LOVE AT SEA BY RANDY WOLTZ
The following short story by Randy Woltz was published in the eleventh issue, March 1982, pp. 18-22, of Pan, a magazine about boy-love, published by Spartacus in Amsterdam.
The phone knocked me out of a daydream.
“Hello? Youth Director.”
A nasal voice answered, “Sir, we have a fire report from the third deck recreation room.”
“I'm afraid so.”
A loud rapping on the door. I opened it to find a middle-aged woman in distress. “Did you see a large red purse?”
“No, madam. Please check with the purser.”
Her eyebrows lifted. “Young man, that wasn’t funny.”
“I. . . . Just a minute, please — I'm on the phone.”
The nasal voice continued, “The captain wants you to investigate. Can you come right away?”
“All right. I'll be right over, good bye.”
Now the lady was glaring at me. “Madame, I wasn’t being funny. The purser is a ship’s officer who can help you. Just go to the first deck, room B-13. Now, please excuse me. I have to investigate a fire.”
“What?” Her eyes bulged.
“Don’t worry, it’s nothing serious,” I brushed her aside and hurried up to the third deck.
Working on a cruise ship can be a pain. Every time something like this happens I wonder why I didn’t take a job as an entertainment director in Las Vegas. Hotels never have fires, right?
An anxious face popped in front of me: “Pardon me, but. . . .”
“Don’t worry. Sir, it’s all under control.”
For such a small fire everyone seemed to know about it.
This particular cruise had all types, the rich, the elderly, the singles looking for romance, families, kids. Kids! Last summer a group of young boys turned the third deck into a race track, screaming and swearing, tearing around the swimming pool The old people would complain, the steward was after me to contain them. Just when I wanted to exterminate them their cute, defiant eyes melted my anger into….
“Ah, hello Davis.”
“Hello Mr. Youth Director. While you were gone one of your brats lit a match to one of the fire sprinklers causing the main….”
Oh my God!
The boy he was referring to was so beautiful it was a wonder the paint wasn’t scorched right off the bulkhead wall by his bed. Sleek brown legs contrasted cupidinously with bright white shorts that left little to the imagination. Topped by a see-through body shirt, I was helplessly staring at a pair of mischievous, hypnotic hazel-grey eyes. Nothing else mattered; the whole world just vanished away.
Davis must have noticed. “Hey, are you all right?”
My face wouldn’t stop smiling. I assured him I could handle the situation and told him to check on the ladies' shuffleboard game.
After a wonderful eternity in time and space the silence was broken by a young voice (eyes fixed on the ground): “Don’t get mad, I was just fooling around.”
“Fooling around? Don’t you know that can be dangerous?”
Suddenly he looked up at me and smiled — and gave me a billion killowatt shock I will never forget. “Yeah, I know.” He shifted his weight and looked down again.
“How come I haven’t seen you here before?”
“I don’t know,”
“What’s your name?”
He fidgeted “Kevin Hennesey.”
“Where are your parents?”
“I’m just here with my mom.”
“Where is she, then?”
He shrugged his shoulders “I don’t know. Probably eating somewhere.”
“Don’t you have anything to do?”
“No! It’s boring around here.”
“Have you been in the game room?”
“Yeah. Two of the machines are busted.”
I tried to think more like a 13-year-old “Would you like to see the private parts of the ship where nobody’s supposed to go?”
His eyes brightened. “Sure!”
“You have to promise me not to get into any more trouble.”
We went down inside one of the service corridors, past a group of gossiping Greek busboys who smiled at us knowingly. (Knowingly? What did they know?)
“This is one of the kitchens, and here they pre ...
“What’s your name?” Kevin had suddenly turned to me,
“Uh ... Just call me Randy.”
He spied some frankfurters cradled in a great mass of foreign-looking food and looked up at me for approval giving me a chance to test him.
“Sure, go ahead,” I said. “But did you know that if they run out of them, I’ll have to send the cook to your room with a big knife so he can cut your thing off and put it on a tray?”
He burst out laughing, almost choking on his wiener. “That’s gross! Besides, you wouldn’t have a big enough tray!”
