“There ain't no sin and there ain't no virtue. There's just stuff people do.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Five Years Later
“Damn sun,” I moaned as I slowly awoke. It seemed like I had only been asleep a few hours. I must have fell into bed around three. From the brightness shining into the dilapidated basement, it must be around six. Since we don’t have electricity, the alarm clock beside us doesn’t work.
A body stirred beside me. I looked over to see who it was this time. Was it someone I knew, or was it a stranger I picked up off the street for a quickie. I recognized the red beard. It was Dexter, one of the residents upstairs.
I share an apartment with six other people. None of us have a job, and we make money anyway we can. The utility company cut our power two weeks ago when we couldn’t scrape together the money to meet the $416 overdue bill. Now we crash wherever it is warm. Dexter must have come downstairs and climbed into bed with me.
“I gotta piss,” I mutter as I pulled back the covers, but I’m too tired to get up from the mattress on the floor. Besides it and a dresser I found in an alley earlier this year, that is the sum of my earthly possessions. I’m hungry, but there is nothing to eat. If I go out early and hustle for money, I might make a few bucks to buy breakfast. If not, then I’ll have to steal to survive. It’s been my life for the past five years.
I’ve gotten used to it. It was hard at first. What choice do I have though? No one wants me. “Matt Stevens,” I mutter to myself. “Why do you even bother? You’re just a shell of a man.”
On days when my head is straight, and I’m not drugged up or drunk, I reflect back on my life- or what was my life. It was over at sixteen when that damn preacher fucked up everything. The bastard thought he could change me. I never returned home, and I drifted from place to place. Now, I do what I have to do to survive. If it means standing on a street corner holding a sign begging for money, then I do it. If I’m lucky, I may score a few dollars from a sympathetic grandmother who looks at me like she’s glad it’s me and not her grandchild. If I’m unlucky, I will get spat at and told to get a fucking job.
Get a fucking job. Who will hire someone like me? My hair is long, and my clothes are dirty and soiled. I used to be a cute kid. Now, I look like some dog who has been chained to a fence inside a used car lot. And on most days, that is how I feel.
I drink and take drugs hoping that someday it will kill me. I don’t have the fucking nerve to put a gun to my head and end this madness. But I’ve decided if I ever do, I’m going to go back and kill that bastard who put me here. It’s all his fault. He took everything from me- my family, friends and future. I had a good life until he ruined it. He calls himself a man of God. But if God really exists then he would send down a bolt of lightning and strike him dead as he spews his homophobic shit that he calls a sermon. If he’s a man of God, then I’m the Pope of the Catholic Church. I had more virtue than he could ever possess, until he took it from me.
Dexter stirs beside me and opens his eyes. “Hey, Matt,” he smiles as he pulls off his underwear and mounts me. “I’m glad you’re still here.” Twenty minutes later, we get dressed and head upstairs.
“What side of town are you hitting today,” asks Dexter. His red hair is unkempt and dirty. I look at his feet, and they are dirty. He is wearing a pair of sandals he stole from a store a few days earlier. Like me, he wouldn’t be a bad looking guy. Put a navy-blue suit and a tie on him, and he would look right at home at IBM. However, his story is as dark as mine. Orphaned at six and moved from one foster home to another until he was seventeen. And like me, he hit the streets where he tries to survive from one day to the next. It’s the hand we were dealt.
Dexter isn’t a lover. We could never love anyone because we don’t know if there is a tomorrow in our future. We love for the moment, like this morning. There are never any strings attached. We do stuff that makes us feel good. We know that later the mood will change.
I used to feel love, but not anymore. Even then, it was brief, and I’m not even sure it was something you could call love. My best friend, Ricky, kissed me once. It surprised me, but then I began to fall for him. But that bastard pastor fucked it up. He took something beautiful and innocent, and he ruined it.
I loved Charles, but again he soiled and dirtied our love. He ranted and raved and cast us into the pits of hell. He turned my family against me, and I lost my friends- and my future. I am where I am today because of that son of a bitch who calls himself a man of God.
As I put on my torn and dirty jacket to head out for the day, I begin to violently cough. “You should get that checked,” suggested Dexter.
