Jud was working hard feeding the pigs in their pen, and it was a hot Oklahoma morning thus far in the day. Jud had shed his usual two layers for a simple shirt with torn off sleeves, as he tossed slop into the troughs for the pigs. He then climbed in next to the muddy, dirty animals, going over to one of the newborn pigs they had there. He was sitting with his momma, not quite sucking at her teet, just laying there. Jud had a soft spot for the baby animals on Eller’s farm. He knelt down and picked up the small piglet, hearing it squeal in surprise.
“Shhh, honey… shhh, calm down, now. I ain’t gonna hurt ya,” he held him close to his chest and gently pet the little guy. He knew he was lucky to have kept the other pigs at bay for this long, away from the mother and her piglet. The farm only kept the one, Aunt Eller deciding to sell the other siblings.
“You sure look comfortable around the pigsty,” the familiar snarky voice seemed way too close for comfort for Jud and he turned his head around swiftly, seeing Curly leaning against a post.
Jud set the piglet down next to his momma and angled him so he could start sucking on her milk. When he did, he climbed out over the fence of the pen and filled the trough up with more slop for the already clambering large pigs.
Jud walked right past Curly and deposited the bucket where it belonged, wiping his hands on his jeans after, “What’re you doin’ over here?”
“Aunt Eller called me thisaway,” Curly had taken to fanning himself with his cowboy hat, his eyes greedily looking Jud up and down.
“I hadn’t heared her.”
“She went over to me privately.”
Just in the knick of time, Aunt Eller’s voice boomed from the farmhouse, “Curly! You go on and help Slim and Joe in the barley fields! You too, Jud!”
“Yes ma’am,” Jud called back immediately. He was the hired hand, after all. There wasn’t much he could say no to.
“I’m surprised your skin ain’t burnin’ up out here. It’s hotter than an egg in a frying pan today,” Curly walked alongside Jud, swinging his hips so effortlessly, “What with you always wearing those two shirts all the time. Your skin must be awfully sensitive to this here light and heat.”
Jud walked faster, wanting to avoid Curly’s teasing for as long as he could. It wasn’t fair what this rotten cowhand was putting him through. All this prodding and making him all flustered, and for what? Cuz he found out that yeah, Jud fancied him and his flirty ways. And now Jud suffered at the hands of this troublemaker.
“You avoidin’ me now, you old skunk?” Curly jogged up to where Jud had taken the lead on the walk to the barley fields, “You won’t be able to for long,” and Curly jabbed at Jud’s side to mess with him even more. Jud flinched and he ducked away from Curly, a huff escaping his mouth. His eyes went big, hoping Curly would just let him be. Curly chuckled that wirey little chuckle of his and skipped ahead now, getting to Slim first. Jud held his own hand over where Curly had prodded, rubbing over the spot. He almost laughed when it happened, how could he help it? It was a reflex. Good thing Curly hadn’t found that out.
Curly wasn’t ever doing farming, based on his job description. So Jud was surprised to see how fast he was bagging the barley as he moved down the rows and rows of it. And yes, he was watching him. But only when he knew no one would catch on. He could see the sweat trickle down Curly’s neck and into the collar of his shirt when he was close enough. How his hair was falling more and more into his face, framing it in such a pretty way.
“Hey, Slim, Joe,” Curly started talking again, “How’s about we head on down to the ole swimmin’ hole after we bag up all this barley? Hot day, I’m sure we can all use a swim.”
He was met with a resounding yes from the two farmers, Slim giving a whoop from down by his row.
“What’d you say, Jud? Fixin’ to come with us?” Curly was in closer proximity to the farmhand and he asked that at a quieter tone of voice.
“I don’t swim.”
“You don’t need to know how to swim to float.”
“Didn’t say I didn’t know how. Said I don’t,” Jud took on his usual gruffer tone to try and put Curly in his place. He frequently had a hard time doing that.
“A washin’ will do you some good.”
Jud rolled his eyes and held his tongue at that remark. He kept working and picking all the crop as the day turned into late afternoon, just after the sun was at its brightest point of the day. The troupe finished and loaded all the crop into the bag of the wagon another farmer would take to the market.
“Here’s for all your hard work, boys,” Aunt Eller held up a mighty big hamper for the four of them.
“Why ain’t you the sweetest thang,” Curly went up to Aunt Eller and gave her a kiss on the cheek before swinging her around, making her laugh. Eller always had an infectious laugh, especially when she was with Curly.
Jud stood farthest back from the men and Eller. He stood wringing his damp-with-sweat shirt in his hands, still thinking over whether or not he should go to the swimming hole. He’d be with Curly, so that could be a plus or a minus depending on how one looks at it.
The loud yell of his name knocked him out of his thoughts and he looked up. Curly was on his horse, and Slim and Joe had mounted one horse for the both of them, as well.
“You comin’? Or would you rather spend your evening with the pigs?”
This got a laugh from Joe and Slim.
