Dignity Takes a Holiday
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by Rick R. Reed
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Romance
Description: Pete Thickwhistle doesn't live what one might call a charmed life. At age forty-seven, he's a flamboyant gay man who believes no one knows he's gay, still living at home with his harpy of a mother. Worse, he's still a virgin, longing to find just the right man to make his life complete. Pete's an upbeat kind of guy, yet he's never learned that the answer to his motto "What could possibly go wrong?" is always: "Everything." Pete's road to love and happiness is full of potholes, yet he never tires of searching, despite job losses, weight battles, clothing faux pas, and disastrous vacations, parties, and dating debacles. Pete is the ultimate underdog living a television situation comedy, one named Dignity Takes a Holiday.
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: April 2011
5 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [273 KB]
Reading time: 165-232 min.
The Beginning of the End
October rain beat down on Pete Thickwhistle's Duster. "Damn it," he hissed, beating his hand on the steering wheel and inadvertently blowing the horn. "How am I gonna get across the street to get my hair did?" The Lord and Lady Beauty Salon beckoned.
Pete's mother, Helen, sitting across the red vinyl seat, rolled her eyes heavenward. "You'll just have to wait, Pete. There's nothing you or I or anyone else can do about the weather. If you had brought an umbrella like I told you--"
Pete cut her off. "The goddamn weatherman said clear and sunny."
"All the more reason to bring an umbrella."
"You're impossible, Mother."
Helen regarded her forty-seven-year-old son across the vinyl seat and snorted. Pete had worn his hair in the same blond flat-top for the past fifteen years. Each day, he applied so much product that mousse was a staple on their weekly shopping list. Neither this rain nor a monsoon would muss Pete's 'do.
Helen gasped when she felt a sharp slap on her arm.
"Damn it, Mother, what am I gonna do? In just a few hours, I'll be bound for Chicago." Pete's face was a mask of desperation. He had just been promoted to advertising assistant for Pure Foods, the large food products company for which he had worked for the past twenty years. It was not only his first business trip in all that time but his first promotion as well.
Helen sighed. "Seems to me you have two choices: either skip the hair appointment or slide that fat ass over and run across the street."
"Well, Pete, I thought you were looking for answers to your problem."
"Skipping the appointment is out of the question." Pete drew himself up with a self-important breath. "I am the advertising liaison for Pure Foods now, Mum."
"Yeah, chief gopher is more like it."
"Well, we'll just see about that when this little gopher returns home, triumphant, from the Windy City."
"Just get over there and get your hair fixed."
* * * *
"You're not bringing that, are you? My God, they'll laugh you out of town." Helen snickered and pointed at Pete's open suitcase.
Pete gnawed on a hangnail, staring down at the chalk stripe suit he had just purchased from the International Male catalog. "What's wrong with it, Mother?"
"Other than it looking like one of those zoot suits they used to wear back when I was a little girl... nothing, I guess."
Pete made a "tsk" sound and shook his head. "You have no fashion sense. If you did, you'd know this is retro, it's very in. This is how all the guys in Chicago dress."
"And what about this?" Helen snatched up a black sweater with a gold glitter owl emblazoned across the front. "Retro?"
"Oh, would you just shut up and let me get packed? I have a lot to do, and I don't need you in here questioning my fashion choices. I'm nervous enough as it is!" Pete put a trembling hand to his forehead.
Helen hurried from the room. Pete wondered why he couldn't have a mother like other men, someone they called their "best friend" rather than their "worst nightmare."
But this mystery would have to wait for further pondering. Pittsburgh International Airport was more than an hour away, and Pete would have to "get his ass jumpin'" (as Helen would have so delicately put it) if he wanted to make his flight.
Pete allowed himself to sit down on his bed, closing his eyes and imagining the upcoming trip for a moment. Chicago... Pete pictured towering skyscrapers rising up against a vast expanse of blue waters and thought that his destiny could be made on this trip.
After all, he wondered, as he had so often in the past, what could possibly go wrong?
* * * *
Smile and Say "Cheese!"
Pete stared out of his window, having trouble placing himself here, at one of Chicago's most luxurious hotels: the Chicago Hilton and Towers, located on the city's most fabulous boulevard, Michigan Avenue. Pete, used to the Motel 6s he and Mother usually occupied, could hardly believe his good fortune.
Traffic bustled on the street below. Grant Park and, beyond it, Lake Michigan, afforded Pete a view to remember.
For today's assignment, a photo shoot, Pete dressed in pleated white linen slacks held up with a gorgeous black patent leather belt. He had paired the slacks with a loose-fitting top of cream satin, which he had topped with a drop-dead gorgeous paisley ascot in teal, lemon yellow, and copper. Pete wore black penny loafers buffed to a high gloss and adorned with shiny new dimes. He accessorized his ensemble with a black patent messenger bag that looked just like the ones Gucci made. No one had to know Pete had gotten his from a street vendor in Pittsburgh. But the bag brought everything together, Pete thought with delight as he turned in front of the bathroom mirror. "I just needed to jazz this up a tad. It was so boring before."
