WIP Excerpt: Return to Cooter Crossing

wip excerptI haven’t done an excerpt in a while. Here’s a scene I did today toward the end of the story.

The set up: JJ and Aidan are the two main characters. JJ is about five years younger than Aidan and he had a real crush on Aidan when they were kids. Aidan had no clue. They are starting to get together now after Aidan has returned from a long absence. Aidan’s parents have been fostering the two son’s of Aidan’s boyfriend from high school who recently passed away. Earlier in the day, the little boys had asked Aidan if he’d be their new daddy. He was trying to talk to JJ about this. Other stuff happened and interrupted the conversation. They stop by JJ’s Aunt’s house on the way home. (She raised him after his folks passed.) Note: This is a raw, unedited draft. There is strong adult language.


JJ held the door for Lissa. Aidan followed her into a large country style kitchen with a table in the center. The wooden cabinets were painted a bright shiny white. The doors had been removed giving the shelves an open feeling. Aidan liked it. It looked like a place for serious family cooking and eating. Several cabinet were filled with bottles and little tins. He assumed they were herbs and spices. He breathed in. “What smells so good?”

She smiled at him from the sink where she filled up the kettle. “Oh, I’ve been baking most of the day. There’s a fresh batch of gingersnaps in the tin on the table. Mable, down the way, been having some troubles. I thought they might help. I made extra. Never know who might stop by.”

JJ stepped into the kitchen. “How’s her son doing?”

Lissa shook her head. She moved to the stove and adjusted the flame under the kettle. “Not well. Medications don’t seem to be working any more. She told me there’s not a T-cell left in that boy’s body.” She shook her head. “Seems an awful price to pay for a quick high from a dirty needle.” She looked at JJ. “They’re moving him to the hospice across the river in Jensen Springs. You’d best look in on him while there’s time.”

JJ nodded. He said to Aidan, “Billy was… well he was on East’s football team with me. We weren’t close after…”

Lissa looked at him. “Son, I knew you two fell out and you had good reasons. But you boys played together almost everyday when you were young. That has to count for something. It’d be a kindness. And he needs some of that now. Seems there’s more ignorance about the AIDS now than there was back in the day.”

She narrowed her eyes and looked between them. “You boys are being safe?”

“Auntie.”

Aidan knew his ears were glowing. “Hum, yes ma’am.”

Her look bored into him. “You’ve been tested recently?”

He wanted to retort that he’d been with the same man for the last ten years. Then the image of David pounding the kid in their bed came back. No way that was the first time they’d screwed. How many times? How many boys? He said, “Hum, wouldn’t hurt to do it again.”

She gave him a little snort of approval. “Have a cookie Dear,” she said.

Aidan sat down at the table and opened the festive red and gold tin. The spicy aroma of the fresh baked ginger snaps wafted around him. He took one and nibbled on it. Lissa asked, “How’s that shoulder doing? I didn’t get a chance to ask yesterday.”

Aidan moved it. “Doctor said the arm is healing. He told me to expect the arm and shoulder to be sore for a while.” Aidan gave her a reassuring smile. “Told me I’ll be in the sling for a few months. I was just luck no bones got shattered. They gave me some exercises to do.”

“Hu’hum. Do they help?”

“Some,” Aidan said.

She turned to one if the shelves with little jars and tins. She pushed several out of the way and pulled a small round tin out. She popped the lid off and gave it a smell, then nodded to herself. “That’ll do.” She handed it to JJ. “Now you rub this into his shoulder after he takes a shower. His skin has to be clean, warm, and moist. Do the front and back. The arm too, of course. It should help. You use that up, I’ll make more.”

JJ looked down at the tin and nodded. Aidan felt a little annoyed that he wasn’t included. It was his shoulder after all. Lissa took another tin out off the shelf and started filling a tea infuser ball. “Now you boys go change and freshen up. The tea will be ready by the time you are done.”

“Change?” Aidan didn’t understand.

“Well,” she said. “I need to freshen up JJ’s uniform for the morning. He doesn’t have a spare over here anymore. And I have a load ready to go in the machine, I can run your things through.”

She looked at him. He knew he had a blank look on his face. She tilted her head, “Well you are spending the night?”

“Ugh…,” Aidan looked at JJ.

JJ said, “We hadn’t talked about it. We were passing and I wanted to see you.”

She gave him a dismissive wave. “Well you’re here now. Now go change. Make sure you get that salve rubbed in good. Make it easier for him to sleep.”

JJ said to Aidan, “Come on, my room’s back this way.”

Aidan saw the look on Lissa’s face. She had that “mom” look. Yeah they were staying. He got up and followed JJ out of the kitchen.