Jud glanced over at the farmhouse, seeing Aunt Eller standing there watching, waiting to bid her boys goodbye. He could see Laurey hanging laundry behind the house, too. Jud walked forward and hooked his foot into the stirrup of Curly’s horse, swinging himself up behind Curly.
Curly yipped and he took off too suddenly for Jud’s liking, causing the leaner man to grab onto the sides of Curly’s belt so he wouldn’t careen right off the horse.
Besides the initial takeoff, the ride was mostly pleasant. Jud had started leaning up closer to Curly’s back as they rode on, hopefully disguising his leans as a need to keep his balance and stability on the horse.
“Wooaaah!” Curly slowed his horse to a halt when the four of them got to the water hole. It was a beautiful pristine little lake of sorts.
Jud hopped off the horse first, but his heel got caught in the stirrup and he almost landed flat on his rear if it weren’t for Curly grabbing his arm and hoisting his boot free with his other arm.
Slim belted out a laugh, “The pig stealer can’t even dismount without screwin’ it up!” and Joe laughed along with him.
Curly didn’t laugh. For once, Curly didn’t laugh. He looked down at Jud and said to him so only he could hear, “Be careful next time, bucko, alright?”
Jud nodded his head and straightened himself out. Curly hopped off on the other side of his horse and he tied her up to a tree trunk in the shade.
Jud looked over and saw Slim and Joe already undressing. He stared extra-long and confused when they stripped until they were nude, the two of them running into the water whooping and hollering. Jud didn’t want to strip naked. Not with this crowd. Not ever in front of others if he could help it. But Curly walked right past him, unbuttoning his shirt as he went. He ditched all his clothes, too, but instead of running directly into the water, he mounted the slight cliff that hung over the swimming hole.
Joe whistled while Slim grumbled about Curly’s “prized package.” And Curly took a running jump into the water, making a big splash.
Jud was still fully clothed.
“Water’s real nice, Jud! Come on in!” he could hear Joe’s voice.
Jud took a deep breath. He stood behind the hill Curly had jumped off of so they wouldn’t see him undressing. When he took off his union suit and truly was exposed to the elements, he moved swiftly into the water, making sure his lower half was immediately covered.
“Aw, you didn’t wanna take a dive? Too scared? Or you knew you couldn’t look as good as me doin’ it?” Curly made a face, praising himself. That got him a big splash in the face from Slim.
Jud’s lips twitched into a small smile when he saw Curly get pummelled by that wave of water thanks to Slim. He waded over to a part of the water away from the splashing and he dunked himself in fully. The water felt heavenly on his burnt and blistered skin. Curly was right. His skin was too sensitive for being so exposed like that all day in the sun. No matter how hot it would be in the future, he’d remember not to stray from his usual uniform of sorts.
Jud came up and flicked his hair out of his eyes, but immediately felt water splash in his direction. And it was relentless. He put his hands up, but that wouldn’t do anything.
“H-Hey! Quit it!” he spluttered.
The splashing stopped and Curly was laughing at him. Jud got a good look at him for the first time since they got into the water and he felt his throat go dry again. Even when soaking wet, you could still see Curly’s curls. His chest was hairy, dark, thick hair that matched his locks and his stubble. Jud instinctively crossed his arms over himself, not wanting Curly to gaze at him like he was just doing.
“This is a good look for you,” Curly continued, “Clean.”
Jud snorted and immediately realized he did, ducking his head so Curly couldn’t see his quickly reddening face.
“Oho! So that’s a good one, huh?” Curly swam even closer to Jud, lowering himself into the water so he could look up at Jud and see his face, “Finally got you to smile,” he said in that same soft tone of voice as he did when looking at him from atop his horse.
Jud had sterned his face as quickly as he had let that bit of joy slip. He had his guard down after staring at Curly. It wasn’t his fault, Curly was distracting.
Jud turned his back to Curly so he wouldn’t have to look at him, but Curly merely swam himself in the same direction, following him. Jud was now looking at Joe and Slim at the other end of the water, leaning up against some rocks and chatting. Then there came a jab at his stomach, the same one from earlier. And that made Jud take a step back, covering up, “Curly.”
“Ooh,” Curly growled like a dog, grinning with his canines, “Love hearin’ you say my name.”
Jud resisted the urge to blush, and merely tilted his head, looking at Curly. Had he really never called him by name? Well, he couldn’t think on it too long because now came both of Curly’s hands, prying and prodding.
“Quit it, cowboy! I mehean it!” Jud’s resolve was usually hard as stone. But he was ticklish. He couldn’t call it any other thing.
“Or whatcha gonna do? Stare at me some more?” Curly had risen up halfway through the water now actively trying to tickle Jud.
“T-They’re gonna—” Jud was cut off by his own giggling when Curly had fastened an arm around his back, holding him in place as his other hand’s fingers scribbled up and down his side. Jud knew he felt their genitals touch, he just knew it. And that made him blush, but he tried to finish his sentence anyway, “They gohohonna start suspectin’!”
