Summertime painted red all through Letterkenny. Red wildflowers grew anywhere they could, jutting out of ditches and gutters and from under abandoned trucks on blocks. Each tall stalk of the weed had a hundred little red bulbs at the top. They were pretty and seemingly as innocuous as clover blossoms until inevitably those red bulbs popped open and coated Letterkenny in a fine rusty powder.
Darry, stepping out of the barn into the cool morning air after milking and mucking all morning, practically saw the bloom of the Ambrosia suspirium happening in real time. Like a haze of smoke swelling from the ground.
He sighed, mouth tilting in a grim line.
“Fuck,” he murmured.
Even knowing it was coming never really prepared a man for the actual moment before it arrived. Those last few minutes of clear thinking and logic, when you just knew the hell that was in store and that the only way out of it was straight on through it.
Within the hour, Darry’s horn was rock hard. But he grit his teeth and ignored it. And, most importantly, he left his phone in his shirt pocket no matter how many times it dinged or rang.
Darry had decided this year’s fuckweed bloom was going to be different than previous years. This year, Darry hadn't signed up on the latest app that helped people find a willing sex partner with which to ride out the effects of the inescapable aphrodisiac pollen. Flings from last year evidently still had his number, but he refused to answer. Nope. This year, Darry had other, vague and unshaped, plans.
Chorin with a hard-on was no picnic. But it was all the same no matter what medical website Darry looked at: no one in the world ever died from unattended sexual arousal. Even if the fuckweed made it feel like the opposite was true.
And, of course, Wayne’s attitude didn't help anyone’s bad mood. He slammed things and cursed too much and no one around him could do anything right.
This was typical behavior for Wayne, who never loosened up during a red bloom. The fuckweed tended to tie Wayne into grumpy knots on account of what Angie did under the influence.
Darry hoped to make this year different.
One thing was for damn sure, though, and that was that the fuckweed never failed but to break on the hottest damn day of the year.
Wayne drew on his dart and exhaled the smoke. A stinging horse fly buzzed by. He swatted at it. The laneway in front of the produce stand remained empty and quiet. Dry, hot and dusty. Squirrely Dan had made off from work quick as a buck. Like the rest of the world, he had a date.
God knew where Katy was.
Nearby in his lawn chair, Darry upended his beer bottle. Wayne extended his whole arm and dumped out the last inch of his beer. He felt so restless he wanted to hit something.
“How you doin’, bud?” Darry asked into the silence hanging around the produce stand.
“Oh, not s’bad,” Wayne droned around the dart in his lips.
“Just seem troubled by yer thoughts is all.”
Darry was slouched back in his lawn chair, legs splayed wide open, like a whore. And, to be fair, he always sat like that. But he was usually in his coveralls and big rubber boots.
The problem was today, he'd stripped his work clothes off in the dusty heat. And him sitting like that in snug cut off jean shorts was very different than him sitting like that in baggy coveralls.
Wayne glowered at Darry’s relaxed hand resting on his naked thigh with his lit dart between two fingers. Is was hardly the first time Darry's body caught Wayne's eye, but if wanting his best pal like a bull wants a dam was a problem when he was dating Angie, it was even more of a problem now. Because now without Angie as a buffer things were likely to get out of hand.
Fuck did Wayne just wish they could all go back to before puberty when life was simple.
“Remember when we were kids?” Wayne asked.
“I can confirm that we were kids at one point,” Darry drawled with a glimmer of humor in his eyes. “Any specific instance you have in mind, super chief?”
“Just the general tomfoolery, I suppose,” Wayne sighed and turned his head away, squinting into the distance. He wasn't pouting. At least not intentionally.
“Yer missin’ the days of innocence, sounds like,” Darry mused, squinting over at Wayne through the bright sunlight. The sun made some of his curliest curls look coppery.
Wayne dragged on his dart. “Might be, I reckon.”
“It’s all par for the course in adulthood, big shoots,” Darry stretched out his muscled legs, crossed his bare ankles, put his lips around his dart and then spoke on the exhale, “Helps to try to see things the same way you did as a child.”
