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The heat was like a physical wall that hit Tom as he slid out of his red Jeep Cherokee at the road stop. He needed to take a piss pretty bad, and the grimy, beat-up gas station/convenience store was the first building heâ€™d seen in the southern Arizona desert for a while. He wasnâ€™t that far from Tucson, but his bladder didnâ€™t care. The hell-hole stocked with fake Indian tourist trinkets that he was currently parked in front of would have to do.
He dropped down from the truck, landing on the dried barren ground, and allowed the scorching temperature to envelop himâ€”immediately giving him the impression that he was being cooked. It was sort of like when he was a little boy in a small town near Austin, Texas, and his Grams would open the oven on one of her homemade berry pies. He would stick his head as close as he could and absorb the essence of the tart berries and buttery crust of the dessert, inhaling it completely in.
"Tommy!" his Grams would bellow. "Youâ€™re going to singe the hair off your eyebrows if you keep doing that!"
Then she would laugh a great big belly laugh, and wrap him in her arms, hugging and kissing on him. Too bad her sonâ€”Tomâ€™s dadâ€”had never picked up any of her habits. The first time his dad had caught Tom with his lips wrapped around the cock of one of his buddies from school, things had changed between them. His father never openly spoke of what heâ€™d seen, but he would give Tom looks. Looks that said, "Why is my son one of â€˜thoseâ€™?"
When Grams died the year before, Tom had decided it was time to move on. Mom was long goneâ€”cancerâ€”and his brother had enlisted in the army right out of high school. Grams had been the only member of his family who had ever really loved him, even though she knew he was into guys. That was the thing. He was actually into girls too, which somehow seemed to bother his dad even more.
"Does that sweet thing you took out the other night know about your other tendencies? She seems like a keeper, but I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s right with you being the way you are anâ€™ all."
Statements such as that would roll around in his brain until sometimes he thought heâ€™d go crazy. It got worse when he went through the programme and became a firefighter. It took a year, but an opening finally came up in town and, at twenty-five years old, Tom signed a three-year contract. Initially, he wasnâ€™t sure whether he wanted to go into wildfire fighting, or something else along those lines, but being a firefighter assigned to a station in the big city of Austin, but still near to his hometown, felt really greatâ€”at first. His dad started in on him almost the moment Tom announced he had been accepted. While Grams had been enthusiastic and proud, his dad couldnâ€™t stop harping on Tomâ€™s sexual orientation, as if that informed every single fucking thing he did in his life.
"Firefighter, huh? Are you sure you have the cojones for such a profession? Your brother is in the army and Iâ€™m proud of him. But heâ€™s a real man. Actually, heâ€™d probably make a great fireman too. You should get into cooking, or fashion, or something like that." Then he would laugh as if heâ€™d said the funniest thing anyone had ever said.
Tom had wanted to slam the screen door of his little wood-framed childhood home, and leave right then. But he loved his Grams too much, and there was the contract heâ€™d just signed. He would have to pay the training academy back if he left before it was up, and he could forget about ever having firefighting as any type of profession again. So he stuck it out.
After a while, he settled into the job and how good it felt to be a part of something that involved helping other people. There had been intense moments when he was able to make a difference, and even if his dad hadnâ€™t been proud, Grams had been. Heâ€™d even met someoneâ€”a guy who tended bar at one of the local hangouts. It had taken Tom some crafty inquiries to figure out that this guy might be open to a relationship with another man. Austin was at least a little more relaxed and liberal than many of the smaller Texas towns, but not by much. Besides, Tom had always been a private person. He thought it might be his dadâ€™s attitude towards him, but he was just always careful.
Sam had seemed like an excellent match for him. They both liked the same outdoorsy thingsâ€”hiking, fishing, camping and so on. Tom thought theyâ€™d made a good couple. Sam was a shaggy-haired, blue-eyed blond, fit, average height, and Tom was similar, except that he had dark brown curly hair. They were both in their mid twenties, and Tom started to think it might turn into something. He was ready to settle down with a good man or woman, and to start building his own lifeâ€”one that didnâ€™t include his dad.
But the maturity that had been foisted on Tom from an early age after losing his mom hadnâ€™t served him well in his relationship with Sam. Tom might have been looking to have a stable home life with a long-term partner, but Sam definitely wasnâ€™t. Tom had come home from his swing shift early one morning, and had walked in on an orgy. Sam was sucking the cock of one of their mutual friends, whist simultaneously taking it in the ass from someone who Tom had never even seen before. He couldnâ€™t decide which was worse. At the same time, several other men were scattered about what Tom had mistakenly thought was their home, engaging in myriads of sex acts with one another. It hadnâ€™t been a pleasant scene.
"Baby, I like you a lot. But Iâ€™m just not into this whole domesticated bliss scene right now, ya hear? Iâ€™m too young, and so are you. Have fun! Come on, sweet cheeks, join the party."
Tom had wanted to vomit. Instead of taking Sam up on his offer, he had packed his bags, gone back home to Grams, and unfortunately, his dad.
"Whatâ€™s the matter? You and gay boy have a loverâ€™s spat?" More laughter.