Straight Town: Chapter 9

By Wesley Bracken - wesley.bracken@gmail.com
published August 11, 2019
Summary

The mayor pays Kevin a visit, and offers him a second chance to find a place in the town that really suits him.

Kevin, cursing under his breath the whole way to his bike, climbed on, revved it up, and sped off towards home. He was furious. Furious at Steve for being given an ultimatum like that. Furious at himself for being so weak, as to let that damn faggot manipulate him like this. Furious at this town, for whatever it had done to them both. Furious that he still didn’t even understand any of it–not the little snippets of memory, nor his love for Steve, nor the sudden upwelling of emotion that had accompanied Michelle’s announcement that she was pregnant this morning. Pregnant, with his kid.

He had three of them with her, this wasn’t something new for them, and yet, all the same…she’d been so damn happy, when she’d told him. Like some gigantic weight had lifted from her that he hadn’t even noticed she’d been carrying for months now. “We did it,” she’d told him, like they’d just won a trophy, “We fucking did it, thank fucking god.”

He’d never liked children. He’d never even liked his own children. And yet, something inside him had shifted gears, some ancient, biological machinery was grinding to life, and he found himself excited, and eager, and giddy–and he had absolutely no idea why it was making him feel like this. One more kid was just one more anchor around his neck, one more fucking think drowning him in this town, right? Or was it something keeping him afloat? Something assuring him that he was on the right path? And now all of this with Steve, with that terrified look in his eyes. He knew Steve wasn’t being fully honest with him, about something. That he’d stepped in some real fucking shit here, turned over a mess he shouldn’t have–he’d seen that look before, on guys in gangs, when they’d fucked up big time. He knew he should stay away. That it didn’t have to be his problem, unless he made it his problem. Just deny it, deny everything. It would work on everyone but himself.

But he loved the fucker. He’d loved the fucker since that first night in that damn cell, but loving him had been so damn hard. Hating him was easier. Seeing Steve as a faggot, and himself as a man was easier. Seeing him as some fuckup was easier. But loving him was hard, and his heart seemed dead set on it no matter how he rationalized it. By the time he got home, running off…it was sounding better and better to his ears. It wouldn’t be easy, by any means, but is this what he really wanted? This shitty mobile home, this shitty marriage, three (soon four) squabbling kids? Maybe it wasn’t even his. Michelle said she’d stopped seeing Ron, but he couldn’t know for sure. No, his heart told him, it was his. He could feel it, somehow, reverberating in him. Even on the off chance it wasn’t his seed–the baby belonged to him all the same.

Inside the trailer, his boys were all in bed–it was just Michelle, waiting up for him, still basking in the glow of her success, rubbing her belly, on the couch. Kevin sat down with her, and kissed her, trying to summon the same level of passion he’d felt not moments before with Steve, but it refused to come to him–and worse, she knew it wasn’t there. She knew he didn’t love him, and that meant she didn’t have to try to love him back, but at least she had his child, and that was enough for her. She leaned over towards him, and he put his arm around her, and watched TV for a while…and he knew this could be enough. Not the best, not everything he wanted–not what either of them really wanted, but enough.

She went to bed not too long after the end of the next episode, and didn’t even try and pull him to bed with her, for what had become their regular, nightly fuck. His purpose, for her, had been served. She wouldn’t need him for another nine months. She would care for him, sure. Keep the household running, keep him fed, keep him happy enough, but beyond that–he wasn’t necessary. In that moment, he knew what he had decided to do.

He waited through another two episodes, until he could hear the soft snores from the bedroom, signalling that she had fallen asleep. Then, creeping around the house as quietly as he could, he started assembling his bag. He wouldn’t need much–he’d never needed much. He took the savings from the coffee can on top of the refrigerator, and then put a couple hundred back, feeling suddenly guilty. She would need something, after all. The town would make sure she was taken care of, but he didn’t want her to suffer. That much he knew–he was abandoning her, with no fucking explanation, and that was bad enough. The hesitation was almost enough to derail his entire plan–but he put back another wad of cash, taking not even half for himself, and put it to rest. He knew she didn’t love him. This town didn’t need him–all it cared about was his seed, it seemed like. But Steve cared. Steve could have just ditched, but came to him first. That meant something, it had to. In the whole mess of this place, that felt, to him, like the last thing that mattered, that he was anchored to. Everything else could fall away, and as long as he had Steve, they would be fine.

