Saturday evening Stefano was dead tired. He had a shower, changed his clothes, looked at all the crates and boxes opened and partially emptied. "A little at a time..." he murmured as he put on his jacket. "Tonight I will meet Piggì at the Taboo. It should be crowded on Saturdays..."
When he got to the pub, it was nearly empty.
"Oh, Steu! I'm happy t' see ye."
"I'm glad to see you, too, Piggì. I thought it would be crowded."
"It's early, yet. They don't start t' come in 'til around 10:30. So we hev a little time t' chat. How are ye?"
"Better. I'm getting settled little by little."
"Yeh. Tonight ye hev a better face than last time... more yers."
"When I saw ye before ye seemed so, um, lifeless."
"Yes, it's true. Tonight something awoke inside me, and the Stefano of before is coming out."
"But, tell me, what d' ye do now that yer back? D' ye still teach?"
"You still remember that I was a teacher?"
"What a question! I remember everything about you two... oh, sorry."
"No," Stefano said, smiling. "You have nothing to apologize for. Tonight I realized that I am not dead with Carlo. On the contrary, he is still living with me - inside me. And that comforts me."
"Well, I'm happy t' hear thet, but..." Piggì smiled hesitantly.
"But?" Stefano encouraged him.
"Well, ye c'd tell me it's none o' m' business and ye'd be right; but, ye canno' stop livin jus t' preserv a relationship that..."
Stefano smiled: "You mean I've got to look for another man?"
"Well, at least don't ignore him, if ye meet him."
"Yeah, sure - don't worry. I won't keep on playing the inconsolable widow. Until yesterday, I did that. I felt dead with Carlo, so I wasn't interested in anything else. Today it's different. Sure, I miss Carlo; I'll miss him forever. But even if I should find another man, he wouldn't replace Carlo. Carlo is part of me, now. Instead, he would add to what Carlo and I had. Do you understand what I mean?"
The man nodded: "Great, Steu. But ye didn't tell me if yer still a teacher."
"No, I'm not. When Carlo died I wanted to go far from Bologna. So I applied for early retirement. You know that we in the government service can retire after just nineteen years, six months and one day? I had twenty-three years. So I just finished that school year, sold our apartment in Bologna, and came back here. The pension is quite low, of course, but with a little care I think I can manage to get by."
"Retired at yer age! And what will ye do all th' day long? Will ye not get bored?"
"I don't know, Piggì, I don't think so. I might start to write. I've always dreamed of doing that, but never tried it."
"Writing - that's interesting. Novels?"
"Yes. Or, maybe stories. I don't really know yet. Even though I have wanted to do that, I've never had the courage to try it."
"Come what may, ye need t' find something t' do - a hobby or something. Yer young still. Ye can't just give up livin' y'know, like so many retired people."
"Sure. We'll see. For now, I have to finish settling down. You have a nice place here at your pub."
"Yeh, I like it. I redecorated it three years ago. I took care o' all th' projects 'n' found good people who'd arrange th' place as I wanted. Also, my customers like it, and we have more people than before."
"You said that you manage here - it's not yours?"
"No, no, it's mine. I'm th' owner AND manager, I meant."
"But this is such a big place for you to handle all alone..."
"Oh, yeh. Right now I have Pino with me, thet boy talking on th' telephone. And Renzo is in th' kitchen. Tony'll come in later. All of them are legally hired. Still, when it's really crowded we all have t' run around like mad. At times one or two of the younger customers'll give me a hand if there's too big a crowd. I pay them by th' hour."
"Good Lord! Business must really be good, then."
"Yes it is really good."
"And your love life?"
"Oh, thet? Bah! I'm free like th' wind, as I told ye. M' bed is not always empty, I must say - in spite o' my nearly sixty years - and a few pounds too much. I can still find some young man coming on t' me who is interested in touring my big ass." the man said lowering his voice and laughing.
Customers began to come in, so the pub owner went back behind the counter. Stefano looked at each one who came in, wondering if he would recognize somebody. But then, he thought, his friends from back then would surely all be over forty. Yet most who entered were younger. Nice looking youths, though...
