Plain Brown Wrapper
By Ian Kovnats ()
Copyright © 2008 ? All Rights Reserved
Barney wheeled his mail truck into the spot at the top of the block, just as he had for the last ten or so years. Every morning, his Government Mail delivery truck would pull in, even when the snow had been falling all night long. He was proud, that he had missed a total of 3 days during his tenure as a mailman.
Not like some of the new kids these days. He grimaced a bit, making his fat face wrinkle a bit, his eyes glow a bit menacing, as he thought about how things had changed, yet hadn’t.
He was about to have his forty first birthday next month, and celebrate nearly 20 years in the Postal Service a few months later, and he still loved his job. Not like the new kids, who only thought about perks, about getting the routes done so they could down a few extra beers. Not that he objected to having a few brews himself. Barney just didn’t think he had to rush, or cut corners. A bit old fashioned perhaps, but then he was nearly forty one.
Now some wouldn’t think he was a mailman, as he had a bit of a paunch, and his hair was a bit shaggy too, not your typical civil servant look. If he thought about it, he wasn’t in bad physical shape, just not one of those sculpted bodies, or bulging six packs or flat tummies. Besides, he liked to have his fun, his beer and those yummy greasy cheeseburgers down at May’s Diner.
Then there were the treats from his customers. He knew virtually every single one on the routes he did. Least his regular routes. There was old lady Gray, who always had a hot cup of cocoa for him on the rainy or snowy days. Then there was Mrs Cleary, she was always baking stuff, and had an extra piece for him. No wonder he had a bit of a paunch. It was also what the new kids missed out on. That and the Christmas gifts.
Hefting his mailbag over his shoulder, he realized that there were maybe a dozen or so on his route who never gave him a card, or even did more than nod at him. Yet that wasn’t bad, considering his regular routes totalled about 300 or so homes. Let some of those new kids match that one, he thought as he started his trek to deliver the morning’s mail.
There was old man Singleton, already out working in his garden, getting it ready for the hot summer months. He was a real garden nut, and read a lot too, and not just gardening magazines. Was kind of funny to see what some people read, and then when you looked at them, you’d never figure them for having that kind of interest.
In so many ways, it was like they were all part of some weird extended family. When the Mullins had that problem with baby Jessica, he would always spend time just talking about the weather, to keep Mrs Mullins from thinking of it all. Even when Mister Jakes had suddenly passed away, he had attended the funeral, and had been surprised at how many on his route were there too.
It was like that. Just as how each morning he enjoyed his regular visitors, like Christopher who was heading off to College this fall. Eighteen already, and Barney had watched him grow up from a gawky kid of eight to a rather handsome young man. He smiled because Christopher was always outside, waiting for him.
Barney had watched him grow up, had enjoyed their morning chats about all sorts of things. Christopher had quite an inquisitive mind, talking about the stars, about life, and even about God. It was like he was starved for different thoughts on a whole range of subjects, from what made a great burger, to the latest hit song being played.
Though lately, Christopher; Chris to his friends, which Barney was, had been rather quiet. His face didn’t light up as it used to, and he seemed rather sullen. He wanted to ask him, but so far hadn’t. It bothered him, because to Barney, these were his family. Not like he had one of his own, but he kept telling himself that he wasn’t the ‘family type’ or something like that.
Some of the guys at the sorting house looked at him weird for it, but screw them. It wasn’t like they were the best walking advertisement for marriage or having a family. Man how some of them boasted about their side affairs, or how they got thrilled catching a beauty answering the door in their see through night dress. And these were so called happily married men?
That was part of his problem, but not all of it. He simply didn’t find himself attracted to women, and he had long since lost his virginity but sex was never something that was a huge mission. Oh sure, back in the day he screwed around like any other kid. At college he went on many a panty raid with his dorm buddies. He had his share of one night stands as well, some of them not what most might expect.
