City of Valleys 11 



“Oh!! Miss Ing Thing?” A cackle came from the dark on one side. Tisu Trauma climbed on stage. She wore a distressed wig with beer cans for curlers and a tattered pink nylon robe thrown over a lime green flannel night dress.

“If it isn’t the darling, daring, Achoo Mama.”

“Good heels, Ing girl. We are almost eye-to-eye.”

“I know how you love getting down on your knees.”

“Good thing there was sale on knee pads at the Gardens.” Tisu lifted her nightgown to reveal goalie pads underneath.

“Oh my my!” Miss Ing feigned surprise. “How do you get grass stains off those?”

“The same way you get ass stains off your face, darling.”

“Evian water!!”

“The girls have all chipped in to buy you a little something to show our deep, deep esteem and respect for you, Miss Ing Thing. Bring the offering forward.”

“I’d say you shouldn’t have, but I’d be lying.”

“Not the first time. Strange though, nothing on you grows when you lie.”

“Unlike your gut, my pet.”

“Be a doll and close your eyes.”

“Anything for you, Blanch.” 

Tisu leaned to her accomplice, flipped open the box she held, and took out a cream pie.

“Here you are, dear Thing!” she screamed. Tisu held the back of Robert’s head and rotated the pie in his face. “I’m sorry we didn’t have time to bake broken glass into it.”

The crowd roared, and Tisu Trauma and her henchmen made a fast escape from the bar.

“You fucking cow! I’ll get you for this!” Robert wiped pie from his face. He smiled to the audience. “So much for the improvised portion of our program. Luckily I have someone who will blot out this horrifying spectacle. I have for your delectation a new, recently discovered by me, talent. Kevin McLeod.”

Kevin got on the stage. He squinted in the lights.

“Okay Kevin. It’s your party.”

The music for “It’s My Party” started. As he sang it was Georgie, not Judy, who wore his ring. It was followed by the natural sequel “It’s Georgie’s Turn to Cry.” 

David was caught off-guard by how comfortable Kevin was. No self-consciousness and complete sincerity in what he sang. He brought an urgency to the songs that made them genuine, not kitsch queer lampoons.

Kevin left the stage, and Miss Ing reappeared in his leather police woman persona. Extra pointy breasts, tight black skirt, lots of chains and platform shoes that had jail bars for heels.

“I hope this one is pie proof. If not,” his night-stick opened into an umbrella, “I’m ready.”

David followed Kevin as he left the bar, but by the time he’d made his own way through the crowd, he didn’t see Kevin anywhere.

Perhaps it’s just as well. When a dog catches the car, what can he do with it?

Mark detached himself from a group in front of Java Squared.

“David, you’re looking a little lost.” 

“Nights like this I feel like one in many millions. Each year it gets bigger and bolder.”

“And drunker too. It’s sad to see so many equate gay pride with getting drunk and stoned. Such a waste.”

“I suppose getting ripped on extra slow espresso isn’t as morally bad?”

“At least in the morning I get to remember who I had sex with the night before.”

“Or the afternoon before?” David leapt at this chance for a casual mention of his conquest of Yves.


“The ten year old … this afternoon.”

“Right.” Mark winced at the age crack. “I don’t go for chicken but this one was eager. I was sitting there and he almost jumped my bone in the park. You were with someone.”

“Yves.” David implied as much as he could. “How was he?”

“Young. Too young to be on the loose. Came as soon as I got his fly down and took off without so much as thank you ma’am.”

“How callow. Yves was a gentleman.”

“You and Yves?”

“Mais oui, mon cher. No eat and run there.”

“No wonder you are all aglow.”

“Yes, his accent is thicker than it appears.”

David wanted to confess the glow was from seeing Kevin, but couldn’t indulge in schoolgirl emotions. Although he and Mark had been friends for some time, he didn’t understand someone who was gay but didn’t drink. What was a life centered around draughty rooms in community centers? 

“I suppose we’ll be seeing spectacular garments of yours in the parade tomorrow?” 

“A couple.”

As they talked neither paid full attention to the other, but searched the crowd for that someone to unlock the night and maybe the future for them. 


Yves exited a taxi on a side street behind the Community Center. Bare-chested in a black leather vest and a kilt with nothing under it, he wasn’t up to public transit.

He had no idea what clan his tartan represented, but the deep reds and greens meant it was a hunter tartan. Fresh polished black boots with green socks completed his look. Cell-phone tucked in the sporran.

The kilt was his one concession to fashion. He avoided anything that might stereotype his sexuality. Leather vests, once something rough and tumble, were now something every gay man had to own. Much like the deck shoes and smart sweater of the past.

It was also an easy nod to drag without the worry of the right wig and heels to match. Bare flesh allowed people to project on to him and not have to read anything from his t-shirt. He wanted people to see him as someone comfortable with his body. 

He walked through the park behind the Community Centre to the AIDS memorial. Roses, ribbons or small teddy bears were wedged by various names.

  Out of the park, he was in the thick of things. Differing cliques were faced off against each other. Each protected its territorial bar with attitude. There was “Bart’s” the leather bar that barred leather transies as too fem and pretty boys as too pretty. “The Brook” was the preppie bar that didn’t acknowledge anyone not in the right shoes. 

“Big E’s,” famous for Miss Ing Thing and her drag shows, drew a cross-section but if you were too old, too obvious, or too extreme you were shunned. “Big E’s” was in a feud with “Papa Wiggie’s” where Tisu Trauma ruled. The feud was more p.r. than real enmity.

“Dream Catcher” was the one lesbian bar on the strip that had managed to last for a few years, despite its strict women only policy.

  For a community there were a lot of enemy camps with land mines of taste to explode to leave the uninformed ignored and unaware of why. With so many out in one place, he was surprised at the civility that was maintained. 

He stopped at Java Squared for a coffee. He would have gone farther to Tencity, but didn’t want to face any more of the factions without caffeine to gird his spirits.

Outside, he joined Mark and David. He had enjoyed David that afternoon but was tongue-tied now. This was the awkward social stuff that was never taught in school. He couldn’t write a Queer 101 book till he had finished the research.

“Nipples suit you.” Mark pinched Yves’ left nipple. “And what do we have here?” He flipped the kilt. “Oooh, an eyeful and a mouth full too, or so I hear.”

The way Mark directed this last remark at David told Yves that he knew about their encounter. Should he be amused, flattered or annoyed? David and Mark were friends, so it wasn’t out of line for David to talk about him, but Yves was uncomfortable that he had. Worse, Mark joked about it.

It was this sort of confusion that made him shy. How can you trust when you don’t know who or what to trust? 

“Mark, shut your mouth, please. If you aren’t embarrassing Yves you are certainly making me blush.”

“David must have been saying good things because my ears weren’t burning.”

“It’s not your ears …”

“Mark, keep this up you’ll be making an amend to both of us.”

“Sorry David. Didn’t know I was stepping on your skirt.” He drew David aside and appeared to make a more sincere apology, then turned to Yves. “Too much coffee. I hope I didn’t say anything that would you know … between you two …”

“Don’t worry.” Yves replied.

“I gotta run. I’m manning the Gays and Lesbians in Recovery table tomorrow afternoon. I want to be fresh faced and cheerful to bug the shit out of these guys.” Mark waved in the direction of the bars. “There’s nothing like being proud without a hangover that makes you wish you were fucking dead at the same time. Bye.”

“Plans for tomorrow?” 

“I’m looking after Jake. He’s made his own float for the parade.”

“You march in the parade before?”

“A few times. The first time was an amazing experience. All those people along Yonge street cheering you on. For a moment I was on top of the world and safe in it. You?”

“Not yet. It’s enough to see Robert parading my invention for him and … ” David broke off. “Hey Kevin!” 

A young man stopped confused.

“Over here!” David waved.

The confused look lessened. “Uh … Hi.”

“David Walters? We met at Robert’s garden party.” 

“Right. I didn’t expect anyone to call my name here.”

“Yves, meet Kevin. Kevin, Yves.”

“Your first pride day?” Yves asked.

“Can you tell?”

“Those eyes tell everyone.” Yves was amused by the eager awe in Kevin’s eyes as they went from one group of men to another. “Like a kid in a candy shop.”

“Wait till you hear him sing. He did some ancient Leslie Gore numbers at Big E’s and made them sound like … like … the emotional high points of Cats.”

“Paul helped.” Kevin blushed. “We ran over them a couple of times at the Inn. I never learned words so fast in my life.”

David gazed at Kevin in the way Yves recognized as a man smitten. Kevin was so full of the newness of gay life around him that he was unaware of any vibe that came from David.

Had he ever felt that way? Had anyone felt that way about him? Both trains of thought depressed him.

“Time to push on.”

“Sorry about Mark.” David kissed Yves quick on the mouth. “Call?”

“Sure.” Yves walked away from something he wanted to understand, but was afraid he’d never get the chance to experience.

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City Of Valleys – 10 



He finished his salad and went over to Philip for a couple of burgers.

“Thank God. None of these guys are willing to be seen eating fried food in public. The only meat they’d admit to eating is this.” He jabbed the flipper at Kevin’s crotch. “These are the ladies who lunch on laddies.”

Kevin returned to the porch rail to eat his burgers and observe. His anxiety disappeared as he ate. People arrived and departed, kissed, hugged. A few looked his way but none approached.

A young guy with tattoos that spilled out of his shorts and unbuttoned shirt, came over. “Paul,” he introduced himself. “And you are?”

“Kevin. Room 224.”

“Right. Robert booted out those pushy Yanks. I can see why he took you in. Talk is that you are my replacement.”


“That’s all right. Robert has a wandering eye. Not usually for the innocent though.”

“Innocent? What do you mean?”

“Those cut-offs, that Leafs t-shirt, bare feet. Closest thing to an All-Canadian Tom Sawyer I’ve seen. Interesting bait.”


“Christ! You are an innocent. Sorry. Be warned. Dress like a newspaper boy and people will treat you like one. What do you do?”

“I’m a singer.” Kevin was confident. “Looking for an agent. You think there’s one here?”

“Could be. Robert knows all sorts.”

They walked over to the sound system. Kevin began to flip through the various cds.

“You think Karaoke would go over here?” 


“Why not?” Kevin handed Paul a cd.

“Born to Be Wild? Sure you want to do this?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“The party does need a break from Robert. I’ll intro and then it’s up to you.”

Paul popped in the cd & lined up the track. He nodded to Kevin.

“Ladies and … I guess there are no biological females here, but I digress. We have a fresh new talent to introduce. Enjoy.” He pressed play.

As the music started Kevin froze, on instinct alone sang in key, at the right point. The back of the house was a good sound board for his voice. As he sang, he got into the song. Once he surrendered to the music he didn’t worry about who watched him. With a hip swivel, he tore into the final chorus.

“Fuck man!” Paul shouted. “You can sing.”

“Evan sign him up for your you next musical.” 

After a breath, Kevin started another song without music. A Gaelic sea shanty about a sailor who longed for home and then his joy to be back there. His voice soared skyward, propelled by his joy to be there. 


The air-conditioner chill made Yves pull his blanket closer around him. Through half-opened open eyes, he saw Jake at the end of his bed. He wasn’t surprised to see him there. 

He lifted the covers to invite Jake to enter the warmth of his bed and the comfort of his body. Jake didn’t move. He looked at the bed. His head moved while the rest of him was still.

“Don’t stand there,” Yves whispered. “It’s cold out there. Get in. What are you waiting for?”

Jake stepped from the bed to the window. He opened the blinds to allow moonlight and street sounds to roll into the room. He beckoned for Yves to see what he saw.

“Oh all right.” Yves went to the window. “What is it?”

Jake nodded out the window. In the yard Yves saw David Vance, Andrew Welch and his springer spaniel Skuller.

“How … Skuller was run over by that semi.”He muttered.

