That deadly finger was closer now and aimed at his forehead, "Don’t ya move from there." As an afterthought he added, "Keep yer fool yap shut ‘til I’m done transactin’ business too."
He rounded his desk and remained standing while surveying his mound of cash, then with a grin sat down.
The two strangers from the locker room entered and with smiling satisfied handshakes began unloading their jeans pockets of what looked like a week’s worth of pay in cash each. One asked a muttered question and with a nod, Bossman wrote something down on his desk calendar. Afterward he stood, shook their hands again and escorted them out.
At the door he yelled out a name Twist didn’t catch, closed the door and after pausing at the showers to say something to the men within, returned to the office, ignoring Johnny.
As he sat back down in the creaking chair behind his desk, the room was suddenly flooded with bright light as his two henchmen came in, shutting it behind them instantly bringing darkness back. The taller of the two dropped more bundled cash and loose change on the desk, and the boss started sorting it. The other man put his back against the exit and folded his arms in a defiant stance.
Johnny considered his knife again.
Something bulky crashed against the outer door and a sturdy annoyed female voice yelled, "Get yer ass away from the fuckin’ door; ya moron!"
Big Jim laughed out loud as a short, shapely and only slightly overweight woman with long brunette hair entered, shooting the doorman a contemptuous look on her way to the desk. Holding the two bottom corners of a bulging red apron to form a pouch, she haphazardly unloaded bundles of cash from it on top of what the guard had just brought in.
The two toughs resumed their posts at the entrance, their eyes following her swaying hips and enormous and unbound tits.
She said in a smiling voice, "Lots of hotdogs ‘n popcorn today Baby! Always happens on the last day anywheres. Wound up turning ‘em away when my girls all had appointments fer tonight ‘fore the show was half over. Hell, even that new barrel rider Jessica got herself a three-way with Mrs. Cleaver ‘n her husband. Damned dingaling woman offered double too when I lied ‘n said she was already booked."
She leaned in, kissed the boss, and slyly swiped the pack of cigarettes from his breast pocket before he could catch her hand. As she lit a match up triumphantly, he muttered something under his breath about kissing a goddamned ashtray.
Her eyes landed on Johnny, noticing his unguarded staring at her ample breasts. "He okay?"
Jim off handedly commented, "Johnny uh… Twist, meet my wife Mary."
Remembering the stern warning, the farmhand just nodded politely and flashed a nervous grin as she sized him from head to toe like a pony for sale at an auction.
Nodding her approval, the cheerful woman huffed an amused chuckle, "He don’t say much; does he?"
The big man glanced over and replied dryly, "Shy," as if to close the discussion.
She cackled, "We’ll fix that right quick!" and with a flourish of her cigarette called out, "Back in 15, Jimbo, gotta finish with my girls," and left while blowing a kiss backward at her husband.
The door almost closed behind her, but was immediately pushed open again by a stocky middle-aged man in a black sheriff’s uniform.
With an over-confident stride, he entered and moved toward the middle of the room. Boss-man stood up respectfully behind his desk and shook the officer’s fist while the lawman surveyed the expensive clutter.
Silently two bundles of fives were handed over and without another word Big Jim Bossman escorted his guest to the door slapping the cop’s back as he passed through and outside $200 richer.
Gloom returned to the office… but not for long. The arena owner was paid for the venue and told that the most financially successful traveling rodeo show was packing it up and moving on to Cheyenne.
For the next hour a seemingly endless line of people paraded in and out of the office. Local competitors collected their prize winnings. Animal wranglers, center-ring clowns still in makeup, truck drivers, stagehands, ticket barkers and electricians to name only a few were paid. When the heat built up, a fan was brought in at the door.
Through it all, Twist quietly sat and watched. As the money dwindled on the desk, more came in to replace it. The eight men in the locker room remained where they were, the door propped open so that the shower exhaust fan drew fresh air from the office’s open outer door. They sat there shamelessly either naked, with a towel around their waists or over their shoulders.
Halfway through the procession Mary came back in and with the respectful notice from everyone else who entered; it soon became apparent that she was as in charge as her husband.
In the heat, Bossman stood up and pulled off his vest and shirt revealing a massive bodybuilder’s chest that was usually only seen in circus strongman sideshows. Even Twist couldn’t take his envious eyes off of it. There was an inch-deep crease between his shaved pecs. His biceps looked the size of regulation softballs.
Pete’s group was called in next and despite Mary and the open outer door, all appeared unashamed and naked but for their cowboy hats on their heads and the boots they carried with them.
One by one in turn she examined every inch of each man like a doctor, commenting, complimenting and caressing, while offering liniment for pulled muscles, a playful slap on the ass, or a shot and an Ace bandage for a sprain. Each in turn then went to Jim’s desk and was assigned equally to either local women or men’s addresses. Instructions for what to and not to do were given and two separate dollar amounts - what to collect and what to keep plus tips.
