Okay, all right … A whole lot of folks got depressed by The Drape Man and now I’m getting requests for something a little more… romantic.
In an earlier post I mentioned a short story I wrote called Me And Shea. It’s included in a short fiction anthology published by Alyson Books titled Best Gay Love Stories 2009. It takes place in Brevard County, Florida. Me And Shea is a story about two young men: Alex, 24, a carpenter who has given up on love, and Shea, a nineteen-year-old surfer. Alex lives alone in a duplex apartment, and when Shea moves into the unit next door the two become friends. Both have suffered tragedies in their lives, but Shea seems to have recovered from his loss. Can Alex overcome his grief and find room for love in his heart? Can Shea help him do this?
Here’s an excerpt:
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“Moving in?” I asked.
He nodded, green eyes staring into mine. Stubble dusted his chin and jaw.
I jerked a thumb. “I’m Alex; I live next door.”
He told me his name was Shea and we shook hands. His voice had a teenager’s rasp.
I hoisted the twelve-pack. “Care for one?”
“Thanks, but I don’t drink alcohol.”
I squinted. A surfer who doesn’t like beer?
He must have noticed my expression. “If I want to get high I smoke weed (youthspeak for marijuana). Hangovers hurt my performance.”
He pointed to his board. “On the waves.”
I glanced at his upper body. His chest was defined, his shoulder muscles bulged and his belly was flat — a competition surfer’s physique. Of course, I thought. When a Florida kid decides he’ll make a living shredding waves, he comes to Brevard County to train at its many breaks: The Pier, Sebastian Inlet, Jetty Park, RCs and Second Light.
When I asked if he was in school he nodded. “I start community college next week.”
Hours later, when I watched TV, Shea knocked on my door. He clutched a manual can opener, one like my grandma owned when I was little. He asked, “Do you know how to operate this?”
I stifled a grin and followed him to his apartment. A can of ravioli, another of green peas, sat upon his kitchen counter. I demonstrated with the former, showing Shane how to position the opener’s cutting blade on the lip of the can, how to squeeze the two handles, then twist the knob. The device was ornery and it took me a while to do the job.
While Shea struggled with the peas, I looked around. His place was just like mine: terrazzo floor, block walls, maple kitchen cabinets and Formica counter tops. In the living area were a bean bag chair, a portable TV atop a crate, shelving constructed from plywood and concrete blocks. No drapes or blinds, nothing hung on the walls. A laptop computer, a drinking glass, and a stack of surfing magazines rested upon a card table, one with two folding chairs facing it.
Shea grimaced while he battled the can of peas. “You live alone?”
I nodded. “My wife and I split a few years ago.”
He wrenched his lips. “That happens a lot, doesn’t it?”
“Divorce. Love doesn’t always last between people.”
I didn’t respond.
After succeeding with the opener, Shea dumped the peas into one saucepan, the ravioli into another. He placed both on stove burners, then set the temperature dials on “high”. Leaning against his refrigerator, he crossed his arms and looked at me. “You ever surf?”
“In high school, but not since. I work six-day weeks. By Sunday I’m too tired for paddling.”
Shea asked about my job.
“I do carpentry — framing mostly. A little trim work as well.”
“How old are you?”
I told him I was twenty-four.
His gaze slid over me like a clothes iron pressing a shirt. “You’ve got a nice build — strong shoulders. I’ll bet you’d do fine on the water.”
His remark embarrassed me and I looked at my feet.
“How come you’re blushing?” Shea said.
Glancing up, I said, “I’m not used to getting compliments.”
He shrugged and didn’t say anything.
A hissing sound came from the stove and the odor of singed pasta scented the kitchen. Burners beneath Shea’s saucepans glowed bright orange and his peas were boiling over. He lurched across the room, grabbing the pans by their handles, only to drop them with a clatter and a curse. He flapped his hands, wincing, while I used a dishtowel as a hot pad, transporting his food to coils not in use.
After lowering his temperature dials to from high to simmer, I asked Shea if he’d hurt himself.
He glanced into his palms. “A little, yeah.”
I kept an aloe plant in my kitchen and I went next door and broke off a leaf, then I brought it to Shea. While he squeezed juice onto his fingers, I told him, “Invest in a potholder, and don’t heat food on `high’; you’ll only scorch it.”
He nodded, giving me a shy smile. “It’s my first time keeping house.”
“Your mom didn’t teach you how to cook?”
He shook his head. “She left when I was seven.”
“I’m sorry, I . . .”
He said it was OK. Then he dropped his gaze, rubbing his belly, and I sensed he felt ashamed by his mother’s absence from his life.
“Look,” I said, “I’m no whiz in the kitchen, but I know a few things. If you’ve got questions, about cooking or anything else, just ask.”
He looked at me and smiled and light from the ceiling fixture reflected in his teeth. “Thanks, Alex. I’ll do that.”
Copyright Martin Delacroix 2009
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Here’s a link to the Alyson Books website where you can buy Best Gay Love Stories 2009:
It’s another beautiful day in Berlin, sunny and cool. The high today will reach 72 degrees F. Perfect!