Take it EASY

an excerpt

Chapter One

Edward Albert Stanton Young, better known as Easy to family, friends, and colleagues in the trucking world, heaved a deep sigh as the truck shuddered, belched, and finally settled. The cheerful sign over the door of the truck stop glowed brightly in the rain-clean night. Easy could see "Mama Sasy's" reflected in his windshield and, directly in front of him, a double rainbow. He grinned at the thought. When his mother had been searching for a neon logo for her truck stop sign, she'd seen and loved the pretty rainbow design and had quickly chosen it. She'd had no idea back then that it had any other connotation, especially not one in the gay world. That was what started it all.

Easy gathered his log book and keys before swinging out and down, heading in to see Mama. It was eleven-thirty, but he had no doubt that she'd be awake and working this late. They argued about it often, but he got nowhere with her. You couldn't tell Sally Ann Stanton Young what to do. Lord, how he loved the stubborn woman!

He stretched long and hard, and had started toward the door when he heard something over by the side of the building. Easy stopped and glanced over, his eyes checking out the area carefully. He saw nothing and decided it must be a stray cat or dog bumping into something. God knew this was a place for strays. Strays and gays, he thought. He harrumphed and shook his head. Poetic tonight? Made a rhyme, gimme a dime?

When he got to the door, he peered in and saw Mama behind the counter, pouring coffee and laughing with one of the regulars. He reached to open the door and thought he heard something again. Ah, but Mama had seen him, and Easy soon forgot the strange sound in favor of the welcome-home sounds ahead.

Easy was a big, big man. Really big. It was often remarked upon that there was no way he was Sally Ann's kid. She was a tiny, tiny woman. But it was true. She had birthed him, painfully, evidently, as he'd come in at nine pounds ten ounces and twenty-three inches long. He'd been big all his life. Bless her heart, he thought, as she headed for him. Little she might be, but she could hug like a defensive end grabbing the quarterback.

Easy grunted as she squeezed him, hard. He had to be gentle as he held her to him and laughed down at her.

"Hey, Mama, take it easy. It's been four days, not four months since I was here."

"So? I'm just as glad to see you, baby."

He blushed as the guys at the counter laughed. She knew better. In retaliation, he picked her up and carried her over to a stool at the end of the counter. Setting her down carefully, he smiled as she sputtered up at him.

"You stop that, young man. I've told you about totin' me around like a sack of potatoes."

"Sit and rest a little, Mama. Want me to get you some coffee, a piece of pie?" Easy asked, bending to kiss her right on the nose before heading behind the counter, which was as much home to him as it was to her.

"No, sir, you sit right down and let me get you something to eat. You've probably been driving all day."

"And you've been working on your feet all day. I need to stand, and you need to sit, so, there." Easy turned to the open space in the wall behind him and yelled for the man he knew would be there.

"Hey, Boddy! You got anything good to eat back there?"

Several loud noises followed the question, including a few rather eloquent curses. Pans were banging and doors were slamming, and then the tallest, skinniest man Easy had ever seen bent to peer through the opening. Easy didn't even remember Boddy's real name. Boddy had accepted the name when Easy was a kid, and it had stuck.

Boddy's long arm swept through the opening, and Easy stepped back just in time to miss getting whapped. He laughed before stepping up and putting his arm through to shake the man's hand.

"Your supper's started. Glad you're back safe. Up in a minute." Boddy disappeared to fix the food. Easy knew what Boddy was cooking for him, and his mouth was already watering. Boddy didn't question whether Easy was hungry. According to him, it was a waste of time for Easy to stop anywhere else to eat when the best food on the road was right here. Since Easy tended to agree, he was always hungry when he returned from a run.

Easy turned for the coffee pot and went down the row, refilling cups and joking with the guys. As he took the now empty pot to the sink to rinse, he automatically flipped the switch to start the new one. He rinsed the old one and got it ready to start over when that one was empty. They always had one pot on and one ready at Mama Sasy's. The amount of coffee that was consumed at this truck stop was probably worthy of Guinness.

"Hey, Easy, where ya been? It rain on you the whole way?" Ned, a retired Marine who was going on about ninety, asked.

"Pretty much. This was a run to Ontario. Rain started about Detroit and has followed me the whole way, pretty hard at times. I was glad to see it stop just before I got in."

