City of Valleys 19 

June

Kevin

“This gentleman says you assaulted him earlier this evening.” The male officer entered.

“That’s right,” Mitch replied proudly.

“You have a right to -”

“Hey! Aren’t you going to hear my side -”

“Down at the station,” the female officer answered.

“You have a right to – ”

“This fuckin’ fruit grabs my pecker and I shoved him away. Since when is the victim arrested?”

Officer Hardy stopped him. “Be that as it may.”

“Could we sort this out inside.” Bev suggested. 

Other tenants peeked out of their apartment doors. 

“It sounds like a misunderstanding.” She ushered Mr. Meloski into the apartment ahead of her and shut the door. “Peace officers should make peace right?”

“Okay, let’s hear both sides. We don’t want any trouble do we?” Salvaro looked at Mitch.

“All I wanted was to stretch out in the sauna. I got this here pinched nerve and the heat helps. I go down three or four times a month. Right, Therese, hon?” 

“That’s right officer.”

“There’s usually no one there around supper time and I can relax without anyone bothering me.”

“Have you been bothered there before?” Officer Hardy asked.

“No, but I’ve heard stories.”

“From who?” Bev asked.

“In the elevator. I heard some guys talking about stuff happening when they were there.”

“What guys?”

“Who knows? One got off on the fourth floor, the other on the tenth.”

“Nice attention to detail.” Hardy snorted with disbelief.

“You are telling me Mr. Meloski sexually assaulted you?”

“He tried. Yeah. He put his hands on my … privates, and I shoved him away.”

“Were you awake at the time?” Salvaro asked.

“What does that have to do with it? Makes it worse in fact. Coming on to me in my sleep, the sicko.”

All this time Mr. Meloski wiped his glasses and rubbed his left cheek. The eye above puffed up into a fair shiner.

“Tell us your side, Mr. Meloski.” Office Hardy asked.

The man glanced at Bev for support. “My arthur-itis was bad so I went down to the sauna. The heat helps.”

“In your knees is it? You old fuckin’ fruit.” Mitch laughed.

“Anyway, I put my glasses in my pocket as they are no use in there. It’s so dim I couldn’t see. I said ‘Is there anyone there?’ and there was no reply, so I reached out to the bench and someone was there. My hand only touched him a moment and he hit me. I fell. As I got up he hit me again. When I came to, he was gone, but left his pass key. That’s how we knew who it was.”

Mitch’s jaw dropped. Therese doubled with laughter.

“I saw – ”

Hardy handed Mitch the glasses. They were the proverbial coke bottles. “You should be wearing these.”

“A simple misunderstanding. You both jumped to the wrong conclusions at the same time. How are you Mr. Meloski?”

“Fine. The missus is some worried though.”

“Miss Grant will take you to your place. We’ll deal with things here.”

After Bev and Mr. Meloski left, the officers started to go.

“What? That’s it? That fucking faggot came on to me and gets sent on his way? I’ll press charges now. What do I have to sign? You let them goddamned fairies get away with it once and there’s no stoppin’em.” 

Salvaro put his hand on Mitch’s shoulder. “Let go of it. That guy could sue your ass off for what you did. With no witnesses, you’d be fried.”

“But he – ”

“Trust me. It’s not worth it. Next time take a witness.” Salvaro nodded at Kevin.

When he nodded, his eyes meet Kevin’s, and for the first time Salvaro smiled. A smile that curled Kevin’s toes.

Once they left, Mitch downed several fast beers. 

“Goddamn this city! The cops are on the fuckin’ faggots’ side. I should have pounded that queer when I had the chance. Really taught him a fucking lesson.”

“And you going prison would teach him what? You know what happens in prisons. You’d be doin’ to some guy what you thought that old geezer wanted to do.”

“Yeah, yer right. You can’t teach ‘em anything. They think the world owes them. You got a good head on you, Kev, me son.”

“A head that wants hit the sack.”

“Yeah, screwing your dick off all week-end, you need rest. Bring me ‘nother beer before you go.”

Kevin got him the beer. In bed he mulled over Mitch’s anger at those “fuckin’ queers.” There’d never be a right moment to tell Mitch his prize boy was one of those slimy cocksuckers. 

The events of the past two days replayed he drifted to sleep. Mark, David, Paul, Miss Ing Thing, Big E’s were far removed from what he had to face to get there. Shit! Did he leave his number if they wanted to get hold of him to perform?

Who were those guys on the fourth and tenth floors? Were there gays out here? Could he run into them if he went to the sauna? 

