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The following story is for adults and contains graphic descriptions of sexual contact between adolescent and adult males and the power imbalance of these relationships. Like so many of my stories, this is a voyage and return.

If you are a minor, then it is illegal for you to read this story. If you find the subject objectionable, then read no further. All the characters, events and settings are the product of my overactive imagination. I hope you like it and feel free to respond.

Fourteen runs through five progressions, with frequent interludes. If you would like to comment, contact me ail.

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Chapter 45 continues the collaboration with Phillip Marks, who provides the voice from Chillicothe, Ohio. I really have to express my appreciation for that. He is keeping the extended Gates family together despite the wild curve balls I send his way. Phillip is Harvey Keitel’s character in Pulp Fiction. “If I’m curt with you it’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I need you to act fast if you wanna get [Jeremy] out of this. So, pretty please… with sugar on top.” 🤪

Anton and Daniel 8

Thursday April 12 2018

Chillicothe High School

Lunch Period

Wade Garner is able to hold his mouth for all of three periods. When lunch comes around he sits next to Shane Andrews and Shay Wilson in the main cafeteria. He is silent for nearly three minutes then realizes Shane is talking to him.

“What?”

“Earth to Wade, Hello! What is up with you today?” says Shane, the best athlete in ninth grade, as well as the best-looking boy, well some girls would say anyway, the dark-haired lad now three inches taller than he was last summer, thinks he looks older than his fifteen years. He is considering shaving.

“Sorry. Just, just…,” he looks about conspiratorially. “Can you guys keep a secret?”

“Of course we can, what secret, dude?” Shane seems lazily disinterested.

Wade huddles closer, lowers his voice, “No man, I mean you really have to keep this secret, you can”t tell anybody!”

“Fuck, Garner, we swear, we won”t tell, did you have another wet dream or what?”

Wade blushes because, well, he DID have a wet dream last night. Maybe all the excitement but he slept in his sweats then had to throw them into the laundry. But that”s not relevant.

“Dudes…I got, I got a phone call last night,” he is whispering, hunches even more forward, drops his voice further still, “…from Jeremy.”

Shane and Shay both stop dead, look at each other, wildly inquiring whether the other thinks it is even possible. Has Wade Garner gone round the bend? Is he goofing or spoofing? Is Jeremy Gates even alive, he hasn”t been seen in like six months.

“I swear Wade, what bullshit is this?” Shay demands, his pimply face, framed with long locks of redeeming blonde hair, screwed up to resemble a question mark.

“No bullshit. No bullshit! He called me up at midnight last night!”

“Shit, you mean he ain”t dead? What the fuck! Give, where is he, what did he say?” demands Shane.

“Well first he told me not to say his name. Seriously, he about freaked when I started to say it. So I told him I wouldn”t. Then,” he hunches forward, “then he told me to take the phone to his parents” house…and he didn”t tell me where he is; I asked. He said he can”t say it.”

“Why take your phone to his parents?” asks Shay in his endearingly stupid way, at full volume. Some guys at the next table turn around.

“Shush, idiot!” whispers Wade G. impatiently. “Because he wanted to talk to them without the FBI listening in, dufus!”

“Wade I swear I”m gonna give you a pink belly if you are bullshitting us,” says the good looking brunet.

“Honest to god! I swear! He said “I”m in bad trouble” and he needed to talk to them. I went out my window and ran all the way over to their place. Man he was all double-oh-seven about it, he told me “take it to the people on Mill Street and give it to the hous– I mean take it to the house and give it to the people. So I ran all the way over, and I rang the bell and his dad came to answer…did you know his dad wears boxer briefs?”

Shane slaps the back of his head.

“Ow! Whatcha do that for?”

“Focus, doof, why would we care about that? What did his dad say, what did Jeremy say? Are you sure it was really him?”

“Oh yeah, it was definitely Jeremy, man no question about that. I could tell and his dad said it was, too. Well, his mom came down too. And they took me into the kitchen and asked me to stay there and they went into the front room to talk to him. So I dunno what he said exactly. They gave me the cell back and swore me to not tell anyone, so you guys have to keep it secret too.”

“Shit, Garner, the fuck, you don”t know what he said?”

“No man, I mean he wanted to talk to his folks. I bet they reamed him a new one for being gone and they probly didn”t want me to hear it.”

“Damn.” Shane reflects a moment.  “You swear? No lie?”  

For a moment Shane”s heart had leapt at the news his best friend was alive. But Shane thinks, man all that and you were just, just, I dunno hiding someplace? You ran away from home after all like people were saying; it was all fake?

Fuck. Didn”t he think anything about how I”d feel? Damn I cried for him! Shane is thinking he should be pissed.

“I already told you! He wanted to tell them something, something the FBI can”t hear. Then Mr. Gates drove me home. He said I shouldn”t be on the streets that late at night, he was glad I brought the phone, Jeremy was afraid the FBI was tapping their phones.”

All three boys sit silent for a minute. Then Shane, the natural leader, takes charge.

“Nobody says a thing about this until I say you can, Garner, you already fucked up by telling us, you tell anyone else or I swear I”ll shove my boot up your sorry ass!”

“I won”t, but you guys, we”re his best friends. Calling me is proof! He called US.”

And then, he called you, he didn”t call me…

Santiago Island, The Galápagos

April 15, 2018

It is a pacific morning where the sea lies flat like a hammered silver mirror reflecting the purple-tangerine haze of the rising sun. The atmosphere inverts in a long band of rainless clouds. Closer to her, a second line puffs purple in disorder. It is a cumulus tease approaching the parched island they are visiting. Rain that will fall somewhere or nowhere.

This early, the rising sun is so weak that Sophie Wright can see the inverted egg colors of its white center haloed in blurred Easter yellow. The sun’s shimmer prophesies the hammer-heat that will cook the island’s volcanic rock and turn Born To Run into a sweltering furnace. The watercolor wash of sunrise is a stark contrast to the monochrome of silver sea and carbon-black shore.

Towards the rising sun, the shore is ill defined. Ancient flows of lava meet the ocean. At Sophie’s back, hard rock shields and water-rounded boulders bracket hard packed beaches. Unlovely groves of tangled bracken nibble closer to the salt water. There are zebra stripes of rock that look like desiccated ribs separating the yellow sand. Step on a crack, break mum’s back.

Mum’s the bloody awful word. Yep, I’m chocka. Sophie eyes the petrified coast. She sees life clinging to the unforgiving basalt and windblown sand. The other day, Sophie sat and watched the red ghost crabs gather on the beach; yellow carapaces and sunrise legs. A gravid sea lion lay sunning on a rock above them. Life scurries to the sea, just as she sought its rich diversity. It seems to Sophie that people who tie themselves to the land twist to its unforgiving structure.

Sophie closes her eyes briefly to breathe the sun-sucked weight of the ocean air. It is a sail-coaxing flow that ruffles her fresh-cropped hair. The morning sky is fluid with evolving possibilities.

The fish-rot fertility of the ocean makes Sophie think of defenseless brine shrimp snapped up by predatory mouths. Fragile possibilities snuffed out by life’s pragmatic needs, obliterated in an inconsequential thought. Sophie touches her belly and considers the wisdom of seahorses, who sensibly burden the fathers with the unenviable task of parenthood.

Born To Run has been dogging the heels of black and white cruise ships. They followed one four-decker from Floreana on to Santiago Island. There is a hospital at Puerto Ayora, in Santa Cruz. Sophie reminds herself of this. Back to the blue-boat harbor and the comfort of trees.

The rising sun is stronger, like Sophie’s blossoming conviction. She leaves the cockpit and moves slowly along the leeward guardrail toward the prow. It is an unconscious Freudian decision to distance herself from the id-everything of Graham Sumner, still sleeping in Born To Run’s stateroom. “You can’t be sure.” Sophie suggests to herself.

But she can be sure. Penang, and Graham Sumner suggested she come with him to Mertasari Beach. Crew his Oyster and share his bed around the islands. Then an eight-week passage from Port Moresby all the way to San Diego. Graham, who swore off family with a vasectomy permanent-promise. “Two in a thousand, Sophie, in the first year.” Graham reassured her. “I don’t want to brag,” he brags. Sophie let her body take a rest from contraception.

