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    lomax61
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Hooking Trout - 7. Marisse and June

Trout is summoned to June and Marisse's apartment.

There are two members of the opposite sex I trust unconditionally in my life, Grandma Beth and June. Had she still been alive, my birth mother may have been my chief confidante—I'll never know—but now, and in light of Grandma's failing health, June has become my bedrock.

This is why without a second thought, I am happy to accept a summons to her and Marisse's fifth floor, no elevator, tawdry Queens apartment on a Sunday afternoon. Amanda is away for the weekend visiting her family. Thankfully, she decided it's too early for me to join her to announce our 'engagement,' so she's meeting them on her own to introduce the notion of me into a conversation.

As a rule, being summoned to my stepsister's place would usually entail manual labor, putting up pictures, moving bookcases, fixing electrical appliances, or some plumbing emergency. Despite breaking the stereotypical norm of the gay man, I am their maintenance man, manual skills picked up from working alongside my late grandfather at Cedarwood. June calls their own atypical variety of lesbianism 'Sappho-Academia' to explain away their complete lack of any practical or domestic skills.

As soon as they announce the real reason for the summoning, I struggle to rise from the slippery depths of their olive green bean bag of smooth worn leather and eventually content myself with a silent smolder.

Sitting the other side of their knee-high coffee table, June and Marisse couldn't be more different. Marisse is proud of her Bulgarian roots. Large framed with short black hair and a penchant for colorful shoulder scarves, she is as stiff, stylish, and unsmiling as a Russian Doll. Not that she is unattractive. Grandma Beth deems her handsome, an adjective I had always thought exclusive to men. Perhaps it has something to do with her thick mono-brow, square chin, and a hint of a mustache. June, by contrast, glows with the same physical attributes as her mother, my stepmom Helen, more evident with each passing year, the same carefree beauty and statuesque figure that helped ensnare my father. Slender, elegant, and poised, June could make a garbage sack look chic.

"Fidelity clause?" I repeat, with as much venom as I can muster. "Are you fucking serious? A prenup that includes an engagement period fidelity clause? Never heard of such a thing. Whose idea was this? Oh, let me guess? Little ms wannabe family law attorney."

"See. I told you." Marisse huffs and then glares out of the window at nothing in particular. "He never listens. I don't know why you bother."

"Look, Trout." June ignores her and continues on. I get the impression that words have been spoken before my arrival. "Now she's moved in with you, we need to make sure this fake union is not only watertight but role model standard, so to speak. And we heard Mandy's a bit of a player, like a female version of you, happy to spread the love, so to speak. So we need to take precautions."

"We? Since when has this become about you?"

"Since Garrison stuck his fat nose in. I'm serious, Trout, we need to make sure we don't give him anything he can use against the two of you," she says, raising her voice, her hatred for my cousin plain. "Marisse is drafting a prenup agreement with the help of her college professor. And she'll include the fidelity clause. Get you both to sign at the engagement party I'm sure you're already planning. That way, both of you are kept on a tight rein until you've tied the knot."

"I made sure to include his middle name," says Marisse, finally turning my way, missing no opportunity to make me out to be a flake. "Funny, if he had one, I thought it might be something like Wimp, Diaper, or Teflon, not--"

"Leslie," June and I reply in unison. I shudder at a name I have spent my life trying to hide or forget. I notice the smirk of pleasure on Marisse's face, but don't give her the benefit of reacting. June, on the other hand, breathes out a weary sigh.

"I would have preferred to hitch you up with somebody else, baby brother. An unknown."

"You don't like Amanda?"

She doesn't. Moreover, she's not good at hiding her true feelings.

"I—it's not that. Mandy seems—I can't put my finger on it—too familiar, too good to be true? Does that make sense?"

"Not at all. And if she's pretending to be my fiancée, isn't she supposed to be familiar?"

"You going to tell him about putting him online?"

"Marisse!"

"You did what? What is she talking about?"

June takes a deep breath and then a bracing gulp of her chamomile before responding.

"Back in July, when you first stumbled into this whole getting married thing, Marisse and I—"

"I had nothing to do with it!"

"Marisse helped me find a dating website, and I got you an online profile. You've been out in the world of virtual reality. And you already took twenty-three hits. Look."

She hands me a small stack of printed profiles. They look like job résumés with an array of information except that up close the ink is so faded they're almost illegible. The pointillist photos on them are like antique cameo portraits by Seurat.

"Did you know they have a thing called laser printers now, and they are not even expensive? Why do you still have this antique ink-dot nineties throwback?"

"Marisse got the piece of junk from college. They were tossing a whole load of them out. And don't change the subject. I'm surprised you didn't approach your friend Tommy about these internet dating sites," says June, as I squint at one particular page. "Lots of single ladies out there; professional, eligible—desperate. A good match for what we need."

