Player of Pawns

The ghost of Sal Mineo haunts this place. The smoky bar with the red glass ashtrays. The photos of boxers and jazzmen framed on the walls. The cramped dark wood booths with archaic propositions and lewd stick figures etched in the tabletop. Marty sips his drink with a cherry in it and checks his watch. He isn’t supposed to be here.

Me: This place is dead until eleven o’clock, eleven-thirty.

Marty shrugs. He doesn’t care. He’s happy to be here with me. Nervous but happy.

Marty: What if somebody sees?

Me: Nobody here sees nothing. Anything goes at Wanda’s. I told you.

Wanda, looking like the specter of a 1950s gun moll, runs a dirty wet cloth over the bar top. Her big boobs strain against the reinforced brassiere, every hook of which embosses the back of her thin orange blouse. A gold-plated crucifix twinkles at her throat. Somebody feeds the jukebox for “Bungle in the Jungle.”

Marty: This song reminds me of sex.

Me: Yeah? I heard it’s about Chicago. The blacks, the ghetto. Kinda offensive if you think about it that way.

Marty: I don’t know. “Bungle” sounds like fucking to me.

Me: Everything sounds like fucking to you, Marty my boy.

Marty glances at his watch again. The pits of his yellow T-shirt are darkening with sweat. He slides his fingers up and down his drink glass. Kid needs to relax.

Marty: Your friend. What is his name? I forgot. Is late.

Me: Leon. That’s what he calls himself anyway. He’s always an hour late. Exactly an hour. Punctual that way.

Wanda waddles over and asks, Who wants a refill? Marty nods, too shy to speak. Wanda snaps her gum and runs her fingers through his hair. Alright honey pie. Then she looks at me, and I arch an ironic eyebrow, as if she even has to ask.

Leon bounces in just as she’s walking away. He tells her to bring a spritzer to the booth for him. Leon’s smaller than Marty, three years older, wiry and street tough, but a pretty face and a sweet pale body like Joe Dallesandro. Marty’s impressed. Leon’s gray Qiana shirt is unbuttoned to his navel. He looks clean and refreshed like he’s just popped in from the baths.

Leon: You must be Marty. All right. Bob told me all about you. I mean I thought he told me all about you, but he didn’t say the half of it.

Marty blushes and looks over at me.

Me: Marty wrestles. Over at St Michael-Archangel. They beat Norland at the regionals. Ouch.

Marty: You go to Norland?

Leon: Did.

The boys get acquainted. They seem to be hitting it off. Good. Wanda drops three paper coasters in front of us, swipes away some crumbs and water with her cloth, and unloads the fresh drinks from her cork-bottomed tray.

Suavely, as if not even thinking about it, Leon extends his arm and rests it on Marty’s shoulders. Marty is drunk enough and enough relieved to find that Leon is a hunk that he doesn’t even flinch. We drink. Leon orders a basket of fries from the kitchen. I tell a few stories about some TV stars I’ve met, and then we’re ready to go.

Marty wobbles a little as he stands. A few inches taller than Leon and me. He’s got big curly brown hair, peach-fuzz along the jaw line. Skin as pretty as a baby’s belly. Dreamy blue eyes, puffy lips, high cheekbones, with a hint of a scar on his forehead.

Leon: Ride with you two?


Leon: Let me make a call.

Leon asks Wanda for the boxy flesh-colored telephone she stows behind the bar. She plunks it on the counter, totals the tab, and hands the bill to me. I pay up, and Marty and I step out to the sidewalk and the sultry night air.

Me: We go back to my place.

Marty: Cool.

Me: You still okay with this? Leon’s a great guy.

Marty: Sure. Leon’s great.

Me: I told you he was heavy.

Marty: Man oh man.

He giggles.

Fifteen minutes to my place. I toss Marty the keys and tell him and Leon to go on in, make some drinks, and get comfortable out by the pool. I park in the garage and pop the trunk. Got some extra lamps for the shoot.

By the pool I toss the boys some Italian-style tights, blue for Marty, red for Leon. They gamely strip down and change. I set up lights and camera over by the mats.

Me: Let’s start with some poses, guys.

They stand shoulder to shoulder and flex up. Leon’s got a patch of jet black hair at the center of his chest that trails down to his crotch. Marty’s long waisted and smooth, with almost colorless nipples that sort of pinch out like tiny coolie hats. His navel is like a vertical slash.

They drop down on one knee and curl up their arms, impressive biceps on the both of them.

I call out directions, but the boys are pretty comfortable with what they’re doing. Even Marty. Leon rubs baby oil on Marty’s shoulders. He massages down around the shoulder blades, then slides down the spine, and kneads the tops of the bare, round cheeks bulging out of the baby-blue bikini. On his knees, he lubes Marty’s thighs and calves. Then turns him around and works his way up the legs, the stomach, the chest. Then Marty takes the bottle and does Leon.

