Quietly Inside, Waiting and Waiting
by Thomas Price
Henry agreed to meet Jacob that night because he wanted to kiss him, but Jacob just wanted to smash jack-o-lanterns. Henry never understood what pleasure it brought Jacob. Henry hated the smell of the softening orange flesh, like that of rotting melon and baby vomit. But he loved seeing Jacob’s biceps flex as he lifted the pumpkins. He loved seeing the wet sheen on his crooked teeth, even if the smile looked deranged. His overgrown bangs peeking out from under his hoodie. How his pale skin became phosphorescent in the glow of the moon.
The next jack-o-lantern had a clichéd scary face: shark teeth and sinister eyes. Instead of fracturing, the pumpkin collapsed with a wet plop on the walk.
Jacob stepped on the pumpkin, mashing it into baby food. He ground the mush into the cement, leaving only a black stain. Henry’s mouth watered at Jacob licking his own lips; his heart raced at Jacob biting his bottom lip.
Henry closed his legs tight to conceal his hardon.
Jacob craned his neck, vertebrae cracking, as he surveyed up and down the street.
“You destroyed every pumpkin on the block,” Henry said.
“This town is so boring,” Jacob said. “Maybe I should just let you suck me off again.” He flashed Henry a callous smirk.
Henry throbbed harder at the memory of the night he and Jacob had gotten drunk on homemade hard cider, stolen from repurposed jelly jars. Jacob eventually grabbed the back of Henry’s neck, shoving his face into his lap while unbuttoning his jeans. When Henry replayed the hazy images during masturbatory fantasies, he added the illusion of gentleness. Their lips meeting. The wetness of Jacob’s mouth. His chest filled with a pressure so intense that he wept after he came, wept until he thought he might split open.
Henry recognized the devil fire in Jacob’s eyes, as the other boy searched for a rock to break windows. Henry imagined the quiet street filling with shouting adults. So he ran straight at Jacob, squeak of sneakers on wet cement, and jumped through the air. He wrapped his arms around Jacob’s neck, the force of his movement nearly bringing them both down.
Jacob elbowed Henry in the ribs. When Henry looked back, winded, he saw Jacob hungry, wild, and laughing. They froze, a game of chicken, and then Jacob feinted, forcing Henry to run.
Henry heard Jacob panting, knew that Jacob kept on his heels. He slowed, dashing into a front yard, and inhaled sharply as he took a knee to his lower back. Jacob tackled him with a desperate force. They collapsed to the grass.
Henry had lost his erection, but now Jacob’s body pressed him into the ground. Jacob’s cold fingers grasped his wrists, pulled his hair. His pelvis ground into Henry’s abdomen as Jacob flipped him to his back. He pinned Henry’s arms above his head. Henry had never seen Jacob’s smile that manic. A drip of saliva escaped over his bottom lip and landed on Henry’s face. Even as Henry grew scared, he got hard again. He hoped that Jacob felt it through his pants.
Their attention shifted at the sound of a smacking screen door. Arjun, a boy in their grade, stepped off the porch and stopped at the base of the steps, toeing a piece of shattered pumpkin. “Did you guys smash my little sister’s jack-o-lantern?”
“What’s it to you, asshole?” Jacob said.
Arjun stood tall, chin raised too high. A year younger and smaller in stature, he always tried to appear larger. “She worked hard on it, dick,” Arjun said.
Henry remained on his back as Jacob stood. He savored the residual heat of Jacob’s body, soon lost to the cold air. He listened to the scuffling, muffled expletives, Arjun calling out Henry’s name, and the smack of bodies falling to the ground. He only stood when Arjun started choking.
Jacob sat on Arjun’s chest, a forearm pressed against his throat, and Jacob’s free hand grabbed dead leaves from the yard, shoving them into Arjun’s face. “Eat it!” Jacob yelled.
Henry considered kicking Jacob in the stomach. He was witnessing a cat on bird massacre, Arjun with his little pigeon bones. And his softness. Henry and Arjun had kissed a half dozen times, usually just stolen moments, daring pecks to full tonguing sessions. The last time, they’d snuck into Arjun’s bedroom where they quietly gasped hot breath into each other’s mouths while jerking off. Arjun felt so soft: his hair, his lips, his skin, the way he held the back of Henry’s neck with their foreheads touching.
Henry kicked the bottom of Jacob’s shoe. “Careful, man.”
Jacob finally succeeded in stuffing Arjun’s mouth, making him gag.
It probably tasted like dirt. Henry remembered that Arjun’s mouth was like cinnamon gum.
Jacob loomed over Arjun, who rolled to his side, hacking black spit into the grass. Arjun climbed to his hands and knees, wincing. He crawled to the porch steps.
When Arjun glanced back, hurt, Henry formed an apology in his mind but remained silent, instead basking in the waves of Jacob’s body heat.
Arjun scurried up the steps and into the house.
Jacob spat onto the porch.
Henry worried Arjun would never kiss him again. He wanted to punch Jacob in the jaw, but then the moon broke through the clouds, setting Jacob’s skin aglow. His full lips cracked into a smirk, left cheek dimpled. Hair tussled. Forehead shined, like post-fucking sweat. And Henry’s chest welled so full he expected his rib cage to break.
“I should head home,” Henry said. He wanted Jacob to stop him, demand that Henry spend the night. They would play video games, surf porn, and sleep in Jacob’s bed together, like when they were little boys, but now in each other’s arms, Henry’s hand in Jacob’s underwear holding his dick all night. Then they would kiss, soft and long, Jacob’s spoiled milk breath in Henry’s mouth.
Jacob shrugged. “Okay.” He stomped the broken jack-o-lantern one more time and then ran off, toward his own home.
Henry watched until Jacob disappeared around the corner. The pressure would break each rib from his sternum until his chest splayed open and his heart toppled into the grass.
When Henry snuck back into the house, he heard his mother moaning from the living room. He found her lying on the couch, bathed in TV light, her long stringy hair matted in sweat. Mini candy bar wrappers dotted her body.
“Mom.” Henry crouched next to her. “You can’t have these.”
“But they’re my favorite,” she said.
He got a stockpot from the kitchen. He rubbed her back as she vomited into it. He brought her the test kit and insulin. He sat on the floor, watching the black-and-white burning windmill on the television and holding her hand until she slept.
Henry covered her in an afghan, turned the television off, and went to his bedroom. In the dark, he thought of Jacob and jerked off. He pictured pleasuring Jacob, kissing him. Of Jacob and Arjun, their bodies pressed together. Of Jacob’s painful grip. Of Arjun’s softness. Of he and Jacob and Arjun together, naked, panting, sweating, coming.
Of Jacob. And Jacob. And Jacob…
Thomas Price is a writer living in Los Angeles. His fiction has appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, The Barcelona Review, The Los Angeles Review, The Other Stories podcast, and the Arkansas Review. For more information, please visit thomaskprice.com
Image source: Ganapathy Kumar/Unsplash
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