"Tommy uses Growlr and Grindr. Not much help, I'm guessing. If Doug is to be believed, rather than dinner, small talk, and future possibilities, Tommy prefers a six-pack of beer, a bag of Doritos, mutual webcams, and handy-to-reach paper tissues, if you know what I mean."

"Eeww, disgusting," says Marisse.

"But apparently safe and satisfying," I counter. Somewhat ominously—probably at Stew’s bidding—after the party, Doug had texted me a link to some app called i-Soulmate aimed at single guys seeking longterm relationships. In a rare, lucid moment, I texted him back to say that when it comes to longterm, I'm better off with i-Suck.

Seconds later, he sent me a link to that one, too.

“Do you think it’s going to work out with her? Mandy?" asks June, and even if we hadn't all met up at one point, I sense the dislike from the grating way she says her name.

"Why are you asking?"

"Because, Trout, don't you think we should spread the net wider? Or at least have a back-up plan. For when—I mean—if things don't work out with her."

Clearly, June doesn't want things to work out. So I need to placate her. Putting on my best storytelling voice, I recount meeting her girlfriends and the night out with her boss at the French restaurant. Both instances may have had their challenges, but Amanda played her part beautifully each time. Even though Marisse sits unsmiling with her arms crossed the whole time, June giggles at some of my antics. Once I finish, June peers over at Marisse.

"What do you think, Riss?"

"She'll have to do. At least he's found someone who can stomach him for more than a night," adds Marisse. "But a back-up is a good plan. I worry how long she'll last before he fucks something up. Forget relationships with women, I bet he doesn't even know what men want.”

Enough already.

"Don't know what men want? Are you kidding me with this? I've had more men than all my friends, male and female, combined. I've known what men want since I hit puberty."

"It's not a competition, Trout."

"Maybe that's why so many of them stick around," says Marisse, an aside to June.

"What would you know," I raise my voice now, taking the bait, this time facing Marisse. "You screw your face up at anyone with a dick. And for your information, I have not only done the deed with several of the best looking jocks in high school, but I've also been best friends with some of the best looking girls."

"He has," says June, nodding to Marisse. "Most of the yearbook hung out with him. Jennifer Loveridge, Melanie Salthorne, Priscilla Brownlow, Constance Willoughby. And who was that barbie you took to the prom?"

"Cynthia Baines," I say, with a certain amount of smug satisfaction. "Should have been Eric DeMonterey, but he chickened out. Cynthia went on to become runner up Miss Millsburgh Mall in '94."

"Awesome. And how are Cynthia and Eric doing these days?" Marisse responds calmly.

"How the fuck would I know?" I say, my grin slipping.

"What Marisse is trying to say," says June, "in her less than subtle way, is the word 'relationship' is clearly missing from your vocabulary. You're not in high school anymore. At your age people want different—"

"I've had boyfriends June. Believe it or not, I still have charm. Jimmy Kowalski! Yeah, last year, Jimmy and I dated for almost three months."

"And out of the almost three months, how often did you hang out with him?" asks Marisse.

"Dunno. Once a month, I guess," I reply, feeling a sudden defensiveness. "Sometimes, twice. What of it?"

"That's not a relationship, that's a guest appearance."

"Here," says June, wrenching a sheet from the middle of the pile and slapping the page with the back of her hand. "I went through them a while back. This one thinks you sound hot. Andi. She's chased you for a reply four times, so she's clearly keen. And she has similar interests."

"Let's pray she has a guide dog," murmurs Marisse, leaning back now with disinterest.

"I can barely read a thing," I say, after holding the page a few inches from my face.

"Marisse, did you change the ink cartridge?" asks June.

"So that's my job now?" says Marisse, ruffled from her composure.

"I'm not the one who needs a printer for her law thesis," says June. Without looking at Marisse, she stands, glides around the table, and crouches next to me. "Blond, one ten—I think that is—pounds, five-eight, a Patriots fan. And drinks beer."

"Patriots, huh? Nobody's perfect, I guess. So what? No photo?"

"Some of them don't."

"Did you…?" I ask, after a gasp, looking up in horror.

"Relax. I didn't have one of you past graduation."

As I am studying the page, trying to decipher the words, to join the dots, something comes together and jumps out at me.

"Hold the headlines. It says here, adores pets of all kind, loves nothing more than a homecooked meal, a nice bottle of Chianti, and an evening curled in front of a blazing fire with someone special. No strong political leanings but believes Tibet should be free. This woman is a Hallmark Card."

"That's you," says June.

"What?"

"The description you're reading is yours."