So he packed his bag, and now too wired to even try and sleep, he turned off the lights, turned off the TV, and just sat on the couch, listening to the sounds of his family sleeping, thinking about his boys, about their names, what the wanted to do with their lives, what they might think of him when they find out he’s run off. What Michelle would tell their fourth, boy or girl (he found himself hoping for a girl, despite himself, something to balance out the place, someone to help Michelle feel less alone). Whether she would curse his name, whether she would run off with Ron. He’d treat her well enough, he supposed. Better than he would, probably. They all deserved better than this, including him.

And so he waited for dawn, when Steve had promised he would come. Even this late in the summer, it was still coming early. He saw the first streaks of light around five. The first slice of sun at five thirty. The whole sun up a little after six. Still no sign of him. He heard his boys start to stir, and without thinking too hard about it, he shoved the bag under the sink–pulled the cash out and replaced it in the can, and with one last look down the dirt road of the trailer park, he slipped into bed with Michelle, and fell asleep almost immediately.

It was a few hours later when he awoke, groggy and cranky and worried as could be. His boys were up and eating breakfast, Michelle talking about how they would have to go school shopping that morning, and so they couldn’t go play outside. They moaned and groaned, and as Kevin slipped out of the bedroom in a shirt and his underwear, heading for the toilet, he saw her reach up to the coffee can and take out some cash for the supplies. If she noticed that the cash inside had been rearranged, nothing showed on her face. Kevin slipped into the bathroom to take care of his business, and then got dressed–it was his day off, and so he figured he would probably be going with them to the general store, helping to wrangle the three boys for Michelle as they got them all ready for another year of school.

It surprised him, how he wasn’t disappointed. How he’d gone from packing up and planning to leave all of this behind not three hours ago, and now he was resigned to a day spent at the store with his family. To a life spent with them. He wondered what had happened with Steve. Maybe he’d gotten cold feet. Maybe he’d…been found out. He thought about the bag under the sink, wondered if he’d have a chance to unpack it before they left for the store. Beyond the bag, the only evidence he’d thought about leaving was in his head–and that, at least, he hoped was safe. He sat down for breakfast, being his usual grouchy self, but the last month had seen him continue to soften towards his boys. He could look them in the eyes, he could touch them without that sense of revulsion that had chased him at first. Things were getting better. They could keep getting better. Fuck Steve–he could sort out his own shit. Maybe he should just…make piece with this after all.

After breakfast, they got the boys ready, listening to them moan and whine, but now that dad was coming, they knew better than to put up much of a fuss–he had no problem bending any of his boys over for a few sharp whacks–even in public, if necessary–to keep them in line. They were about to leave, when a car pulled up outside, and Kevin froze. Steve, was his first thought. He’s here, now. He kept as calm as he could, thought about the bag under the sink, thought about the store, thought about the coffee can, about what he and Michelle had built here together. About what he wanted, still, despite everything. He opened the door and looked out, but it wasn’t Steve getting out of the patrol car–it was something worse. It was Mayor Derry.

It felt like all the color from his skin drained out of him. It felt like every little sin, outside his body and in his heart, was laid out in front of him, ready to be catalogued. He felt like a faggot–a memory came to him, some other person’s memory, men shouting at him, berating him, and looking at them, hating them, hating them all, wanting to be on that side, wanting to be better, wanting to be free, he told himself, but mostly feeling powerless and hating every moment of it. He stepped outside. Whatever sort of punishment was awaiting him, at least he could face it like a man–he’d sinned, he’d known the risks, but the mayor seemed…pleased, somehow, came up, and shook his hand. “Kevin! I really am sorry we haven’t had a chance to talk lately–I just feel awful about it, but when I heard the good news from Doc Ambrose, I just had to come over and give you my congratulations in person.”

It took a moment for Kevin to hear what he’d actually said, instead of what he’d expected to hear. “Oh, uh, well thanks, I guess. Ya didn’t have to come all the way out here to just…tell us that.”

The mayor didn’t respond, and just pushed on up the stairs and into the house, saying his congrats to Michelle as well, talking to his three boys with more warmth and genuine emotion than Kevin had ever managed to do himself, even after months of practice. It made him feel ever more alien somehow–even more worthless. This was it then. He really wasn’t necessary anymore. So what now? Would he kill him? Probably–that would be easiest. Maybe he and Steve could share a ditch on the road to the highway. Just…two faggots, rotting away where no one would even care, not around here.

