FREE Gay Book Excerpt: Altered Parts by Ryan Field; Max Emerson’s Latest Revealing Naked Male Photo Not Banned; More Kevin Spacey Abuse Accusations

FREE Gay Book Excerpt: Altered Parts by Ryan Field

I’ve posted another excerpt from my new release, Altered Parts, below. There’s also a link to Amazon, and it’s being distributed and sold in most other venues where online gay romance novels are sold.

You can check out the link and excerpt below.

Max Emerson’s Latest Revealing Naked Male Photo Not Banned

I have to be honest. I don’t even know who this guy is. In the course of one day…or maybe just one morning…I see so many naked guys exploiting themselves for attention they all start to look the same to me.

This seems to be the era where if a guy doesn’t take off his shirt and drop his pants in public there’s something wrong with him. And I guess this Max Emerson isn’t going to let anyone call him unique.

The NYC actor and model sure isn’t afraid to flash the flesh. However his latest Instagram post might just have shown us all more than we’ve seen before… or maybe a little too much?!
During a stay in a hotel, Max decided to get up close and personal with us all by showing off the facilities in the building – and more specifically the anti-fog mirror.

Here’s the rest. It is SFW.

More Kevin Spacey Abuse Accusations

I really didn’t want to post about this anymore, but it’s news, and it’s all still coming out. Now there’s this new accusation. Below is just one quote from a much longer article that goes into more detail.

I guess he must have come up behind me and yanked down my baggy jeans, and he goes to f*ck me and I’m like, “No, I don’t want to.” And he pushes hard, and grabs me, and starts shoving up against my a**hole, and it hurts like a motherf*cker. I again tell him no, and he tries again. I am strong enough, thank God, both somewhere in my brain and in my body, to get him off of me. … I saved myself in many ways in that minute from the much deeper trauma that would’ve come from having been raped. Thankfully, some part of me was strong enough to be like, “F*ck no.” I’m so grateful to that little 14-year-old, that he didn’t say, I have to let him do this or he’ll stop loving me.

When this allegedly happened, the guy was 15 years old. Here’s the rest. 
Altered Parts