“Yeah, right,” I manage to say between gasps. “I’ll go downtown and see my doctor today.” When I start coughing again, he pats me on my back and hands me half a bottle of water. I inspect it to make sure there is no one’s saliva on it before putting it to my mouth.
When we get to the sidewalk, he points east. “I’ll hit this side.” He points to the west. “You go that way.” We bump fists. “We’ll meet up at the noon under the bridge. If we get enough money, we can buy some weed and beer.”
“I need more that weed and beer,” I said. “I’m jonesing like a mother fucker.”
“Whatever,” he says as he waves and walks away.
I tuck my sign under my arm and head to Maple and 7th Street. It is known as my territory. Each of us stake out an area, and generally we respect each other’s right. Occasionally, a newbie will show up, but he or she is quickly run off. Street people can be mean when we feel someone is encroaching on our territory.
I stand on the curb far enough away to avoid someone spitting on me, but close enough that I can quickly run up and grab the bill or change when someone holds their hand out the window. I have to be careful because occasionally someone will think it’s funny to hand me a snot-filled tissue or used condom. If their hand is folded, I generally will walk away.
My handmade sign says ‘Homeless and Hungry. Will work for food.’ Of course, no one has actually offered me a job. I just hope they think that I may work if asked. It doesn’t make me appear like I’m too bad a charity case. About once a week, a guy will pull up with his dick out and ask me to suck him. I know he’s not a cop because cops aren’t allowed to show their dick. If he seems sincere, and I feel I can trust him, I will jump in the car and give him a quick blow job while he circles around the block a few times. If I become uncomfortable, and he starts to head in another direction, I’ll jump out and give him the finger. So far, I’ve never been hurt. Most guys just want to bust a nut in someone’s mouth and disappear. It’s okay for me because I demand the twenty bucks up front. If he doesn’t get off, it is his fault.
Guys have told me I give better head than their old ladies. When I blow a guy, I close my eyes and pretend I’m sucking Ricky like I did the first time I ever sucked a dick. Occasionally, I’ll get hard as a rock and cum in my pants before the guy does. Sometimes, I pretend it is Charles, but I don’t usually get hard. With Ricky, I felt something. With Charles, it was just stuff we did. I was starting to feel something, but it was taken away too soon.
I don’t know what happened to Charles after we got arrested in the barn. Well, we weren’t actually arrested, but it felt like it since we got handcuffed and taken downtown. I learned later that Pete’s old man woke up and caught him putting food in a bag to bring us so we would have something to eat. He finally told him we were in the barn. I guess we had been on the news, and viewers were asked to be on the lookout for two runaways. They made it sound like we were in danger. Pete’s dad called the sheriff, and he called my father who called Pastor Simpson. Neither my parents nor Charles’ parents showed up.
My parents didn’t even come to the juvenile facility where we were taken. I heard Charles’ parent came and got him, but I was detained for about two weeks. One day, Pastor Simpson showed up with a court order stating that he had custody of me. He mentally tortured me for a week. Every night I was subjected to a meeting of him and several church members as they tried to exorcise the devil from my evil soul. One day, he left my door unlocked and I escaped. I think he did it on purpose so I would leave.
Everything after that is a blur. I couldn’t go home, and I was afraid if I went to Ricky’s house, his parents might call the sheriff. I decided that I would never go back home or to Pastor Simpson’s again. I would do whatever I had to do to avoid going back.
I wandered the streets for several days until I met an elderly man. He wanted his dick sucked because he said his wife was dead, and he was afraid to trust a prostitute. I guess I worked my magic on him, and he took me home that night. I stayed with him for about a year and a half. His health started to fail, and I felt sorry for him. I became like a nurse to him. I cooked his meals, helped bathe him and kept his apartment clean. He had children but they didn’t visit often. When they did, I would leave so he wouldn’t have to explain what a young boy was doing in his home.
Then one morning, I took him his breakfast and he had a weird look on his face, and he couldn’t move. I think he had a stroke during the night. I called 911, and he was rushed to a hospital. I tried to visit him a couple of times, but his family was constantly with him. After going years without hardly seeing him, they now wanted to be with him. I think he had money in the bank, and they were trying to get their share. Anyway, I never saw him again, and he died about a week later. I packed up what little belongings I had and hit the streets again.
