City of Valleys -13 



Yves knelt in front of his mantel, crossed himself, and stared into the face of Christ. “Thank you Saviour for allowing me to share your burden tonight.”

He gave thanks every night before bed, but rarely did he look into the eyes of Christ. Those eyes led to the soul of God and were only for important moments.

He nursed his hand. It ached from the blow he had given one of the bashers. It was odd that hands which did so much to heal also did violence. Was this how Christ suffered after He cast out the money-lenders?

He was energized from the fight. He replayed his run across the street to help and his surprise that it was his neighbours, Steven and Luke, under attack. 

A police foot patrol had arrived almost as soon as he had made his call. They were followed by cruisers and ambulances. Extra cars were in the neighbourhood in case of trouble this time of year.

He answered their questions and was pleased there had been no cracks about his kilt. Luke was in serious condition. Steven was more in shock than physically injured.

He unlaced his boots and slumped in front of the TV. Rapid eye stimulation to help him to sleep. He tuned in TOTV, the local 24-hour news show, to see the weather for tomorrow’s parade. His doze was interrupted.

“The eve of Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade in Toronto has been marred by the brutal beating death of one man. We take you live to Valerie Munata.”

Valerie filled the screen. The camera moved back, and behind her were the police at the spot he had left moments ago.

“Valerie Munata here. Police are at the scene of another brutal attack on gay men. Three men … ”

Photos of them came on the screen.

“ … who attacked and brutally beat to death one young man were stopped by a passer-by from doing the same to another. Officer Dougal, what can you tell us about this?”

She pushed her microphone at one of the officers.

“One man, who had escaped, was caught nearby. Evidence links this attack to at least one and possibly two earlier this evening. In one of those, the victim was found dead.”

“Is there any connection between this attack and a string of recent attacks on gay men in this area?”

“I can’t comment on that. Now if you’ll excuse me.”

“Thank you Officer Dougal.” Valerie faced the camera. “Over the past years the Gay Pride Parade has grown into a week-long festival that brings millions of dollars into the city.”

While Valerie continued with the commercial benefits of the gay community, footage of past parades was shown. Shots of drag queens and leather men that enraged Yves.

He was sick and tired of these same stereotypes on TV whenever queers were mentioned. In his documentary “On Coming Out,” he had showed average, ordinary types. He was frustrated that gays were always linked either with bad drag or HIV.

“Merde!” he shouted at the TV. “We have lives!”

In his bedroom, he caught his reflection in the mirror. Who am I to bitch in this kilt? He didn’t plan to go to Pride Day in a suit and tie in order to change the image he hated.


When Steven left the hospital he was relieved that Luke was all right. Luke had a severe gash that required more than a couple of stitches. He would be there for a few days’ observation.

Steven was grateful that he didn’t have to contact Luke’s folks with bad news. They knew he and Steven were lovers, but they held on to the dream of their son settled down with a Korean girl.

It was near four in the morning when he got home. After a glass of wine he showered the blood off his body. He rinsed his mouth several times. His ribs ached and a bruise had formed along his right side. X-rays had shown nothing broken. He flexed his hands in the hot water. 

He’d never hit anyone that hard before and it hurt. He had never expected his stage combat classes would prove useful in a real life situation.

He dried himself, called Tony, the weekend manager, and left a message about what had happened and not to worry. He ended, “Don’t call till after 10. I’m going to take a couple of sleeping pills. Thanks. Bye.”

He washed the pills down with the last of the wine and lay on the bed. As he drifted off, he heard Luke sing: “The way you look tonight.”


Kevin bolted upright. Where was he? His dream, in which Mitch discovered gay porn in his back pack, was so vivid his heart pounded.

He followed the swirls of painted stars as he recollected the day before. It was a flip book of vacation pictures with no time to dwell on any one. The final shot was of Paul on the bed as he stepped out of the shower.

Paul had stayed for half an hour after they had had sex. They cuddled and talked. Kevin didn’t feel he had been used the way he had been used in the afternoon. 

There was a note from Paul on the side table. “Drop by Lubba’s for lunch. Have a great Pride day. Paul.”

Kevin didn’t know what time anything started. How soon was too soon? The breakfast part of the bed and breakfast was downstairs. He put on his t-shirt from last night and his jeans. He laid his damp cut-offs in the sun at his window.

He went down to the kitchen.

“Good morning, 224. Here for your delectation we have an array of breads, buns, bagels, jams, fresh fruit, cereal.” Philip presented each item. “And fresh perked Colombian, direct from the buttocks of Don Juan.”

“If only,” one of the guests replied.

“Two-two-four meet one-eleven.” 


Kevin wasn’t sure, did one toast a croissant, butter a bagel on top or on the bottom? He settled for toast, spread thick with blueberry jam. He followed that with cereal, an apple, a peach and more toast.

