EXCERPT: Super Service by Michael Roberts
My front door was wide open and so was my mouth.
The vision in front of me wore an immaculately white crewneck T-shirt that hugged his chest as if it and the torso had fallen in love and intended to cling to each other as closely as possible. I couldn’t blame the T-shirt. A fanciful image, peut-êtrè, but the sight made me absolutely giddy.
His jeans were washed, pressed, loose fit and somehow more sensual than if they were skin tight and composed mostly of patches, holes and loose thread.
He was looking down at a clipboard in his hands, and the top of his head was sexy. The light-brown hair was short and one small tuft wasn’t properly combed, and this imperfection was endearing. I asked myself how I could swoon over a man whose face I hadn’t yet seen. He glanced up, and everything was a gorgeous picture with the doorway as frame.
He appeared to be in his early twenties. His nose was aquiline and his lips were firm and his eyelashes were lovely little creatures that had wandered onto the symmetry of his features.
“Mr. March?” he asked, and I could tell from his tone and from the expression on his captivating visage that he had said the same thing earlier and I hadn’t heard, so taken was I.
“Yes,” I answered, “that’s me. That’s I. I’m him. I’m he. I’m March.”
There was a beat of silence, after which he said, with a slight smile that could have meant so many things, “I’m Reggie. I’m here about your cable television.”
“There’s nothing wrong with my cable,” I said, nearly blushing at the double entendre, bereft to know that there thus was no reason for him to stay, that he soon would pass out of my entranced vision. I didn’t want to tell him that I knew nothing was wrong with the cable because I’d been watching a Lifetime movie with Heather Locklear.
“I’m here preventatively,” he improbably said. “I want to make sure nothing goes wrong in the future.”
“Oh,” I replied and continued to stand like a dunderhead in the door until Reggie raised his eyebrows interrogatively. I sort of squeaked, “Oh,” and stood aside to let him into the apartment.
“Where’s the TV?” he asked, and I wordlessly pointed.
Reggie rippled toward the living room. His upper body flowed beneath the white cotton, his thighs reluctantly releasing the denim as he moved. He bent over to inspect the cable connection, and I was mesmerized by the smoothness of his bejeaned rear end. I reflected that I was a man somewhere in his thirties with a certain level of sophistication and intelligence and savoir faire, and therefore I should not be subject to such emotional overload, and then Reggie squatted in front of the wall plug-in, and the fabric embraced the semicircles of his ass, and I was utterly lost.
“Were you watching this?” he asked, nonjudgmentally, indicating Heather’s shock as she realized that her sister was in fact her brother and guilty of at least three murders, including the one of the Pekinese.
“Phhh,” I said dismissively with an airy flip of my hand. “I was trying to find that special on Etruscan art.”
“I hope it gets shown again because I’ve got to commandeer your set for a while.”
“Fine, fine,” I assured him. “Fine. I’ll just…” I gestured in the direction of my easy chair. Was there, heaven forbid, a porno mag on the side table or a gossip sheet, something that I perused as an alternative to my regular intellectual pursuits? Good, there was a Henry James novel that I’d been trying to read for two years. I sat down and opened the book and attacked the first chapter, the first sentence that went on for three pages.
“Is there another TV?” asked Reggie.
“In my bedroom,” I told him, “through that door. And also one in my roommate’s bedroom, that way.”
I could see him in the corner of my bedroom with the set, and although nothing was occurring but his turning things off and on and fiddling with wires, he was also turning me on.
Next, he went down the hallway and over to Travis’s room and out of view. He was out of view even when I got up and tried, ever so casually, to see him. I was, irrationally, jealous.
Irrationally because, for one thing, Travis wasn’t even there, so nothing was happening, unless, of course, Reggie had thrown himself on Travis’s bed, as if he were in a different Lifetime movie and was rolling about lasciviously, running his hands up and down his marvelous body, and I was becoming vaporous, and I needed to put the brakes to the fantasy train on which I found myself, though, yes, if Travis were there, he probably would be admiring Reggie’s construction; what breathing gay male wouldn’t?
Travis and I had been, at various stages in our relationship, lovers, buddies, cronies and maybe soon to be crones, now, for the moment, closest friends. Someday, we would be like old dogs who would sniff each other’s butt and realize that we had been on that route before, many times before, and we would pad harmlessly to the fire and lie down to sleep, our legs twitching in remembered romantic pursuits, and people would no longer be able to tell us apart.
But we weren’t at that point, yet, and so I was indulging in absurd resentments over a roommate who was away from the city visiting another friend. I didn’t know if I was suspicious of Travis’s succumbing to the charms of his buddy, whom I knew to be attractive and about whom I myself had the rather-more-than-occasional lubricious thought, or envisioning Reggie’s enticements having their sway over Travis if he were here, which he wasn’t, and what if he found Reggie to be more alluring than me—which, all things considered, was possibly not impossible—oh god, my head was aching, and I sank down into my chair and sat on Henry James.
The doorbell rang.
One paid the price for living in an apartment building in which the lobby door didn’t ever completely latch, allowing all sorts of interlopers to, well, interlope.
I sprang up.
Then a part of me sprang up farther. In the hallway stood a man who was stocky in a linebacker sort of way—I’d learned a few things about football from a former lover who was into sports and sportsmen, which was why I still had a Pavlovian response to men who looked like athletes. He was wearing a short-sleeved shirt that was trying to meet the challenge of keeping its wearer’s upper section encased but had partially given up. Two buttons were open over intriguing curvatures, and biceps that had biceps were about to burst the seams. His work pants were of a matching gray-green color with front pockets that gaped over hefty, muscular thighs.
