City of Valleys – 21



From the Holding Pen Steven was able to peep out and watch. It boosted his energy, and tonight the seats were quick to fill. Not unusual for a last show. This was a benefit for both the hospice and Mark Winslow’s proposed class action suit. That meant an audience of politico homos as opposed to theatre fags.

“Ten minutes to curtain.” Monica poked her head in.


“Not yet. I’ll step in tonight. New sexual dynamics.”

“Better you than Evan.”

“Steven, you are terrible.” Monica giggled.

Steven faced the wall. It was near pitch black except for glow tape on the wall over his costumes. There was a very dim light but he learned to do his changes in the dark so Tim couldn’t watch.

He strained to hear the house music over the chatter of the crowd. Tim hadn’t arrived yet, but his first entrance wasn’t until about ten minutes into the play. Steven’s was five minutes after Tim’s. 

It was the wait to start that made Steven anxious. Once the play began, it was a train with an inevitable rhythm that overrode anything outside of it. Except one of the passengers not showing up. Was there a black out before Tim’s entrance? He had memorized his cues but no one else’s.

“Places on blackout.” Monica whispered. That meant about one minute. In the blackout the music faded, the audience settled down and Steven would hear the pitter patter of big actors’ feet on stage to be in place for the lights up.

The music didn’t fade. No pitter-patter. The lights dimmed, and a couple of spots came up on stage.

“Good evening. Before the show starts I want to thank you all for coming out to support this action against the city and the police department.” 

Steven peeked out. Mark Winslow stood in the light. Usually these speeches were saved for the end of the show.

“We face …”

Tim flashed past and into the dressing room.

“… what will be a difficult but rewarding legal battle. As a community ….”

Tim rushed into the Holding Pen.

“Sorry,” he panted. He hugged Steven. “I told Lisa.”

“What?” Steven pushed him away.

“About you and me. Now that the show is over.” 

“Thank you for your support. Let the play begin.” The audience applauded.

In the silence of the blackout, Tim breathed in his ear. “Have you told Luke?”

The lights went up.


“Is this it?” Kevin expected the theatre to be more than this dark, dusty space. The seats were stacking chairs in uneven rows that spilled around all four sides of the large room over assorted wooden risers. The risers got higher near the walls. The space held 150 people, tops.

“You were expecting a high school auditorium?” Paul handed him a program.

There wasn’t a stage or a curtain. In the center of the room were four narrow cots on wheels in a cross formation. A vase of yellow flowers on a stool in the centre. A spot light drew his focus to the flowers every time he glanced at the stage.

The theatre was packed. He recognized several men from Big E’s. It was odd to see them without drinks or cigarettes.

“What’s it like to be in the audience for a change?” One of them stopped to ask him.

“No lights in my eyes for a change.”

“Full house,” Paul remarked. “Benefits do that. Gives them something to bitch about in return for their donations.”

“Hello, Kevin?” A tall grey-haired woman stood in front of them. “Kevin McLeod?”


“Theodora Mathias. You might know me as Teddi M.” She gave Kevin her business card. “I’ve heard you at Big E’s. Give me a call.”

“Not the Teddi M.?”

“None other. Most people expect a six-foot black man.”

“He’s … I mean she’s … TknoSonk! Paul, they’re big!”

“So we are.” Teddi smiled. “The cover picture doesn’t do you justice.”


“Queer Plus? There’s a stack in the lobby.”

The lights dimmed.

“We’ll talk later.” She went to her seat.

Kevin began to get up, but Paul grabbed the waist of his pants.

“One doesn’t leave at the start of the show.”

“But ..”

“Wait till intermission.”

The lights came up again. Mark Winslow stepped into a spot between two of the cots.

“Good evening. Before the performance starts, I want to thank you all for coming out to support this action against the city and the police department.” 

Kevin fidgeted. TknoSonk! Queer Plus! He had posed for Waki, their photographer a few Saturdays ago. He wasn’t told it was for a cover. 

“Thank you for your support. Let the show begin.”

Kevin hadn’t heard a word. The audience applauded. The theatre went black. He was aware of the fumble of feet but he wanted that pile of Queer Plus where he couldn’t get at them. 


David tilted in his seat against the wall. He’d seen the show enough. Opening night had wracked his nerves, it was as if his costumes were responsible for missed cues. Work on the clothes changed what he saw in the play. He was more interested in how the fabrics lit and moved than anything else. 

