CARDINAL LAKE

"A Queer As Folk USA FanFic"

by Gaedhal

This is Chapter 24 of the "Queer Realities" series.

Go back to "Queer Theories" for the very beginning of this saga.

The narrators are Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney, and features Dr. Julius Gorowitz.
Rated R for language and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Justin has a surprise for Brian. February 2003.
Disclaimer: This is for fun, not profit. Watch Queer As Folk on Showtime, buy the DVDs, videos, and CDs. Read the stories and enjoy.

Coming home from class I stop in the entryway and pick up the mail.

Bills. Flyers. Magazines. Lots of magazines. Brian gets a ton of magazines. He must have signed up for lifetime subscriptions to 'The Advocate,' 'Out,' 'GQ,' 'Ad Week,' 'Details,' 'Architectural Digest,' 'Genre,' 'Instinct,' 'Vanity Fair,' and 'The New Yorker,' because I sure haven't renewed any of these -- but they still keep coming. I look through most of them, especially 'The Advocate' and 'The New Yorker,' but a lot of them I pass off to Emmett so he can be up on the latest fashions and trends.

I stick the magazines and bills in my messenger bag and ditch the flyers in the trash can. But I notice that one of the envelopes I thought was a bill is actually a letter. My heart does a little jump. Whenever I see a letter I think of Brian. But it can't be from Brian because it's addressed TO Brian, of course. Besides, he always calls or e-mails. The envelope is pretty thick, too, but I don't recognize the return address. Somewhere in Ohio.

I go up to the loft and dump my stuff on the kitchen counter. Then I take a look at the mystery letter. Maybe it's a fan letter that happened to find its way to the loft. Brian actually gets a lot of fan mail, but most of it goes directly to the studio. They have an office there that takes care of fan letters, sending out photos and that kind of thing. When they get special requests or particularly interesting letters, the studio sends them to the L.A. house. Brian used to sit and read them and even answer them sometimes, but now Leslie takes care of all of that. Some fan mail, mainly from Pittsburgh or nearby, even finds its way to Ryder Associates. A lot of people know that Brian used to work there so they write to him in care of the agency. Periodically, Cynthia bundles them up and sends them over.

Or maybe it's one of Brian's old tricks. But tricks never write letters. Sometimes they call or leave messages on the loft answering machine, but most tricks aren't the thank-you-note-writing type. Brian has kept the same phone number for years and you'd be surprised at how many guys who Brian fucked 5 or 6 years ago suddenly realize that they made it with someone famous and decide to give him a call. I delete those messages or tell the guys they have the wrong number. Some fucking people have a lot of nerve!

I open the envelope and there are some photographs inside. Me and Brian on the boat up at Put-in-Bay. Me with a fishing rod, wearing my 'Salty Seaman' tee shirt and my teeny tiny blue Speedo! Brian and Gus standing on the dock. Brian sitting on a deck chair with me on his lap. I've never seen these pictures before. So I read the enclosed letter.

Kurtz Contracting, Inc.
Chardon, Ohio

Hey, Brian and Kid!

Bet you're surprised to hear from me. I have some photos I wanted to send you, but I lost your address. I wrote to some address for that studio my wife found in 'Parade Magazine,' but I bet you never got it. You must get piles of letters from horny women after they see that movie, am I right? And from guys, too, I guess. Anyway, the other day I was cleaning out my desk here in the office and found the piece of paper with your address on it so I had to send these photos to you.

I saw you guys on 'Letterman' a couple of months ago. How do you and the Kid get away with that stuff? And those pictures in the 'National Enquirer' -- Holy shit! Now I know what you two were doing on the boat right next door to me! I should have taken some photos and made some big dough, am I right? You two crack me up!

Me and my wife went to see your flick. It was real good, but Jeez! Brian! Can you hold off on the guy-on-guy stuff in the next one? I had to put my hand over the old lady's eyes a couple of times. And Jimmy Hardy is a good actor but I could have done without seeing his bare ass! And those other scenes -- I've never seen anything like that before in a movie! Jeez! I told some of the guys that I work with that I was pals with a couple of famous fags and they didn't believe me until I showed them the photos. They owed me a beer! There are a bunch more that I took. I can send those to you if you want, but these were the best. Your son is real cute, Brian. His mom's a looker too so don't get a swelled head!

