Mickey finished his glass of wine, and nuzzled into Kerri in the restaurant, his arm draped over her. He brushed a hand through her hair. “Yum, you smell so nice. I’ll miss you.”
“I love you. Why do you have to go?”
Mickey sighed. “On our first date I told you that I would soon be moving north to San Jose, where my roots are. I only came to San Diego for this one job.” He kissed her hand and then her cheek. “I care for you, but I don’t know if it’s love yet… You know guys are different than girls about that sort of thing. Besides, I asked you to come with me and you said no.”
She kissed his cheek. “I grew up here; all my friends and family are here. I can’t move.”
“I know, and all my roots are to the north.” Her face tensed with her mad look. He tried to lighten the moment. “I want dessert, how about you?”
“Why can’t you say you love me, just to please me?”
“What value is there if I say something that’s insincere? Kerri, I like you a lot; love comes with time like friendship and trust. Fast love is short love. I’m too old-fashioned I guess. You’re a wonderful person; someone else will come along for you.”
“You’re thirty-two. How can you be old-fashioned?” She pulled away and pouted.
He shook his head in frustration.
The waitress arrived and began to clear the dishes. She was maybe in her late 50’s and chubby, sporting an array of jewelry.
Mickey spoke to her. “I have to say you have wonderful jewelry. Those are splendid rings, and your necklace and earrings are elegant.”
The corners of her mouth rose into a deep smile, showing her white teeth. “Oh! Thank you. I enjoy jewelry; all this is from my great grandmother. She died at one hundred years old.” The waitress clasped her hand over the necklace and stroked it with clear pride. “You’re so kind to notice.”
“My parents taught me to hold my tongue when angry, but use it freely in admiration.”
“That’s so nice. Would you two like dessert?”
The thought of chocolate cake swirled in his mind. “Well, now that you mention it…”
Kerri slapped the table and stood. “I want to go. We can’t be late for the movie.”
Mickey checked his watch knowing there was plenty of time. “Oh, I guess I lost track of the hour. We’ll skip dessert.” He stood, helping Kerri with her coat.
The waitress chimed. “Thank you for coming in. You’re so nice.” She left the check.
Mickey dropped cash on the table to cover the bill and a generous tip, and they left the crowded eatery. Once outside he addressed Kerri. “That was rude to leave like that, and I said I wanted dessert when we got there.”
She huffed. “That was before you flirted with the waitress, that fat old cow.”
Mickey stopped. “Flirted? You’re acting like a schoolgirl. I admired her jewelry. Being polite and paying compliments is not flirting.”
“She’s an old cow, why did you do it?”
“You’re being rude again. Just because someone is older or heavier is no cause for ridicule. I choose to focus on the good in people. Did you see what joy she got from it?” They walked in a cool silence to his car. “Are you mad because I’m moving?”
“Yes!” she blurted. “Why are you leaving me?”
He opened the car door for her. “Is it always about you? I gave you all my reasons for moving. You’re being childish. Remember, you’re not too old for me to take over my knee.”
Her eyes widened. “You wouldn’t do that again. How dare you even mention it?” Her face tightened, and she looked down. “Okay, I’m sorry. I was a brat.”
Mickey got in the car, and pecked her cheek, pulling her into him. “You’ll be fine. I have confidence in you.”
She sighed and hugged back.
They made their way along with dozens of others into the historic, remodeled movie house. Kerri cheered up. “I came here as a child and used to sit in the balcony with a tiny bag of popcorn. Can I have popcorn?”
“You have to ask correctly, say ‘may I, Your Highness’.” They laughed and hugged. He bought drinks and the largest box of popcorn available, cautiously racing to the balcony with her.
“In front, Mickey, I always sat in the first row when I was little.” They settled in; she giggled, and stretched. “Oh, it brings back memories.”
He checked his watch. “We have twenty minutes; I could have had dessert.”
She bit her lip, and fed popcorn to him. His mind drifted to the upcoming move to San Jose.
“Hey, stop that,” a voice yelled from the first floor.
Mickey realized Kerri was tossing popcorn down onto the people below. She laughed and threw more as the complaining increased. The few others in the balcony stared through their frowns. “Stop it!” Mickey barked.
She stuck her tongue out at him. “It’s only popcorn.” She tossed more.
He jumped to his feet and grabbed the box from her, setting it on the floor. Disbelief at her rudeness and lack of respect flashed through his heart and gut. “Sit down or I’ll spank you right here.”