Once the house opened, Evan’s excitement level rose as seats filled. David enjoyed being part of a couple. A pleasure that lessened when Kevin McLeod arrived with Robert Ing’s tattooed toy.

“Penny for your thoughts?” Monica slipped into Evan’s empty seat beside him.

“What is this thing about the next show?”

“What do you mean?”

“No one wants to name it. ‘The Scottish play,’ and not Mac …”

“Don’t.” she put her hand over his mouth. “It has a history of ill winds, dark forces smiting those who would dare produce it. I remember one production where the cast came down with food poisoning on opening night.”

“I’m sure. If someone utters the name the ill gets iller?”

“Some say so, and who are we to mock the boat? There’s lots of superstitions about the theater. Evan has his own little quirk.”

“Such as the Scottish play?”

“No. His is about the last line.”

“Last line?”

“Not hearing it till the first performance. Steven even didn’t see the last line till opening night. Lucky it was a short line.”

“Weird. I like it.”

“Gotta give the ten minute call, and Tim isn’t here yet.”

“Fucking actors.” Evan sat. “Closing night, full house and where is Tim? I got Mark to do his pitch now. That’ll buy us an extra five minutes.”

“What if Tim doesn’t show?”

“That wife of his wouldn’t let him miss a show. You’d think it was her up there. If cars are male penile extensions, Tim is her … breast augmentation?”

“Must be uncomfortable for her to watch Tim and Steven.”

“Acting, my dear boy. Acting,” Evan exclaimed with a faux British accent. “She told me she and Tim practiced that scene so Tim could imagine it was her he was fumbling with on stage.”

“He and Steven are pretty real.”

“Too real. If you catch my drift …”

“They are getting it on offstage?”

“If Tim is to be believed.”

“I can’t see it. What has Steven said to you? Nothing I bet.”

“Steven doesn’t say much.”

“Shell shock after the assault.” David suggested.

“Could be. He is good to work with. Took direction, asked the right questions, made smart decisions, didn’t argue. A director’s dream.”

The lights dimmed. While they were down, Tim dashed across the stage.

“I hate the final show.” Evan kissed David on the mouth.


Grateful that their proximity to the audience prevented conversation, Steven closed his eyes to focus on his performance. The action on stage was a rain that washed away all distractions. When Tim made his entrance, Steven breathed deep to find John. John was close, but Luke hovered.

Luke, I’m sorry. There is nothing here. There never was anything. I love you. Remember that.

A gun shot was his cue. He shifted his shoulders, adjusted his neck and entered. He was John. Gabe was there, as indifferent to him as John was to Gabe. The scenes progressed. The train ran smooth. Each stop and start, exit and entrance, sped by without problems.

“Oh, I didn’t expect you to be here.” John entered.

“Who did you expect?” Gabe answered.

“No one. I was looking for a place to be alone. To think.”

“Think? About what?”

“About this situation. About what brought us together.”

“Do you mean …”

“I don’t know what I mean.” Their eyes locked, looked deep. A slight dim and a warm hush enclosed them, pulled them closer together.

“I … I …” Gabe faltered.

“I know.” John stroked his hair. “I know. Murders. Death. Through the death I’ve felt it but,” Gabe kissed the palm of John’s hand, “we can’t, till we know who’s responsible.”

Gabe brought John to him. Kissed him. “We can.”

Gabe unbuttoned John’s shirt. John took Gabe’s hand and pressed it over his heart. Gabe’s other hand undid John’s belt buckle. The train glided from one stop to the next as dusk descended. 

They were naked, on the bed, in love. The light that hovered around them smeared from yellow to red, dimmer till blackout. Some nights Steven sensed the men in the audience shift in their seats to get a better view, forced to squint as the lights faded.

The blackout would be long enough for them to scamper naked off stage. Tim to the main dressing room, and Steven to the Holding Pen.

Tim lay on him. “This isn’t enough for me.”

“It is for me.” Steven shoved him off and exited.


Yves rubbed his right hand. After an hour of mouse clicks it began to ache. He clicked aimlessly through pictures of naked men. For the most part they were too young, too pretty, too hairless, too static; click to the next one after only the head of one downloaded.

When he allowed a whole picture to appear it was a strip tease. Pictures materialized from the head down to fill the screen, the cock the last part revealed. 