I picked up an olive and pegged it at his mouth — and found an orange slice coming back at me. I was giggling with him as though I was 13 again myself.
Up on the observation deck he wanted to look through the shiny brass telescope but seemed to be more preoccupied with rubbing the bulge in his shorts against the metal railing. When I made a joke about it he just smiled and kept looking out at the ocean, the breeze gently ruffling his soft brown hair.
Down in the engine room he wanted to know “who takes care of all this plumbing”, but before I could answer he had leapt onto a large gas pipe bristling with pressure gauges and levers and was enthralling himself in some motorcycle fantasy.
“Brummmm, Brummmmmmmmmm —————rrrrrrr!”
“Kevin, don’t!” He wasn’t listening. “Kevin, get off!”
I grabbed him about the chest and tried to pry him off, but he had a leg-lock around the pipe and wouldn’t budge.
“Rrrrrrr, mmmmmmm, brummmmmm, eeeeeeee” He was in third gear, now, leaning into corners, burning rubber. I tugged on him, snaked an arm under one thigh. He was enjoying every minute. I was getting nervous. What if someone should see us?
Finally the fantasy motorbike screeched to a halt and I lifted him off. Just in time, too, for in walked the captain himself showing off the engine room to some important guests. Seeing Kevin he winked at me and said, sotto voce, “Is our little fire under control?”
“Oh, yes, sir, under control.” I was hoping he didn’t note my red, perspiring face, Kevin was calmly standing there like the little angel he wasn’t.
And so it went for several days. Always there was a new adventure, new discoveries, endless energy, marvellous schemes. And at some point it seemed, I always had to restrain him physically (which he loved) or he’d fly off the ship altogether
Then came the night of the captain’s party . I wore my best uniform, so carefully pressed and so dazzling white that it was a hazard to the eyes. Every brass button gleamed. My hair was perfect. Everything was perfect, for Kevin and his mother were coming ... weren’t they? Better call and make sure.
“Hello, Mrs. Hennesey, this is Randy, the youth director. I wanted to know if you and Kevin would like to join me tonight at the captain’s party.”
“Oh, that sounds wonderful! Let me tell him.”
I stood there for two minutes listening to what sounded like a nasty argument. Then she cleared her throat. “Uh, hello? Kevin apparently isn’t feeling very well. He may join us later.”
“Okay, Mrs. Hennesey, I’ll see you tonight at eight o'clock, table six.”
Suddenly my uniform didn’t seem so bright and shiny any more. My hair wasn’t so perfect. Did I do something wrong? What had they been saying? What happened?
Eight o’clock and all’s well. Everyone was laughing and having a good time. The music was great; the food was going to knock their eyes out. I said hello to the captain and all the right people. Now I could relax. Stavros, the head waiter, greeted me at table six. “Sir, your guest has arrived. Will there be one more?”
“I hope so. Ah, Mrs. Hennesey! You look wonderful!” (She was a lot older than I had imagined,)
Quick formalities. We were soon on a first name basis.
“I’ve heard so much about you — from Kevin, of course.” She had a gracious smile and a look of smug sophistication, “You’ve given him such a good time on this cruise, and I want you to know I appreciate it.”
There’d been a divorce, of course. She wanted to remarry but the boy wouldn’t accept. Soon after the boat docked in New York Kevin was to be packed off to a New England prep-school, the traditional easy out of wealthy parents.
As I listened my eyes kept checking the door to see if Kevin would show up. My thoughts began to wander about the room with the smoke and the laughter and the music and the starry night outside, I relived my first meeting with the boy. Hard to believe it all was nearly over.
“What’s the matter? You haven’t eaten very much.”
“What? Oh…. no, I was just thinking about…. “
“Kevin. You’re crazy about him, aren’t you?”
My face turned red. I forced a smile. “Oh, no, I was just thinking about all the work I have to do tomorrow. Helping people pack and so on.”
“I was hoping that I would have a chance to talk to him, but I just got caught up in all the activities and the food. You know, for me this has been a wonderful cruise.”