She sat and crossed her arms, turning her face from him. He stayed calm and had popcorn.
“I want to sit on your lap,” she pouted.
Mickey took her on his lap and held her. They kissed and he fed her popcorn.
Music played for the start of the movie. She moved to her own seat, but kept her arm entwined with his. When the movie ended, from the corner of his eye Mickey caught her throwing popcorn below, but he decided to wait and deal with it later rather than create a bigger scene. They headed to his car and drove in silence. Once inside Mickey’s apartment he pointed to the couch. “Sit.”
She sat, looking up, giving a soft smile.
He paced. “We agreed this last date would be fun and romantic, but you seem to have gone out of your way to make it anything but that. You started by being late, acted up in the restaurant, insulted the waitress, and assaulted people in the movie house with popcorn. I saw that you threw more as we were leaving.”
She huffed and crossed her arms. “Must you be so dramatic? I didn’t assault them; I only tossed popcorn. They weren’t injured.”
His intolerance of her attitude rose from his gut to the throat. “It was wrong, period.”
She stood. “Maybe I’d better leave.” She shoved her shoulder into him as she walked by and smirked.
That threw his action switch. He grabbed her and put her on the couch, and unbuckled her wide, red belt. He yanked her jeans open, pulling them down her legs. He put her face down, and her mouth fell open.
She gave no resistance, but squeaked a weak “No.”
He stalked to his room and pulled a wooden paddle from a moving box, before returning to the living room. Kerri sat on the couch with a pillow in her lap. “No, don’t.”
He sat and yanked her over his lap, draping a leg over hers. He raised the mid-sized paddle and whacked it down onto her nearest ass cheek.
She jumped. “Ow.”
Mickey set his jaw, making sure he had full control of his emotions. He cared for her. The spanking wasn’t from uncontrolled rage; rather it was a good, old-fashioned spanking well deserved for misconduct, and one of the greatest offenses, disrespect. He raised and dropped the paddle in a sequence onto her ass, hitting high, middle and low on each cheek. His free hand held her shoulders down as she squirmed.
“Mickey, stop this. You’re treating me like a child.”
“You acted like one, ergo you get the spanking.” He paused, holding her down while she rubbed her butt. Deciding to take this a step further, he pulled her rose-colored panties down, wishing they were making love instead of this unpleasantness. The spanking continued, a few on one cheek, then several on the other. He varied the cadence, and her body grew into a mass of tension. He waited until her legs and ass relaxed before he drove several more spanks into her butt, sending echoes bouncing around the room. “You earned this. Consider your misdeeds, and how you can be better in the future.”
She finally broke down and cried. The squirming stopped and she seemed to have accepted her predicament.
“Twenty more.” He went into slow-strike pattern—rubbing the paddle on her ass, lifting it, waiting, and then smacking it down hard. “One.” He repeated the pattern as she continued sobbing. Finally he got to the end of the sequence and the final swat fell on her blazing red bare bottom. “Twenty.”
She slipped off his lap and crawled into a large recliner, curling up. She sobbed for a while, and Mickey went to his bedroom, packed the paddle and a few other final items, and taped the last boxes.
After a while, Kerri appeared in the doorway, clasping her hands in front with head bowed. “I’m sorry. I was mad because you’re leaving. You’re the first man to treat me so special, to make me feel so cared for.”
He sat on his bed. “And you reward me by acting like a child. I thought we dealt with this after your spanking the first month we dated.”
“This is the worst I’ve been since then.”
“Yes, I’ll give that to you.” He patted his lap.
She padded to him and sat, and he pulled her tight. She rested her head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry to have been bad our last night. I’d hoped we’d make love. Can we, or are you too mad at me?”
He nodded, and kissed her deeply.
She slipped to the floor, knelt, and opened his belt and jeans.
* * *
The next morning at 5 A.M. Mickey loaded the last of the boxes into his pick-up and rented trailer, hitting the freeway north to San Jose. The CD of Garth Brooks’ greatest hits played, and Mickey’s mind recalled the final love session with Kerri last night, bringing a smile to his face. He wondered what, and who, awaited him back in his hometown. He drove slowly, giving no care to how many others passed him. When angry drivers honked at him for driving the speed limit he smiled and waved. Why do people allow themselves to be so upset or rude?