Maybe he’d run into Officer Salvaro. That smile. Yeah, let Mitch catch him with Officer Salvaro. That’d shock the shit right out of him. 

Salvaro’s smile warmed his whole body as he fell asleep.

September

Kevin

“The prodigal returns. Your room awaits.”

Kevin took the key from Philip and bounded to 224. Over the past months, his weekend getaways were an accepted routine in Mitch’s household thanks to Mitch’s notion that he had an uptown girlfriend. 

While he opened his back pack, Paul came into the room.

“Coveralls! Kevin! A trés butch touch.”

“Don’t you love the smell of crank shaft oil?” 

Paul pushed his hands into Kevin’s coveralls.

Mitch and Therese had been asleep when he left for work. Seven a.m. was not an hour either of them enjoyed on the weekend.

Like an adult, he got himself up, made his own breakfast and packed a lunch. Money had mounted in his bank account and he had close to enough for his own place.

“I love the smell of your crank shaft. This is so porn.”

“Porn?” Kevin’s coveralls fell around his ankles.

“You, the blue collar garage mechanic.” Paul unlaced Kevin’s work boots and nuzzled his cock at the same time.

Kevin had started work at National Home and Auto the week after Gay Pride. He’d gone in on Monday for a skills test, and was hired the next day. 

“Me, the tattooed love toy. How would Boss Ben react to this?”

The shop foreman, Ben Jackson, was an east-coaster who had been with National for thirty years. He had started at Kevin’s age and a mentor friendship had sprung up between them.

“Probably the same way Miz S.S. would.” Kevin giggled.

Miz S.S., Sheila Sibley, was manager of National. Called Miss Sibley to her face and Miz S.S. behind her back. She had come to the store three years ago with a fresh MBB, worked in personnel a year, moved to assistant-manager, and then climbed to the top of that heap. She tried to motivate her staff with confidence to be the best sales people possible. 

“She posted a new slogan this week, ‘Screws need screw drivers,’ and someone wrote ‘All I need is a good screw’ on it.” Kevin stopped as Paul tongued his balls.

“How was that company picnic?”

“As warned. Another pep rally. Guess what? National offers the full range of benefits for families, and their definition of family includes same-sex.”

“Cool. When will that kick in?” Paul undressed.

“My review is coming up. If they like me I’m inked.”

“Inked?”

“Yeah, on the benefits payroll.”  

Kevin had spent time with Paul, but Paul, devoted to Robert, was not long-term material. What was Paul? Friend, encourager, fuck-buddy and someone who didn’t make demands. He felt lucky to have someone who didn’t use him only for his own pleasure.

“And Reverend Mitch still get to his Sunday service?”

After the incident in the sauna, Mitch had discovered a religion that allowed him to booze it up and still dish verbal abuse to Therese, and held services Sunday afternoons on TV.

“He wouldn’t miss it. Not that I’m there Sundays. I’ll have to head back early tomorrow. Therese’s birthday. I gotta to pick her up something. I saw a great futon for my own place this morning.” 

He had left earlier than usual that morning to enjoy the walk. A warm sun followed him as he window-shopped his way to work. It was fun to plan for his apartment. Mitch wanted him to get a place in their complex, but Kevin wanted something quite separate. He didn’t want Mitch dropping down two floors to watch his TV and drink his beer.

“You won’t be performing at Big E’s tomorrow?”

“Afraid not.”

Kevin performed at Big E’s Sunday afternoons and had built a following which proved to Robert that fags wanted more than Johnny Mathis or Cher.

“I need a real band. I’m tired of Karaoke.”

“Don’t tell me you’re getting tired of this?” Paul’s cock brushed Kevin’s mouth.

“Not in a hundred years.” Kevin teased the head with his tongue.

The city had taken over Kevin’s life and given it a shape. He kept his conversations with his folks light and about the weather. His calls to Deb were another matter. She was urgent in her need for him. She wept and begged him to send for her.

His talks with Shep were more painful because the life he wanted wasn’t out of the question, but not with Shep. He told Shep about his work at National and about his singing, but avoided mentioning where he performed. Bad enough if Mitch learned he was queer. It would be worse if Shep was told.

“You got the tickets?”

Robert had given them tickets to the last performance of Three-Quarter Time. 

“Uh-huh.”

“Great. I’ve been looking forward to it.” Kevin put his hands on Paul’s butt.

More than the play, he anticipated the cast party. Now that he was used to city life, he had to meet the right man. Tonight he would hunt in earnest.