“Now now, it’s nothing serious, I promise. We just need to have a little heart to heart is all. I’ll have your man back to you, not a scratch on him,” the mayor was saying. Michelle and the boys were ushered out of the home and to their car by the mayor, who sent them on their way to the store, leaving Kevin still standing there, feeling like a fool. Of course he knew. Of course. There had been no way to avoid this reckoning. Of course he couldn’t have just gone to the store. Of course he’d missed his chance. There was a line, there had always been a line, and no matter what he did, he was on the wrong damn side, every fucking time.

The mayor waved as they drove off. Kevin did too, but weakly, already certain he would never see them again. Michelle looked grim and resolute. Like she too, had written him off already. The only person smiling was the mayor. “Now, why don’t we go inside, have a chat, eh? There’s town business to discuss.”

“If you’re going to kill me, just…fucking do it. I don’t care.”

The mayor laughed. An uproar, really, like Kevin had just told some fabulous joke, and didn’t even know it. “Kill you! Now what a supreme waste that would be. I’ve been called many things, young man. Perverse. A degenerate. A fascist. But wasteful! No, no one would ever consider me that. Now let’s go inside. We’ll have some coffee.”

So, like everything was normal, they went inside. The pot was still half full, Kevin poured two cups, black, and handed one to the mayor, who set it down and ignored it entirely, while Kevin sipped his own. “Where’s Steve?”

“Steve is gone,” the mayor said.

“He…he really left?”

“This isn’t a prison, Kevin. Anyone can leave if they really want to. I know this town isn’t for everyone, but I like to think there can be a place for anyone willing to make a go at it. Some people, they just aren’t cut out for it. I can’t get it right every time. Sometimes, I get it real dang wrong–and for that, I’m sorry.”

Kevin wasn’t sure if he should ask more about Steve or not. It felt like a trap, but he was already convinced that the mayor knew everything, even knew about the bag under the sink. So he nodded, and drank some more coffee.

“I mean that, I’m sorry. For what I did you to. I didn’t understand you–either of you. I didn’t take my time, I was too rushed. I was worried you’d spook, take off down the highway before you ever gave it a chance, before you really understood how much this town needs young men like you. Now Steve–I can’t do anything for Steve, but you–I think we can try again, and do better this time, if you’ll let me.”

Kevin just stared at him, unsure of what he meant, exactly.

“Look–you know, that I know, everything,” the mayor said, one hand sweeping towards the sink for emphasis. “This is my town, after all! I know every little thing that happens in it, and around it. But just because I’m omniscient, doesn’t mean that I’m going to stick my nose into every little thing, wag my finger at you if you toe over a line. I mean, can you imagine how much work that would be? I have important things to do too! But sometimes, that means things go a bit too far. They went too far with Steve–I’m sorry for that too. Him putting all that pressure on you, trying to make you choose just because he shat the bed, so to speak. It wasn’t fair to you at all–but then, none of this has been, really.”

“No… no fucking shit, it hasn’t,” Kevin said, grabbed his cigarettes off the table, and lit one for himself, hoping that might calm his shaking hands a bit. “I don’t fucking get it. I don’t understand any of this. If you’re fucking sorry…” He took a long draw blew smoke out his nose in two plumes, “Explain it. Who we were. What we did to deserve this. What I did to deserve this. Why you fucking did it. You owe me that much.”

The mayor shrugged, like how much he personally owed could be contested, but he relented. Derry gave an honest retelling. Who they’d been–Steve, the young gay from the country, running away to find a version of himself he could live with. Kevin, the suburban gay, good upstanding liberal, approriately disgusted at the backwater ways of the rural towns Steve was subjecting him to. Derry told him that the town needed them and their energy more than whatever they’d been wasting it on. So Derry had acted–rashly perhaps, off the limited knowledge he’d gathered from a quick look. He’d given them both what he thought they’d wanted–and what they’d needed, and for Kevin, that meant this.

“I looked at this kid you’d been, this lispy, brash, suburban, snotty, kid, and I gotta admit, I kind of hated you. I hated you, because you looked at this town like it was trash, like everything I’d been doing, all the work I’d done here–that we’d all done here–building it up from nothing, was just garbage. Like we might as well all die, aside from the few worthy ones chosen by you who oughta wise up and just head for the cities, so they could be properly assimilated into good little liberals like you. So…perhaps I over reacted. If you were going to believe that a place like this oughta make you miserable, then I was going to make you miserable. I was going to turn you into the trash you hated–the trash you thought deserved to be here, because then you wouldn’t run. Because deep inside you, you’d still think you deserved it. But I was wrong. Boy, was I wrong about both of you–looking back, I just feel like a real idiot, you know? You people, you humans, never fucking stop with the surprises. That’s why you’re so interesting, you know?”

