Farewell from the Bookshelf!

Please note that GLBT Bookshelf -- the community wiki which was the parent to this fiction blog -- went offline on May 31, 2016, after seven years' service to members.

All Gay Romance will remain online till the end of 2016 in order to give contributors every opportunity to recover materials uploaded here.

Many thanks to all who contributed over the years, and good luck to everyone in your future works!


Memory of Darkness

Dusk was settling in, throwing dirty shadows over the uneven ground. I found refuge on a knife-scarred and graffitied picnic table and watched people leaving the park. A rusted out Pinto rattled by, heading into the park, thirty screaming tweakers hanging out of every portal, leaving a trail of rap obscenities hanging in the fading light. They were too stoned to notice me. The night life was arriving. Soon the park would be alive with a new kind of wildlife.

I kicked off the table and prepared to hike back to Los Feliz where I hoped to pick up a ride into the Valley. With any luck I could get lost there.

I heard him before I saw him. Rather, I heard his dog, snuffling and groaning like life itself was a hardship. It sounded big. When it finally came through the brush it turned out to be a gray-muzzled Bassett Hound shuffling through the ground cover, nose down, huge ears dragging through the dirt.

I faded back into the dense brush behind the picnic table just as the dog's owner came around the bend in the road. He was a tall, lanky man, maybe six foot. His hair was wispy and thinning on top. It was a ginger color. He was clean-shaven. From this distance I couldn't make out the color of his eyes.

He didn't see me.

But his dog did. It shuffled unerringly toward my hiding place, briefly lifting its face toward me, its rheumy eyes staring directly into mine. It circled my frozen legs. Then it cocked its right leg and sent a stream of warm urine over my ankle.

I yelled and jumped back, stumbling and falling on my ass. The dog sat, its massive jaws opening in a canine grin.

Before I could climb to my feet and get out of there, Lanky found us. I scrambled back, shaking piss off my pant leg. My sockless foot inside my high-tops was damp. I grimaced at the sensation.

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry. He's never done anything like that before. I'm sorry, so sorry... He's not usually so aggressive."

Both of us looked down at the dog, now lying in a swoon on the cracked earth under a deodar cedar. It snored softly, exhausted from all the energy it had expended.

"Nice to know I can inspire him," I muttered, wanting to split. Needing to find a washroom so I could clean up. "Listen I have to -- "

"No, no, don't go," Lanky said. "Let me make it up to you."

A light bulb flared in my head. I might be on to something here. I'd taken care of my car, now I had to take care of me. I had to lay down a bigger sob story.

"Damn, I was supposed to be meeting my friend for dinner down on the Boulevard." I shook my leg as though I could shake off the piss, hoping he wouldn't see any of the stains on my jacket. They might take a bit more explanation. Fortunately the fading light helped in my defense. I tried another gambit, blinked my baby blues at him and leaned slightly toward him, inviting. I was heartened to see his own eyes -- a nice hazel, I noticed -- darken appreciably. All right, Mary, I had a live one here. Maybe he was doing a bit more than just walking his dog.

I smiled. "I'm Johnny. Johnny Wager." I stuck my hand out.

He took it in a surprisingly strong grip. "Tyler" he said. Tyler Rogers." He looked down affectionately at the dog. "This is Columbo."

Now my first desire had been to drop kick Fido into the next county, but I learned long ago that dog people are usually gaga over their pets and the way to their hearts -- or wallets or dicks -- was through their dogs. I reached down and patted the slobbering thing's head, thankful it didn't try to return the favor.

"Nice dog," I said with all the sincerity my forty years of hustling had taught me to fake.

"Yes, he is. He's smart as a whip and has tons of personality."

I studied the motionless animal and thought he had about as much personality as a door stop, but what did I know? Maybe the thing was a veritable doggy Einstein under that wrinkled brow and slobbering jowls.

"I can tell."

"You own dogs, Johnny?"

I could tell he liked saying my name. I nodded sadly. "Used to. He... passed two months ago. We used to come up here to walk. He loved chasing squirrels." Or was it rabbits you found in Griffith Park?

"What kind was he?"

I scrambled through my brain for some kind of plausible answer. Neither Jolene nor I had been much into pets, and my mother... well, forget her. Her idea of an animal in the house was one of her biker bears. Like the asshole who diddled little Johnny whenever Mommy was out of the house collecting her welfare check. That one had lasted six long months until Mommy caught him drinking her booze.

"Lassie," I said.

"Oh, a collie. Nice dogs. Lot of brushing though, didn't you find?"

"Yeah, lots," I agreed and stepped closer to him. He developed an all-too-familiar tension. I didn't need to look to know his basket was swelling. I kept smiling. "Say, maybe I can come back to your place to clean up. You can tell me all about Columbo."

His tension increased and I knew what he wanted. But caution warred with lust. I had to tip the balance. "I'd love to talk about dogs...I miss Lassie so much."

His doubt melted away and he gestured back up the road toward Western Canyon Road. "I'm parked there." He slapped his thigh and called, "Columbo, come on boy. Time to go home."

Columbo rolled ponderously to his feet and eyed my dry pant leg with keen interest. I stepped adroitly away at the same time following Tyler up the curving road to where a silver BMW sat in the shade of a sycamore tree. Or what would have been shade before the sun went down. Now it was just a massive ghostly trunk.

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