Then how long waiting there while Graham worked the ex-family kinks?

Six weeks bored in the San Diego marina watching Boomers and Millennials antic in the sun. Jeremy that thoughtless afternoon and cracker night before he sailed with Anton Schroeder and the (unfortunately) gay Daniel Ayers. Twenty-one days before Graham gets himself free from his ex-family cock-up, comes back to her bed (cock up). You clubbed a bit in San Diego the week before Graham reappeared. And brought the togs in her sling bag. A girl remembers to wear her gummies in the garbage-tide. Jeremy Gates though, “Bugger!” Sophie sighs. No point in spitting the dummy.

Never feeling crook like her mum said she was, there was some spotting and she hunted for her stash of pads. Since fifteen, she can’t recall a missed period. Last night she had the fuck me moment shifting her unused pills about the cluttered shelf. “Fuck me, how long has it been?” she said too loud. This is a tiki tour in the wop wops, it will sort itself out when she gets to Puerto Ayora, in Santa Cruz.

“Too long,” Graham teased yesterday when he heard her exclamation. “What’s on your mind?” He hugged her from behind. Sophie did not answer, but she let him take her back to the bed. She wakes before the Galápagos dawn, knowing it could only be the boy in San Diego.

She is in it now. Sophie turns from the bright-sky dawn and contemplates the undisturbed sand. Never undisturbed, life finds its way to the sea. Sea turtles lay their eggs and walk away. Her mother Saffron might have done Sophie a good turn if she’d walked away. Might have done that, but her mum was all puffed-pregnant-important with her mates. “Had it in her head she’d do a better job on you than I did on her. Be your sister and all. Had that all wrong,” Sophie’s nana told her.

Turtles lay their eggs and walk away. Sophie has seen the little sea turtles hatch and flipper-fast to the surf. A raptor snapped a little nipper up, lost its hold on dinner. Sophie caught the drama. Little nipper shook it off and scrambled off to sea.

“Ungrateful bitch!” Saffron spit into the phone when Sophie was well away. It was the credits and child support Saffron missed. That’s me mum, Sophie thinks. Just shadows when you look back to the land. Sophie swings back to the bands of color.

Could you tell them I’m fine? Say I miss them. I’m really, really sorry. I understand if they hate me. Do you mind telling them that? Jeremy Gates’ emotional email plea. Strangers in the night … just happy beach connections … he’s a lost scarfie boy, sweet as … only fifteen. Jeremy is not so different from Sophie at that age. She took her first passage at fifteen too, just wanting to escape the harsh now, and the after written in her mother’s bitter face.

Not so different, not much the same. The Gateses so gutted in San Diego, still somehow marshalling the grace to thank her for her help. Whole conversations between them with just a look. Good people, they.

Sophie looks at the promising sky, “No worries, she’ll be right, I’ll suss it, shrimp.”

Passage to Las Playas (Acapulco)
April 15, 2018

Fourteen stands at the guardrail, hand lightly on a stay, balanced against the lift and fall of the waves, watching the flat, moving disk of the ocean surrounding him. The water-cream blown from the bow vents across the foredeck. The wind sends it across the curving sails and onto Fourteen’s face.

He knows it sounds disgusting, but the sea-salt crust is a secret badge of honor. There is a part of Fourteen’s body that is suffering. His skin feels Levi Fisher parchment old. His hair is salt-stiff. But as he scrambles under the boom to the port winch, he smiles inside thinking, Yeah, I am a salty sea dog!

Sirocco is in a major sea state. With the headsail on the second reef, the tiniest amount of headsail possible, and the mainsail with one reef in, Anton’s ketch is heeled way over. They are sailing very close to the wind. The waves are hitting Sirocco on the side and bow. Anton has decided that his electrics have failed him and his young crew must set everything by hand. Fourteen grins at Daniel.

“Step lively you mutinous bastards!” Anton bellows at his novice crew. “A little more on the sheets, Mr. Christian! There’s a flogging for you at the mast if you lose that crank, boy!”

“Yes please!” Fourteen pipes up. He is tethered to the jackstays, and Anton insists on life jackets, but he braces himself against the heel and unpredictable motion of the deck.

Anton admires his youngest crewman as Fourteen rides the deck confidently. Just to torture the still brooding Daniel, Fourteen is wearing the snug swim trunks Anton discovered in Puerto Vallarta. The boy’s fair-skinned medium tan contrasts nicely with the Coppertone-commercial yellow of his new suit. Easy to fantasize about Anton’s muscular young man coming up behind his cabin boy for an Instagram-embrace. Maybe Daniel pulls the boy’s suit down so we can see his firm, pale cheeks …. Ishmael has his phone out, no doubt with a similar thought.

A degree or two closer we’ll be in the no-sail zone, Anton frets. He glances at the wind, 38 knots.

Ishmael is trying to take pictures one-handed as he clutches the handle on the sprayer. Beckett is content to sit on the windward bench and let Anton and his boys play sailor. He never took much pleasure in Anton’s sailing passion. Ishmael is entranced by either the sailing or the two scantily-clad men dancing together at the front of the boat. Beckett catches Ishmael’s eye. They share a flirtation.

It was easy to fall asleep the first night after sex in the bow berth, yet hard to stay sleeping. When Beckett agreed-solicited this sailing cruise, he had quite forgotten what sailing with Anton meant. They had only done it once from Seattle to Hawaii. Beckett is mystified by Anton’s enthusiasm with blue-water sailing. It is so damn isolated churning about on the waves. Beckett is more compatible with Tyrone Casey’s lifestyle.

Tyrone sent his young men back to college and jetted off to London. He decided not to purchase a condo in Puerto Vallarta. A short visit there was quite enough for Anton’s best friend. There were better beaches and more interesting gay districts. To be that free. Beckett craves affluence. It was perhaps his greatest regret breaking up with Anton. The opportunity to travel. Beckett’s gallery will not sustain it. The succession of Anton’s generous cash infusions is another regret.

“It’s a bit windy.” Beckett comments beside him in the cockpit. He looks about the ketch.

Anton does not comment right away. When he saw 30 knots, he reefed everything and thought it was time to really pay attention. It was a serious amount of wind to keep an eye on. I should pull them off the deck in this weather, stop drilling them.

“Have you got the electrics fixed yet, Captain Bligh?” Daniel asks from where he hangs onto a stay.

“Stroke, Mr. Christian! Damn you for the mutinous dog you are, stroke!” Anton bellows back. Ishmael giggles beside him. If it gets to be too much we spill wind off the main and that will level us out a bit.

♪♫♬ In the navy ♪♫♬ Yes, you can sail the seven seas ♪♫♬, Anton starts singing from the helm.

“Shut up, Captain Bligh!” Daniel groans. Beckett smiles at the byplay then turns to watch the enchanting Fourteen.

♪♫♬ It”s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A.

It”s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A. ♪♫♬

They have everything for you men to enjoy

You can hang out with all the boys ♪♫♬

The youth is standing on the pitching deck flagging out each letter.

Fourteen checks Anton, and then moves confidently forward on the leeward deck until he is at the windlass. Sometimes Sirocco was like being in a washing machine, but this morning it is more turbulent. Fourteen sits on the deck behind the windlass and lets himself be absorbed into the conversation between boat and sea. It is like riding a bucking bronco that is on a surfboard heeling over while hearing loud crashing noises and being doused with salt water every few minutes. “The storm only comes to teach you how to skillfully sail your ship,” Anton offered wisely when he set his young men to sail drill.

Fourteen yells, “I’m free.” Tossed around in the open sea, he looks up and has a long moment of exhilaration. A constant mist of seawater covers Fourteen’s exposed body. Life has clarity in a moment like this.

The young man has slipped in front of the mast where cebeci escort Beckett cannot see him. The cocky twink is a tasty challenge. Beckett and Ishmael fucked their familiar frenzy with the cabin boy on both their minds. Beckett barely slept the night through. If a wave wasn’t crashing loudly on the hull, the sails banged. Fourteen sleeping-available in the bed outside Anton’s door, Beckett thought about him too during the long first awkward night on Anton’s ketch. Finding the boy at the helm early the first morning, Beckett took the time to clear the air between them.