Hello Ricardo. A pleasure to meet you again, so soon. You look very nice. You have had a little shaving done since I saw you five minutes ago. Sorry I didn’t get to wield that razor.

At the bottom of the picture was the model’s name. 

Boris! Last time it was Ricardo. A man of mystery – Brazilian or Russian, what is it?

The pictures were no longer erotic. The first year he was online he couldn’t wait to see who flashed their nakedness. Now it was more an affirmation of sex rather than cause for it.

Well, Jake, you’re not the only one with more than one name. He looked at the picture of Jake he had put up. Mark’s visit played on his mind and he needed to talk about it. On line he might do that with anonymity, but tonight a real human held more appeal.

He had tickets to Steven’s play. He’d attended the opening and although he had enjoyed it, he wasn’t sure what the point of it was. Men with emotions he didn’t understand. Emotions and sex connected in ways that left some of the characters unfulfilled and bitter with each other, except that rare pair who had the alchemy that combined them.

Along with the tickets there was an invitation to the cast party at Lubba’s that night. It was too late for him to get to the play so he headed out for the cast party.

When he arrived, the emptiness of Lubba’s made it apparent that he was early. A sign taped to the front door announced, “Private Function. By Invitation Only.”

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City of Valleys 20



Steven hadn’t found a way to tell Luke about Tim. While Luke had recovered from the assault, Steven didn’t feel his emotional complications would help. The show’s closing was the end of that worry.

“Looking forward to the finish of the run?”

“No more than usual.”

“Don’t lie. You’ll miss this one. Good houses every show. Decent reviews and raves for you.”

“Evan has offered me a role in his next production.”

“What as? Lady Macbeth?”

“No, as the goodly, but conflicted Thane.”

“My my. A bit young stud for that aren’t you?”

“I haven’t taken it. I’m tempted but …”

“But what?”

The “but” was Tim as Banquo. Steven didn’t want to prolong his contact with Tim even with the compensation of his death every night. Tim haunted him enough.

Once he’d returned to rehearsals, he’d kept to himself. With Luke on the mend and his own injuries to heal, it was simple to let the cast believe that was the reason.

Tim accepted the distance, but when they’d begun work on the nude scene, his emotional yen for Steven had returned. Evan saw it as character development and Steven treated it that way, but Tim tried to push it past that with phone calls, invitations to work on their lines outside rehearsal.

Steven made sure that never happened. More than once he told Tim, “We can’t get involved while we’re working. It’s too distracting. After the run we’ll see if there’s anything there.”

Steven found that wine helped him enter his stage character. By the time the nude scene did come up, the emotional business with Tim was forgotten. It was John who was attracted to Gabe every night. 

“But what?”

“Sorry honey. Running lines in my head. What were we talking about?”

“The Scottish play and why you may not take it.”

“Oh, right. Remember that TV pilot I read for last month? They called and I got the part. The shoot starts same week the Scottish play opens.”

“Have you talked it over with Evan?”

“No. I haven’t decided. A series means I could stop waiting tables.”

“If it happens.”

“The lead in MacB is an actor’s dream.” He poured them each another glass of wine. “I have till the end of the month to get back to the TV people. Sure you won’t come? It’s the grand finale.”

“Yes, I’m sure. I am in charge of the cast party.”

“I’ll be glad when this is over to have time to do nothing but you.” 

“That would be a pleasant change.”

“Has baby been neglected?” He squeezed Luke’s inner thigh.

“Do you have time?” Luke squirmed.

“What we start now, we can finish later. Huh?”

“If you aren’t too bushed later.”

“Sorry, I get home by eleven. You get in at one, by which time I’ve fallen asleep.”

“Passed out is more like it.” Luke snapped.

“You asked me not to wait around for you at Lubba’s.”

“I don’t want to fight.”

“Neither do I, but something has been eating at you.”

“You’re so taken up by this play. More than any other since I met you. You get all moody before you leave and when I … shit Steven, I don’t know.”

“I’m sorry. I’ve become one of those self-possessed actors. Remember when I did Joey in ‘The Homecoming’?”

“God, you shadow-boxing all the time drove me crazy.”

“You were afraid I was turning into a psycho-dummy.”

“But you aren’t psycho in this show. Why are you moody here?”

“Let’s get out of town for awhile, after this closes. The Falls? New York? The two of us away from all this.” He held Luke. “We need a vacation. What do you think?”

“You might be on to something.”