You guys have to come up again this summer. But you need a bigger boat. You need something for a real movie star and not that little putt-putt that would fit in my damn bathtub. Besides, you don't want the Kid to fall overboard again, am I right?

Anyway, it's a long way to summer and getting back to the Islands. Won't be too soon for me, let me tell you. But Pittsburgh isn't too far away from here. If you ever get sick of the big shot life in Hollywood just let me know. My father's old cottage is pretty nice, summer AND winter, and it's near the PA border. Me and the wife used to go almost every weekend before I got the boat and now my kids go there sometimes but mostly when the weather is nicer. But it's real pretty in the winter. I mean it. And real private too, if you know what I mean.

If you run into your other girlfriend -- the dark-haired number who likes bikes -- tell her that I'm restoring an old Triumph and I'll take her for a ride. I mean, if the wife doesn't find out about it!

Give me a call, Brian, if you feel like it. And if you don't then I just want to let you know that we had some fun this summer and I won't forget it. Or forget you and the Kid and your son, too.

Take care --

Your Buddy,
Earl Kurtz

Earl. The guy from last summer on the boat next to the 'Colleen' up at Put-in-Bay. I look at the photos and remember him taking them, especially the one of Brian and Gus because I was standing next to Earl, trying to make Gus laugh. It's a great picture of the two of them.

I read the letter over again and something catches my attention. Then I pick up the loft phone and call Earl's number in Ohio.

***

I get summoned to Dr. Gorowitz's office. Thank God! That means I don't have to suffer through fucking Occupational Therapy, a.k.a. Fingerpainting 101. Sylvia dragged me to it against my will. Justin would have a great time in there, but it makes me want to tear my fucking hair out! The woman who runs that class is like a Kindergarten teacher and she treats us all like we're in Kindergarten, too. Nothing like slopping your hands around in paint while listening to Billy Joel CDs. I'd rather slit my goddamn wrists!

So I'm happy to head for the Doc's office... until I realize what day it is. Friday. Fucking Friday! Maybe this means that Justin isn't coming and Gorowitz is going to tell me not to expect him this week. I feel a huge knot in the pit of my stomach. If Justin doesn't come today I will never make it through another week here. It fucking terrifies me how much I'm depending on his visit. This isn't good at all! I show up at the Doc's office, but I have to wait outside while he's on the phone with someone. So I start pacing back and forth. By the time Dr. Gorowitz is ready to see me I'm in the middle of a fucking full-blown panic attack.

"Just take deep breaths, Brian. Close your eyes and just move through it. Everything is all right, Brian. Keep repeating that in your head. You ARE in control." The Doc's voice is soothing. Comforting. But then he's used to dealing with nutcases. I guess it's like being a zookeeper -- you always speak softly and in a low voice. And you never turn your back on the animals.

"Can't I have a Xanax, Doc? What about just one fucking pill?" I beg, realizing it's hopeless.

Dr. Gorowitz shakes his head. "You know better than that, Brian. Xanax is part of your addiction. Can't you feel the episode receding now?"

"Not really," I say. My fucking heart is pounding like a hammer and I'm breaking out into a cold sweat.

"Relax, Brian. You can do it. Sit for a minute or two and focus yourself." The Doc waits patiently as I sit there, staring down at the antique oriental carpet that covers his hardwood floors. No institutional furniture for our Doc! No wonder this place costs a fucking fortune! "Don't you feel better now, Brian?"

I take another deep breath. "It's receding, but I don't feel better. Not by a fucking mile!"

Dr. Gorowitz hands me a bottle of water and I suck it down. "Justin isn't coming, is he?" I say, finally. "That's why you called me out of Kindergarten, isn't it? Tell me the fucking truth, Doc!"