Later, much later, I went out onto the deck, leaving the dregs of the party to the party stalwarts. I listened to the waves splash against the ship. The air was fresh and clean. Moonlight danced and shimmered on the water, still and empty.
Back in my cabin I just lay on my bed and thought about how I was always so efficient, so reliable, so perfect, so phony. Maybe that’s why I hurt all the time. Oh, if only...
Knock knock. It was one a.m.! Why didn’t they leave me alone? “Just a minute.” I put on my pants and unlocked the door.
“Kevin! What are you doing here? What happened?”
He came in, looking every bit as dejected as I felt, and sat down on my bed.
“She’s been yelling at me,” he said. “All she talks about is what she wants. What about me? Why does everybody treat me like I’m nothing?”
He hit his fist against the wall and turned his head away.
“Join the club,” I said.
Suddenly he stood up. “I don’t want to go! Get me a job on this boat!” The cabin light revealed the skid marks of tears on his face.
“Kevin, I can’t do that Just... What the hell did you say to your mother?”
“I told her to shove off!”
I laughed. “You're kidding,”
“I hate her! I don’t want to ever see her again!”
“Look, why don’t you stay here tonight with me? Maybe things will look better tomorrow.”
“I don’t know!” A sigh, and he sat down again. I started to rub his back. He leaned over and let me rub under his shirt for a while. Then he turned to me. “Really?”
“Sure. It’s okay.”
A new look came into his face. “But ...”
“What if the cook comes in here with his knife and cuts my thing off?”
I laughed and started to tickle him. “Don’t worry, I'll protect it.”
He grabbed my legs and wrestled me until we both landed on the floor exhausted. I could see, and feel, that he was very, very excited. His eyes looked deep into mine for a moment then he got up and went into the bathroom. I kicked off my trousers, slid into bed and fell back onto the pillow, heart pounding for joy.
The bathroom door opened a crack. I reached over and turned out the table lamp. A moment later he was standing beside me, naked. Then the covers drew back and his warm skin pressed against mine. My lips found his soft cheek, hands caressing, touching, moving, as love flowed into us.
* * *
In the weeks and months that followed I thought of him constantly, much more than of any boy I’d ever known.
One day a strange letter came to me care of the cruise tine, all covered with different postmarks and my name misspelled. There were several red arrows with RETURN TO SENDER UNABLE TO FORWARD printed inside. Someone was being very persistent.
My arms started to shake Could it just be... ? Like a maniac I tore the envelope open. My eyes raced through the jumble of words.
It wasn’t from Kevin: it was from his mother! She had been trying to reach me… Kevin had run away from prep-school ... He had been struck by a car... not serious . . . kept asking about me ... She wants me to come right away ... expenses taken care of.
Can you believe it? My head was spinning. I made arrangements and left at once.
Mrs. Hennesey met me at the Los Angeles airport with her best manipulative smile. While the chauffeur manoeuvred her limousine through the city traffic toward wealthy canyonland she explained that she and her new husband would be travelling extensively in the near future and needed someone to look after Kevin, who was going to a local private school. The boy had agreed to this on condition that I be produced as his keeper!
“I am aware of what Kevin means to you and you mean to Kevin,” she said, and then went on to tell me she knew just what would happen, what had happened already, in fact. “I am a very liberal mother. I would rather approve of something it would be unwise to prevent.” Mrs. Hennesey was showing unsuspected depths.
Just when I regained my senses the car pulled up in front of the house. Kevin burst through the front door screaming all the way. Tears ran down my cheeks as I hugged and kissed him.
At last we caught our breaths. “Hey,” he said, gesturing vaguely toward the house, “you want to see our private parts, where no one’s supposed to go?”
Before I could answer he had jumped on me for a piggy-back ride through the front door.
The Henneseys went out that night, and now the exuberance of long lost friends gave way to a quiet dinner by the fireplace and a longing to continue what we enjoyed most.
Outside gentle evening shadows drew across the hills, stealing the faint glow from the skies and spreading a blanket of soft sensuality that made us one. At last, held fast in each other’s arms, our dreams became a reality: we now were the only people in the world, flowing in a rhythm like the great ocean that had brought us together.
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