Greenberg’s fingers trembled as he picked up the phone. He took a deep breath, feeling the sweat beading under his arms, along the back of his neck, along his forehead. Swiping a sleeve across his forehead, his finger traced along the buttons of the phone, the numbers flowing through his mind like water, forwards, backwards. He had had the number memorized for a long time now. With a hard swallow, he dialed the number.
There was a pause, and then the phone began to ring. Paul counted the rings in his mind -- once, twice, and then a click. His heart skipped a beat. He rubbed his palm on his beige corduroys, leaving invisible streaks of sweat. “Hello?” asked a deep voice.
“Mark Kurlansky?” Greenberg managed to get out, his voice still shaky.
“Yes!” The voice replied with a chuckle. “Paul Greenberg, yes?”
“Yeah!” Paul said.
“I got your email the other day, no?” Kurlansky replied. “I’d love to come over to look at some cod for you. You know my weakness. Though everyone asks me to look at cod these days. Or really, review any book with a one-word title. They’re all after my blurb. I digress.”
“No yeah,” Paul replied, his voice getting stronger as the conversation continued. “It’s for this book I’m working on, this four fish idea? And you’re the resident cod expert here, so I just need you to come by and taste some cod for me, if that’d be alright with you. Maybe do an interview after. Just talk about fish, really.”
“I’m always down to talk about fish,” Kurlansky said with a laugh. Paul felt a shiver run down his spine, down below...”What time works for you?”
“Are you free this weekend?” Greenberg asked. “Saturday is wide open for me.”
“Sure!” Kurlansky replied. “That works for me. We’ll say a few hours, no? Let me just clear the schedule. I wouldn’t be surprised, once you get me talking about cod, especially after my book, I could go on for hours. But I’m sure it could be used in the book. Not that you’ll just be interviewing me, of course. I’m sure you’ve got all the local fisherman up in the Gulf of Maine lined up, George’s Bank, all of it...”
“Honestly, an interview with you would make the chapter,” Greenberg said. “Tuna’s already been done; salmon’s in progress, and seabass is left to cover. But cod’s getting wrapped up soon after this, actually. But an interview would be a major help.”
“Sounds great! I’ll come by around, let’s say...nine should be good, no?”
“Actually, if you could come by in the evening, that would probably work better for me,” Paul said, his voice catching on evening. He cleared his throat. “I mean, we are eating dinner,” he added with a slight laugh.
“You make a good point. That should be fine, if I come by around seven, then? And then we’ll clear the night for that interview.”
“Perfect,” Greenberg said.
“I’ll see you this weekend!” Kurlansky said, his voice crackling over the phone. “It’s a date.”
Greenberg hung up the phone, catching his breath, his heart pounding again. One breath, two...he closed his eyes. The night couldn’t come faster.
Later that night....
Paul Greenberg stood in front of his hall mirror and swallowed hard, glancing at his watch for the tenth time in five minutes. Five till seven. Kurlansky should be arriving any minute. He had been having slight moments of panic about every ten minutes, and as he looked at himself in the mirror another began to set on. Was he dressed too nice? Was he not dressed nicely enough? Would Kurlansky be late? Would Kurlansky flake out on him?
Flake, thought Paul Greenberg with a slight inner laugh. Just like the flake on the cod. He shook his head, focusing on the moment. Now was not the time to be making fish puns...although maybe Kurlansky would like fish puns...
Greenberg smiled at himself in the mirror. He looked good. He got this. His confidence was rising again. His palms began to feel less sweaty. He casually wiped them on his trousers and examined his outfit once again. It was simple, but nice: casual khakis, a navy shirt and a jacket over top. He nodded. He got this.
The doorbell rang. He did not got this.
His palms immediately began to sweat profusely, feeling at once burning hot and ice cold, giving them a strange clammy feeling. Beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. Greenberg took a deep breath, extracting his handkerchief from his pocket, fumbling to get past his phone and keys, and extracting it, wiped away the beads of sweat on his forehead and hands. He dragged them across his pants again nervously, his breath coming in quick bursts. He took a moment to compose himself in the hall mirror. His heart was pounding. This was it.
Greenberg turned and opened the front door. There he was. Mark Kurlansky in all his glory, his white hair flyaway and his beard untrimmed. He was dressed fairly casually in jeans and a polo shirt.
“Paul!” Kurlansky said in a loud, booming voice. He was an author after all...or did that mean his voice should be quiet? Whatever. He had probably given many talks...Kurlansky leaned forward and gave Greenberg’s hand a hefty shake. Paul broke into a grin.
“Mark,” he said, returning the handshake. Now that he was here, the tension finally broke and the room felt normal again...or at least as normal as it could be. There was still a tight feeling of tension in Paul’s stomach, just beneath his belly button, a knot he couldn’t get loose...or perhaps it was butterflies...and his heart was still pounding...but this was as good as it was going to get. “It’s good to finally meet you!”
“So, boy,” Kurlansky said as Greenberg shut the door behind him. “You’re finally getting close to finishing that book of yours? You’ve been working on it for years, so I’ve heard. I’d be ecstatic to hear you’re almost done.
