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Teetering on the edge of romance, self-love and friendship.


by Joe Reister © 2016

“It’s too much, right?”

Nineteen gift-wrapped boxes and bags covered the entire kitchen table.

“Puck, I said…”

“I heard you,” Puck said, his voice coming from behind a half closed bedroom door.  “And yes, Milo, it’s too much.  Of course, it’s too much.  It’s like six months of supplies, including toddler diapers and training pants, and the baby’s not even yo... ”

“It’ll all get used,” Milo said and tied the last bow.  “And the clerk told me that cloth diapers are great for picking up messes.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“Probably,” Milo said and turned to the knock on the front door.

“I’m not home,” Puck said and walked into the bathroom with some clothes.

“I wish,” Milo said, looking back as the shower started.  “You know it wouldn’t hurt to get out of the house.  And I bet whoever’s here would agree with me.”

“Not about the presents.”

“I’m not talking about the presents,” Milo said and opened the front door.  “And try listening, okay.” 

“Okay,” a woman said.  “But try not talking to yourself.”

“Grace,” Milo said and smiled, swinging the door wide open.  “Who let you into the building?”

“Sharon, I think,” Grace said and walked into the apartment.  “Busty brunette, kind of quiet, but you’d notice her.”

“Shannon.  She lives on the top floor and has a thing for me.”

“Whatever.  She thought I lived here.” 

“I can see why,” Milo said and pulled a beer out of the refrigerator.  “I thought you had a party or something tonight.”

“Something,” Grace said, opening her coat to show off a little black dress.  “We’re hosting an event tonight.”

“Very nice,” Milo said, looking.  “You know a three bedroom opened up on the first floor.  We could all save money on rent.”

“Then I wouldn’t get any exercise.”

“I don’t think you need it,” Milo said, glancing at the dress again.

“You know there’s a reason we weren’t housemates in college.”

“I thought that was because Ann didn’t like me?” Milo said, rummaging in a drawer for a bottle opener. 

“That didn’t help,” Grace said and looked at Milo.  “Three years later and you still look like you’re late for class.”

“I’m at home,” Milo said and peeked at his cargo shorts and flip-flops in the mirror.  “It’s where people get to relax.”

“You plan on changing into anything other than sneakers before you go out?” Grace said, taking the open bottle.

“I was planning on a button down,” Milo said, staring at the bottle.

“And a baseball cap, right?  The Montreal one?”

“Funny,” Milo said and forced a grin.  “You know, I don’t work in fund raising or politics and I’m not trying to impress anyone, okay?  I write code and it’s the weekend.”

“Good thing.”

“Plus, you look good enough for both of us.”

“Right,” Grace said and took a sip of beer.  “It’s amazing what a couple hundred dollars can do.”

“It is,” Milo said, frowning at Grace and the beer.  “I hope you find a smile before you get to the party.”

Grace shrugged and took another sip.

“What are you having your period?” Milo said, reaching for the bottle.

“Why?” Grace said and looked right at him.  “You want details?”

“No.  I just…”

“Shut up,” Grace said and pulled the bottle away from Milo.  “I’m not and it’s none of your business anyway.”

“How long have we known each other?”

“Do I ask you when you poop?”

“I’d tell you.”

“I don’t want to know.”

“So bathroom stuff stays in the bathroom.”

“Like it always has.”

“Thanks for reminding me.”

“I did the same thing last month.”

“Right.  So, you’re short tempered and cranky because you’re going to a $1,000 a plate event with your boyfriend of six months.  And he’s a dick?”

“Three months, and Michael looks good in a tux.”

“That doesn’t make him less of a dick, and they’re tailored that way, you know?”

“I’ve heard.”

“Looking good in a tux isn’t a good enough reason to sleep with someone either.”

“I wouldn’t talk,” Grace said, nodding to the gifts.

“That’s not the same thing?”

“It’s kind of worse.”

“There are other men in Washington.”

“Not a lot of normal, good looking, straight ones.”

“This is a gay neighborhood.”

“I don’t hang out in just DuPont.”

“Tell that to Shannon,” Milo said and reached for the beer again.

“Sure,” Grace said and pushed him back, taking another sip.  “Because I haven’t invited you to my place a thousand times.”

“It’s a studio, and the bathroom is so close to the kitchen that you can hear what anyone’s doing in there.”

“I thought that didn’t bug you.”

