Here I am back in New Mexico, May 2014, five years since I retired. Not the same New Mexico really: I worked down south in the desert, teaching college, and Charlie’s ranch is up in Georgia O’Keeffe country, high in the mountains. The cabin has piñon-juniper flora, the trees spaced out on the red soil, but I can see the ponderosa forest in the hills around us.
Charlie doesn’t like me calling it ‘his’ ranch, it’s the ‘family’ ranch, but he’s lived here most of his thirty years, and he knows this cabin — which is his cabin — well enough to have a fire lit within five minutes of getting here. It’s almost summer, but at this altitude the chill sets in as soon as the sun goes beyond the rise to the west.
He had me get his go-to-meetin’ clothes from the car while he was laying the fire: an ombre plaid shirt with mother-of-pearl snaps, black dress boots, black dress gloves, and a black Western hat. What an irony! in the leather community in San Francisco, he always wears brown, and that’s what he wore the whole lightning drive here: brown suede work shirt, brown work boots, tan Stetson, brown suede work gloves. In his closet, a sheepskin vest, sheepskin oat, and waterproof duster, all some shade of brown. He’s in jeans, but I’ve seen khakis and chinos, too. They’re his signature outfit in San Francisco, and he looks good in them, his reddish brown hair going well with all of it. He hates black, and now it’s what he has to wear. “So I don’t look like one of the hands,” he says.
We’re here because his father’s will is going to be read. Charlie says his brothers want to throw him out of the family for being gay. He rushes into his clothes, kisses me, twice, and then tells me while he runs down the porch steps to his car, “Jonbob is going to visit; he drives an F-100 so you’ll know. He wants to fuck you.” I’ve already heard about Jonbob on the drive. “You know I don’t want that, but don’t try to fight him if he uses force. I want you alive and in one piece. Hear?”
But he was in the car too soon to hear my goodbye, and then he was out of sight. So I decided to make myself useful and put away the clothes he left in a pile. There are no hangers, so I fold things up and put them on a shelf. They’re still warm, and they have a whiff of his scent on them. In spite of the hours driving, his odor is barely noticeable.
I suppose it’s like the way he talks, or doesn’t. The whole ride here, he hardly said anything other than sometimes to ask some GPS information. His eyes were on the road the whole time. Mine were so often on his profile, knowing how much strength lay behind it, and amazed that this man was mine. The only evidence he gave that he knew my feelings was at one stop for gas, when he insisted I go to the john, where he met me and — in that really awful place — he kissed me hard, to keep me going.
I look through the pantry, heavily stocked with canned goods. He says he likes to be able to show up here any time he wants to and make the place his cocoon. We won’t go hungry while we’re here.
Now it’s maybe half an hour later, and sure enough here comes the beaten-up old Ford. I go out to the porch to sit on the step, so I don’t have to invite this guy in, this Jonbob.
The truck pulls up and stops with a screech. Jonbob steps out, tall and lanky, some mixed-race ancestry, no one knows exactly according to Charlie. His skin is dark, but how much of it is just his hours in the high-altitude sun? His long hair is in a ponytail; it’s black but something makes me wonder if he dyes it. He’s in a drab wool shirt, worn jeans, and scuffed boots.
He comes up and salutes me, military style. “Hey, there! They said Charlie was bringin’ someone. I’m Jonbob; me and Charlie go way way back.” By this time he’s come up and is sitting right beside me, so I have to reach across him to shake his hand. “How long you and him been doin’ it?”
Charlie warned me he was pretty direct, but I can’t help laughing at this, so he sort of dials it back. “Heck, I’m sorry. I just wanted to know how long you been together. I mean, he doesn’t bring someone out to the ranch unless they’re important. So, you’re important, right?”
“I guess I must be,” I say. “He said he wanted someone on his side while he’s here.”
“Well, hell, I’m on his side, he knows that. And I have to let you know, you aren’t any better for his reputation than I am. I mean, any fag would be bad, but you’re not even a pretty one.”
“I’m pretty enough that you’re pressing into me hard.” I don’t know how I even can fight him if it comes to that: If there’s an ounce of fat on this ranch hand’s body, I don’t see it.