Fourteen shrugged off the incident at Tyrone Casey’s dining table. “I can live without that bullshit,” Fourteen concluded, ’nuff said. “Do you want some coffee? Anything?”

Fourteen just slouched there at the helm in the Pacific dawn. One leg was cocked on the chair, the other bent to the tightness across his crotch. Beckett wanted to fuck the wild little animal the way Tyrone’s young men fucked him on the bed at Casa Velas. Beckett wanted to see if Fourteen would try to bite him too. Top or bottom? Like Daniel Ayers, Beckett thought some Tops just did not realize they were happier as bottoms.

“Coffee sounds good,” although the pitch and toss of Anton’s sailboat in the rising wind left Beckett’s stomach queasy. Anton’s cabin boy gave him a sexy smile, uncurled from the seat, and brushed past Beckett with his animal-tangerine grace, leaving a citrus-promise of what might come.

When the coffee was delivered in the cockpit, Beckett sat sipping it behind Anton’s young crewman. Fourteen returned to the helm. It was a nice view of broad shoulders and a muscular biceps that flexed each time Fourteen checked an unnecessary reading on the navigation. The boy ignored Beckett in a polite, unconscious manner. Beckett watched Fourteen as the twink read what Anton pointed out was his waterproof Maptech chartbook.

That first morning was Beckett’s fourth impression of Anton’s cabin boy. He recalls it as Anton’s stupid quarter of a million dollar sailboat threatens to tip over. Women and children first, that leaves Daniel Ayers and Beckett measuring their muscles. You first, no you.

Beckett is becoming used to the wind and what seems a frightening tip of the large sailboat. Anton is so calm at the helm, still shouting his blather to Daniel Ayers leaning out against the windward railing with his feet firmly planted on the foredeck cabin roof. Beckett listens to the partners’ easy way with each other. “Gonna set you adrift in the tender, Anton. Make you navigate your way to some Tahitian island!” Daniel calls out.

“With just my sex-tent?” Anton laughs. “Some strapping man waiting for me on a tropical beach, wrapped in a barkcloth malo?”

The banter goes back and forth. Beckett never attempted to connect with all this sailing stuff. He preferred the clubbing. Anton away from his sailboat is suitably flirty-submissive with the men who have him. Anton at Tyrone’s gathering is how Beckett likes Anton. The master of Sirocco and the CEO of Mirage Property Advisors makes Beckett the submissive one in the relationship. Beckett had been part of Anton’s entourage, he preferred having one of his own.

Speaking of entourages, Beckett has noticed that Ayers always keeps his eyes on his young one. Beckett cannot decide if it is something big-brotherly, or if Ayers is grooming Fourteen like Beckett grooms Ishmael. Not really my type, so, maybe foxy-sour grapes. The cabin boy is always sassy. He struts his stuff as if any moment he will give you the finger. Beckett likes that Anton’s boyfriend was so defensive about Beckett and Ishmael stowing away for a few days. They pretended to be friends.

Ishmael has his eyes on both Daniel and the youth everyone calls Fourteen. Everyone except Tyrone Casey and his boys. They liked calling the youthful man petit coq, which means “little rooster.” The little rooster took their coming on board in stride, far better than Ayers, at any rate. It was all business and no flirting as he ushered them to the V-berth. Cool-cucumber, that sexy piece of teenage ass. That was Beckett’s third impression of Fourteen. First impressions were Fourteen giving head in the pool and getting fucked properly on Tyrone Casey’s king size bed. Second impression was the solid punch the boy gave him.

Beckett comes back from his musings to the canted-pitching-windy cockpit. Ayers leans over the guardrail with one hand on a taut line, as if the sailboat was racing. Fourteen is riding the sailboat bow, beyond the mainmast. Anton has forgotten he was ever Beckett’s boy. He is sitting at his helm like Tyrone Casey managing the simple-complexity of men coming together for a cumming-purpose. Beckett’s current boy smiles with gratitude that Beckett pulled-commanded him from his middle-class, undergraduate grind.

Ishmael clips the line Anton insists on to the safety cable running along the bottom of the guardrail. He moves with more confidence than Beckett could muster along the leeward side of Anton’s boat. He is off to join Fourteen at the bow. We are all so different, Beckett muses.

Ishmael settles next to Fourteen on the spray-washed deck. Except for an hour jet-skiing together off the beach, Ishmael has seen little of the boy. On the sailboat, Fourteen has been the friendly-functional concierge. “Do you guys need anything?” Ishmael knows the sexy boy knows what the men in the V-berth want. Fourteen is the sommelier holding the best back in reserve. It’s about the pairing. Ishmael senses this, but he is just a twenty-year old beer drinker, and fine-wine Fourteen is a kid from Chillicothe.

Just an energy-burning skateboard-stunting kid from Ohio with a fist full of unused fair tickets. Fourteen pulled Ishmael aside after brunch at the hotel near where Anton’s ketch was berthed. “I want to go jet-skiing this afternoon.” Fourteen explained. “I need someone over sixteen.” The boy was quite put out. “It was easier when I was eighteen!”

Fifteen? Ishmael was surprised, but only just. He understood the elasticity of maturation. He traded on his own youthful appearance as much as Anton had. It was like, oh yeah, obviously, after Fourteen explained he was under sixteen. It changed Ishmael’s impression of the boy. They had fun together, taking turns driving-diving, taking turns tugging on each other’s swimsuits so they could keep their seats. Ishmael coaxed Fourteen to the Malecon, but the boy left before the cruising started and the night got interesting. Yeah, it was easy to see he was fifteen.

Ishmael’s mother back on the Eastern Shore could have told him exactly who Fourteen was. Ishmael is caught between Beckett’s heady art-world twirl and the university classes he is skipping. Current events means the next scheduled party or onerous due date. “I’m running from trouble.” The boy grinned at him. Then Fourteen offered an explanation about Sailing Camp and rebooting high school in the fall. Ishmael cannot decide who Fourteen really is: the self-deprecating teenager goofing around on a jet ski, or the savage animal on Tyrone Casey’s king size bed. Ishmael likes them both.

“We’ll eat on the go tonight.” Anton informs Fourteen when he comes back to the cockpit with Ishmael.

“I’m way ahead of you.” Fourteen replies.

“First dog watch is coming up.” Anton reminds Fourteen. That is 4:00 to 6:00. “Then this will be your first night on the first watch.” That will give Fourteen a four-hour break between times he has to watch the helm. Anton will not relinquish the graveyard shift of the middle watch. The night-sailing has been rare, but the graveyard has always gone to the Master and Commander. Anton will leave the stateroom bed after a tango with Daniel or Fourteen with rare energy for the four-hour watch till 4:00 am.

Tonight, Anton will not doze in the cockpit beside Fourteen. He will leave the wheel to his midshipman. Fourteen is already a better-conscientious sailor than Daniel. Nearly two months at sea, eight weeks, listening and learning from Anton. “Away with you now.” Anton prods his young companion. Fourteen slides down the gangway with Ishmael close behind. “Take a shower before you mess my bed!” Anton calls after. Those two must be catching moments together.

“Off Reflex Projects is organizing a new exhibit of New Contemporary Art. I don’t know, maybe it is the new contemporize art movement,” Beckett laughs at this. “It’s like, if it’s new to you, then it is awesome. I’m still trying to figure out what’s the new trend, what’s hot. I know what I like, and what I like to show. I’m looking for artists who create a hybrid of a whole different bunch of selves. People who create sculpture uniquely their own, instead of regurgitating something that already exists.”

“It’s all chunky and abstract to me.” The wind is easing as Anton knew it would. By Fourteen’s dog watch it should be less frantic at the helm. “Found objects juxtaposed together. Burnt styrofoam with random this and that glued to it. Is that selling well?” And that is as close to mentioning Beckett’s gallery as Anton Schroeder wants to get. You can’t buy love! Anton’s mother Valerie Avakian warned him when he set Beckett’s business up.