Steven

Steven read the Squint review again:

‘Evan Daniels mistakes inconsistency for unpredictability. I spent nine-tenths of my time perplexed by what this pointless mess meant. The fact that most gay men lead lives of aimless unfulfilled pathos should comes as no surprise, but that anyone would bother expressing that on stage should expect it to be entertaining does come as a surprise.

‘Evan has thrown together a tired hodgepodge of derivative scenes that add up to the same old story: Woe is queer me. Worse yet, he demonstrates once again how sex-driven gay men are. In even the direst circumstance, the two leads find an opportunity to get naked. The exploitive nudity and explicit sexuality that close the first act is handled with a sensual tenderness that I didn’t think Daniels had in him. Too bad he didn’t show this side of him anywhere else in this tedious production.

‘The performances give the self-indulgent text more weight than it deserves. Steven Thomas is captivating and fresh in an otherwise stale character. Timothy McGuinn had some good moments, but is allowed to equate wide-eyed blankness with acting. The rest of the cast are energetic to the point of frenetic.

‘Performed on the ugliest set I have seen since the last Thicket production, I tremble at what will happen with their threatened production of the Scottish play.’

Steven poured another glass of wine. When the review came out, he was dismayed and disappointed. The fact that Squint was not considered of consequence didn’t take away the sting of the review.

Evan wasn’t surprised or stressed by it. Frank Donaldson, the reviewer, had been harsh on previous Thicket productions. Evan said that if Frank had liked the show, he had done something wrong. Other reviews had been positive, no raves but no pans either.

“Why do you keep reading that awful review?” Luke asked.

“To get my creative juices going.”

“And the wine?”

“To calm me down.”

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Compassion

Week 9 of the Artist’s Way was about compassion – examining the inner blocks of resentment & past discouragements that block our creativity today – so this is compassion for ourselves. I can remember being discouraged in my time at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design by the technical ability of most of my fellow students. Those who did the most realistic drawing got the most praise. I was not one of those.

The more abstract, non-representational work was judged on concepts I didn’t appreciate either – use of negative space, colour balance etc. There was a pre-set standard of commercial potential underlying all the classes so that creativity was a product not a talent.

One of the Ways tasks was to read your morning pages. One of the things I uncovered in my covid cleaning frenzy was a binder of my hand-written morning pages when I first went through the book in 1997. I’ve done them daily since then. We only had the one desktop in the house then & I didn’t always have access to it. Many of those were done on the old eMac & sad to say all of that stuff is now lost to upgrades. We had those 5.25 inch diskettes back in the day.

Pen to paper doesn’t rely on the latest operating system to be accessed. There are lots of names with faces lost to the mists of time. I was using nicknames, abbreviations that are now meaningless to me. At the time was artistic director For Bushwack & also managing the Lab on Britain Street. So there was lots of frustrating creative energy  flowing around me. One show of mine got a particularly scathing review but someone who didn’t get the names of the characters correct 🙂 I posted it in the lobby without comment.

Week 9 talks about dealing with reviews 🙂 That review didn’t hold me back. Compassion is to be proud of them. The exercises & tasks focus on setting goals & what actions one can take now, over the next month, over the next year etc. Part of the process is past resentments/fears one might have in connection with the project: others have done it better, not emotionally damaged enough to have an authentic insight, etc. Compassion tells me that authenticity is overrated.

Corner Store

why does a group of teens 

still scare me

I walk past a corner store

where they hang around

shoving each other

smoking toking vaping

swearing on cell phones

fuck you timber bone

<>

what the hell is timber bone

I’m so far from street talk

to know if that is even street talk

I try not to walk too fast

try not to look too long

my eyes flick quickly 

from hooded shrouded faces 

pants so baggy 

they need to be held up by hand

girls with pale lips arched eyebrows

look at the boys with that mix 

of love  distance  and boredom

<>

what makes me anxious 

is it the mix of blacks asians

am I fearful of violence

that one of them might feel

the flick of my eyes 

and confront me 

“what you lookin’ at faggot”

why fir trimmed parkas

on mild spring days

what are they hiding under those hoodies

a generation gap never to be crossed

I know the closer they get 

the unsafer I feel

by the time I get home

I’ve forgotten that moment of anxiety

I really didn’t expect anything to occur 

<>

I wish that corner store wasn’t so close

wish I didn’t get that ripple of worry

wish I could lose the memory

of me at that age

never one to have guys 

to hang around with

wish I could forget being

the brunt of their dumb shoves

of their sneering exclusion

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