“Well,” he says with a laugh, “I’m not very choosy, and I think you’d be lots of fun in the sack. You’re old enough, you probably know what to do, right?”
“I suppose. I’m pretty much Charlie’s, though.”
“Yeah, but with that little dick of his, he can’t possibly give you what I can.” Jonbob grabs his crotch, and even inside his jeans it’s imposing.
“Jonbob, that looks very nice. I’m not interested. Really. Charlie’s dick is plenty for me. I’m not interested.” By this point, his face is close enough that I can smell the tobacco on his breath, and he’s massaging my shoulder.
He backs off, for the moment. “How’d you guys connect, anyway?”
“In the Castro. San Francisco.”
“Like a bar?”
“No, at the movies. He was ahead of me in line at the concession stand. It took me a minute to recognize him with that beard, but then it clicked that he had been my student about ten years ago at NMSU, back when I was teaching.”
“And you went ga-ga for him even back then, right? You were The Professor.”
“Yes I did. I tried like hell not to show it, but he’d always end up coming late to class, and I would lose track of what I was saying till he sat down and put his hat on his knee, over that big thigh.”
“Yeah,” Jonbob said, “horseman’s thigh,” and he puts my hand on his. “Like this, huh?”
“Yours is longer, though.”
“Well, duh, Charlie is such a short little fireplug, ain’t he?”
I laugh at that. “Yes indeed, one gorgeous fireplug, I can say that.” He lets go and I put my hand back in my own lap.
“You never made it together when you were teaching him, right?” he says, but I pick up that he already knows the answer.
“Right. I didn’t even ask.”
“He knew what you were thinking, though. The only reason he didn’t hit on you was, he respected the way you handled your job, and he didn’t want to fuck it up.”
“He told you that?” I ask.
“Well, when we met at the Castro, that wasn’t a problem. We didn’t even see the movie. He lives across the street from the theater, and we were in his bed for the next three days. And I can tell you this: Whatever you want to say about his size, I was sore on both ends when we quit. I’ve gotten used to it in the last six months. Actually, these six months have been some of the best times in my life.” I’m thinking that might get him to back off. It’s true enough, anyway.
Jonbob says, “And he’s the top, right? I mean, you’re a pretty obvious bottom.”
“If you already know, you don’t need to ask. If you need to ask, you have to ask him.”
“He told you not to tell me anything?”
“Nope. I just won’t.”
“Did he tell you about me?” I nod. “Did he say how I topped him?” I shake my head.
This gets him set to spin out a story. Fine by me, because he won’t be trying to rape me while he’s so intent on bragging.
“Well, it was the summer before he went down to State. I was only twenty-five myself, but I’d been around the block a few times, and he hadn’t done nothin’ with nobody. I was working here at the ranch, so I got to cop a feel every so often, trying to tune him up. I can be real nice, you know? And eventually I got him into the sack one night, at my little place, a couple miles from here. He was so scared of my monster here, so I took it real slow, but it hurt no matter how slow I did it. But here’s the thing: The whole time he was screaming at me to stop, he had this stiffy on and, believe me, he might not be big but you know he is hard. So I tell him straight up that as long as he’s hard I’m not going to listen to his complaining ’cause I know I’m giving him what he wants.”
He has this wicked chuckle saying that. “That’s not the main point, though. He actually cums just from my fucking him. He’s there on his back, and I’m standing on the side of the bed, holding his ankles and putting it to him, and all of a sudden this solid ball of jizz comes shooting out of him. It gets maybe two feet up before coming down splat. Fantastic! If only I could have filmed it, it would have been the best money shot I’ve ever seen. I’ll bet you never saw that, huh?”
All his money shots with me have been buried in my body. I’m about to tell him that, but he’s already back at work trying to loosen me up, with more and more of his body next to mine or on it, there on the steps.
I’m beginning to think I may have to do what Charlie said, but then the cavalry rides in. Charlie himself is driving madly back to the cabin from the main house just over the hill to the west. He slams on the brakes and leaves this awful cloud of dust. He doesn’t even say hello to Jonbob, just tells me, “Let’s get our stuff, we’re leaving!”
