This is Chapter 6 of the "Queer Identities" series.
The narrators are Justin Taylor and Brian Kinney, and features Avi Massarsky, Hilliard Nussbaum, Others.
Rated R and contains no warnings or spoilers.
Summary: Visitors. Arizona, May 2003.
Disclaimer: You know the drill. This is for fun, not profit. Enjoy.
"Jesus." Brian rolls his eyes as he holds his cell up to his ear. "Why do I have all these fucking messages?"
"Maybe because you turned off your phone on Friday and it's now Sunday night?" I prop myself up on one elbow and grin.
"Who the fuck should I call back first?" Brian's face is passive as he listens to the messages.
I consider. "Who's the biggest pain in the ass? I mean -- who is the most persistent?"
"Who do you think?" The corner of his mouth twitches slightly.
"It can't be Leslie," I reply. "Because she calls ME first when she needs to tell you something. I am, after all, your personal assistant."
"Yeah," Brian snorts. "With the accent on ASS."
I ignore Brian's snarkiness. I know he's in a good mood. He's sore from Cowboy Camp, but not sore enough to want to avoid his boyfriend duties -- as my rear end can readily testify to. "I like to think more about the 'personal' aspect of the job."
"I can't think of anything more personal than my dick up your ass." Brian is now frowning as he listens.
"I know. So, it has to be... Jimmy?"
"Yup," Brian nods. "Jimmy. Fuck." He listens and holds up his hand, spreading his fingers wide.
"Five messages?" I shake my head. Jimmy Hardy spamming Brian's cell. He must be freaking out about something. "Anything really important?"
"Of course not! Hey, you were wrong." Brian reaches over and squeezes my foot. "I do have a message from Leslie. Brock Santo is set to release the information about the casting of 'The Eastern Front' tomorrow morning at 9:00. She says I should be prepared for an onslaught of reporters trying to get a quote."
"Good thing we're out here in the middle of nowhere! They won't be able to get a hold of you."
"Don't be too sure," Brian informs me. "You'd be surprised where the fucking paparazzi can find you. We might wake up tomorrow to find Bill Brenner with a film crew from 'Access Hollywood' parked outside our door."
"Really? I'll have to remember to put on my underwear before I open the door!"
"Twat!" Brian smirks at me. Then he blows a puff of air through his lips as he listens and then closes the phone and sets it on the nightstand. "Hilly needs to come down here sometime this week."
"Hilly?" I haven't heard that name before.
"My new business manager," Brian says. "Hilliard Nussbaum. He has some papers I have to sign."
"Business manager?" I'm surprised. Brian rarely talks business -- unless he has to. And he never likes to explain things -- unless he has to. But this sounds like something important. "Why do you need a business manager?"
"To take care of all the fucking business I don't have time to take care of myself," Brian explains. "Ron was... well, he was handling all that shit before. He knew the film industry and he knew who was trustworthy and who wasn't. Lew took over some of that responsibility when I went into rehab, but Lew's an agent, not a professional manager. So he suggested Hilly. He also handles Glenda Douglas and Garson Brewster, as well as a bunch of other names. He's like a more upscale -- and much more expensive -- version of Theodore, but without the crystal meth. Hilly will pay my bills, manage my investments, go over contracts with Lew, that kind of thing."
"Is this guy trustworthy? What do you know about him?" Diane has told me a few horror stories about big movie stars who lost all their money because their business managers bungled their investment or even cheated them out of millions, so I can't help but be suspicious. I can't believe that I'm almost wishing Ron were still around. Ron would know if this guy was on the level. He'd never allow Brian to get ripped off.
"He's fine." Brian sets his cell aside and lays back on the pillow next to me. "He has a good reputation and Lew recommended him. Anyway, I'll find out soon enough. He's coming down here, probably either tomorrow or Tuesday, and bringing a pile of papers for me to go over."
"Why can't Leslie handle all that stuff?"
Brian sighs. "Leslie's great at running my office, but she's not a lawyer or an accountant -- Hilly is both. He's got contracts and other official shit for 'The Eastern Front' and I have to sign them myself. Leslie can't use her magic rubber stamp. If Hilly can 'manage' his way out to this set in the wilderness, it's no skin off my ass to do a little necessary business."
"Speaking of which..." I give Brian a push. "Roll over!"
Brian raises his eyebrows. "So, the bossy bottom wants to be a brutal top tonight?"
"I want to rub some more of that cream on your tender ass!" Brian's poor rear end has taken quite a beating in the first couple days of Cowboy Camp and the ointment soothes it. "Although the other possibility did occur to me."
