I wanted to vomit, to curse and scream. I knew what was behind the door, but part of me didn’t want to face it. ‘One step at a time, you can do this, Jeff. This is what you wanted: what you worked so hard for.’
My parents divorced when I was five years old; my dad was an all-American soldier stationed overseas, leaving my first-generation Honduran mom behind to work as a hostess in Vegas. She raised me, she did everything for me. So why was I halfway across the country searching for the man who abandoned us?
I lived with my mom until I moved out at eighteen. I wanted so badly to join the military, but a wipeout on my bike, resulting in a bolt in my knee, took that off the table. Instead, I went to college, to work in the medical field. In my graduate thesis, I explained that it was all in his, my estranged father’s honor. My goal in life was to find him, to help him. (Even if this pissed off my mother to no end.) Was that why I couldn’t open the door? On some level did I know this was wrong?
I placed my finger on the dry erase board, stroking my fingernail over the name, ‘Richard Blake.’ My action left behind a small scrape in the red ink. “Sorry, Dad.”
From childhood stories, I knew my father was a world-class sniper. He was someone important, a hero. As mother loved to say in a sarcastic tone. I knew he paid child support because the government auto-deducted it from his paychecks and later his disability pay. After he moved out, he visited one last time and then I would never see him again. ‘Just turn the handle, open the door.’
The last time I heard his voice I was thirteen. He sounded sick and in pain, but he’d been calling from a payphone, with a time limit. Ten years later, here I was in a hospice clinic in rural South Dakota about to finally rediscover the man that was my father. “Master Sergeant Blake?”
The patient was asleep in bed. He slept with blankets and cold packs on his chest, with a hand towel over his eyes. I assumed that was because of the brightness of the window. Even with the shades closed, it was much too bright to comfortably sleep. “Who’s there?” Richard asked in a whisper. He spoke with the tired, scratchy voice of a smoker.
“My name is Jeff.”
The man took a breath, swallowing the lump in his throat. “That was my son’s name.”
Before I could reply. He removed the cold compress from his face, revealing a bandaged left eye, and a right eye that had turned white with cataract-like infection. “Ocular cancer,” he said with a laugh. “It’s such a fucking joke.
“Cancer is a joke?”
“I wasted my life in war zones, pissing and shiting my pants for hours to get that one perfect shot. my eyes were my treasure, all I had in this world. So of course, that’s what cancer chose to take.”
“You’re blind?” That explained his calm demeanor. He probably thought I was just another nurse (or unpaid volunteer med-student.)
“And I guess you’re new here.” The man sat up in bed, wrapping the robe closer to his body. “Fuck it’s cold in here.” He moved to grab his cane, easily getting out of bed on his own. “Since I’m awake I want to go out for a smoke.”
I stayed where I was, watching him brush past me. Richard then paused by the door, holding out his free hand. For a moment I felt truly ashamed. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t realize you needed assistance.”
“Not something they teach you in school?” he said with a laugh. “I’m just messing with you.” Standing tall, his voice seemed to be less scratchy with a hint of his deep southern accent. “You’re not required to hold my hand like some kind of stray cat on his way to church.”
I forced a chuckle, holding back tears. “That was something my dad used to say.”
“I guess me and your daddy have a lot in common.” Richard remained motionless, with his hand still extended. “Well, can I hold your hand? I can tell a lot about people from their hands.”
“Sure.” I reached for his hand, allowing him to grip my wrist.
His thumb massaged the center of my palm, down to my fingertips. “I see you’re an artist.” Richard shifted his fingers, lacing them through mine. “No, you’re a musician.”
“A little of both, while I was in school.”
“So, you’re a nurse?” he asked.
I assumed he was taking my use of past tense to mean I was not a volunteer med-student. “Yeah, I guess.”
I didn’t expect him to recognize me as his son, so perhaps it was for the best I maintained a lie of convenience. “I’m a volunteer, a med-student from Seattle.” That was where I lived when I went to university for my undergrad work.
“Seattle, wow,” he said with an expression of genuine interest. “I’m a big-city boy myself, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi.”