Off Reflex Projects, Anton has no idea what that is supposed to mean. He knows what Sirocco means. Anton supposes it is just a question mark that draws people off the street. “An artist’s projects are like reflex-blinking. Authentic Art is the eye-blink response to the world’s sensation-meaning.” Beckett explains. He has practiced the answer with a cocktail in one hand and Ishmael performance-art beside him.

Beckett Calibaba’s gallery, Anton’s gallery, is on the Eastern Shore in Easton, Maryland. Anton likes the vibrant culinary community more than he likes the artists. Off Reflex Projects is like Off Broadway, not quite in the historic downtown. Before Beckett told him they were going to be Bohemian about their relationship. Continue to share each other with a casual sophistication gay lovers are supposed to. Anton had imagined they would sail Sirocco from Seattle to Maryland together.

Anton would take a berth at The Boathouse on the point. Live Beckett’s dream together, and also have New York and Philadelphia so close at hand. Someones on the side (back, front, head), always, Anton allowed. Hetero monogamy never was appealing.

Beckett kicked Anton to the curb before considering-snatching Anton’s plump credit cards. “It’s damn expensive setting it up.” Beckett observes.

I’ve met someone (younger). Ish Austin, he makes me feel alive!

“I can imagine.” Anton is tracking bogeys on the radar. He needs to remind Daniel and Fourteen to watch out for traffic in the dark. The damn Mexican fishing boats forget to turn their lights on. Fuck you, Beckett. Anton remembers to say that to himself. Beckett’s empty hand makes it difficult to feel sophisticated. Daniel sits near the mainmast thinking about his complicity in Anton’s deception with Fourteen. Anton lets his ex-boyfriend hint at further patronage-largess. Well, as mother says, it is tax deductible. “Do you have some artists in mind?”

Fourteen flops naked, fresh-water clean onto Anton and Daniel’s bed. The salt is never really gone, not until they come to port and Sirocco suckles up to sweet, sweet water. The constant motion and the incessant noise is Luxor-Winnebago familiar, easily tuned out. With the vent open, Fourteen can hear the men talking near his head. Sleep comes like a light switched off.

The bulkhead latch wakes Fourteen up. It is Ishmael stepping in. The university student pauses to steady himself against the desk where Anton keeps his business. The blue-ice hair is wet-tangled from his own shower. Swaying in the stateroom, Ishmael looks like the sex-drunk man on Tyrone’s king sized bed. Fourteen smiles at the friend sharing the Puerto Vallarta jet ski.

Ishmael frowns a little. He has his own blend of impressions of the youth lying on the bed. Easy to sexualize the teenager’s naked pose on the double bed. Fourteen is still melting-buns-Bree between temperate-toasted whole bread torso-legs. His sun-bleached crew cut tops everything. Fourteen was easy to befriend in the before. Now, men come to Fourteen like schoolmates seeking congress at a cafeteria table. He is tired of them picking off his plate.

Ishmael sports a blush-burn across his face and shoulders from their time together on the jet ski. Otherwise, he is Maryland-April-classroom pale with the wet winter-reminder of blue-ice hair falling about his face. Beyond a tight-clipped pubic patch, Ishmael shaves everything back to a preadolescent pedophile-tease. This is Ishmael’s look-hook at gatherings like Tyrone Casey’s.

“Sorry, I woke you.” Ishmael, all apologetic. “Beckett wanted a glass of that Kyle Costa that Anton brought out when we came on board yesterday. He thought it would be nice with the tortillas you left out.” Ishmael is an arm reach from Fourteen in the cramped cabin, just a salty fry. He shrugs helplessly.

“That’s all there was, Ishmael.”

“Sorry,” The young man apologizes again. There are five years between them, yet the teenager on the bed is his peer on this tossing sailboat. “Hey, I told you to call me Ish.”

How utterly appropriate, Boston-born, well-read Levi Fisher could have told his young Ohio protégé. It sums up Beckett’s boyfriend to a T. Ishmael clings to his serial-men like an insignificant-necessary witness to their far more important struggles. Ishmael is the Greek Chorus to some strong man’s comedy-drama. Levi would laugh at this inside joke, and the young Odysseus slumped beside him in the Luxor Winnebago would smirk, “What’s so funny, Boomer?”

“Okay, Ish,” slides over on the high school cafeteria bench, Jeremy finds room for one more. “There’s something else stashed, but you will never find it.”

Rising from the berth puts Fourteen face-cock to face-cock with Ishmael. The resulting kiss is obligatory, as if they were still at Tyrone Casey’s gathering. It is Fourteen’s palm that cups Ishmael’s head to draw it down slightly to his lips. Ishmael lightly touches Fourteen’s hips. Ishmael is the back-bunk-willing availability of Patrick Hunter’s craving-conflicted after. Ishmael is always waiting to be taken.

The impulse-kiss is just a Sophie-right thing to do in Fourteen’s afternoon stateroom now. It is just waking from sleep with an adolescent rubbing of the groin-pet (sit Ubu, sit! Good dog! Bark). Young males lack object permanence when it comes to their own junk. Your manhood is like a Tamagotchi, ignore it at your peril. He breaks the kiss with a satisfied shipmate grin.

Fourteen is used to Anton Schroeder, who plays submission like a delightful game of I’m closing my eyes, surprise me. Fourteen does not recognize-respond to this submissive-slave compulsion that drives Ishmael. He steps past the young man still waiting to be told to bend over. Fourteen grabs his (sexy) swimsuit from the head. If Fourteen’s cock is half-hard, well he is fifteen.

The wine cellar lies beneath a V-berth, stashed away in some logical Fourteen-Anton stowage system (not entirely simpatico). He picks a likely bottle. “Yeah, this will do,” Fourteen estimates without Anton’s somewhat-sommelier lived experience with all things vintage. Ishmael helps him set the V-berth bed to rights.

Beckett might be scandalized, but Ladera Sauvignon Blanc (2016) gets poured into a plastic tumbler. Ishmael takes a sip and shrugs about the way Fourteen would. He takes it to his boyfriend, then returns to find Fourteen sprawled on the bench across from the salon table. His eyes are closed as if he is intent on finding sleep again. Ishmael settles on the bench at Fourteen’s feet.

“You’re very interesting,” Ishmael begins. Fingers could be slid up Fourteen’s exposed inner thigh. Convenient short swimsuit, something to tickle at the end of the trip. Ishmael considers this. He closes his eyes so the memory of Fourteen under-between Malachi Hooker and Gareon Brantley is stronger.

“Not really,” Fourteen answers.

“I don’t know dude. You’re like a total mystery. Are you some sort of bad boy?”

Suddenly, it might be Shane’s voice. Fourteen’s eyes blink open at the change in Ishmael’s tone. The yielding-wispy softness-song Fourteen associated with the young man only vanished once before as his voice lifted over the jet ski’s grind. The Marilyn-Monroe-husk returned on the wide stretch of Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon. Mostly, Ishmael is Beckett’s boy, now he is Shane.

“Oh yeah, totally.” Fourteen closes his eyes again. “No, man, I just went off the rails a little when my grandpa Levi died. They packed me off to get my shit together with Anton and Daniel. ♪♫♬ In the navy ♪♫♬ Yes, you can sail the seven seas ♪♫♬ In the navy ♪♫♬ Yes, you can put your mind at ease ♪♫♬

In the navy ♪♫♬” He sings it slightly off tune. Muddling the effort, Fourteen’s hands vaguely gesture YMCA like he is at the junior high dance. Shane, Wade, Shay, with Jeremy hypocritically closetting his feelings in the Chillicothe before.

There is enough room on the salon bench for Ishmael to pull his legs up beside Fourteen. He likes the new arrangement, because they might each use a foot to tease a crotch. “Do you have brothers, sisters?”

“Just me, Ish; just me.” The answer is soft, a little sad. “Uncle Dan and Aunt Sandy, Aunt Anita, but it’s just me center stage.”