“How do you mean?”
“Like… when you see a rainbow and you're like, that's a fuckin’ cool rainbow. Instead of just, like, pretending it’s not fuckin cool.”
Wayne frowned in disgust. “A fuckin rainbow, Dar?”
Darry waved a dismissive hand, “I borrowed an example from William Wordsworth.”
“The poet of British Romanticism.”
“Wordsworth, you say? Is he a decent poet?”
“Yeah, old Bill Wordsworth wasn't half so bad. He wrote: the child is father of the man .”
“That's ass fucking backwards.”
“No, it’s to say that who you are as a child defines you as a man. Pretty damn eloquent.”
“Where do you read this shit, bud?”
Darry shrugged. “The internet.”
“So this Bill Wordsworth wrote a fuckin’ poem. About a fucking rainbow?”
“Yeah, it’s about how if you feel the joy of seeing a rainbow, you never really lost your childlike wonder.”
“Sounds like he was a fucking sally.”
“Well,” Darry squinted over at Wayne, “He was.”
“What's got you in a mood, bud?” Darry absently parted his thighs, lifting one leg as he scratched his balls, not exactly inappropriate since they weren't in mixed company.
Wayne shot to his feet, “Need another beer.” He pivoted and walked toward the house. He prayed for rain as he went. A good hard rain would wash away the red pollen that dusted the windshield of his truck and the handle of the screen door.
“Fucking fuckweed,” he cursed as he dusted his red stained hand on his jeans leg.
For all the problems it created in his life, Wayne actually thought fuckweed was kinda pretty, as far as these things went. The tall red grass grew in streaks across meadows and fields and road shoulders like god's wayward paint brush and as the bulbs at the top got heavier they bounced and bowed under the play of the wind.
Hey, look at that. Wayne figured maybe it was like Darry said and he hadn't lost his child-like wonder after all, since he could still see the beauty in the fuckweed even after… everything.
Back at the produce stand, Wayne handed Darry the cold beer and lowered into his chair. Darry sang praises and pressed the sweating bottle to his neck. Wayne wanted to hit something again.
“Remember before it affected us, when Katy Kat dared us to eat a whole handful of the fuckweed buds that one time?" Darry asked with a big fat smile. He shifted in his seat and laughed.
“Bitter as fuck,” Wayne intoned, dropping his eyes closed on the emphasis. Nothing had tasted right for days.
“Yeah but,” Darry droned, “She said real men don't back down from a dare so. Down the hatch they went.”
“And back up the hatch they came.” Wayne finished.
“Never spit so hard in my life.” Darry laughed and then side eyed Wayne, “Dare you to go eat some right now.”
“Fuck off,” Wayne said and drank. Darry only laughed again and didn't press the issue.
That horsefly was back. Wayne swatted and got the fucker. The dog wandered up, panting, and groaned as he lowered himself in the shady grass against the stand. His long pink tongue lolled out of his mouth.
Darry extended a bare foot and gave the dog a scratch with his toes. The dog groaned and rolled to allow more access. Darry laughed again, a cuyuking chuckle that was practically a giggle.
Wayne grit his teeth, curled his toes in his boots, and thought no man should act so fucking happy just because a dog liked to get scratched. Darry was smiling like he was having the time of his life. So fucking soft. Softer’n’shit.
Clutching his beer bottle, Wayne decided he was going to hit someone before the day was out. He began cataloguing the guys around town, trying to find a reason he could go start a scrap.
As he thought these thoughts, his eyes traveled on their own up Darry’s extended leg, past his cut off jeans, up his sweaty white shirt and--Darry was looking at him. Raised eyebrow. Darry had caught him staring. Fuck.
Wayne looked away.
The dog wiggled and groaned and flopped and wiggled some more under Darry’s scratching feet, and Darry laughed and stretched to keep the dog in reach until-- crash. The lawn chair tipped and folded and Darry landed on his ass. His beer spilled out, and the dog jumped and ran off.
