||Setting the scene
Mark Manning has decided that his career needs new direction, so he will take over the reins as publisher of the Dumont Daily Register, located in the small Wisconsin town that he once visited as a boyhis family roots are there. Manning needs to hire a managing editor to work with him at the Dumont paper, and he wants his lover Neil to sit in on any interviews, which will be held at their loft in Chicago.
Excerpt from the text of Body Language
The process began that Saturday. I had phoned Parker Trent the day after reading his application, and he was eager to meet with me. Milwaukee is an easy two-hour drive from Chicago, and he offered to make the trip that weekend. So I suggested that we meet at the loft late on Saturday afternoonNeil would be there, as I wanted, and if the meeting went well, I could suggest that we all go to dinner together.
That day the city basked in perfect autumn weather. The lofts eastern wall of windows framed a spectacular lakescape under cumulus clouds like mountains of froth in some trompe loeil fantasy. Overhead, the rooms skylights admitted brilliant shafts of light that played against the interior surfaces, heightening the sculptural quality of Neils design of the space. Within these great oblique beams, motes of dust silently danced.
This place is a mess, Neil fretted while spritzing a table with Endust.
In fact, the place was immaculate, and I couldnt help laughing. Hes supposed to impress us, remember.
Neil glanced about. Well, we dont want him to think we live like pigs.
Dryly, I told Neil, I doubt that hell draw that conclusion. While setting my notepad on a table near the sofa, I checked my watchnearly fourParker Trent should arrive soon.
Stowing his cleaning paraphernalia in a cupboard, Neil asked, When you talked to him, what did he sound like? I mean, cute?
We both knew that his question was ridiculous, but I had to admit that I too had been wondering what Parker Trent would look like. He had enclosed no photo with his résumé, forcing me to ponder whether this signaled political correctness, true professionalismor a wizened old mug. I answered Neil, He sounded . . . nice enough. Youll have to judge for yourself whether hes cute. But remember, hes fifty-one.
This speculation was ended by the sound of the door buzzer. Glancing at my watch, I told Neil, Hes on the dotI like that. Then I buzzed him up.
Neil followed me to the door, where we waited the half-minute that it took Parker Trent to come up from the lobby. When he rapped on the door, I opened it.
Well, hello, he said, smiling, surprised to find two of us waiting for him. He looked from my face, to Neils, then back at me.
Hello, Parker, I told him, extending my hand. Though wed talked at length on the phone, I recited the ritual of introducing myself.
Its a pleasure, Mark, an honor, he told me, shaking hands; with his left hand he carried a portfolio, which undoubtedly contained samples of his work. Ive long wanted to meet you.
I turned. This is Neil Waite, my lover. As they shook hands, I explained, Neil is an architect, and all of thisI gestured toward the expansive interior of the loftis the product of his talents.
Parker gazed into the apartment, telling us, Its sensational. Congratulations to both of you. Your success and, I presume, happiness is a rousing model for the gay community.
Neil chuckled. Thats a bit thick, Parker, but thanks. Heycome on in. And he ushered Parker into the room, closing the door behind him.
I suggested that we move to the sofa and chairs that were grouped by the big window, and as Parker walked toward the center of the room, I had the chance to get a good look at him.
He stood about my height (not quite six feet), with a lean, trim body. His hair thinned a bit at the crown, but otherwise it was thick and wavy with handsome dashes of silver. A neat, short beard framed the features of his face, giving him an ageless airhe looked believably fifty and fit, or believably thirty, like an actor playing a role. His clothes made no particular fashion statementkhaki slacks, oxford shirt, a nice vestbut it was right for the weather, right for this casual meeting at home, and exactly right for the man who wore them. Most striking, though, his style of movement was youthful, loping, and self-assured, a body language that was uniquely his and unforgettable.
Equally unforgettable (and there is no genteel way to relate this), he strutted a simply fabulous ass. As he leaned in front of the sofa to place his portfolio on the coffee table, I was treated to a full, unobstructed view of his muscular, khaki-clad butt, a sight that actually made me gasp. Parker didnt hear mehe was saying something at that moment, God knows whatbut Neil picked up on my reaction, and in fact he shared it, mouthing an exaggerated, silent Wow!
My mind was in a momentary spin, caused not only by the unexpected, delightful display of Parker Trents posterior, but also by a memory that it triggered. Many years earlier, when I was a mere boy, at the very onset my sexual awakening, I had experienced a similar rush upon viewing a similar sight. In a boy of nine, these new feelings were confusing and a bit frightening, but most of all, thrilling. It had happened at Christmastime, during my first visit to Dumont. In the Chicago loft with Parker and Neil on that Saturday afternoon last fall, Dumont was very much in the back of my mindI was planning the career move that would take me there. Clearly, it was my subliminal preoccupation with Dumont that fired my powerful response to Parkers physique.
Parker said, Ive brought along some tear sheets of my better workeditorials, extended series, special features. Ultimately, the work itself will tell you more about my background than a résumé can. He unzipped the portfolio, flopped its cover open, and began sorting through a pile of full-page newspaper samples, handing them to Neil and me.
Sitting in a cluster around the coffee table, we began a quiet discourse of the various samples, Parker explaining the background of each project, Neil and I voicing our approval. While Neil was more interested in the design of the pages, I focused on their content and the solid research that backed each story. We both agreed that all of it was first-rate, and I grew steadily more convinced that Parker would make an outstanding managing editor for the Dumont Daily Register.
When Parker finished with one stack of pages and prepared to make room for another, Neil rose, offering to get us drinks. Parker asked for juice or tea, and I had no taste for alcohol yetit was still before fiveso Neil stepped away to the kitchen, promising to concoct some sort of herbal infusion that he felt would suit the autumn afternoon.
Parker and I thanked him, then Parker turned to ask me, May I bore you with some more of my samples?
Im not the least bit bored, I assured him. What else have you got?
The coffee table was by now covered with the sheets of newsprint. Lets see, he said, somewhere here Ive got a three-part series on a funding controversy at an upstate AIDS clinic. I didnt do the actual reporting, but I dreamed it up, assigned it, and provided the hard research. Im proud of it, Mark. I think youll agree that its good, solid journalism. Ahhere we are.
He made a clearing on the table and spread the funding series before me. As I leaned forward to study it, he gathered together the various pages I had already reviewed and glanced about for somewhere to put them, mentioning, Let me get these out of the way. Vacantly, I told him, Anywheres fine, already engrossed in my reading. With one knee on the floor, he picked the stack of clippings off the table and reached away to place them on the carpet, bending away from me, his rump aimed squarely in my direction.
That broke my train of thought. I found it difficult to continue readinghell, I couldnt even focus on the type. Instead, my eyes were again glued to Parker Trents beautiful khaki ass. The sight of him kneeling there, bending over, with those sharp creases running up the back of his thighs reminded me of my boyhood visit to Dumont.
My mind spun back thirty-three years. It was several days before Christmas when my adventure began. I was nine and alone . . . .