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Editor’s note: this story contains scenes of incest or incest content.
“When the Ecuadoran minister of tourism interviewed me, he said that no one ever gets attacked by a shark in the Galapagos Islands. He asked me if it couldn’t have been a giant turtle. And I told him I knew a fuckin’ turtle from a shark. He wasn’t pleased with my attitude, but then he wasn’t the one sitting there, dripping blood on a departure lounge floor while waiting to get on a delayed flight to a fuckin’ substandard third world hospital.”
“But you didn’t get a good look at the shark, you said,” Cousin David, Uncle Jim’s son said. “You don’t know what kind of shark it was?”
“It was a shark with big teeth,” Cousin Jack Riding, Uncle John and Aunt Betty’s son, retorted. “It took a bite out of my arm, just here. See? It was a fuckin’ big-toothed shark with a chunk of my arm in its maw.”
“Oo, gross,” Candace, David’s twenty-three-year-old daughter said. It was her younger, hunky husband, Steve, an auto mechanic from right here in Rochester, Indiana, who Cousin Jack was talking directly too. That didn’t surprise me a bit, but Candace didn’t seem to mind. Jack had been paying a lot of attention to Steve today. I guess Candace’s grandfather, Jim, hadn’t told her about Jack, assuming he remembered after all these years or that he ever had known or had wanted to know. I didn’t go around then asking who knew what. I didn’t want any of them to know. Jack had been off in Los Angeles working as a TV producer for so long that those left behind in Indiana probably had forgotten all about his early life—at least I could hope that they had.
I certainly hadn’t. But then, I had better reason than any of the others not to forget about Jack’s early life. I certainly didn’t forget those summers we’d spent here at the Riding family home on the shores of Lake Manitou when Jack was twenty-three and I was eighteen. A five-year age gap at that age made my worship of him and complete trust in him and acquiescence to his interests and guidance easy at the time. I was a pushover. Of course, I was already inclined in that direction.
I tried not to look at Jack while we were all sitting around in a semicircle of multicolored Adirondack chairs on the lawn above the dock behind the family home and Jack was telling us about his harrowing encounter with a shark It had happened while snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands the previous fall and had included a three-day ordeal in being transported back to the States from one primitive medical clinic to the next little-less-primitive Ecuadoran hospital until his studio could get him airlifted back to California for a professional surgeon and plastic surgeon. Once there, they’d had to redo all of the work on him.
I wasn’t the only one who was not pleased that Jack was talking directly to Candace’s husband. Johnny, probably even younger than Steve, maybe nineteen, was looking a little irritated at Jack’s behavior—that’s when Johnny wasn’t looking at me and smiling. He was a gorgeous young man who Jack had brought here unannounced. I think I’d heard in the confusing round of rolling introductions at the Riding family reunion at the old family home on Lake Manitou, on the edge of Rochester, Indiana, that Johnny was a male model in LA. I admit that I was surprised as hell that Jack would have a son—that he must have been a father when he was teaching me in sexual relations between men. But I wasn’t surprised that he had a beautiful young man. Jack had always been a hunk himself. I did understand there had been a few wives—Jack worked in Hollywood, after all—but I couldn’t imagine that the marriages had been for more than show.
I know I had been smitten by Jack those two summers we were both here a dozen years previously—the summers that I ripened sexually; the summers I pined for Jack until long after I realized that we both wanted the same thing. Of course, there was still a lot we could do, being attracted to each other, even if not in a yin-yang way that would have completely fulfilled satisfaction.
“We decided that the shark must have mistaken me for a sea lion. I’d seen one that was wounded, a gaping hole in its side, just before I fell a nudge on my arm. It didn’t even hurt initially—not until the initial confusion and surprise wore off.”
Jack was back to describing his snorkeling ordeal. He was looking directly at Steve, who looked back, mesmerized. I doubted that Steve had ever been out of Indiana, let alone to the Galapagos Islands. And he seemed to be going under the spell of Jack, which I well knew was easy to do. Candace was a sexy little thing, though. I hoped she’d be able to hold Steve back from the brink. We were a pretty well-educated crew here at the Riding family reunion. Steve was out of his element here. Very impressionable was Steve. If Candace weren’t here—and maybe Jack’s parents, John and Betty, who knew what was what and were ever vigilant, I’d despair that Steve would be crossing the divide sometime this weekend.