College had been an experience. It had been where he had his first guy to guy sex, where he had his first scare too, that he might have gotten a girl pregnant. It was college, but since, well he just enjoyed delivering the mail, talking with the people on the route, sharing their lives. It made him happy, so what if every night wasn’t filled with mindless sex, or having to deal with kids running around under foot? Least he didn’t have to worry about college tuition like the Jansen’s were for Chris.
Maybe that is what had him so down in the dumps? Could be that his folks were finding it tough to scratch up the college fees? It would be a shame, because if anyone needed to go to college, to experience it, it was Chris. He really needed to get out, to meet new people from new cultures, and experience life in a whole different way.
Turning the corner, to head down the block he was surprised to suddenly see Chris waiting by the mailbox. It was where he collected the mail for this part of the route, not where he normally would find Chris. As he quickened his step, he noticed that Chris was just leaning against the box, his face looking down.
Stopping for a minute, he felt a sort of apprehension, as if something terrible was about to happen, yet he didn’t know what it could be. It bothered Barney as he shifted the mailbag on his shoulder, and called out, waving his free hand.
Chris looked up and stared for a minute, almost as if he didn’t recognize Barney, then gave a half hearted wave, as he just stood there, waiting. It made Barney shiver a bit, as he had never seen Chris looking so down before. This was a kid who always was smiling, always had a grin plastered over his face. Even that time when he had first begun to learn how to ride a two wheeler.
His skinny little knee was oozing blood, and the bike had been laying on the grass, the front a bit twisted, from having hit something. Yet Chris wasn’t crying, just smiling as he looked at his bloody knee. Nothing really seemed to phase him, until now.
‘Hey Sport, you get lost?’
Chris gave him a sort of weak grin, and then just looked down at his feet, mumbling a greeting. He was kicking at the dirt around the box, and off to one side, Barney noted he had his backpack, and another bag. It didn’t look right, as both seemed overly stuffed.
Dropping his own bag to the ground, Barney took his keys out, to open up the box, to find the bundled letters and smaller packets for the next stage of his route. He could see a sort of puffiness around Chris’s eyes, as if he had been crying. That was strange, because in all his time knowing the younger man, he had never seen him cry.
‘You look like the world just ended Sport, what’s up?’
‘Yeah right, come on Chris, what’s up? The way you got those bags stuffed, almost makes it look like you running away from home.’
He had said in jest, trying to lighten the mood, to get Chris to open up. There was no mistaking that something was bothering him, and Barney believed that talking about things, helped. He stood there, looking until Chris finally raised his face and looked at Barney.
‘Guess you could say that’s true.’
‘Whoa there, what are you talking about Chris? College isn’t until the fall, this is just the beginning of July.’
‘Yeah, well no college in the fall, nothing. I just, I just wanted to say goodbye, see if there was anything for me, one last time.’
Barney couldn’t help but feel a small pang in his heart. The way Chris was talking, how low and dejected sounding his voice was. It wasn’t Chris, that was for sure. He always was so full of life, so happy go lucky, that Barney had come to look forward to meeting him on the route. Hell, he had been feeling sad himself, thinking of Chris being off at College. It was the part of his job that hurt, when the kids moved on, or the regulars moved away or just, well died. He missed them all, but none as much as he would when Chris left.
Now he was leaving early, but not to college? Barney could see how hurt Chris looked, how vulnerable he was looking. Chris wasn’t what you would call an Adonis or anything, but he had nice features. Was on the lean side too, but then he was always outside, always running even if it was to Kwon’s corner store, just down the block from his home.
‘Uh, I’ll check, uh, you want to talk about it?’
He felt his heart skip a beat, as Chris looked up at him. How his eyes were brimming with tears, as he stared up at him, looking past him in one way, right through him in another sense. It was like he did want to, but something was holding him back.
‘Thanks, but I uh, I don’t know Barney, it is just so hard, and well, I don’t want you to hate me.’
‘Hate you? Come on Sport, how can I hate my favourite buddy on the whole blasted route? You know you can tell me anything.’
