It’s only Dex and me, and the dogs. We are wading along the waterline. Rover and Cooper, just released from the bed of Dex’s pickup, chase across the dirty sandbank. Pacific seagulls cry. This is the mouth of the Russian River.
“Can I ask you a question?” Dex asks.
“Ye-es,” I say.
He stares at the crashing waves. “You think Jamie is gay?” he asks.
Hell, we were both wondering, of course, Chang, and yours truly.
“You should know,” I say. “You should know better.”
“No, I mean, you should know more than I do.” I reply. “These things happen in bed.”
“Yeah,” he says. “Mostly. No.”
“You sleep with him.”
Dex is still staring at the waves. I gather a piece of driftwood, point it at Rover, and haul it into the willing surf. Cooper stays put, he doesn’t like the water.
“Look, Dex, I’m the last person who could ask Jamie. I’m his adopted father. I can’t adopt Jamie and then ask him whether he’s gay.”
“What do you think he is?” he asks.
We’d known Dex for three and a half months now, three of which he had spent in Jamie’s bed.
“Dunno,” I say. “Honestly. What do you think he is?”
Rover is back, dripping, shaking his pelt, dropping the driftwood at my feet. I pick it up again, prepare for the throw, but the dog, after a few wet steps on the edge of the waves, changes his mind and cuddles up to Cooper. We’ve stopped walking.
“Can I ask you a question?” I say. It is difficult for me to avoid eye contact. “Why did you move in?”
“Well,” I say, “the first night, Dex, we barely knew you, and there was some hush-hush at the dinner table and then Jamie asks whether it would be okay if you stay over. We found pajamas and a toothbrush and off you went. That was the last time anybody ever asked a question. You’ve become a default member of the household. You cut French fries for us. Better than we do.
“I could pay for the expenses, you know,” he says. “Like, like bread and board.”
“No-no,” I say, touching his shoulder. “You really don’t have to. No sweat.”
“My mom could pay you. She has money enough. I will ask her.”
“Why did you move in?” I insist.
“Jamie needs help. He has nightmares and stuff. Still. Like almost every night.”
Jamie had lost his mother under horrible, protracted circumstances, and we were their only functional neighbors. We took him in after she died, and a Sonoma County judge blessed our move, eventually.
There’s a long pause. The seagulls have stopped crying. A slow wave crests lazily and rolls up to our feet.
“You wonder whether I’m gay, right?” he manages.
“It’s not a problem,” I say. “Chang and I are gay, ain’t we?”
“It’s not about sex, right?”
“You’re having sex anyhow, right?”
There’s a really sheepish grin on his face. He snorts.
“We were wondering.”
“We use a towel. Jamie is very anxious.”
“Sex is good?”
He appears flustered. I went too far.
“What’s your problem, then?” I ask.
“I’m not sure he likes it.”
“Well, there’s an almost objective measure whether he likes it.”
“Why don’t you ask him?”
“Sure, he says, he likes it. Sometimes.”
Should I break the taboo? Another look at Dex’s face. I point another piece of driftwood at Rover, and he obliges. “You’re in love with Jamie, right?”
Dex drops his head. We weren’t sure about the sex part, but everybody knew the answer to this one. Except Jamie, maybe. Something must have happened at Santa Rosa High. Somebody must have said something. In the PC-est high school of the nation, where they have separate bathrooms for five different genders, and somebody dares to comment on sexual orientation.
“Look,” I say. “When I met Chang, I wasn’t in love with Chang. I’m in love with him now.”
“You mean?” he asks.
“You know the Beatles song?” I ask.
“I know a few.”
“When I’m sixty-four?” I hum a few bars.
“Perhaps you’ll grow old together. Unlikely, but not impossible.” I pick up another piece of driftwood, hand it to him. He points it at Rover. “You mean,” he says, and lobs it at a cresting wave.
“You’re the best therapy Jamie could possibly get,” I say.
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Michael Ampersant lives in Southern France and writes laconic-erotic prose. His short stories have appeared on the pages of Temptation Magazine, EtherBooks, Gay Flash Fiction, The Bear Review, LustSpiel Magazine, and Bunbury.
More stories by Michael Ampersant
Michael’s first novel, GREEN EYES, was a finalist in the Lambda Literary Awards last year.
The sequel, THIS IS HEAVEN, is also available on Amazon.
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