Straight Town: Chapter 10
published August 12, 2019
The next year, now. Mayor Derry has plans for the town’s growth. Kevin sees something that rends him apart, and leaves him screaming against the bars of his gilded cage. And finally, a young man wants nothing more than to see something other than this place, with the person he loves.
A brief note from the author
This is the last chapter of this story that I have written thus far. It is the end of part of the story, but it is not the end of the entire story that I have in mind for these characters, but given my recent state of mind, and given the constraint I had to finish “something” in about a month and a half, this is the form that the story eventually took. I would not say that this is a happy ending, particularly. Goodness, do I feel for everyone angry about the fact that the mayor “wins” (though I don’t really know how a ‘character’ can ‘win’ a ‘story’ since a story is not a game, or at least, this one is not), everyone angry that Steve and Kevin have failed to escape from the town and from their own flaws. It hurt writing this thing. But sometimes writing hurts–and that’s ok. It has to be ok. If all writing is only designed to make you feel good, to press your little endorphin buttons and never once challenge you, than to be perfectly honest, that story (and that author) isn’t interested in you as a person, they are only interested in you as a potential addict. I don’t want you to feel good–I want you to think, and feel, and hate, and mourn, and feel joy and all of those things that are so much harder, but to me, so much more cathartic and worthwhile than just another story you can whack off to because it flatters you and makes you feel good.
This story came from dark places inside myself. I have spent the last year or so with my husband stuck in an abusive workplace–a church, naturally–where the both of us have been bullied and criticized because we are not particularly interested in changing ourselves into the kind of people, and the kind of couple, that would work be most useful for their community. I feel like I have aged years, in the wake of it, and this story has been key to me processing some of the trauma I’ve had to endure with him in the aftermath of his work there, from which he has now resigned. The house, they say, wins far more often than we would like in situations like this, and I don’t share this backstory with you because I desire pity or sympathy, but because I want you to see rage. I have pumped so much rage into this story, over the last month and a half. Rage at people like the mayor, who seek to only use and abuse others so they can maintain and grow their power. Rage at people like the sheriff, who enable to system even as they are harmed by it, because they are too cowardly to act against it. Rage at, yes, the Kevins and the Stevens too, those who allow themselves to be bent, and warped, and corrupted, and turned into more cogs in the machine that they hate too.
I guarantee you, I hate this story more than you ever could. I hate that it came out pouring out of me like a torrent, like something I could barely control. Perhaps posting it here was just sadism, but I’ve heard from enough people who have found the experience of reading it to be cathartic to think otherwise, that there are people who need stories like this one too–just as much as I needed to write it, as much as I needed other people to at least witness it’s existence. Perhaps you are not that person who needs it. That’s fine too. The ending is, at least, brighter. It hints at where I hope the story could go, when I have to energy to pick it up and rework it and turn it into a story I don’t have to hate. A story that doesn’t end with Seven and Kevin at all. A story where just because the mayor is powerful, doesn’t mean he is inescapable. A story where just because others have fallen into corruption, doesn’t mean that those who come after them will too.
“It just seems like a goddamn tourist trap to me. I mean, we’re callin’ this shithole some fucking caves? More like a divot in the damn ground. Calling it, ‘world’s largest golf divot’ would be more fuckin’ accurate than this.”
That was Charley, always complaining. Hard worker–Steve could admire that–but god could the fucker run his mouth about just any little old thing in the whole world. He didn’t know how fucking good they had it around here–half the people in the town, it seemed like, just didn’t fucking get it at all–how bad it was, everywhere else.
Steve wiped his forehead. Winter had come and gone, Spring was here again, all sun and wildflowers and storms, and fuck, he loved every minute of it around here, it was so damn fresh. Just…filled him with life, even if he ached like an old fuck every day. He thanked his lucky stars he was here now, not stuck in some shitty fucking slumlord’s building on some claustrophobic street with a cunt of a mother. He had the open sky here. Hard work. A Pa who loved him more than anything else in the world. He’d escaped–it was still a marvel to him, to this very day, that he’d gotten out, and he knew he would never take it for granted, not like Charley. Steve tuned Charley out–still grumbling and moaning–and got back to work, constructing the foundation of what would be Derryville’s first tourist attraction–the Derry Caverns.
