"I was told to make my own travel arrangements and I would be reimbursed. I found a flight out of Denver just before six in the morning and a return at nine that evening and booked them. Since I was leaving so early, I booked a room near the airport and drove to Denver the night before.
"I had a cell phone message to check in at the Best Western at the San Francisco airport and someone would pick me up at ten. When I arrived I took time to freshen up, thought I looked better than just presentable, and was in the lobby at ten. A young man approached me and asked if I was Mr. Taylor and when I said I was, he said he was from Blankenship Ltd. He led me to a black Buick and we drove to the offices of Blankenship Ltd.
"When we arrived, I was met by a young woman who introduced herself as Mr. Blankenship senior's assistant. 'You will be interviewed by Messers Dimas and T'an before lunch. In fact, they will take you to lunch. After lunch you will meet with Mr. Blankenship junior and lastly with Mr. Blankenship senior. I'll show you to the office Mr. Dimas is using while he's here in San Francisco.'
"I learned later that Mr. Blankenship junior was, in fact, not a junior. His father absolutely forbade naming a child after him—Jean Paul Maria Louis Blankenship—or any part thereof. Mr. Blankenship junior was Darrell Kelly Blankenship—named after no one, I was told.
"Mr. Dimas was from the Brazilian facility and the interview was conducted in Portuguese. The man claimed to be Brazilian and spoke no English, but after a few sentences, I knew better. Senhor D'Cruz had taught me well and I realized right away that his Portuguese, as mine, had come after he knew Spanish. He definitely made slips into Spanish. I suspected he spoke English as well. As we finished the interview he said, in English, 'Damn, your Portuguese is better than mine.' He then asked, in Spanish, 'How's your Spanish?' In a rapid burst of Spanish, I informed him it was excellent. He laughed.
"The interview in Chinese was done by Mr. T'an, a native Chinese, and a couple times he corrected my Chinese. He did, however, say in English, at the end of the interview, 'Your Chinese is very good, Mr. Taylor. Certainly better than my English. No one will have trouble understanding you; it's just that you do speak some Chinese words with an American accent. I will be delighted to recommend you.'
"Mr. Dimas and Mr. T'an took me to lunch and when we were seated, suggested we speak English, 'otherwise one of us will be left out,' Mr. T'an laughed.
"After lunch I was shown to a rather elaborate outer office where I introduced myself to the receptionist. 'Oh, yes, Mr. Taylor. Mr. Blankenship is expecting you. She picked up her phone, pressed a button and said, 'Mr. Taylor is here.' She showed me into an even more elaborate office, decorated with Asian artifacts, some of which I suspect cost a bundle.
"Mr. Blankenship was, to put it bluntly, a hunk. He looked my age, had surfer-blond hair, a deep tan, a defined body and an extremely handsome face. Playgirl centerfold material, definitely. He practically leaped from behind the desk, extended his hand and said, 'Kelly Blankenship, Mr. Taylor. Call me Kelly.'
"'Then call me Josh,' I replied.
"'Have a seat.' He took a chair facing me rather than returning to his desk. 'Tell me about yourself. I've read your impressive resume, know about your academic achievements, so forget those. Tell me about Josh.'
"I told him I had grown up in Colorado and Utah. When I said Utah he immediately said, 'Then you're Mormon? Latter Day Saint?'
"'Raised that way, but left when I was seventeen.' He made no further comment.
"He asked what I did for fun and I told him about Prince. He asked about girlfriends and I told him I was single. We just talked for half an hour then he asked, 'What are you doing tonight?'
"'Flying back to Denver,' I responded.
"He picked up the phone and pressed a button. 'Elizabeth, reschedule Mr. Taylor's flight for tomorrow afternoon, some time after three.' He hung up the phone and said, 'That is ok isn't it?'
"'Actually, I have my last final exam tomorrow.' His face dropped, 'but I've turned in the paper so, yeah, it's ok.' Had I been smart, I would have learned a lesson right there, but I wasn't and didn't.
"'Let's just say you've sold me and call the interview over. How about we have dinner tonight, take in a movie. Better yet, you dance?' The guy was asking me for a date!
"'You're asking me for a date?' I asked. 'Do you ask all your interviewees for a date? You think I'm gay? You're positive I'm gay?' I asked in rapid fire.