The Doc raises his eyebrows. "Is that what precipitated this attack, Brian? Thinking that your partner wasn't coming to see you today?"

"How the fuck should I know?" I run my hand through my hair. I must look like shit. I haven't had a decent haircut since December. I haven't had a decent night's sleep since Justin left on Monday morning. I'm supposed to be getting better, but I'm feeling fucking crazy lately with all this probing into my head and trying to understand why I do the stupid things I do. Who wouldn't be nutty after all that?

They call Springhurst a Drug and Addiction Rehabilitation Center, but it's really just another glorified loony bin -- and I have plenty of experience with those! At the Kensington-Welsh Center it was all downscale linoleum floors and cement walls and at the Spencer Pavilion it was all too posh, with expensive paintings and designer clothes on the attendants. But, like with Goldilocks' bed, Springhurst is supposed to be just right. Sure. Whatever the fuck.

I admit this is better than that lousy joint in Palm Springs or that nightmare in Malibu, Haven of Hell. Jesus Christ! All that smack about turning yourself over to a fucking 'higher power' and everyone holding hands and all that constant hugging and caring and talking about your feelings when you know that they are actually judging you and trying to change you every minute. I wanted to commit mass murder after a week there.

At least at Springhurst they don't look at being a queer as just another nasty addiction to be cured. Dr. Gorowitz has been encouraging about Justin visiting every weekend. There are a couple of other fags here, too, but none of them seems to have a partner who comes in regularly. Some of the straight psychos have people who visit them every weekend and the staff doesn't differentiate at all, which is a fucking relief. In fact, I have my suspicions about Dr. Henry Mason, the other main doctor here. He really pings my gaydar -- and I'm never wrong about things like that. He's young and pretty hot even if he is a little nerdy. I seem to pick up a little vibe going on with him. But you know how shrinks are -- they never let on that they even have lives outside of the institution, let alone sex lives. But I'll get to the bottom of Dr. Henry before I leave this place. Whenever the fuck THAT is.

Gorowitz interrupts my little musings. "That isn't why I called you into my office this morning, Brian. Just the opposite. In actuality, your partner, Mr. Taylor, has made a request to take you out of the facility for the weekend."

"Out?" I say incredulously. "You mean, like OUT out? Outside? For the whole weekend?"

"Yes," says the Doc. "Outside. For the whole weekend."

But suddenly I begin to panic again. "And I fucked it up by freaking out!" Now I really feel like slitting my goddamn wrists!

"Not at all, Brian," the Doc reassures me. "I'm granting you a weekend pass. You should go and pack some things. Just what you need for the weekend. Be ready to leave around 2:00. That is when I expect Mr. Taylor should be arriving."

"You're really going to... let me go? For the whole weekend?" I can't believe it.

"Yes, Brian." And Gorowitz smiles. "This is not a jail. You aren't here under arrest. You can check yourself out at any time -- if that is what you truly want to do." The Doc looks at me with a very serious expression. Here comes the fucking lecture! "You are going to have to live in the real world when you leave Springhurst and that is reality. That's one of the reasons that your partner is allowed to come here and spend weekends with you. He's the one you will be living with when you get out of here, so the two of you had better learn how to live with your addiction and how to deal with it together, as partners. Because it is never going to go away, Brian. It will always be there and you will have to deal with it as long as you live. And so will your partner -- as long as he's with you."

"Right," I sigh. "However long that will be."

Dr. Gorowitz folds his arms across his chest. "Mr. Taylor seems rather committed for the long haul, Brian. If you would just let yourself believe that I think you'd make much faster progress. Besides, he's a good influence on you."

"That's the truest fucking thing you've said yet, Doc!"

Gorowitz laughs. "Go and pack. And take warm clothes, Brian, because it's quite cold out there in the real world."

"You said it, Doc!" I answer him.

I must really look like a dick as I race back to my room and start cramming clothes into my suitcase. Shit, even if Justin and I just check into a fucking motel room in Buffalo for two days, that's enough to get me more excited than if the Doc told me he was sending me on a luxury vacation to Paris.