He turns over onto his stomach. "How about one of those patented Justin Taylor massages?"
"Great!" I say, reaching for the lube.
"I mean massaging my back -- not my prostate!"
"Oh." So I reach for the massage oil instead.
"I'll be back in the saddle most of the fucking day tomorrow. This ache is just beginning to fade, but it'll start back up with a vengeance as soon as I get on that goddamn horse."
Brian rests his head on the pillow as I spread the oil over his long back and begin to knead it into his muscles. I love his back. It's like a work of art. A pliant piece of sculpture. I love touching it. And I love drawing it. But then I love drawing all of Brian's parts. He claims I only like drawing his cock -- which I do -- but it's really everything. He's the perfect model. And he's all mine!
"Thank God for that hot tub, huh?" We've been taking advantage of it as much as possible.
"Yeah, it really does help." Brian sighs as I work his shoulders. "Shit. That feels good."
"It's supposed to. Just relax."
I can feel the last of the tension draining out of him. This shoot is only beginning, but I can already see it's going to be physically punishing. Luckily, Brian is in good shape right now. He was working out as much as he was able to at Springhurst, he's not drinking, not drugging, and not smoking. And he's eating well, too. It's funny, really -- Brian Kinney, poster child for healthy living! He'd fucking kill me if he knew I was thinking that. For so long his identity was bound up in his own image of himself as a hard-drinking, hard-drugging party boy. And I know so many other people in his life bought into that image, too. Michael. Lindsay. Emmett and Ted. Even Deb. But Brian is so much more than that. I think being out here, doing this picture, and finally getting the kind of respect as an actor that he deserves will make a huge difference in the way he sees himself.
"Does that feel good?" I whisper.
"Better than good." Brian lifts his head. "Want to see how much better?"
"Of course!" I laugh as he grabs me and tumbles me on my back and attacks my cock.
Yeah, this is going to be a good shoot. Good for both of us.
"What's up for today?" Brian asks as he dries off from his shower. It's 8:00 Monday morning, but the location has already been buzzing for hours. Once shooting begins next week, Brian will have a 6:00 a.m. call every morning for make-up and wardrobe before he even sets foot in front of the camera.
"I'm going to drive out into the desert and scope out good places to sketch." I pour two cups of coffee and add the sugar to Brian's before handing it to him. "I'm bringing my camera, too."
"Got a project in mind?" he asks as he sips.
"Not really. I want to keep myself open. But this is such amazing country, I want to take advantage of it while we're here."
"Well, if you're going to be wandering around in the desert, watch it. The wranglers gave us a lecture about the nasty things around here that crawl and slither and bite, so I'm passing it on to you. If you see a fucking snake or lizard or big spider or whatever the fuck, don't walk up to the thing and ask to take its picture!"
"Don't be ridiculous, Brian!" I scoff. "I won't get bitten by a snake!"
"Tell that to the snake," Brian warns. "I saw a rattler when we were chasing some steers the other day and it didn't look very friendly. Pat told me that if your horse gets spooked by one, hang on, because you don't want to get thrown on top of the fucking thing! A rattlesnake bite can do a lot of damage, so listen to me when I tell you to watch where you're walking -- or sitting! That ample rump is a tempting target!"
I know he's concerned, but the idea of me getting hurt by a snake seems so improbable that I have to smile. "If I get bitten will you suck the venom from my ass to save me?"
Brian narrows his eyes at me. "I'll suck your ass, venom or no venom, whenever it needs to be sucked. But I'm not kidding about those snakes. I want you to be careful!"
"I know you're not kidding, Brian," I reassure him. "I'll be careful. I promise."
"Okay then." He drains his coffee and stands up. "I have to get dressed and get moving. This morning we're practicing roping fence posts in the corral, then this afternoon we're moving out to the range to try it on the real thing."
"That sounds kind of fun."
"Yeah, if you have good aim," Brian says. "Mine isn't too bad -- until the fucking steer starts running -- or charges at me. Then everything is shot to hell!"
I have to stop for a moment and hold my breath. I've never thought about that. Never considered too seriously that what Brian is doing might really be dangerous. I mean, it's a movie, right? It's all make believe. Except that he's really out there on a horse. Riding at top speed in the middle of a herd of very large and very scary cows. He, or any of the actors, could be pulled off his horse and dragged by a runaway steer. Or Brian could be thrown and break his neck, just like Christopher Reeve! I used to worry about that when I first started taking riding lessons in London last year. I was scared shitless of falling off and killing myself. But after a while you get a little confidence in what you're doing and stop being afraid. You enjoy the ride and forget there's any real danger involved. But thinking about Brian chasing some fucking cow through the underbrush and trying to rope it brings a number of worst case scenarios to mind. And I think about those steers with their long, pointed horns and sharp hooves.