"'Yes, no, yeah and almost absolutely positive.'
"'Nothing to do with a job with you?' I asked.
"'To tell you the truth, I looked at your resume, checked on your references, called a few other people I know and knew you were exactly what we need and are looking for. The interview was mostly just to see how all that was packaged, what kind of person you are. So far as I was concerned, you were hired last week. Of course I only get one vote, same as Mr. Dimas and Mr T'an, and the old man gets ten, but what about tonight?'
"'So long as we are very, very clear about something. I don't do one-night stands and hold myself to some pretty high standards for reasons we'll not get into.'
"'Sold!' he said. 'Now let's get you in to see the old man.'
"It was easy to see where Kelly got his looks. His father was a sixty- or so year-old version of the younger man. 'Come in, come in,' he said as his son and I entered his office.
"'Dad, Josh Taylor. You have three votes for him so far, see what you think of him. Josh, I'll pick you up when dad finishes with you and we'll have a look around town before the evening. Dad, Josh is staying over. Elizabeth booked a room at the Fairmont. See you later, Josh.'
"As soon as Kelly had closed the door, Mr. Blankenship said, 'Mr. Taylor…'
"'Josh, please, sir.'
"'Sure, Josh, before we get into the interview, I want to have a personal word with you. I assume you are gay and know Kelly is gay.' I nodded. 'He can be pretty wild at times, but for the most part he has been a good kid. I know he likes a good time and that sometimes his good times end up in bed. Mine did when I was his age if I got lucky. No difference except in the plumbing of our partners. Having said that, I want to make it very, very clear that Kelly told me shortly after he had read your resume and did some checking we should hire you. 'If he's hot, gay and single, it's a bonus, but we've got to hire him if he's ugly, straight and has a girlfriend.' While you were with Kelly, I read Mr. Dimas' and Mr. T'an's evaluation and they agree that you are the man for the job. Again, don't let Kelly pressure you into something thinking it will make a difference so far as your working for Blankenship Ltd is concerned. Are we clear on that?'
"'We are. I have already told him I do not do one-night stands and I have pretty high standards for myself. I think he is clear on that.'
"'He may be, but then the little head often tells the big head otherwise. Let me tell you a little bit about what you would be doing for Blankenship Ltd. First of all, as you know, we do not produce a consumer product. We produce microcomputer controls for a large number of things. The basic microcomputers are produced in Taiwan and Brazil. We write the programs and design the modules which change microcomputers into a control for a device. As you know, the best thought-through program can and usually does have bugs. You and Kelly will be involved in getting the information programers need to write programs for new devices and in working out the bugs when they are finally operational. You're both engineers and both have a pretty broad education in addition—which is important since many of the problems you will encounter are not engineering, but human problems.
"'When I asked Mr. T'an about Kelly's Chinese, his response was, "What Chinese?" His Portuguese is a bit better and improving. What I expect is that you will be doing most of the work with the Chinese and Kelly with the Brazilians. For the most part that will involve conference calls, and video conferencing. Essentially, you'll be here in San Francisco, but you will have to travel as well. How does that sound?'
"'Pretty exciting,' I said. 'I must confess, I expected to be chained to a desk, which I would hate, but to work with people and people problems and trying to solve them with technology sounds very good to me.'
"He then asked me about my background. I gave him a very brief sketch of it then he dropped a bombshell. 'Josh, I know you were excommunicated by the LDS church and the reason, which counts for nothing so far as I am concerned. But someone is still out to get you about that. I received this in the mail yesterday. He handed me a photograph and as soon as I saw it I had to struggle—and didn't think I'd make it—to keep from bawling. It was a photograph of Alex and me in the grove, kissing.
"'Mr. Blankenship, I had no idea this photo existed. I don't know who took it. I can guess about when but, beyond that, I know nothing about it. Alex was my first love and, to be honest, is still my love, but he has disappeared and I no longer have any hopes of ever seeing him again.'