“It doesn’t,” Milo said and turned to the bathroom.  The shower shut off.  “And since last week there’s one more normal, good looking, straight guy out there.”

“Right,” Grace said and looked at the bathroom door.  “That’s a little too much of worlds colliding.”

“The best things are worth the risk.”

“Thanks for the cliché.”

“There’s a reason it’s a cliché.”

“Thanks for that too,” Grace said.  “How is Puck anyway?”

“You mean since Jennifer broke up with him two weeks ago?”

“What else would I mean?

“Considering he said it was mutual, not so hot,” Milo said and nodded to Puck’s bedroom.  “He’s spent a lot of time alone this week.”


“Masturbating I think.”

Grace shut her eyes.  “Thanks.”

“I can hear you,” Puck said from the bathroom.

“I don’t care,” Milo said.  “You need to get out of the apartment.”

“That’s why I showered and have pants on.”

Milo shook his head and turned back to Grace.

“Masturbating sounds normal.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Milo said, but grinned.  “It’s interesting to hear you say that, though.”

“Shut up.”

“Save some of that for your date,” Milo said and took back the beer. 

“I think a little quality time with yourself is expected after losing someone who wants to see you naked.”

“I don’t think Jennifer was that willing.”

“She was willing enough,” Puck said, coming out of the bathroom and smiling at Grace.  “Hey.”

“That’s how you dress after college,” Grace said, smiling at Puck’s khakis and tight, blue t-shirt.

“She wasn’t that nice either,” Milo said.

“Not to you.”

“Cute,” Milo said, ignoring Grace and looking at Puck.

“She wasn’t mean, though,” Puck said and took the beer from Milo.  “Thanks.”

Milo frowned at the bottle.  “So, sex is reason enough to date someone now?”

“It doesn’t hurt,” Puck said and offered the bottle to Grace.  “And Jen and I made it work for a while.”

“Maybe,” Grace said, taking another sip.  “But she wouldn’t let you be you, and that started on day one, Puck.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Puck said and combed his hair with a frown.  “I should’ve seen that on day one.”

“So, I guess the sex was good enough,” Milo said.

“Yeah, and I thought things would get better,” Puck said, turning away from the mirror.

“Even as they got worse?” Grace said.

“Yeah,” Puck said.  “Not my best move.”

“We noticed,” Grace said, and Milo nodded.

“What can I say?” Puck said, looking away from her.

“That you need to stop playing with yourself and get back out there,” Milo said with a smile.

“Because you’re not playing with yourself?” Grace said.

“Every day in every way,” Milo said with a big smile.

“Ugh.  I really don’t want to know.”

“I mean, why wouldn’t you, right?” Milo said, pointing down.  “It’s so much fun and it’s all right there.”

Grace closed her eyes.

“He’s loud about it too,” Puck said.

“I think I’m having a flashback to college.”

“Sing it loud and sing it proud,” Milo said and spun around, doing a little dance.  “It’s the hobby that never gets old, doesn’t inconvenience others…”

“It inconveniences me every day,” Puck said.

“And if everybody did it as much as me the world would be a much better place,” Milo said, still dancing.  “Everybody would be so occupied that we’d have the peace, love, understanding that the baby boomers promised in their youth and the world would keep calm and carry on.”

Grace shook her head, but smiled.

“People would have less time to get distracted with all the little, stupid things in life,” Milo said.  “You’d be so happy with all your time alone that you wouldn’t have time have to poke your nose into other people’s business.”

“Literally,” Puck said.

“That might be true,” Grace said.

“You bet it is,” Milo said and nodded to Grace.  “Universal masturbation is a win-win and I’m surprised we don’t teach it in the school.”

“I think most students figure it out,” Grace said.

“No more fights, disagreements or arguments,” Milo said and looked right at Puck.  “Although we might all get lost in our rooms.”

“It’d be worth it?” Puck said.

“It’d work wonders in Washington,” Grace said.

“Probably do wonders for your boyfriend too,” Milo said, and Puck nodded.

“It already does.”

“Ugh,” Milo said and his face froze.  “I did not need to know that.”

“You said we were close.”

“Not that close,” Puck said.

“Yeah,” Milo said and shuddered.  “That’s more than I need to know.”

“I’m glad to see you have limits.”

“They are hard to find,” Puck said.