Steven kissed him, grateful he had a vacation as an acceptable diversion from the truth. 


David toyed with the foam on his latté. He plunked the cup on the saucer and his spoon flipped to the floor.

“What’s with you?” Mark asked.

“Too much caffeine.”

“And not enough Evan?”

Evan, impressed with David’s initial designs, was more impressed with how amenable David had been to changing them. Evan’s notions weren’t too far from his own so compromise was pleasant. So pleasant that they had ended up in bed after their second costume conference. 

Of all the elements in the show, the one that never elicited a comment was the costumes. They fit and didn’t call attention to themselves, which to David was how he and Evan fit, comfortable, with no excitement.

“Any news on the Basher Boys?”

“You know this court system. Arraignment, postponement, postponement, arguments, more postponements. Thank God the evidence is solid.”

“Is it?”

“My sources tell me forensic evidence connects the club they used to at least three other attacks. Of course, they did have the wallet of the guy they had killed that night. Stuff from other robberies was stashed in one of their apartments. Tight as drum, but they’ll get off.”


“Poor misused heterosexual white boys acting out under the influence of drugs and the stress of having homosexual eyes on them. They weren’t at fault. The culture is.” David said.

“Sounds like we’re guilty and they’re innocent.”

“The leader claimed that his guilt after killing the first gay guy was so much that he was sick with himself for it and, get this, that made him more pissed off with gays so he had to get even.”

David had been on his way home from work when he ran into Mark at Tencity. He was tempted to say “Lighten up, girl friend,” but didn’t want to set Mark off on some gender tangent.

“How’s your case?”

“I got a lot of work ahead of me; until the criminal charges are dealt with, I can’t proceed with a civil case.”

“That could take years.”

“Don’t remind me. But enough about that crap. Anything beside Evan happening in your life? I see Index has opened in your old location.”

“Rainbow is more relaxed than Bookies or Index.”

The first week at Rainbow Books he hoped to see Kevin stand at the spot in front of the bulletin board where he had first seen him. But Kevin had disappeared.

After two weeks, he put Kevin’s t-shirt into a dry cleaner bag and hung it in his closet. The sight of it every morning made it impossible for him to forget and he’d have to forget. Nights with Evan helped with that, though Evan was for the time being, not for time everlasting.

H’matta hung alone again. Then when Kevin surfaced at Big E’s, the t-shirt came out of the closet. David started to burn incense in front of H’matta for his/her energy to do what David was incapable of: attract Kevin to him.

“You did good work for Evan. I mean the clothes. Very tasteful, a mere hint of other world.”

“You expected a cast of Miss Ings up there?”

“In a Thicket production, that would have fit.”

“Thanks. Clean and subtle is much harder.”

“I gotta run. I’m supposed to be at Yves’ in ten minutes.” Mark grabbed his briefcase. “Mustn’flt be too late.”


When Mark Winslow had called to set up an appointment, Yves expected he was on the prowl to finance his suit against the city, the police and the world.  

“Sorry I’m late. The traffic was bad. Nice place.” 


“Feels like a home.” He looked at the carving. “A station of the cross. The sixth or eighth?”

Yves was uncomfortable. He rarely talked about the religion behind the piece. It was easier to let others reflect on the sensual figures. Horny was much easier to share than spiritual.

“Fifth. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.”

“If I remember, he didn’t volunteer did he.”

“No he didn’t.”

“That why you picked this one?”

“Actually it picked me.”

“Like what happened to Simon.”

“Exactly. Like I didn’t pick to be queer, God picked me to be queer. Simon didn’t ask to help, he was picked by God to help.”

“Simon helped without question?”

“He did need to be encouraged.”

“Don’t we all. Don’t we all.”

“Can I get you something? A coffee or …”

“No thanks. Let’s get down to business.” Mark opened his briefcase. “Were you close to Jake?”

“As close as anyone. He kept pretty much to himself.”

“While I was at the hospice, he had me draw up a will. It’s pretty simple and there is an insurance policy.”

“Insurance? I thought he sold those benefits.”

“He did sell one but had another. The unsold policy was one his family had purchased when he was a child. You are the named as the sole beneficiary of Mitchell Winter Robson.”


“You’ll get $15,000.”

Yves took a deep breath.

“Mitchell Winter Robson was Jake’s real name. The will doesn’t leave much. I am to give you this safety deposit box key. He asked that you deliver the contents to his family.”

