with his own, and kiss me deep as he drove into my still-cummy hole.
That would be later, though. Now, I was being mounted and used by a desperate man who huffed and puffed his way to orgasm. When he came, it was like a freight train roaring by, beginning with a distant whistle in his chest that grew louder and louder until he drove into me and remained. My hole throbbed, red and hurting, as he held in there. His dick swelled and ebbed inside me, spilling its load.
Then it was over. He pulled out, dick slopping onto my ass and the cum dripping down my leg. Someone—Earl—yanked me up by the wrists, causing me to yell in genuine pain. I stumbled, and blundered into another wall. Hands yanked me up the stairs, out into the garage. I heard the laces of my sneakers clattering across linoleum, stone, concrete. Someone attached the cords to my ankles again. And then I found myself pushed into the car, muffled and gagged, face-down, the blanket thrown over me like some kind of sleepy canary. Earl started up the car, cranked up the tunes, and drove the hell out of there.
He stopped only a few blocks away, briefly, by the side of the road, long enough to undo the cord around my wrist. He started up again, driving the route home. Something flew from his hands over the top of the seat and landed on my chest. A roll of twenties, it was. I knew there’d be twenty of them in that rubber-banded wad. My fingers and hands, though, were too sore to reach for it. I rubbed them as I waited for them to come back to life, so I could loosen my other restraints.
And as I lay there, breathing normally once again, staring at the bills on my chest, I thought, How is this deception any different from what Jim told me to do?
Earl’s lover, Jim, had wanted me to dick around with a guilt-conflicted religious man sheerly for the sake of making him suffer, and I had. Earl had disapproved of the scheme in no uncertain terms. And yet, he was playing some poor shit with a rape fantasy with no qualms whatsoever. For cash, no less—cash that was going into my bank account, but all the same.
I had a realization then. Crystal clear in my mind, it was, a new thought I’d never before considered. Every man lies during sex. And every man believe his lies to be justified.
We tell ourselves such fabrications to get ourselves through and past our fantasies. Such elaborate deceptions we create to allow ourselves to keep operating, despite our religious restrictions. We tell fibs to get laid, sweet nothings to get a partner’s pants off. We lie, and we do it well. So well, we don’t always realize it.
Or in Earl’s case, it’s done without remorse, and with the cool knowledge of deception—of giving someone exactly what he wanted, without giving it to him at all. Legerdemain. Sleight of hand.
By the time I’d dressed, and put the restraints back in Earl’s bag, and pulled myself up into a ball in the back seat—legs drawn up, my arms hugging them, no seat belt, as no one wore them back in those days—I was looking at Earl in an entirely new light. He was my mentor, yes. But for the first time, I began to wonder if I wanted to be mentored in what he seemed to be teaching me.
Then he looked at me in the rear view mirror. Those friendly, warm eyes crinkled as they met mine. I melted, thinking of the after yet to come, and for a moment, forgot my doubts.