On his 40th birthday, Kurt posed in front of the mirror, flexed his hard biceps, and caressed his firm pectorals. The military fatigues and army-issue T-shirt tight on his torso heightened his masculine allure to which many women and men were attracted. He liked the overall look, especially after he put on his infantry combat boots. Eyeing his strength, ogling his crotch, and hungering for what they could not touch, at least for a while, they’d soon enough submit to his wishes if he encouraged and manipulated their obvious lust. Having phoned Terry at his college office this morning, he was expecting him any moment. And all morning, he had also been waiting for a call from the armoury, which did not come.

His bedroom was a mess, but he’d order Terry to clean it. He remembered meeting the teacher at a party. At first, Kurt thought the guy was coming on to him. His questions about deployment and how soldiers conducted themselves under restraint and how it felt to be out of uniform, while keeping a polite distance and his manner straightforward, however, made Kurt change his opinion. He was middle-aged, soft-spoken, and unremarkable. After three shots of Jack Daniels, chased by a beer, he had relaxed and let Terry hang out with him most of the evening. He flexed in the mirror again.

Brought to the frigging academic party by a cousin, also a teacher, he had loitered around the edges, calculated his chances of screwing one of the cunts, and tried hard, fuck almighty, not to spit in an academic’s face. Terry’s voice, maybe, its easy friendliness and respect, eased the tension, and the guy’s blatant admiration appealed to Kurt. At the end of the evening, almost drunk and still standing, he accepted Terry’s offer to drive him home.

“I’d like to see you again before you leave on your next tour of duty.”

“Shit, man, not much time for that. I leave in three days.”

What did he have to lose? Behind the wheel, Terry slumped in disappointment, so he gave the teacher his number. Terry promised to call and buy him a beer before he left. Two days later, he did phone, bought beer, came over, and they talked. Kurt recognized something in Terry he had been looking for without realizing it.

“When I’m overseas, email me as much as you want. Feel free.”

Kurt had responded less frequently, but each time encouraged Terry to reveal his private thoughts, and they became intimate in cyberspace. Terry spilled his frustrations and passions, which amused Kurt. Having completed that tour of duty early because of a recurring medical problem, and now in the Reserves, he returned home and continued where Terry’s last email left off, as if there had never been a geographical separation. His skank of a wife had taken a lover, probably more than one.

He left before he gave in to temptation and smacked Maggie senseless. Besides, it was better for his two daughters not to be around that fracas and fucking. He’d never been much of a dad, but he’d rip the heart out of any one who touched them. He moved into a three-room apartment and found part-time work in an electrical parts factory. And now there was Terry to keep him company.

“Tell me about getting up at the crack of dawn with the other soldiers in a barracks. What’s the first thing you did?”

“I pissed. You want to see?”

Terry listened to his stories about military life, even the parts of guts looping out of a soldier’s belly and kids with their faces burned off, with an intensity that made him lean close to Kurt as if to catch every word that fell out of his mouth. Kurt examined the eager face with an acute awareness of what coiled and tensed in his civilian friend’s mind.

“How do you feel about following orders all the time? I mean do you like it? Are sergeants really the bullies they’re made out to be in the movies?”

“You want to be bullied, do you?”

“Sometimes it must be a relief having to do things in a certain way and you get to feeling proud of doing them well.”

“Yeah, well, some guys need to be told what to do and obey easier than others. Here’s a command for you, bitch: get me another beer.”

Terry joked with his “yes, sir,” but Kurt knew the teacher’s craving like a military reconnaissance map. He could march into previously guarded territory, overcome, and assume control.

“You make me feel alive, that’s all, and show me what I’ve maybe always wanted to do and didn’t or was afraid.”

Furnished with an old brown leather couch, coffee table with a crack glass cover, a 36-inch TV on which they watched military and history documentaries, or German porn videos on his old VCR, the stained walls of the living room seemed to close in on him. He just had to fight or fuck hard, to feel his body jerk from the recoil of his rifle. If he wasn’t deployed soon…man…fuck it. He lit a cigarette before stepping out to the balcony overlooking the highway. On the other side, railyards and boxcars were stacked like Lego pieces. Terry’s car pulled into the visitor’s parking lot. Kurt sucked in the smoke to the depths of his lungs.

Since his return from Afghanistan and the rekindling of their friendship, he had fallen into the habit of leaving rough messages on the teacher’s private line at the college, ordering him to get the fuck over here pronto with beer and cigarettes. When Terry breathlessly phoned back to confirm and ask if he should buy something else like bread or grapes, of all things, Kurt liked that.