Though he was younger than any of them, Pete seemed to have moved out of line to stand by the desk and mysteriously appeared to be nodding approval while the boss read off their marching orders.
From the big cardboard boxes in the corner came a new plaid shirt each, a pair of heavy cotton socks, an undershirt and clean well-worn jeans that were formfitting enough to not need a belt or suspenders.
A happy cheer emitted from one who got to service two women at once tonight, and another who got a rich male business owner who paid well and always tipped generously. Two men were inspected, instructed, dressed and left before Johnny realized that none were being paid any prize money!
Slowly the naïve married farmhand figured out what was going on here. It was more than likely that Mary had already just done the same thing with her pretty popcorn venders. The large amounts of money being quoted made it obvious how Pete could support his family so well with everyone else in the country going broke.
Finally Hutch was the only one left to be tended to and assigned. Instead of waiting, he returned to the locker bench and sat down.
Mary turned to Twist and said, "On yer feet, farmboy."
Twist obediently got up and with a nod from her, the henchman patted down every part of the ranch hand, removing his wallet and comb. He then snickered at a discovered pocketknife that looked tiny in his hand as he moved to the desk to deposit the items next to a still-substantial pile of cash.
Mrs. Bossman asked, "How much does he know about us?" to no one in particular.
"Enough," replied Jim. Turning his attention to their unwilling guest, he asked, "Yer folks got a telephone?"
John replied with only a nod of his head.
The boss man grinned out a gasped chuckle, "You can talk now, boy," and then smiled over at his pretty wife and added with a nod of approval, "He takes instructions well, too."
Big Jim reached to the floor behind the desk and came up with a black dialess "candlestick" phone.
"Call yer folks up; tell ‘em the travelin’ rodeo’s hirin’ at real good pay, but they’re skedadlin’ tomorrow ‘n yer spendin’ the night tryin’ out fer a good job ‘n will be home in the mornin’."
Standing at the chair, Twist showed reluctance to comply and the other tough still at the door moved swiftly up from behind and shoved him roughly at the desk.
After getting the local switchboard operator on the line, he told his mama as instructed and hung up. He even managed to sound enthusiastic about it.
Mary nodded to herself as the phone disappeared to the floor again; she paced to the open door and pulled the big tall pedestal fan inside, carefully aiming it so the cash on the desk wasn’t affected, then walked into the locker room.
After a nod from the boss aimed at the guards, the exit door closed behind them and it creaked as they leaned their backs to it from the other side.
Mary whispered something low to Pete and all color drained from his face. The young naked athlete stood up and followed her back into the office. He put his towel down on it, and then sat silently on a hard wooden chair to the left of the shower room door, giving Twist a very worried look in the process.
While the ranch hand's attention was distracted, the boss man had removed the rest of his clothes in the stifling heat and was now lounging back in his swivel chair with his bare feet up on the desk. His muscle-bound physique glistening with sweat and his soft uncut cock sat nestled in his blond furry lap like a bird on a nest.
As Mary stepped back over to stand beside him, he raised both arms up and laced his fingers together behind his head. "Ya recollect the kid ya saw when ya first come in?" he asked.
Johnny, standing at the desk before them more or less defiantly averted his eyes down and nodded a nervous, "Yes, sir."
Mary’s eyebrows raised and with an approving smile remarked, "He got him some manners too!" As she reached for him, her expression changed to a seductive wanting. "Take off yer shirt."
He hesitated reluctantly.
Jim pulled his feet off the desk and sat up. Raising his eyebrows he scooted his chair forward and threatened, "Take it off er I’ll rip it off... yer choice."
Twist complied, revealing a torso built from hard work and hard times.
Bossman observed, "It’ll always surprise ya what god-fearin’ men‘ll do fer money," and made a show of moving four banded bundles of one-dollar-bills to the left corner of his desk. In the lean times of the Great Depression, $200 was twice the money Twist would ever hope to see in a whole hard season of planting, toiling, and harvesting, and his daddy would keep most of that! "That’s yer pay fer today…"
John straightened a bit, swallowed hard, and said, "I ain’t said I wanted to work here yet."
The boss man stood up to his full imposing height, his head threatening to touch the low ceiling, and pumped his huge biceps. This was a man not used to being sassed. He flexed the fingers of his colossal right hand into a fist and then relaxed them leaving no doubt of the threat. "I ain’t said you’d been hired on neither; now have I?"
"A hunderd-fifty," he said, pointedly reaching forward and tossing one of the bundles back on the other pile, sitting back down again. "That's fer mouthin' off."
A nod of his head dismissed Mary.
She leaned over, gave him an affectionate peck on the cheek and then left without looking back.
Twist was now alone with two naked men... Up until now that never bothered him before. He couldn't figure if he was more disgusted than afraid.