Alright, cavern, really. Singular. A guy out hunting this winter had accidentally fallen in through the top, broken his leg, but it turned out alright. And now, the mayor was all excited–wanted a brand new facility, tour guides, souvenirs, a billboard on the highway, all sorts of shit. Really put Derryville on the map, he said. Probably be done in time to open next year–but Steve was more hopeful–hoped he could push the crew to get it done over summer–at least get it open and ready for people to tour. It was possible, he could feel it thrumming in the spring air, like youth on the wind. The town, after all, had seen stranger miracles than that.
It was while he was working that a car rolled up, and out climbed the mayor from the driver’s seat, and with him, the sheriff as well. It was the first time Kevin had been out to survey the area where the new attraction would be–he’d mentioned his curiosity to the mayor more than once, but he’d been redirected each time. He had a feeling that Derry hadn’t wanted him to come out here yet–but he knew better than to try and ask him why. After the events of last summer, he knew that some things were better left unknown.
“Ain’t it a beauty?” the mayor said. Just think–finally, we can start bringing people in, really…really put some life into this town, you know?”
Kevin knew exactly what the mayor meant, and nodded along. “It looks like construction is going well.”
“I want it open by this summer, Kevin–I have…good feelings, I’m just…I can feel it, I can’t wait.”
“Well…how can I help, sir?”
“I think I need your deputies to step up your patrols, set up some more speed traps for the next month. Spring Break is coming up, and I bet, if we’re careful, we can snag a few, bring them back into town. Like you did with those two guys a couple of months ago.”
It hadn’t been a speed trap, but Kevin understood what he meant. A couple young guys had gotten stuck out on the highway, their car had broken down. The closest tow truck had been Ron’s–and they’d called him up, looking for help. Kevin had gone out to give them a hand as well. But once they’d gotten here, spent a few nights staying with the Emerson’s, and their two daughters–well, he could see Charley down there working on the site right now. Jim would be in the kitchen at the restaurant–he usually worked the day shift. Kevin had had Jim and his wife Emily over, since he worked with Michelle–both of them were good people. Good additions to the town. Kevin…knew he should feel a bit bad about it, what the mayor did, but better they were here, on the right side of things. Better than who knew what out there, in the world, where anything could happen. It was safe here. Kevin made sure of that at least. “How…many do you need?”
“Four or five, if you can manage it. Younger the better, you know? I could…use what I have, but I’d rather spread it around. Besides, the bigger we get, the better. Less I need to take from everyone.”
“It’s going to be great, you know. Families coming here. It’s going to be so good for the town.”
“I know, sir.”
Kevin was looking at the man working with Charley. Steven–Guthrie’s boy. Been here longer than he had, built this town into what it was today some said, but the name was enough to make him think of someone else, naturally. He thought about Steve too often for his taste–he couldn’t help it some days. He hoped he was happy, wherever he was, and mostly hoped he never tried to come back. This wasn’t the place for him–he understood that now. To think, they had tried to be together! It seemed so silly now, so frivolous. A waste. And Derryville was not a place where you wasted anything–not a person, and certainly not an opportunity like this.
The sheriff and the mayor chatted about a few other things, some of the families around town, a few guys who were…a bit dissatisfied, who might need a reminder of what they ought to appreciate about Derryville. Kevin’s cock stirred at the thought, though it humiliated him too, knowing it. Thinking about that last jail cell, how the mayor had converted it into a dungeon. About Kevin’s leather uniform hanging there, about how…how with the mayor’s permission, Kevin could take men there. Men who needed a reminder of which side of the line they were on. No one knew about that, of course. The men who visited him there never spoke a word–how could they?–but they remembered the lessons well, and there were only a few who needed regular visits with the sheriff, to keep them set straight.
