Chapter 6 – Counteroffers and Missing Pieces
Of all the things that Barry had considered that meeting might be, he was left with a result, afterward, that was so far beyond his expectations that by the time he got home, he was sure that it must have been a dream of some sort. A hallucination, perhaps. He checked his wallet twice, but everything was there. He hadn’t given out any personal information that he could recall, but maybe he’d been under some sort of strange influence, and just didn’t remember. Dennis asked him why he was home late, and he came up with some excuse about working late on a deadline for a meeting in the morning that seemed to satisfy him. In all honesty, he wasn’t sure that Dennis particularly cared, beyond the fact that it was a disruption in his routine.
Dinner had already been made, and he ate it alone, since Dennis never waited for him to get home if he was late. He thought again about what he had felt for that moment, under the effect of that dust, the sheer lust for life that had pulsed in his veins, but while he appreciated the sensation, it was not what he wanted, not really. He wanted something more…ephemeral than that. He wanted a husband who would be willing to wait until he got home, who would eat with him, who would ask him about his day and genuinely care about his answers. He wanted a job that gave him a sense of dignity and respect, without feeling like he was being constantly placated with condescension. He felt like everyone around him treated him like a child. He tried to push beyond himself, wondering if he was asking for this. Maybe he was a little childish. A little petulant and unfocused, a little afraid of commitment and authority. But that wasn’t his fault. He’d just never been given a chance to show that he could do it. That he could be the adult in the room. They treated him like a child, which made him want to act like a child, which only reinforced the way they all treated him. A vicious cycle, one he’d been swirling in too long to see the edge, but this was a sword that could cut through all of it. He just wanted respect–and even if he couldn’t get something so immaterial, maybe he could at least get that…promotion.
It seemed like it should be possible to him, given what he’d seen and learned today. The more he thought about it, the more right it sounded, and the more he was willing to accept what he’d seen, if it might mean getting the life he thought he deserved. Dennis asked him if he wanted to join him on his evening constitutional around the neighborhood, and Barry declined. Instead, he went up to his office upstairs, and gave Ian a call. He’d expected him to agree, but instead, Ian gave him a sigh. A familiar sigh, to Barry. It was a sigh people gave him when he’d asked for too much, for something an adult would understand was impossible.
“Well see, now we’re not so much talking about you as a seller, and changing our conversation to that of a buyer,” Ian said.
“What does that mean?”
“Well, now you’re asking for something that’s worth more than what you have to offer, which means it’s going to have to come with a price tag. That’s not a problem, mind you, but to get my hands on something like that–to find someone willing to give it up…It’s not impossible, mind you, just, well, let me quote you something.”
He gave Barry a number that made his guts twist around a bit inside. They were wealthy, sure, but not…like that. “You’re kidding.”
“Unfortunately, I’m not.”
“Anyone who could pay that sort of money could already buy the damn respect of people in the first place!”
“You’re not wrong,” Ian said. “There is another possibility.”
“If you were to…acquire someone with the sort of qualities that you’re looking for, and then perhaps bring them here, I could see that you get a finder’s fee for the service.”
“I don’t…know if I quite understand what you mean.”
“If you’re asking for this, then you already know someone who has what you desire, don’t you?”
“Then if you were to bring them to the house, I would be able to process them. You would get what you desire, and I would be able to process the rest into goods to be brokered with others.”
“That’s…I mean, what happens to them?”
“I’m a broker. There’s always a buyer, even for waste product in most situations.”
“Do keep in mind my other offer though, Barry. I do think that you have some prime assets to sell, and you would be quite satisfied with the results, I assure you.”
“I…I’ll let you know.”
“Have a good evening.”
Barry hung up, and considered what Ian had told him. He thought about Richard again. He thought about how everyone was going out on Friday evening. He pushed that away, but each time it did, it came circling back again, and each time, it looked a little more attractive than before.
Meanwhile, Dennis was walking the neighborhood in the pleasant summer evening. It was almost eight and the sun was still shining near the horizon, folks were out on their porches, kids were out in the street chasing each other. It was pleasant. It felt normal, and comforting to him. He waved at the various families he passed, stopping on occasion to catch up, to ask how their gardens were doing, if they had any vacation plans. He worked his way down the street until he reached the house where Kyle lived, and saw Kyle’s father in the garage, working on some project. He gave a wave, and got a scowl back at first, but then a half-hearted wave in return. Dennis figured it would be better to keep walking, but you didn’t change minds without a bit of exposure. “How’s the project going, Eric?” he said.
“Just fine, thanks for asking.”
“Good to hear. Hey, how’s Kyle doing? Barry and I might be taking a week in August for a trip to see our folks, and we’d love him to watch the cat.”
“Why the fuck would I know that that faggot son of mine is up to?” Eric spat back at him, and Dennis looked at him, confused. Had…Kyle told him?
“Moved into the city after he graduated, told us he was gay, that he didn’t want anything to do with us. Haven’t heard from him sense, and don’t fucking want to. At least he had the decency to not make me pay for his fucking college tuition–won’t be getting a dime of my money if I have anything to say about it.”
Dennis took all that in, gave another wave, as Eric went back to his project, and he kept walking, picking up his pace a bit, trying to sort out what he’d just learned. Kyle hadn’t moved out, had he? Hell, just a few days ago, they’d brought him home from the club! Dennis tried to pin down the events, but as he did, they were getting a little foggy and confused. He did remember seeing Kyle in the club with that bear, but…
He got home, went upstairs and found Barry in his office, head in his hands and staring at his phone. “Hey, can I ask you something?”
“Huh? Sure, what’s up.”
“We…gave Kyle a ride home on Friday, didn’t we?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I swear we did.”
“Dennis, Kyle moved out his parents place a few months ago. We saw him at the club with that older guy, yeah, but…” Barry shrugged, “The kid’s making his own choices now. Nothing we can do about it, you know?”
“I guess,” Dennis said, standing in the doorway, still trying to sort out his own memory. There was something else too, nagging at him. Something that seemed to be missing, another little piece of the puzzle, but one that had mysteriously slipped from the box. “I’m gonna go to bed early, I have a surgery tomorrow.”
“Alright, I’ll be there in a bit,” Barry said.
He heard Dennis go into the bedroom and the shower turn on, and he picked up the phone again, and saw that Ian had replied to his text asking for Hugh’s contact number, and given it to him. He put in the contact, and sent another message to Hugh, and then sat there, anxiously waiting for a reply. He had a hard time taking his own mind on this seriously, but it was the first idea in a very long time that he felt a sense of certainty about. If he wanted people to respect him, then he was going to have to get out of this hole he was in. This was the first time someone had offered him a way out–and he wasn’t going to back away from it, not this time. His days of being treated like a child were over.
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