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Authors: Tom Mendicino

Travelin' Man

BOOK: Travelin' Man
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Praise for Tom Mendicino's debut novel, PROBATION
“Thoughtful, textured, and poignant . . . an exciting
impressive debut. Written in an honest voice that's both
dully depressed and acutely, emotionally observant, the
prose is compellingly painful yet frequently funny, as well.
There are many moments of lyrical beauty, plus enough
cinematic twists and turns to keep readers anxiously racing
through the chapters (though they are best when savored).
Time Out New York
“A potent debut.”
—Publishers Weekly
“Achingly honest.”
—Vestal McIntryre, author of
Lake Overturn
Books by Tom Mendicino
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Travelin' Man
Tom Mendicino
Kensington Publishing Corp.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Gratitude to Mitchell Waters who suggested I check in with KC again, and to John Scognamiglio who agreed.
Except a man be born again, he cannot
see the kingdom of God.
—John 3:3
Travelin' Man
“Come on, honey. You gonna make me get down off this stage and drag your pretty little ass up here?”
Even after three Jack and Cokes, he knows this isn't a good idea. He shouldn't even be here. He ought to be home, in bed, sound asleep. He's gonna wake up in the morning, just like the last time, and the time before that, and swear he'll never do it again, that he's done with
all that.
It's always easier to keep to the straight and narrow when the team is on the road, when he's without his wheels, and he's stuck bunking with three or four teammates in a crummy Days Inn where the rooms are so small they can't escape the stink of each other's craps. They pass the time playing Texas Hold 'em and sharing a few buckets of KFC and a couple of sixes of cheap local beer. It gets monotonous, living out of a duffel bag, but at least there aren't any opportunities to get into trouble.
But back here in Spokane, in the cramped, two-bedroom monthly lease he shares with two roommates, he gets antsy, bored with television and
Call of Duty.
Tecchio, the older of the two, has been kicking around the minor leagues for years and is at the end of the line; he's practically shacked up with the dental hygienist he's thinking of settling down with after the season. And Rodriquez is only eighteen, a few months out of high school, and homesick. He travels eighty miles to spend the night at his mama's house whenever he can. KC doesn't really like Tecchio's company. But he's happy enough to hang out with Rodriquez, watching idiots eat earthworms on stupid reality shows and ordering pizza. KC's afraid to be on his own, with too much time on his hands and the freedom to disappear for hours on end with no one to question his comings and goings. He'd tried running with the wilder boys on the team, prowling the local titty bars, getting soaking drunk, and ending the night at Asian massage parlors. But he'd ended up paying the girl a hundred bucks for her silence, knowing he'd never live it down if his teammates knew he couldn't get hard. So he stays at the apartment, alone most nights, with the lights turned off, watching the Mariners play on cable and listening to his Pop-Pop's old vinyl records on his turntable.
He calls California every night to check in with Coach Freeman. They talk about the day's game and Coach gives him an inspirational pep talk and a few Bible verses, then leads him in a prayer. KC listens quietly and promises to avoid temptation, to have faith in the Lord, Our Father, and to call if he's feeling sad and troubled, no matter the hour of the day or night. He tries falling asleep, reciting the words to the prayers the Freemans have taught him. But it's hard to concentrate. His mind is on other things, things a true Christian man would never think about. Sometimes, he'll try jacking off in the bathroom which only makes him hornier, so he'll reach for his iPhone, exchanging messages with strangers on Scruff and Grindr. Or if he's too impatient to wait for the slow drivel of essential information—
—he'll grab his jeans and his boots and run off seeking heat and noise, music and people, dancing and drinking, somewhere to lose himself in a crush of sweating bodies, everyone drunk and high and happy.
“Are you bashful, handsome?”
The voice is mocking, playing to an appreciative crowd that loves nothing better than watching a strapping looker like KC, a young man attainable only in their boldest fantasies, being taunted, nudged just to the brink of humiliation, by a scrawny, raspy-voiced transsexual named Darlene Duncan wearing a garish dress and stiletto heels. KC's up for the challenge and, tossing back a fourth Jack and Coke, climbs up onto the stage. He ignores the nagging voice in the back of his head warning him tomorrow morning is only a few hours away. He'll wake up with a throbbing headache and sunlight will feel like a hot iron pressed against his eyes. Somehow he'll manage. He'll make to it the ballpark and after he laces up his cleats, he'll be the Mighty KC again, shrugging off last night's excesses as easily as swatting away a mosquito.
