Friday, September 5, 2008

Truth or Dare by Leigh Ellwood

“Claire, damn it, pick up. I know you’re there,” Brady Garriston muttered into the receiver as the muffled ring tone hummed in his ear. Two rings, three rings, four rings, click. Now there was static on the other line, followed by a benign recording of Claire Walker’s voice telling Brady to leave a message and that she would get back to him as soon as possible.

Frustrated, he placed the receiver back against the wall. She was either screening her calls or she really had gone out like she said she was planning. Either way, he had to accept it—it was over. He sighed.

He let his eyes wander to the kitchen counter, where he noticed a small mountain of unopened mail about to slide into the sink. He laughed softly at the pending avalanche; his daughter Melissa, a student at NYU who lived with friends in the Village, had been instructed only to take with her the bills and any other important documents arriving at his apartment during his absence. This left him apparently with dozens of notices declaring that he may have just won a million dollars.

Sorry Mr. Clark, Mr. McMahon, he thought to himself, that I wasn’t here to collect, assuming you stopped by with a gigantic novelty check in my name. Better luck next time.

His ex-wife had called him foolish, allowing his daughter free rein over his checking account and access to his apartment while he dawdled around Europe and basked in the magnificence of cultures long dead, feeling sorry for himself. “Just don’t be surprised when you come back and discover you only have seventeen cents in the bank,” she warned. “It won’t take much for her to plow through the Garment District.”

“How can I be sure you wouldn’t try the same thing if I asked you to handle my expenses?” he had asked her slyly over the phone the night before boarding the plane. “I think I can trust my own flesh and blood with this.”

“Don’t be too sure,” a singsong reply caressed Brady’s ear. “She just might take revenge, considering you aren’t taking her to Europe with you.”

Brady sighed as the memories faded into white noise, and he plunged his hands into the junk mail pile, sifting half-heartedly through it. He looked at his watch. Nine-fifteen at night on a Friday—New York City was just waking up for the night, eager to revel in varying degrees of merriment and debauchery after eight hours of clock-watching. Messages retrieved on his cell phone revealed that he had no offers for projects and bookings waiting for him, either, and no prospects of any in the near future. His ex-wife was happily married to an orthodontist in Connecticut, his little girl was grown and preoccupied with her own life, Claire was moving on without him, and he was alone.

“Great,” he whispered involuntarily, dropping the mail back on the counter and retreating with the last of his travel bags to his bedroom. He tried not to feel bitter about it. Claire did deserve a real boyfriend, somebody strong and self-sufficient, and she had said she wanted as much. She wanted somebody dependable, and apparently a dependable man was not the type to jet across country on a whim.

But what was wrong with being spontaneous, being fun? Surely lawyers were permitted to cut loose every once in a while.

“I’m not an idiot,” he said aloud, staring balefully at the array of luggage he had tossed on his bed. Yes, he was famous, and had money, and liked to spend it and do wild things. He had earned the right to do just that. Why did Claire have to equate a fun-loving attitude with immaturity? Angrily he poked at a bag. Who had rammed that stick so far up her ass?

He sighed. Such a nice, heart-shaped ass it was, too. What he wouldn’t do for a nice piece of ass right about now. To think, too, he had behaved himself in Europe. He didn’t take advantage to get to know of any of the pretty girls floating past him on Paris streets, or lounging in Venetian gondolas, or leaning over a rail in Rome for a better view of stone ruins, supple breasts in full view and threatening to spill from a floral sundress.

Instead, had made good use of his right hand for much of the trip. It certainly would not have done his career any good to let his lust over his senses, leaving him to slut all over Europe. They had gossip tabloids, too, and his records sold well over there. No sense in endangering his career to satisfy his lust.

Brady rummaged through folded shirts and pants, forcing a chuckle. What career, he had to ask himself. He had not cut an album in almost two years, and while the royalties on his previous works were still brisk, he knew he could not live on them forever. The well would eventually run dry if he continued to spend and did not become productive again.

