Bud needed a drink. It had been an hour since he left Dilly’s Roadhouse. Beating up Harvey had left him dry.
He staggered over to Harvey’s bar and pinched a bottle of Glenlivet and poured a couple thumbs’ worth in a heavy glass. He drank it straight and fast. Booze kept Bud in numbed comfort most evenings—and in a zen-like tranquility at work on most days.
No A/C in the house—just ceiling fans and small, sputtering oscillators. His shirt clung to his skin like plastic wrap. He peeled it off over his head and dropped it at his feet.
Bud’s build was slim but tightly athletic. His chest hair started at the hollow at the base of his throat and spread downwards to touch each cordovan nipple. His pale belly was smooth and flat, with a small vertical navel, over which the growth of dark hair resumed and under which it trailed down to his crotch. His canvas jeans rode low on his hips.
Green and blue bruises spotted his torso, front and back. Unlike Harvey, he couldn’t remember getting any one of them.
He stood there at the bar, just breathing, breathing, concentrating on his breathing like a yogi. His stomach muscles knotted with each breath.
Then he turned back to see the red action painting he had just made of Harvey’s face. Both eyes were beginning to swell, and Harvey couldn’t even make himself sit up.
“Call you a doctor?” Bud gently prodded Harvey’s bare leg with the tip of his sneaker. “Or any particular filling station you want me to drop you off at?”
The joke wasn’t funny, and he didn’t laugh. Harvey certainly didn’t either.
Bud crouched over Harvey’s head, grabbed him by an ear, and lifted him. “Look, you fuckin closet case. I don’t care if you know I’m gay. Get it? But I’m not interested in you. You disgust me. You had no right to mess with me like you did. And now I hope you know I ain’t somebody whose cage you wanna rattle. Ever. You hear?”
Harvey tried to say something, but his teeth were broken, his face was swollen stiff, and at some point he must have bitten his tongue.
Bud left, slamming the door behind him.
At home, the message machine was blinking. Bud pressed play. A garbled, slurred voice was repeating something. At first Bud couldn’t make it out. Then he thought he could. “Rematch,” the voice repeated.
(To be continued)