A Fine Cure From Fennel Seed
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by Lucien Parhelion
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: It's 1932 in Greenwich Village, Spencer the druggist thinks his artist friend Leo has a problem with his health that could be cured through the proper use of fennel. Leo thinks Spencer has a reserve about his inclinations that could be cured through some confidences shared with Leo. Given enough time and privacy, the friends might be able to talk through their confusion. Perhaps it's just as well that, between the relatives, the neighbors, the determined drunk, the burlesque dancer, and the five rogue puppies, there won't be much time for talking. Instead, Spencer and Leo will have to find a blunter, warmer way to determine exactly what can be cured with fennel.
eBook Publisher: Torquere Press/Spice it Up, 2009 www.torquerepress.com
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
3 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [54 KB]
Reading time: 29-41 min.
All Other formats: Printing DISABLED, Read-aloud DISABLED
As it turned out, Spencer Blaine's initiation into the confusing pleasures of homosexuality was mainly due to a misunderstanding. He was inclined to be philosophical about the blunder. Having moved down-country from Vermont to Manhattan just as a falling stock market crushed the Jazz Age, he'd dealt with confusion before. The Great Crash had taught him to steer through disorder by guess and by gosh, and working where he did had kept him in good practice ever since. Still, who would have thought such a tangle could sprout from fennel seeds?
Even in Greenwich Village, business slowed around four in the morning. The steady stream of customers entering and exiting R. C. Platt's Apothecary would dwindle to the occasional sleepless sufferer from toothache or foresighted drinker seeking a seltzer-powder before heading home. Outside, the darkness seemed to thicken. Inside, the glare from the electric bulbs wired into the old gas chandeliers didn't keep shadows from gathering. Those shadows were only an illusion, a symptom of late night fatigue, but Spencer still triple-checked any prescription he filled during the last hours before dawn. Chimerical or genuine, shadows needed no encouragement these days.
Bells jangled as the front door opened. Spencer looked up. A portly, balding man in a poorly-fitted dinner jacket lurched into the store, obviously intoxicated. Lord knows where anyone found the money to pay what Village speakeasies charged in this year of 1932, but somehow fellows did. The customer surveyed his surroundings blearily before stumbling toward Bernice up at the front counter. Good luck to her. She preferred to manage such characters by herself, but Spencer would wager she'd have her hands full with this one. He returned to cross-checking his prescription file against the ointments he'd blended.
As he was frowning over some especially illegible handwriting on a prescription form, he heard the bells ring again. At least the new arrival they heralded was a welcome one. Leo Manin, dressed in his customary baggy brown suit and clutching his usual sketch pad under his arm, waved at Spencer as he entered. Then he veered left between a case of shaving supplies and the old oak wall-shelving as he headed back toward the prescription counter. His path would keep him well away from the intoxicated customer seemingly trying to buy something from the unfortunate Bernice. A fellow got good at avoiding drunks after a few years spent in the Village.
Reaching his goal, Leo put down his pad on the countertop and flipped it open. "Busy, Spence? I need a favor." Then his attention shifted down to his drawings.
Seeing that Leo had started reviewing his work, Spencer didn't bother continuing the conversation. Instead he made sure that his last tube of ointment was labeled correctly while Leo brooded over a red chalk of a young lady singing and strumming a ukulele.
Finished, Spencer studied Leo even as Leo studied his sketch. The view was appealing. Anyone would have to judge Leo handsome, gifted as he was with a strong frame, glossy brown hair, and dark, speaking eyes. He was a man you'd think would be painted, not painting. But there were small splotches of color on his shirt cuffs and hands that attested to his occupation. He'd had them even back at the Academy in Vermont where, rejected by the other boys, he and Spencer had made common cause for a time in their youths.
Leo left Vermont to join relatives in Manhattan after only two years at the Academy. As a scholarship student, the grandson of Italian marble carvers from Rutland, he'd been given ample cause for flight. Spencer, set apart by nothing worse than a family that manufactured Doctor Blaine's Black Bitters for Bowels, had endured until graduation. In fact, he'd endured Vermont right up until his wife left him in '29. He might still be enduring if Leo hadn't mentioned this opportunity at Platt's in one of his letters.
Funny, though, for years, Spencer had believed that memory exaggerated how striking his old school friend had been. He'd only realized his recollections hadn't lied after the adult Leo had visited Vermont in search of autumn landscapes. To this very day, even when Leo seemed as weary as he did now, he struck Spencer as looking like nothing more than those classical statues in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
All this aesthetic contemplation was diverting Spencer from the business at hand. He turned his attention toward the front of the store, where the intoxicated customer had gotten around to loudly demanding coffee.
"Sir, we don't have a lunch counter here," Bernice said, her adenoidal voice carrying clearly to the back. "Not even a soda fountain."
"No soda fountain? Hey, you're a drugstore. What 'n' heck do you think you're selling here, drugs?" The customer peered around, his posture hinting at dark suspicions.
Leo looked up from his pad. "I thought you were talking about putting in a soda fountain."
"Talking's not doing. You need me to sit for another cover illustration?"
"Right now I'm working on a cover for Tropical Tales, not Sagas of the Old West or Amazing Sea Stories. A hibiscus blossom tucked behind the left ear wouldn't help your craggy features much."
"Should also be mentioned, my ears stick out too far."
"Must be tough in a stiff breeze. Still, they could be charming in the right--" Leo broke off and cleared his throat. "Look, I have a problem and need professional advice."
Up front, the customer was counting on his fingers as he spoke."--Chumley's has coffee. Mori's has coffee. The Turkish Coffee Room has coffee--" Spencer had to admire Bernice for not interrupting her customer's long list with a suggestion that the fellow hie himself off to one of these many establishments that did serve coffee. But Spencer had a customer of his own to assist.
He focused his attention on Leo. "Go on."
Leo examined the shelves stocked with drugs behind Spencer for a bit before saying, "Okay, this is a little embarrassing."
"Never heard that before."
"Tempo al tempo. You may get to discuss pile creams, enemas, and rubber goods all the time, but some of us are more sensitive. Artistic, even."
Spencer snorted. The problem wasn't insomnia, or Leo wouldn't be hemming and hawing. Not venereal trouble, either, or he wouldn't be making bad jokes. And he'd once hinted that he bought his condoms elsewhere. Since Spencer couldn't imagine Leo ending up with lice or crabs, that left skin or digestive issues as the next most embarrassing possibilities. "Should I guess?"
"No, I thought I'd--" The middle of Leo's sentence was drowned out by a plaintive bellow of "Coffee, coffee, coffee!" but at least Spencer caught"--wind."
Excessive flatulence: nothing rare, but crude enough to stifle easy conversation. At least the problem could be treated with a common remedy that was neither prescribed nor patent; Spencer had liked finding simple, cheap solutions for his customers even before the slump. "Easy, now. I know what you need."
"Sorry, I was being annoyed." Leo scowled toward the front of the store.