After a while he saw a boy of about twenty five come in - quite beautiful. As he entered, he lingered at the door to scan the room as if looking for somebody. The youth's eyes met Stefano's for a moment and lingered. Then the boy went to the counter and sat on a barstool. Stefano's gaze followed him.
He was dressed with understated elegance. His body and carriage would make you think he was a model. His light brown hair, voluminous and soft, had been combed carefully. But what struck Stefano the most were the boy's eyes - neither cold nor warm - still, surprisingly alive. These were the eyes of the impartial observer, detached but attentive. He saw the boy talking with Piggì and also that his friend was looking toward him. Then Piggì come out from behind the bar and approached Stefano, the youth following him.
"Stefano, may I introduce ye? This is Luciano, a model and announcer at a private TV station, and this, Luciano, is Stefano, a dear friend just back t' Turin after a long absence."
Stefano stood up and the two shook hands saying simultaneously, "How do you do," as Piggì returned to his bar.
The youth asked, "May I sit here, with you?" Stefano liked his low, sensual voice.
"Yes, sure. No formalities, okay?"
"Thank you. Piggì was saying that you have just returned to Turin."
"Yes, just two days. I'm still getting my home settled; it's a real mess!"
"Where did you live, before?"
"In Bologna, for twenty years."
"But you are from here originally?"
"Yes my family is from here. But I'm alone, now. And you?"
"I'm from Lucania, but I have lived here for almost twenty years. I must have arrived about the time you left. I have my family, but for six years I've lived on my own."
"Alone?" Stefano asked.
"How's that? A handsome boy like you..."
"A relationship ended badly two years ago. It lasted four years. You think you know a person, and then find that you don't. But, love is like the Arab Phoenix."
"The Arab Phoenix?"
"Yeah, you know... 'Everybody says that she exists but where she lives nobody knows!' It's a saying..."
This young man fascinated Stefano, but at the same time, perplexed him a little. He had yet to see him smile.
Luciano asked him, "But you too live alone?"
"Yes, my lover died a little more than one year ago."
"Oh, I'm sorry. Were you together long?"
"We were together twenty-three years, we lived together for nineteen years."
"Good Lord! That's quite a record! How did you manage?"
Stefano smiled, "Evidently we discovered where the Arab Phoenix lives..."
The other nodded, still without smiling. Stefano felt unsettled by its absence. They chatted a little more, then Luciano said, "You struck me the moment I came in. You're a handsome man and... you have warm eyes."
"I... Well, I don't want to make you feel ill at ease, but... I like you a lot. I feel attracted to you."
"Thank you. You interest me, too. I find you intriguing." Stefano answered and for the first time the shadow of a smile flashed in the youth's face.
Luciano put his hand on Stefano's on the table. "May I get you something to drink?" He asked this in a deep and sincere voice.
"Thank you... a black beer."
Luciano stood up and went to order. Stefano felt that little quiver here and there through his body. That ghost of a smile had opened a crack in Luciano's impassive mask for just a moment. Why would he need such a mask - insecurity?
The evening passed agreeably. Around midnight the pub was really crowded and there was no place to sit. Several people stood in clusters. So much conversation made it busy and noisy. Every now and then a cackle of laughter or some queen's campy shrill lent a spark of interest to the babble. Stefano enjoyed his conversation with Luciano. The youth smiled occasionally, even if only briefly.
Around one o'clock, Luciano said, "I've my car out here. Can I take you home?"
"Thank you, you are very kind."
"You are easy to be with." Luciano said, then looked Stefano straight in the eye. "I would like to stay with you all night - alone - to get to know you better."
Stefano quivered with pleasure, "My home is a mess. I just moved."
"That's not important. Could I be your guest tonight? In your bed?"
"Certainly." Stefano answered and felt his heart leap.
Luciano could feel his beauty and as he undressed before Stefano it seemed that he expected the elder man's admiration. His body was smooth, hairless, slightly muscled and gently sculpted - perfect - a light tan, uniform, complete. He was half-hard, well sized, circumcised. Luciano stood near the bed - still, naked - an apparently familiar pose. His legs parted slightly. His hands lay lightly on his pelvis, the right one a little higher, the left slightly lower as though to frame his beautiful penis. His eyes shone with a strange light.
