I looked up from my corporate provided iPhone to see my little sister walking up. She pushed the handle of her rolling carry-on suitcase in and plopped down in the seat next to me.
“Hi, Jen,” I said. “You heard from Mom and Dad?”
“Yeah, I just got off the phone with mom. They should be here any minute.”
It was Monday morning and Jen and I were meeting our parents at the airport. We were flying from Chicago to Atlanta, Atlanta to Savannah, then a drive to some tiny town in south Georgia. Our Grandmother, Dad’s mom, just died and we were spending seven days getting her affairs in order. Jen and I didn’t know her well. Dad moved away for college and never moved back. If you ask me, he wanted to distance himself from his southern roots. He was very concerned with his reputation and the way other people perceived him.
“So how have you been?” Jen asked.
“Eh,” I shrugged.
“You dating anyone?”
“No. I just… It’s so hard to meet people.”
“That’s because you don’t make an effort to fit in. You shut yourself off from everyone.”
“Yeah, thanks, but I don’t need to be psychoanalyzed.”
I’m 28 years old, 5’8″ and 150 pounds. I have blond hair, which is a little longer than my Dad likes. I have blue eyes and wear glasses and look every bit a nerd. Jen insists I’m cute and my ex-boyfriend always told me I was cute. Until he dumped me for someone younger and cuter, that is. It doesn’t help that I’m really shy around people I don’t know.
I work for a global corporation in the IT department, working on the company’s help desk. I fix the PCs and laptops and answer employee questions.
Jen is 3 years younger than me, about the same height, but slimmer. She has long dark blond hair, dyed lighter blond. She wears contact lenses to look less nerdy. She’s a resident at the county hospital.
Both of our parents are lawyers. They’re very conservative and to say that they’re not very understanding of my sexual orientation would be an understatement. My Dad never passed up the opportunity to tell me what a disappointment I was. I didn’t ‘live up to my potential’.
As much as I hated my job, I was good at it and I sure wasn’t about to give Dad the satisfaction of an ‘I told you so,’ so I pretended like it was the best job ever.
As our parents walked up to the gate with their carry-ons in tow, they were were both on their cell phones. They nodded and smiled at us and took a couple of seats across from us. That was the extent of their acknowledgment of us until we got on the plane and they had to turn their phones off.
I cut my eyes at Jen and rolled my eyes, which made her smile.
When we landed in Savannah, Georgia, we got our luggage then headed to the shuttle to the car rental. I slept the whole ride, not waking until we pulled into Grandma’s driveway.
After putting our luggage in our rooms, we freshened up and then Dad took us around the house, making note of anything he wanted to keep or take home.
We then headed to the funeral home. Jen and I stood back and let our parents take care of everything. Dad made all of the arrangements. The funeral would be held on Wednesday afternoon.
Our next stop was downtown. Grandma had an arts and crafts shop that she closed several months earlier when she got sick. We parked the SUV near the park in the middle of the city, and walked down to the storefront. It was the last shop in a chain of stores, next to a sporting goods store.
As Dad pulled out the keys, I stood with my hands in my pockets looking around. My eyes were drawn across the street, kiddy-corner to the shop, to a large farm supply store. In front of the store was a guy having a smoke. He was tall and built big. He was wearing blue jeans and cowboy boots and a black cowboy hat. He had a dark brown beard.
As I followed my parents and Jen into the shop, I made eye contact with the big cowboy and he nodded at me. I quickly turned my head and looked down at my feet.
The store was empty and dusty and I immediately had a sneezing fit. Dad walked around the store, but there wasn’t anything to see, not even fixtures. The large back room was empty as well, except for some empty shelving.
Dad locked up the store and we headed down to the restaurant a few stores down to have dinner. As we entered Lucille’s, one of the waitresses told us to seat ourselves.
I was looking over my menu when the big cowboy from the farm supply store walked in. He sat at the table next us and took off his hat and set it on the chair next to him. He had short brown hair and as he made eye contact with me, I could see his sparkling blue eyes. Up close, I could see he was the most handsome guy I had ever laid my eyes on.
He nodded at me and gave me a half smile.