‘Not this, I can’t.’
As he rummaged through the bundles he wondered, what it was that had Chris so certain that he wouldn’t understand? Did he get some girl pregnant? But then, no it couldn’t be that, as after all he was the one who delivered all those brown wrapped magazines each month, and while they were addressed to just a ‘Mr Jansen’, he knew they were for Chris.
It didn’t matter to him, never really thought about it, as he found that there was one of those magazines in the bundle. That had to be it, somehow Chris’ secret had come out, one he had known for a long time. But why did Chris not trust him, or think he wouldn’t understand?
Turning around, with the magazine in hand, he saw how Chris was looking at it. Christ, what a mess it must be, to feel so alone, so cut off from people. He had his own past, and okay, so he never broadcast it, nor did he even go out of his way to find it, he couldn’t help but feel closer to Chris.
Heck the first time when the brown wrapped magazines started showing up, he had an idea they weren’t playboy type magazines. Then he got used to seeing the names of who they were from, and he knew that they weren’t naked women in the centerfolds.
‘Here, just your AllBoy today.’
Chris had been just reaching out for it, when his hand stopped, his head snapped back to stare up into Barney’s face. The eyes were wide open, in terror, as his whole body began to tremble. The arm was shaking, and his fingers were twitching as he realized that Barney knew. You could see it in his face, as he stood there, uncertain what to do.
‘Look Sport, it’s no big deal to me, so tell me, what happened? Your folks find out or something?’
‘They kick you out?’
‘That’s rough, you got anywhere to go? Friends, boyfriend maybe?’
Chris just stared at Barney. There were tears beginning to roll down his face, as he shook his head in the negative, afraid to even speak. His lower lip was trembling, and Barney felt like he just wanted to reach out and gather the trembling young man into his arms.
Barney had seen a lot of cruel things in his time. How that Mr. Withers had beat his wife, while she kept refusing to press charges, or how poor little Monica had made her way everyday to school, on braces because of some bone disease. He had seen it all, but never parents turning their back on their kids. That was just something he read about, saw on television but never experienced.
Looking at Chris, he couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, outraged too, but there wasn’t much he could do. It wasn’t his place to go crusading and knocking on their door. Maybe in time, they’d come around, but then what? Would they even be able to find Chris? And what about him, where was he going to go? The streets were no place for a sheltered kid like him.
‘You sure there is no one you can go to? Even for a few days?’
‘No, no one.’
‘No, when I left, my Mother, she was already calling everyone, to warn them. No, there is no one.’
‘Not even a school friend?’
‘Yeah, like they’d let me crash. No, it’s okay, I got the addresses of a few shelters, that should do for now.’
It just didn’t seem right. Barney felt like he was in a daze, and yet inside, he knew what would happen. Sure, the shelter might do for tonight, then again, it would lead to a lot more. As sensible as Chris was, he was still just eighteen, and not really street smart. He was the perfect target for some of the scum out there, and Barney knew he couldn’t let him get swallowed up that way. He liked him, only now realizing how much he did care.
‘Look, you got any money?’
‘Huh? Yeah about a hundred bucks.’
‘Won’t last if you go to a shelter, what about a bank account, you got one?’
He almost smiled at how Chris had acknowledged he had a bank account. One thing about Chris, he did like to show his independence. Yet as he answered, Barney could see his mind whirling, realizing how fragile things were going to be for him. There was no mistaking the fear in Chris’ eyes.
‘Look, I gotta get the route done, tell you what Sport, grab your stuff, and meet me at the truck, you know where I park it.’
‘Yeah, but Barney, I’ll be okay, really.’
‘You are a smart kid Chris, but not when it comes to being on your own, look, just meet me at the truck, we can go grab a burger or something, talk a bit, maybe figure out something a bit better than going to a shelter.’
‘Okay, I guess, you sure Barney? I don’t uh, I can manage.’