“His family?”

“I got the impression that all you need to know is in that box.” Mark put the key on the coffee table. “I’ll do the paper work for the insurance company.”


“I should have done this sooner, but to be honest I forgot. Pride Weekend, and then I was out of town for the summer.”

“Anything else?”

“Not unless you have any questions.”

“Maybe once I use the key.” Yves shrugged.

Once Mark had left, Yves picked up the key. It was ice in the palm of his hand and he dropped it.


Steven liked to be the first to arrive at the theater, to sit alone with the space, with its mixture of make-up and disinfectant. As the day passed from his thoughts he settled into character.

He sat front row centre and breathed deep to relaxed his muscles from head to toe. He breathed in the energy of the space, of this show, of the shows he had done before, of shows that he had seen, the energy of all shows everywhere. 

“Leave some air for the other actors,” Monica joked. This had become a ritual remark and if she didn’t say it he did.

“Yes, Mistress Manager.”

After she got the coffee and tea urns filled and plugged in, Monica busied herself with the props. Steven lay on stage and did some stretches and voice warm-ups.

“I left the Act Two flowers backstage.” he called out.

“Got them,” she called. “You see where Tim put his clothes from Act One?”

“Don’t you take them off at intermission?”

“Usually.” She came out of the dressing room. “But they weren’t there last night. Does stuff like that bug you?”

“Like what?”

“Like actors who don’t look after their costumes.”

“Never noticed,” Steven laughed. “By the time we get to that point, I don’t see that as part of Tim but of Garth.”

Over the next hour, the cast arrived. Some ran through lines to keep them in place. Every performance was another chance to get it right.

Steven and Tim’s first entrance was from the opposite side of the stage and their waiting area was separate from the rest of the cast. It had become called the Holding Pen. 

Because of the layout of the theatre, he and Tim had to be in the Holding Pen when the house opened unless they wanted to dash there in the blackout before curtain. Steven preferred the Pen wait to the dash as it spared him cast chatter and gossip.

He could smell the coffee and helped himself to half a cup. A full cup resulted in distracting piss urges before intermission.

“How is everyone?” Evan burst into the theater with David Walters in tow. “Everyone center stage, please.”

David carried a bouquet of pink roses which Evan proceeded to bestow, one-by-one, to the cast with a kiss on the forehead. “These aren’t in lieu of money, though if any of you would like to settle out of court, my lawyer would appreciate it.” He had one rose left. “Who did I miss? Everyone here Monica?”

“All except Tim. Not like him to be late.”

“Better late than not at all,” one of the cast remarked.

“Five minutes to house open,” Monica announced. “Twenty to curtain.”

The performers scurried into the dressing room. 

“Last show. How does it feel?” David followed Steven.

“Terrific show. A great run.”

“Anything need mending?” David glanced over the costumes. “Nothing? See you at the party later.”

“Opening the house now.”

“Tim isn’t here!” one of the cast whispered.

“Can’t keep a full house waiting.”

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City of Valleys 19 



“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.



“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.”


“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. 


“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 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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 City of Valleys – 18 

City of Valleys – 18



Evan’s script gave David no clue what the title ‘Three-Quarter Time’ meant. The plot was a variation on boy meets girl in the face of crisis. They solve the problem and at the same fall in love. The twist was that here, boy meets boy and they fall in love. David liked that it was not profound. He was tired of gay theatre that preached to the converted, exposed homophobia or childhood abuse, and bitched about equality. It was nice to have gay characters who were gay and who got to save the world.

As he read, he pictured himself and Kevin in the lead roles. Two men who discover their love for each other when they least expected it, unaware till a first kiss. He undressed Kevin, Kevin undressed him. 

He doodled Kevin’s name along the edge of his sketch pad as he imagined costumes. Kevin Kevin Kevin.

If he nipped over to check how Robert had fared with the new costumes, he might bump into Kevin. Ask him out for supper, a casual “drop in here to uh … fit him for a tailored shirt.” Oh yes, get his tape out and around those shoulders. Or better yet, a nice skin-tight cat-suit for his stage show. That would call for inseam measurements.

David had, what he called, “restless underwear,” as he fantasized about Kevin’s cream-white flesh, those freckles to kiss, those light-haired wrists to stroke. God, why was he tongue-tied when he was near Kevin?

The streets were still active. Remnants of the parade floated around, balloons caught in trees, flags fluttering from balconies, confetti and streamers in the gutter.

