The Trainer

an excerpt

Part One: Basic Training

I owe my life to one man. My life--and much more. He saved me. He trained me. He educated me. He loved me and had to let me go. Shit, how much I regret never having told him I loved him--until it was too late.

My name is Dave Coyle. My real life started only a year ago, when I met Mike Harrow. I was a mess. I had been doing drugs, when I could find the money. When we met, I was homeless, living on the streets. One summer morning, I was desperate enough to try to hold up this convenience store. You know the kind. They sell everything from liquor to washing powder. Anyway, I stuck this thick stick under my grubby T-shirt and picked a quiet mid-morning time, after the breakfast rush.

I was lucky, the place seemed empty. So I marched up to the counter and growled at the clerk, "Okay, this is a stick-up. Hand over your cash right now, or I'll blow you to..."

The doorbell chimed as a customer came through the double doors. I saw a dark blue uniform and mirrored sunglasses. The cop, the clerk, and I froze for a nano-second. Then the door chimes rang again, for another customer, and distracted the policeman. So I raced for the other door.

I was in the parking lot, past the police cruiser, headed down the alley. My mind spun, and my heart pounded. I'd been good at sports in college, but my present lifestyle didn't encourage 200-yard sprints. I could hear footsteps behind me.

A voice bellowed, "Hold it, kid. This isn't going to get you anywhere."

Screw you, I thought as I reached the end of that alleyway. Panting heavily, I stumbled into an adjoining one, only to see a tall, wire-mesh fence in my way. I crashed into it; my lungs were bursting. As I scrambled to get over, the policeman grasped me. He pulled me down to the ground. Then he wrestled my arm behind me with one hand and grabbed his handcuffs with the other. I was too exhausted to offer any resistance. I hadn't had that much exercise in months. In no time, the cop had me upright and manacled.

He read me my rights as he patted me down. Fortunately, my stick "gun" had fallen out of my well-worn T-shirt. It seemed to me that the cop took an extra second, caressing my cock and balls; then he moved behind to feel my ass cheeks. To my surprise, my prick started to respond. He moved back up, checking waist, chest, and finally my mouth.

"Christ, you're not a kid! Though you're sure skinny enough. How old are you?"

"Twenty-one," I replied sulkily.

"What the shit did you think you were doing back there in the store? You're fortunate you didn't really have a gun. Antics like that can get you put away for at least three years. Ever spent time in jail?"

"No, I just needed money. I didn't think."

"For more fucking drugs? I see the tracks on your arms. You look bright enough, under the dirt. Why don't you have a regular job?"

I finally looked at him. The cop was taller and broader than I, about 6'2" I guessed. To my surprise, he looked only two or three years older than me. His face seemed friendlier than I expected. No one had shown me any attention or sympathy in so long, the dam broke.

"Okay, yes, I am a fucking idiot to try it. It's the first time I've ever tried a robbery. I fucked up, okay? Yes, I need money for drugs. What else is there? I used to be a pure vanilla citizen. I was going to college and lived at home with loving parents. Now they are dead. They were killed in a car crash, along with my girlfriend. I was the driver. I am the only one who survived.

"Worse, it was all my fault. I was pissed with my folks for wanting me to continue to live at home. I wanted to be free to live how and where I pleased. As usual, I wouldn't listen to reason. Mary was adding her take on the subject as I had sped up in the car. I missed the sudden turn in the road and crashed into a concrete road block. I blacked out and came to alone in the hospital, in pain and feeling sorry for myself.

"The hospital got me so fucked up. They pumped me full of drugs. I liked how they made me feel, so I kept doing them. What else am I supposed to do? God, how I miss them and Julie." My voice wobbled as I blinked back unexpected tears.

"Well, let's get you back to the car and down to the station. We'll talk some more there. My name's Harrow, by the way." He pointed to his name badge. "Officer Michael Harrow."

"Thanks for listening. I'm Dave Coyne."

He marched me back up the alley, stumbling and cuffed. We passed the small crowd gathered in front of the convenience store.

"Into the back seat, Coyne. Watch your head," Harrow ordered. "I'm going into the store to speak to the clerk for a moment."

The crowd peered into the windows for a minute or two. Then they drifted away. The excitement was over. When Officer Harrow came back and started the car, he looked pleased with himself.

"If you really are a first offender, the clerk says they won't prosecute you. You might be lucky. We've got a new program going in the PD. We'll check your record and see."

I spent a couple of hours in the station. I sat cuffed to a hard bench. Reports were made, forms were filled out, fingerprints taken, and records checked. I was really hungry, my head ached, and my throat was dry.

Harrow came back with some cool water. He bent over slightly, saying, "The lieutenant wants to check you out." Then he took off the handcuffs and led me into the corridor of little offices.

A tall, harassed-looking but sharp-eyed older man sat behind a desk piled high with folders. Mine was in front of him. "Okay, Coyne, you can sit down. Mike, stay a minute, will you? This is your idea. You seem to have a clean record, young man, and the store doesn't want to prosecute.

"We could release you into our new parole program. You would have to agree to spending six months minimum, living in the home of one of our officers. Most importantly, you will need to enroll, as an outpatient, in a detox program. In addition, the officer must agree to look after you. He would be responsible for sheltering you. Before the program is over, should you participate, the officer would also be responsible for helping you find a job.

"I am willing to take a gamble on you. Officer Harrow here has agreed to take you on. I guess you're another one of his ‘causes.' Are you willing to give it a try, Dave?"

"Yes, sir, I am." I surprised myself, going into this blind. At least someone was showing an interest in me and my future again.

"Sign these forms then, down at the bottom of the page. Okay, Officer, you can take him away. You better start by cleaning him up." The lieutenant smiled as he stacked the papers, and Mike ushered me away.

Officer Harrow had a neat house in the suburbs. There was a small garden and yard. No matter the size, it appeared well cared for. He parked his car in the garage, next to a gleaming Harley Softail Classic. There was no patter of tiny feet as we walked in, no welcoming woman's voice.

"I live alone," he answered my unspoken question. "I'm homosexual, but you're old enough to look after yourself. Let's begin with that ratty, scraggly hair of yours, and then into the shower. I imagine some food would make you feel better."

He sat me down at the kitchen table. My dirty blond curls were soon falling onto the floor.

"Yes, I've done this before. In fact, I still trim some of the other guys' hair on a regular basis. Here, swallow this protein drink before you get in the shower."

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