I chuckled at what I assumed was a joke (I had never been to Mississippi, for all I knew Jackson could be a legit metropolis.) “What brings you out to the middle of nowhere?”
“South Dakota is a beautiful place.”
“I have to agree; nice weather, cheap housing…”
We soon made it outside, to a semi-air-conditioned smoking spot that resembled a bus stop. There was clean cool air being sprayed from the overhang. I imagine during rainy days the five-foot piece of metal came in handy but in the current state, it provided little relief from the desert sun.
Richard took a seat on the wooden bench, spreading his legs, despite the fact he wore only boxers under his robe. “Do you ride?”
“Motorcycles? My father used to.” In all honestly, that was one of the appeals of moving to South Dakota: the biker culture. “Right now, I just have an e-bike.”
Richard laughed so hard he gripped his side, gasping for air. “You mean you ride a bicycle with a motor?
“Just until I graduate, save up some money to get a proper license,” I said with a nervous shrug. Yes, I didn’t even have a motorcycle license.
Richard took out a Bic lighter and a box of cigarettes. “Before I lost my sight,” he said with a sigh as he lit up, “before the chronic pain, there’s nothing I loved more than riding my baby out on the highway.” My father took a long drag, leaning back against the wall.
I wanted to ask about my mother. From all the stories she told me, I could never tell what was the truth. I opened my mouth to speak when suddenly I heard a voice coming from around the corner.
“Hey, Rich! I’ve been looking all over for you.” A tall male nurse appeared. He was clearly Hispanic or perhaps Italian. Either way, his sexy sun-kissed skin looked ethereal against the contrast of his light green scrubs. I could tell by his salt-and-pepper hair and the delicate wrinkles around his eyes, he was in his late forties, early fifties. It was possible he was even older, but damn his smile was infectious.
“Tommy!” my father said happily. Clenching the cigarette in his teeth, he held out his arms for a hug.
The nurse removed the cigarette, holding it between two fingers. “Richy, I thought we were trying to quit.”
“Come on, man,” Richard laughed. “I gotta do something to pass the time.” He moved his hand as if checking to see if I was still standing with him. “Anyway, Tommy meet the new guy. Jake, right? Sorry, chemo’s got my memory all fucked up.”
“Jeff, actually,” I muttered while holding out my hand.
“A pleasure to meet you,” the nurse said as he shook my hand. “I’m Tomas Adele.”
Richard nodded, pulling himself to his feet. “Jeff! Same as my boy. How could I forget?” He poked his cane around until he found Tomas. “Is it time for my physical therapy?”
“Actually, I believe it is.” Tomas took hold of his hand.
I followed behind them on the walk back. I had previously not noticed the exercise equipment in the room. There was a setup with mats and a few free weights. “Interesting,” I said casually picking up a baby blue five-pound dumbbell.
My father dropped his robe, letting it fall to the floor before taking off his shirt. “You can stay if you want.”
I stood in awe of his lean muscular body. For a man dying of cancer, he appeared to be in great physical shape. “Ok, thanks, I guess. if it’s ok with you and Tomas.”
“Of course, I’m sure I don’t have anything you haven’t seen before.
I watched Tomas lead my father through sets of pushups, and sit-ups. All while I observed from a nearby plastic chair. I asked a few educational questions on the medical benefit of strength training for someone with end-stage cancer.
Tom’s answer was simple. “You gotta do something to pass the time.”
After a short workout, my father laid face down on the bed. “Is the new guys still watching?”
Tomas chuckled, as he started to massage my father’s back with deep pressure. Digging with his thumbs, Tomas traced a distinct pattern down his patient’s ribs, to his hips.
My father buried his face in a pillow, but I could still hear the moans. “You got the stuff, Tommy?”
“Stuff? I asked, in my most professional tone.
“Proper lubrication for a prostate massage.” Tomas slipped his hand under my father’s boxers, giving his ass a firm grip before slipping them down. My father had a tattoo of a crudely drawn butterfly on his ass cheek, with the words, ‘Fly Girl.’ It was clear he’d lost a bet. “You have got to let me cover that tattoo.”