Paul glanced sideways over at the older man, author of numerous other nonfiction books, including the book that changed his life. Cod. Just thinking of the simple title and the prose of the work sent shivers down Paul’s spine. Never in his life had he enjoyed a book more.
“Almost,” Paul said with a smile. “But that’s why you’re here tonight. I’m just finishing up my section on cod. And I need your help.”
“Yes,’ Kurlansky said with a grin. “I remember the phone call well. So. Where is this code you would like me to taste test?”
“Ahhh,” Paul said, rubbing his hands together. He was taller than the older man, giving him a little boost of confidence. “Right this way, sir. Welcome to El Restaurant de Greenberg!”
Paul led Mark down the hallway, Kurlansky’s footsteps falling hard on the ground in his boots. The house opened up into the kitchen, where the smell of cod permeated the air, giving the whole house a smell of deliciously cooked fish. Little did Kurlansky know of the effort Greenberg put into the three fish he had prepared, each seasoned and baked to perfection and warming gently in the oven to prevent them from becoming dry.
“So,” Greenberg said, extracting a bottle of wine, opening it and pouring two glasses for himself and Kurlansky, who leaned against the island with a slight smirk on his face. Paul decided not to look at that. He handed Kurlansky the glass of (rather expensive) wine, but hey, he was worth it. They toasted and took a sip. “This is how it will work. You will need to taste three different cod. Each code has been raised or fished in a different environment. I know which one each is, but you do not. And you will rank them. No ties. It must be one, two, or three.”
Kurlansky nodded. “Sounds exactly like what you explained,” he said with another smile. “So. These fish ready to be eaten?”
“Of course,” Greenberg said, moving to the oven. He opened the oven and extracted three beautifully fillets, each one perfectly white, and not at all dry. Greenberg knew which each fish’ backgrounds were -- two were farmed, and one was wild caught. He played each fillet and set them on the dining room table, set with his finest silverware.
As he began moving the plates to the dinner table, he felt Kurlansky’s eyes on his back. It sent shivers down his spine...and lower...Greenberg tensed. His mind went blank, his breathing stopped and his heart lurched...not now...why now...he had made it this long...
“Something the matter?” Kurlansky asked, standing up from the table. Greenberg began to panic. He couldn’t turn around, lest Kurlansky see...but he couldn’t leave. His voice caught in his throat.
His heart was pounding, the blood rushing in his ears, the fish lying on the table. It smelled delicious. And then --
“Something the matter, Paul?” Kurlansky asked, this time his voice was at his ear. Paul swallowed. He felt him behind him, not quite touching, but almost. His voice was lower, huskier, deeper.
“Not at all,” Paul tried to get out, his voice barely a whisper, a squeak. He closed his eyes, his face burning with embarrassment.
And then he felt his hands. Kurlansky was close, mere hairs separated their bodies, but not quite touching. Except for his hands, resting on his back, the slightest pressure on his shoulders, just the tips of his calloused fingers resting there...Paul wished those hands were elsewhere...why did he think that.
They had escaped the realm of sound now. Paul’s body, his muscles were tensed. The fish lay forgotten on the table as Paul only felt the fingers on his shoulders, putting slightly more pressure there, and now they were touching, palms flat on his broad shoulder blades, moving now, creeping down over his back, forward around his waist. Paul was trying not to gasp and failing miserably.
“Anxious much, Paul?” Mark whispered again in that deep, husky voice. His hands began to creep around his front, lower and lower. Kurlansky’s hands grasped his waist and spun the younger man around to face him. Kurlansky immediately saw the bulge in Paul’s pants, and smirked again. Paul crumbled under his gaze, a nervous wreck.
“Shhh,” Kurlansky said, leaning forward and whispering into his ear. His hands moved now to the bulge, stroking his hard-on. Paul gasped, his eyes shooting open. He hadn’t realized they closed. Kurlansky’s pants began to grow too. Paul grasped his waist, pulling him forward, closing the gap between the two of them. Kurlansky’s beard was hard and course. Paul smiled, hands moving down to grasp the older man’s butt, squeezing. He smiled at how firm it was despite the older man’s age.
Kurlansky tore off Greenberg’s jacket. They were leaning against the table now. Kurlansky’s lips moved to Paul’s neck, kissing down into his neck, Paul’s hands grasping Mark’s ass firmly, his hips moving forward.
“Ah,” Kurlansky said at Paul’s thrusts. He pushed him forward even more against the edge of the table, biting into Paul’s back. Kurlansky reached forward and pulled out the tucked navy shirt out of Paul’s khakis at the same time Paul began to reach under the older man’s polo, up his strongly muscled back.
Kurlansky pulled off Paul’s shirt, exposing the younger man’s tanned skin from days and days at sea. Paul removed Mark’s shirt, exposing the older man’s stockier body, still muscled and strong. Paul kissed his shoulders and down his arms as the older man pressed against him, his hand moving to Paul’s crotch, stroking the bulge and squeezing it. Paul let out a gasp. Kurlansky bit into his neck and Paul let out an audible moan. He reached down and grasped Kurlansky’s hard on, eliciting a similar reaction from the old man.
