Always a Country Boy Ch. 03
For about the millionth time Jimmy caught himself staring at the door of the Broken Saddle. With a snarl he turned on his bar stool and stared vacantly at the stage. He cussed himself for hoping that Cooper would walk through the door looking for him. It had been nearly a month since Cooper dropped him off at his house and the coward hadn't shown his face since.
In one swallow Jimmy finished off his Bud Light. Since his mood was about as welcoming as a pile of cow shit he decided to take his self home before he got into trouble. A redneck bar was no place for a black mood spoiling for a fight. As it was his buddies were starting to give him odd looks because of his strange behavior lately.
Cooper sat in his Mercedes with his hands still gripping the steering wheel. He had been avoiding the Broken Saddle for awhile now, telling himself that he was just too busy to go. For weeks he stayed late at work, throwing his self into any project he could. But tonight it was only 9:30 when he finished the last of his work. It was much too early for bed so he found himself getting dressed and driving to Wilder. He enjoyed going to the Broken Saddle so there really was no reason to stay away. The bottom line was he couldn't avoid Jimmy forever.
Releasing the steering wheel, Cooper took a deep breath and rehearsed what he would tell Jimmy if he saw him. Before he could chicken out he opened the door and stepped out of the car. The humid night stole the air from his lungs. So he sucked in a deep breath and leaned against the car for a moment. He knew he was stalling but hell he was out of the car wasn't he.
Cooper repeated his lines yet again in his head as he walked to the bar's double doors. Suddenly a man accidentally ran into him in his hurry to leave. The side view mirror of a pick-up caught Cooper between the shoulder blades. The man made a grab for him and Cooper found himself looking into Jimmy's deep brown eyes.
"Jimmy," Cooper paused for a moment to gather his thoughts, "I was just looking for you."
"I just bet you were." Jimmy sneered. "You were probably looking to see if I was in there so you could run back out the door."
"No, I need to talk to you." Cooper rolled his shoulders against the throbbing pain. "You know what happened shouldn't have."
Jimmy opened his mouth to reply but the door opened to the bar spilling music and people outside. The parking lot of a straight county bar was not the place to get into their relationship issues. Anyone could wander outside to get some air. And although drunks were pretty slow witted Jimmy figured they would be quick enough to pick up on the conversation.
"Not here." He turned and started through the crowed lot. When he didn't hear Cooper behind him he stopped to look over his shoulder. "You wanted to talk, so come on."
Cooper watched him for a moment before following him to a 06' Flatbed Chevy Silverado HD. The blue paint was polished to a shine and the chrome stacks behind the cab shined in the moon light. When the door unlocked Cooper found the inside just as clean.
Jimmy just cast Cooper a sidelong look before bringing the diesel engine to life. Cooper watched him reach down and shift the truck into first. Apparently they were going on a road trip. They pulled out onto the highway and headed towards the river. The only sound in the cab was the diesel engine as Jimmy worked in through its gears. It was clear that he didn't want to talk yet. So Cooper kept his own council and let Jimmy set the pace.
The route that Jimmy was taking was familiar to Cooper even in the darkness. It would have been the same one he would have taken home. When they came to Route 8 Jimmy turned right and headed east towards Silver Grove. He only drove until he got out of town. There he turned on a gravel lane that crossed the rail road tracks and went toward the river. He stopped the truck in a clearing that was obviously used for camping.
Jimmy still didn't speak as he killed the engine and climbed out of the truck. Cooper assumed that he was meant to follow so he opened the door and got out. He could make out Jimmy's silhouette sitting on top of a picnic table about twenty feet away. He walked over towards the ancient table and stood before him.
"So you want to talk." It was a statement not a question said in a snide fashion. Jimmy paused and flicked his lighter. Taking his time he touched the flame to the tip of the cigarette dangling from his lips. "Took ya long enough didn't it."
"I was working." Cooper sat on the table and leveled his gaze on Jimmy. "But I don't see where I have to explain my whereabouts to you."
"I don't guess you do." Jimmy pondered the glowing tip and took another drag. "But as I see it you were hiding from me. Or more importantly you were hiding from us."
"Shit Jimmy there isn't an 'us'." Cooper shifted and looked out at the river. "It was a mistake. I'm not interested."
The conversation wasn't going the way that Cooper had envisioned. In his mind he would just tell Jimmy that he wasn't looking for a relationship at this moment that the kiss was a mistake and it would be over. Jimmy would be fine with it. Hell they were guys not a bunch of girls looking for a double ring ceremony in every man they meet.
Jimmy watched Cooper as Cooper watched the river. "You're lying."
Cooper turned his head quickly back towards Jimmy. "You don't know me. You don't know anything about me. So you can't know my mind."
"Fuck it. I know you. You are a county boy just the same as me. You just try to hide it for some reason. But guess what. You don't do a very good job of it."
Cooper stood up quickly and glared down at Jimmy. "I'm nothing like you. I might have grown up country but that's not what I am. I live my life the way I want. I have a nice house, a nice car, and one hell of a job."