I have no fucking idea where we are going or what we're going to do there, so I pack everything. Then I take everything out again. Shit. Get a grip, Kinney. I remember what Gorowitz said to me. Take warm clothes. So I put in some jeans and sweaters and one decent pair of trousers. I throw in my grooming products and about 30 condoms and two tubes of lube. That should be enough for the weekend.

I glance at the clock. It's only 11:00 a.m. and he said that Justin wouldn't be here until 2:00. I lie down on the bed and do some of my relaxation exercises, but they only make me horny. So I put some music on the CD player and think of Justin driving up here to get me. Then I take out my cock and jerk off. That definitely relaxes me!

I start thinking about what the Doc and I have been talking about in our sessions. Fucking relationships. I think about my parents and their so-called marriage. I think about Lindsay and Mel. Mikey and Dr. Dave. Mikey and Ben. And I think about me and Ron. It's painful, but I make myself remember. Yes, it was a fucking relationship. And yes, it was something I wanted at one time. When I was 16 I wanted it more than anything else. But I was afraid. Afraid of actually trying to have a relationship. Afraid of not knowing how because of all the shitty role models I grew up with. Afraid of failing miserably at something I wanted so much. So I ran. And then when things got too intense with Justin I ran again. And then I ran from Ron. I'm always fucking running away! Why is this something I can't face? Even when I want it? Because I wanted it to work with Justin, but I bailed. Then I wanted it to work with Ron and I fucked it up at every possible turn. Purposely. I know that contributed to his death. I know it's my fault. He broke down and I helped break him down.

But that can't happen with Justin. Because Justin is stronger than Ron. As young as he is, he's strong. Stronger than me, certainly. Stronger than anyone else I know. But that doesn't mean he can't be broken by cruelty and failure. By lies and pretense and loss of hope. By my stupidity. Which is why I can't be stupid anymore. I can't be careless and thoughtless. Or I have to try not to be. I have to think of someone besides myself. I have to think about Justin. About Gus. About the new kid coming in March. Even about Michael. It's so easy to hurt people without even thinking about it. I've made the cutting remark and the inappropriate jab into an art form. No wonder so many people think I'm the walking personification of 'asshole.' Shit, I've thought that myself for years. And actually been proud of it!

But I'm not proud of it anymore. It stinks. It kills you inside. I think about someone saying things like that to Gus. About people making remarks about Justin. People who don't know him but think he's fair game because he's with me. Or because he's a queer. Because he's too good for them and so they have to knock him down. And I don't want that happening.

At noon I get up and go to lunch. I even sit with my Group. I keep thinking about how Justin walked right up and started talking to them when I didn't have the balls to. I was so fucking stupid! I don't say much at lunch, but at least I'm not sitting alone. They all ask if Justin is coming and I tell them we're going out for the weekend.

"Don't forget to come back, Brian!" Gloria laughs. "We'll miss Justin this weekend. He's a sweetie."

"More than you'll miss me, I'm sure," I say. "But he'll be here next week. And so will I."

At 15 minutes after 2 I find myself pacing back and forth in front of the main entrance. I feel like a dog waiting for his master to come home and take him for a walk. Pitiful. But I don't stop doing it.

Then I see the Jeep coming up the driveway. It's beginning to snow a little, but I run outside without bothering to put on my jacket. I don't feel cold at all. Instead I feel almost high, like I'm somewhere just above the ground.

The Jeep pulls to a stop and I run around to the driver's side. Justin opens the door. His face is flushed. "Hey!" he says.

"Hey yourself!" Yes, I'm a pig. And I know it. I grab Justin and practically attack him before he can even step out of the Jeep.

"Someone's been taking his vitamins, I see!" Justin laughs when he can finally catch his breath.

"This has nothing to do with vitamins and everything to do with my dick!"

The snow is starting to fall harder now and it catches in Justin's hair and on his eyelashes. "Did Dr. Gorowitz tell you that we have a weekend pass?"

"Yup," I reply. "I'm packed and ready to go. So where the fuck are we going?"

Justin grins. "Ohio. Get in the Jeep."