The kitchen opened up into a small formal dining room. They went on through into a living room. It was cozy with a large couch in front of a fireplace. A rocker was in one corner facing a flat screen TV. The back wall had a sliding-glass door that led out on a poured concrete patio. JJ continued down a hallway. He stopped and opened a door on the right side of the hall. “This is my room. The bath’s down on the left. Lissa’s room’s at the end of the hall.”

Aidan walked into the room. He smiled. It still looked like a teenage boy’s room. Posters of sport teams were stuck to the wall along with a couple of posters from action movies that were popular over ten years ago. JJ went over to a dresser and pulled a drawer open. He took out a pair of orange sweat pants with the Florida A&M snake logo on them. He opened another drawer and took out a black t-shirt. “These should fit you. Be a bit loose but you can pull the drawstring.”

Aidan didn’t say anything. He was still looking around the room.

JJ ran his hand over his hair. “I know. The room time forgot. I didn’t spend much time here after I started college. And when I came back, just too busy to worry about it. Guess I didn’t get the decorating gene.”

Aidan winked at him. “Me either. Or the whole show tunes thing. But I did like Madonna, well the early stuff.”

JJ took his tie off and laid it out on the top of the dresser. He started taking the pins off of his shirt. “Aidan, everyone liked the early stuff. You can use my robe hanging in the closet there—on the other side of the door.”

Aidan shrugged out of the sling. He was getting better at getting in and out of it but that didn’t help him like it any better. “Won’t you need it?”

JJ shook his head. “I’ll catch a shower later.”

“Oh. I thought, we’d do it together.”

JJ smiled. “You haven’t seen that bathroom. You have to step outside to change your mind.”

“So we’re okay?”

JJ stopped. He dropped his undershirt on top of his uniform shirt on the bed. “Why Babe?”

“Something changed. It changed when I told you about what the boys said. It was just kid talk. They’re trying to figure out where and how they fit.”

JJ nodded. He undid his belt. He slid his holster off and the hand cuff pouch. He walked around Aidan and went into the closet. Aidan saw a small safe sitting on a shelf. JJ dialed the combination, opened the door and put his gun in it. He grabbed the robe off the hook on the back of the door and tossed it on the bed in front of Aidan. He sat down on the end of the bed and took off his shoes. “I know. But the way you said it. I’ve seen how you are with those boys. I don’t know if you realize it yourself or not.”

Aidan fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. JJ stood up and dropped his pants. He put them on the bed with the other clothes. “He let me help.” He started unbuttoning Aidan’s shirt.

Aidan looked into his face. “What do you mean?”

JJ undid the last button and eased the shirt over Aidan’s injured shoulder. He took it and dropped it on the bed. He then pulled Aidan’s undershirt up and over his right side and then gently down over the left shoulder. He dropped it on the bed too. “You’re overly attached to those boys.”

JJ had reached for Aidan’s belt. Aidan took his hand to stop him. “What do you mean? How can you be overly attached to children? My God they just lost their parents.”

JJ looked Aidan in the face. “And you feel guilty about that don’t you?”

Aidan didn’t say anything.

“You look at them and you see Clark, don’t you? Especially Sky?”

The muscles in Aidan’s jaw tensed. “And what if I do?”

JJ echoed him. “And what if I do?”

Aidan let go of JJ’s hand and stepped back. “I don’t understand.”

“Look,” he pointed at the closet. “Every life, every relationship is like a bullet. It has a basic trajectory. It might drift a bit but unless it hits something major and ricochets, you pretty much know where it’s going.”

“Still not getting it.”

JJ frowned. “I got a real glimpse of your target tonight. You’re headed to be a professor. You’re gonna have a family. I saw you looking at that real estate site on your tablet when I came into the restaurant.”

“So what? You know I’m going to have to find a place in town. I really liked Marcus’ building.”

JJ didn’t say anything. He turned around and walked over to the dresser. “I saw you looking at the four bedroom.”

Aidan closed his eyes. What the fuck was all of this? “I’m really lost here Sweet Tea. Help me out.”

“Wouldn’t Marcus be the better husband. The better father for three kids?”

“What three kids? What are you talking about?”

JJ turned back around. “Those boys and Sean.”

“Sean’s got a dad.”

“Yes but you are his guardian. He’s got friends in town going to Bayside. You know that’d be a better school for him. You talked about Marcus being the rebound guy. Isn’t it really me? Wouldn’t he fit into your life better?”

Aidan took a deep breath. He needed to stay calm. “First off. No one asked you to be anyone’s dad. So don’t start panicking. I’m kind of freaked out by it too and wanted to have a discussion about it with my lover. Didn’t realize he doesn’t give a damn about kids. Nice to know. And I don’t love Marcus. I told you, I love you. What the hell is this? Is jealously some kind of super kryptonite for you?”