Given that summary of his one time self, a self he could barely remember, Kevin had to admit he didn’t much like him either–but he had a feeling that the mayor had a finger on the scales of judgement for a reason. He supposed it softened the blow, a bit. “You said you got it wrong. How?”

“Because you changed, man. You grew into it. You accepted it, eventually, and when you did, I gotta admit, I was damn surprised. I had it all planned out, you see. Have you get Michelle pregnant again over a couple of years, wear you down, really…cement you in here, then she leaves you for Ron. You stay here, fucking other women, sowing your seeds, working for the man who stole your wife the whole time, ending up as a washed up drunk without a trace of self-respect–it ain’t a happy ending, but I thought it was one you would accept, given your assumptions. But you didn’t do that. You pushed back, and it was all because of Steve. See, this is where my hands off approach really shines. I tried to keep you two away from each other. I knew that if you met early on, there was a damn good chance of you two falling into old habits. I almost stepped in after that first time. I would have, probably, if not for what had happened at the garage–you know, the real second time, in the bathroom. You decided he was different from you.” The mayor drew an imaginary line down the middle of the air. “You, over here, were a man. Him, over here, a faggot. Artful, really. And then I realized what I had gotten wrong about you–you needed that line, and you needed to be on the right side of it.”

“No, that ain’t it at all. You don’t get it.”

“No, see–you don’t get it! That’s what I missed! It was so deep inside you, that you didn’t even see it–and so I didn’t see it either. I gave you want you thought we deserved here, but I didn’t bother trying to sort out what you wanted–you want a line, but a line you control. A line that gives you power. Back in the city, you can use the right words, say the right things, look the right kind of way, and you’re in. If you don’t–well, maybe you’ll pity them, like you pitied Steve–that old Steve–or maybe you’ll abuse them, like a faggot, like the county fucks you hated so much. It doesn’t matter to you, not really. We’re so similar, really. We always hate the things that remind us most of ourselves, I think, but we don’t have to be enemies anymore, Kevin. I can give you that line. I can give you that and so much more.”

The mayor stood up, and offered him a hand. “Come on, let’s take a ride. I’ll show you. We can get it right this time. I know, I fucked up. Trusting me would be hard. So if you want, take that bag there, and go. Ride off. He’s heading east, you can catch him. I told him I’d let him go, let each of you go, but you’d have to make the choice on your own. If you’re worried about Michelle, I’ll do right by her, I swear. Ron will make her happy, treat your boys well. This isn’t a prison, and I might be the closest thing to a god you’ll ever meet–but I’d rather be your friend.”

Could he trust him? Did he really have a choice? He looked at the sink, thought about the bag under there. Thought about the years on the road, with and without Michelle–though he realized, as he did, that it was a lie. A lie designed to keep him here–but the mayor had just said…it hadn’t worked, hadn’t he? After all, he’d loved it. Being on the road, being free, but fuck, if there hadn’t been some nights, sleeping in a goddamn ditch, when he all he’d wanted was just a place to call home. A small place, a family. Someone to love. Was that really such a bad thing, after all? Hadn’t he just a few minutes ago, decided to stay, that it couldn’t be all that bad? That it might be something he wanted? So he took the mayor’s hand, and allowed him to pull him up.

“Let’s go for a ride–my car though, I hate motorcycles. Unnatural things.”

Kevin followed him out to the car, and climbed in the passenger seat, and together, at a leisurely pace, like the mayor had all the time in the world, they drove into town. Along the way, the mayor would slow down and wave to anyone he passed, greeting them by name, asking about their lives as though he didn’t already know everything about them. Loving the children most of all–the treasures. The future. Kevin mostly just sat, and watched, wondering where they could possibly be going, until they pulled into the parking lot of the sheriff’s department. “I…I don’t understand, what are we doing here?”

“Come on in–you’ll understand soon enough.”

“I think–”

“I said, come in, Kevin.”

It was friendly, but Kevin felt the compulsion as a nudge, knowing it could become something stronger at any moment. So Kevin got out, and followed the mayor into the building. Marcy was at the secretary desk, filing her nails, and the mayor spent a couple minutes chatting with her, making sure her baby was doing well, that the office was surviving for the moment. Kevin…just wanted to run. Something was wrong with this, he had made the wrong choice, he was sure of it now.