When he got to Robert’s b’n’b, Philip was sweeping the sidewalk in front.

“Sweeping away the fairy dust?”

“If it was only dust these fairies left behind.” 

“Robert around?”

“In and out. He went to the Queen’s Park rally which proved to be total fiasco. In the righteous rush, no one remembered they were closed on Sunday. Of course it was closed to spite us.”

“By the way, Kevin McLeod isn’t about is he?” 

“Kevin – ” Philip scratched his chin “ – oh 224. Nah. He checked out ages ago. Left his key at the desk and was gone when I got back from the parade.”

“Uhh … You don’t have his phone number do you? He gave it to me at the garden party and I lost it. I’ll be seeing him later this week and promised to confirm.”

“Come on in and I’ll check.”

Philip checked the guest register.

“No address or phone number. He paid with a credit card but – right – he came in when Robert was having a fit, so we skipped all that stuff. Can’t help you.”

“I’m sure he’ll get in touch with me.” 

“Maybe you’d like to return this to him?” Philip reached into a basket by the desk. “He left this.”

It was the “Real men eat men” t-shirt.  

“No problem. Tell Robert I dropped by and that I hope everything went all right with the new looks.”

“It went well. Big E’s won for best float, though Papa Wiggie’s did get honourable mention and Best Costume nod to Tisu. The Myzix float was stunning.”

“Not the African motif from Fashion Cares? What is the connection between tribal dance and mineral water?”

“It sure made my mouth water.” Philip laughed.

“I suppose.” Kevin did that for him. “I’ll see to it that he gets his t-shirt.”

David sped home. In his apartment, the first thing he did was hold the t-shirt tight to his face for several deep breaths. He buried his nose in the sleeve. It smelled of sweat and little else. No perfume, no soap, only strong underarm man sweat. 

He slipped it over a coat hanger. He placed it by the mask of H’matta as the first piece in his shrine to Kevin. 


Yves leaned from the computer and rubbed his eyes with his palms. He wanted to write an obituary for Jake that went beyond facts. He had looked through Jake’s files at the hospice and the facts were slim. No family background. A list of symptoms, treatments, doctors’ appointments and notes about his mood.

He deleted what he had written. Was there something in one of the notebooks? Something to wake people up as to how closed off Jake was, and how people were closed off to each other.

He skimmed through them. They were a  mix of fragments – some were personal reflections on actual events, others were narrative sketches, poems and a few broken bits of plays. None were dated, and all that separated them was a change in ink.

The Jake Rogers of all these years wasn’t reflected in the notebooks. Until Jake had arrived at the hospice, Yves hadn’t been in contact with him beyond “Hi How are you?” when he went into whatever bar Jake worked at at the time.

“What do you want me to tell them?” He asked the photo of Jake pinned on the wall by his desk.

He went to the study window. The sky was clear. The sun was gone but darkness hadn’t settled in yet. One of these years he had to do something with his yard to match what Luke and Steve had done with theirs.

Their yard was thick with flowering bushes, wild flower patches, a flat stone patio, and a funky little fountain at one side of it. One of these years. Steven sat in one of the lawn chairs by the fountain.

Yves went out to his back stoop.

“Hello, neighbour.” 

“Hello yourself. Join me in a drink?”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

He went out his gate and in through Steven’s.

“How’s it going Steven?”

“Swell. Real fucking swell.”

There was an empty wine bottle and beer cans on the patio table. Steven had had more than a couple of drinks.

“Can I fix you something? We have the full range. Wine. Too humid for that. How about a Tom Collins? A Rusty Nail? Help yourself.” Steven waved towards the house. “There’s ice in the fridge.”

Yves returned with a rum and coke.

“How’s the face?”

“I’ll survive.” Steven splashed his drink on himself. “Oh, there I’ve gone and done it. The duchess will be furious. Who needs this on anyway?” He took off his t-shirt. “Ahh that’s better.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“Occasion? Gay fucking pride. Isn’t that reason enough? Gay fucking pride.” He reeled on his feet. “How are you my friend? I saw on the TV that you marched in the parade pushing what’s his name’s scooter. You’re a good man, Yves.”

Drunkenness unsettled Yves when it was this close to him. It reminded him of his Dad who was cold and distant sober, but after a few drinks wanted to be his pal, wanted to make a man of him. A Dad who thought all any boy needed to toughen him up was a punch out with his drunken Dad.

