The fifties were different for us queers. There weren't no Pride parades or DVDs or internet. Back then, if you wanted man-on-man stuff, you had to know where to look for it. Back then, a young man who caught your eye had to be mighty careful about letting things go further. All kinds of risks in those days, on the racetrack and off ...
I’m an old man now, one of the hard-core race crowd that hangs around at Tampa Bay Downs most mornings. It’s a small track, runs mostly claiming and low-level stakes races. It’s cheerful-looking, got green and white stripes on the awnings, has that bright green Florida grass on the turf track. Seagulls and ibis and flamingos wing through the pond that’s in the infield. For a New York guy like me, seeing that still gives me a little start sometimes. Weird, ya know? The horses and them fancy, colored birds together in one place.
Most mornings I’m here with Jerry Sputmeir and Steve the Sleeve. Steve did some time back in the day, and well, we just like using the names from the old days. Makes it kinda homey. None of us were made guys but we worked the game. Jerry was into the numbers up in Brooklyn, and Steve did some loan sharking in addition to his regular burglary gigs. Me? I’m not spillin’. Suffice to say that the horses and me, we go way back.
Anyway, this one morning, I’m on the rail. It’s mid-January, cold for Florida, about forty, and misty. The horses come onto the track at the west end, skittering around like hockey pucks, cantering sideways, all antsy. These days, exercise riders wear vests and helmets. Some wear gloves to grip the reins. A spooked thoroughbred can take off and hit forty miles an hour, so if one starts to run away with you, you’d better have gloves to help you haul his ass in.
Exercise riders still ride butt up though, just like the old days. Nice.
This gray jogs by, tossing his head, kicking up dirt, being feisty, ya know? And when I see the kid on him, it arrows right through me.
The strawberry blonde of his hair. The cool green eyes. The muscular chest.
It wasn’t just that this kid looked like Liam, it was the way he sat the horse. Some exercise riders use brute strength -- that’s where they get those fabulous arms -- but some use finesse and sweet talk with their charges. That’s what this kid was doing. I saw him leaning over the gray’s withers, stroking the horse’s neck, even its chest. That took some doing with the way this horse antsed around.
What it took was great legs.
I closed my eyes and remembered Liam’s legs. Their strength tight around me, so tight I couldn’t move or breathe or think. And didn’t want to.
Liam’s legs ...