“What do I care? It’s not like I can see my own ass.” Balancing on his knees, he spread his legs, presenting himself.
“Well, I’m the one who has to look at it.” Tomas took out a small tube, squirting a generous amount of gel onto his ungloved hand. “I’m going to start now. As usual, it might be a little cold at first.” He slipped two fingers into my father’s ass, massaging with gentle pressure.
Richard’s thigh’s quivered as his muscles tensed. He looked like he could swallow the nurse’s whole hand. “More, please.”
“Tell me what you want, Richard,” Tomas said as he increased his pace. “Use your words.”
“I want your cock.”
“What about the new guy?”
“I don’t give a shit,” Richard replied with a noticeable smile. “He can fuck me next for all I care.” My father’s cock was dripping with precum. Turning on his side, he easily maneuvered one hand to be able to masturbate. That was when I got a good look at my old man’s cock. His dark pink member was big, hard, with throbbing veins. His body was practically begging for a mouth to lick him clean.
“Yes, Master Sergeant, your wish is my command.” Tomas removed his hand, emerging with a wet slurp sound. He lowered his hospital scrubs just enough to reveal his erection pressed against his stomach. He was already well lubed with pre-cum, but he still took the time to fully slather his manhood. It almost seemed like too much lubrication. “You like it rough?” The nurse asked as he slid in his sizable member. He started slow, with deep passionate thrusts. Soon he was balls deep inside my father. And I could tell it wasn’t the first time.
I slipped out as quietly as I could. I quickly went to the nearest bathroom, making sure to lock the door behind me. I could feel the precum soaking my underwear and it made me… confused. I didn’t know this man, and he sure as hell didn’t know me.
So, in a way, I wasn’t jerking off to my bio-dad. No, I was about to masturbate to the idea of a gorgeous blonde middle-aged soldier getting fucked deep and hard by his tan-skinned lover. Maybe Tomas was a native American, sexual healer and through his cock lived the power of a thousand animal spirits. ‘Why was that idea so fucking hot?’
I vigorously worked my shaft resisting the urge to finger my asshole. I just needed a release, something to bring my mind back to reality. Sitting on the toilet, I had my legs spread, with my pants around my knees. My dick was not as impressive as my old man’s. Apparently, I took after my mother’s side of the family; boys with caramel-colored skin and dark, uncircumcised cocks. I pumped my shaft like it owed me money. The intensity forced me to lean against the wall for leverage, but soon I blew my load all over my hand (and stomach and down my inner thighs.) My legs went numb as I basked in my afterglow. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d had sex much less an orgasm. I always knew I was a bisexual fuck boy, but something about this whole situation felt wrong, sinful even.
When I could breathe again, I stood up, cleaned myself off, and splashed water on my face. What was I going to do? I could go back to the room, or maybe ask the volunteer supervisor for a different assignment. No, that was stupid. The whole point of coming to South Dakota was to find my father. Otherwise, I could have gone straight into my residency in Las Vegas, (under the watchful eye of my mother.) Essentially, I had no choice. Hopefully Tomas and Richard would at least be done with their ‘therapy’ when I got back. I spent an extra five minutes in the restroom just in case.
When I came back to the room, my father was asleep, with Tomas by his side. The nurse held my father’s nude body close in a loving embrace. I was about to leave when Tomas spoke. “You’re Jeffery Blake, right?”
“How did you know that?”
“I work here, I saw your name on the volunteer roster.” He looked up at me with his dark eyes, staring deep into my soul. “So, you’re Richy’s kid?”
“He doesn’t remember me.”
“He doesn’t recognize you, but trust me he remembers.” Tomas sat up, and began to rebutton his shirt.
“Did he ever get remarried? Does he have any other family?”
“No, Richard Blake was too busy struggling with demons.” Tomas stood up, looking prepared to continue with his shift. “Let me guess, your mother told you he had another family?”
“Yeah,” I prepared myself to follow him out the door. Clearly, this mysterious healer had all the answers.