He turned to Jake but Jake was gone. Jake was in the yard. In the moonlight, he tossed a stick to Skuller. David and Andrew waved to him. They were two men at the hospice who had died the first year Yves worked there.

Skuller barked. The bark was in his left ear, and as the dog’s tongue tickled him, he reached to brush it away. The alarm went off.

Yves bolted awake. He was in his bed, not at the window. He  tried to hold the dream. He recollected fragments – Jake, Skuller, but that was all.

When he got home after his unexpected tumble with David, he set the alarm for nine-fifteen p.m. and dropped into his bed. He’d need extra sleep to get through tonight. 

Naked he went into his study and fumbled with the switch for his computer. E-mail was a part of his routine that he had missed to help Jake. 

He logged on, and sure enough there was another response to his survey, along with an attachment. The responder had edited the questionnaire to suit his own needs.

Hi There Yves:

I hope this is what you were looking for, if not just ask & I’ll tell you all you want to know.

Age: 40/ occupation: constant companion & playmate 

country: USA/ gay

CUT: have fantasized about foreskin restoration –

THICK: 2 inch diameter ring fits around the base, & a 1 3/4 inch ring slides along the shaft when erect –

LENGTH: from pubic bone to tip when erect: 8 inches –

NO BENDS: curves ever so slightly to the right, from wearing it down the right leg of my jeans –

MUSHROOM HEAD: flares nicely at the bottom –

SATINY SKIN: soft & pliant, lube for extended play –

ANGLE VARIABLE: depending on temperature & level of excitement – varies from 30 degrees up from vertical to 20 degrees down from vertical –

BAG VARIABLE: depending on temperature, etc – like to use a ball-stretcher on occasion, stretching the balls down as far as possible, love to have my balls tugged during sex –

No scars, tattoos or piercings, but at one time considered a frenum piercing with a ring just behind the head.

I think the most frequent term was ‘dick’ among my circle of playmates – became aware of it at an early age, and used to play show-me-yours-and-I’ll-show-you-mine games with the neighborhood boys at age 4 –

Emotional thoughts – opinions – judgments – fears – likes – dislikes

When I was first discovering the gay world, I wanted someone special – It seemed I would never find anyone, & when I would come home alone & lie awake in bed, I would think “Why isn’t there someone out there that would like to come home with me?” Since then I have become less cock-oriented, & am a little put off by people who treat me as just some guy with a dick – although I do like comments on its size during sex play – 

I am an exhibitionist, & get a charge out of the possibility of being caught having sex or being naked where I shouldn’t be.  I have to admit that I dress in jeans that show it off to its best advantage to attract attention – If you’ve got it, flaunt it – I hope people enjoy looking as much as I like the attention.

There have been a few times when I would suddenly think “Boy, I’d sure hate to lose my dick … what would I ever do without it?”  I just can’t imagine what life would be like if I didn’t have it – 

Thanks for asking: Biteabear

The signature meant it was from the on-line group for bears and admirers. What he wanted was there. The start with physical elements led the answerers into the emotional areas.

As he had written in the conclusion of the manuscript: “For the most part, even those men who were unhappy with their equipment were happy to have the opportunity to talk about their equipment. Although gay men were more articulate about their judgments, all men, gay and straight, had the same general view. Men who like to answer surveys may have different views than the general male population.” 

In the attachment were two photos of Biteabear’s cock. From the angle of the first, Biteabear had taken the picture himself. Odd light cast deep shadows around a firm erection that thrust out of a solid nest of dark pubic hair. In the other picture, a bearded guy grinned in the woods with his jeans open to release his cock erect into the wilderness. 

He shut down the computer and looked over the monitor into the night. Here he was, ready for what? He’d had a full afternoon with David that they both had promised to repeat. But that promise wasn’t an invitation to anything more than sex. Not that he wanted a soul mate, but he longed for something more than fuck buddy.

He had a few close friendships and some delightful sexual relationships, but had never meet a man who combined the two. That sexual-spiritual thing was so elusive he doubted it existed.

The Saturday night in Pride weekend meant things became louder, while more bad drag scampered around. The city blocked the streets in the gay ghetto to cars. It meant fewer heterosexual thrill seekers and less chance another poor drag queen would get a spike heel caught in a manhole and be crushed under the wheels of a car.

The greater number of available men didn’t translate into greater opportunities for spiritual connections. The more the opportunities, the more people held on to the hope that if this one was attractive the next one was a better. 

“Ah, sweet mystery of love,” he sang as he opened his closet for bait to wear. 


Near 11, David had been in a TV trance since he got back from Robert’s garden party. He flipped channels for anything to hold his attention. He muted the sound, and the din came from the street. A block away and fifteen stories up, the sounds of celebrations reached him. Did he want stay to here, safe and vegetative?

At the garden party he’d spoken with Evan Daniels about costumes for his new production. The chance to do almost normal clothes appealed to him. After the challenges of Miss Ing Thing and Tisu Trauma, ordinary was a snap.

The pad beside him had quick sketches that had come to him from Evan’s description of the plot, but a full script would arrive tomorrow. Once he’d read it, he would have a clear idea of what the characters wanted as opposed to what Evan wanted.

The heart-stopping boy was a shock. Kevin McLeod. A plain name and perfect. It was difficult to listen to Evan when Kevin was in view. The boy had talent and though David didn’t understand the words, Gaelic they were informed later, he felt the emotion Kevin brought to them. For the rest of the party his eyes wandered to Kevin. After the song, it wasn’t easy to get closer, as the kid now had a whole fan club.

Robert announced that Kevin would do a number that night at Big E’s. Even dedicated stage-whore queens like to squeeze in a fresh young butch boy to sing a number. Another song was reason enough to venture into the night.

Silk shirt, raw linen shorts, sandals, and he was set. He nodded to a few acquaintances as he walked to Church Street. The streets from the Community Center down to the Gardens had been blocked off and were full of people. 

When he read the phrase “gay community,” his mind’s eye saw all types of men and women together, in the open and in front of each other. Drag queens, stone butch leather dykes, serious Marxist college queers, lipstick lesbians, clownish radical Faeries, gender-fuck bearded men in school girl pinafores – all shared the streets with each other. Conservative types like himself were the ones out of place.

He was drawn into the energy that surrounded him. If he wasn’t a part of any one faction, he was a part of the stream they were all a part of. This was his family, his gay community, and he was at home, at ease and at one amongst them.

The line up at Big E’s wasn’t too long. The smoke in the bar wasn’t bad, but the sound volume was a bone-crusher. He had to jot his drink order on a napkin.

Robert wore the ABBA outfit David had made a couple of years ago. Shimmery silvers with three extra heads on jet-wing spread shoulders made Robert into all of ABBA. He lip-synced Dancing Queen. In his left hand he squeezed a rubber ball that pumped the mouths of the three heads so they sang too.

David scanned the crowd for Kevin. Through the smoke and stage lights, it was difficult to make out much. Robert’s number came to a close.

“Thank you so little. Your applause doesn’t mean as much to me as your worship. Like the Titanic, not only does my heart go on but I look forward to going down on …  I mean with several crewmen before the dawn.”

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City Of Valleys – 9 



“True. Besides I must get into this. It is so nice to have one outfit I don’t have to crawl under or climb a chair to jump into.” Robert gave a visible shiver of pleasure as he put the dress on. 

“The collar may take some getting used to.” David zipped the dress. “It is …” 

“Oh, honey child. It is perfection. To have a gown that doesn’t need heels is a treat. Though I will be wearing roller blades. I did tell you that, didn’t I? I’ll have a couple of gallant studs guide me like a real float.” Robert did a little twirl. The tips of the collar brushed the ceiling.

“There is at least another foot in the collar curls.”

“If it isn’t too windy. I don’t want to be the Flying Nun.”

“Don’t lie, Miss Thing, if you could fly, you would.”

“I’m having people over around six for a first peek at my Pride Day regalia. Do join us.” He took off the dress and put it into a garment bag. “Important people are going to be there.”

“Not all your old tricks again.”

“That was last night. I gotta run. Baby needs pantyhose.”

Once Robert was gone, the apartment was empty with no propeller dress to fill half the place. Despite his smallness Robert took up most of the room. 

David took a breath. He had been on the run since the news of Bookies closure. As he sat, his butt reminded him of Yves. He reached for the phone to call Mark when the door buzzer sounded again.

It was Tisu Trauma, aka Greg Lange. Unlike Robert, Greg was large. David had never seen him in anything that wasn’t about to burst at the seams. To design for him without a mention of the blunt truth about his bigness was a challenge. Though size was a big part of his routine, he didn’t abide anyone but himself mentioning it.

“I saw Bitch Ing scamper up the street and figured you must be in. My special ready?”

“See for yourself,” David whisked off its crepe cover.

“Oh! David,” Greg teared up. “It is divine.” He kissed David’s finger tips. “These are a gift from Saint Velcro.”

For his stage work, Greg concentrated on frumpish, anti-glamour costumes whose non-fit was part of the look. David was sure he could combine that trash attitude with actual glamour. This jungle print, faux-fur ensemble had come to him in a dream. The sad truth was that no costume could make Greg as thin as he had been in the dream.

“Is the world ready for a new me?” He rubbed the leopard cuffs on his cheek. “It isn’t too Cats?”

“Would I put you in tights? I’ll see you around noon tomorrow at Wiggie’s for any final work.”

“Thank you again David. Here’s the final payment.”

David accepted the money. “Thank you.”

“The best five hundred bucks I spent. Oooh I want to wear it home. But I can’t. Not without a wig.”

“Or heels. One thing I respect about drag is the hell of heels.”

“Sweetie, heels are my life.” Greg give a flourish as he flung the door open. “Toodles.” 

Peace and quiet at last. David slumped on the sofa. How did he find time for a real job? Perhaps the black queen of fashion isn’t a dream? 


Steven was numb and stunned by his encounter with Tim. Since he’d met Luke, he had been monogamous. Before that, he hadn’t played around much, as men reacted to the size of his penis rather than to anything else.

He had been caught in the paradox where he enjoyed the attention his size caused, but was disappointed that it was only size that interested many men. Luke was different. In fact, it was when Steven had brought it up that Luke had made any reference to size. His response was to challenge Steven to separate his Asian looks from who Luke was.

Steven made the shower hotter and hotter to burn off the memory of Tim’s mouth. The sight of Tim as he blew him brought back memories. 

Memories of Chuck Peters. It was one Saturday, a few weeks after Steven’s thirteenth birthday. Some of the guys at baseball that afternoon had joked about jacking off and explained what it was and what to expect. When he got home, he went to the bathroom to try it. 

His Dad had the same several guys over most Saturdays to booze it up, play cards, or watch whatever game there was on TV. Steve said Hi to them and raced up to the bathroom, but it was occupied. He couldn’t wait for his Dad’s pals to clear out but they often hung around till their wives phoned for them. His Mom called it the Thomas Family Adult Daycare. But she liked the jokes and flirtation that went on. 

He shut his bedroom door and sat on the edge of his bed. He got his jeans and undies down to his knees and did what the guys had described. Hold your pecker tight and push up and down till it was hard. He squeezed harder and moved his hand faster. A tingle built up in his nuts. 

“Oh yeah! Beat that fucker.” Chuck Peters, one of his Dad’s buds, stepped into the room. “That is sure a fine dick for a boy your age. Near big as mine even.” Chuck took out his own.

Steven stared at it.

“Don’t stop boy. Jerk that dick of yours.” 

Steven’s erection had disappeared.

“Did I scare away your woodie?” Chuck knelt. He smelled of cigarettes, beer and gum. “I’ll whistle it back.” He stuck his gum under the bed and took Steven’s dick in his mouth. While he sucked he jerk his own cock. Once he came, he gave Steven five bucks for his promise not to tell.