“Cat got your tongue? Come on stud, stand up straight and let everyone take a good look at you.”
Darlene struts across the stage, coyly brushing her body against KC's, letting her manicured talons settle on his crotch, giving his cock a gentle squeeze.
“Oh my!” she sneers. “Maybe you're not so shy after all! What's your name, big boy?”
KC leans forward and squints into the stage lights, searching for any familiar faces in the rowdy room. It's cool. No one he knows in Spokane has paid a ten-dollar cover to see this show. None of his teammates on the Chiefs would be caught dead in this place. He mumbles into the mike.
“Speak up, baby. Ricky, he tells me,” she informs the audience. “This pretty little thing's name is Ricky.”
All eyes are on him. One squat drunk troll rips open his shirt and bares his man boobs, wagging his tongue lasciviously.
“Come on, Little Ricky, don't keep your adoring public waiting,” she urges him, apparently needing to pick up the pace of the contest.
It's fun, basking in the cheers. It's not all that different from the frenzy whenever he makes solid contact with a ninety-three mile an hour fastball or slides feet-first into home plate. He pulls his brand new red polo, its bright color still unfaded by detergent and the heat of the dryer, over his head. He feels their eyes roving his smooth, taut belly, following the faint wisp of black hair that snakes around his navel. Someone hands him a beer and he tips it into his mouth, chugging it in a single swallow. He takes a deep breath when he finishes. He feels light-headed, truly, deeply drunk. He thrusts his arms in the air, Rocky-style, and bends at the waist, drawing appreciative catcalls as he flexes his biceps. His pecs and abdomen are truly a wonder to admire. He's too swept up in waves of appreciation to notice that Darlene is annoyed by losing control of her audience, irritated at being upstaged by an amateur.
“Settle down, cowboy,” she snarls. “Those go, too,” she insists, pointing at KC's feet.
Darlene seems disappointed he doesn't take a drunken tumble, but KC is forever graceful, even in a state of advanced intoxication. He reaches down and pulls off his boots and his socks, balancing himself on a single foot without effort.
“Take your pants off now,” Darlene says, barely concealing her contempt, eager to move on to the next, presumably more malleable, contestant in the Club Odyssey Wet Briefs competition. But tonight KC is a showman, flirting with his fans, showily unbuckling his belt, teasing them as he plays with his zipper, making them beg for more as he slowly reveals the hard muscles of his legs.
“Looks like we're blessed with a professional Chippendale tonight,” Darlene says into the microphone, her voice dripping with sarcasm as she pushes KC towards a small plastic wading pool at the center of the stage. “Go on. Get in there. You're not going to melt.”
KC slaps his bare feet in the shallow water. He knows the entire room is staring at his crotch. His fans are getting restless. A few of them shout for him to take it off, begging for at least a peek. He hooks his thumb under the elastic waistband and slowly pulls his briefs away from his skin, teasing them with the promise of a glimpse of the fat dick cradled in his underpants. Darlene slaps his hand hard, the cruel edge of her voice making it clear she's not fucking around.
“Don't even think about it, asshole. I don't need the fucking cops in here threatening my license.”
The crowd turns on her, booing and hissing her surprising Puritanical streak.
“Fuck you all,” she bellows, her voice full of fake cheer, trying to salvage the situation. “I have a better way to show you what Little Ricky's packing.”
Darlene grabs a huge plastic Super Soaker and strikes a commando pose, taking aim at KC's Jockeys. The water is shockingly frigid, as if she were punishing KC for stealing the show. The wet cotton clings to his skin and he feels his penis shrinking, retreating into the safety of his body. The cold water trickles down his thighs, sending goose bumps up and down his legs.
“Turn around now Cowboy. It's time for us to all get a good look at that tight little butt.”
His impressively toned glutes and the well-defined crack of his ass are a big hit with his appreciative audience.
“Thank you Little Ricky. You can step out of the pool and let us all get a good look at our next contestant.”
Darlene flashes him a look of pure malevolence. He's having fun and doesn't understand why she won't play along. Impulsively, he grabs her by the hips and starts dry humping, pantomiming a good butt fucking. The crowd roars, nearly tearing off the roof. The sharp point of her elbow finds its target. The pain in his groin is excruciating, worse than a kick in the balls. She spins on her heels and smashes his nose with the microphone, then grabs him around the neck and throws her legs around his waist, sinking her teeth into KC's cheek. It drops him to his knees. Enraged, a fierce, primal sound coming from his throat, his hands find her throat and he squeezes the breath from her puny body, slamming her head against the stage, sending her blonde wig sailing into the audience. She struggles, her long nails seeking his eyes, trying to blind him.