Excerpt: Altered Parts by Ryan Field 

Before I had a chance to reply, he turned and started walking to where I’d parked the car. I’d never been carried before by anyone, let alone a good looking guy like Clay, and I wasn’t sure where to put my arms at first. I couldn’t just let them dangle, and I couldn’t lift them up in the air, so I gently wrapped my arms around his shoulders and he didn’t seem to mind in the least.
He took long steps and never wavered once. His breathing remained even and he never broke a sweat. It seemed so effortless and so normal for him to carry me that way I gently caressed the back of his neck, as if I’d done it by accident, and said, “If I get too heavy you can put me down.” I wanted to see how he’d react if I touched his neck lightly in more obvious way.
“I’m good. We’re almost there anyway.”
I hugged him a little tighter and said, “I think you’ll have to drive. It’s my right foot and I’m not sure I can drive this way.”
“I know how to drive,” he said. “The cowboys on the ranch taught me when I was 13 years old.”
I wondered what else the cowboys had taught him.
When we reached the car, I turned the handle and he guided the passenger door open with his knee. As he lowered me onto the front seat, I held his neck and his cheek brushed up against mine. I inhaled his strong scent and took a quick breath. My first instinct was to rest my lips on his cheek but I didn’t dare. I still wasn’t sure about anything. I was still on the verge of shaking. I didn’t want him to think I was a queer, especially since he’d gone out of his way for me. But more important, I didn’t want him to reject me.
After he got me settled, he leaned inside the front seat and reached for my ankle. He removed my shoe and sock and slowly ran his fingers around my foot.
He squeezed my foot and asked, “How’s that feel?”
I nodded. “Okay.” The way he was touching me sent of a rush of emotions from the deepest part of my body. I didn’t even know I had these emotions and I wasn’t sure how to keep them hidden.
He ran his fingers up my foot and gently squeezed my ankle. “How’s that?”
“That’s the sore spot,” I said. As sore as it was, I wanted him to continue touching it.
Then he told me to wiggle my toes and try to move my foot. A moment later he gently rubbed the bottom of my foot and said, “I don’t think anything’s broken. It’s a sprain and you’ll have to rest it for a few days. I learned a lot about first aid on the ranch. We didn’t have a doctor around so we had to do certain things on our own.”
“It doesn’t hurt as much now as it did a minute ago,” I said. I think that’s because he was touching me so gently and I couldn’t stop staring at his lips.
“I am so sorry I pushed you,” he said. “I should know better.”
As he looked into my eyes I let my instincts take over. I did something to him that I never would have done to any of the other young men I knew on the mountain. I reached out and caressed his cheek slowly. “I know you didn’t mean it. It was an accident. I’m fine.”
We stared at each other for a moment or two, and there was one point where I thought he might lean forward and kiss me on the lips. I wanted him to kiss me. I wanted him to climb on top of me in the car and kiss me for hours. Most of all, I wanted him to make the first move. However, he kissed my sprained ankle instead, and then jogged around to the other side of the car so he could drive me back down the mountain. And as odd as that was, for one young guy to kiss another young guy’s ankle that way, we never acknowledged it even happened. There didn’t seem to be a need to explain it, or even normalize it with a joke.
As the sky darkened, he drove down the mountain with more alacrity and confidence than I’d ever possessed on my best day, and I was as familiar with that old dirt road as I was with my own hands. He knew nothing about it. He remained focused on the road and by the time we pulled up to the barn across the road from the main house, he parked so slowly and quietly the old car didn’t even jerk.
I noticed my aunts were still sitting out on the front porch as they usually did on warm summer evenings. Aunt Ted in a high-backed wicker chair reading one of her fashion magazines, and Aunt Matilda in a white rocking chair working on her needlepoint. At first, they didn’t even notice us pull up, but I wasn’t looking forward to this. The instant Clay unfolded from the driver’s side and rushed around to help me get out, they both jumped up and ran down the front walk to see what had happened.
The fact that Clay insisted on carrying me to the house made things even worse. When we met them at the front gate Aunt Matilda pulled it open so fast she almost tripped, and Aunt Ted clutched her lace top and swooned.
“What happened?” Aunt Matilda asked, with one hand pressed to her stomach and the other to her throat.
“I’m fine,” I said. “I’m not seriously hurt.” I knew this would set them both into a panic and I would have preferred avoiding this entire scene if possible. My aunts were both creatures of habit and whenever something challenged their normal routines they tended to gasp and swoon a lot, especially if it involved me. I was the only one they had left and they depended on me a lot more as a grown man than I’d once depended on them as a child.
Clay carried me up the front steps and gently set me down on a wicker loveseat. While he pulled a small wicker table forward so I could rest my sprained ankle, he turned toward my aunts and said, “He sprained his ankle up on the mountain. We were up in the tree house and all of a sudden…”
I cut him off fast. I didn’t want them to know he’d accidentally pushed me out of the tree house. I didn’t want them to hold that against him. Even if they knew it had been an accident, I knew they would never forget he’d been the one who’d pushed me. “I tripped over a rock. I feel like a big dumb idiot now. I should know better. I’m just glad Clay was with me otherwise I would have had to walk all the way down the mountain alone.” I sent him a look and winked, hoping he wouldn’t mention pushing me out of the tree house.
“Oh, you’re so right,” Aunt Ted said. “Thank the lord for Clay. If he hadn’t been there to help you I don’t even want to think about what could have happened. You have to be more careful, Joe Buddy. You must pay attention to your surroundings.”
“Yes, Ted,” said Aunt Matilda. She turned toward Clay. “Thank you so much, young man, for being so responsible. You are a true hero. I don’t even want to think about the possibilities if you hadn’t been there to help our poor Joe Buddy.”
I couldn’t argue with that. Clay was my hero, and in more ways than one.
Then my aunts rushed into the house to chip some ice from the ice box. A few minutes later, they wrapped the ice in a homemade muslin pouch and set it on my ankle. It was already starting to feel better and I didn’t think it was a bad sprain. I tried to tell them but they wouldn’t listen, so I just sat there and did what everyone wanted me to do.
As daylight faded, Aunt Ted stood up from her chair and turned to Aunt Matilda. “I’m going to bed now. Naturally, I assumed Clay would be spending the night with us and I got the south guest room on the third floor all ready for him right after dinner. But under these circumstances I’d prefer it if he spent the night in Joe Buddy’s room.”
“I’m in total agreement, Ted,” Aunt Matilda said. “This way Clay can help Joe Buddy upstairs and help get him into bed.” She glanced at Clay. “That is if Clay doesn’t mind spending the night in Joe Buddy’s room and helping out that way.”
“I’m fine with that,” Clay said. “I’ll carry him upstairs in a few minutes. Don’t worry about a thing, ladies.” He seemed so eager to comply.
“I think I can walk on my own now,” I said. It only feels a little sore now.
They ignored me and smiled at Clay. “Thank you so much, Clay,” said Aunt Ted. “It’s so nice to have a man around the house.”
“I agree, Ted,” said Aunt Matilda. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a man here.”