Over the next couple of years, Chuck made opportunities for Steven to hear his whistle. Steven enjoyed the sex, but he didn’t like the the fear and shame that Chuck brought. 

When his cock matured before the rest of him, Steven was sure it was because of the attention it got from Chuck. Chuck panicked the one time he had tried to reciprocate. He didn’t want to make Steven into what he was. By the time he was seventeen, Steven knew what he was. It was also the year that Chuck got arrested for sex with boys younger than Steven.

His Dad sat him in the living-room and asked if Chuck had ever touched him, because if he had it was okay, and there was a therapist who would help Steven, and on and on. The more concerned his father became, the more Steven denied anything had happened. Denied to himself that he was in any way like that dirty cocksucker his Dad raged on about.

He jumped on his bike to go downtown. How or what to tell Luke about Tim? When he’d met Luke, there was no other man for him. What told him that was something he couldn’t describe. For one, Luke had an open, honest, unapologetic love of sex itself. No secrets or unmentionableness about it.

He got to Lubba’s with ten minutes to spare. 

Luke followed him into the change room. “How was rehearsal?” 

“Good. If we keep getting this good the show will be a hit.” Steven got out of his street clothes. He drew Luke to kiss him.

“Luke, I love you so much.”

“Must be going real well. Now get dressed before we start cooking in here.” Luke left.

Steven sat to tie his shoes. Paul came in.

“How you doing?” Steven asked.

“If nothing else, this prepares me for emerg. I’ve been warned that’s the worst park of  become a doctor, and also the best part. Either way my calves are killing me.” 

“You get used to it.”

“That your show we’re promoting all over the place?” Paul sat and massaged his calves.

“Yep. Had to fight with Miss Ing to get wall space.”

“Must be wild having two divas under one roof.”

“Luckily we are queens on two different stages.” 

Paul peeled off his clothes. The knot tattoo flowed beneath his underwear and down his calves in an entwined leaf, branch and roses design. Paul stood to shake baby powder into his underwear as he rubbed his balls.

“Like what you see?” He displayed his tattoos.

“Is there an answer to that that doesn’t get me in trouble?” Steven ducked out the door. 

“Table three, Steven.” Luke called.

“Thanks.” He breathed a sigh of relief. For the rest of the night he didn’t have to worry about more than what wine goes best with the catch of the day.


Kevin walked up the stairs at the Inn Ing. What had he done that Mark was so eager to get rid of him? To be a clumsy oaf and kick the coffee table over was probably not on any list of “How To Land A Man.” In his room, he lay on the bed. 

The ceiling was pale blue. Gold and silver swirls of stars darted to the corners. The recollection of Mark got him hard. He pushed off his runners and caught a whiff of his socks.

“Damn!” He put the pieces together. Clumsy and with feet that stunk out loud. No wonder he couldn’t wait to get rid of me.

He hadn’t showered before he snuck out of Mitch’s, and he smelled how sweaty he was. Worse, he had only his spare Leafs t-shirt as he hadn’t planned to be out overnight. If he rinsed his undies and socks they wouldn’t be dry enough to wear till morning. That meant one thing: he’d have to shop.

He put his runners back on, checked that he had some cash, and left his room. He went to Yonge Street and into the first clothing store he passed. Socks and underwear came only in three packs. In a rack of t-shirts he found a black one that said, in white print, “Real men eat men.” He had to have it, but could he face the clerk with something queer? He folded it to let just the price tag show. The clerk rang his things in without a second glance.

There was soap and shampoo in his bathroom along with tiny glass vials of cologne. He dripped a few drops from one into each of his sneakers. In the shower he rinsed out his worn t-shirt while he squished his socks and underwear underfoot.

He stood naked in front of the window to enjoy the breeze. Along with laughter and chatter came the smell of the barbecue. Several people were in the backyard. 

Philip flipped burgers on a gas barbecue, while Robert Ing fanned himself and pointed to details on costumes that were suspended from the eaves of the back porch.

This was the garden party that Robert had mentioned. Did he want to be with more strangers? The smell of hamburgers melted his fears. He put on his spare t-shirt and cut-offs. He left the offensive sneakers in the open air by the window.

With some apprehension, he went down to the back of the house. The cool of the kitchen floor was welcome to his bare feet. He stood a moment at the back door. All these people knew each other so well, it made him want to retreat.

Hell, I’ve faced crowds of drunks at Ten Pennies who were more dangerous than these guys.

He pushed the door open and strode into the sun.

“Ah, 224, so glad you decided to join us,” Robert called. “Introduce yourself.”

His toes squirmed in the grass as the guests looked at him.

“Evan Daniels.” A bald man extended his hand. “I do hope 224 is your room number and not your number in Robert’s roster of conquests.”

“Room …”

“Ah good. I’ll discreetly spread the word so other’s won’t be afraid you are the latest boy.”

When Evan said boy, Kevin suppressed a small anger. Mark had called him a boy a few times and he was sick of it. He was as much a man as any of them.

“What do you do?”

“I … uh …” Kevin wasn’t sure what to reply. No one had asked him such a question.

“By ‘do’ I mean professionally,” Evan went on. “I, for example, am a director. Live theatre. Thicket Theatre? Perhaps you’ve heard of me?”

“Sorry. I …” Kevin blushed.

“How wonderful. Someone who doesn’t know me.”

“Evan, honey, you don’t know yourself.” Robert stepped between them. “Come with me Evan. I’d like you to meet David Walters. He designs all my gowns. He is pure genius, and I’m sure he’d be perfect for your new show. You do need a designer. Street clothes are so tired on stage.”

Kevin made his way over to a picnic table covered with salads, sandwiches, fresh fruit, with a punch bowl in the middle. He piled some potato salad on a plate and leaned against the porch rail to eat. How to answer the “What do you?” question because with a director there, there might even be an agent some sort. Construction or automotive engineer wouldn’t do. He was a performer, a singer. Not the whole truth but not a lie either.

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City of Valleys – 8 



As they walked along, Kevin told Mark things that he had never told anyone. To have a gay man to listen to him gave Kevin his first real chance to release stuff he had bottled up.

“I’m not boring you with all this?” Kevin asked.

“Not at all. Shep never suspected you had the hots for him?”

“I sure as hell hope not. If I thought he knew, I don’t know if I could face him. I was the son he never had and …”

“You think it would disappoint him? If he cares for you it might not matter at all.”

“Not on the East Coast.” Kevin didn’t have the words to explain his fear.  

“You have a big little world in front of you.”

They stopped at street lights and Mark waved to a couple of guys on the opposite corner. 

“This bed and breakfast is pretty decent.” Mark stopped at a large, three-story, red-brick house with an extensive front garden. “The Inn Ing is owned by Miss Ing Thing. You might have missed the dozens of posters we passed for her big show tonight.”

“Missing thing?”

“Robert Ing. Miss – Ing – Thing. A stage name. Big money from the Pacific Rim or some such. She’s not a bad sort. I’ll wait here.” Mark sat on a bench under a tree in the garden.

The steps were a little tacky from a recent coat of deep green paint. He rang the bell. The door wasn’t locked. He pushed it open.

“Hello?” He called out to be heard over the clamour of dance music and television chatter.

“In here.” A voice came from a side room. “I hope you’ve brought the …” An Asian man on a chair caught sight of him. “Well, sweetness, what can I do for you?”

The man wore a ballooning blue satin dress that reminded Kevin of Gone With the Wind. Another man knelt with a glue gun to fasten fabric roses to the hem.

“I was … uh … looking for a room.”

“Honey, you are in luck.” The man in the dress hopped down with a firm grip on the hoop hem to keep it off the ground. “I ordinarily wear a pair of eighty-three inch platforms to keep this from trailing. We kicked out an American couple this morning. This place is strictly no smoking. They knew that when we booked them and they can complain to all the fucking embassies they want. I will not have smoking in my house. Even I have to go outside to smoke. You don’t smoke do you? One look at that skin of yours tells me you don’t. You don’t shave yet either do you. Ha ha. A little joke. My, but you are young. Do your parents know you’re here? Do you have a note from Gramma? Will that be cash? I’m a little bit wired, as they say, for more than sound. Clark!” He took a breath. “I’m Robert Ing, your host and hostess. Clark! Where is he? Bad help is hard to find. Oh right, he’s clearing out after those ugly Americans. Philip, be a dear. Put that gun down and register this young man. You are in luck, as we were totally booked till I had to single-handedly toss those Yanks out.”

“Uh … thank you …” Kevin slipped off his runner and took out his credit card.

“Dad know you have this?” Robert passed the card through the scanner. “Just for tonight?”

“It’s mine! And yes, just for tonight.”

“A young man of means. You’ll go far. Philip, see if 224 is ready. It has a darling view of the back yard. We’ll be having drinks out there around six tonight, if you’d care to join us. Please do. There’s nothing like a fresh face to set off a garden party. You’ll get an exclusive sneak peek at my costumes for the parade tomorrow.”

Philip took Kevin up to the room. It was simple, spare and crisp. Shades of blue. A big bed, a tiny dresser and washroom. Kevin dropped his backpack on the bed, splashed water on his face, locked the door and went downstairs. To his relief, Mark was still outside.

“Must be a mad house in there. Robert sees herself as the unofficial Queen of Toronto. Ignoring the fact that there are several other pretenders to that throne.”

“Yes he .. I mean she … did seem … wired for more than sound.” 

Mark’s apartment was compact. It had little mottoes over the light switches. On the fridge one read “HALT: Are You Too Horny Angry Lonely or Tired?” 

Mark handed him a beer and had a can of pop can for himself.

“I’m merely horny.” Mark laughed.

“I’m not taking your last one?”

“I … uh … don’t drink. No booze, no drugs. You don’t mind.”

“Why would I mind?”

“Many guys are more interested in drugs.”

Kevin sat on the sofa. “Not this guy.”

“I keep beer in the fridge just to offer … like … asking someone up for a beer makes more sense than, say, asking them up for a diet coke.” Mark sat beside him and put his pop on the coffee table.

Kevin put his beer next to it and draped his arms across the back of the couch and let his knees fall apart. Mark ran his hand along Kevin’s thigh. Kevin put his hand on Mark’s head and brought their mouths together. 

He kissed a man for the first time. A man who kissed him back, wanted him. One of Kevin’s fears was that men would have no interest in his body and would use him to get themselves off. Men who did that weren’t really queers.

His tongue darted in Mark’s mouth as Mark’s tongue did the same in his. He liked the way Mark’s hands moved over his body, rolled his t-shirt up, opened his belt buckle, unzipped his fly and touched his pubic hair then cock.

He tried to mirror what Mark did. Their quick frantic movements came to a stop once Mark’s mouth found his cock. Kevin slumped to allow more of his cock to fill Mark’s mouth. His leg jerked and kicked the coffee table. Drinks spilt to the floor.

“Shit!” He tried to get up.

“Don’t worry I’ve cleaned up worse spills, and if this is really your first blow job, I want to enjoy every drop.” 

Mark pushed him back and worked Kevin’s shorts and underwear down. Kevin pushed his runners off and got out of his shorts.

Mark slid to the floor and made Kevin lie on the couch. He parted Kevin’s legs and licked his balls before he returned to suck. With one hand Mark played with himself. The other he slipped under to tease Kevin’s butt.

Kevin breathed in gulps, rubbed Mark’s shoulders as he rocked into his mouth. As Mark’s thumb twitched his butt, he tried to drive it in while he drove his cock deeper into Mark’s throat.

Kevin was lifted out of himself, of his sense of who he was. His come rocketed into Mark’s mouth.

Mark didn’t move away as he tried to swallow it. He took his mouth away and spat some of the come into his hand, smeared it on to his own cock. He leaned back to jerk till small beads of sperm appeared on the head.

“Whew!” Mark slumped. “That’s what I call taking a load off.”