But güvenilir bahis then, who was I to talk? I had been just as mesmerized by Jack and I’d fallen for him hard. There had just been limitations on how far we could go.
“That was what satisfied the minister of tourism when he was at me before we flew out of Quito—that there was an accident involved, maybe. That maybe the shark didn’t know he was attacking a human in a black wetsuit, easily mistaken for a sea lion. But there I was in pain, holding my arm up to ease the blood flow from a big bite, and trying to make the Ecuadoran minister of tourism feel good about the safety of tourists to his country so he’d stop talking and let me get on the fuckin’ plane. As it was, we’d missed the first one and had to wait for the next one.”
Jack was holding court. The rest of us—thirteen of us other than Jack—were listening to his story with a wide range of interest from Steve, who was leaning forward in his orange Adirondack chair, almost with his tongue hanging out, to the family matriarch, Marie, who was still living in this huge Victorian manse on the shore of Manitou Lake. Grandmother Marie Riding was sitting in a purple Adirondack chair, glassy eyed, in her own world, with a slight smile on her face. We were just a swirl of figures to her, but she was able to grasp that we were her family. She was with it enough to know we’d all come home to visit her in a rare family reunion, probably the last one she’d be alive for. I don’t know what would happen to the family home and whether that meant there would be no more extended family reunions because there would be no family-related location for us to return to. But then, maybe Jim and Avis, David’s parents, Candace’s grandparents, would move into the house. That was the branch that had never left Rochester. Jim was the one who had taken over the family GMC auto dealership in Rochester.
There had been three brothers and two sisters in the generation ahead of me. The oldest of the siblings had been Virginia, but she died young. She drowned here in Lake Manitou. I always wondered why the family stayed here after that, but they did—Granddad John and Grandmother Marie clung to the lake and this big house, with its Victorian tower and gingerbread trim, ever after.
John, Junior, husband of Betty and father of Jack, was the oldest of the sons. John, who was sixty-seven, was an architect in New York still. Betty was an English professor at NYU. They were remote from the rest of the family and always seemed to have been too busy to interact with the rest of us. Or maybe it was because they want to seem above having come from Indiana. John had left Rochester as soon as he could and had never come back for longer than a few days at a time. I was surprised they’d come back now, but John was being extra solicitous of his mother, Marie, today, so I assumed his being here was some sort of guilt trip for not paying much attention to her before this end-of-life phase.
I was even more surprise that their son, Jack, had come. I understood that he wasn’t coming, which is why I did, but he changed his mind at the last possible moment. Somehow, as the first day of the reunion wore on, I got the impression that Betty, at least, had come to the reunion to keep a check on Jack, as if she was afraid her son was going to disrupt the weekend and the equilibrium in the extended family.
That Jack lived on the West Coast and his parents were on the East Coast was no accident. Jack had been quite a disappointment and trial to his parents, who hadn’t really had time for their son and didn’t approval of what little they knew of Jack’s interests and preferences. I didn’t think they were aware of what Jack and I had done those two summers. They barely remembered who I was, and they asked no questions about me or the rare book shop I owned in the quaint Bucks County village of New Hope, in Pennsylvania. They didn’t ask whether I had family when we were introduced the previous—and I don’t. There’s Noel, but I didn’t bring him up at this reunion. He’s a vet in New Hope. He probably would be very interested in Jack’s shark story and Jack probably would be intuitive enough to have as much interest in Noel—and more success with Noel—than in and with Steve. Noel would not have to be seduced; he’d have been a pushover for Jack’s charm and technique.
The third child, and second son, Jim, had been the one to stay here in Rochester, and, of course, his branch was represented by the most attendees at the reunion. His wife, Avis, who was the de facto mover and shaker in the family now that Marie’s mental facilities and health were failing her, had made all of the arrangements for the reunion. She was the one who stepped in to take the sting out of relatives clashing from years of having happily avoided each other.