* * * *
"So, we'll be spending most of the day at the studio, setting up photography for the ad. I think you'll enjoy it. I won't need a lot from you, just your input."
Pete's new boss, Niles O'Brien, was a creative director for Pure Foods's in-house advertising agency. He was the quintessential gentleman. Dark hair, a simple grey suit, and a deep, golden tan put Pete in mind of George Hamilton. He had already checked Niles's left hand for a wedding band and was delighted to find none. And he had never noticed the man leering at some of the young girls in the secretarial pool like some of them did.
Oh, these next few days were fraught--simply fraught--with possibilities!
"It sounds exciting." Pete sighed. "Advertising."
"Well, it's not as glamorous as all that. There's a lot of waiting around."
"I'm glad I'm going to be your assistant, Niles."
"I am too, Pete. I think you'll do just fine."
* * * *
After Pete met the photographer, Gilda Markowitz, and her three cats, Woody, Diane, and Mia, he decided this was going to be a lot of fun. The studio was in a large loft in Chicago's Printer's Row area; rock music blared throughout. The cats were a delight. This wasn't going to be like working at all. Imagine... he was getting paid for this. He should be paying them for the privilege, instead of the other way around.
Gilda, a big woman with a halo of frizzy black hair and large, round, tortoiseshell-framed glasses, offered Pete a cup of coffee. At first, Pete refused, but when Niles and Gilda were both about to have a cup, he relented. "Oh, maybe I'll just have a teensy cup. Would you mind?"
"Are you regular, Pete?" Gilda asked over her shoulder, heading for the Mr. Coffee. The woman had hips like saddlebags.
Pete smiled. "That's kind of personal, isn't it? But I have been having a little bout with diarrhea lately. I'm sure it's just nerves." Pete tittered.
Gilda stopped, looking undecided as to what to say. She cocked her head after casting a quick glance at Niles. "No. I mean: do you want regular or decaf?"
Pete felt a rush of heat rise to his cheeks. "I knew that! Gimme regular, I guess. Maybe with a sprinkle of Cremora, if you've got it."
* * * *
Niles was right. The shoot was getting kind of dull. My God, you'd think a plate of cold cuts wouldn't require so many different angles, so much planning, so many Polaroids, so many different trial lighting effects.
Pete looked around for the cats. While Gilda and Niles were occupied, he hissed at the one called Woody until the cat arched his back and hissed back. Pete grinned and slammed his penny-loafered foot down in front of the cat. He snickered as the cat dashed away. Diane, a white Persian, began rubbing against his leg. "You old whore," Pete whispered and found it hard to contain his laughter. The cat beat a hasty retreat, casting suspicious looks over her shoulder.
There was then a little excitement in the studio. Gilda had set up the food to be photographed on a small platform about a foot off the floor. The platform had been laid out to look like a buffet table, complete with linens, china, and flatware.
Mia, the little calico Pete had not yet had the chance to torture, had managed to worm her way under the platform being photographed for the cold cut ad. Pete stood up straighter, his mouth agape, as Gilda's angry voice penetrated his delicate ears.
"That damn cat! I'm sorry, Niles."
Pete walked over to the set to see what was going on. Gilda was on her knees, pulling Mia out from under the platform. She gave the cat a gentle tap on her behind and shouted in a loud, deep voice, "Take a hike!"
Pete stuffed a fist in his mouth to conceal his giggles as the cat dashed away. At the doorway, Mia paused to turn and look at her mistress.
"No!" Gilda shouted, and the cat dove under a desk.
* * * *
Later, Diane, the harlotish Persian, crawled into a box in a corner of the studio. God only knew what that cat could get into in that box! Pete walked briskly, loafers clicking on the oak plank floor. Stooping, he yanked the cat out by its tail. Diane let out a screech.
Gilda and Niles stopped working, even talking.
Pete creased his features with fury and loaded his voice with manly rage as he slapped the cat, hard, on the side of the head. "Take a hike!" The cat staggered away.
Pete pointed and laughed at the cat, waddling as if drunk. He expected Niles to join in and Gilda to thank him.
Instead, Gilda rushed to the cat, picked it up, and cradled it in her arms. "Poor baby."
Pete stopped laughing. Niles stared at him, the disbelief unconcealed on his handsome face.
"I thought I'd do you a favor." Pete felt familiar heat rising to his cheeks. "That cat had gotten into that box." Pete pointed. "That one. Right there." Sweat was popping up on his forehead. He knew what was coming.
"That's where she sleeps." Gilda hugged the cat close. "Why did you hit her so hard? I think you might have hurt her."
Pete bit his lip. "Oh, don't worry. I have a cat too. They have nine lives!" Pete threw back his head and laughed, hoping the others would join him.