"Hate drivin' in the rain?" Bern asked. He was a retired school principal who had found it hard to stay at home once his wife died. He was usually here early, left before lunch, then came back and stayed late. Easy had no idea what he did with his days in between his times here.

"It's not so bad. Just have to be extra vigilant, watch out for idiots. It's hard enough to gear down on a dry road." The smell of his food cooking was making him ravenous. Easy grabbed a glass, added ice, and filled it with sweet tea. Mmm. Now that was refreshing. He drank about half of it and refilled it from the pitcher on the counter behind the bar.

His mother had moved to "their" table in a back corner. This table had been used for homework, video games, time outs, you name it. Now they used it for quiet talking when he was in from the road and they could grab a minute.

"How's it going, Mama?" Easy asked, reaching to touch the side of her face. She had some tired-looking eyes tonight.

"It's fine, Easy. I only have two boys working here now, and you know how that makes me feel. Happy there are only two, good about giving them a place and a new start, but worried about how many are out there, in need."

"Mama, you can't worry about ones you don't know yet. Come on. So, it worked out for Marcus?"

Mama's eyes lit up, and a wide smile split her face. "Oh, yes. Nick did wonders this time. Marcus is working at the college in the kitchen, and, with the scholarship, he's going to take some culinary courses. That kid really was a special one when it came to cooking. Boddy kept saying he was worried about his job."

"I'm glad, Mama. Marcus was a good kid, once he got over the chip on his shoulder."

That got her dander up. "You'd have a chip, too, if you'd been treated…"

"Easy, Mama. I know. I agree, but you have to admit he had some changing to do before he was ready for the work force and, well, society in general."

She smiled now at Easy and admitted, "Yeah, he was a firecracker when he first came here, huh?"

Easy snorted. Firecracker. More like time bomb!

"Order up, Easy! I ain't bringin' it to ya," Boddy yelled through the window.

"I'll get it," Mama said, starting to get up.

He reached over, put his hand on her shoulder, and pushed her back down, gently.

"Sit. I'll get it. Rest a minute. I'll check on the guys and be right back," Easy said, heading to the counter to get his steaming plate off the window ledge.

"Thanks, Icky, smells great."

"Boy, you ain't too big to smack." Icky-Boddy's reply was expected.

"Ya think?" Easy teased the old man affectionately. Easy was six foot six. Weighing in at about two hundred twenty-five pounds, and strong as an ox. He was all muscle. Not many would even think of taking him on. Easy had been told he'd been blessed with his mom's coloring; dark, wanting-to-curl hair, funny whiskey-colored eyes, and a naturally dark complexion. None of that would make any difference to Boddy, who was one of the few people who could look Easy straight in the eye.

Quickly, Easy set his plate on the counter, checked on the men at the bar, refilled two cups, got one man a piece of coconut cream pie, and headed back to Mama with his supper. He had to restrain himself from eating with his fingers on the way back to the table. The chicken fried steak was done the way he liked, tender on the inside and crispy on the breaded outside. The fried potatoes and onions were spicy and fragrant. He'd give up pie tonight for the potatoes. His stomach growled as he sat down, hungry for the food, and he was eager for the conversation.

"So, tell me about Nick. He been in lately?" Easy asked his mother, knowing she'd blush, and she did.

"Yesterday he came by for lunch. He asked about you. He said he got a call about a boy coming through Chattanooga. It wasn't much, but the man told him that this boy had been treated badly by some bullies and had to get out of town to safety. I think Nick said he was from somewhere in Florida. Said he was very artsy or something like that, something about dance and music. Nick's contact said the boy had been told about our setup here and then he disappeared. Maybe he'll show up. I hope so. I hate to think of someone being out there, alone and scared."

Easy reached across and patted his mom's hand before saying, "He'll find you. And you'll help him."

"Thanks, hon. So, this trip okay? No problems?"

"Nope. Had a new girl on at the border, and she asked me what I was smuggling in. I told her I had two families of refugees in the back. She cackled like a hen, flashed me some cleavage, and through I went."

"Wastin' her time, huh?"

"For real. She was pretty, though."

"Next run?" Mama asked.

"Laverne, pick up rolled paper, take it to Allentown, pick up magazine inserts, bring ‘em back here to Logistics."


"I'll pick up in Laverne at six, day after tomorrow, Tuesday, so I'll be back Thursday late, probably in time for supper. So, I'm here tomorrow. Need me to do anything?"