The hours and miles sped by and finally he pulled into the parking lot of his new abode, in the middle of thirty other town homes in South San Jose. There were six buildings with five condos in each one, in a quaint enclave with lawns and other landscaping between them. He strode to his new front door with the keys that the real estate agent had mailed. This place will do for now. My goal: within ten years I will have a comfortable home with an acre or two in the nearby hills. He stepped inside and turned in a slow circle, taking in the new paint scent, clean carpets, and shining windows.
Someone knocked at the door, and he turned. “Hello, are you Michael Garatino?”
Mickey stared at the sleek woman with long black hair and red nails; he guessed she was thirty-something. “Yes, I go by Mickey.”
She stepped forward, offering her hand. “Welcome! I’m Jordan Wilson, nice to meet you. I live next door.” She waved her hand around the place. “It cleaned up well. The prior owners had it as a rental and never checked on the tenants; they were a filthy, pathetic bunch.” Her dangling jade earrings matched her conservative yet alluring necklace. Her smile was to die for.
Mickey caught her stealing a head to toe evaluation of him, making him smile. Her tight fitting jeans had a Western flair making him wonder if there was a bit of cowgirl in her. She was tall and slender, just as he liked women. “Yes, it was a mess when I viewed it. I just moved from San Diego, but I’m born and raised in San Jose.”
“That’s stellar. I hope you’ll like it in our little community. Wednesday night at 7 P.M. is the annual owners’ meeting in the clubhouse. I hope you’ll come to meet others. It’s a potluck, but since most men can’t cook, just buy something from the supermarket.” She smiled, and offered her card.
It read The Law Firm of J. Wilson. “Ah, you’re an attorney.” He chuckled to himself.
There seemed to be edge to her answer, although he didn’t understand why.
“I’ll leave you to settling in. Oh, you have one hour to move your rig and trailer from the back of the building.”
That comment bothered Mickey. “Are you the parking police?” He smiled, knowing everything went better with one.
She laughed. “Yes, and other things. We spoke by email, I’m the owners’ association president, J.W., for Jordan Wilson.”
“Oh, I didn’t connect that. I see. Of course to be respectful of others I’ll move the trailer after I’m finished unloading. I have a helper coming soon.”
“Ok, as long as it’s gone in one hour. It’s in the association rules.” She gave a professional smile.
“Yes, Ma’am.” He tipped an invisible hat. “It’ll be moved when it’s empty.” He offered his best smile, shook her hand and ushered her out the door. She left whistling the old Willie Nelson song, Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.
A young man wandered up glancing at a piece of paper. “Hello, Sir, are you Mr. Garatino?” He removed his blue baseball cap.
“Yes, and you’re Damian?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you for hiring me. I guarantee you’ll be happy with my work or you don’t have to pay. Is that your truck and trailer in the back?”
He nodded, wondering Damian’s age. “My realtor spoke well of you.”
The corners of his mouth rose. “Yes, Sir, that’s my aunt. If I do a bad job she’ll tell my parents, and they’ll take a hand to me.”
Mickey chuckled to himself. “You are eighteen or over, right?”
“Yes, sir, I’m almost twenty, but I still live at home while I’m in college”
Mickey shook Damian’s hand. “You’re starting off very well. The level of respect you show is admirable; it’s a social skill that’s fading.” Mickey led him through the condo out the back of the two-car garage.
“Well, Mr. Garatino, I believe in hard work and high ethics.” He smiled. “And truthfulness. That’s what my parents raised me on.”
“That’s excellent. I feel the same. I’ll back the trailer up. You can call me Mickey.”
“Thank you, Mickey. I’ll get the butcher paper runners I brought to keep the carpet clean. Then you can use them to get your fireplace going.”
“Excellent idea, that issue escaped me. I’ll have to get some firewood.”
“I brought a small load to start you off. My aunt said you had a fireplace.”
“Damian, you’re fantastic. If you were a lass and maybe ten years older I’d ask you out.”
Damian’s face flushed red; his eyes turned down.
“Hey, I’m sorry. That was just a way to say you’re doing fine. I’m sorry if I embarrassed you.”
He shuffled his feet. “Oh, that’s okay, I’m always getting embarrassed. I thought maybe, uh, well, that you were…” He lifted his eyes and bit his lip. “Hitting on me.”
“No, sorry. I’m only into women. I meant it as a compliment, not a sign of interest.” Mickey mentally chastised himself for making the young man uneasy.