Kevin merged with the sofa, heavy and light at the same time. He dropped one hand down to cup the Mark’s calf. “Wow! That was …”

Mark stood, kissed Kevin. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”

A man, this man, had touched him, had wanted him sexually, had accepted him sexually, and he wanted to thank him, to love him.

“I better get this cleaned up.”

“Don’t bother. You run along. Maybe we’ll run into each other over the weekend.”

Kevin put his clothes on. Had he done something wrong?

Mark went to door. “That was great. You got a nice cock. We’ll have to do this again sometime. Don’t forget I know where you’re staying.” He opened the door. “The elevator is around that corner.” He kissed Kevin on the mouth. Kevin held him. Mark pushed away. “Now scoot and have a great weekend.”

Kevin didn’t remember what Mark’s cock looked like, what it felt like. His own was sticky in his underwear. On the way down he hoped the sinking sensation was the elevator.


David had to flush twice to get the condom to disappear. When he had followed his impulse to invite Yves up for sex, he didn’t intend it go so far. When he saw Mark with the young man who had stopped his heart at Rainbow Books, it caught him off guard. He was familiar enough with Mark’s sexual habits to be certain they weren’t together to take the air. 

Aware of Mark’s yen for Yves, David jumped at the chance to bed him. Now he had to let Mark know. What was the point if the person one wanted to suffer didn’t know?

Once the condom was gone, David stepped into the shower. He was grateful that Yves had his own life to attend to. Once they had finished there was no awkward ruse to get him out of the apartment. 

The touch of Yves’ hands on his flesh was something he had never experienced before. Warm and cool at the same time, with an energy that penetrated him right to the bone. He wanted to rest wrapped in Yves arms for hours.

As he rubbed the soap over his body, he tingled where Yves’ hands had been. If it weren’t for those hands, he wouldn’t have let Yves fuck him. Yves had the perfect cock for that though. Smallish head wrapped tight in foreskin atop a thick solid shaft. That smallness made the initial entry easier.

He soaped his butt and relished the memory, and anticipated when he could recount it to Mark. They’d have to have coffee soon.

Out of the shower, he walked to the living room as he dried, his naked body in full view of anyone in the opposite apartment complex who happened to look. The buzzer rang. 

“Who is it?”

“Who do you think, darling, Pizza Palace?”


“Right first try. I’m here for my final fitting.”

“You are early.”

“I know. I know. I can’t wait.”

David buzzed him in. He put on loose linen pants and a clean t-shirt. The dress was done enough for Robert. There was no such thing as finished, but it was ready to wear.

A quick rap and he opened the door. Robert flew in.

“I couldn’t wait. The big blue-balls gown is wonderful. I should have used steel for the hoops. The rosettes make it hard to take your eyes off it. David, they were a stroke of genius.”

“Who sewed them on for you?”

“Honey, no one but you can stitch my garments. I had Philip glue them on. Hot glue gun for the last three hours. His poor little fingers have no prints left.”

David grimaced at the vision of glue on his gown. That wouldn’t happen with this one. He lifted off the black crepe draped over it.

“Ta da.”

“Oh David!” Robert sat stunned on the arm of the couch. “It is really too too much. The collar, those fucking beads.”

“Whiskers on kittens?”

“Doll, you have outdone yourself this time. I was afraid all your wonderful energy was going to Miss Seizure.” Miss Seizure was Robert’s affectionate name for his favourite rival, Tisu Trauma. He said it with the remorseless hiss of a cat about to bite.

“How did …” David was ashamed that Robert knew he had worked for the enemy.

“She couldn’t wait to tell me. Don’t worry babe, as long as you whip up your most scrumptious creations for me, I don’t give a flying fuck what Seizure wears.” As he undressed, Robert inched toward the corner that held Tisu’s shrouded gown.

“Careful.” David steered him away. “You don’t want to get claw marks on that without an audience, do you?”

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City of Valleys – 7 



“Home, James. I mean Yves.”

“Yes master.”

Jake’s mood improved after lunch. They had purchased all the stuff Jake needed to transform Trigger into a tropical island. At the hardware store, they bought a couple meters of astro turf to cut into fronds.

At the hospice, Jake was too tired to get out of his scooter. Yves lifted him and carried him to his room. He was dismayed at how light Jake was.

“Carried across the threshold.” Jake’s eyes closed as Yves put him on the bed. “Mother would be pleased. So pleased …”

Yves eased off Jake’s runners, draped a blanket over him and left the room. Downstairs the nurses had brought in Trigger. Nancy and some of the night shift nurses wanted to do the island make-over. Yves’ duties were finished.

Outside, he felt he had left something behind. He hadn’t planned his time after Jake.

A drink or a bath?

He saw David Walters on the opposite corner. They waved. His interview with David had gone well, and though there was a strong sexual energy, he hadn’t followed it up to keep his research professional.

He crossed over to David. “Can I interest you in a drink?”

“Before four p.m.?”

“That’s a yes?”

“Stop twisting my arm! I have some serious stitching to do later. But I do have more free time than I expected.”

“Big E’s okay.”

“As good as any other dark dank watering … uh … I don’t want to say hole. Too negative. How’s Cock Talk coming?” David asked as they walked along.

“It’s now in the hands of the publisher. If this one sells there could be a Cock-a-Two.” 

“Draw any conclusions?”

“Most men who are willing to talk about cock are happy with what God gave them.”

“That’s a shocker!” David laughed. “You find a taker for that basement apartment?”

“Not yet. The few guys I saw were such creeps I put it off till the fall.”

They stopped at the lights and kitty-corner from them Mark waved. They waved and the lights changed.

“Who is that boy with him?” Yves asked under his breath.

“Oh, I hadn’t noticed. Some kid working for rent.”

“Well …” Yves recognized anger in David’s tone.

“Well, what?”

“Sounds like you do need a drink.”

“It has been one of those days. Lost a job. Got a job. Got two impossible fabric constructions, for two impossible queens, to complete before midnight. One for Miss Ing Thing and one for Tisu Tramama. And my back is killing me.”

“A massage might do you more good than a drink.”

“Yves, you keep coming up with great lines! As a matter of fact, I do live around here. Right here.” They stopped in front of a high-rise. “It’s not as if we haven’t been introduced. Don’t run when you see the mess.” 

The living room was strewn with scraps of fabrics, thread, lace and wire.

“In this corner, in the killer collar, is the gown for Miss Ing Thing. In the other corner, in leopard and zebra, is the fur trap for Tisu Tramama. No real animals were harmed in making either of these costumes.” David ushered Yves through the apartment. “The bedroom is this way.”

Yves stood in the middle of the apartment as David stripped.

“You did say massage didn’t you? I understand that is easier with clothes off. And it is air conditioned.”

A rush of cool air greeted them as David opened the bedroom door.

Yves followed David. The blinds were drawn and the dark of the room was a relief from the bright hot they had left. He took off his fanny pack and rubbed his hands to build up energy as David settled himself face down on the bed.

He moved his hands a foot away from David’s body, where his palms sensed any emotional or physical energy blocks. Emotional blocks sent a prickly heat to him, while he picked up physical stress as a coolness. 

“Whoa! What are you doing?”

“Taking your emotional temperature.”

“Whatever, that feels great.”

“Wait until I actually touch you.” Yves knelt on the bed, lowered his hands, and stroked from David’s shoulders to the top of his buttocks. He pressed harder with each stroke. “Let me know if I press too hard.”

“That is  perfect.” David patted Yves on the inside thigh. “Why don’t you slip out of those itchy clothes?”

“Now whose using lines,” Yves laughed. As he kneaded David he became aroused. 

“Do I have to undress you myself or aren’t you …” David rolled over and saw Yves’ erection strain his shorts. “Pardon me, you are interested.” He deftly unbuttoned Yves’ fly. He leaned forward and took the cock in his mouth.

Yves took his t-shirt off, wriggled out of his shorts, and stepped off the bed to remove his socks and sneakers. As he undressed, he feasted on the sight of the man on the bed. A ribbon of sunlight streamed through a crack in the blinds and played across David’s black flesh.

He lay with David’s cock within mouth range and his cock once again in David’s mouth. David’s teeth gently and then less gently nibbled his foreskin.

They stopped at the same moment and sat up to embrace, to kiss, to hold. As they enfolded each other, Yves breathed a prayer of gratitude that once more God had let him into the mystery of touch. 


Once he had showered at home after rehearsal Steven sat on the deck in the shaded back of his house to sort out what had happened at the rehearsal. Sexual arousal while in character was new to him. None of his past roles had called on him to become this close to another male character. He done boy meets girl stuff and he had never been aroused any of them.

To be caught up this way was strange. As Steven he didn’t find Tim someone he would pursue or whose pursuit he would enjoy. But as John he found Gabe attractive. This was what the text called for and this was what, as an actor, he had allowed to happen. 

He had never slipped into a character that took over his body in this way. A limp, an accent or a wig were props but to have his sexual arousal become one of those props was unexpected. He wondered if Tim made a separation between Steven and John, Tim and Gabe. He was afraid that if he said something that the on stage chemistry between them would suffer.

He sank in the chaise to watch the leaves of the maple rustle in the breeze. He closed his eyes to enjoy the breeze on his bare chest.

The phone rang. He dashed into the house to answer it.


“Hi Steven? It’s Tim.”

“Hi, Tim.” Speak of the devil.

“Can I drop by? I’d like to talk without Evan present.”

“Sure. You know where I live?”


“See you in five minutes?”

“More like five seconds? I’m calling from my car. I am getting out to walk to your door.”

A car door slammed over the phone before it went to dial tone.

“She-it.” Seven muttered.

The door bell chimed as he hung up the phone. All he wore were his boxers. He looked for a T-shirt or sweatpants but there was none at hand and the door bell rang again.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Was he wearing theplaid boxers with the button fly? They were. He opened the door & they walked out to the patio.

“Nice garden. You the gardener?”

“I weed, Luke plants and prunes. Except for the compulsory pansies, these are all perennials so we haven’t planted much new the last few years. Cold drink?” 

“Yeah, that sounds nice.”

“Coke? Classic of course.” Steven went into the kitchen.

“Sure. Great. Nice house. You’ve been here for a while?” Tim talked rapidly. 

“Long enough,” Steven replied. He saw no reason to say more. The less he knew about his fellow actors, the less they knew about him, the easier it was to concentrate on the characters they portrayed.

Tim came into the house and went into the living room. He perched on the edge of the sofa. Steven handed him his drink and sat in a chair opposite.

Tim took a little sip and put the glass down. “About this afternoon …” 

Steven leaned into his chair. He would have hugged his knees to his chest, but if he did his dick would fall out of his boxers. 

“Steve, we’re getting somewhere with the play, aren’t we? Like, when we started, I wasn’t sure about it. I’ve never done anything gay before.”

“Comes a time …”

“I wanted to work with Evan. He lives up to reputation. I was afraid he’d be a … prick.”

“That has been known to happen.” Steven relaxed.

“And … I’ve never done … what we did this afternoon in rehearsal. You made it easy, so natural that I found it easier.”

“It was difficult for me.”

“But when I felt … saw you get … you know … hard … I knew everything would be all right. That we would …” He lurched forward and kissed Steven.

Steven pushed him away. “Tim … I …”

“I know. You have a partner and I respect that. I know we have an intense show to do …”

“Emotional stuff off stage won’t help. It’ll be a big problem if we let this go too far. Uh …” Steven’s mind raced. “Uh … ”

“Fuck it man, I’ve been crazy for you since that first read through. I know you feel something too, or we wouldn’t have made that scene work this afternoon.”

“Tim, this is so sudden.” Steven was in some soap farce. All this needed was for Luke to come home.

“My wife will kill me if she ever suspects.”

“Your wife!” The perfect out. “You’re married?”

“Four years. No kids, yet.” Tim sat. “It’s been tearing me up. You know, loving her, wanting kids, while wanting … you know …” He looked at Steven’s crotch.