He froze. This was probably what Claire had meant by his being immature. Quickly, though, he shook his head and resumed. He was spontaneous, yes, but never careless with his money. He had hoped the trip would inspire him to write some new material. Instead, he arrived home with an armload of dirty laundry and empty notebooks.

Yet the trip was not a total loss. He smiled, thinking back to the pretty scenery of Europe, particularly that of the feminine persuasion. God, but was he horny right now. His cock stiffened slightly. Why couldn’t Claire have changed her mind about him when he got back?

He tossed his dirty clothes on the floor. No visitors were expected, no photo shoots for People or Rolling Stone were booked, so who was going to see how slovenly he lived? Who was going to care?

He felt tired, but not so fatigued as to want to sleep. There was so much to do now. He wanted to write again, record again.

He wanted more of a homecoming than an empty apartment, too. It would have been nice to have somebody welcomed him home by wrapping her legs around his waist as his cock firmly imbedded itself in her pussy.

There was that feeling again, however, that hardening in his pants that required a woman’s touch to appease. Now, though, it would have to be his own, just for the sake of ending it.

“God, help me.”

A fleeting thought of retirement flashed through his mind. He shook the notion away with the cobwebs, removing his stale shirt and unbuckling his belt as he padded into the bathroom. The Stones were nowhere close to retiring, and The Who were always coming out of retirement. Those guys were older than he was. Why should he consider hanging it up because of writer’s block? Could he afford to now?

I’ll get over it. I’ll be fine. He had endured many lows professionally and romantically, and survived.

I’d feel much finer after a blowjob, though. He sighed.

He caught his face in his bathroom mirror, and nearly panicked at the sight of the stranger before him. Whose face was this? Who owned these hollow, gray eyes—eyes a national celebrity magazine had once called haunting and, coupled with his silky bass, able to bring a woman to climax—sinking underneath worried brows? His dark brown hair, cropped closely to his head, showed threats of silver, especially around the temples and sideburns. Loose jowls and bags under his eyes were evident in the harsh light lining the mirror.

No wonder he was able to slip through La Guardia unrecognized—he looked terrible. Even in the city, where television and movie personalities could roam unfettered, Brady averaged about ten autograph requests a day while strolling along the streets. Here, he looked old, nothing like the suave Lothario who had graced his album covers over the past twenty-five years.

Momentarily he pressed his forefingers above his cheekbones and pushed the skin backward, smoothing away the wrinkles. It was hardly an improvement. Other performers, either friends or acquaintances, had succumbed to the knife in order to keep up with the legion of pre-packaged boy bands vying for their audiences. While not a vain man, the thought of a slight nip and tuck had crossed Brady’s mind on occasion, but the end decision was always the same. Improving his looks was secondary to improving his craft, which needed all the help it could get right now. At least his face did not look like it was going to melt.

I’ll embrace gravity, thank you, he silently told the mirror, and released his touch. Wasn’t fifty supposed to be the new thirty, anyway? Weren’t men supposed to get sexier as they got older, like Sean Connery and Harrison Ford? Had they succumbed to the knife? Regardless, he would remain untouched. To try to recapture youth in such a way would be…

Immature.

He removed his clothes. At least the rest of his body did not show the ravages of time as well. Consistent diet and exercise left his body well-toned and easy on any woman’s eye. His blessedly large non-musical instrument proved no need for artificial stimulants, if his current, growing state of arousal was any proof.

In the claustrophobic confines of his tiled shower stall, Brady let the stinging hot water wash away the grime and muscular discomfort of the long transatlantic flight home. Finding a sliver of bay-scented soap resting in its cove, he lathered his chest and arms, trying to ignore his growing erection.

Fat chance. It would not be ignored, and nobody was going to slip into the shower to help.

