Sixty Tricks in Sixty Days Parts 1-3
The time: Two weeks before Brian first saw Justin standing under the street lamp on Liberty Avenue.
Brian leaned across Emmett to get to Michael. He whispered in Michael's ear, "Forty-six, forty-seven, forty-eight. Last night. Only twelve to go. Prepare to pay up."
Michael moved away so he could glare at his best friend. Brian dropped into the opposite side of the booth. His back to the wall, he propped one foot up on the bench and called out to Debbie, "Can I get some service here, Deb? I have a pitch in thirty minutes."
She ambled over and slapped his knee with her order pad. "Get your fucking Gucci boot off my fucking vinyl, smart ass."
"It's a fucking Prada boot, Deb," Brian snapped back as he dutifully dropped his foot to the floor.
"Did anyone ever tell you that you have a big mouth, Kinney?"
"The people who matter most like my big mouth, second only to my first biggest and most admired asset," he leered at his friends, who groaned. "I'll have a tuna on wheat, hold the mayo, with a side of fruit instead of fries."
"Only faggot in Pittsburgh who craves tuna," Deb mumbled to herself as she walked away with his order. Emmett grinned at Brian.
"So what does the countdown mean? Forty-eight what? What's the bet?"
"Superhuman hearing, Em?"
"Honey, everything about me is superhuman."
"Including your ego."
"Pot calling kettle, come in kettle, over."
Michael exhaled a dramatic sigh before answering Emmett's question. "In a weak, or maybe I should say, stoned, moment, I bet Brian that he couldn't trick sixty guys in sixty days. We have sixty bucks riding on it."
Emmett gave his friend a doubtful look. "You had to be stoned, sugar lump. That's child's play for Brian Kinney. How do you get proof of this feat?"
"Meaning what? I'd lie about it?" Brian challenged him and Emmett shrugged.
"I'm just saying an impartial observer following you around and cataloguing your successes might be a smart idea."
Brian's sandwich arrived in record time. Debbie might have complained about it, but she was always mindful of a deadline that was driven by work, if not play. He bit into it and said, "You're a pervert, Em. A voyeur and a pervert."
"And you're an exhibitionist and a pervert, Brian. Sounds like a match made in heaven."
"Thanks, Em, but I think I can take Brian at his word," Michael conceded. "I may as well write the check now. No way he won't nail these last twelve. How did you get three on a work night, Brian?"
"Check? Who said I would take a check? Do you have any idea how many rubberized checks you've written me over the years, Mikey? I want cold cash."
"Shut up, Brian. I haven't overdrawn my account inů" he stopped as Brian raised a questioning brow. They both knew Brian bailed him out just last month with a bridge loan of three hundred bucks, as yet still owing. "So how did you do it on a school night?" Michael changed gears.
"Party, orgy, call it what you will. If work hadn't held me up, and made me late to the gig, I could've settled this last night. I was smokin'. Every guy I looked at took a dive at the works."
"Like that's new," Michael grumped and Brian shrugged.
"Some nights are better than others."
"When do you save it up, Brian?" Emmett was amazed by his virility. "Even you must have to regenerate the fuel occasionally. When does that happen?"
Brian grinned at him. "I eat my Wheaties every day."
"Honey, that's not all you eat, and I don't mean tuna. I really, really don't mean tuna."
Brian laughed. "I have a healthy libido. I'm still young, I have a big set, and I guess I produce a lot of testosterone. Some of us are just blessed, Em."
"Or possessed. Or obsessed. One of those 'sesses' anyway. Michael, you are so going to lose this bet."
"I know," Michael admitted. "Funny thing is, if I had a bet where I had to prove up sixty tricks in six years, it would be a stretch."
Brian laughed at that. "Don't sell yourself short, Mikey. Four, maybe, but not six."
Emmett and Brian shared a laugh over that as Michael continued to look glum. "I have work to do, ladies," Brian announced. "Hate to eat and run, butů" Brian left money on the table and reached over to kiss Michael on the cheek. "Babylon tonight? Usual time?"
They both nodded, watching him go. Emmett reached for Brian's untouched fruit and stabbed a pineapple chunk with his fork. "I honestly don't know how he does it. Every bit of food, water, alcohol, drugs and whatever else he takes in has to be instantly converted to sperm. That would explain how he stays so thin."
"Would you really want to live that way even if you could, Em?" Michael asked and after a brief silence, they both nodded that yes, they would. Who wouldn't? But not everyone could be Brian Kinney. In fact, no one else was Brian Kinney. That was a truism Michael momentarily forgot when he made this bet with his best friend.
Soon, three hundred and sixty bucks out of his measley Big Q paycheck would be mortgaged to Brian. Pocket money for Brian, but an impossible dent for Michael. He knew Brian would never put a call on the money, but Michael felt like a deadbeat to have the debt outstanding between them. Brian wasn't just an impossible dream in his sexual exploits, he was also financially successful. Sometimes Michael wondered how he could tolerate Brian at all, but more often he worried about how long Brian would tolerate him before he realized he had outgrown his old friend. And that fear make Michael more miserable than anything else he could imagine.