"You wrote that I adore pets? You used the word adore? I thought you were trying for straight. "

"We thought he'd be more pissed about Free Tibet," chips in Marisse, with a smug grin. "My contribution."

"I assumed Tibet was some brand of recreational drug," I reply, keeping my attention fixed on June.

"C'mon Trout, we're trying to help," says June. "Why do you think we're on your case? If not for Doug pushing you to attend the speed-dating, nothing would have happened."

"Of course it would. Just maybe not so fast."

"Wake up! This is not just about you; this is about Cedarwood!" says June. "Not just any place. Cedarwood. You heard what Uncle Bob said. Do you want to see that ass-wipe son of his get his greasy paws on our beautiful house? All those vacations and memories, all your hard work helping grandpa get the place patched up. Do you really want that?"

June knows my Achilles heel. From the age of ten, she and I spent most summers at my grandparent's Hamptons country house, afternoons playing on the deck or splashing around in the pool, evenings with the whole family taking walks along the beach, waking to the smell of Grandma Beth's trademark banana pancakes. And I loved nothing better than helping grandpa fix up the place, nailing paintings to the wall while he explained about the life and works of the artists, inventing names for each of the bedrooms, and then crafting wooden plaques in his workshop, and finally fixing them on the doors.

"Don't you think it's your family duty, brother?" she said quietly, leaning over to pat my knee.

"Yeah. I guess so," I say, solemn and chastised.

"Good," she says, standing at last and handing me the page. "Because today we're putting in place back-up plan number one. You're going to meet Andi tonight at seven, Hardy’s Bar, East Village. Just for a chat. She'll bring a copy of your profile."

"What about the prenup with the fidelity clause?"

"If she's still around, you and Mandy can sign and date that when your engagement party takes place. Right now, you're a free agent. Please say you'll go?"

Even as I agree, just to get them off my back, I have the sick feeling I am cheating on Amanda.

How fucked up is my life becoming?

*****

Hardy’s is not somewhere any of my friends would think to frequent, apart from Tommy perhaps, who, if invited, will hike miles for the promise of a free brew. Not that we're against traveling to different parts of town when the mood takes us, even to mixed bars. But this joint is suicidally straight; no jukebox, slots or flatscreen on any of the walls, no music playing and boasts no other distraction other than the original point of establishments such as these: the many and varied forms of alcohol.

The darkened space has floor-to-ceiling pine with huge beveled mirrors filling the walls. Yellow stained paintwork on the once ornate but over-painted ceiling bears testimony to a time before the brutal smoking ban of 2003 that banished nicotine addicts to the cold streets. And I am sure a closer look at the neat sentinel row of wooden stools at the bar would reveal plaques dedicated to Theodore Hickman and Jimmy Tomorrow.

Sunday at six is quiet and empty, and at first, I wonder if the place is closed until I spot a young redhead behind the bar, slowly turning pages of a newspaper laid out on the top. While I stand nervously in the doorway surveying the place, deciding whether to turn and run, she glances up unsmiling and nods. Out of politeness, I step across the threshold. My guess is the place makes the lion's share of its business as a weekday after-work drinking hole.

"What can I get you?" she calls, folding the paper away and giving me her full attention. Even without a smile, she is attractive in a natural, unforced way; minimal make-up, moss green eyes, and slightly wavy red hair that frames a classic beauty and comes to rest on the shoulders of her short-sleeve, open-necked blouse of white silk.

"I'll take a cider," I reply, releasing the door and walking to the bar. Even if the blind date doesn't show, I tell myself, there's no harm having a quick drink. "Quiet today?"

"Sunday," she says in an understandably bored tone, before holding up a glass. "Bottle or glass?"

"Glass," I reply, and then, as she walks away to one of the taps along the bar, decide to brush up on my hetero chat-up technique.

"So, what do I call you?" I ask, smirking the way I see alphas do.

Without taking her attention from the task at hand, she smiles to herself without even a shake of her head. It's a sign I know well, the long-suffering but humoring smile of a woman who has lived through more lines than Macaulay Culkin.

"Long as you're drinking and paying, honey, you can call me whatever you want," she says, and then a little louder, "Taylor, what're ya having?"

At that moment, a deep voice comes from a darkened doorway leading to the washrooms at the far end of the bar.

"Swear to God, woman, you got some kinda psychic hearing," he says, appearing into the room and coming over to sit a couple of stools down from me. Rugged in a Steve McQueen kind of way, he sports vintage jeans, jacket, and white tee, a well-worn Marlborough man look. His face has seen plenty of life and has come out the other side, still undaunted and unfazed. My heart gives a tiny flutter. "Gimme another Bud Lite, will ya? "

"I know every little sound of this place," she says, placing drinks in front of us both and taking the money, just as a shout comes from the back office. "And that one I know the best. 'Scuse me, boys."