"You are very beautiful," Stefano said, knowing that the man was waiting to hear this. And, it was true.
Luciano's eyes flashed with pleasure. "You really like me?"
"Yes. Sure. You are indeed beautiful!"
The youth's sex answered this compliment by starting to rise slowly. Stefano knelt before him, taking the boy's hands in his, and drawing his face closer to the now fully erect organ. He detected a faint eau-de-Cologne perfume, halfway between sweet and pungent, good. But, he missed the funky aroma of man-sex that he preferred.
His lips neared that turgid member and he started to kiss it, to lick it in all the right spots, until he took it all the way into his mouth. He felt Luciano shudder as he sucked so skillfully.
"Mhhhh! You're really good!" the youth murmured, his voice hoarse with pleasure.
Slipping his hands from Stefano's, he caressed the man's hair with one, while rubbing his own belly and chest with the other. Stefano felt the boy shudder with greater intensity, so he stood up and gently moved Luciano to the bed where he joined him.
Luciano grasped Stefano's erection and fingered it lightly. "You have the body of a thirty-year-old. You will give me a splendid night, I can feel it."
Stefano smiled as it occurred to him that Luciano was, after all, not so different from Maurizio. Both seemed to think only about what pleasure they could get from him. "But who cares!" he concluded as he lay on Luciano and kissed him full on the mouth. The boy returned his kiss and caressed his back. Then holding him tightly, Luciano turned around so that now Stefano lay on the mattress and he was on top. Their eyes met and searched the other's deeply. The youth rose up on his knees, brushing his anus against Stefano's hard penis while his own rubbed against the man's taut belly.
"I want to feel you all inside me. This beautiful cock you have has to make me die with pleasure." Luciano rose just a little to let Stefano's erection spring higher.
Stefano took a condom and some cream from his night stand and handed them to Luciano. The youth, shifted a little, prepared the man's penis, then abundantly lubricated his hole. Replacing the cream, he held the object of his desire and sat back to impale himself on it. Stefano felt himself slip inside the warm, welcoming receptacle, deeper and deeper, until the young man was firmly seated on his groin.
"Ah, that's it - I love it!" said Luciano.
Stefano caressed the boy's stiff penis, titillating the exposed glans, purple and smooth as silk. Luciano started to spring up and down, enjoying that rod driven so deeply into his bowels, brushing his own nipples as he did so, his face wrinkled up with pleasure.
"I love it, yes! I love feeling your cock up my ass. It is just the right size!" the boy murmured, pleased.
Stefano thought, "Right. To you I'm just a right-sized cock. What size is my cock - a 15? You'll make me rejoice, but just because this gives you the pleasure." But he said nothing. After all, it felt good, even if it was only physical.
The young man closed his eyes and continued to move up and down rhythmically, with energy, quite as though he was riding a colt at a trot. Stefano wondered if he rode horses for sport, but again said nothing.
"Oh, that's great, I love that." the youth cried, throwing back his head.
Stefano put his hands on the boy's thighs, caressing and kneading them, feeling the muscles dart with each stroke. He felt his own tension rising. The beautiful young man felt it, too, and grasping his dick, started to stroke himself at the same rhythm as his ride, which was now up to a free gallop. Stefano's whole body tensed in a violent spasm of pleasure. Then he let himself go, emptying his seed into the other's hot furnace in strong spurts.
The boy pressed his ass firmly against the man's pubis, swinging and brushing his buttocks over the man's pubic hair, and soon he squirted out strong jets of sperm that sprayed up on his belly and chest. Luciano had arched his back and moaned out his ecstasy, staying still, tense, welded to the bottom of Stefano's rod, one hand on his own member and the other back on the bed between Stefano's legs, to hold himself as he bent backwards. He panted for a minute, then straightened himself and opened his eyes to gaze at Stefano.
"Boy, what a time! That was really great, Stefano. Thank you!"
Stefano looked at him without answering, then said, "You are beautiful, Luciano."
The young man slowly slipped away from him. "I just want to go clean myself for a moment. I'll be right back," he said, nimbly getting out of bed.
"That door." Stefano pointed, rising to sit.
