an excerpt

Teddy Brogue was fascinated by Danner Cole before he ever physically met him. Danner was like an exotic aquatic, dropped into a small bowl of common goldfish and seemingly disinterested in integration within the existing community. No matter that he started out in the same bowl. He had escaped, where the other inhabitants hadn't. In his absence, he had somehow morphed into something bigger and more impressive, like any goldfish not permanently confined.

Danner was the author of over one-hundred published books, including eye-popping porn, six cook books, a series of male adventure/espionage novels, one of which had been made into a blockbuster movie that was likely just the first of a franchise, and numerous romances, writing as Glenda Rose, for the likes of behemoth Harlequin Books. He was an artist of international repute, his self-portrait, one of many, having hung in exhibition at Vatican City's Palazzo della Cancelleria. Other than his self-portraits, he was best known for his “Poison-Plant Series”, as well as his unicorns. He'd been a model for several popular artists, the results of which were many nudes, usually as sinners (demons, vampires) or saints (martyred St. Bartholomew in stained glass, St. Sebastian shot full with arrows) that could be found by searching the internet. He was a gourmand (thus, his six cook books). He was a wine enthusiast (thus his series of wine books). He was a world traveler, having visited every continent, sailed around the world first-class for four months on a cruise ship, similarly circled the Pacific, and had passed through the Panama Canal, to and fro, on several occasions. He was Contributing Editor to an international luxury-living and fashion magazine.

He was a strikingly handsome man, as the many portraits, self, and otherwise, bore witness. He always dressed impeccably in a suit or suit coat, and a tie, in a city known more for its blue jeans, flannel shirts, and hiking boots. There were people who swore he never wore the same outfit twice.

He wasn't back in Rokane Falls because he liked it there. He was back because, along with everything else, he was a good son. His father dead for many years, his mother had been dying; he'd overseen her home-care hospice routine, until the end, and had stayed on to supervise the settling of her estate.

He wrote an article for a regional magazine that published out of Rokane Falls. It concerned Telly Simms, a one-time friend, who had vacated the city to become a rising star on the international art scene, as well as Gordon Braseth, another early escapee, and friend, who became a major Broadway star. Both had died tragically.

There was a launch party for the issue with Danner's article, hosted by the man and wife magazine publishers, Peter and Patsy Crenshaw. Danner showed up but showed no evidence of any desire to mingle, exuding the implication that he hadn't written his article to gain local acceptance and didn't care if it resulted or not. He picked one spot in the ballroom and stayed there for the whole evening, seeking out no one, waiting for people to come to him, which they did, drawn by his air of indifference. That continued to be his modus operandi for all following magazine-edition launches, none of which included any further articles written by him. His allure was how he continued to seem someone “on the outside” merely observing what was happening in one little (very little) corner of the world.

He soon became a regular on the Rokane Falls art scene, his popular FaceBook presence verifying his opinion that he hardly considered the city an art-destination. He had his favorite on-site artists, always those who managed to sell their work beyond the limited parameters of the city, upon whose art he favorably commented. He bought only a few pieces of their output, though, because he was in the process of liquidating his extensive private collection of works, by some very major international players, most of it in storage. He had decided the pieces he owned deserved more exposure than he afforded them by keeping them locked away just for his personal pleasure.

The local professional event-photographer found him a favorite subject, initially because Danner's sartorial perfection looked so good in print, eventually, though, because Danner knew how to curry favor and expertly manage just enough flattery to make sure all unflattering pictures of him never saw the light of day. People lucky enough to be photographed with him usually saw the results end up on the social pages of the magazine.

Admittedly, Teddy was a little jealous of Danner. Teddy, too, after all, had left Rokane Falls, now returned. He'd had his moment in the sun, albeit now diminished. An early move by his family to Los Angeles had seen him part of the ensemble of young actors in a popular television kids show. He'd been lavished with attention. He'd been the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade. He'd momentarily been put adrift after the show's popularity faded, no new roles on his horizon, but he'd been attractive enough to slide easily into the escort service which proved even more exciting and enjoyable, and almost as lucrative, as being a kiddy star. As a companion for men, he was in great demand. He was flown to Europe and to exotic locales for parties. That he'd once been on the television A-list provided him a certain cachet that only increased his popularity and desirability. He was a quick learner and soon realized that attractiveness and faded stardom took a backseat to an ability to provide good sex. It was a good blowjob, or good fuck, that assured the best tips. It was his ability to top or bottom, which kept him at the peak of the game for a long time.

In the end, though, the longevity of anyone within the escort business, no matter how good, wasn't really all that long-lasting. Excessive drug use, constant partying, sometimes all-nighters, increased the aging process. Handsome young men suddenly became less handsome overnight, some downright haggard. Decreased looks, combined with familiarity over time, saw those, once at the top of the heap, replaced by others who were younger and more attractive. Invitations to Cannes, Antibes, Palm Beach, Rome Marrakech, became fewer and farther between, finally drying up completely.

Teddy's more and more frequent stops to look in mirrors confirmed he shouldn't have had such large bags under his eyes. His skin shouldn't have looked so sallow. Who, his age, had the beginnings of crows' feet already clustering the corner of each eye? His abdominals and pectorals were far less defined than they'd once been. He was experiencing more and more bouts of acid reflux. He couldn't help wonder if his stomach problems were serious: ulcers, kidney or gall stones.

One day, he just packed up his things, got in his car, and started driving. He didn't know where he was going. He was just going. He needed a rest. He needed to re-evaluate where he'd been, where he was headed. Self-preservation told him the path he'd been on would eventually see him desperately pedaling his ass on some dark city-street corner for twenty dollars a pop. Cue possible disease and an early death, no one giving a goddamn.

He hadn't consciously set out for a return to Rokane Falls. He'd been absent for so long, he didn't even remember anything much about it. His subconscious, though, must have retained some notion of a simpler life before Hollywood, kid-star fame and fortune, a French nanny, an Asian cook, a mansion, a swimming pool, Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade, diminishing phone calls from his agent and the eventual drop from the agency, his father leaving, his mother dying, the partying, the sex, the drugs, the sex, the sex, the sex, depression, more sex.

Welcome To Rokane Falls, Oregon. Population 350, 615.