I lean over and kiss him. Kiss him hard.
"Hey, what was that for?" he grins at me.
"Just because," I say, looking away. "You be careful too, okay?"
"Sure," he says dismissively. "I'm always careful. But don't worry about me, Sunshine. After all, I'm invincible!"
"Yeah," I agree. "Invincible."
The desert is beautiful. And it's like nothing I've ever seen before.
It's not beautiful like England, which is lush and green and has a wet, earthy smell. And it's not beautiful like the Pacific Ocean off Catalina, where the water is so blue it's unearthly. Or like the sunset over the islands up in Lake Erie, when the Great Blue Herons suddenly rise up from the shallows and fly over your boat. Or like the untouched snow you see from the window of the cottage at Cardinal Lake.
And it's not beautiful like the curve of Brian's shoulders, or Daphne's smile, or my mother's voice in the dark. No, not like any of those things.
The Sonoran Desert is weirdly beautiful. Relentlessly and dangerously beautiful. But also overwhelmingly beautiful.
I park the P. T. Cruiser and go exploring, but not too far from the road. The last thing I want to do is get lost out here. Brian would skin me alive if they had to send a search party out to find me! But he was certainly right about one thing --according to my guidebook there are definitely snakes out here. And lizards. And other things. Creepy, crawly things. I will have to watch where I step. And especially where I sit.
My backpack is full of all the things I'm supposed to have for surviving in the desert. Water. Cellphone. Map. Flashlight. Compass. Swiss Army knife. Sunglasses. Hat to keep the sun off my head. Full bottle of sunscreen. Blanket to sit on. And my camera, sketchbook, and pencils, too. I can't forget the reason I'm out here.
I keep checking my guidebook whenever I see something I don't recognize. Plants. Birds. Little rodents. Those lizards. And bugs.
And the cactuses. Or cacti. Or whatever they're called officially. They're the weirdest thing out here. They look exactly like they do in the movies -- very tall, with arms sticking out, like needled sentinels. The picture in my guidebook identifies them as saguaro cactus. Also hedgehog cactus. Prickly pear. Mesquite. Ironwood. Creosote bush. And there are flowers, too. Golden poppies and purple lupines. Not to mention the coyotes. I've heard them howling at night as I'm lying in bed in the trailer, but it's a sound I've gotten used to. You can hear them howling in Beverly Hills. It's a sound that makes your skin crawl. A primeval sound. You really feel like you're in the Wild West.
But there are other things, too. Gila monsters. Rattlesnakes. Kangaroo rats. Roadrunners. Javelinas, which, as pictured in the guidebook, look like giant guinea pigs with bad attitudes. I haven't seen any of those animals yet, but I keep looking. The book says they're here. I'd love to get some pictures of them, so I keep the camera ready.
But all I see are jackrabbits. One comes up and looks at me from about 10 feet away as I'm sitting under a towering cactus, trying to draw some other cactuses. The jackrabbit has ridiculously long ears and gigantic feet. He sits up and stares at me, poised to jump in an instant if I turn out to be threatening. I stare back at him, reaching for my camera. But then he springs before I can even aim it in his direction. And he's gone.
I take a few pictures. I have color film loaded, but I think it might be interesting to take some black and white shots that would better capture the starkness of the landscape. I also sketch one of the saguaros up close. I try to get the raw texture of it. But my fucking hand starts to ache. I've been holding my pencil too tightly. I have to stop and shake out my hand. It's a pain in the ass, but it's my reality. I think about Chris Hobbs for the first time in ages. People told me later that he was whining about his college football career being ruined because Brian broke his kneecap with the bat after he bashed me. Poor Chris! Boo fucking hoo! Daphne told me that he was even going around talking shit about suing Brian, but his lawyer advised him against it! Some people are fucking clueless!
It's almost noon and it's hot as hell. And getting hotter. So I look for a cooler spot to eat lunch. There aren't too many choices. Those tall cactuses don't cast very much shade, but I find a likely place and spread my blanket -- checking to make sure that no snakes or lizards are already hanging out there!
I'm halfway through my sandwich when my cell vibrates. I take it out and look. It's Avi. "Justin? Where are you?" His voice sounds strained, although the signal isn't all that clear.
"Sitting under a big cactus, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Why do you want to know?"
"You need to get back here!" Then the cell cuts out a little.
"What? Avi!" I yell. "Is something wrong?" I stand up and start gathering up my stuff.