“She doesn’t suspect?” 

“I’m an actor.” Tim shrugged. “Lisa’s my biggest fan. She made me take this show after reading the script. Said it would be important for my career. What can we do?”

“Let’s … uh … keep this personal stuff separate, till the show is up & running. It’ll get in the way. You know that. Let’s not be alone so we won’t get pulled in any deeper than the … uh … text allows.”

“It won’t be easy holding you on stage and wanting you off stage.”

“Same here,” Steven lied. “But if we channel that energy into our performances …”

“How can you be so sensible? If you can be that strong I’ll try.” He clumsily kissed Steven again. “Sorry but …” his hand moved along Steven’s thigh, into the baggy boxers. “Oh, what a cock you got.” He kissed down Steven’s chest till he had the cock in his mouth.

Steven’s eyes glazed over as he stared away from the blond head between his legs. 

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City of Valleys – 6  

City of Valleys – 6



Steven didn’t want to trade the air-conditioned restaurant for his afternoon rehearsal. No matter how many bodies moved in it, the damp, hot air on Church Street remained unmoved. The afternoon at Lubba’s had gone well. Paul fit in and worked out better than Steven expected one of Miss Ing’s love toys to work.

The sight of Paul’s tattoos was the highlight at the end of Steven’s shift. He changed in the staff room, while Paul took a breather there with his damp shirt hung over the air vent to cool it. Across his shoulders was a series of linked geometric knots based on a Celtic pattern he’d had found on a CD cover.

Steven wanted to know what the inked flesh felt like, but didn’t want a sexual harassment case on anyone’s first day of work.

Steven unlocked his bike and peddled to the East Side Community Centre. Evan was outside the centre with Tim McGuinn, one of the actors in the show, and Monica their stage manager.

“I though you were working today, Monica?” Steven locked his bike.

“We got taken over. Bookies is now an ex-bookstore.”

“Which means she won’t be missing rehearsals,” Evan added.

“Depends on the job market. Need anyone at Lubba’s, Steven?”

“Not unless there’s a sudden break-up.” He explained Paul as they went up to the rehearsal studio.

“Enough of that. If you wish to audition for Robert Ing, Monica, I’m sure Steven can book an appointment for you. But we are here for our true calling.” 

“That sounds threatening,” Tim whispered.

“Today we’ll work on the scene between the two of you. Monica will prompt.”

“I hope our nudity won’t offend her heterosexual sensibility.”

“Tim, I had a light lunch just in case.”

Steven had tried not worry about the first nude rehearsal. It wasn’t Steven who was naked, but his character, John. He had never been naked on stage and wasn’t sure how he’d react.

“What we’ll do is run the lines, the blocking, and mime the undressing.” Evan explained

“You both off book, I hope.” Monica found the place in the text. “It isn’t easy to hold your text and your text-ticles as the same time.”

“I’ll take your word for that.” Tim swigged from a water bottle.

“The same for the kiss. You don’t have to go for it right away but remember these guys aren’t air kissers.”

“Ass kissers, Evan?” Tim pretended to mishear.

“Save that for the uncensored midnight production. But till then we will stick to what is here.”

The kiss was buried deeper in Steven’s mind. Like many actors, he didn’t pay attention to stage business when he concentrated on his lines and his cues. What would it be like to kiss Tim? Could he stay John when he got that intimate? 

After a few simple stretches and vocal warm-ups, Evan said they were ready to commence. He sat at the far end of the room. A couple of chairs sketched in the set, with a quilt on the floor to represent the bed.

The first run throughs were rough. Steven saw that Tim was more apprehensive than he was.

“Okay, okay. I know it isn’t easy. You keep avoiding each other, when you are supposed to be ready for each other. Just sit and look at each other. Make eye contact and say the lines. Don’t act. Just look and speak.” Evan leaned forward in his chair.

They did that. Evan made them do it twice, and the third time they spoke the scripted actions.

“I’m unbuttoning John’s shirt.”

“Gabe unbuttons my shirt. I hold his hand over my heart.”

“John holds my hand over his heart. I feel it beat.”

After the fourth talk-through, they did a walk-through of the actions.

Steven touched Tim’s belt. Tim touched Steven’s buttons. At the point of the kiss, they leaned forward and their lips met. Brief, but actual contact was made.

“Good. I knew you had it in you. It’s time for a breather before we get down to brass tacks.”

Steven glanced at his watch. Almost two hours without a break. He was soaked with sweat from concentration and was grateful to sip water from his bottle. He went to the washroom and soaked his t-shirt and wrapped it around his neck.

When he got back Evan had orange popsicles for them.

“Go easy on these. Cold can slam the voice box shut,” Monica warned. “Rub them on the backs of your arms. That will cool you down quickly.”

“Aren’t we all cool enough?”

“As cucumbers, Evan.”

“Ready gentlemen?” Monica urged. “Then we’ll begin.”

The text of the scene flowed up to the first button.

“Do I ask him about the murders before, after or during?”

“Steve, just keep going!” Evan ordered. “Remember – do not anticipate. What happens here is a surprise to your characters. If we see the actors getting ready, there will be no surprise.”

As Tim’s hands touched him, and his touched Tim, he watched from Evan’s point of view. They were two actors at work. He saw his shirt come off and fall to the stage next to Tim’s pants. His pants fell on top of that. Each removed his own underwear. There was a cool damp of sweat in the small of his back as he pulled Tim to him. It was natural and easy. Nothing to question.

Tim’s body was now Gabe’s. His body was John’s. Tim’s musky aftershave was now Gabe’s. Steven wasn’t attracted to the ruddy Gabe but John was. He held Gabe’s eyes as their faces neared. Gabe’s pubic hair brushed his stomach. Gabe returned his look as they sank to the floor. Desire sparked as their lips parted and tongues touched.



Evan and Monica applauded.

As he rolled away from Tim he was aroused and saw that Tim saw that he was aroused. Tim grabbed a shirt and dropped it on Steven’s groin.

“That’s what I call method acting.”

“You’d think I wasn’t getting enough at home,” Steven joked.

“Once more?” Monica asked. “Or do we need cold showers.”

“Steven, I didn’t realize that you were so …” Evan glanced down.

“Not something one puts on a résumé.” Steven got dressed.

“You ready?” Tim asked.

“It seems I’m always ready!” Steven tried to forget their faces. It was that awed look that meant he was no longer Steven or John but a guy with a big dick.


Kevin studied the notices on the bulletin board at Rainbow Books there was so much queer stuff. Classes in American Sign Language. Something called Fire Breath Training. Groups for Asian Lesbians, Radical Faeries, Leather Daddies, Single Gay Fathers.

His brain stopped absorbing as his eyes moved over the flyers. Pink, yellow, mauve posters with naked, semi-naked, big, thin, hairy, muscular, bald, pierced, black, Asian, men and women that offered doors into gay worlds he never dreamed existed.

He tore a number off one that offered a room to let in a gay household. It was time to escape Mitch and Therese, but he’d have to tell them something. He couldn’t disappear and expect them not to want to see to where.

As he stood there he blocked the exit for a thin black man.

“Sorry. Am I in your way?” He asked the man.

The black guy went back into the store without an answer. Kevin put a copy of Pride Pages, a free guide to gay organizations and businesses, into his backpack and left. It was time to hit his target – Church and Wellesley.

On the walk to Church he passed preparations for the parade and street fair. Some side streets were already blocked off for a dance that night, and a stage was set up for the bands.

Many of the high-rise balconies sported rainbow flags. Some had Christmas lights, many with helium-filled silver and pink balloons, and one had a large inflated teddy bear tethered to its rail.

He was submerged in an alien culture where everyone spoke English but the words didn’t mean the same thing. From the flyers he figured that a bear wasn’t the woodland creature but a big, hairy man.

There was little chance he’d return to Mitch’s tonight, but he have to tell them and not blurt out the truth. He checked his watch and figured they might still be out. 

He doubled back to a pay phone in the subway. He practiced several lies and even the truth. “Hi Mitch I’m staying downtown tonight to my dick sucked by sick faggots and to return the favour. See you at supper tomorrow.” The thought sent shivers up his spine.  

When he called he got, as he’d hoped, the answering machine. As casual as possible he said, “Hi Therese.” She always checked the messages, something Mitch had never figured out. “Cuz Kevin here and I … uh … I don’t think I’ll get back tonight. Don’t worry if I don’t show. I’ll call in the morning. Love ya. Bye. I’ll do a double set next week at Ten Pennies to make up for tonight. A triple if that agent shows up. Bye.”

He hung up pleased he had managed not to lie yet not tell the truth. Next he’d need a place for the night. The fantasy of a nice man who would give him sex and a place to sleep had appeal, but he’d feel better if he didn’t have to risk homelessness this first night on his own.

He went to a nearby parkette, sat in the sun, and took out the Pride Pages to check if there were any gay hotels.

“Nice weather.” A guy in blue tank top and matching shorts sat beside him.

“Perfect,” Kevin glanced from the guide.

“Usually is for Pride. Rained once, but stopped as soon as the parade started.”

“God likes gays after all.”

“No doubt He’s one himself.” The man inched closer. “You from out of town?”

“Sort of.” Kevin’s heart beat a bit faster. Was this a pick up? He stared at the man. He appeared to be in his late thirties, needed a shave, but wasn’t in too bad shape. 

The man adjusted his balls. “Going to be a warm day.”

“Yes.” Kevin covered his hard-on with the Pride Pages.

“I have cold beer at my place. Not far from here.”

“Sounds inviting, but I have to find a place for tonight.”

“There’s a couple of b’n’b’s on the way to my place. We can check them out.”


“Bed and breakfast. Not quite a hotel and cheaper.”

“All right. Kevin.” Kevin stuck out his hand.

“Mark.” The man shook Kevin’s.

“Pleased to meet you Mark.”

“If all goes well, the pleasure will be all mine.”

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City of Valleys – 5



Kevin sat on the subway opposite the route map over the door to count off each stop. The closer he got to town, the more his heart raced. It was hard for him to stay seated. When the train flashed above ground, he watched the blur of buildings.

It was odd not to have Mitch or Therese there to talk to, or to alert him about what stop to get off. It was a challenge to sit in silence, and he resisted the urge to strike up a conversation with strangers. Each time he had been tempted, the stony blankness of people’s faces stopped him. 

The closer he got to downtown, the closer he inspected men for signs that they might be gay. What should he look for? Mitch claimed you could always tell a fag by the amount of stink water he wore to cover up the stench of the asshole that had just been on his face.

Kevin eyed several men he hoped were gay, but if they were and they acknowledged him, he didn’t know where that might lead. The train filled at Pape, and a man squeezed into the seat between him and a large black woman.

“‘Scuse me.”

Kevin was too nervous to glance at the man. He peeked down at the man’s thighs, shoes, hairy forearms, but he couldn’t get himself to look at the face. 

The man got off a few stops later, and as he got up he adjusted his crotch. Kevin glanced up. The train jarred to a stop, and momentum pushed the man’s fly closer to Kevin’s face. The man exited. Kevin took a deep breath and realized how tense he had become.

So tense he almost missed the stop at Yonge and Bloor. He followed the flow of passengers to the street. 

As he crossed at the corner, he hoped his eyes didn’t bug out to push off his sun glasses. He was in a sea of people all intent on getting past or around each other to something important. He was sure that if he stopped at a store window, the crowd would shove him along before he could focus on anything. 

His stomach reminded him it was time to focus on food. He stopped at Pizza Palace and went in for a slice.

At a stool in the window, he had a chance to sit and watch. 

“Mind if I sit here”’ A guy about his age nodded to the stool next to his.


“Lots of people in town for Pride Day.” 

“Pride Day?”

“You from another planet or what?”

“Call me Kevin from Jupiter.”