“Hey, what do I look like?” I said. Even though Clay was a little older and stronger, I started to feel a little insulted.

Kendle’s Fire
A PG Rated Gay Romance

Said With Care

"Sex and the City" Gilles Marini and Hollywood Sex Abuse; The Problems With the Movie "Call Me By Your Name"; Bette Midler On "Hocus Pocus" Remake; Gay Instagrammer Supports Trump and Wears Blackface

“Sex and the City” Gilles Marini and Hollywood Sex Abuse

Here’s another story that came out recently about sexual abuse in Hollywood, with men.

Gilles Marini, who played Samantha Jones’ boy toy in the 2008 Sex and the City film, has opened up about his experiences with Hollywood execs in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
“I was approached by extremely powerful people,” he tells People“I became a piece of meat for many executives in Hollywood.”

You can check this out here. 

The Problems With the Movie “Call Me By Your Name” 

I haven’t been thrilled with the way they’ve been promoting the movie, “Call Me By Your Name,” as a gay romance. But this article takes it even further by tackling something completely different. It’s not the first time I’ve seen people discussing this either.

“Call Me By Your Name” is a film about the “forbidden” romance between a closeted seventeen year old boy and a twenty-four year old man. Based on the book of the same name, the movie portrays a relationship in which the older adult clearly knows that what he’s doing is wrong, yet he still starts a romantic and sexual relationship with a high-school aged teenager. 

You can read that in full here. 

Bette Midler On Hocus Pocus Remake

Midler doesn’t sound too thrilled about the remake of Hocus Pocus. I don’t know anything about it and I didn’t even know they were doing a remake.  

In any event…

Asked about the remake at her annual New York Restoration Project’s Hulaween party, Midler didn’t mince words, saying the TV movie would be “cheap.”
“I know it’s cheap. It’s going to be cheap!” she told People magazine. “I’m not sure what they’re going to do with my character. My character is very, very broad and I don’t know who they’re going to find to play that.”

Here’s the rest. I think we should wait and see before we judge. 

Gay Instagrammer Supports Trump and Wears Blackface

Here we go again. You really do have to wonder about the kind of person who does something like this, and how badly they need attention.

This year for Halloween, Crane decided to dress up as Storm from X-Men. NBD, right? Wrong. His costume was complete with Storm’s signature shock of white hair, her yellow cape, and… her dark skin.

Not surprisingly, people weren’t so into a white dude wearing blackface for Halloween. They immediately began calling out Crane’s costume choice. (If you really need a lesson on the deeply racist history of blackface, here’s a start.)

Check this out here. I really couldn’t care less about his politics, but the blackface crosses the line. 

Altered Parts

Kendle’s Fire
A PG Rated Gay Romance

Said With Care

Gay Winner of The Voice Australia Releases Marriage Song; Anti-Gay Crackdown In Egypt; Gay Hollywood Agent and Sex Abuse

Gay Winner of The Voice Australia Releases Marriage Song

It’s coming down to the wire with legalized gay marriage in Australia, and Alfie Arcuri, winner of The Voice Australia, wrote a song to celebrate love.

“The time has come for our voices to be heard,” Alfie said. “This is much greater than just marriage, this is about acceptance and human rights.”
The message of the song urges Australians to see the world through a child’s eyes where equality and love reigns.

There’s more here. If you haven’t been following gay marriage in Australia, here is a link to some of my previous posts. The reason why everyone is urging Australians is because they are putting this to a public vote, through the mail.

Anti-Gay Crackdown In Egypt

In global news, this isn’t encouraging. It sounds almost as bad as Chechnya.

Homosexuality isn’t illegal in Egypt, but gay men are being charged with debauchery, immorality or blasphemy.
What’s more, authorities in Egypt don’t deny the fact they are specifically targeting LGBT+ people, with state media and the religious establishment claiming that it’s a public duty to tackle the spread of homosexuality.