Tomas walked towards the staff lunchroom. “After he left the army he was in and out of rehab, lived on the street for a while, just couldn’t stay sober to save his life. He came here to South Dakota as part of a church group, trying to find a way to save his soul.”
“Is the military paying for his treatment here?”
Tomas removed a paper lunch bag from the fridge, revealing a single banana and a juice box. “Yeah, that’s why he’s still taking the chemo. He wants to live out his last few months on the government’s dime.”
“How did you meet?”
“The first time I saw Richard was,” Tomas paused, pursing his lips. “When I first got here, two years ago. I had been out on rotation to Veteran’s hospitals throughout the Midwest, and just happened to be passing through on a warm Sunday afternoon. I stopped by the chapel just after services. I was about to say hi to the pastor, a longtime friend of mine, Father William Laurence. He was sitting in the front row, with this beautiful blonde man. He told the guy to try saying a prayer, ask God for guidance, all that kind of shit. The pastor and I said our hellos. But there was something about the man in the church, your father.”
I took a seat next to Tomas, sorting out my own bagged lunch.
“I approached him from behind, placing a hand upon his shoulder. He asked me, ‘are you what I prayed for?'”
“I said, ‘well that depends on what you’ve been praying for.’ Your daddy leaned back, placing his cheek to my hand.”
“And what did he say?”
“I prayed for an angel to take the pain away,” Tomas replied, closing his eyes as if to recall the memory. “That was the day I learned your daddy was newly sober but one hell of a freak in the confession booth. We’ve been friends ever since.”
“How long does he have?”
“According to the people who run this place, he has maybe a year at the most. Richard is physically strong, but his brain is dying. at least when he finally does go, it will be peaceful.
“Because you’ll be by his side?” I could feel the emotion choking in my throat. Tomas was the friend my father deserved. Maybe it would be better if I did leave.
Tomas reached out his hand. “You seem like a good kid. I want to take you under my wing.”
“You’re going to help me?”
“I want what’s best for Richard and right now I think that’s to get to know you as a friend.”
As opposed to introducing me as his estranged son? I couldn’t help but feel offended. “What does he think happened to me? Or to his actual son?”
Tomas reached into his pocket, fishing out his wallet. “Your father gave me this for safe keeping. He wants to be cremated with it.”
He handed me a small white envelope, the size of a note card. The old wrinkled paper had been folded in half to be able to fit inside an average wallet. “What’s this?”
“This is everything Richard Blake has of the family he left behind.”
The envelope held only three items. The first was his wedding ring, a tarnished gold band inscribed with my mother’s name. Next was a chain necklace with a small silver cross; it was something that a baby would have been given during a baptism. The last item was a photo of me and my mother. It was old, faded, and crumpled. For a brief moment, I wondered why a blind man would keep a photo, then I touched the back and nearly cried. Carved into the picture were the words, ‘I love you.’ “I can actually remember when I wrote that.”
“So, does he,” Tomas said with a smile. “Rich told me you were only six at the time. He had to leave for another deployment and your mother thought it would be easier if no one woke you up. She gaslighted Richard, telling him that he would just be hurting you. But you woke up anyway.”
“I saw the taxi pull up, and knew he was leaving again. I went to open the door but I was locked in. I took down a picture I had on my wall and picked up the first pen I could find. I remember I held the photo on my lap and just wrote as hard as I could. Somehow I managed to not gouge a hole through the paper.”
“Photo paper is a thing of wonder.”
“I remember rushing to the first-floor window crying, screaming. I threw myself out, landing in a flowerbed.” I laughed at the absurdity of the memory. “I remember running to give this to him, leaping into his arms.” I could still remember the way his uniform felt, the way he smelled, the sound of his voice. “My mother had to pull me off of him. I just cried and cried. She never let me call or even write to him. It was like my mother wanted so badly for me to just forget him.” And for that, I was so ashamed.
“Your father never stopped loving you and I am certain he would be proud of the man you’ve become.” Tomas held my hand, giving it a comforting squeeze. “But after all this time, our focus should be on his comfort.” Tomas held out his hand, implying that I had to give back the envelope.
I was about to, when I heard screaming. “I think that came from Richard’s room.”