“Getting your money’s worth, I see.” one-eleven remarked.

Kevin blushed, left his toast, and went back to his room. So much to figure out. So much to figure out.


When the phone rang for the third time in ten minutes Yves figured it was Jake. He picked it up in mid-ring.

“I’m glad I caught you before you left Yves.”

“Good morning to you too, Nancy.”

“Jake passed away around three this morning.” 

The phone almost slid out of his hand. 

“I thought you should know.” After a minute of silence she asked, “Are you all right Yves?”

“T’anks for calling Nancy. Dere’s no rush for his room”

“There’s always another on the waiting list, but we can hold off a few days. Bye.”


He knelt before his altar. His head dropped and tears fell into his open hands. He rubbed his tears into his palms and the backs of his hands. 

He stood and went to the kitchen, plugged in the kettle. Once it had come to a boil, he poured the water into the tea pot. He watched the pot fill, overflow; watched the water run across the counter, onto the floor; watched till the kettle was empty.

His mother had taught him to make something immediate to do when he couldn’t think of what to do. If he let this grief sit on him, he’d become immobile. Now he’d have to clean up this mess.

After he mopped up, he sat on his back steps. The yard was small but it was his yard. Nothing much grew beside hollyhocks and mystery wild flowers. In another month they would flower. He saw once more how a little deck would be nice out here when he got around to it.

Why bother with this pride bullshit? People kill us in the streets and there’s nothing we can do about it. Nothing. Why not go back to bed and sleep through the day?

Sleep away the endless death of people he loved, or who he could love, but they would die before he had that chance. Sleep away the people who claimed HIV was God’s punishment, that gays deserved to be beaten to death for being useless and dirty, for being abominations.

He’d fought this battle too long, and when he got ahead things got worse behind his back, behind all their backs. Sleep, more sleep, would fix that.

As he plodded upstairs the phone rang. It was Nancy again. For half a second he hoped she had made a mistake.

“Yves, what will we do with Trigger?”


“Trigger is all set for the parade.”

“I’ll take it.” He’d show them.

“It’s a shame he couldn’t hold on.”

“I know, Nancy. I know.” It’s a shame he had to die at all. 


Naked, David sat on his couch. About forty minutes earlier, he had seen the news report of the Anti-Gay Attacks last night. The news channel had a rainbow graphic to go with the title.

TV coverage of the celebration had grown as Pride Day had grown from a day to a week-long event capped by the parade. Increased coverage meant increased acceptance. As long as the news stuck to the life-style and not the sex itself, it was suitable for the general public.

Now the city had its own gay tragedy entertainment. Murder and rescue, all one needed for a great movie of the week. No affection between men would be shown, only the violence.

The Attack coverage sapped his want to be out and proud. Street corner interviews with people in the “city’s gay ghetto” asked them the same question, “How do you feel about the killings?” As if there were surprise answers. As if someone would say, “Oh, girl-friend, that bitch deserved to die.”

Yet, despite his numbness, he waited for the next update. A news conference was promised. Till then more interviews, where someone said, “How chilling … How shocked … How scared this made them feel.”  

“Anti-Gay Attack” came on the screen in its rainbow flag letters.

“This is Valerie Munata, with the latest details on the brutal beatings that have marred this year’s Gay Pride Celebrations. In three separate incidents last night, a gang hunted down gay men.

“The first man, Mr. Jason Kelly, managed to escape. He alerted the police. We spoke to Mr. Kelly earlier this morning.”

Jason stood at his apartment door. The hall wallpaper was familiar. Jason, in his fifties, wore a dark blue bathrobe. He held a little black and white dog. It was apparent neither had expected to be interviewed.

“I was out walking Dancer when they came at me. At first I didn’t think anything of it. Lots of people stop to talk to me when I walk Dancer. One of them had a stick in his hand and was swinging it at me.

“Dancer jumped right at him and saved me. I blocked the stick with my arm …”

He slid the right sleeve of his bathrobe back to show a bruise along his forearm.

“I grabbed Dancer and we took off, with them right after us. I went into the first store I came to and called the police right away. When I saw them on the TV, I recognized them.”

“Thank you Mr Kelly. We now take you to the news conference just starting.”

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City of Valleys – 12  



Steven watched Luke cash out the last customers. On Pride eve they closed early to give the staff a chance to get enough sleep for the next day. Head chef Curtis took the final lock up to stay late to do prep work for Sunday brunch.

  Steven wheeled in his bike and Curtis locked the doors. He and Luke pushed through the throngs to the bank on the corner.

“This is one night I feel safe making a deposit.” Luke rejoined Steven outside the bank. “What are you in the mood for?”

“Peace and quiet.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Luke?” Steven wanted to talk about Tim but didn’t know how to start.