“Wish you weren’t so fucking awkward, bud,” Wayne said, but he couldn't keep the laugh out of his voice for the delivery, nor the smile from twitching his lips. He exhaled smoke and flicked ash and watched Darry get to his feet.
Darry plucked at his soaked shirt and then sucked beer from the fabric.
“Fucking disgusting, Dar.”
“You sweated in that shirt all day, Darry. Now youre drinking beer out of it. Youre drinking beer out of dried sweat , Darry.”
“Mmm,” Darry grinned, licking his lips like a fucking deviant. “Salty.”
Wayne grimaced and looked away with a shake of his head.
“Yeah,” Darry said with a tone like he was agreeing to something someone else said. “Something has definitely got her panties in a twist.”
“Oh go fuck a flag with your Oh Canada boner, Darry.”
“I know what this is,” Darry said dismissively behind the dart he stuck in his lips, picking up his chair, throwing it open and settling back into it. He shook his hair from his eyes, bare legs going all the way fucking open again. “This is your first bloom without Angie.”
“Fucking say her name again, and I'll strike you.”
Last year, during that particularly dense bloom of the fuckweed, Wayne had turned a corner to find Angie in a compromising position.
All told, it was in that moment Wayne understood exactly why his mom left when Katy was a baby.
After a lot of yelling and pleading, Wayne had tried to forgive Angie, because of the bloom. But then the second time it happened in the dead of winter, so it wasn't the pollen at all.
“I'm just saying,” Darry said with a shrug. “It's obvious you need to give the horn a yank. No shame in it. Don't you know Tis The Season To Be Jizzy?”
“And just how are you so relaxed? Why aren't you going stark raving for a fuss in the hay?”
Darry shrugged. “Burped the snake bout an hour ago.”
“We were chorin an hour ago.“
“ You were chorin an hour ago.”
Darry giggled, “Am I fired, boss?”
“On thin fucking ice.”
“Just go beat one out. Fuck. We’re adults here.”
“Well I can use some toe curlin’ and I don't mean maybe.” Darry's eyes locked on Wayne's, “So how ‘bout I give ya a hummer?”
He saw the impact the offer had on Wayne. His jaw dropped, his face slackened, and he shifted in his chair and tugged at the leg of his jeans. It made Darry squirm in triumph.
Wayne blinked rapidly as he processed his options. Darry bounced a knee and tried to prepare himself for disappointment. He knew his odds in this race were slim thanks to the trainwreck with Angie.
Wayne stood, no eye contact.
“See ya tomorrow, Dar.”
He went into the house, Darry let him go, comforted by the fact that Wayne had not said no.
The second day of this year’s bloom was so much worse than the first. Darry woke rock hard and even after humping the bed, still couldn't stop that feeling in his body; that liquid sex hotness just beneath his skin. He went to work in the predawn hours with a hard on squeezed into his jean shorts under his jumpsuit.
He would never for as long as he lived ever discuss with another living soul what happened--completely on its own--as he milked the cows that morning. Disturbed by the involuntary emission, he had to slip into the house to rinse his shorts out before the cum dried.
Darry chalked it up to the fact that he had never gone this long with the pollen in his system without a partner to help ease the desire jetting through his veins. He was getting himself off whenever it was appropriate, but it wasn't the same. He didn't have the self discipline to make any of it last long enough for a big ending. It didn't feel like enough.
When chorin was done, and Darry ended up alone again at the produce stand with Wayne, he was so happy he could almost cry with the relief. Wayne could help.
Yesterday’s refusal had been a formality. He couldn't refuse twice, could he?
::: Wayne :::
The moment Wayne saw Darry, he grit his teeth, drew a careful breath.
Because Darry was at it again: presenting himself for a good and proper breeding. Legs bare and wide open. Finding a fucking reason to bend over in Wayne's line of sight. Eyes lingering. Voice slightly lower than usual.
Conversation was no different than normal, script-wise. But it was stilted and neither of them really had a mind to hold to the thread of a real topic of discourse. Both of them were visibly hard and pretending not to notice. Wayne sat still with clenched teeth and fists. Darry shifted this way and that and even blatantly touched his crotch once or twice.
