by Syd McGinley
Charlie needs a firm hand. He needs help. But what he needs most is someone to keep an eye on him while his Master, Ben, is out of town. Ben’s old roommate, John, might just be the perfect man for the job.
John is dealing with a death in the family, trying to get his doctorate out of the way, and he has no place to stay. So watching over Ben’s pet, Charlie, seems to be the perfect solution. Charlie blossoms under his care, showing a whole new level of submission, and John is proud that his touch can bring Charlie some peace. Will Ben approve of the new arrangement when he returns?
Ben’s late. He only drinks in bars since Charlie detoxed. I admire his support, but his boy runs rings around him. If Ben weren’t an old friend and I weren’t desperate, I’d be gone.
Dad threw me out at mom’s cremation. I’m crashed at Jack’s, but he can’t take much family pressure. I haven’t lived at home all this time—I came back when mom was diagnosed. I was already grief-stricken over Rob, and knew the reality of loss. I’ve seen enough friends eaten alive by guilt, and mom deserved to have her son around. She took a lot of shit about me over the years, and she wanted her son as she died. I’ve learned a lot about discipline since I left here, and if she could handle it, then so could I. The last few months I moved in with her. Dad wouldn’t watch TV with her, manage her meds, or hold her hand while she cried. And he picked the fight at the funeral, not me.
Ben’s frazzled, but offers a brief condolence. More would be too much, but he buys me a scotch.
“Still got petty cash even if Charlie’s detox cleaned me out. John, he’s fucked up, but he could be the one.” He looks right in my eyes. “He’s not Rob, but he has potential. He wants to be my boy.”
I scowl at the comparison, but Ben waits. I need somewhere to stay while I write my dissertation. I’ve taken grunt jobs all through school until mom’s last months, and my final draft deserves my focus. I can’t walk away. As well as my degree, I have mom’s estate to settle. She left me her family’s cabin, and dad’s furious. I want it desperately—both on principle, and because mom wanted me to have it. I’ll have a home after years of temporary rooms. I’ve lived poor to stay free of debt—state school degrees, fast food late shifts, and construction every summer. After twelve years, I’m about to be Dr. Fell.
I never believed dad’s bitter snarl that I’d nursed her last months’ of life to get her to sign the cabin over. I didn’t know until the will was read, but she’d written it the day I left for college. It would have made no difference—I’d have sat by her anyway. Dad’s view of family love and honor is far too crude to ever grasp that.
“All right, I’ll listen: what’s the deal?”