“Ian from over the Rainbow.” Ian shook Kevin’s hand. “I can’t imagine any self-respecting faggot not knowing what Pride Day is. Oops!” Ian covered his mouth. “That is if you are? I mean I took it for granted that you were and if you aren’t I’m sorry for mistaking you for one.”

“I’m one.” Kevin laughed. “What’s this Pride thing.”

“Tomorrow is Gay and Lesbian Pride Day. There’s a parade of hundreds of thousands of crazed queers out and proud.” Ian finished his slice. “I gotta run. Drop in at Rainbow Books up the street. We have everything you’ll need for gay life. You picked the perfect weekend to come out.” Ian disappeared into the stream of people.

I’ll take his word for it. Kevin finished his pizza.


Outside the hardware store, Yves lashed the sturdy cardboard tubes to the back of Trigger. As long as they avoided doors with less than six feet of clearance they’d have no trouble. The tubes, to make palm tree trunks, were a bit too straight but with a wrap of burlap they’d pass.

At Fabrique Place they bought burlap and found some rainbow terry towel in the remainders bin. A couple of balloons covered in the terry towel became Jake’s all important “nice big coconuts.” Next they needed something to make leaves.

“Yves, as a writer you should know, are they called leaves or fronds? Because it helps if you know who your fronds are.” Jake laughed as they moved forward. “You’ve got to have fronds …”

“It helps to have fronds in high places.”

“Yves, a frond in need is a frond indeed.”

“You’ve got a frond.”

“Some my best fronds are …” 

“Fronds! Romans! Countrymen!” Tears poured down Yves face.

“Stop! Stop! I can’t take any more.” Jake pounded his chest with his hand.

Yves let silence settle as they both caught their breath.

“What a way to go! Laughed to death,” Jake gasped. 

“Sounds like you two are enjoying the sun.” Someone came up behind them. “Or is it that ample gentleman in the black net bikini sunning himself in the park that’s tickled you? Jake how you doing?”

“Mark Winslow! Fuck! Did you get a life transplant!” 

“No, Jake, a magic cocktail.”

“Must be magic. Last time I saw you, you were …”

“Don’t say it, Yves. We thought that last time was the last.”

“Fuck man, I hardly recognize you. You look …. healthy.” Jake tugged at the knees of his sweat pants. “You were the guy with all those friends, right?”

“Oh yeah, my recovery buds.”

“Lucky. You are so lucky, man, to have so many.”

“That I know.”

“I hardly recognized you Mark.”

“Everyone says I rebounded amazingly. I’ve put on nearly twenty pounds and am back at the gym, and thanks to God and my meds, I’m feeling fine.” Mark shook his backpack. A bottle of pills inside rattled.

“What meds are you on?” 

“If this is going to be another pharmacist convention I’ll leave you to it and …”

“I don’t have time to get into anything here, but tell you what, I’ll drop in soon and get caught up? I’m surprised you aren’t on this regimen.”

“Non-insurance doesn’t cover magic cocktails.” Jake frowned.

“We’ll talk Monday. I’ll check with my doctor.” With a quick air kiss, Mark continued on his way.

“Time for lunch? The patio at Mama D’s is open. No ceiling fixtures to worry about.”

Jake’s mood change was predictable. He picked at his food while he railed about the system and how only the rich would survive.

Yves took what he had learned to be the best approach in these circumstance. He agreed with the negative, echoed the positive, and was hopeful, though he himself didn’t understand how or why some people lasted years and others died within weeks.

How some people responded to medications while others got worse, no matter what they tried, was one of the angels that he wrestled, and each time he had to accept that life was a mystery only God could solve. 


After lunch David stopped by Rainbow Books with his résumé. He liked the aura of Rainbow Books. Two large floors of homo-energy that lived up to its claim as the Biggest Queer Store in the World. Whenever he did drop in, it was hard not to reorganize the shelves so people could find the books they wanted.

Ian Fisher, the owner, had explained that the confusion was a way to force people to talk to the clerks, to lure them out of their book closets.

David went up to the second floor and found Ian in his cluttered office.

“How’s the pre-Pride sale going?”

“Not bad. Are you checking out our prices for Bookies to undercut.”

“Please Ian, the gayest thing we carry is the Australian Rescue Team calendar. I wanted to drop this off.” 

“Business there that bad?” Ian dropped to gossip whisper.

“Worse. Index Ink has bought us out.”

“Fucking Yanks. When?”

“Today. No warning. A golden handshake and the offer to maybe become sale associates in the future. You have a sign outside ‘Staff Wanted’.” He put his résumé on the desk.

“Part time, summer stuff while we all take well-earned vacations. I was thinking of some college type and the pay is minimum.”

“Suits me fine. I want to start sewing my fingers to the bone but need to keep some money coming in at the same time.”

“When can you start?”

“You mean I got the job?”

“Contrary to current rumours, you don’t have to blow anyone to work here.”


“Tuesday it is.” Ian shook David’s hand.

David went downstairs and it was now harder to restrain himself from organizing the piles of books. As he came to the entrance, he was stopped in his tracks by a male vision in front of the events bulletin board.

With a deep breath, he allowed himself to savour the man in front of him. The guy stood about five-foot-eight, in ragged cutoffs, with a light dust of hair on his sturdy legs and a firm upper body. David gazed on this image of perfection. The face wasn’t pretty, but solid, masculine and topped off with short cropped brownish hair, it sent a signal to David’s balls that he hadn’t heard for a while. The man’s burgeoning moustache iced the cake.

He saw David. “Sorry, am I in your way?”

“Uh … no … not at all.” David’s eyes darted up and down. He tried to think of anything to say to make this man talk to him. He was grateful that being black meant no one could see him blush.

“David!” Ian called from behind him. “I forgot to get you to fill out this employee form. It’s for the book-keeper.”

David took the form and when he turned back the apparition was gone. 

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City Of Valleys 4 



Kevin squinted at his watch. Near ten, Saturday morning. If he got his ass in gear he’d be gone before Mitch awoke. Mitch and Therese had planned Kevin’s time since he arrived to make sure he didn’t get lost. He itched to get out on his own.

Thanks to Mitch he knew where he wanted to go. Two Fridays ago Mitch, in a van mood, insisted they ‘shoot the drag.’ On the east coast that meant an endless loop around the main street of their little town and of the somewhat larger one nearby.

In Toronto, to Mitch, it meant a loop down Yonge Street from Bloor to Queen and up Church. Mitch recommended strip joints and head shops on Yonge street. The leg of the loop up Church Street went through, what Mitch called, Fag Hell.

Shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and street corners there were alive with men and women. Some held hands. He glimpsed two men kiss as they waited at the lights. Mitch did this loop several times, slugged beer after beer, and got more vulgar about the strip joints and more hostile about how queer maggots spewed their filth over the sidewalks.

He wound his window down to harass a couple of muscle guys.

“You guys get that way pumping each other’s asses?”

“Start pumping that chicken next to you, instead of him pumping you, and you too can have the same amazing results,” one of them replied. Both flexed their biceps and laughed.

“Fuckin’ pervs.” Mitch burnt rubber as he squealed off. That was the last loop that night. 

Kevin hoped not to work for the summer, but he gave in when Mitch pressured him to fill in the crews at his construction site. He’d sent his résumé to several garages to offer his mechanic skills. 

He learned the love of engines from Shep. He enjoyed how each piece fit, and was dependent on the next piece to work. The logic it took to rebuild and repair brought deep satisfaction to him.

He’d had his first interview yesterday afternoon. It went well, though he felt his age worked against him. It did give him the day off from Mitch’s construction site and a chance to plan this escape today.

Every Saturday he shopped with Mitch and Therese, once Mitch had crawled awake around noon. Evenings he’d been herded around to all the east coasties Mitch knew. Supposedly for Kevin to meet some good women, but mainly for Mitch to show off Kevin’s musical talents. He’d been conscripted to do a couple of Saturday night sets at Ten Pennies, Mitch’s home-away-from-home pub. There he was billed as Kevin McLeod and not Mitch’s Cuz Kev. 

This Saturday would be different. If he was up and out by ten-thirty, he’d be out of their grasp and on his own at last. 

He put on the clothes he’d laid out the night before and grabbed his backpack. He’d had cutoffs and a spare t-shirt in it. This last weekend in June promised to be hot.

What worried him the most was money. Mitch had made him paranoid about how easy it was to ‘roll those pansies.’ Not that he could be rolled that easy, but he didn’t want to lose his hard earned cash or his credit card.

He hid the card beneath the inner sole of his left runner. He squirrelled away about $200.00 – some his wallet, some with his subway pass and the rest in a pocket in his denim jacket. Enough for the day and then some.

He opened his bedroom door to check if the other bedroom door was shut. It was. He went out the front door. He leaned against the hallway wall to breathe for the first time.

The door opened. 

“Here. You might need these!” Therese dropped keys into his hand.

Kevin stared.

“They’re called keys. You are old enough to let yourself in and out.”

“Thanks. I … uh …” 

“Get going.” She kissed him on the forehead. “You have our number. If you’re gonna to be out late … let us know or Mitch will have the cops searching for you.”

She shut the door. Kevin walked to the elevator. His feet barely felt the carpet. 


David rubbed the bitter taste of unsweetened coffee around his mouth. He and his two co-workers had been called into the office to wait for the manager, Karen Willis, to return.

They watched her tape a notice to the front door.

“That is not a good omen.”

“Could be the new summer hours, David,” Monica suggested. 

Karen came into the office and brushed her suit jacket.

“We’ve been merged. As of today we are an ex-bookstore.”


“Index Ink has taken us over.” She handed them each a pay envelope. “As of today we are no longer required.”

David opened the envelope. It had a check for six months pay.

“Index Ink is generous. Part for p.r. and mainly because the bastards can afford to be. Any one who wishes may apply for a position within their ranks.”

“Position?” Amhad, the other clerk, asked.

“Yes. Index Ink is always eager to find experienced sales associates.” Karen didn’t try to conceal her bitterness. “That is if they survive ePub.”

“So, like, we can go home? … Now?”

“Yes, David. Unless you haven’t had breakfast. There’s money in the till.” Karen laughed. “Ten years with Bookies, I get to be a manager for six bloody months and boom, back to square one. No seniority, no pension plan, no benefits.”

“Rainbow Books is looking for staff.” Monica was, as ever, hopeful.

“There’s a spot for you David,” Amhad joked. “And you’ll have Pride Day off, after all.”

David was stunned. He’d been at Bookies for over two years. He enjoyed the business and his co-workers. He had never expected to leave.

“Or do what you’ve been avoiding.”

“Which is what, pray tell, Karen?” 

“Finally become the black queen of fashion.”

They all laughed.

“I’ll eat to that,” Monica added.

“Lubba’s has a great brunch.”

“Lubba’s it is.”

Each grabbed their personal items and waited at the exit for Karen.

Black queen of fashion. Why not? 


As Yves approached the hospice he saw Jake on Trigger, his motorized wheel-chair. Jake spun in circles and joked with some patients out for a cigarette on the side terrace.

“What kept you?” Jake teased. “Admit it. Beauty sleep isn’t going to help at your age.”

“Considering what it’s done for you, you’re right.”


“Please Jake, bitch is so demeaning to women. Call me a prick, if you have to call me anything.”

“I’ll call you King Cock, if we can get the stuff on my list. I want Trigger to be the best float ever in a Pride Day Parade.”

“Yes, Master.” Yves put the list into his fanny pack. He wore baggy knee length shorts and a grey tank-top to keep cool while he got Jake around town. Jake was overdressed in thick green sweat pants and a rainbow striped sweater. His body temperature was unstable, and hot days were cool for him. The heavy clothes also afforded coverage for what he called his flesh-colored skeleton. 

“Where to first, Master.”

“Coffee. Coffee.” Jake’s cartoon voice made the others laugh. “Must have coffee. Must be fresh coffee.”