More here. It always seems to come down to religion.

Gay Hollywood Agent and Sex Abuse

This doesn’t seem to want to end. Lately it seems as though there’s a Hollywood sex abuse story at least once a day.

Now less than two weeks after the drama unfolded, Grasham faces even more accusations of sexual assault. And this time the LAPD is involved.

The LA Times reports that Tyler Cornell, a 20-year-old actor, has filed a complaint with the Los Angeles Police Department, alleging sexual assault against Grasham.

Here’s the rest. 

Altered Parts

Kendle’s Fire
A PG Rated Gay Romance

Said With Care

Harsh Kevin Spacey Coming Out Memes; Jason Dottley On Hollywood Sex Abuse; Colton Haynes and Jeff Leatham’s Wedding Video

Harsh Kevin Spacey Coming Out Memes

I get a lot of letters from gay men who are still in the closet, and they are in the closet for valid reasons. They find my books or this web site, and they contact me in private. Most live in small towns where there’s still a huge gay stigma, and some live in parts of the world where coming out could get them killed…literally killed. I correspond regularly with a closeted gay Amish man (one of the nicest people I have ever met) who has lived his life married to a woman and he has children. He’s lived a good life and a productive life. I think there are some valid reasons why people don’t come out of the closet. And I never judge.

But I do find this Hollywood hypocrisy thing confusing. There are gay men in Hollywood who came out in their private lives years ago, but they remain in the closet because they believe it might hurt their careers. Well, it might hurt their careers…I’m not sure about that. But I am sure they live in this privileged world where hypocrisy is a way of life. These are ambitious people who will stop at nothing to get what they want while the closeted gay guys who really can’t come out at all suffer in private and the brave gay men in Hollywood like Colton Haynes deal with the career issues alone. So I have very little tolerance for that kind of Hollywood hypocrisy…the kind where a gay man is open to all his friends and family, but remains in the closet so he can get the next movie deal or sign the next contract. That’s not fair to everyone else. Plus, it only continues to promote the shame that’s always been associated with being gay.

With all that said, Kevin Spacey has faced more than his fair share of backlash recently thanks to his unusual attempt at coming out. Under any circumstances this coming out announcement is not a huge surprise, but these are some really powerful circumstances. They are alleged circumstances that make this entire Hollywood sex abuse scandal even worse.

In case you haven’t heard yet: On Sunday, actor Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making untoward sexual advances on him when he was just 14 years old. Spacey was 26. In response, Spacey issued a hasty statement saying he was drunk at the time and didn’t remember the alleged incident… Then he came out as gay. Surprise!

Here’s what Spacey said…

In my life I have had relationships with both men and women. I have loved and had romantic encounters with men throughout my life, and I choose now to live as a gay man. I want to deal with this honestly and openly and that starts with examining my own behavior.

First and foremost you don’t choose to be gay. I didn’t choose to be gay, and neither did my Amish friend who’s still living in the closet. People are born gay. Spacey just chose to pretend to be straight all those years. There’s a difference.  

You can read the rest here. There are comments. Of course there’s the usual victim blaming and shaming.  

Jason Dottley On Hollywood Sex Abuse With Men

I had a feeling we’d be hearing more about this sex abuse scandal in Hollywood. Jason Dottley was part of the Sordid Lives cast a few years ago, and now he’s speaking up.

On Monday, the 36-year-old entertainer posted a lengthy Facebook status update alleging widespread sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of industry professionals when he was a teenager trying to make it as an actor.

There’s more, plus the full statement, here. 

Colton Haynes and Jeff Leatham’s Wedding Video

On a more positive note, which I think most people need nowadays, here are some great wedding images that were taken in Palm Springs at Haynes and Leatham’s wedding. It’s actually a video.

The below video will allow you to gently re-enter polite society, firm in the confidence that you’re up to date on every breath Haynes has taken in the last 72 hours. We did this for you.

Here’s more. Even though the comments are a little cruel, I think it’s adorable and I’m still shocked this is now possible for gay men to do…get married. I hope it’s a long and happy marriage.  

Someone said they’re going to hyphenate their names.  