“That is true,” Milo said.  “But I still think more masturbation is a good idea.”

“I don’t think anyone was disagreeing,” Puck said.

“Not even you, Grace?” Milo said, and Puck gave her a look too.

“This is like the fourth time I’ve told you to shut up?”

“Third, but I have found a simple solution to so many of life’s problems.”

“Well, you’ve certainly got the mental masturbation thing going.”

“You’re part of this conversation too,” Milo said.

“Yes, but…”

“And you smiled,” Puck said.

“Yes,” Grace said and stared at them for a moment.  She sighed.  “Thanks for that.”

“You’re welcome,” Puck said. 

“So, now you’re off you’re off to a party with Mr. Wonderful,” Milo said with a look.

“Yes.  Michael.”

“Michael?” Puck said.

“DC’s not a great city for women,” Grace said.

“So, you’ve told us many times,” Milo said and pointed to Puck.  “Luckily, it’s a great city for men.”

Grace shook her head.

“Then how come I can’t find them?” Puck said.

“Try spending less time in your room,” Milo said.  “And you need to stop hanging out with John Paul at the gay chorus and wherever else you go on Friday nights.”

“He is my brother, and he pays for it.”

“And that’s fixing your masturbation problem how?” Milo said.

“You said it was a problem solver,” Puck said.

“And a great hobby,” Grace said, giving Puck a nudge.

“Not if you’re trying to find someone to have sex with or get a better boyfriend,”

“Who says I need a better boyfriend?” Grace said.

“Everyone,” Milo said.  “And I remember you saying the same thing about Puck and Jennifer three weeks ago.”

“That is true,” Grace said and turned to Puck.  “Sorry, but that’s what everyone says about their friends’ boyfriends or girlfriends when they can do better.”

“And you certainly can,” Milo said.

“Michael and I work well together.”

“Really?” Puck said.

“Michael treats you like a dog, Grace, when you’ve got the brains, body and face to get any man you want,” Milo said.

“Shut up.” 

“You can do better, Grace.”

She turned to Puck. 

“The question, Grace, is do you want to end up with Michael,” Milo said.  “Otherwise, you’re just wasting your time when you could be looking for the right man.”

“I don’t know if you’re the one who should be handing out relationship advice there,” Grace said and pointed to the tableful of gifts.

“Probably not,” Milo said and nodded to Puck.  “But at least I’m not spending all day in my room getting bobo chubby.”

“I took a nap and it wasn’t all day,” Puck said.

“Sure,” Milo said, his eyes still on Grace.

“You’d probably benefit the most from spending some time alone, Milo,” Grace said.

“That’s what my therapist says,” Milo said, glancing at the gifts.  “But that doesn’t make me wrong about Michael.”

“Right,” Grace said and looked at Milo and then Puck.  “I’m so glad you’ve saved the world through masturbation and now can solve all of my problems too.”

“It’s what we do,” Milo said with a smile.

“Uh huh,” Grace said and handed Milo the nearly empty beer bottle.  “I’ve got an event to go to, fellas.”

“I thought we were going to get a beer before your party.”

“That’s what we just did.”

“What?” Puck said.  “I took a shower.”

“It’s been fun as usual,” Grace said and punched Milo hard in the arm. 


“But only because Puck came out of his room,” Grace said and kissed him on the cheek.  She looked at both of them again.  “Brunch tomorrow, okay?  Ann will be there, despite your shortcomings, so be nice, Milo.”

“Great,” he said and Puck nodded as the both watched the door close behind her.

The two looked at each other.

“Well, that’s progress,” Milo said and turned to Puck.

“For who?”

“The two of you,” Milo said, kicking off his flip-flops and grabbing his sneakers.

“How do you figure?”

“It’ll come to you,” Milo said and headed for the door.  “Let’s get that beer.” 

“Okay,” Puck said and noticed all of the gifts spread over the table.  “Can you explain to me why you’re getting all these baby presents again?  You’re not even the father.”

“Probably not.”

“You’re probably not the father?”

“No.  I probably can’t explain it,” Milo said and headed out the door.

Puck shook his head and followed.


Of course the adventures of Puck, Milo and Grace continue as romance blooms in all forms.

Check out The Straight Dope, a novella of gay sex, straight sex, torrid romance and true love.



All material copyrighted by Joe. Please contact him at joe@joestories.com if you have any comments, queries or questions.
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