Fall in Empire – John Yohe

Cold wind off Lake Michigan. Leaves falling in Empire. Maple oak birch. Sun behind purple clouds down on the horizon. Jared’s car pulls into the empty beach parking lot and the four teens get out. Jared and Scott carrying six-packs of Budweiser, all of them with bottles already in their hands.
Kristen runs out on the sand. —Maybe we could make a fire!
Scott tosses his empty across the lot. Pieces of brown glass scattering out on the pavement.
Danny trails behind the other two boys, sipping his beer and looking out at the waves.
Kristen reaches the water’s edge and flips off her shoes, pulling the legs of her jeans up to her knees and walking. —Fuck! It’s cold!
Jared laughed. —Well duh!
A larger wave comes up behind her and soaking her past her knees. She screams. —Shit!
The boys laugh.
She takes a swig of her beer, grabs her shoes, and wades along the shore, away from town. —Come on you guys!
Jared and Scott follow, walking in the sand and laughing. Danny stops and unties his Chucks, taking off his socks and stuffing them inside, picking up the shoes and going out to the water. He wiggles his toes. A wave washes over his ankles and he jumps back. The wave recedes and the holes where his feet were fill in and smooth over.
—Danny! Come on!
The other three already a hundred yards down the beach. Kristen looking back and waving. He runs on the hard wet sand after them.
They walk a half-mile, passing summer homes on the shore. Most closed up for the winter already, the owners back down in Chicago or Detroit.
Scott finishes another bottle, taking it by the neck and whipping it out into the water.
Jared points at one of the houses, two-stories, with slanted roof and cedar siding. —That’s a cool house. That’s the kind I want when I win the lotto.
He looks at Kristen. —Do you know whose it is?
She shakes her head, shrugging. —No. They probably come in the store though. My dad probably knows.
—Let’s check it out.
He walks up to it.
—Jared! We can’t!
—Why not? I just want to check it out.
Scott runs to catch up. —Yeah, why not?
Kristen sighs, looking at Danny. He shrugs, smiling, and they follow.
A short flight of wooden stairs takes them up a dune hill to the deck. Kristen turns around and looks at the lake. —Wow, must be nice.
Jared and Scott put their faces up to the sliding glass doors, cupping their hands next to their eyes to see better.
—Yeah dude.
—Think we can get in?
—Jared! No!
—Come on Kristen. I’m not gonna steal anything!
—Then what are you going to do?
—Just see what’s inside.
Scott takes off around one of the sides. —I’ll see if I can get in!
Danny looks inside. —I think they’re already gone.
—Danny, not you too….
—Kristen, relax. You must chill!
—Jared, this is the kind of shit that pisses me off about you.
—Come on baby.
He puts his arms around her waist and kisses her neck.
She tries, somewhat, to push him away. —Fuck off! I’m not your baby.
He holds her tight and kisses her on the lips. She stops squirming and kisses back.
Danny watches. Looks away. Out to the water.
Knock knock knock.
—Scott stands on the other side of the glass door giving the thumbs up.
Jared let’s go, smiling. —Cool!
She stomps her foot. —Oh shit.
Scott unlocks the door and slides it open. The other two boys step in.
—Jared…Danny…You guys…Wait for me!
Inside, Danny drops his shoes and tries a switch. The overhead light comes on.
Kristen grabs Jared’s arm. —Danny! Turn it off! Someone might see!
—Yeah, you’re probably right.
He turns it back off. —I guess they haven’t closed it up yet?
Jared walks over to a cabinet in the living room. —Yeah but if they’re not here on a sunday night then they’re not coming back until next weekend, if that. Cool! Check out this tv!
He opens the cabinet doors, revealing a large screen tv, part of a huge entertainment center. —Cool, a DVD player. Hey! Scott! They’ve got an X-Box!
Scott’s voice coming from the kitchen. —Check out what else they got!
He walks out holding a bottle of Jack Daniels in one hand, and José Cuervo in the other.
—You guys! No!
—Kristen, don’t be so fucking lame! They won’t notice a little bit gone.
—Dude, there’s more where that came from. Kristen, they’ve got wine if you want.
—They do?
She pours herself another glass of wine. —Danny, want me to top you off?
He slides his glass across the counter. —Sure.
Jared pours four more tequilas. —First, we all slam another shot.
—Ugh. Jared, that stuff’s gross.