He closed his eyes and arched his face into the spray. His right hand, still palming the soap, slid down his abdomen to rake through the patch of damp pubic hair covering the base of his now erect cock. Brady cupped his swollen scrotum, caressing the growing ache, and worked his hand slowly up and down his shaft, squeezing his circumcised tip and tracing the bobbing veins. His left hand idly plucked at one nipple, already puckered from the water needles stabbing his chest, then the other. Oh, to have somebody—anybody, Claire, whoever—in here with him to do this. Just to feel a warm body clinging tightly to his.

Here, now, there was only the water to cover him as the buildup of his emotions burst, and he came, shooting his load into the tile with a stifled cry. His orgasm was quick but racked his entire body, and it dissolved quickly as he opened his eyes to see what was left of the soap spiraling with his come into the drain between his feet.

He looked at his hand, wrinkled from prolonged exposure in the shower. If it wrinkled any more, perhaps it would atrophy. He wouldn’t be able to play piano if he kept this up, he realized.

Mute, he quickly rinsed, then ceased the shower’s flow with one strong yank on the faucet. He toweled himself off, cinched tightly his terry cloth robe, and shaved. His appearance improved as a result, but not so his mood, the one-armed exercise in the shower notwithstanding.

As he applied a cold, stinging after-shave to his face the bedroom phone rang, jarring all melancholy thoughts to the back burner.

His heart leaped into his mouth. Claire? Had she changed her mind after all?

The robe’s belt loosened as he dashed out of the bathroom, causing the flaps to fly wide open and expose his skin to the cold. Goose flesh erupted on his legs and hips; unconsciously one hand fell to rub it all away.

He answered on the second peal, then tried to mask his disappointment as he greeted the caller.

“The Prodigal Son of a Bitch returns!” hailed the hearty voice on the other line. “You better have brought me back something nice.”

Brady smiled, happy to hear Cal Briscoe, his best friend and one of the best studio musicians in the city. He returned the greeting in the cheeriest voice he could muster. “I tried, but she wouldn’t get into the suitcase,” he joked. “I’m guessing a little bird named Melissa told you I was back?”

“Bingo. She said she figured you could stand to see some familiar faces again, you know, to get back in sync,” Cal said. “Now, granted, I probably ain’t as appealing as those French broads you probably met overseas, but I was just finishing up here—”

“Where’s here?” A pang seized his chest. He listened closely and heard laughter in the background on Cal’s end.

“Sound on Sound.” Cal mentioned one of the many recording studios in the city. “Chelsea’s calling it quits for the night. I’ve been here since six.”

Brady nodded. Of course Cal would be working, there was no reason for him to wait around for Brady to decide to record again. Chelsea, being a popular jazz vocalist, would certainly want the best bass player on the eastern seaboard, if not the whole country, to accompany her deep, honey-coated vocals.

“I thought I’d head out to Knickerbocker’s to get a bite,” Cal was saying. “Why don’t you meet me there? You could regale me with stories of near misses from driving on the wrong side of the road.”

“Chelsea’s busy then, huh?” Brady teased. It was common knowledge among those in the music industry that the jazz diva tended to engage in more than professional relationships with her musicians.

“Drummer beat me to her, no pun intended.”

“Okay, sure, Knick’s is fine,” he chuckled. “It’d be nice to have a cold, watered-down American beer again.” He tried not to sound too lacking of enthusiasm. It would be nice to see Cal again after such a long absence, but in truth he did not feel hungry. Actually, he was hungry, but not for one of Knickerbocker’s signature hamburgers.

His cock stirred again.

Stop it, he admonished himself. He was going mad. “I’ll see you down there in, say, half an hour?” he told Cal.

Cal affirmed and Brady hung up the phone. Yes, he decided. Maybe not something to eat, but a drink would be good, anyway. A drink might help him forget his problems, if only momentarily.

He looked down at himself, willing away another threatening erection.

Europe had not done the trick. He wondered if anything would.