“You don’t mean …”

“Don’t tell me what I fucking mean,” Jake snarled. “I mean I want coffee.”

Jake’s medications caused unpredictable mood swings. For the past week, Yves was the one person Jake spoke to. The staff was accustomed to manic episodes and they could sedate patients into a chemical calm. They had wanted to do that with Jake, but Yves stopped them. It was hard for the grace of God to slip into that chemical calm.

The one thing that Jake had focused on the past week was a plan to transform Trigger into a float. Design ideas had ranged far and wide till he had settled a couple of papier maché palm trees with rainbow coconuts, a grass skirt for the motor, and himself as King Snake of Fantasy Island. 

The less Jake had to control in his life, the more he tried to control what he could. Jake had phoned Yves twice that morning to make sure he was on his way. 

They travelled side by side to Church Street. First stop was Tencity, where the coffee was guaranteed to make you tense. 

“Jake! Jake!” a voice called from the patio. A small, excited hand flapped a glossy red fan. The fan shut, and up stood Robert Ing.

“Ah, Miss Ing. I never expected to see you so early in the day.” Jake maneuvered Trigger onto the patio.

“Honey, I was up at the crack of dawn.”

“Don who?” Yves didn’t want this to be a long chat as he was not comfortable around effeminate men.

“Oh, you!” Ing flicked his fan open to cover the lower half of his face. “So good to see you out and about Jake. I hope you’ll be at the parade tomorrow. I have the most faboolous outfit. Three outfits to be honest. The first one ….” 

Yves went to get coffee. One of the things in gay life he never understood was this female thing. He was a man who liked other men as men, and not as some sort of in-between. He didn’t get excited about leather either. Men who looked hot in leather looked hot in anything, and men who didn’t look good in anything counted on the leather to do what their looks couldn’t do.

He got two coffees and a blueberry muffin for himself. He wasn’t sure what Jake could or would eat. One of the drugs Jake took affected his taste, food he liked one day nauseated him the next. As he got back to the patio, Robert kissed Jake on the forehead. 

“Toodles doll. Gotta run.” Robert stood on tiptoe to peck Yves on the cheek and was gone.

“Did you know Miss Ing was half-owner of Lubba’s? He and Luke Kwan bought out the Debarrets?” 

“I wonder how much that cost in press-on nails.”

“I wonder who the real bitch is? Him or you.”


Steven put the last of the fresh daisies in the vases on the tables. These were the “day” flowers that would be replaced by roses for evening.

Robert Ing burst in. “Where is that husband of yours? Why aren’t we ready to open? Why are you doing his job?” He folded his fan and rapped Steven’s hand.

“We are open. Luke is in the kitchen. Seems your latest acolyte has never opened as much as a can of soup.”

“I should hope not. This is a restaurant, not a place where we serve canned soup.” Robert pushed Steven aside.

Steven took the Specials board and hung it outside. Under it he had taped a poster for “Three-Quarter Time.” Though the show didn’t open till September, he wanted to get the word out as soon, and as much, as possible.

Inside, Luke and Robert were pushed out of the kitchen by Curtis, the house chef.

“Out, both of you. If I need help I’ll ask. You too.” Curtis reached in and dragged out Paul. 

“Keep him out of my kitchen. If he’s that talented, let him cook for you at home, Bobby.”

“Robert, how many times have I told you you cannot hire new people.”

“Luke … I … I …” Robert stood his full height, which left him at chin level to Luke. “I was trying to help. This is your busiest week-end. I figured …”

“Robert, let me figure.” Luke motioned to Brad to bring a drink for Robert. “Paul, what skills do you bring us?”

Paul, like most of Robert’s past conquests, was in his mid-20’s and sported several tattoos. Unlike his predecessors, he was in university. He’d completed his second year in premed and as Robert’s latest had lasted since Christmas; as long a relationship as any knew Robert to have had.

“What do you think, Steven?”

“You mind bussing?”

“Sure. That’s all I expected to do.”

“Okay, doll. Okay.” Robert emptied his wine. “You can begin by getting rid of this dirty, dirty glass.” 

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City of Valleys 3 



“Play that one about, ‘Trudy’s glad you got your arms around her.’ That’s a great song.”

“Mitch, I’ve spent the last hour playing and need a break.” 

Once they got to the apartment, Mitch had headed to the fridge for a beer. The long drive made him thirsty. Kevin hadn’t expected his first night to be a command performance for Mitch. Therese had gone to bed hours ago.

When he took the guitar out, it was to play Mitch his new number. That new number stretched out to hours. Not that he minded, but he wanted more of Toronto than the view from Mitch’s twenty-third-floor balcony. 

“We gotta get a demo made of you, man. Reminds me of Jagger. A man’s voice. There’s this guy who comes to Ten Pennies. Says he’s some sort of agent or booker. We’ll make sure he hears you. ‘Cause that voice of yours is fan-fuckin’-tastic.”

“Yeah, well thanks, but it needs sleep.”

“Just one more. That one you wrote ‘bout Trudy. She’s Deb isn’t she? Come on fess up.”

Kevin blushed. “So what if she is …”

When he first wrote the song it went: “Trudy’s Dad, I got my arms around him, in a love to take us to tomorrow.” The girl in the song was Deb Trask and the Dad was her Dad, Shep, and Kevin’s crush on him was the reason he had left the east coast. ‘Dad’ became ‘glad,’ ‘him’ changed to ‘her,’ in the first rewrite.

He knew Deb from school and he didn’t pay attention to her till one day he ran into her with her Dad, Shep. Shep wasn’t the first man he’d been sexually attracted to, but was the first one he had opportunity pursue. If two years spent not getting caught staring can be called pursuit.

He took Deb on a snowmobile run the very next day. Deb had three sisters, two older, one younger. Kevin became the boy in their family. That he and Deb were meant for each other was obvious to everyone.

Shep had encouraged him to learn the guitar and to sing. He prodded Kevin into his first gig at a local variety show. To Kevin’s own dad music was a waste of time, when he ought to learn a trade or pay more attention to his chores around their house.

Yet, the fact that Kevin had a family and future suited everyone all the same. The Trasks owned the local service station, and Kevin began to work there after school to learn auto mechanics first-hand. It earned him a first class mechanic’s certificate. It was clear he’d marry into a great business. 

Kevin became more drawn to Shep. To the point where Deb once asked if he liked her father more than he liked his own. His Dad was a pretty decent guy, but Kevin didn’t know how to explain the truth.

When Kevin announced that he intended to go to Toronto, Shep was as surprised as Kevin’s own Dad. If he stayed on the east coast, he’d either kill himself or be killed when they found out his secret.

Cocksucker and faggot were words used to hurt anyone. No one believed the person they called fag was one, but it was the ideal insult. He made sure no one suspected it applied to him.

Deb was a simple way to avoid that with the bonus of Shep as a great arouser. When he made out with Deb, all he had to do was imagine her Dad in greasy coveralls and he was hard. 

He didn’t hide his arousal from Deb, but when she encouraged him to go further he didn’t. His explanation that he respected her and didn’t want to do anything foolish, was the right thing to say. Fooled her and kept her at the same time.

In the past year, physical closeness to Shep at the garage had become too painful. As they worked together under a car, his eyes went from the car chassis to Shep’s chest. Kevin’s fantasy was to reach out, pretend to wipe oil off Shep’s work clothes and rub down to his balls.

Deb knew he was unhappy, and when Kevin broke the news about his move she thought it was because he didn’t love her. How could he tell her that it was her Dad he wanted?

“What are you thinking about, sport?” Mitch broke Kevin’s reverie. “Reminded you about Deb, did I? Don’t worry. If she loves you she’ll wait, and if not she’ll be hopping the first hard cock that comes her way.”

“Yeah right.” And so will I. So will I. 


David had drifted inot a light sleep on the couch when someone sat next to him.

“Too bad you woke up. We were going to do your nails.” Mark laughed. “Been here long?”

David glanced at his watch. “About half an hour. Nice place to relax.”

He and Mark had lived in the same building till Mark moved last year to one of the easy-to-maintain bachelors in a complex of mostly HIV patients. Since his diagnosis four years ago, Mark had closed his law firm and removed all stress from his life. 

“Plants have positive energy. One of the day nurses has been bringing all the power plants in to this room.”

“Power plants?”

“Something to do with healing spirits. Please don’t tell anyone. We’d rather they thought medical science was working and not mystic powers.”

“Must have been a good meeting for you to be so full of it.”

“It was, but as they say, any meeting is a good meeting. Without those recovery guys,” Mark teared up, “I probably wouldn’t have lasted this long.”

David and Mark had been friends for about eleven years, but he didn’t known much how booze and pills were in charge till Mark got sober. Several years ago he had disappeared for a month, and then was back bright and shiny, clean and sober. The difference was remarkable.

So remarkable that many of Mark’s playmates didn’t recognize him, or as Mark put it, didn’t want to think themselves as damaged as he was. 

“The new drug cocktail is helping too,” Mark went on. “It’s been about a week and I can feel it working in me. Those little protease inhibitors swimming around in my blood. Strip-teasing the HIV into blowing its load before it can do any more damage.”

“Now that’s what I call a powerful visualization.”

“Yves helped me with it. He could help me with a lot more than that if I had my way. Mm mm mm.”

“Keep visualizing.”


Yves walked up the steps of his house. The lights were on in the other half of the duplex. Sometimes he dropped in on Luke and Steven, but tonight he’d attend to his own life.

From inside the front passage he saw his three Lucite and gold Leo’s as they gleamed in the street light that fell on the mantel piece. It was no accident that the first things anyone who came in his front door saw were these three “Writer of the Year” awards.

Over them was Station Five of the Stations of the Cross. Carved in walnut with inlays of light pine and reddish rosewood, it depicted Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus bear the cross. It was a reminder to Yves that help is always present, that without divine help he never would have won his awards, and that to help others was to experience his own divinity.

A big plus was the detail the carver had given the near nude torsos of Christ and Simon. Rugged, bearded men, who used all their physical strength to survive for the power of God. A synthesis of sex and spirit, carved by someone whose love of the male form matched Yves’. Perfect, except for the wisps of cloth carved to cover their privates.

The Leo’s were for his work as a news producer and writer at the CBC. But when heads rolled for budget cuts the awards didn’t help him hold on to his job. Not that he tried to hold on very tight, and his screaming match with the then Prime Minister over funds for HIV research didn’t show his impartiality in a favorable light. To call the Prime Minister a gutless, spineless asshole was its own reward and more than worth it.

Yves crossed himself and knelt before the mantel, grateful that the awards gave him a golden handshake to pay off the house and allowed him not to work until he chose. In the past three years, he hadn’t done much till he accepted an advance to write this book about cock. 

He grabbed a cola from the fridge and went to his study at the back of the second floor of the house. The desk with his computer overlooked a fitful wildflower garden. He turned the computer on and went to his bedroom to undress.

He rubbed the pop can’s cold perspiration on the small of his bare back and sat at the monitor. Rather than start in right away, he checked his phone messages:

“Hi Yves. It’s David Walters. We … uh … bumped into each other earlier tonight. I … uh … well … I’d love to talk to you about .. um … what you wanted to talk about. You can reach me at 387-5293 after, say, six tomorrow night. Bye.”

Yves played the message a couple of times to figure out what was the sound in the background.

He checked his e-mail and there was another response to his cock survey.

“Hello Yves:

Like the idea of  this. Here’s something off the top of my uh …. head ….

My mother taught me to call my cock a “goober”.  I HATED that name and was always mortified when my mother used it either privately or in public.  I thought it was the most stupid name because the television character on The Andy Griffith Show, played by Jim Nabors, was named Goober. I thought it was funny when I learned Jim Nabors was gay and my mother had always called cocks “Goobers.”

Good luck, DK Prino.”