“I’ve got brothers.” Ishmael looks at Fourteen. “Three of them, all older. Mom finally got the daughter she always wanted. I admitted the obvious when I was thirteen. Everyone was fine with that. Is that what you meant? You came out and everything went off the rails?”

Ishmael looks at Fourteen again. I got nothing, the handsome boy had gone asleep and the toes in Ishmael’s crotch were just wedged there when Fourteen drifted off. He’s a working boy, Ishmael reminds himself.

Ishmael still shares a room at home with his çeşme escort brother Hosea. He liked to couch-surf in his friends” apartments. Now, he makes the long drive to Beckett’s place whenever he can. Being on the salon bench with Fourteen reminds Ishmael of couch surfing. Ishmael is not intentionally androgynous, as so many people think. He celebrates his masculinity, not the daughter. He studies Fourteen’s young male body in repose.

This is driving from North Platte past Denver in the Luxor Winnebago. Only just, because this is more like the never-forget-it moment of lost virginity. Anton has given him the first four hours from 8:00 till 12:00. The afternoon wind drove a squall across Sirocco as the sun dropped into the Pacific. He never thought to keep the old slicker Sophie gave him close at hand. The driving rain lasted 30 minutes, and washed him sweet and clean. Sweeter yet, nobody came on deck to check on him.

Anton told him at the first dog watch that they would try sixteen straight days of sailing, three sectioned dog watches so they would rotate through the days. ♪♫♬ In the navy ♪♫♬ Yes, you can sail the seven seas ♪♫♬, Fourteen hums to himself. Then he peers anxiously at his instruments, deathly afraid some lazy fishing boat is on a lightless collision with the ketch. The sun sets toward Hawaii, where he imagines Sophie Wright keeping her own sea watch. Eight months since the August Fair, Fourteen still wants the phone left down on his berth to let him impulse-message his friends. He has not heard from Sophie. Never forgetting his friends, Jeremy Gates is stupid enough to think he is forgettable.

7.4 knots, that is good. The earlier wind has settled into the friendly southward push that makes sailing south from California a pleasure. Heading north is near impossible, Anton confides. Sirocco’s crew is spared that tortured return. Antigua, Fourteen reassures himself, as if the small promise-island holds some answer to his life-flight.

Alone in the cockpit, while the four men settle into their cabins for the imaginable, Jeremy Gates reviews the comforting phrases from his phone call home. Fourteen anxiously peers into the dark, alert for a monster from the deep. Some Moby Dick (giggle) to breach the water and crash down on the fragile craft. Some ghost-container ship, grinding the ketch under its bow (Right of way! Right of way … gurgle, giggle).

Ishmael climbs the gangway out of the dark salon. Fourteen checks the time, 10:57 on the navigation. “I brought you a coffee.”

“Thanks,” Fourteen does not want it. Still, the gesture is nice, so Fourteen takes the thermos mug, tries a sip. Ishmael does not sit. He leans against the sprayer in his underwear. Fourteen thinks about fucking for a moment or two (because he’s fifteen). Ishmael leans out around the sprayer, as if he intends to walk forward to the bow on this perfect night. “Hey, Ish!” The young man turns to Fourteen. “If you”re going out, you need to put a safety line on.” Fourteen tugs at the harness about his chest.

Ishmael abandons the idea. He will talk-brag about this voyage with his friends on campus. Beckett will urge him to talk about the sex-offerings, sex-taken all spring. And then what? Beckett urges.

Fourteen sits slumped comfortably at the helm. The shirtless sweep of lean flesh between packaged swimming trunks and dark-patch armpit below bunched biceps. Do you think the boy is hot? You want him to fuck you, don’t you? Beckett asks Ishmael each time since Tyrone Casey’s gathering. Tell me how much you want him, while I breed you.

Beckett imagines his boyfriend went up on deck to do it with a fifteen-year-old. The prospect is not unimaginable. He’s a little bottom bitch like you, Beckett assures Ishmael. “I’ll have him before Acapulco.” Beckett promises as Ishmael fussed over his boy-bruised cheek. Definitely a pride thing.

Beckett is so hetero. He is careful with his boyfriend’s feelings. Ishmael’s brothers, Bede and Hosea in particular, find ways to ridicule Ishmael’s gender bending. So little patience for Ishmael’s empathy and emoting. Ishmael pushes back with greater vulnerability and a modesty about himself. Ishmael could do passive-aggressive too. He comes to family dinner fresh-fucked. The boy behind the helm has everything together.

Ishmael sighs, “I should be in class.” Somehow, his friends would catch him up. The professors would understand.

“So why aren’t you?”

“My god!” Ishmael deflects. “You’re just a high school freshman! Do you homeschool?”

Fourteen shifts toward Ishmael on the seat. “Daniel makes me try. It is not for real. We pass the time doing math mostly. I read stuff he suggests.”

“You need to finish school.”

“I guess,” Fourteen shrugs, thinking of everything he has already learned in eight months. Easy to let the responsible after slide for now. “So why aren’t you?” Fourteen repeats his question.

“What?”

“Why aren’t you in school?”

Ishmael goes a little Melanie Griffith soft-breathless on Fourteen, very helpless. “Beckett needed to see Anton right away, he told me I should come. He needed me to come.” Ishmael bites his lower lip.

Fourteen rolls his fingers and clenches his right hand into a fist before releasing the tension. He remembers the coffee mug Ishmael brought him and takes another sip. The young man is athletic. Soccer and incessant mountain biking, Fourteen learned this as they basically flirted-broed lying together on the beach. He is drawn to the twenty-year-old. Well, Fourteen is drawn to the whole male experience.

Fourteen cannot afford to be judgmental. Shay Wilson somewhat dimwitted, good natured. The goofiness of wise-cracking Wade. People being what they are. That is all Jeremy Gates wants, a chance to be who he is. He wants his mom and dad, his uncle and aunts, Grandpa Herb, to know Fourteen. He sees-shuns the (fucking) Cordell in Beckett. Daniel Ayers is so like his best friend Shane it hurts-horny. People being the rainbow of themselves, Fourteen accepts, just details, details, the after whispers in Jeremy Gates’ ear.

Anton and Ishmael, part of the rainbow too. “You gotta do what you need to do, Ish. You can’t breathe if you don’t.”

“Beckett wants to fuck you.”

“Obviously.”

There is one last tortilla wrap left when Anton relieves him from his watch. Fourteen munches it in hungry satisfaction between the V-berth and the stateroom. There is a possibility between Ishmael and Fourteen. Fourteen pulls off his swimsuit and settles on his berth along the gangway. He has the night to sleep and fret on possibilities.

He turns on the fan so the Pacific air can wash his body. Midnight means messaging final words with friends. Eight months since that, he looks at his phone anyway and wonders if there will be time in Acapulco to buy a tablet. Ishmael’s question about school leaves him sour. His money might stretch to that, and if he mentions it to Daniel, then Anton will be the one paying. That is sort of a teenager’s solution to the problem.

The stateroom bulkhead opens with a wash of fresh air from the open skylight. Daniel is watching him from the doorway. “Went well?” Daniel asks. “I heard you talking with Ishmael.”

Fourteen stares at Daniel with the look he gave him on the salon bench sailing south from Topolobampo. Fourteen is the pulsating-coveted Heart of the Ocean adorning Anton’s gathering on Sirocco.

“I’ve got four hours until it’s my turn,” Daniel points out.

Fourteen is off his bed in one fluid movement. He launches himself at Daniel and clings on tightly. All is forgiven, as Daniel twists around and they fall together on the stateroom bed.

Gates Residence

Chillicothe, OH

0300 – April 10, 2018

“Can”t sleep either, I see,” she looks up from the large rustic Victorian table; it makes the country kitchen seem even more intimate despite its size. “Do you want breakfast? I can make some eggs.”

“No, maybe some coffee since I doubt I”ll get back to sleep.”

She rises, sets to work, “What”s on your mind?”

“Jeremy. Of course. Yours too.”

She nods wordlessly as she fills the coffee maker and sets it to brew. She doesn”t turn around, watches the aromatic brew start to drip into the carafe, the sensuous smell of the coffee begins to permeate the kitchen as the two of them are each lost in thought.

