5 min

Butch like me

The small-town straight guy I guess I'd wanna be

There’s this guy named Dave who lives in my hometown, and if I were to ever imagine myself a straight guy living a salt-of-the-earth life in a small town, well, then I’d wanna be just like Dave Who Owns Fourth Avenue Esso. I met him 13 years ago, that summer before I went to electrical school. He hired me to mow his lawn. He picked me because he saw my Honda self-propelled four-stroke mower in the back of my pick-up when I stopped to get gas one day.

My father had just bought me the shiny red mower for my 21st birthday. “There you go,” Dad had said all in one breath, his cigarette dangling perfectly from one corner of his mouth so the smoke never got in his eye, “Happy Birthday. Now you’ll never be out of work again.”

My dad was right. Dave Who Owns Fourth Avenue Esso hired me the very next day to mow his lawn Every Friday after work, but only after he made sure the mower had a self-propelled clutch, which meant the thing mows the lawn for you; you just have to walk behind, cigarette a-dangle, and steer.

That was because Dave also, I found out the hard way the very next Friday, turned out to be the Guy Who Owns That House On The Hill On Twelfth Avenue. It was the kind of a hill that we used to wish as kids didn’t belong to Old And Scary Guy, or we would have tobogganed down it after school. But that guy died and Dave bought his house, and now I had to mow the Hill On Twelfth.

Lucky for me, I had my new-fangled mower that my Pa got me. Until I realized, after one pass of Dave’s newly seeded, staked and taped off lawn, that every time I engaged the clutch of my self-propelled lawnmower, the wheels spun and dug dark brown trenches into Dave’s perfect new grass.

So I mowed Dave’s lawn all that summer, pushing a mower heavier than a regular one; what with all that extra machinery I couldn’t use, the thing was a fucking monster. But I was too proud, and Dave was too butch for me to tell him anything other than, “yeah, this thing works like a charm. Easy-peezy.”

“Nice machine,” Dave would say, one hand tracing the clutch handle of my mower, and the other hand opening a beer all by itself. The one-handed beer can opening is a good move to cop off the guys in the neighbourhood. Ladies really dig that move, though most are loathe to admit it.

So, by the end of the summer I had calves that you could crack an egg on, and I had grown to really like my buddy Dave. Hate the lawn, but love the man. Dave, of course, paid me in cash.

Back then, Dave had a shock of dark brown hair and blue blue eyes. He used to wear faded Levis, a tight white T-shirt that wrapped itself around the muscles in his chest, and work boots. That was his after-work outfit. If he was down at the garage, then he put on his blue-and-white striped mechanic’s shirt with his name on it, too. He was like James Dean back then, but with brown hair and a pregnant wife. And a day job.

It wasn’t until years later, when I had really blossomed into my fetish for gay male porn from the ’70s, that I truly realized how hot my buddy Dave really was.

I introduced him to my second cousin, Trish, last week when I was home for a visit. She is from Toronto, and travels the world for her work. She has rubbed elbows and shot Ouzo with beautiful Greek fisherboys with long eyelashes that could make you write home for more traveller’s cheques. She has drunk merlot in a café with a French poet and been paddled down a canal in Venice, and even she swooned at the sight of Dave. Even now be-Levied and buff, with his hair shot full of silver, smiling above his striped shirt with his name sewed on it. Pumping gas in the Land of the Midnight Sun, with a clean rag in his back pocket.

His nails are trimmed square and wide, and his forearms are wrapped in veins like ropes, from spending time at the business end of a wrench, as my father would say. My mother would call him a healthy specimen.

Dave gave me one of those hugs a guy gives a girl he has been “just friends” with for years. The kind of hug I would kill anyone for giving me but Dave, the kind where he wraps his arms around your whole body, squeezes, and then picks you up like a linebacker picks up a cheerleader and whirls you around in a circle in front of God and Country and your Favourite Cousin right there at The Fourth Avenue Esso.

Dave placed me back down on the heat-exhausted asphalt. I felt, rather against my will, a bit giddy. A little bit girly, even. You gotta know my buddy Dave. You gotta know that he has nine (count ’em, nine) completely restored classic trucks, from mustang orange to candy-apple red to midnight blue, a Ford, a Chevy, a coupla Dodges, maybe a Studebaker, and he just picks whichever truck he feels like on whatever day, and they are all tax write-offs because he’s a mechanic.

You got to know that even my big old Cheshire cat-grinning buddy Brenda, the biggest dyke North of the 60th Parallel, has got the total hots for Dave Who Owns Fourth Avenue Esso. It’s mostly his salt-and-pepper hair and his truck collection, she’ll admit, whereas I mostly like him for his great personality. And his biceps.

Dave leans across the counter inside while I’m paying for my gas. He has the perfect amount of chest hair, I can’t help but notice. I trade him for my new CD and three packs of Players Light Regular. Dave doesn’t smoke, never has; well, maybe a cigar with the boys up the lake when he’s fishing, but he’s read all of my books.

“How’re the kids?” I ask him, because he has three now.

“You’d really like my daughter. She’s the middle one,” Dave says, with a little daddy-like smile. “She really likes beating the shit out of her brother.” He pauses for effect. “And then sometimes she picks on the little guy too.” He smiles again. “She’s like you probably were.”

I wonder for a second if Dave really thought I was the kind of kid who beat up her brothers. I wasn’t, actually, but that was probably because I didn’t have any. I just beat up all my cousins. I had to. I was the oldest.

“She’s a real tomboy,” Dave smiles again, from a far-off place, as though fondly recalling his daughter’s fishing escapades and karate accomplishments. Dave would for sure be able to tell a real tomboy from one of those faux tomboys you’re always hearing about.

“She is amazing,” he shakes his head slowly, “she is so … great. You tomboys get so much done in a day.”

Dave winks at me over the shoulder of the Texan who just came in to pay for gassing up his motor home. “You take care of yourself, you hear? Drop by the house sometime.”

I nod, making a mental note for when I get rich one day, to remind myself in 10 years or so, that I need to get that middle kid of Dave’s a brand new lawnmower for her birthday.