Altered Parts

Kendle’s Fire
A PG Rated Gay Romance

Said With Care

Best Wishes To Colton Haynes and Jeff Leatham; Kathy Griffin Tells All On Andy Cohen; Sexy People Have It Harder Getting Jobs; Asexuals Speaking Louder Now

Best Wishes To Colton Haynes and Jeff Leatham

Colton Haynes and Jeff Leatham just got married in Palm Springs, CA.

Haynes, 29, and Leatham, 46, — who coordinated in white tuxedo jackets and black bow ties — exchanged vows in front of 120 guests at a nighttime ceremony held at a Palm Springs hotel and officiated by their longtime friend Kris Jenner.

“It’s just amazing when you find someone who kind of teaches you to love yourself more,” Haynes tells PEOPLE. “The really great thing about being with Jeff is that since we got together my relationships with my friends have gotten better, my family relationships have gotten better. When you learn to really love someone, it’s completely life-changing. Now we have this beautiful life together and this epic journey ahead.”

There’s more here. I follow Haynes on Instagram and they seem like a nice couple. I wonder which hotel it was. I live in Palm Springs part time, and I’m just curious.  

Kathy Griffin Tells All On Andy Cohen

Evidently, Kathy Griffin is not going to disappear quietly into the sunset. She’s talking now, and she’s telling everything about good old Andy Cohen.  I know absolutely nothing about him.

Second time I did the show — same thing. So once again we’re alone in an office and he’s like, “You wanna do some coke?” He’s going to say he was kidding, but no, he was asking me to do cocaine with him. That made me very uncomfortable… That’s why I don’t do that show, and I don’t know why he gets away with that.”

There’s more here

Sexy People Have It Harder Getting Jobs

I’m not so sure about this one. I guess it could be true, but I hate to think employers can be this shallow.

It’s not easy being beautiful. Or is it?
That’s the takeaway from a new study published by the American Psychological Association that has found hot people have a much harder time landing entry level jobs than average-looking or downright ugly ones.
There’s more here. They give a reason why…but I’m still not sold on this concept. 
Asexuals Speaking Louder Now
This article is interesting because it talks about asexuality in more detail, without getting too long or confusing. It also discusses what it’s like to be asexual in a society that’s overly sexualized. And we really are, indeed, a society that is sexualized. 
I never really enjoyed my first sexual encounters, though they were interesting as a kind of fact-finding mission. Pretty much every encounter since, regardless of my relationship with the person in question, has been unsatisfying to the point of unfulfilling.

The Queer and Trans Gun Club; This Andy Cohen Dude on Cooper and Griffin’s Feud; Back When Dirty Words Were Illegal

The Queer and Trans Gun Club

Just when you think things can’t get more peculiar out there, you read this…

A group of LGBTI people in Rochester, New York have been learning how to properly shoot guns.
Trigger Warning Queer & Trans Gun Club was founded this past year as a response to the rise of extremist groups like the Alt-Right. The 18 dues-paying members are all LGBTI, and many are just learning about guns for the first time. Members meet once a month to shoot at still targets and clay pigeons.
Here’s more. The article states there are more clubs just like this in other places. I hope they’re careful, and I’m serious. This one worries me. 
Andy Cohen on Cooper and Griffin’s Feud 
I honestly still do not know who this dude, Andy Cohen, actually is. I’m not being snarky about that. I don’t know who the hell he is. I have never seen him on TV…or anywhere for that matter. All I know is he seems to be a gayer gay man than me or most people I know, and he’s friends with Anderson Cooper. In fact, from what I’m reading, he’s the gayest of us all. And now he’s fanning the proverbial flames in the ongoing feud between Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper. 
Still, Griffin didn’t let the moment pass her by. This morning (27 October), she tweeted about the exchange, calling Cohen ‘deeply misogynistic’. She also claimed he treated her ‘like a dog’ the 10 years he was her boss.
Here’s the rest. There’s some back story there. But I always tell people to remember one thing when it comes to this Kathy Griffin thing: Lenny Bruce. Lenny Bruce was a stand up comic who was once arrested for using the word cocksucker.  I may not like what Griffin did, and I would certainly never do that myself, but I support her right to do that with my last ounce of breath and I’m not even one of her biggest fans. 
Back When Dirty Words Were Illegal
Speaking of free speech and comics, here’s an article I found that talks about Lenny Bruce and his obscenity arrests. You couldn’t say cocksucker in public for fear of being locked up in jail. 
This is a fascinating article that someone like this Andy Cohen person will never promote. I can do this because I’m not selling out to anyone or anything when it comes to free speech in any venue. 
San Francisco was the perfect city for a performer looking to break down social mores; everything representing bohemia in 1961 America could be found along Broadway’s six blocks in North Beach: strip joints, gay bars and nightly jazz billowing out of murky doorways.
Not everyone was enamored, however. The local police and concerned citizens were looking to clean the place up, especially after the popularization of the Beat movement, of which North Beach was the West Cost epicenter. Tensions between police and artists grew quickly; interracial couples were targeted heavily, then the popular hangouts. In 1957, poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was arrested for allowing copies of Allen Ginsberg’s epic poem, Howl, to be sold at his North Beach bookstore, City Lights Books. 
You can read this in full here, and I highly suggest you do that. 