Paul flipped Kurlansky around, one hand at his crotch, the other moving up and gripping his shoulder. Kurlansky began to breathe harder, gasping. Paul smirked. Now this was more like it. He fumbled at Kurlansky’s jeans, unzipping them, reaching inside and grasping Mark’s hard on. Mark groaned this time, and their lips met, tongues dancing, Mark tasting of hot and wet. He began to rub Mark, his hips thrusting into Paul. Precum began to leak out as Mark’s tongue danced in Paul’s mouth.
“Come,” Paul said, his voice low. Mark nodded, helpless to the younger man’s grasp as they stumbled their way down the hall to the dimly lit door at the end, Paul’s tongue sliding along Mark’s teeth, Mark gripping Paul’s ass. Paul reached around and opened the door behind Mark, pushing the older man inside. They didn’t even make it to the bed, instead Paul pushing Kurlansky against the wall, his hand rubbing harder, kisses becoming more ferocious.
“Paul,” Mark groaned. Paul began to make his way down Mark’s chest, biting his nipple, his hand never leaving Mark’s cock, warm and hard. Paul began to make his way down, white hair spiking his lips as he made his way below Mark’s pants line. The older man let out a gasp as his hips thrusted forward as Paul took his head in his mouth, tongue dancing on the end. He tasted of hot sweet, Paul eagerly drinking him in. Mark’s gasps came faster now as Paul began to lick along his shaft, hands at the back of his balls, hips thrusting, hands digging into the back of Paul’s skull, calloused fingernails digging into his shoulders. Paul grinned inwardly as Mark groaned, gasping, muttering to himself, “fuck Paul fuck holy shit fucking hell Paul oh my god.”
Paul began to suck him down, starting at the head of his cock and taking it deeper and deeper into his throat until his teeth were beginning to hit Mark’s balls and his head was at the back of Paul’s throat, his tongue scraping along the bottom of Mark’s shaft, precum leaking into his mouth. His fingernails bit into Mark’s ass.
“Don’t stop, Paul, don’t stop,” Mark gasped, his fingernails scraping into Paul. Instead of listening, Paul let go of Mark’s cock and looked up at the older man, precum dripping down the side of his mouth.
“Get on the bed,” Paul ordered as the older man gasped and groaned. Paul watched as he obeyed, collapsing onto the bed. “Pants off.”
Kurlansky obliged, tearing off his jeans, kicking off his shoes. He lay naked on the bed as Paul unzipped his pants, sliding a condom onto his own dick, and grabbing the jar of lube on the nightside table. Mark knew what was coming, and obligingly flipped over. Paul’s fingertips rested on his shoulder as he knelt behind the older man. His hands made his way down Kurlansky’s back, fingernails scraping down the skin, leaving red marks behind. Kurlansky groaned. “Just fucking do me, Paul,” the old man gasped out.
Paul smiled. Now this was the Kurlansky he wanted. “What was that?” Paul asked, kneeling behind the older man. He reached underneath, stroking the bottom of his shaft. Kurlansky’s cheeks clenched.
“Paul, fucking do me,” Kurlansky said.
“Beg,” Paul said, stroking Kurlansky again. He slipped a lube-covered finger into his hole. Kurlansky let out a low groan, gasping out.
“Paul, I’m begging you,” Kurlansky whispered, his head buried into the covers on the bed. “Fuck me.”
“Where do you want me to fuck you?” Paul said, one hand on Kurlansky’s shaft, two fingers now in his hole.
“I’m begging you to fuck me in the ass, Paul,” Kurlansky said, this time biting out the word as Paul slipped another finger in.
“That’s what I want to hear,” Paul said, satisfied. He eased his fingers out one and a time, Kurlansky gasping each time. Grabbing a hand of lube and sliding it over his shaft, he slid his head in with a moan. Kurlansky’s breath came out in heaves as Paul began to slide deeper and deeper.
“Fuck,” Kurlansky said as Paul’s thrusts began to come faster and faster, Paul’s grunts and moans blending with Mark’s.
“Holy shit, Mark,” Paul said, his hands gripping Mark’s hips as his cock slammed Kurlansky’s asshole, his thrusts becoming faster and faster, his cheeks clenched.
“Don’t stop, don’t stop,” Kurlansky burst out as Paul came closer and closer, the bed shaking, the men letting out groans and gasps.
“Fuck!” Paul yelled as Kurlansky crumbled underneath him, Paul’s head hitting his prostate, getting him closer. The two men climaxed, grunts and moans turning into shouts. Paul extracted himself from the older man softly as Kurlansky’s face buried itself into the bed, his body collapsing on the sheets. Paul removed the condom, now filled with cum, setting it in a waste basket. They collapsed on the bed together, breathing heavily.
Kurlansky leaned over, kissing Paul gently.
“Fuck,” Paul said, his head falling down on the bed. “The fish is cold.”
Kurlansky grinned, panting. “I guess we’ll just have to heat it up again,” he said.
Paul sat up. “I know what we can do in the meantime,” he smirked.