“Better sit before you make more bruises for yourself.” He urged Steven to the lawn chair.

Steven refused to sit. He took off his shorts and stood naked in front of Yves.

“You see this. Big isn’t it? Big is what I got and it’s all all people want when they know it’s there. Those assholes at rehearsal. Drop my pants for the big nude scene and their jaws drop as if they never seen a dick before. Suddenly it’s real love. Fucking Tim is all over me like … a … I don’t know what. Because I got this dick answer to a prayer.” Steven punched his thigh.

“Careful.” Yves wanted to console, but was afraid to touch. He had never seen Steven naked.

“This cock won’t keep Luke alive though, will it? Will it?” Steven fell hard to his knees.

“Let me help you to bed.” Yves tried to get Steven to his feet, but Steven sagged to the patio.

“It’s not fair. Luke works so hard. He’s a good man. He loves me so much.” Steven sobbed.

“Something has happened to Luke?”

“AIDS! He may have fucking AIDS because of those pricks. The stick had been used on someone who was infected and then on Luke.”

“Steven. Trust me, that isn’t a very efficient way for the virus to be transmitted. It dies fast when exposed to the air.”

“An interesting theory, but it will be years before we know for sure, won’t it? Too bad we don’t die as fast.” He groped for his drink.

“Better to leave something for tomorrow.”

“There’s lots where that came from.” Steven staggered. Yves reached out to him. “That’s all right. I’m fine. I can manage.” He started to walk.

Yves got up and with a light touch directed Steven to the house. He followed through the kitchen, up the steps and to the bathroom. Steven stood at the toilet and pissed.

“You do like to watch, don’t you, you naughty little boy.” Steven winked.

Once Steven was safe in bed, Yves put out the lights

“He won’t die will he? What will I do without him?”

“He’ll be all right.” 

Home, he got ready for bed. What was it to love like that? Where did the love between Steven and Luke come from?


Kevin’s return wasn’t much of anything. Mitch jumped to his own conclusions, happy that Kevin had gotten some pussy and had brains enough not to pick any of the east coast gals at 10 Pennies so word could get back to his girl at home.

The apartment seemed smaller and duller. Therese was worn and tired from a week-end of housework and booze with Mitch. Sunday was order-out-night to give her a little break. Nothing more was mentioned about his absence while they ate soggy pizza and hard chicken wings. Kevin did sense that they were both pleased he had struck out on his own and a little resentful that they didn’t have the same freedom.

Mitch voiced his opinions about the fairy parade and how it was too bad so few of them had been killed the night before. It was predictable stuff that was pointless for Kevin to contradict. When he came out, Mitch would know better.

Kevin dozed after supper, while Mitch went to the building’s sauna to relax the pinched nerve in his back. He woke to shouts.

“What do you mean, self-defence?” Therese asked. “The super says Mr. Meloski is in his sixties.”

“That slimy cocksucker was asking for it, and I was the guy to give it to him.”

“He’s a grandfather, for Chrissake!”

Kevin went to the front room. 

“Fairy Grandmother is more like it.”

“The police are on their way, Mitch.”

“Police! Good. When they hear what that geezer is up to …”

“Up to?” Kevin asked.

“I was relaxing and feeling pretty good too, when this faggot grabs my wiener and I shoved him away from me and then I plowed him.” He shook his right hand.

Kevin sat on the arm of the sofa. His heart pounded. He‚ didn’t enjoy shouting matches, and one about gays added to his anxiety. It had never entered his head that that sort of thing might go on in this very building.

“I thought we were safe from that sort of sick shit out here. I thought this was a safe place to bring up a kid.”

“You’re no kid,” Kevin blurted out.


“I said ‘You’re no kid.’ Why say this guy is after kids?”

“Less than two months in this city and he knows all about queers.” Mitch moved toward him.

“Not half as much as you.” If this was it, Kevin was ready. 

“Guys!” Therese restrained Mitch. “We’ve got enough trouble with the police on their way.”

“Watch your fucking mouth cuz or you’ll be on the next plane home,” Mitch muttered.

There was a loud knock on the door.

“Open up. Police.”

Therese opened the door. Behind a male and a female officer stood Mr. Meloski and Bev Grant, the building super. The officers, Tim Salvaro and Denna Hardy, showed their badges. Mitch’s anger cooled in the presence of uniforms.  

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