‘Course you can, don’t doubt that for a second, but hey, friends can help make it a bit easier, if you let them. Talking it out won’t hurt, and besides, I can give you a lift to town, if that’s what you decide.’
‘I don’t know Barney, seems like a lot of bother for you.’
‘We are friends, aren’t we Sport?’
‘Well sure we are, I mean…’
‘So its no bother, okay? You just hump those bags to the truck, I’ll be about an hour or so, okay?’
‘If you say, yeah, okay, thanks Barney’
He just smiled as he lifted his mailbag up and over his shoulder. Giving Chris a small pat on the shoulder, he could feel him shaking, still trembling but he could tell, he was feeling a bit relieved. Funny thing, he thought, about how sharing a problem made it seem less of a burden, less ominous.
Walking away, he turned to see Chris picking up his bag and pack, and moving off in the general direction of where he had parked the mail truck. He felt strange, a bit sad, and yet also a strange sense of pleasure. Maybe it was because he wasn’t walking away from a friend in need, or maybe it was something more? He wasn’t too sure, but he felt this need to hurry along.
His hefty mailbag didn’t feel so heavy as he made his rounds, still taking the time to chat to the people he met, still taking the time to exchange banalities and pleasantries. Yet at the same time, he felt a growing excitement, which didn’t quite make sense.
Barney couldn’t help but think of how scared Chris must be feeling, at how lonely had to feel. In all honesty, the few times he had crossed over, in his own college years, he had felt nervous too, scared even. Yet it hadn’t seemed a big deal 20 years ago, as it was today. That didn’t make much sense, but he understood it.
He never thought of himself that way either, and yet while he liked sex, it wasn’t something he went out of his way to have. That alone made him different, he guessed, as he continued to deliver the mail. Could be that for him, he enjoyed other interests, even as a kid he never really had been the hormone crazed teenager that his friends were.
Could he be one of those sexless types? The ones who simply didn’t do it, for some lack of interest? After all, he was about to be 41 years old, and to be honest, his sexual activity was more like some ninety year old. Now that wasn’t exactly natural, but then too, supposedly it was related to his being Diabetic.
Maybe if he had a partner, someone who he had gotten close to, or was close to, it would be different? He wasn’t sure, but as that didn’t exist, well, he had his extended family to worry about. That did give him pleasure, like when he had found that seed packet for Mr. Singleton. How happy he had been, and how it had made him happy to see. Those were what was important, not how often you got off with someone.
Okay, he did enjoy jerking off too, but it wasn’t like he did that every single night. And he didn’t have what you would call a porn collection either. Sure he had a few DVDs, mostly straight stuff, but he did have a couple from that European studio, Bel Ami. Magazines weren’t his thing either, but there were maybe a dozen or so kicking around from the years.
AllBoy was one, which he had a couple of, which is also how he knew what was in those plain brown wrappers he delivered to Chris. That gave him a bit of a pause, thinking that the poor kid, having to hide his sexuality, yet needing to have some form of contact with what he liked. It had to be tough, but it also maybe explained why he was always outside, with his backpack. He was waiting for the magazines, and making sure no one at home could find them. Crafty little guy, but then he always knew Chris was smart. Still, what could he do for him? He just couldn’t let him go to a shelter, and even if he did find him a place, or such, what about tomorrow, and the next and the next?
As his boots hit the ground, taking another step along the well worn path of his route, he knew he just couldn’t abandon Chris. It wasn’t that he had any reason to be so interested in him, just that, he felt like he had to. No one else seemed willing, or available to help, and well, he owed Chris. He had made his route enjoyable, in ways the other’s hadn’t.
He liked seeing his fresh face, seeing those laughing eyes each morning. It was something to watch him growing up, right in front of him. That alone was worth something, given how empty his own life was. First time he admitted that, as he plodded along the walk, towards the next house.