"'Keep the photo if you like, and I'm sorry. Some people can be very evil and they are usually the so-called righteous ones. Anyway, if you are willing to sign on, welcome to Blankenship Ltd. I'd talk with you about salary and benefits and all that stuff but, frankly, I know nothing about it. So Ms. Chandler will go over all that with you. If anything is not satisfactory to you, we'll discuss it. Meanwhile, enjoy your evening, remember what I had to say about that and have a safe trip back to Boulder. We'll expect you here June nineteenth unless you want to start later. We'll see that you have a place to live during June to give you time to find your own place. Ah, here's Ms. Chandler. Ms. Chandler, Josh Taylor who, I hope, will be working with us. I leave him in your capable hands to explain his W2 and all that stuff.'
"I spent an hour with Ms. Chandler. The salary proposed was over half again as much as I had dared dream of, and the insurance covered everything at company expense. I would be provided a suite for the second half of June while I looked for a place to live, a retirement plan and many other benefits, including 30 days vacation a year which I could take as I pleased so long as I took no more than two weeks at a time.
"When I finished with all the paper signing, I went downstairs to the infirmary and pissed in a bottle and had just finished and was headed back upstairs when the elevator opened and Kelly stepped out. 'Great! I caught you. It occurred to me you came to town for interviews and expected to go back tonight. You can't go out dressed like that. I'd let you wear some of my clothes, but I'm afraid I have spent time in the gym bulking up while you've been riding, biking and just getting slender, defined and hard as a rock. Speaking of which...' he grinned. 'We need to go shopping.'
"You have to remember I grew up in a very frugal household. Designer labels were for kids with more money than sense or taste. I guess Kelly had taste, but he also had money. He picked out a 'knock'em dead' outfit for me and insisted on buying a thong to wear under the tight pants. 'I feel like I'm advertising,' I said, when I tried on the clothes.
"'You will be, baby, but it's look, don't touch—well, not too much—advertising.'
"He also insisted on buying me a nice pair of slacks and shirt to wear to dinner. 'Nice casual,' he called the outfit.
"He drove me to the hotel and said he'd pick me up for dinner at eight. 'We'll have drinks and dinner and come back here to change to go dancing around ten. I promise to have you in bed…
"'Whoa,' I said.
"'By yourself, by one.'
"It didn't work out quite that way. Dinner went as planned and we came back to change. As soon as we were changed, Kelly put a slow number in the CD player and pulled me into his arms for a slow dance. I'll admit, it felt good. As we danced, he asked, 'Care to stay in? We could rent a movie.'
"'I have to give that some thought,' I replied. We danced in silence for a few minutes and I said, 'Ok, we will stay in if we can reach an agreement on some things. I'll not go down on you or fuck you. You'll not fuck me and if you try to go down on me, I'm not responsible and can assure you you won't like what happens. If you can agree to that, we'll stay in.'
"'Sounds strange. I'll agree if you'll tell me why it's dangerous to try to go down on you.'
"I thought about that for a minute. 'This guy and I are going to be working together and traveling together. It might be good to lay out my baggage here at the beginning.'
"'Agreed. But not until we've danced some more.' Dancing with him, his arms around me, really felt great. I leaned my head on his shoulders and he said, 'Baby, you just don't know how hot you are. I'm glad we stayed in. I'll not have to share you with a room full of lusting men.'
"When the CD ended, we cuddled on the sofa and I told him about Alex and how I reacted when someone tried to go down on me. 'After a year's counseling, it should be a thing of the past, but I don't think so.'
"'I've never been in love or had anyone in love with me like that,' he said when I finished, sadness in his voice. 'You said no one-night stands and I can't count the ones I've had. The longest relationship I ever had was six months. It could have been great and forever except I couldn't keep my cock in my pants. Stan came home early one afternoon and found me in bed with our best friend, Hank. They have been together for two years now.'
"He ordered strawberries and champagne and we debated ordering a movie, but never got around to it. We ate the strawberries and drank the champagne, then we went to bed and brought each other off a couple of times, did a lot of snuggling and kissing and finally drifted off to sleep.
"It was well past ten when I woke up, my morning wood tenting the sheet. I raced to the bathroom and when I came back, was still pretty hard. 'I'm willing to risk it if you'll come here and let me get my mouth around that beautiful cock.'
"'No!' I said in a tone which left nothing open to doubt.