Their son, David, forty-five, was the assistant manager at the GMC dealership and would move up when Jim decided to retire. David’s wife, Karen, was a school teacher in Rochester. Their türkçe bahis daughter, Candace, was a dental hygienist, but she would, no doubt, move into place at the GMC dealership when it was her generation’s turn there. Her husband, Steve, worked in the service bays at the dealership. He might make service manager one day, but even in that position he be above in ability level. He obviously had been acquired by Candace for his hunkiness and performance in bed rather than his intellectual prowess. Having watched him watching Jack; Johnny; another cousin, Ward Samuelson; and me, though, I wondered just what his interests were. There were no other young women here, to be sure, and the Riding family men were hunky, but Steve’s roving eye made his interests pretty clear.
But with Jack, who most knew about, even if they were trying not to remember, and me, which I hoped only Jack knew about, the family had enough of such alternate preferences. Jack’s history certainly had been there bubbling just under the surface for a dozen years.
My father, Jerry, who had been in publishing in Philadelphia, was the third, youngest brother. He had died young but not before inspiring me to go into researching, collecting, and selling rare books. My mother, Carol, an art critic, was still alive, but had stayed in Philadelphia for the weekend. She had never attuned herself to the Riding family. When Jack’s issues bubbled up from the surface after he couldn’t keep his hands off one of the family’s landscapers, the family had withdrawn into itself to the point of treating the in-laws as “other,” probably for fear of having the family’s “queerness” thrown in its face. My mother was never catty about Jack, though. She knew where my interests had gone and didn’t fight them. I don’t think she ever realized that Jack and I had had a relationship of sorts, though. But just for two summers. I had just gone on from there on my own.
The youngest of the siblings was Georgia Samuelson, who was at the reunion and who, apparently, was working on moving her medical practice from Pittsburgh to Rochester because, as the youngest sibling and a woman, she was being fingered to move in and take care of Grandmother so that she could live out her life in the home she’d lived in for over seventy years in the town where she had been town clerk for several decades.
Rochester had been Marie’s hometown. She’d brought Granddad John here after they’d married. They met at Indiana State University in Terre Haute. Georgia, a widow, had brought her son, Ward, to the reunion with her. Her daughter, Heidi, had had not a smidgen of interest in attending the reunion and was rebelling at the notion that Georgia was made to feel obligated to move to Rochester to care for her mother. Georgia was a general practitioner in Pittsburgh and Ward was a medical student at the University of Pittsburgh. He was an agreeable young man, but he had taken after his father in looks rather than the very photogenic Ridings and was a little pudgy. At least, I thought, that with Steve here this weekend, Ward should be safe from Jack.
Jack had moved to the medical issues of his encounter with the shark—the long-time and varied transportation modes required to get him from a rubber dingy to a tourist boat to a larger research vessel with a helipad, but, unfortunately, no functioning helicopter in the region, and, eventually, to a small airport and a plane ride to Quito and, after wrangling there, back to California eventually.
“You can see the incision here and the lost of muscle mass,” he was saying. Georgia and Ward were very attentive to this part of the story. Steve was still hooked. Johnny, obviously having heard this hundreds of times before, was looking at me with a little smile on his face. Grandmother Marie was snoring in her purple Adirondack chair. The others were talking recipes from the lunch Avis had served two hours earlier.
“The first doctor didn’t even know how to put in an IV,” Jack was saying. “Muriel, who’d worked in vet office before coming to me had to scrounge around in his office for one and put it in herself. And I had to keep my arm pointed up. There had been on tourniquet and the sea guide had used his belt.”
“Muriel?” Betty suddenly boomed out between what had become two different discussion groups. I could feel the tension rise in the air between Jack and his mother. It was like she had been on guard from something from the moment that Jack and Johnny had arrived.
Johnny smiled and said, “Muriel is Jack’s assistant. He was doing some business in Ecuador and took her with him. I think everything would have fallen apart there if she hadn’t been along.”
“Oh,” Betty said and returned to the recipe discussion, apparently content that there hadn’t been yet another wife for Jack she hadn’t heard about before the divorce—not that she was that interested. Basically, she’d said at lunch in an aside to him that she didn’t know why he bothered with them at all.
“No relevant equipment for shark güvenilir bahis siteleri bites in that first clinic,” Jack said. “They had to hang the IV cord on a curtain ring. And the place was filthy. It’s no wonder the wound got infected.”