There was something about Chris, even as a kid, that had made him feel, well protective of him. It wasn’t anything sexual, that he was certain of, but it was something close to that. Almost like he was the Father, instead of Mr. Jansen. Though the few times he had met Chris’ dad, he hadn’t been impressed with him. He was too rigid, to unbending and the way he always walked towards the car, as if he had a two by four up his ass. It had always made him feel nervous, watching him leave for his work, not to mention glad that he didn’t have him as a supervisor.
There was just something nasty about him, something icky, as the kids might say. Still, he was Chris’ dad and that also surprised him. How full of life Chris was, compared to the dour expression his father always wore on his face. His mother wasn’t much better, a rather plain looking woman who was always wringing her hands, as if agitated. She wasn’t exactly what you would call sociable either.
Thinking about her, he wondered how she and her husband could have raised such a happy go lucky kid as Christopher. Then too, he also realized that he had never seen her fussed, or mussed. Every time she came out, to gather the mail from Chris, her hair was done, her clothes looking freshly pressed and cleaned. Never a spot on them, and that was odd. Not once did he recall ever seeing her in slippers, or with a hair out of place.
As he approached the end of the route, almost time to arrive at the truck, he wondered if Chris would be there. Did he stay or did he take off? In an odd sense, it mattered to him, that when he got back to the truck, that Chris would be there.
While doing the rest of the route, he had come to realize that he was fond of Chris, though he wasn’t sure in what way, other than as a friend. Least he wasn’t about to admit that he had other thoughts, or fantasies about him. He genuinely liked him, enjoyed the conversations they had, and okay, the guy was what he would call good looking. Yet, was that a sexual attraction? He didn’t think so, though it was in the back of his mind, all the time he was stuffing the mail into the boxes or handing them to the home owner.
Was he trying to seduce him, or create a situation for making a play for Chris?
That thought rather made him miss a step or two, because in all honesty, he did fancy the guy. In fact, Chris was one of the few guys that made him even think about sex. Not many women even fell into that category, least these days. At college, well that was different, or was it? Was his college preferences out of peer pressure, or because he was into girls?
The heavy thinking was making him feel his age, as he turned the corner. There was his truck across the street, looking just as he had left it. Yet his heart sank, as there was no Chris, that he could see. He felt a strange emptiness inside, feeling like he had been cheated out of something, but he didn’t know what. It didn’t make sense, as he slowly made his way across the street.
It was like a huge disappointment, that was weighing on him, as he made his way, street side, towards the back, to toss in his empty mailbag. As he rounded the back of the truck, and fumbled with his keys, he heard someone move, and from the house side, there came Chris.
Barney felt his heart kick its beat up a notch or two, as he saw that Chris had waited for him, as he said he would. He felt strangely pleased by it, as he grinned at the young man. It was as if the sun had suddenly come out from behind a dark cloud, even though Chris wasn’t looking all that much happier. Still he did look more relaxed, and as he smiled, Barney notice he still was holding the plain brown wrapped magazine.
‘Sorry it took longer than I expected.’
‘No problem, uh, you really don’t have to do this Barney, I’ll be okay.’
‘Thought we settled this Sport?’
‘Just making sure.’
‘Okay, climb in. Hungry? I know it’s a bit early yet, but how about a burger at May’s Diner?’
‘Sure, I am not all that hungry though.’
‘Well, you can have what you want, when we get there. But you haven’t had a burger, till you have enjoyed one of May’s super deluxe double bacon, double cheese, monster burgers.’
‘If you say so.’
‘I say so, come on climb in.’
As Chris climbed up into the truck, Barney couldn’t help but check him out. It wasn’t something he normally did, yet he felt a bit of a thrill doing it. Maybe he did have a sex drive, and for guys? It made him a bit nervous, wondering if maybe he was treading on thin ice. Yet he didn’t stop, as he started the truck up, looking out the side, for oncoming traffic.
‘How did you know what was in the brown paper?’
Finding this little blond treasure at UK Naked Men was a surprise, and a thrill actually. He has that look, that just makes one think of Christopher in this story.
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