When the mayor finished his chat, he went behind the desk, Kevin still following him, and they made their way to the sheriff’s private office–which to Kevin’s surprise, had been cleared out. In fact, he was puzzled to realize that he was no longer sure who the sheriff was in town…but the town had to have a sheriff, didn’t it?

“Have a seat, Kevin.”

Kevin headed for one of the seats in front of the sheriff’s desk, but the mayor made a little sound, and he felt a pull, back around the desk, and he settled in the sheriff’s chair, looking out.

“There, isn’t that better? Yes–I think this is going to work out just fine. Perfect. I might not always get it right the first time, but the second–oh, I rarely miss twice.”

“I don’t understand, I can’t be the sheriff, that doesn’t make any sense!”

“Doesn’t in though?” Derry said–and from one moment to the next, he was no longer in front of the desk, but behind his chair, one hand on each of Kevin’s shoulders. “I think it makes all the sense in the world.”

The world came apart then. His world, came apart, rather. Some things remained–Michelle remained. He could recall his days as a biker still. He had been that rebel on the wrong side of the law–but he’d grown tired of it. Disillusioned. Too many thieves, rapists, murderers. He’d been a vigilante. He felt something growing inside him, a sense of justice that felt so firm that it was no longer a line–it was a wall, running right down the middle of the world.

On one side, there was him. There was Derry. There was the town. There was family, and god, and justice, and peace. And on the other…degeneracy. Perversion. Filthy cities and wild gangs, and the enemies of civilization itself. As hard as he tried to resist it–he realized that the foundation of it ran deeper–so much deeper than anything he had felt before. It drove all the way down to the core of his being, so deep he knew that nothing would be able to uproot it, no matter how strong the winds of injustice blew against him–and that felt damn good. He groaned, shuddered, and the mayor’s hands loosened slightly. “Marcy, be a doll and pay us a visit, would you?”

Kevin looked up, unsure of himself, unsure of who he was, exactly. Marcy came in–he knew her, didn’t he? Better…better than he did, in that moment?

“Oh, I’m so glad you found someone–I was getting worried. He looks…rough…” she said, and tittered a bit. “I kind of like it. Nicer than the last one.”

“I have a feeling he’ll do great–it’s in his bones. Do him a good favor though–I know you’re with child and all, and it ain’t really proper, but–”

“Oh don’t worry about me, mayor, I know the drill.”

“There’s a good girl–I knew you’d understand.”

Kevin tried to push himself up, tried to get an explanation, but the mayor had already slipped out the door, and Marcy closed it behind him. “Now now, sheriff, perks of the job and all that. You sit right back down there, and let me help you get settled in.”

She was on him then, his pants open, his rock hard cock in her mouth. He didn’t protest much–it felt too good. He…he deserved this. He was the only thing standing between this town and chaos after all–he deserved to be treated well. When Marcy finished, and he gave her a kiss, she slipped off and left him to his office–which he saw was no longer sparce, but full of all sorts of memorabilia. Photos of him and the mayor at newly opened establishments. His sons’ little league trophies on a shelf by the window, and even a couple of pictures from his days on the road–to keep him humble. To remind him, perhaps, that he could always go back. There was a mirror as well, and he spent a long time looking at himself, trying to adjust to what he was seeing. Not older, so much. Maybe a year or two. His long, greasy hair was reduced to a high and tight. Beard now cut short, close against his face, no longer something he could hide behind. Hands shaking still, he found his way to the humidor, clipped a cigar, and sucked it down, hungry for something familiar, something he could cling to–but he couldn’t stay here. He could get to work tomorrow, he supposed. He left the station, trying not to think to hard about the wink Marcy threw him, climbed in his patrol car and headed for home.

But home was not where it was. It was in the nice part of town now, on the right side of the tracks, on the right side of the line. With the respectable, good people of the town, where he belonged. He could feel it still seeping into him, coloring everything, judging everything he passed with an iron clad sense of black and white which was so comforting, it took so much to resist it. They were there, home from the store, his clean, shining boys displaying there new purchases for his approval, and god, if he wasn’t so happy in that moment. Giddy. And the look on Michelle’s face, with her new dress she could have never afforded before–she was proud of him. Unexpectedly proud of him. Surprised to discover, herself, that there was a place for him here after all.

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