“Infected?” Georgia said. “Oh my. What did they do to clean it out?”
I’d heard enough at that point. His arm didn’t look so bad now. He was still a hunk and no one would have known he’d been bitten if he didn’t tell them. I stood and said, to no one in particular, “As long as the lake is right here, I’m going for a swim.”
Somehow Grandmother Marie heard that and came out of her reverie long enough to say, “We don’t . . . not anymore, Mike. If you must, please be careful.” I could see from the panicked look in her face that she was still thinking of Virginia drowning in the lake after all these years.
“It’s fine, Grandmother,” I said, wanting to shoot myself for causing her to remember. “I’m a strong swimmer. I’m just going out to the island. It’s not far.” I didn’t bother to correct her not knowing my name. My name wasn’t Mike. It was Mark. Mike was her husband’s brother who hadn’t returned from Vietnam. Family legend was that it was Mike who Marie really wanted of the Riding brothers, but had settled on John when Mike didn’t reappear. But I guess she was close enough on the names for her eighty-nine years and her condition. What was important was that she was worried about me. We were family. I wouldn’t do anything that would upset her at this time of her life that I could avoid being part of.
Reaching where the dock met the yard, I stripped off my T-shirt, shorts, and sandals. I had a Speedo on under them. Jack wasn’t so unaware of me that he didn’t give me a wolf whistle. All talk in the yard stopped, if ever so briefly, and I could see mixed expressions on various family members’ faces. I just kept on keeping on, though. I’m happy to say that, at thirty-two, I had kept in tip-top shape. Of course, at thirty-seven, so had Jack. If nothing else, the Ridings all had very good genes and a sense of keeping themselves in shape. Even Grandmother was still movie-actress gorgeous—well, for an eighty-nine-year-old.
I strode down the dock and executed a beautiful dive into the water, even if I do say so myself, and started stroking toward the island a third of the way into the lake in a strong Australian crawl. Looking back, I could see that most eyes were on me, which suited me just fine. In particular, I was pleased for Jack to admire how well I had aged.
As I swam, my mind went back to those summers at the grandparents when I was eighteen—and Jack was twenty-three. Both of us had come out to help with the auto dealership while Jim was doing summer reserve duty and Granddad John was busy unsuccessfully trying not to die from cancer.
* * * *
It had started out there, out on the island where I was now headed. The night before, Jack and I had gone out on the town to a tavern, where we’d picked up a couple of local girls. They’d both wanted it. We were men of the world to them, were Riding family handsome, and were connected to one of the most profitable businesses in town. The kind of tavern we went to featured unaccompanied girls who would lay down and open their legs easily for men like Jack and me. Getting and spiking the girls wasn’t our dilemma that night.
We drove down to the lake—Jack was driving a brand-new red 2006 Pontiac G6 convertible from the showroom—and we parked in the lot of a picnic area, where the locals came to fuck and where this was deemed the place to be allowed to do it. Jack fucked his girl in the front seat and I fucked mine in the back. The girls both declared that they’d had a ball being balled. In the debrief at home afterward, Jack and I, still half looped from the tavern visit, had revealed to each other that neither of us had been as enthusiastic about the coupling as the girls had been. In a moment of drunken candor, we both acknowledged that we were more interested in men than in women. Jack had revealed first. Jack was always the one who took the initiative.
The next day, after a half day of work at the dealership, we came back to the house and, all keyed up, we swam out to the small island, where privacy was at a premium, where there were a few trees to hide behind, and where you could see anyone else coming out to the island from a great enough distance to readjust any position you happened to be in.
At the island, with Jack showing the way, we got naked and kissed and fondled and stroked each other erect. Jack was gorgeous and totally confident in his ability to seduce. He’d had no trouble with me at least in establishing my willingness. At the strategic moment, Jack moved to roll on top of me as I was contemplating how and when I was going to go on top of him, and, in a flash of realization, we both rolled away from each other and gave the circumstance a hearty laugh. We were both horny but we were both interested in the same thing. We were both exclusively tops. Neither wanted to bottom for the other or for anyone else. But we were in high heat, so we stroked each other off with our hands and came at nearly the same time, me before Jack, of course. He was the experienced one—the teacher.
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