The boys wrestle well. I tell them to slow it down from time to time and play to the camera, and they take it in slow motion. When Leon locks Marty’s head in his armpit, he turns to me, pushes out his lips imperiously, and kisses his bicep. Marty escapes and mounts Leon, taking the advantage of his long legs to stretch Leon’s knees apart. Leon locks his ankles on top of Marty’s butt. Marty grimaces orgasmically.

They roll off the mats onto the grass. I yell cut, and they get back on the mats. Apart from their stark white bodies, through the lens everything around them looks black, the mats, the lawn, the bamboo stalks beyond them. Even the jungle-size elephant-ear leaves offer only a vague sense of languid movement in the dark.

Midway through the second round, Marty pukes. Too much alcohol at Wanda’s. We break while I clean the mess up. Marty apologizes profusely and swears up and down that he’s okay now. He gargles with blue mouthwash, and I sprinkle the both of them with White Musk to camouflage the odor.

Me: Okay, boys, let’s wrestle.

Round two becomes round three. Leon pins Marty down with his knee on the boy’s chest. He gropes his cock and balls till Marty’s shiny cut tool pops out the top of his tight briefs. Leon follows up with some intense gut punching. Then while Marty clasps his midsection and writhes in pain, Leon gets on his feet and slides the blue suit down Marty’s long legs. He takes the shiny, slightly amphibian-looking hard-on in his mouth. I zoom in, but the focus is slow, and the camera shakes. But the idea is definitely there.

Round four is Marty’s revenge. He throws Leon judo-style over his hip, and Leon’s back hits the mats with a loud smack. Marty’s fight instincts kick in, and he moves real fast. Possibly too fast for all the garishly lit action to read to the eventual audience, but the speed and the agility of his maneuvers are aggressive and sexy. Savagely he tears the red briefs off. He lets the elastic waistband scrape cross Leon’s cock, and Leon screams and curses. The suit snags at Leon’s knees, and Marty drags him by it cross the mats. Marty jabs his heel a few inches under Leon’s navel. He repeats the blow, grunting as he thrusts.

Leon flails the night air. He draws himself up to his feet shakily. Suddenly Marty latches on to his throat from behind. His hard right bicep grinds under Leon’s chin. He presses the back of Leon’s head with his left forearm. Leon’s face contorts as he chokes—or pretends to choke. His eyes roll up. His feet kick against the mat. His erect dick wobbles helplessly.

Leon slides into feigned unconsciousness. Like a pro, Marty rolls him over on his stomach. He spits in his hand and lubricates his cock. Then he licks his fingers slick and slides them between Leon’s quivering ass cheeks. This time I don’t even try the zoom. I shoot it all in a full shot, both bodies dead center of the frame. Marty mounts Leon, and even though he’s supposedly out cold, Leon moans with pleasure.

It’s a quick hump. Marty’s spent most of his energy in the fight. But even the quick, jerky climax is sexy, in a boyish, naïve way. Marty covers Leon’s body with his own. They lie, bellies down, cheek to cheek. I yell cut and turn out the lights. The lamps in the pool bathe us all in wavy blue light.

I let the boys rest while I pack up the movie equipment and haul it inside. When I return, Leon is swimming in the pool, bare naked. Marty is sitting on a plastic chair, idly picking grass blades and bits of grit off the insides of his thighs. Leon pulls himself up on the huge inflated crocodile and sprawls out for some moon bathing.

Me, to Marty: You were fantastic, kid. Amazing. The sight of you taking control like that is burned into my memory, and I’ll take that memory with me forever. I mean, like, damn. Damn.

Marty: Yeah. It was fun. Thanks.

Me, shouting to Leon: Good job, man. When you’re done here, there’s cash for you on the breakfast nook.

Leon shoots me a peace sign.

I take Marty’s head in my hands and tilt it up to look at me. His breathing is steady and rhythmic. In the dark his eyes appear watery. I lean down and kiss him on the mouth. I lick his lips. Then I thrust my tongue between his teeth. We do a little tongue wrestling. He pulls my shirt open, each button giving with a sudden jerk. His arms snake round me under the shirt. I fall to my knees between his legs.

Me: How much you want for the night?

Marty: To bungle? (He chuckles.) Double. Plus you take me out for lobster tomorrow.


Me: It’s a deal.

I take his hand, and we walk to the house. Without even looking, I can feel his warm nakedness beside me. In my imagination he’s a naked jungle boy, and I’m the calculating white hunter bringing him back to civilization to exploit him. Inside, we kiss each other’s face and neck as we climb the stairs, step by step.

Gracefully he lowers himself to the bed. He draws his knees up. He looks deep into the soul of me, with his blue, liquid eyes. I throw my shirt on the carpet. Make myself naked. Nearly forty, I’m still firm and in pretty good shape. He reaches out and pulls me towards him on the bed. He kisses my belly. With each kiss, he repeats my name.

I straddle his waist and turn him over. Precious boy, I whisper to his ear. Um, he says. He pushes himself up against me, like a big cat.

Out the window the sky begins to lighten with the dawn.


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