"Yeah, take it easy for a day. That would be a nice change. You work too much."

"And you don't?"

"I don't think of it as work. I think of it as what I do. I like the people who come in regularly and the ones who just happen in. I like helping my boys. I'd do it just for them."

"I know you would. Mama Sasy, savior to all lost gay boys. You'd give up your last dime to help them."

"Yep, only ‘cause I know you got plenty put away. You're set." Mama looked down and said, "Let me have that plate. You go on back and get some sleep. I'll see you at breakfast. Boddy'll fix your favorite. You know he will. He loves you like the son he never had. You used to drive that man crazy."

"I love him, too, Mama. I had it good here." Easy stood and took his own plate, carried it back to the kitchen, and dropped it down in the big sink of soapy water. He knew Boddy would smack him for sure if he tried to wash it. Hearing the man rattling around in the freezer, Easy said, "Thanks, Boddy. It was great. See you in the morning."

Easy went out of the kitchen to the hall that led back to the fuel desk and on out the back. He could have left his truck where it was, but he went and fired it up, pulling around to park it beside the door to his apartment. Situated at the far back of the long warehouse behind Mama Sasy's truck stop, the apartment was home for Easy. Mama had a nice apartment in the front.

The middle of the huge warehouse was a well-kept secret. Everyone thought it had storage or some such for Easy's trucking business, but it was really a sort of informal dorm setting. Right now, as Mama said, there were only two boys in there. There had been as many as six at one time before. Mama had talked Boddy into moving in and acting as a sort of dorm director. Actually, he only slept there and helped with the boys when needed. The rest of the time he was at Mama Sasy's, doing everything from cooking full time to manning the counter in emergencies and even working the fuel desk on occasion.

Mama Sasy's was known in a special network of large cities as a sort of halfway house for young gay men in trouble. They'd had everything from sixteen-year-old runaways to twenty-somethings who'd been beaten or worse and managed to find someone who knew about Mama and the unique service she provided. She'd take these boys in, let them stay, put them to work in the diner or the store or any other odd job she thought would fit them. She gave them work, confidence, love, and now, with the help of her friend, Nick Webster, she was often able to find them a job and a future.

Easy was so proud of his mother he could just bust his buttons. There were people in Memphis, Huntsville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Louisville, Detroit, Indianapolis, and even Chicago that knew about Mama and her program. It was all underground, though. This was not a well-funded charity with grand openings and public support. One boy had referred to it as the Rainbow Underground as a take-off on Harriet Tubman's great plan in America's early history. No one gave it a real name, and no one talked about it openly, but it was there and available to those who needed it. Somehow, the right people were able to get the word to the ones who required help the most, and they showed up at Mama's door.

Often, Easy would be roped into picking someone up in one of the towns on his route. He'd hide the young man in the sleeper of his truck, make sure the guy was fed, watch out for him, and get him back to Mama's waiting arms. That didn't happen too many times, but he was willing.

When Mama had found out Easy was gay, she wasn't the typical freaked-out parent. She'd hugged him to her and told him it would be all right. She'd be happy to welcome another son into her home. So far, that hadn't been something to worry about, as he'd never found anyone he was that interested in.

He got a chuckle out of his mother's rule about No Lot Lizards. So, there weren't any ladies sitting in the parking lot here coming on the CB asking truckers if they want a little commercial company. Not in Mama's parking lot, anyway. Easy had heard truckers talk about them, where to find the best ones, who was working what area. He'd also heard truckers talk about fags and queers and what they'd do if they ever came across them.

Keeping a low profile was the best thing he could do. It was fine; he knew where to find sex if he wanted it. Safe, anonymous sex. He just really didn't want that anymore. Having tried it a few times, Easy knew he was looking for something real with someone permanent. Since he didn't have a permanent type life now, he didn't figure he'd find his someone anytime soon.

Easy parked the truck in the back and was headed for his door when he heard something. His mind went back to the noise he'd heard before he went in the diner. Something was off. If it was one of the boys, they'd have said something to him.

He opened his door, threw in the duffel bag of dirty clothes, turned on the light, and then closed the door again. He stood, still and quiet, waiting to hear more.

Somebody was humming. Easy racked his brain, trying to call the song to mind. He almost smiled when he figured it out. "They Call the Wind Maria." He figured he didn't have too much to worry about if the unknown person was into old musicals. He didn't find it at all odd that he knew the song.