The mayor, after all, had learned his share of lessons too, about people. About Steve, and Kevin, and Guthrie. That the baser instincts of men and women, that what they want more than anything, can’t always be controlled. Now, all three of them couldn’t be happier, and they all meshed together in the town like they’d always been here. Giving Steve a chance to wrap his lips around his daddy’s cock day and night had done wonders for his attitude and work ethic. It was a shame Guthrie’s health was beginning to fail him, the mayor would have to come up with a replacement for him, he was sure. Kevin had needed an outlet too, something the mayor had been thinking about, a way to keep his own desires in check. So far, the dungeon in the jail had worked like a charm–both on Kevin, and on a few of the troublesome men who needed his guidance.
Their business concluded, the sheriff and the mayor got back in the car and drove off. Steve never even noticed that they’d been there–he was too focused on his work, and too focused on ignoring Charley. Too busy thinking about his dad again, as he did often enough. How much he loved him. It had been a hard winter for Guthrie, had a bad bout with pneumonia, and spent most of his days in bed now–but Steve could still take good care of him. The mayor had chatted with him, about what might happen if his dad passed away, that it might be sooner than anyone wanted–but the mayor promised him that he’d be taken care of. Maybe not by his daddy, but his needs would always be met.
That afternoon, Kevin met with the deputies and gave them the orders from the mayor. Set up speed traps around the outskirts of the town, even out on the highway, if they thought they could get away with it. Escalate the encounters, arrest them, bring them home. The sheriff and the mayor would sort through the ones that would make good citizens, and deal with the rest. With that taken care of, and nothing else to worry about in the office, Kevin decided to head home a bit early. His sons had been pestering him for some baseball practice lately, and Kevin did love his time with his boys–but nothing was quite as precious to him as Mary Michelle Aster–his new daughter born just a few months ago.
He rolled through town, slowly, Waving as he went to the people he passed, a few men not even daring to look in his direction, too ashamed of what they’d done and what they’d enjoyed, to dare face him in broad daylight. They knew which side they were on–and they also knew the sheriff could put them back over, whenever he, or the mayor, wanted. As he drove out of the main strip of town he passed by some woods–and as he did, he saw a couple of figures dart into the forest there–it was hard to know for certain. Curious, he pulled his patrol car over to the side of the road, rolled down the window, and listened. There was the sound of footsteps crashing through the underbrush. A couple of voices, young men, and one of them he recognized. It was one of his boys–his oldest one, Michael.
It was odd, thinking about it now, how they’d grown up so quickly. He could remember them being young, back before he’d been sheriff, but after that, just as he’d gotten older…so had they, though a bit unevenly. Over the winter, they’d grown up in spurts and without warning, separating more in age–the youngest now 13, the next 16, and Michael, the oldest, was graduating high school this year, turning 19 in a few months. He’d been…a bit of a troublemaker, as of late. Of course, Kevin could tolerate a little rebellion–hell, he’d been a rebel biker for long enough he couldn’t blame his sons for feeling the drive…but he was worried, all the same. Michael was a man now, but that didn’t mean he could just do whatever he wanted–not in Derryville. What troubled him more, perhaps, was the other voice–one he didn’t recognize as readily, but which was definitely male.
He was torn. He wasn’t the mayor. He didn’t need to know everything that was going on in his son’s life…but he was worried. He had a right to be worried, and that line in him…he thought about what would happen, if the mayor decided Michael needed a turn in the dungeon. What that might do to him, to them both. So he popped open the door, quietly as he could, and followed the game trail the two boys had taken into the woods, meandering slowly, quietly, telling himself it was just…reconnaissance. Making sure that everything in the neighborhood was alright, and on the level.
Kevin walked slow enough that the voices got a bit quieter for a while, but never disappeared. About a mile into the woods, sloping down gently towards a ravine and a stream he knew ran through here, the voices started getting louder–along with the sound of the water running. The stream was loud enough to keep him from hearing what they were saying, and Kevin moved slower now, not wanting to give himself away as he came to the edge of the ravine and peered down to where the two young men were, sitting on a log, shoes off, feet in the water, chatting. Now he could see the other young man–someone he recognized too. It was Carl, a good friend of Michael’s from school, Christine’s son, if he remembered right. A good woman, married to Ron, the mechanic. Treated her and the kids well, though they were from another marriage…with who exactly, he couldn’t recall. So many people to keep track of, it made his head spin at times.