A PG Rated Gay Romance

Said With Care

FREE Gay Fiction Excerpt: ALTERED PARTS; Are You Promoting Racism On Grindr? Do We Need Gay Bathhouses Nowadays?

FREE Gay Fiction Excerpt: ALTERED PARTS

I have a new release out this week titled, Altered Parts, and I wanted to post an excerpt. I posted the blurb yesterday.

There are links below. It will be available in paperback very soon. It takes a while to get that part of the process moving along.

You can check out the excerpt below this post. It’s a period piece set back in 1940, that’s a PG rated gay romance with a happy ending.

Are You Promoting Racism on Grindr?

Here’s an article about Grindr and what’s now being referred as “sexual racism.”

“Sexual racism is a larger problem within our community and impacts all dating apps, not just Grindr,” he told the Advocate. Grindr, he added, does “prohibit the use of offensive or racist language and encourage our community to report offending profiles through our app’s built-in system.”
You can check that out here. There are comments, and one guy in the comments wants to know if it’s sexist if gay men state they are not sexually attracted to women. It’s a valid question, considering what we’re dealing with here. 
Frankly, I can understand not using racist language. That I get, and I despise racist language. But if you’re not into a certain “type” sexually, there’s not much anyone can do about that. If there were something we could do about THAT there would be a lot less single people in the world and we’d all live happily ever after. 
Do We Need Gay Bathhouses Nowadays?
I guess they’re trying to bring gay bathhouses back to Minneapolis, and here’s how one PC gay reader responded to an article about it. 
All of my gay friends seem pretty set on getting rid of these stereotypes and images, or at least not having them define the LGBT community. Religion and all that aside, it demonstrated as a matter of both mental health and physical health that people are healthier if sex is not separated from love, affection, commitment.
It’s interesting because it’s almost as though we’ve entered a new gay PC version of the Victorian Era, where sex was frowned upon and everyone wound up doing it discreetly so no one would find out. I’ve read the entire quote and think this person is naive if they think that people who live heteronormative lives don’t have their fair share of sex just for the sake of sexual gratification. Not to mention the fact that not all gay men have the luxury of coming out, not even nowadays. So places like gay bathhouses provide them with an outlet, both socially and sexually. Whenever I see comments like this I always get the feeling the person isn’t very experienced, in general.
I’ve never been to a gay bathhouse, but, I never thought gay bathhouses defined the gay community either. They’re just a part of gay culture. And gay culture is highly diverse. 
You can check that out here. As you would imagine, this link has a lot of comments. And from what I’ve seen at a glance, bathhouses still have a place in some parts of the gay community. 
FREE Gay Excerpt: Altered Parts

