Old Man Brody, continued....
Elise Martin was so proud of her son and everything he had done for poor Mr. Brody. It was nearly halfway through the school year and Doug had more than worked off his debt, but he still came to Mr. Brody’s house every single day after school. It was so sweet. Elise knew she had raised a good boy.
And it seemed that Doug really enjoyed helping Mr. Brody. Every day he came home whistling, with a big smile on his face. Mr. Brody and Doug had really bonded. Doug’s father wasn’t around much, so maybe Doug saw Mr. Brody as a sort of father figure.
The whole thing got Elise thinking. When Mr. Brody first moved to the neighborhood, she hadn’t made an effort to get to know him. And she knew she wasn’t the only one. Even the welcome wagon that visited every newcomer to the town had come up with some sort of excuse to avoid a visit to his house. She had never even had a conversation with him before. She spoke to some of her friends and none of them had much to do with Mr. Brody either—even Regina, who lived down the block from him, only spoke to him when he called to complain about her dog being loose in the street. Truth be told, most people seemed to think he was a rather cranky old fogie and worth avoiding. But if Doug liked him so much, she had surely misjudged the old man.
So this was how Elise decided to bake one of her famous peach pies and bring it over to Mr. Brody’s house. It was the neighborly thing to do, in addition to the fact that she was dying to finally talk to Mr. Brody in person. She was curious to meet this man who had befriended her son.
Elise brought the pie over at four o’clock on Thursday afternoon. As she knocked on the door, she found that she was slightly nervous—after all, Mr. Brody had a reputation for being a grouch. What if when he saw her, he told her to get lost?
Elise waited several minutes, but there was no answer at the door. She tried the doorknob and found that the door was open. She stepped into Mr. Brody’s foyer, inhaling the scent of cleaning fluid. The house was immaculate.
“Mr. Brody?” Elise called out.
At the sound of her voice, there was a distinct sound of shuffling coming from her right. Elise turned the corner into Mr. Brody’s living room. As she stared into the room, the peach pie slid from her fingers and landed with a plop on the hardwood floor. “Dougie?”
Doug, her baby, still in high school, was struggling to untangle his briefs from his foot, his face turning bright red. Elise could see everything, from his bare chest to his erect penis. “Mom,” Doug gasped, “what are you doing here?”
Elise’s eyes fell on the other occupant of the room. It was a man in a wheelchair, who Elise judged to be in his mid-thirties. He had a very good looking face, with graying hair and eyes that were intense behind his spectacles. His naked body, on the other hand, was odd-looking to her, with his think arms and legs and a flabby abdomen. “Who are you?” she said.
“I... I’m Eric Brody,” the man stammered.
“You?” Elise shook her head. “But you’re so... so young!”
Doug had managed to pull on most of his clothes, but Mr. Brody obviously wasn’t capable of getting his clothes on by himself. “Mom, this isn’t what it looks like,” Doug said.
Elise hadn’t even gotten that far yet. She couldn’t even begin to imagine why her young son was naked in a room with Old Man Brody, who actually wasn’t so old. All she knew was that she was seeing something horribly horribly wrong. But as she began to think, a scenario emerged in her mind. “What have you done to my son?” Elise hissed at Mr. Brody. “How did you manipulate him into this?”
Doug looked over at Mr. Brody, waiting to see what he would say. Doug had never seen Mr. Brody look quite so sad. His shoulders sagged and his eyes were lowered. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Martin,” he said. “This whole thing... it’s entirely my fault.”
Doug saw the anger on his mother’s face and knew he had to do something. “That’s not true,” he spoke up. “This was all my idea. Mr. Brody is paying me.”
Mr. Brody looked over at Doug with horror on his face and suddenly Doug realized that this was the worst possible thing he could have said. “You’re paying him?” Doug’s mother shrieked. “What the hell is wrong with you, you... you pervert!”
Mr. Brody just shook his head sadly. “Mrs. Martin, I’m so so sorry.”
“That’s all you have to say?” she demanded.
Eric Brody blinked at her. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand.”
It all came out, just as Eric had feared. The whole neighborhood found out about the prostitutes he had been hiring over the years, contaminating their quiet little suburban town. The outcry was tremendous. Eric received hatemail, angry phone calls, and even a rock through his window. The message was clear: they wanted Eric out.
Eric obliged, although he felt sad about leaving. He had lived in that house for ten years. Everything was set up just the way he wanted it. He feared that in a new house, he might not be as independent, at least not at first. Yet, this whole incident seemed like it could be a blessing in disguise. After all, the Japanese used the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity.” Maybe it was time to get out of his rut. He was too young to give up on the possibility of meeting someone. Maybe he had just been looking in the wrong places.
That’s how Eric made the decision to move to the Village. After all, it was a great place to live for a young, attractive, single gay man on the prowl. There had to be some guys out there who’d be interested in a cripple like him. It would be nice to get sex without paying for it. Doug had given him a small taste of what a relationship might be like and Eric found he enjoyed it.