It's all a fucking blur from that point forward. He feels the firm grip of hands on his shoulders and the strength of three, maybe four, men prying him off the screaming drag queen. A fierce-looking dyke dives at Darlene, restraining her in a headlock. Someone is screaming
find his fucking clothes, get him the fuck out of here.
He hears a distant siren and more loud voices shouting. A few drunks are still laughing, urging KC to kill her,
kill that fucking cunt.
The cops arrive, seeming almost bored at being called to break up another catfight between a couple of fucking fairies. The younger officer, a boy with smooth, hairless cheeks, says he thinks KC's nose is broken and he needs to go to the emergency room. An older cop, clearly in charge, asks if anyone is pressing charges. KC shakes his head no, but Darlene is screaming like a banshee, insisting
that motherfucking faggot tried to kill me. I'm pressing charges.
“Okay ladies, let's go,” the older cop says, telling his partner to cuff the two of them and toss them into the patrol car. “Tell them to be nice to each other. To kiss and make up,” he says sarcastically. A bitch match in a queer bar is lower on his priorities than even a domestic disturbance. The other cop, blonde and baby-faced, is polite to KC, almost gently leading him to the patrol car. Their eyes make contact and KC realizes he's been recognized. The young officer feels bad for the tall, broad-shouldered, handsome All-American Boy. He can't return KC's fake ID with a date of birth that would make him twenty-three, but assures him he'll see it gets “lost” before his belligerent older partner discovers it. He tells KC, who is quietly crying, not to worry, that he doubts he'll actually get booked. The nasty little drag queen, unfazed by her circumstances, is assessing the state of her makeup in her reflection in the window, muttering obscenities under her breath because the fucking cops won't let her smoke.
“I seen worse. No point in getting an x-ray. I seen enough broken noses to know you got one. They ain't gonna try to set that whopper 'til the swelling's gone down. It's gonna be two weeks before they'll touch it.”
The Spokane Chiefs are vital contributors to the local economy and a source of municipal pride. Generations of drunken minor league ball players have been hauled to the police station in the back of a patrol car. Discreet calls are made and a club official drags his ass out of bed in the middle of the night to take custody of the latest bad boy to run afoul of the law. None of them ever get booked. Rumor has it that last year's National League MVP once struck a young man on a bicycle while driving under the influence in Spokane during his minor league career. The team paid off the family and the story never made the newspaper. Alan Chandler, the team's athletic trainer, has spent his entire adult life working in the low levels of professional ball and he thought he'd seen it all until tonight. None of his boys has ever been picked up in a queer bar.
The baby-faced cop offers KC a can of Coke. Mr. Chandler asks if the officer can bring him towels—paper will do if he can't find cloth ones. Just make sure they're clean. And bring ice. Plenty of ice. At least five or six paper cups filled with ice.
“You're a real bleeder son,” Mr. Chandler says. His voice is gentler now, almost paternal. “This is gonna hurt like hell.”
“I know.”
“It's the only way to stop the bleedin'. Don't start squirming,” the older man says as he places his fingertips on KC's nose and pinches.
KC nearly passes out from the pain and he's sure he's gonna vomit, but he manages to keep from spewing a belly full of beer and Jack Daniel's all over the station floor.
“You gotta breathe through your mouth, KC,” Mr. Chandler cautions when, after what feels like an eternity to KC, he finally stops the flow of blood from the boy's nostrils. “Don't blow into your hankie, and, whatever you do, don't stick your finger up there when it starts to itch. Keep this ice pressed up against your nose as long as you can. Don't worry. I think you're gonna be even prettier than you was before,” he teases. “Now stand up real slow now. You're gonna feel real lightheaded when you get up.”
Mr. Chandler thanks the young officer for his help. KC turns away when the cop tries to shake his hand as they leave, unable to look him in the eye.
“KC, this young man is being polite to you. He's treated you better than you deserve and this is how you thank him?”
KC, abashed and almost paralyzed by shame, offers his hand and expresses his gratitude.
BOOK: Travelin' Man
2.32Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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