“None?” Daoud asked skeptically. He had invited Fonseca to the VIP lounge at O’ Hare while they awaited flights to opposite coasts. Weeks earlier, Daoud had been promoted to General Manager of the opera in New York. Fonseca, who regularly ushered at the opera in San Francisco, was nearing retirement as a public defender, the first and only job he had had since law school. He was returning home from Chicago after a continuing education course. Daoud had been scouting a new production at the Lyric.
“Not even an honorable mention,” Fonseca assured him. Daoud and he were talking about the Avalon Hill games they had played with Duncan, a high school friend who had entered politics after retiring from the military and had recently been elected to the United States Senate. For Fonseca the games had seemed impenetrably complex, but none of them had been praised in the YouTube videos to which Fonseca had listened in nostalgia over their friend’s election.
“How many videos did you listen to?”
“Just two. That took almost half an hour,” Fonseca said. “Old gamers are long-winded.”
“Are you sure they were ranking only games before the Hasbro acquisition?”
“That’s what each clarified at the outset of the videos,” Fonseca said.
“Games we played would have been published thirty or forty years before Hasbro anyway.” Daoud shook his head judiciously.
“But the omissions don’t diminish Duncan’s praise for you,” Fonseca said, “or the jealousy it still kindles in me.”
“Of course,” Daoud smiled, “I like that he saw me as, second to him, the most strategic thinker in our high school class. I wish I had known that earlier.”
“I thought you had known,” Fonseca said. “Anyway, my jealousy would have prevented my letting you know.”
“Jealousy seems misplaced,” Daoud said, “then and now. You’re the one he spent most time with the summer after our senior year.”
“Nonetheless, I wish I had posed a challenge in at least one of the games.”
“He was on the football team. He could be a bully.” Daoud did not resent Fonseca’s sentimental focus on Duncan’s recent success. But he thought that an opera buff like Fonseca should have devoted a little praise to Daoud’s own achievements in the art.
“No,” Fonseca said. “He gave me every chance his collection offered, Gettysburg, Stalingrad, Afrika Corps. It wasn’t just not being an intellectual match. Back then, I couldn’t even understand the object or rules of play. Even today, I probably couldn’t.”
“Probably not,” Daoud said confirming Fonseca’s limitations. “But you’re the one he spent afternoons with that summer. You must have done something to hold his interest.” Daoud could not remember anything attractive about Fonseca. He still lacked finesse and tact. When the waiter at the lounge took their order for drinks, Fonseca gratuitously disclosed being alcoholic and then ordered a Shirley Temple with three cherries.
“He seemed pleased that I loved him,” Fonseca said. “At least he never seemed uncomfortable.”
“They must have been interesting afternoons.”
“I guess it’s okay to talk about them now?”
“I’m all ears,” Daoud said.
“You probably are,” Fonseca laughed.
“Yes, I am,” Daoud confirmed the propriety of his curiosity. “At our age anything still secret from youth is ripe for sharing.”
“Duncan would walk around naked.”
“Really? What about his parents?”
“Well, his dad was inventing a miracle drug in a lab somewhere south, and his mom was out of the house or sleeping a lot. She may have been depressed,” Fonseca said. “But she was always nice to me. His father was suspicious, even hostile.”
“Understandably,” Daoud said.
“I would get excited seeing him naked with a big erection.”
“Duncan’s father?” Daoud asked startled.
“Duncan, not his father.” Fonseca said, “But for an older man, his father had his own muscular appeal.”
“Older man?” Daoud shrugged. “Duncan’s dad was at an age then that would make him young enough to be one of our children now.”
“Probably,” Fonseca said. “But I resisted temptation with Duncan and, had there been any strong attraction to his father, I would have resisted that too because I was going to become a priest.”
“Right, right,” Daoud nodded. “In those days, a lot of people said it was a sin to have sex outside marriage, and men couldn’t marry.”
“Catholic priests couldn’t marry either,” Fonseca said. “All of us were too young to marry anyway.”
“A big erection?” Daoud queried then hinted at more refined tastes. “My appetites lie elsewhere, but my curiosity is omnivorous.”
“Yes, enough Highland sausage for a wedding breakfast at MacDuff’s,” Fonseca said then blushed. “Remember that place?”
“Kind of,” Daoud said recoiling from Fonseca’s zestful vulgarity. “Are you sorry now you missed the chance to make love with Duncan?”
“I feel as though I did make love,” Fonseca said, “and in a way that has never been available to me since. Probably not to Duncan either.”
“That’s sweet,” Daoud said. “I can’t say the same things about the previous summer when Duncan spent most of his afternoons with me.”
“Did not!” Fonseca blurted in jealousy.
“Did so,” Daoud said, “but, unlike those with you, never naked.”
“You should have let him win more games,” Fonseca smiled relieved.
“A strategic blunder, perhaps” Daoud said. “Probably the only one I’ve ever made. I didn’t think that far ahead or really anywhere in that direction.”
“I didn’t think at all,” Fonseca said. “Between the temptation and the resistance, I couldn’t think. It had to come to me by grace.” Just then, there was a gate call for Daoud’s flight, so Fonseca gulped down his drink.
As they left the lounge, Daoud asked, “Did Duncan ever do more than display himself?”
Fonseca gave a puzzled look, “You mean masturbate in front of me?”
“No,” Daoud shook his head. “Penetration?”
“He offered the last night we were in Montreal for the World’s Fair. But I deflected his advances.”
“Sin?” Daoud suggested.
“That,” Fonseca said, “And fear of splitting the guy in two.”
*** *** *** *** ***
Chuck Teixeira and his first loves grew up among the anthracite mines of northeastern Pennsylvania. Chuck earned four university degrees, including one from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and one from Harvard Law School. Chuck worked as a tax attorney for many years in San Francisco, California. Now he teaches English in Bogota, Colombia. Chuck’s stories have appeared in Esquire, Permafrost, Portland Review, Jonathan and Two-Thirds North. Collections of his work, including Thicket and Bad News from Bogota, are available at Amazon.com.
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