“Yes, love?”

“We … uh … did the kiss for the first time today.” 

“How’d it go?”

“Not bad.”

They walked through the park to the car.

“Not bad doesn’t sound good. His breath stunk?”

“No. It was weird. Kissing another guy like that.”

“You’ve kissed men before.”

“Yes, but none since we’ve been together.”

“None! I find that hard to believe.”

“You know what I mean. None in a ….”

“This was the nude stuff?”


“Did you get nekkid?”


“How was that? Was the rest of him as pasty as his face?”

“Yeah. But it was …”

“My God! He popped a boner!” Luke laughed. “Didn’t he?”

“Not exactly.”

“You popped one!” Luke continued to laugh. “Be careful, you’ll put an eye out yet with that thing.”

“Luke, it isn’t funny. I think Tim has feelings for me. I’m not sure what to do.”

Luke stopped to check for the car keys.

“Tell him to piss off faggot.” A voice came from the shadows between the houses. Three men stepped into the street light. One tapped his palm with a length of wood.


Kevin went up the stairs of his fourth bar that night. The dance floor was packed. The music was loud, the smoke was thick, and the floor sticky under foot.

A song started. The chunky quick organ with faster piano on top of it went to his feet and forced him to the dance floor. A wild uncontrolled sax underlined a strong female vocal that repeated “Set yourself free.” The sax grabbed him by the crotch, and his legs pumped like pistons into the music, his hips moved by the swarm of men around him. 

A swarm that pulsed together as one. 


“What do you want?” Luke asked. “Money?”

“That’ll do for starters and the keys to your car.” The guy with the stick growled. At his nod they all moved. Luke and Steven had no time to react.

The first punch caught Steven in the cheek. He tasted blood. He braced against a car and kicked out with his right foot, caught the guy in the stomach. As he glanced to Luke another blow caught him in the stomach. He doubled over to the thud of wood on flesh.


Once he saw that he’d get nowhere with Kevin, David went home. He didn’t like his puppy-in-need-of-affection feeling. Kevin made him ache to hold, to touch, to love, to own, but he couldn’t let himself appear vulnerable to someone he had just met. 

His answer machine blinked. A message from Robert Ing.

“David. You witnessed what happened at Big E’s this evening. If you value your future you will never design another garment for that fucking cow. If you do, you are dead in this town. Trust me.”

By the cold tone of voice Robert meant every word.


Steven pushed from the car, head-butted the man in front of him. As the guy fell Steven jerked up hard, fists first, to send the man sprawling. 

Luke was curled in a ball on the ground to protect his head while the other two men kicked him. With an angry roar, Steven raced at them. They turned on him.

“Faggots should never fight back. Pisses us off.”

Steven was grabbed from behind. The other two stepped at him.


Yves finished his coffee. The energy around him became more frantic than festive. People were intent to prove they had a great time with as much noise and glitter as possible. It was as if they they wanted to reduce “queer” to the flash of a sequin or a silver chain.

All he had to show for his gay life was a pink plastic whistle on a string draped around his neck. An apt symbol, one that responds only when put it in your mouth.

He went out, walked a block from the crowd to hail a cab. He saw two guys punch someone held by a third. He blew his whistle loud and ran to help.

“I knew these steel toes would find the right asshole sooner or later.” He kicked out at the back of one of the punchers. The guy dropped like a stone.

He grabbed the other and whacked him with the back of his hand. The blow sent the man into the front of a car. There was a satisfying crack as the man’s head slammed into the windshield.

The third man dropped the guy he held and took off.


Steven heard a distant whistle. Next he fell into the arms of a heavy set man. After a deep breath he recognized Yves, “Yves! Thank God! We were goners.”

“Good t’ing I wore my sheet kickers.”

“I’m okay. Check Luke.”

Luke lay in a pool of blood. Yves knelt to check his pulse.

“He’s alive.”

Steven started to cry. He threw up.

“I got a cell phone. I’ll call the cops.”

Steven shivered and looked at Luke while Yves called. 


Kevin sat on the front steps of the Inn to take off his sneakers. His feet and ankles ached from the dance floor. His socks, drenched in sweat, smelt of the cologne in his shoes. 

He stretched out under the clear sky and took in the sounds of the city. An ambulance flashed past in full siren and lights. After a brief panic he found his keys in his back pocket. 

The house was silent except for the air conditioner whirr. It was like he was fifteen sneaking home. He held his breath and tip-toed up the stairs. He winced at each squeak. In his room he breathed again.

In the dim of the bedside lamp, he peeled off his wet shorts and wrung his Leafs t-shirt over the sink. The socks and undies he had rinsed out earlier were dry.

In a hot shower, he dropped his cut-offs and t-shirt into the water underfoot. He smelt cigarette smoke on his flesh and tasted the salt of his own sweat. He washed the smells of the bar off him and felt the slither of bodies around his.