Five minutes in and all it took was one glance from Darry, one sweep of those eyes over all of Wayne and a casually tossed out, “So how ‘bout it, super chief?”
Wayne broke. Whatever idiot plan he’d had to sit with a beer and his buddy and pretend everything was normal went through the fucking windshield.
He shot to his feet, clipped out the words, “No thanks.” And marched to the house to handle the situation.
::: Darry :::
Two rejections hurt, but they weren't unexpected. Darry went home, took a long hot shower, spilled himself dry and then was still hard by the time he finished dinner and climbed into bed. He tossed and turned, grumbling and swearing, and even kind of praying.
Wayne had trust issues for obvious reasons. But Darry wasn't ready to give up. Which was why the third day of the bloom, Darry left the milking barn and found Wayne in the barley field as fast as possible. By now Darry was pretty sure he was going to die.
He throbbed. He ached. He was sweaty and breathless. His mind was fuzzy. His blood was too hot.
Wayne was a good man. And good men helped others.
The tractor had stalled and Wayne was giving it a truly impressive cussing out and a violent thrashing with a huge wrench. He stopped when he saw Darry. He blushed and stepped to hide his hips behind the tractor wheel.
Darry licked his lips, feeling like a feast was in reach of a starving man.
“Something wrong?” Wayne asked.
Darry shook his head but motioned toward the driveway. “Squirrely Dan’s already gone for the day.”
“Figures,” Wayne huffed. “You cutting out now, too?”
“Does it look like I have any place to be?”
“To be fair, you're usually gone as fast as Dan is when it's the bloom.”
“I'm supposed to go this year and leave you hanging around here without Angie? What kind of bud would I be?”
“I'm plenty used to being alone during a bloom,” Wayne gritted through his tight jaw. “I prefer it, so...”
That didn't make much sense but Darry couldn't think straight at the moment. His brain had almost no blood in it. “Look at me, Wayne.”
Wayne didn't move, kept his gaze locked in the opposite direction.
Darry, unable to stop his hands from roaming his own body, only vaguely realized that he was basically impersonating Gail right now. She was somehow this horny all year round. Darry wondered at how she didn't just explode into horny dust along with the red bulbs of the fuckweed.
Swaying on the spot, caressing himself, Darry felt like a live wire and he was somehow sure that all it would take would be for their eyes to meet and the firework show would start.
But Wayne refused to turn around.
He pleaded, “Wayne, look at me, bud. Come on.”
Still, Wayne didn't move. Except to get even more tense. “Not interested, bud. Maybe go take care of yourself so’s you can help me get some real fucking work done around here.”
Darry lost his breath and beneath the hot haze of the red bloom, he felt his heart break like a vial, spilling the bitter taste of disappointment on his tongue.
Wayne wasn't going to give in. Angie had gone and ruined all the fun of a bloom for Wayne.
Darry walked to his car and drove home and, humiliatingly, cried as he got off in the shower. Then he got hammered on far too many shots of Jager and passed out in his kitchen floor.
The next morning, Darry woke with a hangover to find a world scrubbed clean of the red pollen. The ground was still wet in the beam of his headlights as he drove to work before the sun. The ground was soggy under his boots from the night’s rain, and the sky was still gray as the sun came up. He had no idea if it was scientifically backed or just his imagination, but he milked the cows feeling the slight mood drop that inevitably followed the red high.
Today the fence on the south end needed fixing so after tending the livestock, Darry jumped in to help Wayne get ‘er done while a happily whistling and far too cheery Dan covered Wayne’s daily tasks.
Darry and Wayne worked together without a single word. In fact, Darry’s offer yesterday was the last words spoken between them. Wayne focused on unloading the new posts and rails from the truck with laser intensity.
Mood sinking lower and lower, Darry just put his mind to finishing the damn project before the black clouds overhead let go. The wind picked up, stirring the grass and tugging at their clothes as they pulled up rotten posts and planted new ones. Darry’s hair seemed to blow in his eyes no matter which direction he faced.