When we reached the clearing at the end of the path where the house became visible, he grabbed my overalls and wrestled me to the ground. He pinned my back to the grass and climbed on top of me. As he sat on my chest he held my wrists back over my head and said, “When are you going to learn. I’m stronger than you are, Joe Buddy.” At first I wasn’t sure if he was making fun of my name by emphasizing Joe. A lot of people from other parts made fun of the way country people did things and I’d heard all the exaggerated stereotypes before.
Then he started laughing with me, not at me, and that’s when I knew he wasn’t serious. “You might be stronger, but I’m faster. And don’t you forget that, Clay Totten.”
He released my wrists and we rolled around on the grass again until I heard Aunt Ted call my name from the front porch. She must have noticed us wrestling because she walked to the gate and said, “Who’s with you, Joe Buddy? Honestly. Why on earth are you rolling around on the ground that way right before supper in such a crude, uncivilized manner? I thought I taught you better.”
We stopped wrestling and both stood up fast. I led the way over to the gate and said, “We were just fooling around. This is my new friend, Clay Totten. He’s from Wyoming and he’s on his way to Florida where he has kin. I asked him to stay for supper if that’s okay. He doesn’t have anywhere else to go. Can he stay? Please?”
Aunt Ted looked him up and down and said, “Of course it’s okay. We have plenty of food.” Then she walked even closer and shook her head. “You poor thing, you look like you need a decent meal. I’m Joe Buddy’s Aunt Ted. You just follow me into the house while Joe buddy puts on shoes and socks and I’ll make sure you get something decent to eat for a change.”
As Aunt Ted turned and headed back to the front porch, Clay sent me a look as if he was waiting for me to explain Aunt Ted. I just shrugged and said, “I think she likes you, and that doesn’t happen often. Pay her some compliments. Tell her she’s pretty. She likes that.”
Clay smiled. “Well, I think I like her, too. And that doesn’t happen very often either.”
If he noticed…or if he was even curious…that Aunt Ted had once been a man, he never said word. The only question he did ask when we reached the front door was, “Is your Aunt Ted from England?”
I laughed and said, “No. She’s born and raised here and never been off Buddy’s Mountain for longer than a day or two. She just talks that way like people in the movies. It drives my Aunt Matilda right up the side of the house sometimes. She’ll look at Aunt Ted with pinched lips and say, ‘Come down from your high horse again, Ted, you’re not in London, you’re on Buddy’s Mountain.’ But Aunt Ted doesn’t care. She keeps right on talking like Katherine Hepburn. She thinks it’s more sophisticated. She even has a name for it: transatlantic. We’re all used to it around here.”
“Well, she’s a tall one, but she seems nice enough.”
“Let’s go inside so I can put on my shoes and socks before supper,” I said. “Then I’ll introduce you to Aunt Matilda. They’re sisters, but they’re nothing alike.”
When he met Aunt Matilda he seemed a little relieved. Unfortunately, Aunt Matilda didn’t seem as relieved. While Aunt Ted showed Clay into the formal dining room, which is where we had supper every night at Aunt Ted’s insistence, Aunt Matilda pulled me into the kitchen and asked, “What’s his story? Where’s he from? I’m not sure about bringing drifters into the house, especially cowboys.”
I told her everything I knew about him, which I’m sure wasn’t enough to calm her worries. Then I said, “He’s a nice guy and I don’t think he has a place to stay. Can I keep him here tonight? Please, can I keep him?” I did not want to let that cowboy go, and I was ready to do anything to keep him around. After all, it wasn’t every day a person found a man like Clay Totten wandering around Buddy’s Mountain in tight jeans and cowboy boots.
Aunt Matilda had always been the more cautious one in the family, but she trusted me and she had a kind heart. She’d also always encouraged me to have friends being that I’d grown up as an only child. The times were different back then, too. People, in general, trusted other people a lot more. It was nothing to pick up a hitch hiker on the side of the road, or to offer assistance to someone in need. She raised an eyebrow and said, “I suppose it can’t hurt, but you keep an eye on him. There have been strange things going on around here with my tomatoes and that hay in the barn, and I don’t want any trouble.”
“I won’t let him out of my sight,” I said. That was the total truth. I couldn’t stop looking at him or his cowboy boots.
After we sat down to supper, Aunt Ted threw her right arm out and bent her wrist, a flamboyant move even for her. “We’re so glad you could join us for supper. I hope you like Boeuf Bourguignon, haricot vert, and fingerlings with raclette, Clay.”
Clay blinked.
I looked down and smiled. I was used to her.
And Aunt Matilda shook her head and said, “Don’t pay any attention to her, Clay. It’s beef stew, green beans, and potatoes with melted cheese.” She sent Aunt Ted a glance and said, “My sister has a tendency to embellish everything. You’ll get used to it, or not.”
Aunt Ted waved her off and said, “And my sister has a tendency to be common.”
Before Aunt Matilda could reply I spoke up. I didn’t want them to quarrel in front of Clay. “This looks wonderful. I’m starved. Could you please pass the bread, Aunt Ted?”