"I need you to handle this, Justin!" he says. "Are you far away?"
"No. I can be back in about 20 minutes. Avi -- tell me what's the matter! Is Brian okay?" That's the first thing I think of -- that something's happened to Brian. I was worrying about it this morning and now it's happened! "Tell me what the fuck is wrong!"
"It's a long story, but..." The cell cuts out again. "... waiting at your trailer."
"I'm losing you!" I begin heading to the Cruiser. "Avi?" But he's gone. Now I start to run.
I drive back to camp at record speed. I'm now officially freaking out because I know something horrible has happened to Brian. I can fucking feel it! It's a wonder I don't run off the road myself because I'm driving like a maniac!
As I pull into the trailer camp I can see a knot of people standing next to our RV. And I see the back of a white vehicle. Shit! An ambulance!
But... it's not an ambulance. Not at all.
It's a limo. A white stretch limo.
That's when I remember that Brian's new business manager, Hilly Nussbaum, is supposed to be coming down here this week. But why would Avi give a damn about Brian's new business manager? And why would he tell me to come back immediately?
I park the Cruiser and jump out. Avi is standing next to the limo, his face twisted with apprehension. "Justin! Thank God you're here!"
I can't help myself -- I grab Avi by the shoulders and shake him. "What the fuck? You scared the shit out of me! I thought something had happened to Brian!"
Avi gulps. "Sorry, Justin! I didn't know what else to do! Mr. Folco and the assistant directors are an hour away on the wagon train set shooting with Mr. Eastwood and Mr. Elliott. And Mr. Kinney and everyone else are out on the range with the Longhorns. They were asking for Mr. Kinney, so... so... I thought I better call you." Avi seems so nervous that I can't imagine what the problem is.
I look over at the limo. The motor is running, probably because it's about a hundred degrees out and the business manager wants to stay cool in the air conditioned car. "Brian's manager isn't such a big deal," I tell him. "He's only bringing some papers for Brian to sign. He can wait until Brian gets back from Cowboy Camp."
"But... it's not that!" Avi insists.
That's when the door of the limo opens. And out steps Diane! "Justin!" she cries. "There you are!"
"Diane?" I can't believe she's here! "What's going on?
She giggles. "I hitched a ride."
And then another person gets out of the limo. And it isn't Hilly, Brian's new business manager. It's someone else entirely. Someone I don't want to see. And someone who is the last person Brian wants to see.
"Hey there, Baby Blue," says Jimmy with a crooked smirk.
"Oh shit," I whisper to myself. "Just what we need!"
I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.
It's one thing to rope a post and another to rope a 500 pound steer that's running full fucking tilt in the other direction.
I cast out the lariat. It sails in a perfect loop -- but just misses.
"Goddamn it!" I'm beyond frustrated. I keep missing the fucking thing!
"Good try!" shouts Pat encouragingly. Then he urges his horse close to another steer and ropes him effortlessly. "That's how it's done, pretty boy!" he crows.
"Fuck you!" I huff at him. He's only had about 20 years of practice doing it, while I've had one fucking day! "Old man!" I add.
"Go get that one, Kinney," says Gar Greenough, one of the wranglers. He's a former roping champion and he taught Pat way back when, so I don't want to look like a fucking idiot in front of him.
I guide Trooper in and pick a steer. The idea is to cut him out of the herd and get him clear so I've got a good shot at roping him. The one I pick is mostly white with small horns. That means he's young, which also means he's skittish. But I figure it'll be easier to get the rope around him if his horns aren't as wide as a fucking Hummer!
He trots away from the herd, snorting and tossing his head.
I can do this. All I have to do is focus. Throw the lariat. It sails high and close to the steer's head, catching one of the horns. I tug, pulling the rope tight around that horn.
"You got him, Kinney!" Gar rides up next to me. "Let's see if you can reel him in without losing that rope off the horn."
"You're supposed to get the whole head!" Pat hoots.
"Shut the fuck up!" This is the best I've done all day and I'm not going to lose the fucker!
The steer pulls and bucks, twisting away. Trying to shed that thing pulling at his head. I can feel the rough rope burning through my leather gloves, but I don't let go. Trooper backs up one step, then another. The steer turns and begins to follow us, reluctantly.
"You got him, Brian!" Paco yells. "Pull him in, chico!"
"Hey! Kinney!" It's Charley Bouley, riding up, calling to me. He's got a cellphone in his hand. It looks so incongruous out here on the range, surrounded by the herd. I still think of Charley as a man from a different era. A cellphone doesn't fit with that picture.