I may be inexperienced, but my gaydar was good enough to know that the hunky cowboy was gay. The way he looked at me sent a shiver throughout my body. I felt an instant attraction with him that I never felt with anyone before. I blushed and gave him a bashful smile, then looked back down at my menu.
“Hey, Butch, I’ll be right with you,” the waitress said to him and then made her way to our table.
I looked over the top of my menu at him. At Butch.
“Hey, folks,” the waitress greeted us. “I’m Jody and I’ll be takin’ care of y’all today. What can I get y’all to drink?”
Jody took our drink order, then took Butch’s drink order. He ordered a sweet tea.
When she returned with our drinks, she took our dinner order. Jen and I ordered the pot roast special. I about choked when Dad ordered the fried chicken platter. Mom couldn’t decide. They didn’t have any pretentious snobby salads, so she didn’t know what to do. She reluctantly ended up with a grilled chicken breast and grilled vegetables.
She moved to Butch’s table and took his order. He ordered a ribeye steak and a baked potato.
He caught me looking at him again and I quickly turned away.
Dad looked at me and looked at Butch, then grumbled to me, “Why don’t you go ahead and put the rope around your neck? It’ll save the lynchers some time. But if you’re not looking to get gay bashed, then keep your eyes to yourself.”
My eyes filled with tears and I looked down at my lap. When the waitress brought our dinner, I kept my eyes on my plate. The food was pretty good, but there was a lot of it, and I only finished about half of it.
As we were finishing up, Butch stood and picked up his hat. He stepped up to our table, holding his hat over his chest.
“Excuse me,” he said and we all looked up at him. “I’m Butch Roberts. I own Roberts Farm Supply down the street. I wanted to express my sympathies. Penny Cooper was a great lady. She was like a mother to me. We all loved her.”
His voice was deep and he had a strong southern accent. It practically made me melt.
Dad stood and held out his hand and shook Butch’s hand. “I’m Philip Cooper. This is my wife Kathy, my daughter Jennifer and my son, Philip Junior.”
“It’s nice to meet you all,” he said. He nodded to us and made eye contact with me and held it for moment.
Oh, yeah. The cowboy was definitely gay.
“Well, y’all have a good night,” he said as he put his hat on and turned and left. He had a great bubble butt.
Jen was watching me with a raised eyebrow. I looked at her and blushed and finished my dinner.
After dinner, we headed back to the house. I pulled out my laptop and linked it to my phone to get on the Internet. I did a search for Roberts Farm Supply, but didn’t really turn up anything. I did find a Butch Roberts on Facebook, though, but I couldn’t see his profile since I wasn’t his friend.
After playing around on the Internet for a while, I considered looking up some porn, but decided not to risk it with my sister and parents moving around the house. I shut down and got ready for bed.
The next morning, Mom and Dad met the realtor to get the paperwork started to put the house and the store space up for sale. I decided to walk into town and look around.
“Why don’t you stop at the barber shop while you’re out?” Dad said as I left. I pretended not to hear him.
I got a few strange looks as the locals passed me.
I must have looked quite out of place in my khakis and Polo shirt. It figures. I didn’t fit in at home or at work, and I certainly didn’t fit in here. I had packed a couple pairs of jeans. I should’ve worn those.
I passed a shop that had clothing, so I went inside and looked around. I walked to the boots and was looking at the different styles. The shop owner walked up to me and looked at me with a skeptical eye. He asked if he could help me and I told him I wanted to buy some boots. He showed off a couple of pairs, and I picked a pair of brown ones. I also grabbed a white long sleeved shirt and a blue plaid shirt.
As I left the store, I looked at my phone and saw that it was lunch time. I headed down to Lucille’s restaurant and sat down at a table and looked over the menu.
“Excuse me? Philip, right?”
I looked up to see Butch standing in front of me.
“PJ,” I said.
“Yeah. I go by PJ… Philip Junior,” I explained.
“Ah. Can I join you, PJ?” he asked, with a smile.
I smiled back and said, “Sure.”
“I’m Butch,” he said as he sat down.
“Yeah. I remember.”
Like I could forget. Butch set his hat down on the seat next to him.
“So, how do you like our town?”
“It’s nice,” I said truthfully. “Very quiet.”