I’ve thought a few times of walking past Ricky’s house just to see if he still lives there. But then I am afraid I might run into him. What would I say? He would be so disappointed in me. At one time, we had plans. Living on the streets was never an option we discussed. I’m sure he graduated and went on to college somewhere. Me, I became homeless, a drug addict and an alcoholic. That isn’t something I would want to brag about.
I think about Charles too. I wonder if he survived. He was so weak and timid. He just let people pick on him and call him names, and he never reacted. He’s probably dead today. Someone probably beat him up and left him for dead in an alley. It’s a shame because Charles was a really good guy. For a minute, I could see us spending the rest of our lives together.
It is funny how life is. When you’re sixteen you have dreams. You see yourself years away living a fulfilling life, making something of yourself. Then life kicks you in the ass for no reason at all and robs you of your life and aspirations. And you feel powerless to do anything about it. I’ve spent countless sleepless nights wondering what I did I do wrong? I was a good son. I went to school each day and made good grades. Then one day, things just changed. It started with a kiss, and it wasn’t one I initiated. But my life went into a tailspin, and there was no way I could stop it. With no one to help me, I didn’t know how to stop the fall.
So now, I’m standing on a street corner waiting for a stranger to hand me a dollar bill. I just hope they don’t see the tears streaming down my face.
Two hours later, I counted the money I had received from strangers. $10.12. Not too bad. At least I could buy a decent lunch. Another added plus- I didn’t get spit on once. I left and attempted to find Dexter. Usually, he panhandles a few blocks away. When I approached, he was sitting on the curb waiting for cars to stop at the light.
“Any luck?” I asked. He poured the money from the container and counted it.
He frowned and announced, “Just $3.76.” He looked around and spat, “Fucking losers. Can’t even help a homeless person out.” He rose and put his arm around my shoulder. “How about you? Did you do any good?”
“A little over ten bucks,” I replied.
He patted my back and said, “That’s enough to buy us lunch.” We continued down the street with his arm still around my back.
We went to our favorite diner. It’s a greasy spoon, but they accept people like us. The owner tells people about how he was on the street for seven years before buying the diner. I don’t know how he survives serving transients and lousy food. However, he’s kind and he doesn’t try to take advantage of us.
We ordered the breakfast meal with two eggs, a slice of bacon and toast. It’s only $3.99. Since I had made a little more this morning, we ordered a cup of coffee. As I ate, Dexter looked over at me.
“I had a guy offer me a job this morning,” he announced.
I laughed and said, “How much is he going to pay you for a blow job?”
“No,” he replied, “It’s an actual job. I even told him about you, and he wants to meet you too.”
I asked skeptically, “Doing what?”
He leaned forward and looked around before speaking. “Okay, Matt,” he pleaded, “Please hear me out before you say no.”
I already didn’t like the sound of that. I knew Dexter well enough to know that if begged for something, he was desperate. “Okay,” I said, “What?”
He looked around again. “You know the club over on 36th Street? The Ramrod?”
I looked surprised and responded, “Ain’t that a gay bar?”
“The guy who talked to me this morning is the owner.”
Dexter replied, “He’s looking for some new dancers. He liked the way I look.” He ran his head over his red hair and beard. “All I gotta do is clean myself up a bit.”
“Dancer?” I asked, “When did you become a dancer?”
“No, Matt,” he said excitedly. “It’s not like we’ll be dancing.”
“We?” I asked, “You got a mouse in your pocket? I ain’t going to make a fool of myself by dancing in front of a bunch of gay guys. Besides, I don’t know how to dance.”
“It’s not dance, dance,” he replied.
“What do you mean?”
Dexter looked around again. “They do this thing on Saturday nights where guys dance.” He looked intently at me. “Now hear me out, Matt.” I nodded my head. “The guys don’t really dance, they strip.”
“What!” I shouted loudly. Dexter looked around the diner. “I ain’t taking my clothes off in front of a bunch of guys.”
“Why not?” he asked. “You’ve got a great body.” He looked down at himself. “We both do.”
“I’m still not stripping,” I replied adamantly.
He grinned and said, “You will when I tell you what it pays.”
“What’s it pay?” I asked skeptically.