***

Brian is holding the map in his lap while I'm driving. It's snowing and the visibility is crappy.

"Turn here. Left!" says Brian. "I think."

"Yes or no? Do I turn?" I'm gripping the wheel. "Now?"

"Hey, who's the navigator around here?" Brian peers at the map.

I don't answer that one. I just roll my eyes.

"It should be right along here. It says 'Look for Kurtz on mailbox.'" Brian snorts "That's fucking obvious! What else would be on the mailbox?"

"Just give me the directions without the editorial commentary," I say. It's snowing harder now and I just want to find the damn cottage before I can't see the road at all. It's also getting dark. Very dark.

"Remember in England?" says Brian. "When I was driving and YOU were holding the fucking map? You didn't hear ME bitching all the time, did you?"

"Oh, please!" I reply. "We were always lost and you were constantly screaming at me! And when I gave you directions you wouldn't believe me. Remember when we went around the traffic circle about 20 times because you wouldn't turn when I told you to turn NOW?"

Brian sniffs. "You weren't specific enough. Besides, I was driving on the wrong side of the fucking road. It threw me. YOU try it!"

"Not in the snow, please." I slow the Jeep to a crawl and read the mailboxes, but I don't see 'Kurtz.' "Face it, Brian, you have an aversion to following instructions -- even MY instructions."

It's getting dark, so he holds up the map to the overhead light, trying to see it better. "Especially your instructions, Sunshine. I don't like taking orders from twinks."

"I never give orders, Brian," I insist. "I make suggestions."

He grunts. "Yeah, that's why you're such a BLT!"

"BLT?" I say. "What's THAT?"

"Bossy Little Twat," Brian replies. "It's that WASP sense of entitlement. You think because you grew up in the suburbs and went to a fancy private school that you can push the poor dumb Mick around."

"And?" I answer.

Brian sighs. "No fucking comment!"

I have to laugh at Brian. He's so transparent. "You sooo LOVE me! You really, really do! That's why I can order you around!"

"Shut the fuck up! I said 'no comment'!" Then Brian leans forward in his seat. "Hey! There it is! 'Kurtz'!"

"Thank God!" I breathe.

The weather is getting really bad so I'm glad we've finally found this place. We got off the Interstate a while ago and I was sure we were hopelessly lost. But I guess Brian's directions -- and Earl's map -- were better than I had feared.

I steer the Jeep down a long driveway that is covered with blown snow. Earl said that he would make certain that the gravel driveway was plowed, but it's snowed a lot just since this morning. Brian and I peer through the windshield and see Cardinal Lake. It looks frozen solid. And there's a dark stone building that looks like something from a Grimm's fairy tale.

"That's it!" I say. "Earl's cottage!"

And that's when the Jeep gets stuck.

I gun the engine and spin the wheels until Brian yells, "Enough! Justin! We're here. We're close enough. We can dig the Jeep out later. Let's get inside and get warm, I'm freezing my balls off!"

The snow is really coming down hard now and it swirls around the cottage like snow in a glass globe when you turn it upside down. Earl told me that I'd find the key in a little box next to the kitchen door. Brian and I stumble around, searching in the dark. Finally, we find it, buried in the snow, and I get the door open.

I snap on the light. "Thank God we've got power!"

"But I don't feel any heat," says Brian. "Jesus, it's cold in here!"

The kitchen is tiny. Brian sets two bags of groceries on the kitchen table and then goes out for our suitcases. I walk out of the kitchen and into the living room. There's a big fireplace, a sofa, and a couple of old easy chairs. Another door leads out to a screened-in porch, which looks cold and snow-blown. It's probably cool and breezy in the summer, looking out on Cardinal Lake. I see lights from another cottage on the other side of the lake, but otherwise there's no sign of any other people anywhere. Just me and Brian.

"Hey, twat! Help me with this stuff!"

I run back to the kitchen where Brian is struggling with the suitcases. His bare head is covered with snow, which I brush off while he stamps the snow from his boots. "I hope we have enough food because we aren't getting out of here any time soon!" he says.