"Hey, man," says the dude, nodding to me, winking one of his incredible grey eyes at me. If only good looking straight men knew the effect simple gestures like those had on us poor gay guys. Maybe some of them do. "You finished with the sports page?"

"No. Yes. Sure, go ahead," I say, pushing the paper across to him. "Giants lost again. That's four straight games."

"Yeah, I know," he says. "What the heck's that all about? Where's their concentration these days? If I was their coach, I'd sack the whole damn lot and start again. Just as well I'm not a fan. "

"You a regular?"

"Weeknights. Place is fairly huggin' latter part of the week."

"As opposed to now?"

"Yeah," he laughs. He has a nice laugh. "More life in a hotel mattress."

"Worth a visit weekdays?"

"Not my kinda place. But I hear it's cool, long as you can stand the Armani Army. Wall Street boys who think it's cool to mix with the rednecks. And O'Riordan's has plenty of them, lemme tell ya. But they spend the bucks, so Max is happy to have 'em."

"Still. View's pretty darn good on Sunday," I say, adopting my best straight banter, my gaze drifting to the open doorway.

"Carmen?" he asks, a sidelong glance at me, before leaning in and whispering. "Strictly off-limits, pal. She's Max's little woman, and he ain't a guy who likes to share his toys if you know what I mean. So why you in this part of town? Not much happens here Sunday."

"Meeting someone. A friend," I say, before taking a chug on my beer.

"Yeah? Me too," he says, pulling a scrap of paper from his top pocket and flicking it open. "Well, a hook-up, more like. Some broad called Lesley. You?"

If he notices the color drain from my face, he doesn't say anything. At first, I don't say anything, but then, after a few moments, and rather than ruining his whole night, I decide to fess up.

"Is your first name Andy?"

"Yeah, how'd you—?" Initially, he appears startled, and then light dawns, and he seems crestfallen. "Aw hell, she's not coming, is she? She sent you along—"

"I'm Lesley. Well, at least, that's my middle name. My name's Peter. My stepsister must have gotten the names mixed up."

In truth, I wonder if Marisse had a hand in this little farce. In exasperation, Andy thumps his bottle down and turns his head away, issuing an expletive I can't quite make out.

"Shit, man. Thought I might be getting a little action tonight."

"Really sorry. My sister-in-law printed out your details. I have no idea why your name popped up."

This time, he turns back and lowers his voice even though nobody else is in the bar.

"Well, I go both ways sometimes, if you know what I mean?"

Mid swallow, I start to choke on the drink.

"You're bi?"

"Yep. Occasionally. Doubles your chances of getting laid. But I was really in the mood for the fairer sex tonight, y' know."

"I see," I reply and turn to reassess him again. Very nice. "Shame."

That gets his attention, a small smile tugging at his face.

"Why?" he asks, leaning in again. "You bi, too?"

"Nope."

With that, he leans away from me, takes another slug of his beer.

"I'm one hundred percent gay. Kinsey six."

"Okay," he says, confused, turning back to me. "Run that by me again."

"Never slept with a woman, only ever slept with men."

I have his full attention now.

"So why the hell are you waiting to meet—?"

"A very long story. And if you really want to hear, I might need another drink."

For a long moment, he stares at me before returning his attention to his beer bottle, a sly smile on his lips.

"Or we could get out of here? My place is just around the corner."

This time, it's my turn to smile. Perhaps today won't be a complete waste of time after all.

"Lead the way," I say, drinking up, hopping off the stool, and heading for the exit. Being the perfect gentleman, I open the door for him.

"And for the record," I quip, as he moves past me. "The Giants might be having an offseason, but the Patriots suck balls."

"And I'm hoping you're going to show just how hard they suck."

Oh, boy, I think. Tonight is going to be fun. Can't wait to report back to June and Marisse.

Thanks for reading.

As always, please leave any comments, suggestions, and/or reactions.

Copyright © 2018 lomax61; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Trout seems determined to behave foolishly! But at the same time, Trout has the most unbelievable luck. Somehow, he’ll come out of this whole mess as a winner.

Peter Leslie. No wonder he goes by Trout. Some cultures are more prone to giving each other weird nicknames: upper-class Brits, upper-class New Englanders (in emulation of the Brits), African-Americans, Southerners, Filipinos…
;–)

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There are two members of the opposite sex I trust unconditionally in my life, Grandma Beth and June. Had she still been alive, my birth mother may have been my chief confidante—I'll never know—but now, and in light of Grandma's failing health, June has become my bedrock.

Trout is definitely a mama’s boy, even if his mother is no longer alive.
;–)

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