COTTONWOODS – by Andre DeCuir

(c) 2017, Andre DeCuir

When Brendan was 16, his parents got divorced and sent him to therapy. He saw Dr. Bill for about a year and then stopped, maybe because his mother got tired of being the only one to take him there. Brendan’s father moved into a trailer park along the Baton Rouge highway, and when Brendan visited every other weekend, they never talked about his mother, therapy, or school. They just watched TV and talked about the weather, the show they were watching, the commercials, and went out to eat at a burger place or a fish shack.

He liked seeing Dr. Bill and thought about him from time to time. He was tall, lean, probably well muscled under his clothes, Brendan imagined.  It was hard to tell how old he was as only a few hints of gray peeked through his dark brown hair.

Brendan was his last appointment of the day, and he noticed that Dr. Bill’s shirt was always unbuttoned at the top.  He never wore an undershirt, so sometimes Brendan was able to spy dark chest hair just behind the loose fabric of his shirt.  He imagined Dr. Bill arriving at work with his shirt buttoned up but then as the day wore on, slowly unfastening the buttons, one by one.

When Brendan stopped seeing Dr. Bill, thankfully, Kyle came into his life for a week in the spring. Kyle was Miss Vera Lee’s grandson. Brendan often did yard work for her, and one afternoon, when she brought him a glass of sweet iced tea, she announced that Kyle was coming for a visit. Brendan knew that Miss Vera Lee had family out of state but did not know too much about them.

“He’s coming down from Dallas,” said Miss Vera Lee.  “His daddy’ll drop him off and then go on to New Orleans for business. He’s 17.  I hope he won’t be bored around here.”

Brendan took a gulp of his tea.

“Maybe I can come by and take him crawfishing behind your house,” he offered, handing Miss Vera Lee the cool, wet glass.

Kyle had a slender build, shoulder-length, hay-colored hair and reddish stubble that grew in patches on his face. Brendan had imagined him being shy, landing in a new place and all, but at their first meeting, Kyle never stopped smiling, and his blue eyes twinkled.  At the edge of Miss Vera Lee’s house was a swamp, and the boys sat in lawn chairs close enough to enjoy the shade of its ancient trees. Miss Vera Lee had just served them lunch of tuna fish sandwiches and left them to continue to get acquainted.

“This is nice,” said Kyle, after he swallowed a bite of sandwich.

“Yeah, your grammaw makes good sandwiches.”

“She does, but I meant the swamp. The water looks so dark and cool and . . . and . . . peaceful.”

A light breeze seemed to roll in from the shadows of the swamp, and the boys were showered with tiny clouds of white fluff. They slowly danced, flitted, and wafted down, becoming nestled between blades of green grass.

“This is just like snow,” said Kyle, picking the soft fibers from his arm hair and fingering them into a tighter ball.

“It’s just the cottonwoods. Sometimes the seeds are so thick on the grass it looks like it just snowed a little bit.”

On that day of crawfishing, they didn’t catch much, but Kyle seemed to lose himself in that small body of water protected by ancient, towering cypress trees with their locks of moss and the cottonwoods.  Brendan remembered Kyle almost tipping the boat over trying to catch the floating cottonwood seeds then calmly convincing him to take off his shoes and dip his toes in the cool water with him. He also remembered the kiss that Kyle gave him, quick, unexpected, not completely unwished for.

On Kyle’s last day, he expressed his fears about coming to this small Louisiana town, but now, because of Brendan, he didn’t want to leave.  Brendan bowed his head, took one of Kyle’s hands, and squeezed.  When he looked up, Kyle’s eyes were twinkling.

“Hey, come down to the swamp around seven.  I want to try something.”

At dusk, Brendan found himself parked across the road from Miss Vera Lee’s house, now becoming saturated with different shades of blue in the fading daylight. He walked around the house and down to the swamp, its waters seeming to shimmer in the last bands of white in the sky.  And there was Kyle, half floating in water like glass.  Naked.  Beautiful.  His hair almost alive, unfurling in the water like the tendrils of some strange, exotic plant.  Cottonwood seeds were sticking to the wet skin of his chest.  As if  under a spell cast by Kyle’s smile, Brendan began to take off his clothes. He stepped into the cool, darkening water, mud rising between his toes.  He lay next to Kyle, half submerged, his eyes open, looking up at the black shapes of trees, his mind imagining the cottonwood seeds falling, surrounding their bodies, clinging to the skin.

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Andre’ DeCuir is a southern writer who has been transplanted to the Midwest.  He enjoys writing short fiction, poetry, and plays.  His work has appeared in The Rose and Thorn Journal and Dialogual.



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Author: gayflashfic

Manager of Gay Flash Fiction

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