I peer into the grocery bags. "I think we have enough, Brian. And Earl said there were cans of food in the pantry."

Brian laughs. "From the look of this place they're probably Army Surplus from World War II!"

"Hey!" I exclaim. "Here's a note from Earl!" I pull the folded note down from where it's tacked up on a cork board.

"Brian and Kid: I stacked some wood next to the fireplace. The rest is on the porch, but it's probably frozen so bring more in if you don't want to get cold! There's newspaper too. One of you guys must have been a Boy Scout, so I hope you know how to get a fire going -- you'll need it because it's the only heat in the place. Don't forget to open the flue before you light the fire. I don't want you to burn the place down! I also left some beer and stuff in the fridge. Don't wreck the joint. Your pal, Earl."

"So, Brian -- were you a Boy Scout?" I ask. "I was a Cub Scout, but I don't think we ever got around to playing with fire much."

"I've been playing with fire for almost as long as you've been alive!" Brian sniffs. "I've also fucked a few Scoutmasters, so I've been IN the Boy Scouts. Kind of. But using that criteria I guess you could say I've been in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines, and the Coast Guard. And the RAF when I was a student in London. And the Pittsburgh PD, of course."

I laugh. "You love a man in a uniform! Don't forget the Royal Shakespeare Company, Brian," I say, thinking of Gerry Milton.

"If you're going to get technical, then add the New York City Ballet to the List, and the Metropolitan Opera Company, and the Pittsburgh Symphony, and the...."

"Okay! That's enough!" I plead. "I get it, Brian. Besides, we don't have enough time to hear a list of your accomplishments. We're only here for the weekend."

"Right," Brian nods. "Why don't you put the food away and I'll get the fire going. If this storm keeps up, we're going to need it."

I put our groceries into the fridge and find that Earl's put in two six packs of beer and two bottles of the local wine. Pinot Noir, which isn't bad at all. I check the freezer. Some bags of frozen vegetables, french fries, and frozen dinners. The pantry has cans of soup, Beefaroni, flour, sugar, and other basics. I think we'll survive here even if we are snowed in. I open a jar of tomato sauce and begin to brown some of the ground beef I brought.

I smell smoke from the living room and notice that it's wafting into the kitchen. "Brian, do you need any help out there?"

"Everything is under control!" he yells back. I peek out the kitchen door and he's waving smoke from the fireplace out the door to the porch.

"Did you remember to open up the flue like Earl said?"

"It's done! Jesus! I told you I have everything under control!"

A little while later I come out with two glasses of the wine. Brian is sitting cross-legged in front of the fireplace on the rag rug. He's pulled a couple of pillows off the sofa and propped them up behind him. The fire is going strong and it isn't smoking anymore. All the smoke is going up the chimney, just like it should. The room feels nice and warm.

"I've got some spaghetti sauce simmering. You must be pretty hungry, Brian."

"Good. You know, I didn't think we'd be camping inside," Brian gripes.

"I like it. I love a fireplace. It's very romantic." I sit down next to him and hand him one of the glasses of wine.

Brian rolls his eyes. "Romantic! I'm sure you'd find being snowed in with the Donner Party romantic!"

"Maybe," I say, hopefully. "It depends on who is planning to eat me."

"That isn't in question." Brian drains his wine and sets down the glass. Then he grabs me. "Now that my dick is thawed out I think we ought to start this weekend off with a bang. A long, hard, on-the-floor, in-front-of-the-fireplace bang. What do you think?"

"But what about the spaghetti sauce?" I laugh. I lie back on the sofa pillows and let Brian wrestle my pants off.

"I have plenty of sauce," Brian breathes. "I've been saving up the sauce just for you, Sunshine. I can cook, too, you know!"

Yes, we both can cook. And the fireplace isn't the only source of heat in Earl's cottage. I close my eyes and feel that heat enveloping me from the inside. It's good. Fucking good!

I open my eyes and see Brian staring down at me. And he smiles.

Continue on to "Chances Are".

©Gaedhal, August 2004.

Posted August 23, 2004.