"What?" The steer stands passively now and I let the rope go slack as I turn my attention to Charley. You're never supposed to let the rope go slack. The fucking steer tosses his head and the rope slips off. "Aw, shit!"
"Forget that, Kinney. They need you back at your trailer." Charley's expression says that he's pissed at this interruption, although his voice is cautiously neutral.
"Didn't ask." Charley scowls. "Better get a move on. Now."
Why is this so fucking urgent? Then I stop and think. "What's wrong? Tell me! Did something happen to Justin?" I remember my warning about snakes this morning. I told him to be fucking careful!
Charley shakes his head. "Don't think so. But you better go back. You can ride Trooper up and bring him down to the corral later."
Pat comes up beside me. My poker face must have failed me, because Pat seems concerned. "You want me to go with you, Brian?" He reaches over and touches my arm.
"Naw," I tell him, shaking him off. "It's probably nothing." I fucking hope!
"You're right," he replies steadily. "Good luck. But call me if you need anything."
I nod and turn Trooper back towards the camp. Walking. Trotting. Then I start galloping him. Hard.
As I approach the RV, I see a some people milling around. And Justin's P.T. Cruiser. And a white limousine.
"Lookie! It's the fucking Lone Ranger to the rescue!" someone shouts.
I know that voice.
Shit. And fuck.
"Jesus, Bri," Jimmy says admiringly. "You look HOT on that horse!"
Jimmy Hardy. This is the last fucking thing I expected. And the last fucking thing I need! "What the fuck are you doing here?"
That's when I notice Hilly Nussbaum, hiding behind Jimmy like a frightened mouse. "When Jimmy heard I was coming down here, he asked if he could hitch a ride. And... well..." Hilly looks uncomfortable.
"Who can say no to Jimmy Hardy, right?" I finish. Certainly not a Hilly Nussbaum. Hilly's a smart and successful guy, but he's no match for Jimmy, that's for certain. You don't say no when you're a business manager and he's the Most Powerful Actor in Hollywood!
"What can I say, Bri?" Jimmy grins. "It's my natural charm! So, are you going to get off that mighty stallion and give your old pal a friendly hug?"
I count to ten. But I get off Trooper. I don't have much fucking choice at this point. Jimmy throws his arms around me and gives me a big, wet kiss like he's Myrna Loy and I'm Fredric March just come home from the war in 'The Best Years of Our Lives.' That was one of Ron's favorites. I have no fucking idea why I think of that film at this particular moment. Except that Ron would know what to do with Jimmy. And he'd know how the fuck to get rid of him.
The door of the RV opens and that kid, Avi, steps out carrying a six-pack of beer. He holds the door open -- and out comes Diane, with Justin right behind her. She's got a pitcher of lemonade and Justin has some glasses.
"Bridie!" she screams. She hands off the lemonade to Avi and runs over, pushing Jimmy aside. Then she gives me a big hug, too. I don't mind Diane hugging me or kissing me, either, but I have a feeling the Hollywood-style hugging and kissing is just going to keep happening until I'm ready to scream. If Hilly tries to hug me, I swear I'll have to slap him. And fire him.
I glance over at Justin. Thank God he's okay. He rolls his eyes back at me. Yeah, he's fine.
I take a long look at Diane. She looks good. Happy. Her television series is a big fucking success and she's on top of the world. "And what are you doing here, if I may be so bold as to ask?"
"Came along for the ride," she laughs. "I didn't want to miss all the fun! And I wanted to surprise Dorian."
Oh. Dorian. Fuck! I forgot about him and Diane. "He'll be surprised all right." Poor Dorian. Jimmy AND Diane. And the poor bastard has been out shooting with Eastwood all day. This is going to be a real picnic.
"Don't hog the guy, Princess Di," says Jimmy, elbowing Diane aside, much to her amusement. "Hey! How about a couple of those beers over here, Baby Blue?" As usual, Jimmy is doing what comes naturally to him -- making himself the center of attention.
"None for me, thanks, I'm on the wagon," I remind him. "Now that I know my trailer isn't on fire, I need to take my horse back to the corral." I turn Trooper around and start leading him away.
"Bri! Wait!" Jimmy falls into steps beside me. "I'll go with you." he grins at me. "We have a lot to talk about. Important stuff. Just you and me, Bri."
I stare at Jimmy. I know why he's here. He's totally nuts, but that's par for the fucking course. And he never gives up, no matter how many times I tell him to fuck off.
"Yeah," I sigh. "That's what I was afraid of."
Continue on to "Good Day, Sunshine".
©Gaedhal, April 2007.
Posted April 5, 2007.