—Chase it with the wine. Too bad they don’t have any fucking lemons.
Scott slams his shot, then takes a swig of Jack. —Ahhh!
He smiles and wipes his lips. —We could almost have the three wise men going.
—Scott, you’re disgusting. You’re going to throw up.
Kristen holds up her tequila shot and chugs it with a sip of wine. —Oh god….
Danny clinks his shot glass with Jared’s and they down them. Danny immediately bends over and coughs.
Kristen pats him on the back. —Danny? You ok? Drink some wine.
Scott and Jared laugh. —Dude, you gotta swallow it quick.
—I did….
Even Kristen laughs. She gets him a glass of water and he gulps it down.
Scott motions to the living room. —Dude, let’s see what they got for the X-Box.
Scott grabs the remaining six-pack. —Yeah dude.
They leave the kitchen. Danny clears his throat, drinking a little more water.
—Are you ok?
—Yeah. I think I’ll stick with the wine.
—Have some more.
Jared and Scott’s voices coming from the other room.
—Dude! Madden Football!
—Dude! I’m the Packers.
—Whatever dude! Da Bears!
Kristen shakes her head. —I don’t know why I go out with him.
Danny starts to say something, then sips some wine, looking at her. She grabs the wine bottle and her glass, walking into the living room. —Maybe we can watch a movie later. Or something.
Danny follows her. Jared and Scott sitting on the leather couch, facing the screen. Kristen sitting in the matching love seat, watching. He wanders around the room, looking at the books and family pictures in the bookcases, and out the window. The sky dark, covered in clouds. The wind stronger. He takes one photo down from the shelf. A husband and wife, grey hair, with two probably college-age teen daughters. —I think I’ve seen them in town.
Kristen gets up to look. —Yeah, I’ve seen them in the store. I think they’re kind of stuck up.
Jared leaps up, working the controls. —Dude! I fucking had you! I fucking had you!
—No way dude.
Jared looks over at the picture. —Oh yeah, I’ve seen them. The daughters are hot.
Kristen scowls. —Jared!
He shrugs. —Well, they are. It’s not like I’m going to fuck them, don’t worry.
Kristen put the photo back on the shelf. —Great. I feel so much better.
She flops back on the love seat, putting her feet up on the arm rest and crossing her arms on her stomach and closing her eyes. —Wake me up when you guys are done.
—Shit! Shit! Nice pass!
—Close game so far dude. Danny, you want to play winner?
—No, I’m ok.
He goes back into the kitchen for more water, then down the hall to the bathroom. After washing his hands, he opens the medicine cabinet: lots of dark orange plastic bottles. Dental floss. Some pink razors. He closes it.
In the hallway he stops at the bottom of the stairs, listening.
—Dude! Hit A! Hit A!
—Dude, this fucking running back sucks ass. He’s fucking brokeback dude.
Slowly, Danny climbs up the stairs, going on the sides so they don’t creak. In the upstairs hall, passing another bathroom, on the left, two closed doors on the right, down to the open one at the end. The parents’ room: Large bed, bed tables with lamps on each side. Two dressers. A closet. The wind howling outside, rain drops on the glass. He closes the door and turns on one of the bed lamps. Checking the bed table drawers. On one side, some Cosmos and New Yorkers. The other, some Times and a Robert Ludlum novel.
He turns out the light and leaves, going to the first side door in the hall, stopping to listen.
—Ohhhh dude! I can’t believe you caught that! Fucking brokeback!
—Give me one of those beers.
He opens the door and enters, leaving it opened a crack to still hear what’s going on downstairs and turning on the light.
A single bed. Purple comforter. A dresser, closet. Full length mirror on the back of the door. He opens the top drawer of the dresser. Panties and bras. He took a pair of pink cotton panties and held them to his face, breathing in, rubbing them over his face, unzipping his jeans and, going to the bed, sitting down and pulling them down to his knees, laying back and wrapping the panties around, stopping to listen, then slipping his jeans and underwear off and the panties on and up until they’re snug, rubbing himself through the cotton. Standing up and going over to the mirror, lifting his t-shirt up and turning the look at himself from different angles. Taking off his t-shirt and going back to the dresser and taking out a white bra, slipping his arms through the straps, walking back to the mirror, trying to reach back and do the hooks, the material stretching.
The door opens and Kirsten leans in. Her eyes grow wide. —Oh…My god….