"Why don't you give us your opinion of how this shot is set up, Pete?"
God bless Niles, Pete thought. He's trying to smooth things over. Maybe later, I'll let him ask me out on a date. Maybe later, I'll let him touch me inappropriately. Maybe later, I'll kiss the head of his big dick. Muah! Pete shivered, losing himself in fantasy. Maybe even later, I'll let him dip a finger--or maybe more--inside my own tight little man cave just to see what a snug and homey fit it is.
"Pete?" Niles snapped his fingers, jarring Pete out of his reverie.
Niles pointed to a stepladder near which the camera was mounted on a protracted tripod. "Just climb up there and take a look through the viewfinder. Tell us what you think."
Pete still felt shaky from the episode with the cat, but he wanted to make a good impression, so he climbed the stairs. As he ascended, he grinned down at Gilda and Niles. At the top, he stared at the camera and wondered, "Which part is the viewfinder?"
"Just look through the little window, hon." Gilda sounded very tired.
Pete leaned way over. As he did, he lost his balance, and because his loafers had no traction whatsoever, he soon found himself toppling over. Before he knew what happened, he crashed down on the carefully set-up scene, Gilda's camera equipment beneath him.
What could he do but laugh? He stood, dripping with mustard, ketchup, and mayonnaise, a piece of honey-baked ham adhering to the left side of his chest. Pete roared. Glasses were broken, china was shattered, and on top of it all, luckily looking unmarred except for a shattered lens, was Gilda's expensive camera equipment. What could a guy do but laugh?
Unfortunately, Niles and Gilda failed to see the humor.
Pete stopped. He felt foolish, covered with food, the mess of their day's hard work behind him. "Geez, I'm not always such a klutz. I'm awful sorry."
Niles rolled his eyes and blew out a big sigh. He studied the ceiling for a long time. "Pete, why don't you go get yourself cleaned up?"
As he started away, Niles called, "Pete, we're going to need the rest of the props we brought. Where did you put the box?"
Pete stopped. His heart began to pound. His hands turned cold and damp. His stomach, full of cold cuts and cheeses, started to churn.
"Uh," he stammered, trying to think of a logical reason for why he had eaten all the props. "Um, I--"
"C'mon, Pete. We've wasted a lot of time. What did you do? Put them in the fridge?" Niles started to cross the floor, heading toward the stainless Kenmore.
Might as well face the music....
"I ate them."
"What?" Now it was Niles turn to blanch.
"I, uh, didn't see why you'd need any more, since you had so much for that one picture. I was getting hungry and they looked so tasty...."
"Jesus Christ." Gilda lit a cigarette, blew out the smoke, and regarded Pete with undisguised disbelief.
Niles took a deep breath, slowly counting to ten. "Well then, Pete, once you get cleaned up, please take my car"--he flung the keys at him--"and go to the store and get another order. Talk to Sean in the deli and tell him you're with Gilda Markowitz. He'll know what to give you."
* * * *
The day had been a disaster. Now, as he and Niles headed back to the hotel, Pete wondered what he had done to deserve such a day. What with the broken lens and the food he had to replace, he actually lost money.
"Well, I guess this is goodnight." Niles's voice jarred him out of his reverie.
"Yes," he said. "It's been a real pleasure. I think you and I are going to make quite the team, mister."
"Listen, Niles, maybe you and I could get together for a drink tonight, dinner?"
"I don't think so, Pete."
"Why?" Pete patted his hair coquettishly. "Not the right type?"
"Not the right sex," Niles said, deadpan.
* * * *
Pete rode the elevator up to his room on the eighteenth floor. This is only the beginning, he reasoned with himself. After the sham I made of things today, things have nowhere to go but up.
The elevator doors opened. Pete walked slowly, depression closing in. He fumbled in his messenger bag for the card key and sped up his search as he heard the telephone chirping in his room. Perhaps Niles had reconsidered about dinner; Pete knew his manly wiles: they were not above converting a straight man or two, if only for a night.
"Hello?" Pete breathed into the phone in what he hoped was a seductive voice.
"Sir, this is the front desk. We discovered a pair of car keys in the lobby down here, and they belong to Niles O'Brien. He didn't answer when we tried his room, and we know you're traveling with him, so we were wondering...."
"I'll be right down." At least he could do something to try and atone for the day he had given Niles.
* * * *
Later, Pete, humiliation still burning like a flame in his gut, eyed the keys to Niles's Lexus. He would only be in Chicago for another day, and with the one he'd just had, he decided he needed--needed desperately--to forget his troubles.
Chicago was full of nightlife. Full of promise. Full of men. Full of alcoholic beverages. And a few drinks would offer just the sort of oblivion he needed.
Niles wouldn't miss his keys. He could give them to him in the morning.
Again, he asked himself, What could possibly go wrong?