The man lit a cigarette. As he heard the water running he thought about what had happened with these two so very different boys. Luciano had taken what he wanted without asking... or caring... about what Stefano had wanted. Maurizio, on the other hand, had also gotten what he wanted but he had, at least, asked first. Stefano felt that both of them had used him as some sort of pleasure tool and he wondered which of them was better. He blew smoke rings and watched them slowly turn and dissolve in the air.
Luciano came back and lay down near the man.
"Cigarette?" Stefano offered.
"No thanks; I don't smoke."
Stefano caressed the boy's body lightly.
"Do you like me?" Luciano asked.
"Yes, you have a great body!" Stefano answered and wondered what he could say if the boy wanted to meet again? He was beautiful, but he didn't have the first idea where the Arab Phoenix lives.
"Can we go to sleep now?" Luciano asked when the man stubbed out his cigarette in the ashtray.
"Sure. Good night." Stefano answered pulling the blankets over them, switching off the lights, and then lying down near the boy.
Luciano turned onto his side, his back toward Stefano, and shortly was breathing deeply, fast asleep.
"A nice boy, and that's all." Stefano thought, relaxing.
Anyway, it hadn't been all that unpleasant. Just sex, sure. Agreeable, but just sex. And not the best sex he had ever had.
Stefano awoke to find Luciano touching him.
"Hey, sleepyhead! It is nine o'clock already. Could you fix me some breakfast? Our fuck last night gave me quite an appetite!"
"What? Oh yeah, sure," Stefano answered, a little muddled, "Have you been awake long?"
"No, just a couple of minutes. There was nothing to do and I'm hungry."
Stefano got up and went to the bathroom where he washed and dressed.
Luciano, still on the bed, asked him, "You're getting dressed? After breakfast I hoped for an encore."
"No, sorry, I'm really busy today. I have to get unpacked. Can't you see what a mess this place is?"
"Well... just a fast fuck, come on!"
"No, really..." Stefano tried not to show his annoyance.
"Oh, all right," said Luciano officiously. "That just means that I will help you unpack." He got up from the bed.
"I don't need any help, thank you..."
"Sure you do. If we get it done soon, then you can't deny me a second tour on that nice cock of yours, right?"
Struggling to maintain control, Stefano forcibly stifled his impulse to lash out at this brash youth.
After breakfast they began the unpacking. Luciano started to brag about all his conquests. Stefano was beyond annoyance as he thought to himself that the boy spoke only about himself, as if he lived only for himself.
Towards noon they went downstairs for dinner and Luciano paid for it. Then they went back upstairs to continue unpacking.
And Luciano rambled on about himself. "... and so I said to that boy, If you want me to get you a job at the TV station, what's in it for me?' and he asks me, 'How much do you want?' So I say, 'You should ask me what I want.' and he says 'Okay, what do you want, then? I really want that job, you know.' and I just say, 'If you can make me feel good...' and the boy right away says; 'With my mouth, my ass, or both?' you see? I thought he would go along with me, but not so... well, so readily. Anyway I pull out my cock and say, 'Let's see how good you are...your mouth, for a start...' and so he..."
Stefano wasn't quite listening to him.
They were interrupted by the door bell.
"Are you expecting somebody?" Luciano asked.
"Yes, friends..." Stefano lied, going to open the door.
There stood Maurizio, a baker's paper bag in his hands.
Stefano noticed that the boy had shaved, combed his hair neatly, and that he wore a pearl gray suit with white shirt and tie - clearly his Sunday best. Even his black shoes were shined.
Maurizio handed Stefano the bag: "Ye tol' me thet I c'd come two or three times a year... not when... And then m' mom told me t' give ye these, she made 'em herself." Then he was quiet because Stefano had neither said anything nor taken the bag. "She made 'em just for you... they're still warm, I had t' wait till she took 'em outa th' oven. They're little melic grass biscuits. I... uh, hope ye like 'em..." he said hesitantly.
"That was very kind of her," said Stefano, finally taking the bag. "Please thank her for me."
"Nah, man. She's th' one who thanks you for th' flowers 'n' cakes."
"Ah, I see. Would you like to come in? I'll introduce you to a friend..."
Maurizio entered, but his smile faded when he saw Luciano.