Back at the agency where Brian toiled, he barked an order to his assistant. "Cynthia, I'm going to be late for the fucking pitch! Where the hell are those boards?"
She rushed into his office, juggling a stack of glossy ad mockups mounted on black core boards. "Is it my fault they were late in the art department?"
"It's someone's fault!" Brian snatched them from her and began placing them in the order he wanted for his presentation. "Find me another name and I'll be glad to share my rage with them. Out of my way. Do I have an apple in there? Water?"
"How do I look?"
"Like a million bucks," she took in his Italian designer suit and tie, his handmade shirt, his Prada boots. Brian was a single woman's dream except for two things: he could be a real asshole and he was gay. That second thing was the real clincher. He glared at her and she corrected her evaluation. "Five million."
"Don't ever sell me short," he reminded her and went to the conference room to pitch his campaign. Gathered there were the decision makers for a large manufacturer of swimwear. Except for a tidy and tanned brunette at the end of the table, Brian couldn't picture any of them wearing their product. Not without tossing up his lunch. The good looking one was obviously a junior exec in marketing and would probably not influence the buy unduly. But Brian made eye contact with him. Despite the wedding band the younger man wore, Brian felt the invisible tremor of mutual desire pass between them. Storing that for later, he flipped open the first board, showing a soothing seascape of ocean creatures camouflaged by the reef and their natural defense mechanisms. "In nature," Brian began, " Animals survive by blending in with their environment." He flipped to the next board. The photo showed a hot young woman in a lemon yellow bikini surrounded by a horde of handsome men on the beach. The only text was a red circle with a line through it, the universal symbol for "no", and the word "squid" written in the circle. Beneath it was the company's logo.
Silence, as Brian expected, and then he said, "The circle with the word depicting `no squid' is just quirky enough and fun enough to catch on with kids who would put it on skateboards and surfboards and books and car windows, giving you a ton of free publicity with a target audience. I'd suggest that be incorporated with your logo and put on your product tagging. The rest of these are a similar theme, different audiences, women chasing men, men chasing men, women chasing women, the usual blend. Something for all buyers."
He hesitated to let them consider and confer. The young man was sold. Of course Brian suspected he was sold before he opened his mouth. The older generation was still pondering. "What else do you have?" One of them said, and Brian shook his head.
"What do you mean `what else'? I have nothing else. I need nothing else. This is a knock it out of the ballpark winner, gentlemen. A logo and campaign that will carry you past Speedo. What more could you ask?"
His arrogance was at once disarming and annoying. The others asked for some time alone to talk. Brian graciously inquired if they needed anything and when he started to leave, the younger man followed. "Could you direct me to the men's room?"
Brian smiled. Number forty-nine, coming up.
They were alone in the men's room, standing at the urinals, surreptitiously checking each other out. Brian was minimally impressed, but the marketing type had reason to be stunned. "No squid, huh?" He repeated. "I like it."
"I know. It's brilliant."
"No ego problem there for you, I notice."
"I know I'm good if that's what you mean."
Brian smiled, zipped, walked over to the sinks, joined there soon by the other. "I get rave reviews and no complaints," Brian said as the man smiled at his reflection in the mirror.
Brian laughed, "No, your instincts are right. Gay."
"Instincts? I'm married."
"Congratulations," Brian pulled him up against his body by the lapels as he said, "Give my best to the little woman." When he said it, he pressed his "best" to the man's belly and the man moaned, becoming almost weak against him. Brian smiled and led him into a stall, locking the door behind them as he prepared to notch another conquest on his campaign for sixty bucks.
Once the deal was sealed with the swimsuit manufacturers, Brian took a moment to celebrate his triumph privately in his office, just by glancing through his presentation and re-living the high points of his pitch, while taking note of the things that didn't work well. He was constantly learning, constantly refining his skills, determined to be the best. The bit with the young exec in the john meant nothing to him. He had long ago stopped worrying about perfecting his skills in that area.
"Bravo," the word was accompanied by a brief clapping of the hands. Brian smiled, letting this familiar fantasy unwind in his head. Everything was silent, occurring only in his brain, but it seemed very real to him when he let it happen.
Marlon Brando was seated in a guest chair of his office. Not the Marlon who existed on the same plane as Brian; old, bloated, ruined by age and excess. This Marlon came in younger guises. Today he was the star of The Wild One in motorcycle gear, looking like a tricked up leather queen, still beautiful and as hot as hell. Brian smiled and said,
"It was a brilliant campaign."
"Agreed. And now you feel pretty good about yourself, but the only person you can share that with is me, am I right?" Marlon was toying with the little trophy he won, or took for himself, in that movie and Brian shrugged.