Doug was forbidden to ever see Eric again. No surprises there. Mrs. Martin didn’t resort to hatemail or phone calls—she sent her husband over to personally get the message across. Harvey Martin came to Eric’s house and forced his way inside. “You sick fuck,” Martin said, grabbing Eric by the collar. “If you go near my son again, I’ll make it so you need a machine just to help you breathe. You got me, Brody?”
In a funny way, it almost reminded Eric of his own father. Eric’s dad had known he liked boys even before Eric did. If Eric hadn’t been injured, his teenage years probably would have consisted of a lot of slammed doors and sneaking around. As it happened, the two men just quietly resented each other. The only exception was a Christmas dinner when Eric was thirty; while his mother was in the kitchen, his father had leaned forward and whispered: “If you ever let your mother find out you’re a faggot, I’ll break every bone in your body. I swear to fucking god, Eric.” After Eric’s mother died, he never had anything to do with his father again.
Eric hired people to do most of his packing for him. He wound up getting rid of a lot of his furniture, because the place in the Village was a lot smaller than his house. On one hand, it would be a lot harder for him to get around this new apartment, but on the other hand, the upkeep would be much cheaper and easier. Eric might have considered selling or giving his old furniture to neighbors, but he knew everyone hated him too take any of his furniture, so he gave it all to Goodwill.
The day finally arrived that Eric was set to leave his house. A lot of his stuff had already been moved to his new apartment and he had just hired a van to transport him and the remainder of his things. The way the van was set up, Eric’s wheelchair could fit in the back while he stayed in it. He brought his laptop so that he could do work during the ride.
As Eric wheeled himself toward the van, he couldn’t help but feel a bit nostalgic. He had lived in this neighborhood for a long time. He truly hated to leave. But this new life would be different—better. He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life as a hermit.
“Mr. Brody! Wait!”
Eric wheeled around and saw Doug standing on his lawn (soon to be someone else’s lawn). Despite everything Doug had done, Eric had to smile. He loved Doug. Eric hit the brakes on his chair. “Your father is going to murder me if he sees you here,” Eric said.
“Dad’s all talk,” Doug said. “Besides, I’m eighteen. I can do what I want.”
“I’m glad you came, Doug,” Eric said. “I wanted a chance to say goodbye.”
“I’m sorry about what happened,” Doug said, hanging his head. “It was all my fault. If not for me, you wouldn’t have to leave.”
Eric melted. Doug was such a nice kid. “It’s better this way, anyway. I don’t think I liked myself very much when I was living here.”
“You didn’t like being the cranky old man?”
Eric laughed. “It had its moments...”
“You got a new place quick,” Doug commented. “What’s it like?”
“It’s not a house,” Eric said. “But I like it.”
“Does it have room for another person?” Doug raised an eyebrow.
Eric frowned. What? “It’s a two bedroom apartment. Why?”
“Because I thought maybe... after I graduate... I could come stay with you...”
“I don’t know if I could afford that,” Eric laughed.
“You wouldn’t have to pay me,” Doug said. “In fact, I’d like to contribute half the rent once I get a job.”
Eric stared at Doug. What was he saying? Was this young, beautiful boy saying that he wanted to share his life with a cripple? Eric looked down at his hands in their splints. No, he must have misunderstood. “I guess you could take the extra bedroom, if you want...”
“Well, I was thinking we’d share the same bedroom...”
“Goddamn it, Doug!” Eric shut his eyes, counted to ten, then opened them again. “Haven’t you fucked things up enough for both of us? Why aren’t you going to college next year? That’s what kids your age are supposed to do—go to college. What the fuck do you want to waste your time with me for? Jesus Christ...”
Doug’s eyes filled with tears. “Because I love you, Eric.”
Eric shook his head. “Oh, no. No, you don’t...”
“I do!” Doug cried. “Listen, don’t tell me what I feel! All I’ve thought about the last month is you. I can’t get you out of my head. I’ve never felt this way before...”
“Yeah, you’re only eighteen.”
“You’re almost forty. Have you ever felt this way before?” Doug challenged him.
“But I’m a freak.” Eric looked away. “Is this really what you want?”
“Yes,” Doug said without hesitation. “As soon as I graduate, I want to be with you.”
“Your parents will never forgive you.”
“It’s my life.”
Maybe it was a mistake, but Eric had never felt as happy as he did with Doug. He wanted to be with Doug. It amazed him that Doug somehow felt the same way. “There’s no way you could afford half the rent,” Eric said.
“I’ll pay whatever I can,” Doug offered.
“You better,” Eric said, “or else I’ll throw you out your ass.”
Doug smiled. “Well, you can do something to my ass.”
Eric laughed. He no longer had any misgivings about leaving this neighborhood. After all, he was coming away with the best part of it.
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