"Luciano, this is Maurizio." he said guiding Maurizio towards Luciano, who held out his hand.
"Hey." Maurizio said, leaving his hand at his side.
Stefano continued, "We were unpacking. Luciano offered to help."
Maurizio frowned at Stefano. "But I tol' ye I'd help ye."
"Oh yeah, well, sure." Stefano said nervously.
He wanted to get rid of them both, but now seeing them together, he mainly wanted to get rid of Luciano.
"I'll make some tea. Okay?"
"No. Thanks anyway." Maurizio answered soberly.
At the same time Luciano answered, "Yes, that would be very nice."
Stefano stammered, "Well, uh, sit down, then. Would you like something else, Maurizio? A coffee?"
"Yeah, somethin' different. Maybe some coffee..."
"Very well. While I'm fixing it, you boys can have a chat." Stefano went into the kitchen, thinking that surely the two would argue and one of them would leave. Then he could say no to the other. Or maybe it would be easier to send both of them away at the same time.
"So, how do you know my friend Stefano?" Luciano asked indifferently.
"How 'bout you?" Maurizio shot back.
"I've known him lots longer," said Maurizio, looking Luciano straight in the eye.
"Well, it can't have been too long. He only got here the day before yesterday." Luciano said icily.
Maurizio calmly asked, "Less than a day and ye think you're his friend?"
"A quite personal friend, I would say. I'm not sure if you understand what I mean..."
Maurizio answered dryly, "Like shorts."
"Shorts? What do you mean?"
"Yer underwear. Like when it's dirty, ye change it."
From the kitchen Stefano giggled to himself as he listened to the skirmish.
Luciano's voice rose slightly. "So you're an expert on dirty underwear?"
Maurizio studied him from head to toe as he said, "Nah, cuz I don' like things that stink."
"Who's stinking?" asked Luciano in a yet higher voice.
"The dirty underwear, no?" Maurizio answered, still calm.
Stefano leaned out from the kitchen and said, "It's about ready. Nice weather today, right?"
"Yes, quite warm for winter." Luciano answered, again indifferently.
"No, Friday was better," Maurizio stated firmly.
"Oh, I hate Fridays!" Luciano said almost in falsetto.
"And why is that?" Stefano asked.
"Because on Fridays we can have no meat!" Luciano giggled at his own pun.
"So yer a practicing Catholic?" Maurizio asked quietly.
"Ha, forget it. There are some puns you just wouldn't understand!" Luciano said, with an air of superiority.
At that Maurizio answered, "Yer right. I never was a pun...k!"
Stefano laughed and said: "Okay, you guys - you're even! Oh, the coffee is coming out. I'll be right back."
The two young men waited in silence, looking askance at each other. Then Stefano was back with the steaming cups. He wanted to get rid of them as soon as possible. So while they were sipping, even at the risk of seeming rude, he said abruptly, "Okay, boys, take your time to finish your coffee, but then please leave me alone. I really need to relax a little."
Luciano looked at him a little surprised then said with a sly smile while gazing at Maurizio, "Do you need a rest after last night's ride?"
"I just need to be alone for a while, that's all," answered Stefano quite coldly.
"Oh, I understand. Sometimes it's good to be alone." Luciano retorted with a worldly air.
"Sure, better alone than in bad company," murmured Maurizio in a low voice.
"Are you speaking for yourself, beauty?" cut Luciano.
"Only crazy people talk t' themselves," chimed Maurizio in an angelic tone.
Although quite amused at their skirmish, Stefano was also determined to get rid of both boys. So he interrupted them and said, "It has been a pleasure to have you both here, but now, really, please leave me alone. I want to take a little nap and then I have to continue unpacking.
"I could come back later t' help ye." Maurizio said with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
"No, thanks. I'm thinking of going to the Taboo tonight."
"What a pity that I cannot come to the Taboo tonight!" said Luciano in mock anguish.
"It must be really taboo to you," muttered Maurizio.
"Ah leave the play on words to those who understand such things" said Luciano with an air of superiority.
They finished their coffee, then Stefano saw them to the door and bid them farewell. When finally the door was closed, he sighed with relief. Then he turned again to his unpacking.