Terry spat over the railing. His only civilian friend and the world seemed less lonely. Terry didn’t cluck disapproval or turn him into some kind of fucking movie hero. The teacher spent less and less time with his ordinary friends, as if Kurt had cleared the field of competition. And Terry wanted more stories of guns and cock, boots and bitches, fighting and fucking, all told in the language of the barracks. Dragging in the smoke, Kurt obliged, laying it on thick, because he sensed Terry’s resistance collapsing. That soft and quiet middle-aged teacher drove from the college for afternoon visits to satisfy his craving for, yeah, no other way to put it, for everything that he, Kurt, had done in and out of the army, and what he, Kurt, could do now. He just spoke the facts in rough and raw language, which aroused and kept Terry’s attention. Blood rose to his cheeks when Kurt described a body torn apart or a bitch fucked hard. He waved to Terry, who shouted something, but Kurt couldn’t hear it above the highway traffic noise.

“I live in a polite and narrow world,” the teacher had confessed on his last visit.

“You live in books; that’s your problem. You like getting your kicks through me, don’t you?”

“It’s more than that; it’s like, well, I’m living a second life, a real one.”

“Right, if that’s what you want to call it, bitch. Did I write you about the time me and a couple guys from my unit banged two whores in Berlin? Hot cunts could burn your dick right off. We went AWOL that night. No one knew shit about it.”

Terry didn’t protest over calling him bitch. Repeating it during the course of his obscene story, he could see his friend tense and fidget from excitement. Without arguing, Terry obeyed orders to go three floors down to the basement laundry room, take the soldier’s clothes out of the dryer, arrange them the way Kurt preferred, socks matching and folded over once, not rolled into a ball, and carry them back upstairs in a red plastic hamper.

“What should I do with your clothes?”

“Put them away in the bedroom. You know where everything goes. Later, you can clean it for me.”

Sitting close to him on the couch, he mesmerized his friend with a story about transporting rebel prisoners by helicopter from their point of capture in a savannah to their incarceration in a god-forsaken, African hellhole of a town. Then another elaborated story about the time he and Carlisle, his army buddy, bought two hamburgers for this German punk with rings and pins on his face, and the kid sucked their dicks in an abandoned warehouse littered with used condoms and beer bottles, the walls flaking with swastikas and indecipherable German words; or the story when he and a few of the guys brawled in a Greek brothel over the price of Aegean pussy until the police barged in hooting their whistles. He managed to escape and avoid being dragged before his commanding officer for disorderly conduct. Hell, also the kinky fuckfests he now organized with a couple of army buddies, which made Terry breathless to hear, and he promised to include the academic if he was a good boy. Yeah, Terry caught up in a fuckfest, say, with soldiers and cunts. How far Terry would go, what he would do? Kurt already knew the answers.

The teacher would never betray him. In the army, he trusted his comrades and watched their backs. Flicking the cigarette over the railing, he motioned to Terry who was carrying a bag to hurry up. Kurt went inside and waited for the buzzer to open the downstairs door. The bag contained cigarettes, Pepsi which he drank by the gallon, a six-pack of beer, and a loaf of bread. Terry had asked him what he wanted for his birthday—40 was special—and he had replied, what do you want to give me? Anything you want, he’d give anything, albeit qualified with the phrase “within reason,” like a fucking professor afraid of his own shadow. Reason, shit. He’d take what he wanted without reason, and Terry would have no choice but to give it. Kurt clasped his hands and flexed his muscles hard to steady his nerves and prevent himself from smashing a fist against the glass tabletop. His nerves screeched. He needed to calm down.

Terry belonged to him. That was indisputable, whether the teacher knew it yet or not, knew it in his guts the way Kurt did. Today, he’d secure the connection and commitment before he left the country for another tour of duty, which he was expecting any week now. Any week; shit, he was confident of receiving orders any day. Still time to secure Terry. He’d either drink himself to death here or shoot his own head off or, worse, blast a civilian, with the rifle he kept in the closet. Opening and shutting his hands as if exercising his fingers, he sat and stretched out his legs to rest them on the table. He lit another cigarette and when his friend entered the apartment, Kurt said nothing and blew smoke rings.

“I’ll put the pop in the fridge.” He threw a carton at the soldier, not a single package, but an expensive carton of cigarettes.


Terry sure as hell knew how to please him.

Kurt fondled the pewter lion’s head buckle on his black leather belt, not usually the kind soldiers wore with their fatigues. Inhaling deeply, he wondered about the periodic urge to fight with or beat Terry, knowing well the teacher would cry uncle just as he was getting started. He hadn’t punched a man since that bar fight downtown a month ago, and narrowly escaped being jailed. Terry had driven to the police court and posted bail.

If he did lock Terry in a stranglehold, the teacher’s arm twisted behind his back, kept him breathless on his hands and knees, he’d get him to obey any command. Kurt’s adrenalin surged and tension tightened his muscles. The teacher knew so fucking much that Kurt, who was expelled at 16, wanted to pound the knowledge out of him or suck it into himself somehow, to be a part of what Terry knew, absorb the teacher’s mind. The ideas became muddled. What the fuck was he thinking?

“Hey, good to be here, I’m worn out.”