“You don’t have to let me work for you now.”
Mickey’s mind grew confused. “If you’re saying you don’t want to do this job, I understand, and again apologize for embarrassing you, but I see no other reason to stop.”
“So you’re okay being around a gay guy?”
“Ah, I get it. I didn’t think you were gay, but as long as you understand I’m only into women and not being coy with you, I want you to help me. You seem self-conscious.”
He leaned against the wall and nodded. “I’m sorry. I’m screwing this up. I just figure everyone knows somehow. Please don’t tell anybody. I’m not out. My parents would be disappointed and disgraced.”
Mickey sighed. “Damian, just because I’m straight doesn’t mean I automatically reject gays. I know you came from the factory the way you are, as we all did.”
“Thank you.” His tense shoulders relaxed. “My family dislikes gays.” The blood drained from his face. “I’d get such a whipping.”
Mickey believed in discipline for misconduct, but never for these issues. “Do you have anyone to talk to about this stuff?”
“No, Sir. I’m too afraid.”
“You’re going to school at San Jose State University; I know there’s a gay organization on campus. I graduated from there.”
“I can’t risk it, I just can’t. No one can know. You’re the first person I told.” He shook his head and his shoulders tensed again.
“I understand. Look, I used to work the volunteer suicide and crisis line. It’s staffed twenty-four hours per day, but if you need to, you can call or email me anytime, and I mean anytime. I went through a very difficult period when I was seventeen, and the hotline saved me.”
Damian stood; the smile returned. “That’s very nice of you.”
“Okay, let’s get to work. Mickey backed the trailer to the garage. He caught Jordan watching from her upstairs window. He let a thought pass by of what underwear she wore, knowing it would be bad to get into a relationship with a neighbor.
Mickey and Damian worked like a long-matched team. They got the trailer and truck unloaded when a female voice sang out. “Hello.” Jordan pranced into the garage carrying a plate of sandwiches in one hand and a six-pack of beer in the other. “You two have been working for hours; have you eaten?”
Both shook their heads. Mickey admired her peach summer dress. She had changed earrings to gold posts and a gold necklace. Did she add more make-up? “Wow, very nice of you, Neighbor. Come to the kitchen. The table is set up. Damian, break time! This is my neighbor Jordan. Jordan, this is Damian.” They shook hands.
Damian checked his watch.
Mickey queried. “Are you in a hurry?”
“No, I’ll deduct this time from my bill.”
“No you won’t. I pay for breaks.” Gee, what an honest kid.
They washed at the kitchen sink. Mickey caught Jordan checking them out. Mickey and Jordan popped beers open and drank from the bottles.
Mickey offered a beer to Damian.
“No thank you. I’m under the legal age.”
“No one will know.” Jordan winked.
“My God and my conscience will know.” He had water.
At sunset the guys had emptied the truck and trailer, stacked boxes, and put furniture in place.
“Mickey, this is a nice place, spacious but not too big. I like the two master bedrooms upstairs.”
“I liked it when I saw it on the Internet, and fell in love when I came to see it. You’ve done a great job. I’m impressed with your work.” He peeled off three hundred-dollar bills and handed them to Damian.
“Oh, no, this is way too much for the time I worked.” He offered two of the bills back.
“Damian, moving my belongings myself and hiring you versus a moving company saved me a lot of money. I’m simply sharing with the person who helped me. You remember you can call me if you need to talk about stuff. It’s dangerous to hold things inside too much.”
He sighed and shook Mickey’s hand. “Thanks very much for the work, and well, everything, and, if I can mention it, I have my own gardening business, if you know anyone who needs that service.” He handed Mickey a card.
The card read, The Stone Wall Gardener, and had a graphic of an old style, multi-colored stonewall. He remembered learning in sociology classes about the beginning of the gay rights movement that became known as the Stonewall incident. He cracked a small smile.
“Is there something funny about my card?”
“No, it’s actually very professional, it’s just that it’s a coincidence of your business name being stone wall. In 1969 there was a riot in New York City to protest discrimination of gays. It’s gone down in history as the Stonewall Riots.”
It was Damian’s turn to snicker. “I know. This is my tiny effort at trying to be out. You’re the first one to mention it.”
“Your secret is safe with me.” They shook hands again and Damian left.
Mickey caught Jordan watching from the window as he moved his truck and trailer to the street. It had been parked in the back area over four hours. He wondered if Jordan would make an issue of it.