"He went to the bathroom and when he returned, I flopped him on his back, straddled him and leaned over and started kissing and sucking neck and ears. I started slowly rubbing my body against his, grinding our cocks between us. I had brought the body lotion from the bathroom and raised myself and lubed our cocks before again rubbing against him. I felt he was near the edge and backed off. I did that several times before he started blasting hot cum between us. I added my own as well.
"We finally got up, and got in the shower together where, believe it or not, we brought each other off again. When we had finally finished showering, shaving and dressing, Kelly ordered breakfast from room service. 'I know it's lunchtime, but surely someone in the kitchen knows how to prepare breakfast.' He covered the mouthpiece and asked, 'How do you want your eggs?'
"'Very good,' he said into the phone. 'Two orders. Two eggs over easy, four strips of bacon, extra crisp, sourdough toast, hash browns, coffee and strawberries and champagne. That's correct.'
"While we waited for breakfast, we sat on the sofa, facing each other. 'Josh, do you realize just how beautiful you are? You are not just handsome, you are beautiful. Life has not been kind to you, but I hope I can make some of that up to you. Baby, you are special, a little strange, but special. I will remember this night when I am an old man.'
"I could feel myself blushing and didn't know what to say. I didn't have to say anything as breakfast arrived just as he finished speaking.
"We ate breakfast and when we finished, realized we probably needed to head for the airport since my plane was scheduled to leave at three. I was more than a little shocked when, as I started toward the gate, Kelly pulled me to himself and kissed me, opened mouth, much tongue.
"Back in Boulder, Gertrude and Mavis were elated at the job offer. Senhor D'Cruz got a good laugh out of my spotting Mr. Dimas's Spanish background. It was Senhor D'Cruz who asked the question I had been avoiding so well I put it completely out of my mind. 'What are you going to do with Prince?'
"Jack Kennedy had called earlier about bringing a mare down in hopes of her dropping a black Mustang, but had decided the trip was too long. I gave him a call and asked if he'd like to put Prince out to stud until I could make some arrangements. He offered to buy Prince, but that was out of the question. He did agree to keeping Prince and splitting any stud fees with me. Instead, I had him send half of them them to Gertrude and put the rest in an account.
"I need a bathroom break, Mr. VanWinkle," Josh said. "Not much left anyway." He went to the restroom and when he got back, Mr. VanWinkle followed his example.
A few minutes later, they were settled again and Josh resumed his story.
"'I drove Prince to Jack Kennedy's and left my truck and trailer there knowing I'd have no need for the trailer and how impractical the truck would be in San Francisco. I had very few things to move and shipped them to the hotel where I would be staying until I found my own place. When I arrived, there were flowers in the room with a note from Kelly welcoming me to San Francisco and reminding me that I still owed him a dance date. I had just finished reading it when the phone rang. When I answered Kelly said, 'Welcome back, baby. Up to a night on the town?'
"'Afraid not. I'm bushed.'
"'Then get a good night's sleep and I'll see you at nine at the office.'
"We did go out Tuesday night and stayed in my place. Wednesday night we had dinner at his place and I stayed over. Thursday night we both had work to do for the office and didn't see each other. Friday night we finally did go dancing—wild—and stayed at my place. Saturday we looked at apartments, found nothing suitable and I stayed over at his place. Sunday we were invited to his mom and dad's for dinner. They were what I always imagined a couple should be, still in love after thirty-five years of marriage. Rich, but down to earth. Proud of their son, but well aware of his shortcomings. He stayed over at his parents', and I went home.
"The following week I had to fly to Boise, Idaho, to try to figure what was wrong with the program for a new control for an automatic cattle feeder. I flew out Monday, rented a car and drove seventy-five miles to the plant where the machine had been developed, prototype tested and the feeders for the field trials built. The first thing I learned was that the prototype had worked fine. I couldn't imagine what could have happened between the prototype and the field trial feeders until I asked exactly where the prototype had been tested and learned it had never left the lab and had never seen a cow! Tuesday I went from ranch to ranch where the field trials were going on, talking with the ranchers and watching the machines work or, more accurately, not work. Wednesday, I spent the day looking at the control's program and found a few bugs, all the result of city boys who knew nothing about cattle.