The sky opened all at once. Torrential downpour that soaked them to the skin in seconds. No thunder or lightning. Except for a brief pause to put phones and packs of smokes into the safety of the cab, they kept working.
Darry had to admit. The rain was gorgeous coming down in sheets across the fields, and nothing beat the sound. He closed his eyes and tilted his face to feel the hard drops. Used to play in the rain as a kid. Working in the rain wasn’t s’bad.
When he opened his eyes again, Wayne was looking right at him, sledgehammer all but forgotten in his hands. The rain had plastered his single layer to his torso, revealing the cut of muscle and more chest hair than normal since the open collar no longer hung straight but off one shoulder.
His eyes were more intense than Darry had ever seen them. He was breathing funny too, hard enough to redirect the riverlets streaming off his open lips.
Darry gulped and blinked water out of his vision, and then suddenly Wayne was close. They grabbed hold of each other at the same time and Darry locked their lips in a kiss.
Wayne introduced tongue. Darry pert near melted, groaned, and kissed back harder. They grappled for dominance a second before Wayne, huffing and starting to shake, went pliant. The side of the truck caught them and they rolled against it in another aggressive struggle for control. Darry liked it too much to give in. He pushed back in every way until Wayne surrendered fully.
The little gasp he let loose went straight to Darry’s dick. He humped against Wayne, who tore the buttons off the jumpsuit getting it off him. He shrugged out of it and untucked Wayne’s shirt as he undid his jeans.
Wayne’s clumsy hands opened the truck door and they spilled into the backseat of the cab. Wayne scrambled to get all the way in so Darry could shut the door.
Rain pelted loud against the roof as Wayne surrendered a second time, eyes so wide Darry noticed the robin’s egg hue for the first time.
He had questions. But none so pressing he needed to stop to ask ‘em. He could guess the general stuff anyway, like that Wayne had a deep and understandable distrust of the red pollen season. Darry felt pretty simple minded for not putting two and two together sooner. ‘Specially with Angie’s indiscretions only copying that of his mother. Wayne would wait ‘til after the bloom, just to prove to himself it wasn’t impaired judgement. Darry should’ve thought of that.
But to be fair, sucking the beer from his pollen covered shirt had set him clear outside of his mind with horniness. Wayne was definitely right to wait for him to sober up.
Simple fact that pollen wasn't driving either of them to do this made each and every kiss and touch and slick slide more special. The whole thing was soft in the tough way only Wayne could manage.
They steamed the glass, and rocked the axis. When Darry unloaded he saw stars. Wayne tossed an arm over his eyes and laid real still for ‘bout a minute. Darry started to feel cramped and uncomfortable in the tiny backseat and wet clothes. He tucked himself away and set up on his knees, dragged hands through his hair.
Wayne sat up and captured Darry’s lips in a smooch. Shifting put them in a cozy position where Wayne leaned in the corner of the seat and Darry lay back into the crook of his arm. Rain slammed onto the cab of the truck, splattered on the windshield and pelted the truck bed. Wayne twined curls around his finger. Their wet clothes grew warm and stuck uncomfortably, but they didn't care.
Darry felt the slow intake of breath, deeper than Wayne’s regular breath so he knew it was coming when Wayne broke the silence. But he wasn't prepared for the topic.
“Did you hook up with anyone this week?”
Darry smiled. “Jealous, big shoots?”
“Who the fuck is he, Darry?” Wayne's voice was serious but not half as hard as Darry knew it could be.
“No one this year.”
“So how many last year?”
Darry looked around at Wayne, feeling a grin squirm on his lips. “You’re definitely jealous.”
“How. Many?” Wayne demanded and again his voice didn't have the force it was capable of, but it wasn't soft either.
“Men? Just one. Met ‘im on the Twitterpated app. We helped each other out in a few blooms when I couldn't secure a lady friend.”
“And that's all it was for you with him? And the ladies? Just the bloom fever?”