We’ve driven all this distance to northern New Mexico just for the meeting, so I know I’m giving him a puzzled look. He shouts, “I’ve been cut out! I don’t get anything from the ranch, not even this fucking cabin!”
Jonbob jumps in. “Whoa! How come? You worked on the ranch more than anyone!”
“The will says I have to be married. Legally. You shoulda seen the smug looks on their fucking faces when they told me that! Damn them!”
Jonbob says, “So, if you’re married, then what?”
“Then I get half the ranch, sell it to the rest of the family and go back to San Francisco with enough to live on, never have to drive the fucking cab again.”
“So, Charlie, get married! It’s 2014 for chrissakes!”
Charlie is nonplussed; it’s up to me to make it all clear. I get down on one knee, take his hand, and say it. “Charles Amador Sanderson, will you marry me?”
Charlie doesn’t know how to react. Jonbob says, “Say ‘yes,’ dummy! You do love him, don’t you?”
“Well, yeah, of course, I love him more than …..” Then he pulls me up and says, “Yes, I will marry you. Hell yes, I’ll marry you!”
He gives me a quick kiss, and then I ask, “Do we need to do it now? I mean, for the will?”
Charlie says, “Yes, we need to do it now. For me, damn it! Let’s go to Albuquerque right now.”
Jonbob says, “I know someone in Santa Fe, and the clerk there, too. It’s closer.”
Charlie laughs. “Of course you do! Is there anyone you don’t know?”
But anyway that’s what we do. Jonbob comes along to be a witness. And he doesn’t say a word when Charlie tells him not to tell any stories on the way. But just to pound the message in, Charlie says, to me, “He told you about our first time, right?” I nod ‘yes.’ He says, “but he didn’t say anything about our other times, did he?” I shake my head. “Do you want to know why?”
Jonbob says, “There weren’t none.”
Charlie says, “There weren’t any, Jonbob. I learned everything I needed to know from you that first night. Everything else was on my own. Oh, yeah, and this guy here,” he adds, putting his hand on my shoulder.
Jonbob says, “So, you guys, do you..?”
“Watch it!” Charlie says.
“I just wanted to know if you do the S-and-M stuff…”
Charlie puts his hand on my shoulder again. “Go ahead.”
“The answer is ‘no,'” I say. “Not even once.”
“So, Charlie, you still do it for hire, though, right?”
“Jeez, Jonbob, can’t you keep your mouth shut about anything? And the answer is ‘no,’ again. I stopped two weeks after we met.”
“So what are you living on?”
Charlie says, “I drive that Uber and Lyft. A lot. I don’t like it much, it takes too much time, but I don’t want to do the ‘dom’ thing anymore.”
I pipe up. “But you still like leather.”
“Yeah, to wear. That’s it.”
Jonbob says, “So all that gear in your closet, the hoods and manacles — it’s going to waste?”
“You want it, Jonbob? It’s yours. I was going to sell it, but I won’t have to if your clerk friend gives us what we need.”
I ask, “Jonbob, how do you know so much?”
He laughs. “I used to be his ‘assistant top’ when I was in town visiting. I’d have nothing on but a mask and my big dick. When Charlie was through, he’d tell the guy that I’d take over. No one complained, either… So you’ll really give me all the cuffs and floggers and stuff?”
“Bud, you got ’em!”
The clerk’s office is closed by the time we get there, but Jonbob navigates us to the clerk’s house, and then over to a rabbi, who is more than happy to help us out; the rabbi’s husband is the other witness. By nine o’clock we are back at the ranch with the marriage certificate. Charlie insists on bringing both of us in to confront the family, who are just about to retire for the night.
“I’m married. It says so, right here.” I’m amazed at how calmly Charlie says it. “How much are you going to give me for my rights?”
No one says anything. For a moment, no one moves. Then two of the brothers jump in. They’re his ‘little’ brothers but both are taller than he is, and they look ready to fight.
“That’s not what Dad meant! You’re perverting his will! This ain’t no marriage, it’s just a piece of paper! If this was Arizona or Texas, you couldn’t be putting on this show.”