“I told you, I’m not a super hero.”

“Obviously. Super heroes like kids.”

“I like kids.”

JJ slipped out of his underwear. Other than his socks he was naked. This pissed off Aidan. He didn’t want to fight with JJ. He especially didn’t want to fight with a naked JJ. “Oh you just hate the two kids that need us the most.”

“I don’t hate them. And they don’t need me.”

“Bullshit. They need all the family they can get. What the hell is your problem?” Aidan kicked out of his shoes. Then undid his belt and dropped his pants and boxers. He pulled off his socks and piled all of his clothes on the bed. He held out his right arm wide. His left one wouldn’t stretch as far as he wanted it. “Talk to me.”

“It’s not the kids?”

Aidan put his hand on his head. “Then by The Mother of God, what is it?”

“Clark.”

“Clark is dead.”

JJ said, “And that’s the problem.”

Aidan sat down on the bed. He didn’t know what to say.

JJ went on. “His ghost goes with those boys. They are a piece of him. If we form a family with those boys. Clark’s always going to be there.”

Aidan reached behind his head and puled the hair cuff out. “Man we all have a past. Didn’t we talk about this?”

JJ turned his back to Aidan and sat on the other side of the bed. He pulled off his socks. “Look, I really didn’t like Clark. I don’t know if I’d want to raise his kids.”

“What did he do to you?”

JJ shook his head. Aidan didn’t like the thought creeping into his head. It was too easy to forget Clark’s abuse by Father Tommy. What had happened after Aidan left for school? Did he become an abuser? He couldn’t imagine him doing anything to the boys, but… Aidan moved to the other side of the bed. He put his hand on JJ’s shoulder. “Sweet Tea?”

JJ stood up. He pulled a drawer open so hard Aidan thought it’d fly out across the room. He pulled a pair of faded maroon athletic shorts out and put them on. He pulled a t-shirt out but didn’t put it on. He kept his back to Aidan. He whispered, “It was that last summer you were home, before you left for school. I’d just turned thirteen. Molly and I were hanging out watching music videos on her computer. I needed to pee but you were taking a shower. So I was holding it.”

“Okay.” Aidan swallowed.

“I heard you come out of the bathroom so I went out in the hall. I closed Molly’s door—we were playing the music pretty loud. I… noticed your door was open just a crack. I tip-toed over and peeked in. You were standing there naked looking in that mirror above the dresser and…” He turned around and looked at Aidan.

Aidan’s face burned. He knew what he used to do in front of that mirror after a shower.

“I didn’t mean to watch…”

Aidan whispered back to him. “It’s okay. Embarrassing, but natural. We were both teenage boys. But what does—”

JJ cut him off with a shake of his head. “I started touching myself.”

Aidan pursed his lips so he wouldn’t smile. He didn’t understand what the big deal was.

JJ continued, “I didn’t hear Clark come up the steps. He saw me with my hand down my shorts. I was free-balling it that day so everything was showing. He grabbed me. Put his hand over my mouth and pushed me in the bathroom.”

Aidan stood up. “Oh hell no.” He took a step toward JJ but he held out his hand and stopped him.

“He locked the door. He kept one hand over my mouth and grabbed my nuts with the other one. He squeezed so hard I thought I’d faint. But he had me pinned against the wall.”

“JJ.”

He shook his head. “Let me get this out.”

Aidan sat back down on the bed.

JJ turned away again. “He whispered in my ear. Called me a little faggot. Said he’d seen me looking at you all the time. He said you two laughed about the little nigger faggot.”

Aidan jumped up. “Fuck that! You have to know—Oh God JJ. Never. Not Ever. I had no clue about you.” Aidan went to him. JJ’s strong hand pushed against Aidan’s chest again, holding him at arm’s length.

JJ went on, “He started stroking my cock. He said that if he ever found me looking at you again, he’d cut my little pickaninny cock and balls off. He left me there. I hid in the bathroom. I heard you guys take off and I stayed there until Molly came and got me. I went right home and didn’t come back to your house until you left for college. Molly never understood why I ditched her for the rest of the summer.”

JJ dropped his hand. Aidan didn’t move. JJ went to the door. “Take a shower. I can’t talk about this anymore.”

Aidan sank back on the bed. He reached over and grabbed his undershirt. He wiped his eyes. “Fuck you Clark. Just fuck you.”

 

Author: Stephen del Mar

Stephen del Mar lives in the Tampa Bay area and writes in the Southern Literary tradition. His stories are character driven with rich settings. They often have a touch of the paranormal, supernatural, or magical realism. Although he writes about serious subjects, they are sweetened with humor and wit. He says, "It's a southern thing."