Grey speaks. “I think you”re right, we need to make a public announcement, otherwise Jeremy is still the kidnapped boy, everyone will be looking for him. That”s extremely dangerous, do you agree?”

“Yes. As long as he”s gone, that mess in San Diego isn”t linked to him. And as much as I am sure he was acting in self defense… we can”t take the chance Jeremy could be charged. I wonder if I should even have assured him he doesn”t need to worry. Bill Price was acting on best info when he advised that, but we don”t know enough.”

“Well, I won”t risk his getting charged. We say nothing about that, nothing about where he has been. He isn”t coming back until the time is right.”

She turns, then she”s at the refrigerator getting the half and half. “What is the greatest danger there? Do you think he”s going to say something incriminating?”

“I don’t know, all we have to go by is a secondhand account from Sophie, and she doesn”t strike me as the detail-oriented sort. I wish we could find a news story that matches up. Elvis who? Where is this Cordell, I can”t think he went to the police or FBI with all that cocaine. But he”s a witness, the witness. He could hang Jeremy just trying to avoid jail for the drugs. He could make up any story. As long as we cannot predict what he will say, honestly it”s far better Jeremy is not in the country, Remy.”

“But is he gone? He could have walked into Mexico but he could also be in California or somewhere else in the States. And … well it makes sense to me he”s on that boat with Sophie. That would be easy enough don”t you think?”

“I suppose. Unless he tells us, I don”t know how we can ever know. Oh I wish he would call us again. You”re right, Rem, I”m going to get Bill to hire a PI to see if we can get more information. We need to ask Jeremy too – next time we talk, the last name for this Elvis.”

“I am glad he hasn”t. The FBI said they took the tap off the phone but what if they didn”t?”

“True. I mean, I don”t think they have a legal basis to tap us, we withdrew the consent we originally gave…but how can we be sure? Is it possible they know something of what happened there?”

“I don”t see how. Sophie said he was kept in that compound for the entire time after Flagstaff, then there”s just that one single day when they drove to San Diego. Unless this Cordell went to the FBI. I am sure the FBI would talk to us about it if they knew, they”d have to.”

Grey gets up and pours two mugs of the now brewed coffee, hands one to her and sits down again. They each sip, reflecting.

“We really should go to the FBI and report what Sophie said about the abduction. My god, if it”s true, even half of it, they could be serial killers. They raped him. He said they were going to kill him. He must have been terrorized out of his mind.

“You remember those sessions with the FBI psychologist? Dr. Betzen? How he said Jem will be suffering psychological after effects from being abducted and held? That”s without even knowing about all this. They thought it was just Fisher. And now he”s been raped again, this Elvis character and I want to believe Fisher wasn”t doing anything but it”s certainly suspicious. And Jeremy had the chance many times to turn himself in and he didn”t. At the very least he”s spent months apart from us, it”s bound to have put him afraid of everyone; even us. Don”t forget what happened to Patty Hearst. They convicted her for crimes she would never have committed if she hadn”t been kidnapped and raped. I can”t trust that won”t happen to him.”

She pauses, a tear forms in her eye, slides down her cheek. “Grey, I thought it couldn”t be worse, not knowing if he”s alive. But now I”m afraid he might be running away from us too. It was something Betzen said was common when kids are abused, teenagers especially. Maybe he”s afraid of us too. Or that we won”t accept him, knowing he”s gay, or we”ll feel he”s damaged or something…or he feels he is…”

Greyson takes her into his arms. “It”s all right hun, it”s all right.” He puts his lips to her ear, speaking softly, “Whatever it is we will get through it and we”ll bring him through it in time.  He needs time to work things through, time to recover.  When we know where he is, we need to get him some help with all that. Sophie said he would be in touch.”

She is not placated, pulls away, sits again.  “He may no longer be the Jeremy we knew.” The last is quiet, wistful. “There is no way to control a fifteen-year-old boy who doesn”t want to be controlled. We can force him home, but we can’t keep him here, I”m just … afraid we might push him away. And if he wants to be on the run and not talk to us at all… Did you look up how many gay teens are alienated from their families and homeless?”

“I remember,” he says, “but that is not us. We are not alienated, not really. We support him no matter what.” Grey is thoughtful, “Do you think we should ask him if he”s gay?”

A long pause.

“No. Everything I”ve seen says you have to let them know when to tell you, it”s their timing not yours.”

“Now, Remy, I want to deal with two things since we”re at it. One, I think we should tell the storage facility in Phoenix to sell that RV. And two, we need to compose a press release or statement calling off the dogs.”

 

Five Alive

Apr 15 2018 (Runtime: 6:20)

GRAPHIC

Up Next, Five Alive Weekend News!

  VOICEOVER

A stunning exclusive update and new revelations about missing teen Jeremy Gates,

next on Five Alive Weekend News!

 

DISSOLVE TO

 Five Alive News Set

 

JERRY DEXTER:    Welcome Five Alive Viewers, I”m Jerry Dexter with your Five Alive News Team: Ashley Hillman, Bill Norris, and Steve Patterson with the weather.

                                At the top of our news today a stunning revelation about missing Chillicothe teen Jeremy Gates. This afternoon the parents of abducted teen Jeremy Gates gave an exclusive interview to our own Ashley Hillman. Only Ashley was present after the Gateses asked her to come to their Chillicothe home. You are hearing it here first! Ashley.

ASHLEY HILLMAN: Thank you Jerry, and hello viewers. This afternoon I got a call from Remy and Greyson Gates asking me to come alone and without cameras to their home. They did allow me to make a cell phone recording of the statement they read to me which is nothing short of astounding. I sat down with the Gateses in their dining room as Greyson Gates, Jeremy”s father, read to me what you are about to hear. I must say he could not have surprised me more.

ROLL

Cell phone footage

GREYSON GATES: [Speaking in a monotone]

 We have a brief statement to make about our son Jeremy and we will not be taking any questions afterward.

The most important thing to say is that our son is now safe.

 

First we want to thank the members of the media for the attention and time you have put on Jeremy”s story. It may have literally saved his life. We appreciate your efforts more than we can say. We thank the FBI, the Chillicothe Police, the Ross County Sheriff”s Office; the Ohio State Police; and everyone who supported us or helped Jeremy in any way in these very trying and confusing circumstances. And we wish to thank the thousands upon thousands of people across the country and the world who have messaged us with support, it has been of immense help to us in our darkest moments. We thank our neighbors and friends who gave us so much help in our time of troubles and who endured much inconvenience as a result.

The FBI has told us in no uncertain terms that Jeremy was kidnapped. And we know that to be true. What happened that allowed him to survive and escape that encounter is not clear but we know that Dr. Levi Fisher, of whom you have heard, did not kidnap Jeremy. It appears the late Dr. Fisher may have rescued him from his abductors and cared for Jeremy in the last weeks of his own life and evidently kept him safe.

[His facial expressions are wooden.]

We also have learned that he was put into the safekeeping of friends of Fisher”s in a remote location in Arizona, when Fisher”s end approached, and kept there safely until late February.

We now know Jeremy left Arizona of his own volition. We know where he went next, and that he is now safe.

We know this because we have heard from Jeremy; we have spoken to him briefly [– his voice stumbles – ] briefly, but we have talked to him. He has suffered some very frightening times with an encounter with kidnappers and many months separated from his family and friends and community, being with strangers, albeit well-meaning ones.

We hope you all will forgive us for keeping our conversations with him private at this time. We are convinced that Jeremy is safe now. We are not prepared to say where he is; we simply want people to know they don”t have to worry, as we no longer need to worry, though we will worry until he is once again with us.

Jeremy has asked us to allow him some time and some space to recover his bearings. He is not ready to rejoin us but he is no longer missing. We hope now that you will likewise allow us the privacy and time we ourselves need to begin the process to recover. With God”s help we will soon be reunited with Jeremy.

CUT TO SET

HILLMAN:     And with that the Gateses shook my hand and steadfastly refused to say another word on the subject.

DEXTER:      Ashley what do you make of this? It seems almost as mysterious as Jeremy”s disappearance.