"No, you are running from yourself." Jimmy stood nose to nose with Cooper. "I don't know why but you are. You might have a fancy car and job but your still country through and through. You haven't completely turned your back on it. You never will."
Jimmy watched as Cooper spun away and stared out at the river again. In the distance the train whistle sounded. Across the river was the tinkle of lights in people's houses. Jimmy let the silence stand. He didn't mean drag all this up. All he wanted was for Cooper to admit there was an attraction. The train blew its whistle again, this time it was closer. In a matter of moments they could hear the steady sound of it moving down the tracks.
Cooper still had his back to Jimmy when he started to speak. "All my life I was expected to work hard on the farm and be like my father and brothers. I was supposed to love it. Sure I was expected to get good grades and have a life outside the farm. But in the end it was the crops and cows. I wanted more. I didn't want to slave my ass off for nothing. We weren't poor growing up but you know how it is."
Jimmy nodded. He knew that the weather and the market made all the difference in the world when it came to farm life. For years the market had been dropping. Many farmers had to seek outside employment to keep their heads above water and keep food on the table. It was a hard life but in Jimmy's opinion there wasn't one better.
"I figured out that I was different than my brothers and my daddy when I was about thirteen. I worked out on the farm because I had to; it was what was expected of me. They worked because they loved it. By then I was already starting to figure out I was gay. Of course that scared the shit out of me."
Cooper turned around and looked at Jimmy. "When did you figure it out?"
"I was a little older. I was sixteen. I'm sure I had an inkling before then but I wasn't going to admit it. Of course I knew it after I wrestled the clothes off a girl in my first truck. It didn't do a damn thing for me."
"Yeah I've been there. After all no decent redneck is going to admit to being queer. Not in the area, definitely not to their friends. I dated this girl that asked me out. It was god awful. I dumped her after a few months. I went through several girls before I just gave up. I kept hoping I would like it with just one of them."
"I've been there. So when didn't you try a guy on for size?"
Cooper walked back to the picnic table and sat down. He waited patiently for Jimmy and held his hand out for a cigarette when Jimmy offered one. He lit his Marlboro and waited for the on coming train to pass by. While he waited he gathered his thoughts. He could remember high school like it was yesterday. It was pure hell.
When the last car passed and the noise subsided Cooper started talking again. "It was a new guy to the school. He was different, a skateboarder type, you usually don't see that kind around here. Well he wasn't a school very long before the rumor started that he was fag. Daily pounding soon started since he wouldn't deny it. Of course he never admitted it either."
"I waited for him after school one day. I followed him in the truck for a while and waited until we were away from the school. I pulled up along beside him and told him to get in. He looked terrified. You could tell he figured I was going to kick his ass. But in the end he got in. Too afraid not to I guess. So I drove a while, neither one of us saying a word. Then I pulled off on a back road and parked the truck."
Cooper paused in his story and flicked the cigarette away. He wished he had a beer to wash down the sandpaper in his throat. It was easy to remember Jason, the terrified look on his face when the truck stopped, how he put his hand on the door handle so he could make a quick escape. He wasn't a bad looking guy. His body was thin as a tobacco rail but short. He was well past puberty but still hadn't hit that last growth spurt.
"I turned to him then and point out asked him if he was gay. He stuttered and tried to tell me he wasn't. I shook my head and told him I was, but of course that if he repeated it to another living soul he would wish that he were dead by the time I was done. Then I kissed him. It was awkward and very weird but it felt right. Do you know what I mean?"
"Yeah I know. I kissed my nerdy Math tutor. I knew he had a thing for me, he was always checking me out whenever he thought I wasn't looking. I didn't say a word I just laid one on him. God he was shocked my then he got into it. It was nice. He wasn't really my type but like you said rednecks don't admit they are queer." Jimmy leaned back on his hands and stretched out his long legs. "I still don't see where we are that much different."
"I don't fit into your life, just like you don't fit into mine."
Jimmy considered for a moment before answering. He could see what Cooper couldn't see or more accurately what Cooper didn't want to see. "You still help out around your dad's farm right? You still live out in the country right? You go to the Broken Saddle and check out the men right?"
"Yeah," Cooper said defensively, "what's your point?"
"It's not that your aren't a country boy. It's that you are more than that."
"Since when did you become a shrink?"
"I have a degree in Pysch."
"You do not."
Jimmy chuckled to himself. "You aren't the only one that went to college. I got the fancy degree and three days a week you can find me at the Children's Home talking to the kids. I have to pay for the farm somehow."
Cooper sat in silence and stared at Jimmy in disbelief. "Why didn't you tell me this?"
"Because you were too caught up in our differences, you just wanted to see me as some redneck farmer." Jimmy poked Cooper in the chest. "But you know your right. We are different. I'm comfortable with who I am. I'm not afraid of it."
With that Jimmy got up and walked towards his truck. He didn't turn to see if Cooper was following him this time. He figured that either he would or he would have one hell of a walk back to his car. Maybe he could have a chance with Cooper if Cooper would only admit to himself who he really was deep down inside.