My fear was confirmed by two separate nurses who rushed in to fetch Tomas. A older female offered to prep a tranquilizer. “He’s scraping at the scar again.”
Tomas shot up, rushing out the door.
I quickly followed. “Wait, what scar?”
Tomas burst in the room, rushing to my father’s side.
Richard was clawing at his stomach. “I need to cut the bullet out,” he said through panicked screams.
“There is no bullet.” Tomas crawled into bed, putting his arms around my father. At first, I assumed it was for comfort, but little by little Tomas pinned Richard’s arms back, resembling a police officer arresting a suspect. “I need you to hear my voice. you are safe; you are not in danger; you are not at war.”
My father appeared to be struggling, trying to free himself. “Please, it hurts, oh God, it hurts.”
I wanted to say something, but in my heart, I knew my place. Tomas had probably seen this behavior before.
“You know me, Richard. You know who I am. You know where you are. I won’t leave you.” Tomas held my father in his arms, rocking him like an infant. “You are safe here. no one can hurt you anymore. I will never let anyone hurt you ever again.”
My father’s eyes were still closed, but little by little his body began to calm. “Tommy?”
“Yes, Rich, I’m here.” Tomas loosened his grip, allowing my father to move.
He reached out his hand, searching for Tomas’s face. “Will I ever see my boy again?”
“Yes, your precious son,” Tomas spoke with a soothing comforting whisper.
“Summer took him away from me.” Summer was the name of my mother. “My wife tore him from my arms just to hurt me. All she ever wanted was to hurt me.”
I left the room, unable to breathe. With tears in my eyes, I leaned against a wall, letting myself fall to my knees. I finished out the rest of my shift helping the janitorial staff, before leaving without saying goodbye.
I went home to the Airbnb I had been co-renting. (It was one of those situations where the host was still living in the home, resulting in an insanely low monthly rate.) Leo Rivera was a man about my same age. A trucker, he had inherited the house from a distant relative, and lived there when not on the road. The location was beautiful, but it was about an hour’s drive from the hospice clinic. By the time I got home on my e-bike, I was sweaty, and tired, collapsing on to the couch.
“How was your first day?” asked Leo.
I turned to see my host, who’d been waiting in the open kitchen the entire time. The slender Hispanic man stood at maybe 5’9″, with long hair and a youthful, energetic gap-toothed grin. I had to admit he was my type. “Hey, what’s up?”
“I just got into town. you want a beer?”
“Got anything stronger?”
“That great, huh?” Leo opened a cabinet pulling down a bottle of Hennessey and two coffee mugs. He took a seat by my side, pouring a generous amount in each cup. “Good news or bad news?”
I shrugged, taking a long sip.
“Ok, let’s go with bad first.”
“My father doesn’t remember me,” I said in a soft breath, trying to come up with a good.” I met his boyfriend.”
“How do you know?”
I laughed off his question. “Come on, man.”
“Seriously, that’s kind of a strange thing to say without proof. Did you see them kiss?”
I took another long sip.
“Did you see them fuck?”
“Yeah, man,” I said with a sarcastic chuckle. “I saw them fuck.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Leo asked in a way that was sweet, friendly with just a hint of flirtation.
“Not really.” I knew I was hard, and so did he.
Leo moved closer, placing his hand upon my leg. “What did you catch them doing?”
“I need to take a shower.” I left to the bathroom, not bothering to lock the door. as I turned the water on, I felt like I was playing into a stereotype. I had known Leo for maybe sixty hours total if you counted all the time we spent video chatting.
I started to masturbate, vigorously jerking off under the water flow. I wanted something in my ass. If Leo was to walk through the door, I would beg him to fuck me.
I felt two hands caressing my hips, to my abs. “Leo?”
“Who else would it be?” he pressed his lips to my ear. “tell me what you caught your daddy doing.”
I took Leo’s hand, guiding him to my cock. “Can I trust you?”
Leo gripped my wrist, moving my hand to his massive erection. “Sometimes you’ve just got to take the ride.”
next: Coven of Angels ch2