The brief time the door was open revealed that the two guards were still posted on the other side before it closed again.
The boss turned his attention to Pete and asked cheerfully; "Mary says you got yerself a 7 o’clock with Mr. Friedl agin?"
The cowboy nodded, "$60."
Jim nodded and scribbled something down on the calendar. "As I recollect it, last time he gave ya a $100 ‘satisfaction guarantee’ bonus on top of the $50 fee I quoted, ‘n you were not only honest enough to tell me about it, but ya split it with me without my even askin’. I a'reckon you been doin’ mighty good fer us lately stud, so ya can keep everything he gives ya tonight."
Hutchison’s face burst out in a big smile, "I’m obliged; that’ll nearly pay fer Pa’s new plow!"
Johnny backed up a step as much out of fear as in defiance. "I ain’t queer,"
Another $50 stack moved out of his pay. "Only a hunderd left son; yer gonna walk outta here with a mighty sore 'n bruised body, 'n empty-handed to boot if ya don’t learn to watch yer yap, boy." He gave Twist another bone chilling look and added, "That’s if'n ya walk out under yer own power at all."
Young Hutchison approached and tilted his head in towards Johnny’s like he was going to kiss him on the cheek.
Twist instinctively ducked his head away, so Pete grabbed his neck and pulled him back. As his lips brushed the rancher’s cheek, Pete whispered low, "Mary told me boss-man just put Joey-Paul in the hospital. He was beat so bad the docs don’t know if'n he’s gonna make it… fucking play along damn it or they’ll be a pickin’ ya up off the floor too! Don’t... call... him... queer!"
Surrendering, Twist stood on one foot in turn and eased his boots and socks off. He closed his eyes, imagined it was his wife as he reached his arms around the sinewy young bullrider’s waist, and tentatively hugged the handsome naked body close against his. Hutch reached down between them and undid Johnny’s belt and his jeans fell to around his ankles and were obediently stepped out of.
Petey pulled him even closer and their arms encircled each other. This time their lips met as the farmhand began feeling an unfamiliar passion he’d never experienced before. In panic, he pulled away and turned to face Big Jim’s punishment for defying him.
Instead the big naked man moved a bundle back across the desk into his pay pile, "Now did that hurt?"
Twist raised his chin up as proudly as he dared and restated, "Y’all might be, but I ain’t no queer."
An exasperated sigh came from Hutch behind him.
Jim stood up and crossed the floor to stand before him intimately close, his shoulders at Twist’s eye level. The naked massive tower of muscle looked down upon John like a big dangerous hunting dog about to devour a rabbit.
"When the blazes did I call ya a queer?" Gesturing his chin at Pete he continued, raising his eyebrows, "Is he a queer, am I a queer, huh, how 'bout it boy?"
Johnny felt trapped in the man’s spooky light gray eyes, and his terrified chin moved up and down but nothing dared leave his mouth. In his mind, this didn’t make sense. Real pansies were supposed to shrink away like wimps when called queer or a pervert, not stand up to their accuser!
The huge man now looked everywhere but down and finally in frustration growled, "Too god-damned hot in here. I’m takin’ a long cool shower." He moved to affectionately hug Pete and said, "School him."
After Bossman disappeared and a shower started hissing water, Twist grabbed for his clothes and moved towards the chair to tug them on.
Peter maneuvered to block his exit, shook his head no, and warned, "You’ll never get past them," and nodded at the outer door where two tough men under Jim’s command stood just beyond.
John Twist’s shoulders suddenly slumped and it looked like all hope had left him. His rumpled jeans and shirt dropped from his hand into a pile on the floor and he stood there blank eyed, frightened, defenseless and naked, staring at the door still plotting a hopeless escape.
He came to a decision; if he was going out, he’d go out swinging before these two queers had their way with him.
While he was deep in thought, Hutch went over intending to lay a comforting palm on the young rancher’s shoulder and tried to explain, "He was a testin’ to see if’n ya could act the part well enough to convince certain customers. Even though yer straight, ya can make one hell of a lot of money if'n…"
As Peter’s hand made contact, Twist spun away quickly to stand facing him in a fighting stance. With frustrated macho contempt Johnny blurted it out without thinking, "Don’t touch me; ya god-damned quee…"
Before he could finish the word, from nowhere unexpected knuckles slammed into his face just beneath his left eye. In a flash his head snapped violently back while his feet flew out forward, then his bare ass, shoulders and skull hit the worn wooden floor simultaneously, knocking the breath out of him.
In a cloud of intense pain, everything went black…
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Important notice about this novel: This adaptation of the original short story was
written by Vernon "Jet" Gardner © 2005-2012 and contains enhanced versions of all of the original's events written by Annie Proulx, Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana in red/black/green.
All text in blue written by Vernon "Jet" Gardner published here ©2005-2013.
Reproduction in any form or use of unique characters is
forbidden without permission of the author.