But Kevin saw more. Kevin…could feel it, could feel a longing well up inside him at the sight of them. The way Michael would glance over at Carl, catch his eye for a moment, look away and blush. Carl made a gesture with his hand, but when it came down again, it landed on top of Michael’s–so gently that the tiniest flinch from his boy would send it flying off, but it settled there, firmer now. Michael scooted closer on the log, their thighs touching now. Kevin was frozen. He knew what this meant, he knew exactly what he was looking at. It was dangerous, and it was wrong, and…and he couldn’t bring himself to stop it. For the first time, he felt that solid line inside him waver and blur–he watched as Michael leaned closer and landed a kiss on Carl’s cheek–Carl cuping Michael’s chin and kissing him firmly on the lips, his other hand sliding down Michael’s thigh, towards his cock, Michael shivering in the cool Spring shade, knuckles white and gripping Carl’s shirt.
Kevin fled before he could see anything else. It was too raw. Something inside him, trapped in a cage he hadn’t even known was there, was shaking and screaming and howling like some tortured animal. It could have been him. It could have been him, this whole time, he could have been gone, he could have been himself, and now he was this, he was this man, he was bringing people here, trapping them here, and he knew he had to, he knew it, but oh god, it ached! It ached. He got to his car, sobbing, thinking about Steve, out there somewhere, alive. Living. Living, and not…here. Not with him, and why would he ever want to be with him, with any possible version of himself? He felt corrupted, utterly. For a moment, he considered driving away, not stopping, now while he still could have a chance, but where would he go? The mayor knew he belonged here. He’d always belonged here, from the moment they’d crossed the border. He had been a hypocrite then, and he was a co-conspirator now. He wiped his eyes, turned around, and headed for town again–he needed a drink.
He hadn’t had a drink in the tavern for ages–not as this self once. But the people in here knew him, knew both of him–some knew all three even–and while he was regarded as a surprise guest, he was welcomed by most of them. Some of the men who could not look at him were here though. This was where they all gathered, those men who couldn’t fit the mold just right, who were compressed too much, who couldn’t lose everything of themselves to the mayor and his vision and his future. He’d hoped he wouldn’t have to come back here, but he’d been fooling himself, as always. Today, he didn’t sit at the bar, but at a table alone. Candy brought him what had been his usual, and he drank it without complaint.
He was alone here too. The conversation around the bar was distant, and seemed so empty. The sports on the screen couldn’t hold his interest. He felt himself getting drunker and drunker, but the screaming in his chest was only getting louder and louder still. What could feed it? What could possibly console it, and settle it back down? He tried to eat, but that was a mistake–not twenty minutes later he was in the bathroom, vomiting into the toilet everything he had taken in that evening, and he slumped down next to the toilet, numb–and even that was a relief of sorts.
The door to the restroom opened, and before Kevin could get to his feet and save himself a bit of his dignity, a man came in front of the toilet and froze, looking down at him there. It was Paul. Paul had a bad habit of beating his wife–and his kids. Had some real anger issues. Most of it was directed at the town, but he knew there was nothing he could do to escape it, so he turned it on the things he could control. He was a regular down in the dungeon. When the mayor could tell he was reaching a breaking point, Kevin would step in, take him down there, and give him a good beating and a fuck. Kevin was kind about it. He didn’t want to punish him–it was just a release for them both, and even Paul knew it for what it was, saving him from his darker self. He went willingly, but still couldn’t grapple with the necessity of it. That something inside him craved it.
Paul had never seen Kevin like this, though. Tear streaked. Vomit in his beard. Hollow eyed. He didn’t know what to do–it felt like he had stumbled into something private, a man at his lowest, and he flinched. He tried to leave, but before he could, Kevin scrambled after him, grabbed his hand (thought about the hands on the log, how gentle they had laid there, like leaves, feathers, kisses, wishes, dreams) and tugged Paul back to him. “Don’t go. Please don’t, I…I don’t want to be alone anymore.”