Terry slumped down on to the couch, letting his hand cover Kurt’s. With the free hand, Kurt tugged at his belt buckle. He kept opening and clenching his free hand, blood pumping his veins the way it always did before a fight.

He examined Terry: an ordinary guy, short hair, dressed in jeans and Oxford shirt, deck shoes, a college teacher’s uniform, maybe passable when younger, not really good looking, a head stuffed with so much knowledge about things Kurt had never even heard of. He still resented being kicked out of school. The lion’s head dug into his flesh, so he unbuckled and whipped it out of the loops. Something he had to smash through, some kind of barrier in Terry he had to dismantle, so he could cross into the man’s secret thoughts, capture, stake his claim on secret terrain, and remove all challenges to his control.

He swiftly swung his legs over and pinned Terry to the couch.

“What the…?”

With an open hand, Kurt walloped Terry across the face hard enough to sting his own palm. Tears spurt out of the teacher’s eyes and red spread like spilled ink over his cheek. Straddling Terry’s thighs, Kurt slapped the other cheek before the teacher could speak, instinctively responding to the second hit and trying to buck off the soldier off. Kurt yanked Terry’s arms hard above his head and bound the wrists together with the belt. His lip cut, Terry growled like some kind of demented animal, his chest heaving, words dribbling out in a mumble, his eyes large and wet from shock.

Securing Terry’s body with his legs, tightening the belt around the wrists and pressing into the captured body, Kurt could have slit the man’s Adam apple, or pummelled the face into a bloody and fractured mess, or even raped his throat like that punk in Germany with silver studs on his tongue. His thigh muscles tightened and he heard his own breathing. He gripped Terry harder. He wanted to overwhelm and capture the teacher so he’d never escape

Terry struggled, but his body relented. Numbed by the slaps, his bound wrists still held above his head, he said nothing. With his other hand, Kurt gripped Terry’s chin.

“You motherfucker, you belong to me, bitch. I own you. Say it. Now!”

His face was so close to Terry’s that his spit showered the broken capillaries in the teacher’s cheeks. His dog tags had flipped out of his T-shirt and now dangled over Terry’s lips. The mouth opened and one of the identity tags touched Terry’s tongue. Fuck, he could force a gun barrel or cock down that throat.

“Christ, stop it, please, stop it, you hit me, you fucking crazy?”

“Say it! Say it! I’ll beat the shit out of you if you don’t say it.”

Then Kurt raised a hand, raised to slap or caress, but passed it over Terry’s brow, fingers tracing the shape of the cheekbones and chin and touching a drop of blood. He didn’t know if he wanted to caress or strike again. Confused by two urges, he kept repeating the threat.

“No, please, okay, what the…please…not again…I’ll say…okay, I own…you own me. I’m…Jesus….I’m a bitch …your bitch. Is that what you want? I’m your bitch, I’m your bitch. I’m your fucking bitch. You satisfied? Get the fuck off me!”

Kurt tightened his hold. He didn’t want to let go. Yes, he’d die for this man, no question about it, and didn’t regret the assault: a temporary military manoeuvre, a limited offense, to secure the desired results.

“Please…please don’t hit me again.”

“We’ll see about that, just don’t ask for it.”

He relaxed by a phony laugh, as if this were all mere roughhousing. Soldiers engaged in comical and fierce grapples all the time, punched each other, drew blood in brawls, and remained committed. Although he kept his friend restrained, he relented a bit, loosened the belt, allowed the teacher to bend his elbows. Caressing Terry’s cheek, he locked the man’s soft thighs between his strong legs. He searched Terry’s eyes for any kind of hatred and rage, and found only confusion, a panicky but weak resistance, as well as acceptance and forgiveness and a kind of love.

“Listen, we’ll talk about it later, but it’s okay between us, right?”

He examined Terry’s face and in his body language. Pain, sure, wounded feelings, but also relief, as if Kurt had somehow unlocked an invisible prison cell. Yes, his own body relaxing into deep satisfaction, he could tell that he had broken through and secured the secret precincts like a successful military initiative.

“I don’t know…I don’t know why you did that. You’re a nutcase, but, yeah, okay, shit, god it stings like blue murder, okay, okay…hell. Just don’t kill me.”

The last phrase came out with a whine and chuckle. Terry wasn’t struggling to be let go. Assured and feeling as if he had unburdened himself, Kurt released his friend and resumed his position on the couch. For a moment, he didn’t quite know what to say, for the atmosphere had changed, he felt it in his bones.

“You’re okay, bitch; now we’ll celebrate. Find something to watch, then get us another beer.”

Terry remained silent while Kurt groped for a cigarette with his one free hand.

“Let me light it for you.”

Kurt reluctantly let go, but wrapped his fingers over Terry’s hand as the teacher lit the cigarette with the black steel lighter he had bought for the soldier just last month. Terry kept his eyes down, as if concentrating on the bluish flame. Kurt inhaled, the smoke scalding his throat, then blew it out over his friend’s hand and settled back in the couch.  Everything was clear now.