"I had to go back to the engineers and tell them how cattle eat and then do the same with the programmers. The modifications to the program were simple and completed by Thursday noon. The modification to the machines took longer. I finally insisted the engineers work on a single machine. 'You really need a new prototype,' I said, 'and that is not my or Blankenship's problem. I suspect we'll need to modify the control's program when you are done but, right now, you have an engineering problem to solve.' Having said that, I drove back to Boise and flew back to San Francisco Friday, exhausted.
"The Old Man—the name everyone used for Mr. Blankenship except in his presence—gave me a five-hundred-dollar bonus. 'Half of that is for reminding us that you need to know what you're dealing with. Bet most of the engineers think milk comes in boxes! You look ready to drop. Go home and get some rest,' he said, dismissing me.
"Kelly came by my office just as I was ready to leave. 'Was going to ask you out, but you look like shit.'
"'I am beat. Give me a call about noon tomorrow.'
"On the way to my hotel, I remembered what Winston had said, almost exactly what the Old Man had said, 'You got to know what you're dealing with.' When I reached the hotel, I called Winston and got his mother. She told me Winston was working in Salt Lake and wouldn't be home until later. 'He only comes home weekends,' she added. I found out the man who had owned the garage had not reported all his taxes and when he expected to retire and sell the garage to Winston, the Feds actually owned it. It was tied up in some bureaucratic nonsense, I suspect by a petty bureaucrat exercising—immorally if not illegally—his 'power'. As a result, Winston and Susan were still unmarried, since Winston wouldn't get married until he had a business to support a family.
"'Mrs. Mason, I just got a five-hundred-dollar bonus because I remembered something Winston taught me. I know he won't accept it from me, but I'm sending it to you. Open an account with it and from time to time I might have more to add to it. If the garage ever goes up for sale, use the money to help Winston get it.' Over the next year there were bonuses, some pretty sizable and, more often than not, they came because I remembered what Winston had said.
"A few days later, I was sitting at my desk pulling my hair out over a bureaucrat who was a perfect demonstration of a little power being a dangerous thing. The jerk was holding up a multi-million dollar project because a piece of paper had a misspelled word in the job description. I finally picked up the phone and called the Old Man. 'Why do you think we have a company lawyer?' he asked. 'Most of his work is taking care of petty bureaucrats. He loves kicking ass.'
"'Thanks.' I then remembered Winston's situation and suspected the same thing was going on—a petty bureaucrat getting his jollies from being a pain in the ass—and asked the Old man, 'Think he might take on a private job?' I then told him about Winston. I added, 'I suspect the fact that Winston stood by me when I was disfellowshipped and excommunicated may have something to do with it, since the bureaucrat is a Salt Lake Mormon.'
"'Oh, he'll really love that and it's on company time.'
"A month later, the garage went on the auction block, a bureaucrat was without a job and Wellsburg had a garage called Mason's and Taylor's Auto. Winston never told anyone it was named for me and not my granddad. I continued to put half the bonus money toward paying for the garage until it was free and clear a year later.
"Susan and Winston were married as soon as he signed the papers for the garage. When Mrs. Mason told me that, I said, 'About time!' She laughed and agreed.
"But back to my coming to San Francisco. The end of June was approaching and I still hadn't found a place as I hadn't had time to do much looking. One Saturday night after we had been to dinner and a show, we returned to Kelly's place and we were in bed having brought each other off for a second time. 'Josh, I can't say I love you. I like you a lot and enjoy being with you and I think the same is true with you.' I thought about that for a few minutes and agreed. 'Why don't you just move in here with me?'
"'I'll have to give that some thought.'
"'Answer soon? Promise?'
One of the things that keeps an author looking good is editors. Two from opposite sides of the world worked on Sentinel Mountain.
Jesse from coastal North Carolina (a visit with Jesse inspired the setting for The Saga of the Elizabethton Tarheels) got first crack at Sentinel Mountain and paid special attention to my haphazard use of commas.
Scott from Australia has been editing since second or third chapter of A Special Place. Any polish that Sentinel Mountain has owes much to Scott who managed to edit the manuscript in spite of loss of a job—which he loved, paid the bills and gave him time to work for free—floods and typhoons. The mistakes are mine.
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All persons and places are fictional and any similarity to persons or places living or dead is coincidental. Again, it's fiction, folks.