Kevin couldn’t get anything else out, but he tugged on Paul’s belt, pulled open his pants, the other man unable to be sure this was really happening. Kevin took his cock in his mouth with a sigh (so gentle a kiss they’d shared there, by the stream–had they gotten this far? Had they? Why hadn’t he stayed, why hadn’t he watched, why hadn’t he shouted and screamed and celebrated them in that moment, why had he run away like a coward? Why was he so afraid of knowing?) and sucked hard, desperately, eager for any kind of closeness, to any kind of man who might understand, who might help him find his way upright again. Paul let him do it, one hand curling around the back of Kevin’s head so gently, came after a few minutes, and then left. Kevin swallowed, stood up, and cleaned off his face as best he could. He’d had enough–it was time to go home.
Back out into the real world, of a kind. He’d missed dinner. Michelle saw the look on his face, and wondered what must have happened to him, but knew better than to ask. The boys were disappointed he hadn’t been home to help them practice, but he’d told them that some work had come up that he couldn’t avoid. It sounded like the lie it was, but no one challenged it. Michelle tried to pull him to bed with her, after the boys went down, but he pulled away, and went out on the deck with a cigar instead, looked east, and just wept for a while.
The voice surprised him, and Kevin quickly wiped his eyes and turned around, to see Michael standing in his pajamas by the back door of the house. “Yeah–Yeah, just having a smoke is all. What are you doing up?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Michael said, and stepped out onto the deck, and came up next to his dad at the railing, looking at him smoke his cigar. “Can…I try one of those? I am almost eighteen now.”
Kevin chuckled. “It won’t help you sleep.”
“Come on dad.”
“Fine–but just suck some of the smoke, ok? Hold it in your mouth…and taste it. You shouldn’t inhale these–it’ll have you puking faster than a punch to the gut.” He handed his son the cigar, and Michael studied it, before he took a gentle suck on the end, held his breath for a moment, and then coughed and gagged.
“Blech, why would you smoke that?” Michael said, and handed it back to his father.
“Something my dad used to do, I guess. Being an adult…you get used to things that would have disgusted you where you were younger.”
“I think I’ll pass on the cigars.”
“Well, don’t tell your mother in any case, she’ll rip my ear off.”
They stood in silence, looking out at the stars. There was no moon yet, and everything was bright as could be. Kevin put his arm around his boy’s shoulders, and pulled him a bit closer to him. “I love you–you know that right?”
“Yeah dad, I…I know.”
“I love you no matter what. I know you’re a man now, and you’ll be looking for a job soon, and finding some pretty…you know, moving out on your own, finding your own way. But…But be careful, is all. This town has a nice face, but…it can be real ugly too, you know? I just want you to be happy, is all, fuck, I’m just blabbering now.”
“I love you too, dad,” Michael said, and leaned on his shoulder, and for a moment, Kevin felt something a lifetime away, a boy leaning on his shoulder in a car, driving across the country. Driving east. But it was just his son–that other boy, both of those boys, were long gone now.
“Dad…I…I mean…no, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it.”
“Nothing. Just…silly stuff. Kid stuff. I’m going to go to bed, alright? You should too, soon.”
“You sound so much like your mom sometimes.”
Michael accepted a kiss on the cheek from his father, and then went back inside, and headed up to his room. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep for a while yet, not…after today. He could still feel the cool stream on his feet, Carl’s breath on his neck…
He got to his bedroom, shut the door, his cock already a bit hard again, thinking about it, and thinking about what Carl had shown him–and given him. He found his flashlight, and pulled out the folded up thing–the map. There, traced on it, was a red line, starting where they were, in Derryville–not even on the map itself, and it wound out. Chicago. Philadelphia. New York. Washington DC. Atlanta. Nashville. Denver. Las Vegas. Los Angeles. San Francisco. Seattle. So many cities. Millions of people. Hundreds of miles. He’d wanted to tell his father, but what would he say? No–the plan was better. After graduation, just…go. They’d…come back eventually. But there had to be more than this. There had to be. He could already feel the wind in his hair, see Carl in the seat next to him as they ride out into the east. In his heart, he was already there. Maybe, he always had been. He was his father’s son, after all.