God, he had loved dancing with men. Not that he danced with any one in particular. A couple of guys had caught him between them on the dance floor. One pressed him from the front while the other rocked him from behind. The memory got him hard.

He went to get his towel. Someone sat on the bed. 

“What the …”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.”

It was Paul. His tattoos swirled in the faint light.

“How …”

“You forgot to lock the door. I knocked and it opened. Honest. You were in the shower and didn’t hear me. Let me dry you off.”

Kevin stepped back.

“Don’t worry. I won’t bite. Unless you want me to.”

“But …”

“Yes, I know, I have a lover. Robert won’t be home for hours. He knows I mess around.” He reassured as he dried Kevin’s back. “Enjoy your first night?” 

“Some of it. Especially this part.”

“I’m glad. I didn’t mean to sneak up on you, but you left Big E’s so fast. I wanted to give you a bar tour.”

“I managed that on my own.”

“Yes, I took you for an enterprising lad when grabbed the spot light this afternoon.”

“Thanks. Made it was easy to get Robert to let me do a few numbers at Big E’s. How could he say no “No” in front of people gushing about how good I was?”

“You’re even more enterprising than I expected.” Paul sam just as his unshaved chin scraped between Kevin’s shoulder blades and down to the small of his back. Paul pushed him forward and his lips moved along the crack of his ass. Kevin pulled away, but Paul held firm.

Kevin had never imagined this as sex but it was wonderful. His body relaxed as he gave into it. He moaned. Paul bit his ass cheeks before he stood. He pressed Kevin against the doorway. Paul’s body was against his. Skin to skin. 

“Feels good?” Paul whispered.

“Uh huh.”

They faced each other. They kissed. Paul’s cock beside his sent shivers up his spine.

Kevin moved them toward the bed.

“Not shy either, are we?” Paul laughed.

They rolled on the bed. Paul on top, then Kevin on top. They lay on their backs to catch their breath.

“First time?”

“Almost. There was some guy this afternoon. He … like … did me and got rid of me. I must have did something he didn’t like. I don’t know what.”

“Don’t worry. There are lots of guys who only want to tear off a piece.”

Their faces were inches apart. He traced Paul’s tattoos with one hand. 

“There’s lots to learn.” His fingers plucked Paul’s pubic hair.

“You want it don’t you.”

“Want what?” Kevin wanted Paul’s cock but was ashamed to admit it. That was sex. That was gay sex. To let a guy do you was one thing, but to do another guy made you a queer. He was gay, but now that he had the chance to be one he was afraid. What if he didn’t like it? What if he wasn’t queer?

“Go on.” Paul nudged Kevin. “You want my cock.”

Kevin leaned forward. Paul’s cock was suddenly there. It smelled of flesh and heat and sweat and spunk. The head was slick with pre-come. He brushed his tongue along the shaft, his nose in Paul’s balls breathed deep.

Intoxicated by the nearness of another man, he gingerly tasted cock for the first time. Not what he expected, but he liked it. Paul pushed his cock into Kevin’s mouth.

Kevin moved up and down slow. His cock was in Paul’s mouth. He stopped to enjoy the sensation. Then he continued.

He enjoyed the full-mouth feel that both satisfied and demanded. As he sucked and Paul sucked him, he had the sense of wholeness that he sometimes had when he sang. Harmony and excitement at the same time.

Paul’s hips pushed quicker in and out of Kevin’s mouth. He spread Kevin’s legs and sipped his head between them.

  “Keep sucking baby!” Paul implored while he kissed and licked Kevin’s ass. “So sweet. So perfect.”

Kevin’s cock pressed on Paul’s chest and pushed back and forth. He took Paul’s cock deeper into his mouth as he came.

“Sit up baby. On my face.” Paul pulled Kevin’s ass to him. He jerked himself off as his frantic tongue dug around.

Hard again, Kevin began to jerk himself. As Paul’s come erupted, it hit Kevin in the face, Paul bit his ass cheeks harder and harder. He came a moment later.

He rolled off Paul.

“Good?” Paul asked.

“Better than I dreamed. And me?”

“Fine. You got a nice cock and a sweet ass. What else could I ask for? If Robert sucked my dick like that, I wouldn’t be messing around.”

“I see.” Kevin didn’t contradict.

“Don’t get me wrong. Robert is super. One of the most affectionate guys I’ve met, and honest. But it’s always fuck fuck fuck. Not that I mind fucking him, but sometimes I want … you know what I like.”

“Uh huh. I think I’d like to wash my face.”

Kevin kissed him before he went to the washroom. How could he ever go back to Mitch’s. Back to what? He had sucked cock and he had enjoyed it. After tonight there was no way to go back. 

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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 – 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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