He crosss his arms and legs, pulling the bra off.
—Danny, what are you doing?
She comes in and shuts the door. —Danny—
He tries to hide the bra behind his back. —I was just….
—Somebody might see the light.
—Don’t tell anybody, ok?
She smiles. —I won’t tell anybody. I think you look cute.
—Are they…are they still playing football?
She keeps staring at him. —Yeah. It’s boring. I couldn’t sleep. So like…what’re you doing?
He shrugs, looking at the floor. —Nothing…just….
—You like wearing girls’ clothes?
He shrugs again. —I don’t know.
—Do you want me to help?
He looks up at her face quickly, then back down at the floor.
—You do the hooks first. Like this.
She stands behind him, looking over his shoulder at them in the mirror. She takes the bra and joins the hooks in the front, over his chest. —It’s kind of tight on you, isn’t it?
—I hate that.
She rotates the bra until the cups lie over his chest. —Now put your arms through the straps.
He does and she steps back, smiling. —There. You look cute. See?
They both look in the mirror.
—God, you’ve got a better body than I do. You like it? You’ve got a boner.
—It’s ok. It’s natural. Hold on.
She opens the closet door and looks in. —Hmm…Oh. Here.
She bends down, tossing out a pair of platform beach sandals. —Put those on.
He slips them on and she gives him a pink long sleeve t-shirt with a flowery knee-high skirt. —They’re probably too small for you. Maybe not.
He pulls the t-shirt over his head, smoothing it out. The skirt tight and stretchy. He steps into it and snugs it over his hips.
—Oh my god you look better than I do.
—No I don’t.
—I know what you need.
She checks one of the other dresser drawers and pulls out a tube of lipstick. —Pucker. Like you’re going to kiss somebody.
She applies the lipstick, smiling. —This is fun. There.
Turning him to the mirror again. —You’re cute. Do you like it?
—Too bad you need to shave. And your boner’s showing. Isn’t it fun dressing up? Do you like how girls’ underwear feels?
He hesitates. —Yeah. What are yours like?
She unzips her jeans and pulls the zipper section wide. —Mine are black, they’re not girly like yours. And they’re not a thong or anything. I don’t like having something up my butt all the time.
He stares, rubbing himself through the skirt. —Kristen, can I…touch myself?
She shrugs and looks away. —I don’t care. You can do whatever you want.
He lifts the skirt and pulls down his panties. She stands next to him and they look in the mirror.
—Are you going to cum?
His face red. —Yes. Will you pull down your jeans?
She pushes her jeans down to her knees. —I’ve got a big ass.
—You have an amazing ass.
—Thank you, that’s so sweet. I still think you look better. See?
She turns around and bends over slightly, looking back at her reflection.
—Oh god…
He comes, holding his breath and letting it out slowly.
—Oh wow. We better clean that up.
She pulls up her jeans and gets tissues out of the box on the dresser. She kneels to wipe up the carpet. —Here’s a couple tissues for you.
—Thank you.
—Sure. I think it’s so cool you’re gay. I won’t tell.
—But…I’m not.
She stares, half-smiling. —Danny, I said it’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with it. I better get back. If Jared and Scott saw you like this they’d…I don’t know. I’ll tell them you were sleeping or something, ok?
She opens the door. He whispers. —Kristen?
—I think you’re beautiful.
She smiles. —Thank you. That’s so nice. See you downstairs.
She closes the door behind her, leaving him staring at himself in the mirror. Thunder. Rain on the window. A small wet spot on the front of the panties. He takes off everything but the panties and puts them back, then slips on his jeans. His own underwear he throws away in the bathroom garbage after he washes off the lipstick.

The other three downstairs in the kitchen pouring more drinks. Jared looks at him and smiles. —Dude, you ok? Did you really pass out?
—Um, yeah….
—Did you puke?
Danny shakes his head, not looking at Kristen. —No.
—You’ll feel better if you do. Have another shot of tequila.
Danny takes the shot glass and downs it, coughing again.
Scott slaps him on the back. —Come on, don’t be a puss.
—I’m ok.
South Park’s about to come on.
He follows Scott into the living room and sits next to him on the couch. The tv on with commercials but he can still hear Kristen and Jared laughing in the kitchen.
—Jared! Stop!
—Jared! No!
—Come on.
Whispers in the hall. Up the stairs.
He leans back in the couch, eyes half shut, Scott laughing next to him.