“Will, that’s the guy’s name,” he continued, “says we can make a lot of money. He likes the fact that we’re both 21, so he won’t have to worry about cops raiding the place. He said they got busted last month because one of the dancers was only 19.”
I frowned and asked, “What’s he going to pay us, Dexter?”
“Okay, get this,” he responded excitedly, “We got to be there at 9 and dance until the place closes at 2.” I nodded my head. I was used to not getting much sleep, so that didn’t bother me.
He continued, “He’ll pay us $200 a night.”
“Yeah, Matt,” he said, “And that’s not all. Guys will give us tips and we can keep whatever they give us. He said we could easily make more than $200 dollars a night depending on how good we are.”
My eyes widened. “Are you shitting me? We can make $400 dollars just taking our clothes off?”
“Yeah,” he grinned. “Are you in?”
So, I guess, starting Saturday night, I’m going to be a stripper in a gay bar.
I awoke Saturday morning listening to Dexter snoring loudly. I scooted out of bed and went to the bathroom. Fortunately, we had one in the basement where we slept so we didn’t have to share with others upstairs. Dexter was sitting up in bed when I returned.
“Are you ready for tonight?” he asked. He had been talking about our new job offer all week. I wanted to share his excitement, but I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure I would be able to remove my clothing in front of a bunch of drunken guys. Dexter tried to assure me that we wouldn’t be completely nude, and that we would be wearing tight underwear.
“Might as well be nude,” I told him. Besides, I had visited a couple of gay clubs in the past when strippers were entertaining. A guy would often pull their underwear down as he shoves a bill into it. Often times, the guy would stroke him in an attempt to get the stripper hard. Even though it was against the law, the owners would watch out for guys they thought might be vice cops, and they would warn the dancers to be careful about exposing themselves or letting customers touch them. I had also heard rumors that there was a backroom where a dancer could take a customer to perform a ‘private show.’ I wasn’t sure what that involved, but I was sure I would find out soon. Besides, if it meant more money, I was pretty open to most things. I like doing stuff as long as it isn’t harmful.
I lay back and Dexter started to stroke me. “Better not,” I warned as I grabbed his hand and pulled it away. “We might have to get off tonight. If I cum now, I’m not sure I will be ready later.”
He laughed and replied, “When have you never been ready? Hell, I’ve made you cum two or three times in one night.”
“We still better not do stuff now,” I said. I rolled over and got out of bed. We dressed in new clothes we were able to buy with the money we had panhandled the past few days. Since the nights were getting a little cooler, people were more generous to us. Some would even tell me to buy a hot cup of coffee as they handed me a few bills.
I looked at Dexter and asked, “Are you okay doing this?” He gave me a skeptical look. “I mean stripping naked in front of a bunch of guys?”
He posed and replied, “I ain’t got nothing to be ashamed of.” He was right. Dexter has a nice body. He’s about 6’3 and slender. What I’ve always found exciting about him is his chest is furry. I love lying beside him and running my hand over the thick hair. I’m sure guys would go wild when they watched him strip.
I’ve tried to take care of my body too. At 21, I’m still young enough that years of drugs and drinking haven’t affected my appearance. I’ve seen the veterans on the street. Some look like they are sixty, when they are really half that age. You can also see it in their sunken and dark eyes. I might as well take advantage of my good looks and body while I can, for time will soon catch up with me.
I’m several inches taller than I was in high school. I’m slender like Dexter, but neither of us would be considered skinny. My brown hair is long and shaggy, mainly because I can’t afford to get it cut. I’m not hairy like Dexter. I have a nice bush without too thick of hair. My cock gets about seven inches when it is hard. Dexter’s gets about eight inches. I might be a little self-conscious tonight because his will be larger than mine. He’ll probably make more money in tips.
“What time do we have to be there?” I ask Dexter. He told me a few days ago that the guy who owned the club wanted us to come early on Saturday to ‘audition.’ I guess there won’t be much auditioning going on. He’ll probably have us strip naked just to see if we can excite an audience.
I’m nervous as hell, but Dexter has talked all week about how much money we will be able to make. I still can’t believe I’ll be able to bring home at least $400 for just taking off my clothes. If I give someone a ‘private’ show in the backroom, I’ll make more. Maybe then I can make enough money to move out of this hellhole of a basement. I’ll know after tonight.