Yves had posted the survey on various sites and often didn’t know where a response originated from. As he read this one, he looked for the perfect cock talk like he once used to look for the perfect cock. As if the man with the perfect thoughts about his dick would be the perfect man for him.

After two hundred plus, he hadn’t found the right way to start, but these near anonymous e-mail responses were the most productive. Less guarded and probably more honest. They might be the work of twelve-year-old girls and he’d never know. But that was part of the territory.

As he sometimes joked, “It puts the terror back into territory.” With his final draft due in a week, terror was in the way the cursor blink pulsed up and down his spine.


“Go on, call him.”

“Mark, I couldn’t.” David feigned fear. “He’ll think …”

“He’ll think you want to talk about cock.”


Mark punched in the numbers. “Why put it off?”

“Stop that right now.” David pictured Yves’ heavy-set body wrapped around his thin compliant flesh.

“It’s ringing.” Mark handed the phone to him.

“‘Ello you ‘ave reached Yves LaPointe. Please leave a message and I’ll get back directly. Thank you for calling.”

David hadn’t noticed the French accent earlier. “Hi Yves. It’s David Walters. We … uh … bumped into each other earlier tonight. I … uh … well … I’d love to talk to you about .. um … what you wanted to talk about. You can reach me at 387-5293 after, say, six tomorrow night. Bye.”

Throughout this Mark muffled his giggles with a pillow.

“Happy now Mark?”

“Not as happy you’ll be. That man has amazing hands.”

“And an accent. ‘Ello dis is Yves LaPointe.’” David exaggerated Yves message. “I do like a man with a thick accent.”


Kevin stepped out to the balcony. Mitch had a corner apartment with a view of Toronto, though it didn’t face the lake or take in the CN Tower. It was a two-bedroom apartment where Kevin would have his own room.

He had got Mitch to bed about ten minutes earlier, and finally had some silent solitude. A few scant hours ago he was an east coast kid and now he was big city boy.

He leaned over the rail to see more of the city. Almost cloudless, the lights of the skyline merged with the stars. 

Pressed against the cool of the balcony he stiffened in anticipation. He opened his fly. His hand moved along his dick and as his come formed and moved, he breathed deep to pull those lights into him, to pull himself through the air into the lights.

He strained on tip toes, his come shot out, cleared the balcony rail and flew into the night to join the stars.

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City of Valleys 2 



Steven sipped his second glass of red wine as he reflected on his audition. He heard Luke let himself into the house.

“Honey I’m a homo.” Luke called out.

“And I’m a-starrin’ in the next Thicket extravaganza.” Steven poured Luke a glass of wine.

“You got the part? You usually don’t put out till the second call-back.” Luke sounded tense.

“Brad didn’t show?”

Since he’d become part owner of Lubba’s, Luke was more concerned with the hum and flow of the place than he had been when he was merely a Maitre’D.

“He showed. Too stoned to do much more than bus tables. Don’t they do call-backs, more call-backs and then you never hear back?”

“Not Evan. When he likes what he sees he can’t be bothered looking for better.”

“What did he see?”

“He asked me read with all the other audtioners so he saw me at my best.”

“Standing? I know you hate to audition on your back.”

Steven sensed an argument. He tried to sidetrack it. “I’ll be paid for this one.”

“Cold hard cash?”

“Stipend and more, if profits.”

“Are you sure this is theatre? After all, if there’s money it can’t be art. How much cash?”

“Evan says enough to cover transportation to rehearsals.”

“Evan? Evan Daniels?”

“Right. We saw a piece of his last year. That odd take on John Osborne’s Look Back In Anger.”

“By odd you mean idiotic. Changing the gender of Helena to male, resulting in this stupid queer thing happening.”

“You said it was beautifully acted.”

“True.” Luke poured them both more wine. “What has he planned this time?”

“I have it here. An original piece called Three-Quarter Time.”

“And? … How is it?”

“I just got cast, so … First glance shows it starts in a morgue …”

“That’s what we need, a play set in a steam bath.”

Steven choked on his wine. “You prick.”

“Let me freshen that. Oh you’ve spilled some on your pant leg.”

“Freshen this for me first.” Steven laughed, unzipped his pants. “On second thought ‘tis fresh enough,” he announced in his ripest Shakespearean. “First this play’s the thing, and then that’s the play thing.” 


Yves shut Jake’s door. Jake was asleep after a bad day of chills and fevers in reaction to a change in his medications. 

“How is he?” Nancy Markas, the duty nurse, asked.


“I don’t know how you do it.”

“It’s my superpower of putting men to sleep with my very touch. Call me Sleepman.”

“Must be hard on the sex life.”

“If there was a hard-on there might be hope of a sex life.”

They shared a quiet laugh. Yves ducked in to the bathroom to wash his hands before the next of his rounds. The image of Jake so thin and fragile wrapped in his baby blue blanket stayed with him.

Jake was a man he had known before the HIV crisis. Jake’s pride, the snake tattoo around his right arm, now appeared to be all that held his skin together. Yves didn’t often have before-and-now images to make the devastation more palpable. 

Jake had been doorman and bouncer at several bars. A burly flirtatious guy, called Jake the Snake. He had won many “Bar Guy of the Year” awards but didn’t have any friends left. Many of his friends had preceded hime, on what he called, on the HIV express.

Yves understood how easy it was to be popular and yet not have time to build real friendships. It was a pattern in his life that he wasn’t sure how to break. Yves was a caretaker, self-evolved and emotionally detached from anything more than groups of people. The love of an audience he could handle, but anything closer eluded him.

He and Jake hung out together as people in a fluid group of bar boys. Though he had known Jake for almost fifteen years, had sex with him a couple of times, he didn’t remember a private conversation with him. That Jake’s last name was Rogers was news when he saw it on the charts. He felt that lack of knowledge was his fault.

The last two bars Jake had worked held regular fund-raisers to help him. Bar employment didn’t offer much in the way of employee benefits beyond tips. His only visits were when that money got dropped off for him.

Before his next appointment, Yves phoned to check if there had been responses on his answering machine to his flyer to share the house. The basement had been empty long enough for him to enjoy it empty and for him to miss the extra rental income.

He didn’t want any crank calls. The word gay on a public poster brought out the worst in people. 


The van rattled to a stop for a red light on a hill that overlooked the city. Kevin was entranced by the endless sprawl of lights. As each apartment block flashed by, his excitement increased. He longed to jump out and run to the heart of the city.

“See that high, high light way over to your left.” Therese pointed over his shoulder. “That’s the CN Tower.”

“Right!” He fidgeted in his seat to get a better view. Once again glass was between him and life.

“You buckled up there?” Mitch asked. “If you don’t keep still you’ll be road-kill in a second.”

“Remember Mitch, you were the same when we arrived. We dropped our stuff at Sue’s. You remember Sue from home? Well, maybe you don’t. She was a school friend of mine, but anyway we jumped out of the taxi, threw our bags in the bedroom and took off.”

“Yeah, who jumped us on to the wrong subway?”

“And who kept doing it for the first month? Good thing Sue followed or we’d’ve ended up back on the east coast thanks to you.” She nudged Mitch.

“Watch it! You want to run us off the road?”

“We get turned round the right way and we get off at Eaton’s. Your eyes were as big as I’ve ever seen’em. Pulling us all over the place.”

“I was looking for a beer.”

“So what else is new,” Kevin butted in.

“You two want to walk from here?” Mitch muttered.

“Beer! Ha! Mitch wanted a strip bar. It was most romantic. Our first night here and he can’t wait to find a strip bar.”

“To see something you don’t see down home.”

“Yeah, whatever. We certainly saw that and much more than you bargained for.”

“What? What did you see?” 

“Nothing.” Mitch’s curt reply was meant to end to this.

“Inches of nothing.” Therese pinched Mitch’s cheek.

“You wanna make me run off the fuckin’ road or what?” 

“What? What did you guys see?” Kevin had to have details.

“Let’s just say one of the strippers was not the she, she appeared to be, but a he. Nice set of  … breasts. Your fiver, and I mean dollars, certainly fit nicely between them.”

“Let’s just say these five,” Mitch made a fist, “will fit your face nice if you don’t shut that trap of yours and I don’t mean the stink hole between your legs.”

A sullen silence descended that let Kevin revel in the city and its promise. 


David dashed up the stairs to Mark’s hospice  room and ran in to Yves LaPointe, a massage therapist at the hospice. He bounced off Yves and almost back down the stairs. He grabbed the rail in time. 

“Fancy running into you here,” Yves groaned.

Yves offered a hand but David used the bannister steady himself.

“Anything broken?” How David might dent this power-lifter body in front of him was beyond him.

“Nothing feels broke. You’d like to check for yourself?”

David was breathless from the unexpected bump. Dizzy, he held himself closer to the rail.

“Come on.” Yves took David by the arm. “We can go upstairs.”

“Thanks. Knocked the wind out of me.”

“You’re Mark Winslow’s friend?” Yves asked as they entered the lounge.

“Right,” David sat on a small over-stuffed couch.

The lounge, known as Jungle Land, overflowed with plants given to patients who had since left or passed away. An annual plant sale didn’t dent the undergrowth in the room.

“He went down to the A.A. meeting.”

“A.A. meeting here?”

“Yeah some of the guys from his regular group put it together. They were here last week too.”

“Good stuff. I skipped supper for nothing.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Yves scratched his head. “I wonder …”


“We have time b’fore the meeting is over? I wonder if …”

“If … what?”

“To interview you for a book I’m working on.”

“A book? I haven’t had that line used on me for some time.”

“When I tell you what the book is about it’ll sound like more of a line.”

“What is it about?”


“You’re right, it does sound like a line.”

“There’s those books by women about how they feel about their breasts, their scars, their wombs. All that gyno stuff, but I’ve never seen anything where guys just talk about their dicks.”

David stared at Yves to see if this was a joke, but his expression was quite serious.

“You want to talk to me about cock? My cock?”

“If you don’t mind.” Yves took a questionnaire out of his brief case. “I’ve worked out a set of questions to get at the information without it being too …”



“I don’t think I can talk about that sort of thing here. You know, in the AIDS hospice and all. It might prejudice my answers.”

“Here’s my card. Call me when you want to set up an appointment.” He patted David on the hand.

“I will.” David was taken by the sight of Yves’ thick fingers on his thin tapering ones.

Yves stood. “Don’t wait too long or you’ll get too shy.”

“Me! Too shy? You have been speaking to the right people.”

Yves left David alone in Jungle Land. 


Steven yawned and dropped the last page of the script.

“That bad, eh?”

“I couldn’t tell you. I can tell you what happens, but I’m not sure I could tell you what it’s about.”

“Is that good or bad?” Luke looked away from the television.

“Good. It’s that … there are no monologues. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a script that was all conversation with no one saying more than two lines in a row.”

“Sounds realistic, Steve. Most of us don’t talk in paragraphs.”

“Except in books.”

“Except in books.” Luke muted the television. “So …”

“I’ll do it. Just to to work with Evan Daniels.”

“Unless he asked you to play Ophelia.”

“Don’t tempt me.”

“If you can’t tell me what it’s about, at least tell me what happens.”

“The events aren’t going to tell you a thing. People dance around gurneys and fight over bodies. Absurd but powerful. I can’t wait to see what it will be like.”

“It must be good if you’ll take a role without a monologue.”

“Ha ha. Maybe you’d like to mano log this?” Steven cupped his crotch.

“After the news, Master.”

Steven stood and let Luke slide down his boxers. His cock brushed against Luke’s ear.

“Careful honey, you’re causing cable interference.” Luke held the cock in his palm. His two hands didn’t cover it’s length. “I know what this is about though.”

“Oh yeah.”

“Yeah. It’s about eleven inches.” He put his hands on Steven’s butt and pushed the cock to him.

Steven held Luke’s head to rock his cock in and out of his mouth. “I feel ya Ophelia, I feel ya.” 

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