“Who? Slim and Joe? Pssh, they as enveloped in their talk of prize winnin’ corn as you are enveloped in me,” Curly didn’t suspect he was using that word incorrectly, but Jud couldn’t tell, “They won’t suspect nothin’.”
Jud was surprised at his own laugh, even though he was adamantly trying to suppress his noises. He hadn’t heard himself laugh in ages, and this was strange. It didn’t sound like him, hell, it hardly even felt like him. He was wriggling and worming himself around in Curly’s arms, laughing like a child.
Finally, Curly let up. The cowboy had such a grin on him, it could knock out any dame for miles around without even coming into contact with ‘em. Jud was cute. Yeah, he thought so. And so what? Laughing thataway and red-in-the-face? Who wouldn’t call that cute? Especially since the farmhand hardly never even smiled.
Jud sent a splash Curly’s way once he had separated himself, but it wasn’t very powerful. Curly giggled, wiping his face off. Jud had inched himself towards the more shallow water, and because of how it was rippling and flowing up and down, Curly caught a peek at Jud’s package when it wasn’t engulfed by the water. He was stiff as a board.
Curly licked his lips next and eyed Slim and Joe to truly make sure they were distracted enough by their own conversation when he leaned up out of the water and kissed Jud on the lips. He then pulled him down to their knees so they hovered with their necks and heads above the water only, continuing to kiss him as they moved. Curly’s hand grazed Jud’s thigh and gently wrapped around his hard member, giving it a stroke.
But that’s when Jud gasped and floundered, splashing and scrambling away from Curly.
“Hey hey hey,” Curly looked worried, “Did I-Did I do somethin’ wrong?”
Jud was breathing hard and he was staring at Curly. He didn’t know what to say so he chose his most used method of not saying anything and he got up and walked right out of the water, going behind the hill to gather his clothes.
Curly sat in the water, disappointed. Didn’t Jud want that? What other reason did he have to be so aroused like he was?
Jud buttoned up his union suit and immediately felt secure again. When he looked down for his pants, he saw the huge tent he had already and sighed. He couldn’t take care of it out here in front of the men, especially not in front of Curly. He would just have to will it away and deal with being uncomfortable the rest of the day.
He buttoned up his jeans and threw on his shirt, staring out at the horizon and seeing the sunset starting to begin. He left his boots off for now and went over to Curly’s horse in the shade, digging through Aunt Eller’s hamper for something to eat. He settled on a meat pie and sat down, back against the tree trunk. His eyes never left the sunset as he chewed, trying not to let his mind wander.
Curly, Slim, and Joe seemed to follow suit after fifteen minutes of their being in the water. They each came to shore and pulled on their dirty clothes over their wet bodies. Jud hadn’t noticed them until they all wandered over to get their own snacks from the hamper. He didn’t expect Curly to sit next to him, either, but there he was, his shirt untucked and billowing, also neglecting to put his shoes on.
He chose some chili with a chunk of cornbread in a cup. He ran his fingers through his hair to push his damp curls from his eyes.
“If I did somethin’ you didn’t like, then I apologize.”
“No apology needed.”
“I reckon I can make it up to you somehow–”
“Stop talkin’, cowboy.”
Curly looked at Jud and saw the way the older man’s lips had wrinkled up into a small smile, and that made Curly smile twice as big. He went to chowing down on his meal.
When the boys all finished up, it was dusk and they had to get back to the farm quickly because of the loss of light. Jud swung himself up on Curly’s horse with ease. That part he seemed to do fine with. On the ride back, even though they were against the clock to beat out the darkness, Curly somehow rode his horse smoothly and calmly through the quiet roads. Jud hooked his hands into Curly’s belt again and this time rested his head against Curly’s back, shutting his eyes peacefully. He smelled like the dirt and sweat and barley from the fields earlier, but now mixed with the fresh scent of the water that cleansed his body.
“Woah,” Curly said in that whispery voice of his that always sent shivers down Jud’s spine when he talked thataway, and he stopped his horse from moving when they got back to Aunt Eller’s farm. Jud slowly righted himself from behind Curly and looked around at his surroundings, coming out of his malaize.
“Home sweet home,” Curly announced to Jud, taking a look over his shoulder at him. He saw how Jud’s hair had dried straight from the water and he paid attention to the slight curls the man had. It was downright attractive to see him without that wispy way his hair normally fell straight over his head. Jud held onto Curly’s sides as he righted himself, and just before jumping off the horse, he fluttered his fingers against the cowboy’s ribs. He heard Curly yelp right before he reached the ground. Jud grinned, looking up at Curly.
“Seems like we ain’t so different after all.”
“I guess not.”
The two men gazed at each other before Curly said, “Have a good night, Jud.”
“Same to you, Curly.”
And Curly went off to leave his horse in the stables for the night. Jud watched him until he rounded the corner. Jud wrapped his arms around himself, feeling the chill of the night air nipping at his unusually exposed arms. And the damndest thing… he couldn’t stop smiling.