He was examining a clipboard in his hands, and the top of his head was sexy. (The scent of déjà vu and the not-unpleasant tang of perspiration wafted across my quivering nostrils.) His thinning dark-brown hair was in a brush style. I asked myself how I could be so enamored of a man whose face I hadn’t yet seen, and he glanced up and answered my question.
His face was also athletic—as if it had been in scrimmages in which the opposing team had wreaked some havoc but had not damaged his innate good looks. The tip of his nose angled a bit and a small scar creased his jawline. He was probably in his midthirties.
“I’m Ken, and I’m here about the plumbing,” he informed me.
“My plumbing’s all right,” I said, and I very nearly added, “according to my latest doctor’s visit,” but I didn’t. Suddenly, I felt as if I were in one of those experimental films that play with time and sequence and I didn’t know the script.
“Are you Mr. March?”
“I think so.”
His aspect didn’t change—well, there may have been a flicker of a smile.
“Actually, it’s not your plumbing, but some of the apartments below yours. There’s a problem that we think may have started farther up, and we’re trying to find out where.”
“That’s logical,” I said, although that wasn’t true—in fact, I thought I saw logic’s tail disappearing at the end of the hallway.
“So if I may, I’d like to look under your kitchen sink.”
I wanted to say, “Yes, and I’d like to examine your pipes, too,” but I didn’t. Instead, I said, “You may,” feeling as if I were in a fog.
“Well…” he said, and indicated that perhaps it would be best if I got out of the doorway and let him into the apartment.
“Of course,” I said, and moved. He reached down and picked up his toolbox, and when he had entered, I led him into the kitchen, glad that I had washed the dishes and emptied the trash.
He opened the cabinet beneath the sink and lowered himself headfirst into it. Soon he was lying on his back, his upper half inside, his lower half sprawled along the floor. I stared down at him.
His thighs weren’t all that stretched his pants.
“That’s okay,” he muffledly said, “you don’t need to hang around.”
And groin gawk, I told myself under my mental breath.
“I’ll call you if I need anything,” he added.
I retreated. It wasn’t enough that his bottom section was spread before me and that his crotch was jam-packed, making my own crotch tight, but his legs were the sides of a triangle and the apex was richly round, distracting my exit. I bumped into the kitchen doorjamb and tried to get out of the room before he noticed my awkward egress and emerged from the cave of my cabinet, wrench in hand. I continued to back away into the living room to my chair and sat on Henry James.
I may have squawked, and I rose precipitously up as if Henry had pinched me. Simultaneously, the doorbell rang. I stifled a second squawk and went to answer.
Continuing my descent into the anthropomorphic, I nearly bleated like an alarmed sheep. At the door was a man in painter’s clothes, with a spot of ochre on his fly. He was looking at a clipboard in his hand, and the top of his head was of course sexy, his hair combed in a sort of Elvis Presley fashion and glistening in the hallway light. Hadn’t I been in a scene something like this one not long ago? When he glanced up at me, I saw that under the painter’s cap, he was attractive: he had a mustache and was young looking, middle twenties, except for wrinkles around eyes that were a penetrating shade of blue, and I did not want to be thinking about penetration, and I said, “Uh?”
“I’m Frank,” he responded, although responded may not be the right term—how do you respond to “Uh”?
“I’m a painter,” he said, rather unnecessarily.
“I didn’t—” I said, and he said, “I know, but your landlord—” and I said, “It’s rather busy here,” and he said, “Oh, I’m not painting today; I’m just checking things out,” and so was I, and I said, “Uh.”
He waved a set of paint samples at me, and I nodded, having run out of things to say. I let him into the apartment, wondering when the tea party was going to begin.
As he went past me, I smelled a subtle cologne, certainly not eau de Sherwin Williams, and that was odd, but I got distracted by the fact that his work clothes fit his body so well, and he had a fittable body. He walked with a certain insouciance, a certain swing to the hips, that one wouldn’t—or at least I wouldn’t—have associated with a housepainter.
He flashed a grin that left me weak from top to bottom and in between, and he headed toward a hallway, and I wandered to my easy chair and sat down on Henry James.
I tried to read the Henry James, which might have been written in a foreign language. Henry James has that effect on a lot of people. But a lot of people are impressed by Henry James, and I find that the mere mention of the author or his books, whether or not one has actually read Henry James, can be useful in cruising a certain kind of target.
I didn’t know how many times I’d struggled through the first sentence when Ken came into the living room and coughed discreetly. I jumped a few feet and said, with my sang as froid as I could muster at the moment, “Yes?”
“The problem may be in the bathroom,” he said, “so may I…” I vaguely indicated the way, and he went in that direction.
I settled back to Henry James’s confusing syntax.
“Mr. March,” Ken called after a few minutes.
I marked my place with a finger, superfluously, since getting back to page one would present no problems. “Yes?”
“Would you come here? I want to show you something.”
I put Henry James on a table—I’d sat on him as often as one should sit on Henry James in an afternoon—and walked to the bathroom and went in. I said, “What do you want to show me?”
He shut the door and faced me and replied, “This,” and pulled down his pants, and his hard cock jutted out.
It went very nicely with the décor of the bathroom.
“Do you like it?” he asked, and I said, “Ahhh…” or maybe I said, “Ummm…”
Whatever I said seemed to encourage him, for he said, “Would you like to try it?”
Of course I would. I was alive, wasn’t I?