"Who else? Mikey isn't a businessman, he doesn't get it. Lindsay can only think about how pregnant she is. My other so-called friends aren't close enough to me that I'd tell them anything. It's hard for my tricks to converse with my dick jammed down their throats. That leaves you."
"How long has this been going on, Brian?"
"Since I was thirteen and saw you in One Eyed Jacks and realized I was crazy about you. But the you I was crazy about no longer existed, so I just made do with your celluloid self."
"And so we've had these nice conversations together, especially after you found the real thing to satisfy your sexual issues instead of masturbating to me."
Brian smiled. "I still jerk to you on occasion."
"Maybe we should just let that one go. My point is, do you ever think it would be nice to have someone real in your life? Someone to share these little triumphs with? Someone who delights in your success with you?"
"You mean like a fucking boyfriend?"
"I mean like a fucking partner."
"Marlon, I'm not a lesbian."
"Yeah, I've seen you naked, remember?"
"I don't believe in boyfriends, I believe in fucking."
"And you share that belief so generously."
Brian laughed, controlling that response when Cynthia entered his office. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing." Marlon was gone. Marlon never hung around when others were present, since he was strictly a private invention for Brian.
"A few of us on the team were going out for drinks to celebrate the sale. Want to come along? You're the star after all?"
Brian winced. A straight bar, with ferns and predatory females, was torture for him, but what the fuck? It was expected of the ad executive to treat his creative team to a drink after a big victory. He could write it off as a business expense. "Okay, sure. But I'm not taking anyone in my car. I have to be somewhere later." And he needed to go to the loft and change into Babylon worthy clothes before he went to the club. Showing up in work drag wasn't going to land Mr. Fifty. It worked in this environment, but not in Babylon.
She was drunk, that was the only excuse Brian could make for this skank, as she draped herself over him at the bar and cooed in his ear, "I'm wearing a red thong."
He thought he was shooting all the right signals in her direction. The studied looking past her to the wall when she tried to make eye contact. Turning his back on her when she occupied the stool next to his. Pretending not to hear her when she asked him to light her cigarette. Telling the bartender he hit his limit when she tried to buy him a drink. But no. The bitch wasn't taking delivery. When she pressed her matching saline packs to his back and let her hand slip over his shoulder as she described her lingerie, Brian felt his disinterest turn nasty. She was beautiful, with enhancement, and like so many beautiful women she felt an absolute entitlement to any man she wanted. Not this time.
He shrugged out from under her grip and said, "Sadly, red is my least favorite color in thongs. You just ruined the moment for me."
"I can take it off, sweetie. Would that help?" She wasn't giving up and Brian forced a smile as he replied,
"The equipment you keep in that thing has no power over me," he walked away from her and found Cynthia, saying, "Put the tab on your card and voucher it. I have to go."
She nodded, glancing at the rejected bar beauty, shaking her head at the hopelessness. Brian left Straight America and felt the constrictions relax as he got into his Jeep and headed for Queerville. Home. Bridging both worlds could be a pain at times. But it was necessary for survival. He cranked up the music and at a red light, the man in the car beside his glanced, cruised, smiled. Brian smiled back. He wasn't interested, but at least the gender was correct.
His cell phone rang and he used his ear piece to answer. His mother's voice brought an involuntary wince. "Brian, I'd like to see you at dinner on Sunday," she said and he rolled his eyes. She may as well tell him she'd like to see him with his dick in a vise. He was that likely to be there.
"I have plans, Mom."
"Why do your plans never involve your family?"
Because my family sucks? Because I hate my family? He thought it but didn't say it. He wiggled his way out of the conversation and felt the pressure building in him with each block he passed. Work pressure, societal pressure, family pressure, no one made it easy to be a faggot in today's world. So many little secrets, so much shame, he refused to buy into it. He could keep a secret but fuck being ashamed of what he was. Burying himself in sex was the one way the pressures were released in him. Sex was the one time he felt truly alive.
At the loft, a man was working on the elevator and Brian frowned. "I guess that means the stairs. Again."
The man looked up. He was hot, in that rough-hewn carpenter kind of way. His blue eyes twinkled as he smiled at Brian and said, "Look at it this way. You get the stairmaster without the gym."
"I'd like to get the amenities covered by my condo fees. Like an elevator."
"Sorry, man, I'm just the grunt who fixes the damned thing. I don't own this building."
Brian took in his strong arms, his firm thighs and nice ass, well viewed in faded denim. He smiled. "Why don't you come up for a drink when you're through here? Top floor."
The man admired back and said, "I may just do that."
Brian nodded and continued up to his loft. He barely had time to get out of his work clothes and into club attire when the buzzer rang. The carpenter looked hot, his chest broad and shoulders muscled as he held a heavy tool box and leaned in the threshold. "That drink invite still good?"
Brian smiled and waved him in. Babylon could wait.
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July 25, 2004