Aunt Ted reached for the bread but she looked at Aunt Matilda and smiled. “Here you go, dear. It’s a fresh baguette right from the oven.” It really was nothing more than white bread my Aunt Matilda had baked earlier that morning, but Aunt Ted seemed to take pleasure in emphasizing the word baguette.
Aunt Matilda just rolled her eyes and sighed.
During supper, Aunt Matilda tried to ask Clay a few questions about his past and where he came from, but Aunt Ted kept bringing up the women’s church meeting and throwing everyone off track. She wanted a new organ and not a picnic area and she wasn’t going to let that topic go for anything. As curious as Aunt Matilda was about Clay, she was more interested in getting the new picnic area. So while they bickered about whether it was more important to have good music or good picnic benches, Clay had three helpings of beef stew and more potatoes with melted cheese than I’d ever seen anyone eat. And I had a feeling this had been his first decent meal in a long time.
We had pound cake for dessert, and then after that I took Clay outside to see the car I was working on. I’d never won any awards in school, I was average at sports, but that car was the one thing in this world that filled me with a sense of pride.
He looked it over and said, “It’s great. Let’s go for a ride.”
I hesitated. “I haven’t taken it out yet. I’m still working on a few things.”
“Does it run?”
I shrugged. “Well, yeah I guess it runs. I just wanted to adjust a few things before I start driving it regularly.”
He opened the passenger door and climbed inside. I think if it had been a convertible he would have been the type of guy who’d jump over the door and into the seat like in the movies. He leaned over and looked at me through the driver’s window and said, “Stop being so cautious. We don’t have to go far. We’ll just drive it around a little.”
“I guess it couldn’t hurt,” I said. “I did fill it with gas yesterday. I just don’t want to go too far, just in case we wind up walking back home.” The only reason why I hadn’t driven it much yet was because there was still a knock when it idled, and I was afraid to take it out alone. As long as Clay was there I didn’t feel that fear anymore. I felt as if I could do anything as long as he was around.
It took a moment or two to start the old car, but once the motor turned over we cheered and he punched me in the arm. I knew it was his way of showing affection without actually being affectionate and I said nothing. I turned the wheel, headed down the dirt drive, and toward a road that would lead us up to the highest point on Buddy’s Mountain.
I hadn’t been up to the top of the mountain in about a year. We used to go up there all the time when I was younger and my aunts had more energy. Back when my grandfather had still been alive every single family holiday and summer event had been held up there. We’d gather in a gazebo my grandfather had built years earlier, for long picnics that often lasted well into the evening hours.
As we climbed to the top in the old car that day, I’d forgotten how intimidating the old dirt road could be. It wrapped around the edge of the mountain, without a fence or guardrail, and one wrong move on my part would have sent us both plunging thousands of feet to our deaths. I gripped the steering wheel tighter and leaned forward a little. And while I never took my eyes off the road for longer than a second, Clay stared out through the passenger window gaping at the view.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” he said. “It’s fantastic. Everything is so green.”
I smiled. I kept my eyes focused on the road and said, “The height doesn’t bother you at all?”
“Hell, no,” he said. “The higher the better. I love looking down. It gives me a thrill up my leg. Does it bother you?”
I gulped. “Let’s just say I’m always glad when we reach the top of the mountain and I’m on solid ground. I just don’t like being this close to the edge.”
“You’re doing just fine. Stop worrying so much. The road is wide enough for a huge truck, it’s very smooth, and you’re just thinking about it in an exaggerated way. Trust me, you’re okay.”
“That’s easy for you to say. You weren’t raised by two spinster aunts who wanted to prepare you for all the terrible, awful things that can happen in life. Trust me, they left nothing out.”
This time he looked away from the view and frowned. “At least you have them. You’re lucky. It’s a lot more than I had.”
After he said that, I wanted to find out more about his upbringing, but we had just reached the top of the mountain and he kept looking around with such wide eyes I figured I would save the deep conversation for a later date.
The moment I pulled up next to a large rock that wasn’t too far from the family gazebo, even before I turned off the motor, he jumped out of the car and ran to the edge of the cliff. I watched as he stood there with his hands on his hips and his long legs spread apart. I climbed out of the car and started toward him, noticing he looked as good from the back as he did from the front. His expression appeared so animated and thrilled with excitement I enjoyed watching his impressions of the mountain more than I enjoyed the mountain itself. I’d grown up there. I knew every inch of that mountain, including the views. It’s not that I didn’t love it, but seeing it all through Clay’s eyes made me feel as though I was seeing for the first time as well.