“Texas size 10-4.”
“Now, see, that concerns me.”
“Suggests you have poor impulse control.”
Darry sobered. “I do as a single, lonely man. But if I had a sweetie...I could control myself. When it really matters. You can trust me, Wayne.... I won't let you down.”
Wayne rested his cheek on Darry’s head.
“Don't take offense or nothing but I never got the impression you were totally satisfied with Angie, during blooms, I mean. Always seemed tense and meaner than a snake.”
Wayne huffed. “That's because more often than not we were fighting instead of fucking.”
“Fighting? What fer?”
Wayne sighed. “I don't like to try new things during the bloom. It's just not… it's just not okay to take advantage.”
“I get that. But Angie was your sweetie. Didn't she ever tell you it's not taking advantage?”
“Of course. We talked about it before the bloom so I was able to trust that I wasn't taking advantage. But then every year it seemed like she would go crazy and want to try new things that we didn't talk about beforehand. I wouldn't do them because it didn't feel right and she would get pissed. Every winter I’d try to avoid a fight by asking her to tell me what she wanted for the bloom, and she would say she only wanted me just how I am. But then each bloom, she’d go and ask for something we never did before.”
“Damn, what kinda stuff was she into, Wayne?”
“You're a goddamn pooper, bud.” But he smiled and kissed Wayne, which made his comment feel like a compliment instead of an insult. “So that's why you kept turning me down. Because we didn't talk about it before?”
“Yeah. How was I supposed to know you weren't just jumping on the first warm body you saw?”
“So...you weren't. Were you?”
“Awe. Wayne? Are you one of those people who fall fer who they fuck?”
“Well, I've been with Angie since highschool and I haven't had a lot of practice fucking other people now have I? Figure it out.”
“Awe,” Darry said again.
Wayne’s arms tightened around him, then tightened some more, and the third increase was so playful Darry wanted to laugh but he couldn't breathe. He tapped out and Wayne let up.
“Youwannaknowwhat?” Wayne asked. “I say we get the rest of this fence up right now so's we can fuck off chorin for the rest of the day.”
“Hmm, and fuck each other,” Darry agreed with a big grin and a wag of his eyebrows.
They climbed out of the truck and back into the pouring rain. Darry tied his sleeves around his waist and stripped the clinging undershirt.
Wayne kept them on task with his stunning level of focus. Darry licked rainwater from his lips and smiled each time Wayne let their fingers brush way too deliberately whenever Darry handed him nails.
Then, as Darry hammered in the very last nail, Wayne's hand swept across the back of Darry's bare shoulders. His voice was a accusatory. “You have back freckles, Darry!"
And it was true that Darry had been swimming shirtless in the gravel pit a lot this summer, which had darkened his freckles to a hue that Wayne wouldn't be used to seeing.
“So maybe lead with that the next time you're trying to tempt a man into bed with ya.”
“Lead with my back freckles?”
“Back freckles are objectively sexy, Darry. They're sexy . They would have been a much more effective seduction tool than scratching yer balls in front of me s'olls I'm saying.”
“But scratching my balls in front of you worked.”
“Did, too! Made your dick stand up faster’n you did when you hightailed it outta there.”
They argued as they climbed back into the truck, this time in the front seats with Wayne behind the wheel. Darry wagged his head fast and hard, like a dog, sending water winging all over the place.
Wayne had already stuck a dry dart on his lips and objected around it as water droplets sprayed in his face. “Hey, hey, watch the smokes, darlin’. Fuck.”
Kicking the truck in gear, Wayne headed out of the field over the soggy grass with Darry giggling, “Oh, hell yeah, keep callin’ me darlin’, please and thank you.” Then Darry gasped, jabbing a finger at the digital read out of the clock in the dash and dropping the seductive tone altogether. “Oooo oh oh, Wayne! It's 1:11! Gotta make a wish!”
Wayne frowned over at Darry but it was one of those sparkling frowns like he was actually amused. He shook his head. “Wish you weren't so fuckin awkward, darlin’.”