Gag Reflex—By Thomas Kearnes


The door is locked and Ian likes the way I take him into my mouth calmly, without thought, and I tell myself it’s like a kiss, a kiss that goes on forever, for as long as I can stand it, till the tickle in the back of my throat becomes too much and I disgorge him and move to his shaft, lick it, then work my way down further, and Ian asks me if I’m hungry, if I’m a hungry boy, and I’m glad I can control the choking, the gagging, not like the boy who first went down on me behind the band hall after practice one week before I started ninth grade, almost one year ago, and he didn’t tease me like I am Ian, beginning with a kiss, him lying back on my bed, the CD player loud enough to cover his moans but not so loud Momma will knock on the door and make up some question to ask before telling me to turn it down, then trying the door handle, knowing it’s locked, wondering what’s happening inside while Ian looks at my face flushed with panic and smiles and I feel him harden in my hand, in my mouth, even more than before, this senior guy, because I don’t have any brothers, just a sister named Kelley who leaves her door open all the time, the phone pressed to her ear with her TV on, silent pictures illuminating the darkening room, so Momma thinks Ian is a big brother to me, long and lean and blue-eyed and stretched over the comforter Gamma made and Kelley left on my bed one day because she said it was ugly and no one sees the inside of your room anyway, Toby, what does it matter, but Ian’s good for me I heard Momma tell Daddy in the kitchen one night, since you’re gone so much, he needs another man around, someone to teach him about life, someone who took a shine to me as Gamma put it when she came out to the house last month and Ian came by for dinner and took me to my room after and we turned the music on and locked the door while Momma and Daddy looked over nursing home brochures with Gamma until she got tired and knocked on my door and whispered night, boy and the sudden jerk my head made when I tried to take Ian from my mouth to say good night made him come and I felt him flood my mouth but I managed to mumble a good night, and Ian apologized but I told him I was fine and really I was because I was used to it, not having his come inside my mouth…


…not that, the sour, stagnant taste of his release washing my teeth and sliding down my throat because it’s just like bending in front of the toilet after I’ve eaten a whole cake I swiped from the cafeteria using the hall pass I stole from Miss Winter’s class two years ago, or the whole bag of miniature Hershey bars Ian drives me to the Brookshire’s on the other side of town to buy, or a whole carton of ice cream—double chocolate, rocky road, peppermint fudge—and Ian says I must have a big appetite and caresses my face which I know means it’s time to lean down from the passenger seat into his lap while he cruises down I-30 on the way back to my house, but it’s good practice I tell myself, the days Ian can’t come over because his girlfriend already made plans and I’m just home with Kelley talking into the phone watching the silent pictures on the other side of her room and Momma watches talk shows in the living room on the other side of the house, the volume turned up more than at night to cover the music I play even when Ian’s not here because the bathroom is right next to my room and that’s close enough to muffle the hot, chunky splash the food makes as it falls from my lips into the cloudy water below, that splash as loud as a cannonball’s impact no matter how far over the toilet seat I pitch myself, how close I hold my face to the water’s surface, its faint aroma of urine which I used to get rid of with disinfectant every day until Momma started to wonder why she had to replace bottles so often so I can only do it twice a week now, but even that turned out to be a good thing because the odor helps my stomach contract and the food comes faster and I don’t have to spend as long behind the locked door where Kelley might notice and laugh because everyone knows what boys my age are doing in the bathroom when they lock the door, not this, not Ian in my mouth right now and his hips begin to snap back and forth against the mattress and I know it’s almost time and I’m used to the taste now, so used to hot fluid coursing up and down my throat I could do this forever, bent over the boy or bent over the toilet, and I wrap my lips tighter around his cock as the music suddenly stops.


Thomas Kearnes graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with an MA in film writing. His fiction has appeared in Hobart, Gertrude, A cappella Zoo, Split Lip Magazine, Cutthroat, Litro, Berkeley Fiction Review, PANK, BULL: Men’s Fiction, Gulf Stream Magazine, Wraparound South, Night Train, 3:AM Magazine, Word Riot, Storyglossia, Driftwood Press, Adroit Journal, The Matador Review, Mary: A Journal of New Writing, wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, Pidgeonholes, Sundog Lit, The Citron Review, The James Franco Review and elsewhere. He is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Originally from East Texas, he now lives near Houston and works as a cashier. His debut collection of short fiction, “Steers and Queers” will print at Lethe Press in 2019.

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