HILLMAN:     Jerry I have no idea what”s going cim cif yapan escort on behind the scenes. I could not find out any information from any police agency on the record.  We did contact the local FBI office and were referred to the press office in Washington which declined to make any statement. My police sources were taken as much by surprise as I was though they did verify there is no question that Jeremy had been kidnapped. And now, the Gateses themselves tell us he left wherever he was “of his own volition” but without any indication of how he left, where he went, where he is, who he is with!

DEXTER:      Ashely you”ve gotten to know the Gateses pretty well over the past months I gather. What do you think led to this?

HILLMAN:     Jerry, I have spent a considerable time with them and they have been as torn up as you might imagine any parents being in like circumstances. They have always been cordial and approachable. This time they were polite to me and apologized but were literally rigid. If I didn”t know better I”d think they got a ransom demand with a warning to not tell anyone.

DEXTER:      Do you think that might be what happened, Ashley?

HILLMAN:     I have no idea what happened but I think if it had been that the FBI would know. Of course the FBI isn”t talking just now. Nor, apparently, is Jeremy Gates.

DEXTER:      We”ll be back right after this message.

Anton finishes the shuffle and deals the hole cards. “Usual ante,” he adds to Ishmael.

“I let Beckett fuck you bareback in his apartment, Daniel fucks me.” Ishmael replies, peeking at his cards. Queen of spades, nine of diamonds. Not very promising, but he decides to raise. “Beckett can have you for the weekend.”

King of diamonds, two of hearts, possibilities, Anton’s face is a kaleidoscope of conflicting reactions Ishmael cannot read. “I’ll check.”

Anton deals out the flop between them, “So,” he sings, “eight of clubs, king of hearts, and the saucy jack of clubs; interesting.” He pretends to study the three cards. A useful pair, Anton decides.

“Beckett rims you.”

Anton rolls his eyes and sighs exasperation. “Please!” he draws out painfully. “You know he would never do that!”

“You rim Beckett.”

“Do you know nothing about the man?” Anton asks with asperity. He fingers the deck in his hand. “I tried once, you know. Very squeamish, I can tell you. You would think I was skewering him with Fourteen’s glass dildo.”

“His what?” Anton has Ishmael’s interest.

“I’ll show it to you later; or better yet, get him to show it to you.”

“Beckett makes you rim me.”

“I see your rimjob and raise you a trip to the woodshed.” Anton drops the turn, jack of diamonds, two pairs.

“I raise you Daniel and Beckett fighting over my body in your stateroom tonight!”

“I see your stateroom threesome and raise you Daniel and Beckett screwing me for performance art at Beckett’s next opening.” Anton thinks his hand is pretty strong with two pairs.

Ishmael looks at his hole cards again, queen of spades, nine of diamonds. If the next card is lucky, he has a straight. Anton might have another jack, hell both remaining jacks. “Show the river.” Ishmael demands. “May the odds be always in your favor!”

Ten of clubs, the two men echo.

Ishmael has his straight. The April vacation to Mexico has been lucky for him. Anton has his two pairs. “Check,” Ishmael decides, “no! I call.” He flips his hole cards so Anton can see them.

“Your straight wins.” Anton concedes. He begins gathering up the cards.

“So,” Ishmael sings tunefully, “While you pilot your little ship about the ocean, Daniel can come down and screw me. Tonight, you give me a rim to get me ready for a weekend.” Ishmael frowns. “The stateroom is pretty cramped.”

“Do it here in the salon.” Anton shrugs, shuffling the cards. They are betting in jest, nothing really to their game.

“I want your advice,” Ishmael announces seriously. “I don’t know what to do.”

Anton pauses his shuffling and looks at the younger man. “Never ask someone born on third base for batting advice.”

“It’s not about my future. I am wondering about Beckett and Fourteen.”

“Oh god dear, never ask the ex for advice. I wouldn’t be the ex if I had any to give. I’ve learned we were not compatible.” Anton pauses to note the younger man’s skeptical reaction. “Never listen to what a man says about his ex.” Anton admonishes. “Particularly a man like Beckett who wants things and things. Beckett, being Beckett, thinks Fourteen is one of the amenities provided on this cruise.” Anton studies the young man across the table. No doubt Ishmael is captivated by Beckett’s arrogance.

“He understands me.” Ishmael begins, but the I’m wondering about Beckett words of doubt still hang in the air between them.

“How nice.” Anton wishes there was less acid in his reply. He fans the deck of cards as if he was going to tell Ishmael’s fortune. “So many different types.” He selects the queen of hearts. It lies between them on the table. “That’s you.” Beckett’s heart, Beckett’s heart for everyone. Beckett’s valuable condo-car to loan out.

“And you?”

“Darling boy, that’s obvious!” Anton picks out the queen of diamonds, and places it beside the other face card. Then he finds the queen of spades. “Tyrone, but only he can say that, just a warning, honey.” The three cards lie on the table like the flop.

“The other face cards.” Anton picks them all out and sets them aside, face down.

“What about the rest?” Ishmael asks, intrigued by the older man’s thought process. Anton knows he is legendary in the young man’s eyes. Anton has a (literally) rich and storied history. He trades on this shamelessly wherever he goes.

“Ugh! The utterly hetero masses.” Anton sweeps up the remaining cards and sets them aside. “Mind you, girl, we queens are powerful. We can take quite a few tricks. Don’t forget that, sweetheart. Even the occasional ten.” Anton lifts a leering eyebrow.

Ishmael sighs. “So Fourteen is the queen of clubs?”

Anton picks up the card. The levity is lost for a moment as he considers the idea. “Never be the queen of clubs, dear. That card’s been played on too many of us, including Fourteen.”

“Like a punch in the face?”

“Like a punch in the face,” Anton agrees.

“The jack of hearts.”

“Who stole some tarts, I see your thought.”

Anton lays out the kings so Ishmael and he can consider them. “Daniel,” he slides the king of hearts. It is the turn beside the three queens in the flop. “Beckett,” the king of diamonds and the king of clubs ambiguity lay overlapped, making the river.

“I’m wondering about Beckett,” Anton repeaters Ishmael’s question. He carefully lays the remaining cards side by side: the jacks, the aces, the final king of spades. “Fourteen is an ace, I think.” He sweeps the other five cards into a neat trick and sets them aside. “Which one do you think?”

Fourteen slides down the gangway from where he has been watching the Cold War of Daniel and Beckett in the cockpit. His forenoon watch has ended and he glances significantly at Anton, who has the afternoon. Anton looks coolly back.

“I know, sorry! Daniel said he could hold the fort till you came up on deck.” Fourteen looks like a chastened child. “Should I have stayed?”

“Well, we are not the Queen’s Royal Navy.” Anton concedes grumpily.

Anton is well aware that Ishmael is now watching Fourteen as he rummages about his pilot berth space. “Just a quick shower, then I will make sure some lunch is out for everyone.”

“Why an ace?” Ishmael asks, eyes focussed somewhere (Fourteen) past Anton’s shoulder.

“The ace submits or dominates, depending on the game.” This draws Ishmael’s eyes back to the table.

“Which ace, diamond, spade, heart, club?”

Anton lets his finger track back and forth over the four cards, enjoying the drama of his gesture. “This one, I think.” He has selected the heart. Fourteen starts past them on his way to the forward head where he habitually showers. “Fourteen, we want you to answer a question for us. If you were one of these playing cards, which one would you be?”

He is naked-easy, very high-school locker-room with the two men. Fourteen pauses to look at the cards arrayed on the salon table. Anton is gesturing to the four aces. Fourteen leans across Anton, so very close that the body-wick of sweet-salt spray of his body infuses Anton’s with his citrus-margarita and the taste of adolescent salsa. Fourteen is heady stuff.

Fourteen pulls back with the joker in his hand. He shows it to the men, and lays it on the table. There is a silent grin encompassing the table. They watch him prowl on down to the V-berth and the forward head.

“My god, I haven’t had an ass like that for twenty years. Well, ten years anyway,” and Anton raises his eyebrows with a sparkle. He offers Ishmael a wild-delight surmise.