Suddenly, one of the brothers shouts something unintelligible and jumps me, trying to punch me in the face. Jonbob gets in, pushes me out of the way, and decks the brother. By the time the brother is back on his feet, both Jonbob and Charlie have their sleeves rolled up and their arms coiled, ready for more action. The brothers both step back but keep yelling at us. They call me a golddigging faggot.
Suddenly Charlie’s Mama comes down the steps, in her nightgown. “What the heck is going on here in my house?”
The brother who tried to jump me says, “They’ve got this phony marriage paper; they want to steal the ranch!”
Mama comes over to Charlie and me and reads the marriage certificate. She sees Jonbob’s witness signature and says, “Well, Jonbob, you have done me a favor, this time at least!”
She asks me, “Do you love my boy?”
I can’t answer. This is the first time I’ve had the chance to declare it openly, and I flub it. I know I must have an ear-to-ear grin on, and that seems to be enough for Mama, who chuckles.
“And I know how much he thinks of you. He mentioned you three times over the phone in the last few months, and you know how little talking he does.”
The other brother, the one who didn’t jump me, shouts, “Mama, this isn’t what Daddy meant in the will. He meant a real marriage!”
I’m about to object, my first words in the house, but Mama says, “No, Darrell, you’re wrong. What Charlie Senior wanted was for Charlie Junior here to settle down, to stop running around so much. And he’s done it, he’s settled down!”
Darrell says, “I don’t like it. I don’t even want him on the ranch! I…”
Mama cuts in, “Stop it! Now!! I wish he would stay, if you want to know what I think, which I think you don’t but I’ll tell you anyway. I can’t blame him for going off to the City with the way you-all treat him, but the ranch never ran better than when he was here.”
Then she turns to us and asks, “Are you sure you wouldn’t want to stick around, Son? You’ve put in a lot of years. It’s a big investment of time, isn’t it?”
The brothers seem to be really worried about the possibility, fidgeting in their corner, but Charlie says, softly, “No, Mama. I love you, and I love this ranch, but no.”
Darrelll puts in, “So you’re gonna want our money, aren’cha!”
“Well, yes, I want something to live on. It doesn’t have to be all at once, but I want my share. In cash.”
The brothers start squealing about this, so Mama says, “Didn’t I say stop it? You were so anxious to see the will carried out right and proper when you could take his share, and now you’re not so righteous, are you?”
Mama tells everyone to be back and available for ‘settling up’ tomorrow at ten in the morning.
We turn to leave, but Darrell shouts at us, “Don’t think this is over! We’ll sue you!”
Mama, who was going upstairs, turns back around. “Darrell, the ranch’s attorney is the best in this part of the state. And he’s gay, Darrell. You wanna sue, you just go right ahead, Son. But it’ll be your money and you won’t win.”
Darrell is still angry, but something is different. He turns toward us, but it’s only to push past us and run out the door. From outside, he calls the other brother. “Jimmy, are you comin’ or not!” So Jimmy leaves too, and then we hear a car driving away.
Charlie asks, “Where are they going? Do they have a place here?”
“No, Charlie Junior, they live down in Santa Fe. I don’t think they’re coming back. At all. Which means I hope even more to see you stay.”
Charlie goes up to her and they embrace, with some tears I think. “I’m sorry, Mama.”
We drive back to the cabin and Jonbob gets out. He shakes my hand through the open window, then goes around to Charlie’s side and shakes his hand, too. They whisper something together; it almost sounds like an argument, but all I hear is Charlie saying, “Sorry, bud.” Then Jonbob goes off in his truck and the two of us are alone.
Inside the cabin, the fire has burned down but the building is still warm. Charlie adds some small wood pieces, then he is out of his clothes immediately, and I get the hint and do the same. But for once I grab the initiative. I make sure I get to kiss this man before he clicks into take-charge mode.
It’s a good kiss, a long kiss, with my teeth on his lip, and then his on mine, and tongue everywhere. When I pull away, I can feel he is very hard. I get to my knees immediately and attack him, my hands on his hips. His size lets me keep him in my mouth and throat quite a while. When I come up for air, I say, “We’re a good fit, aren’t we?”
He can’t find words, so he pulls me up into a bear hug that lasts — I don’t even know how long — and then he leads me to our marriage bed.