“What happened? When you came out, I mean?”
“Some friends dropped me. Some didn’t. I got quietly pushed
off the baseball team, even though I was a really good player.” He felt his
lips turn up. “But I didn’t care. My folks had already guessed, so little drama
there, and the boy I liked, liked me back. Oh yeah. He had a fair amount of
experience for a sixteen-year-old, and he spent the summer teaching me what all
my adolescent hormones were for. I didn’t mind at all.” He looked up at Dusty,
who gazed at him with glassy eyes. He slowly wet his lips. Ben cleared his
throat. “Uh, what about you? When did you come out?”
“Oh.” He raised his shoulders and dropped them. “Never, I
guess. I always knew, so I just told people and that was all.”
Ben mimicked Dusty’s words from earlier. “Did you have a
really tough time in high school?”
A look of pain crossed his face. “Not because I was gay,
really.” He sucked a breath. “Back to work?” He pushed away from the counter.
In the bedroom, Dusty grabbed the bucket and carried it out,
returning a couple of minutes later with clean water smelling like vinegar.
Ben wrinkled his nose. “You made a salad?”
“White vinegar’s great for cleaning wood floors. I found a
bottle in your pantry and added a little to the water. You shouldn’t use much
regular chemical stuff on these nice floors.”
“Anything you say.” He flashed his teeth again at Dusty,
turned the music back on, and they went to work.
A few strokes in, Dusty glanced over at Ben and sped up his
mopping. Ben got faster to match Dusty, and then added a little more speed.
Dusty started mopping like crazy, and Ben copied him, stroke
for stroke. Dusty giggled as he wrung out the mop with super speed and went
back to his mad moparama.
Ben gritted his teeth, slopped some water on the floor, and
spread it around at double time.
Dusty yelled, “No fair. You can’t splash water on this
“Okay, okay.” Ben grabbed a cloth and dried the floor as
Dusty got ahead of him in the race to the door. Ben grabbed his mop, wrung it
out, and went into overdrive, swiping like a Mr. Clean fanatic.
Dusty laughed, and Ben laughed with him as they backed
toward the wall, angling toward the door.
Dusty yelled, “I’m winning.”
“Don’t even dream it!”
Adrenaline rushed through Ben as he cleaned his last few
feet of hardwood. His butt hit something hard and soft at the same time that
turned out to be Dusty’s perfect ass. Dusty yelped and spun, thrusting forward
his mop like a rapier. Ben met him and they began to fence with crossed mops, howling
Aluminum handles clanked and beads of water sprayed all over
them as they danced around the room.
“Oh!” Suddenly, Dusty’s foot hit a damp patch, his arms flew
up as his feet slid out from under him, and he pinwheeled backward, arms and
Ben dodged the swinging cleaning device and grabbed Dusty
just before his head hit the wall. Dusty fell forward and landed against Ben’s
chest, throwing him off balance despite the size difference, and the two of
them careened backward like the tree that fell in the forest when no one was
listening. Ben reached out an arm behind him and managed to hurl his body,
still holding Dusty, toward the bed that had been pushed against the wall.
His butt hit the mattress, legs still flailing, but he
managed to keep Dusty from landing on the floor by hauling him against his
“Whoa! Holy crap, that was close.”
When Ben realized they were both okay, he started to
laugh—until his current position soaked in, and in, and in.