Anton takes the joker card and exchanges it with Tyrone Casey’s queen of spades. He shifts the three cards around so the joker lies between the pair of queens and contemplates the new flop. 

“We have a full house.” Ishmael observes the six cards between them.

Anton takes the remaining face cards. “Take an old queen’s advice.”

“You’re hardly old.”

“Thank you, dear.” Anton is shuffling the cards with practiced hands. He deals out five pairs of hole cards as if the five shipmates were gathered at the salon table. Ishmael reaches for his cards. “No, don’t look.”

Anton sets the remaining cards aside. He leans in over the table, all boyishness banished from his face. “What about any of us?” he asks the young man who caught Beckett’s wandering eye. “The cards are on the table, flop, turn, river; but you have two cards in the hole to play.” Anton sits back, enjoying his chance to impart wisdom on the young. “Fourteen has this funny phrase he uses when he faces some problem. Gotta shuffle the deck again.”

“Let’s play a different game,” Ishmael announces. He wishes he was as carefree as Anton’s cabin boy. The teenager says very little about himself. “Have you ever played two truths and a lie with Fourteen?”

“I’m pretty frivolous, but I’m smart enough not to play that game with him.” Anton thinks about the sad reality of Jeremy Gates. “We’d need a bottle on the table.” Anton reaches under the table and pulls the first bottle that comes to hand. “I’m ready.”

“I lost my virginity at seventeen.”

“Where?”

“My best friend’s basement.” Ishmael continues quickly. “Beckett actually did fuck me in his gallery, on camera. I slept with a Saudi prince on campus.”

“Who hasn’t?” Anton quips. “You lost your virginity to your best friend in his basement. That’s the lie.”

“How could you know?”

“Nobody’s best friend in high school fulfills their fuck dream.” Anton explains. Queen of hearts indeed. Anton fingers the cards. He gestures toward the bottle and Ishmael takes a manly swig of gin.

Ishmael was prepared to continue disliking Beckett’s ex-boyfriend. He certainly did not like Anton the first two times Beckett faced them off. With the gin warming his throat, Ishmael finds they relate to each other pretty well.

“Your turn,” Ishmael challenges.

“Liverpool, Abbey Road Studios, age 16, with Paul McCartney. Kevin Spacey on the set of Superman Returns. He thought I was only seventeen. Took turns with a Brazilian girl giving Prince Andrew head at Jeffrey Epstein’s, Palm Beach, 2004.”

Ishmael stares at Anton as the water runs in Fourteen’s shower. “Damn you Anton, I’m not gonna win this game am I?”

“No, you are not.”

Ishmael takes a second swallow of gin. What shall we do with a drunken sailor? Any one of his statements might be true. Anton drunk on his own boat will never happen.

Two aces were left out of Anton’s shuffle. He picks them up, his old exuberance rising like the irrepressible tide. He is almost done. “There are games you can win. You know, my dear, in chess, queens are very powerful. Kings plod along, but we can play all the moves.”

“Knights can jump,” Ishmael points out.

“Knights jump four ways,” Anton concedes, “but I bet a pair of determined queens can pin him down.” Anton lays the ace of hearts over Ishmael’s queen. He drops the ace of diamonds on his own card. Then he sweeps the two kings aside. “It’s easy to trap our kings, they never move too far.” The water is still running in the shower.

“Fourteen is wasting water,” Ishmael agrees. “I’m with you. Chess and poker, I think you are mixing up the rules.”

They both rise to go. Anton pauses a step behind to look at the hole cards he dealt Jeremy Gates. Queen of clubs, ace of spades, how interesting! “You’re not playing the game if you cannot think beyond the rules,” Anton advises Ishmael.

“What?” Fourteen exclaims from the forward head.

His dildo, Anton remembers. Best cum prepared.

Chillicothe High

April 15, 2018

Shane never took school work seriously; he did enough to be a B student, mostly being qualified for sports was his motivation. Well, keeping the rents off his ass too. So he is finishing up some homework Sunday afternoon, just after five, not the type to do it Friday, when his phone starts ringing. He”d left it in the bedroom; when he picks it up he sees two calls pending one from Wade, the other from another friend. He puts the friend on hold and picks up Wade”s call.

“Man did you hear the news?”

He hadn”t watched broadcast TV and especially not the news.

“Man, his parents made a big announcement. They say he”s not missing but they don”t say where he is.”

“They said that?” Shane starts to get angry again.

His phone pings him, he has voice mail, a missed call from a guy on the track team. Before he can say another word there”s a second and a third from people he knows. And a fourth missed call.

Shit everybody wants to talk all of a sudden.

“Yeah they called up a reporter and had her come over and told her they know he”s safe and told everybody to leave them alone.”

Shane doesn”t quite know what to say.

“That has to be because of the call, the one Jeremy made to ME!”

Shane is irritated but chooses not to let it show. “Okay fine, the secret is out, but you better not tell anyone you got that call.”

“Why not?”

“Because I bet the FBI will be all over your ass like they were mine, only twice as much. They”ll probably take your phone too.”

“Oh shit! I didn”t think of that!”

“Well you better shut up about it for now at least till the heat is off.”

“You”re right. You won”t say anything?”

“Course not, I already said we”d keep it secret. I”ll tell Shay again.”

“Thanks!”

The conversation continues in which an increasingly bored Shane declines to speculate as to Jeremy”s whereabouts. “If he comes back we”ll see him. I”d bet he”s like with his aunt in Florida. Anyway my phone is blowing up, I gotta go.”

And his phone is indeed blowing up. Plenty of kids are calling him; after all, everyone knows Shane and Jeremy were tight. Hell the FBI had interviewed him three times. And everyone wants to know the story, wants to know where exactly Jeremy Gates is, and why he is there. After five times being asked he finally says, “Maybe I know and maybe I don”t. If I did I couldn”t say a thing.” And hangs up.

But Shane is pretty hurt, which like most teenage boys he expresses as anger. First he works out a bit in his garage to let off some steam and ignores all the phone calls. He looks at his shirtless torso in a mirror on the wall above his weight bench, likes what he sees, his pecs are looking good. He admires the way his strong shoulders taper to a V below his waist; runs his hand over his smooth chest, tweaks his sensitive nipples and thinks about having a jackoff session. He skipped this morning, had to get up to run then his mom set him to chores when he got home.

The momentary pleasure dissolves as his thoughts return to the boy he thought was his best friend. His partial erection wilts.

He”ll see everyone tomorrow. Hell that”s all anyone is going to be talking about on Monday. Then he stews a little longer and finally goes to Jeremy”s Facebook page, sees dozens of new posts on it and more going on just as he watches; then does one of his own.

“Hey, why don”t you call ME? I”m supposed to be your bestie. Or am I?”

The Gates public announcement is run on the news again that night, Shane makes a point to watch. It leaves everyone with lots of questions. And Shane feels his best friend has in fact forgotten him or left him. He feels ghosted. WTF? Despite the FBI talking to him he wonders if Jeremy really was abducted after all. Maybe it was all a hoax?

Over the next several weeks many many posts are made on Jeremy”s page, some call him a fake and a liar, others challenge him to show up at school, some say they”ll kick his ass, mostly those are from burner accounts; others, who maybe actually listened to his parents, express sympathy; still others say they miss him.  “Please come home Jeremy or at least write back, we miss you,” from Cindy Lent, one of the prettiest freshman cheerleaders. Shane is impressed. For now he has cooled down a bit but he”s still resentful.

Big consequences can flow from the smallest of misunderstandings. The longer the wait the more pissed off Shane Andrews becomes. He remembers Jeremy said he was in bad trouble. But not bad enough to call him.  What Shane doesn”t consider is that Wade had listed his cell phone on his Facebook profile; that is the only one of the three that Jeremy could call.

And a million miles away, Jeremy Gates, the lost boy who is now Fourteen, why he doesn”t even remember Facebook beyond a place to find a friend’s phone number.

His life has changed way too much.

Brief, Anonymous Survey:

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I have written a variety of short stories and novellas. You can follow this safe link to my Body of Work.

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