Z OLD – Chapter XX

Tybalt woke in the pre-dawn twilight and snuggled in against the chill. He ran a sleepy caressing touch down his spoonee’s stomach, then…

Ah, yes. Every morning it was still a little shock, that tinkler.

The lad had nursed him through wild fever, and meanwhile – as two men alone but for each other in the desert – they’d naturally grown close.

The mechanics hadn’t been foreign; horsing around with Collier and some other fellas – just fun, not a gay thing! – had set some precedent.

But the Paternity Possibility still niggled. True, they didn’t look alike. And Regatta – well, she had turned out to be a famously busy gal.


Additionally, Tyb was not in a position for complaint as long as the attentive shaman kept up his rigorous regimen of Medicinal Extractions.

(Tybalt – once nicknamed Dickie By-The-Book for his conventionalism – had surprised himself with his devotion to this Alternative Practice.)

According to his Nightingale, the procedure – applied orally – had been used by the ancients to draw out toxicity and stimulate well-being.

Tybalt had to admit it had sucked the sick right out of him.


After each treatment, the stranger’s habit had been to rub him in cooling oils before going out to scour the cliff-side for traces of Mewsy.

Though he hadn’t known his own name, once left alone the delirious husband would moan out hers until his bedmate returned to do the pumping.

He’d convalesced, but Mewsy was gone. Now, palming his pally’s sleepy sausage-bag, he thought back to what the kid had said just last night.

“Any trace there might have been has been erased by sand and wind,” he’d shrugged, prepping Tybalt’s Chupa Chup for ministrations. “Sorry.”

After that, the slurpy remedy had drowned the twinge in Tyb’s heart. But today he knew the sun was rising on his last day at Condom’s Bluff.


The stranger stirred, and – as if by rote, eyes still shut – wriggled down to get mouth-level with the Thing. He lapped it up like custard.

“Wait -” Tybalt began, arresting the Pavlovian progress of his moans. “We need to talk.” Down below there was a sound like a champagne cork.

“Drainings on the hour, or you’ll relapse,” warned the doc. He added, “It’s science,” and got back to his snake-with-an-ostrich-egg routine.

Tyb surrendered his body dutifully to medicine, but still he was troubled. “I’m abandoning her,” he shouted over the boots-in-the-mud noise.

“If I leave with knowing her fate I’ll be giving up. I can’t j- Oh! Oh abyssus abyssum invocat that is the deepest gorge in Christendom…”

[…and he wasn’t talking about the view…!]


A muffled gurgle from down yonder sounded kind of like, “We’ve done all we can-” but Tyb went on: “I’ve got to go down on the bluff myself.”

With a “Squelch!” that echoed on the far wall of the canyon, the li’l sucker released his vacuum hold and hissed, “You’ll do no such thing!”

Barely visible, like sunset behind Big Ben, he went on, “I’ve not metabolized litres of your milk-sludge to see you wasted on a goose hunt.”

The two wayfarers locked eyes wordlessly for an instant as the young ex-religieux wiped slick from his lips. Then Tybalt said, “I’m going.”

The stranger could see he held fate in his hand. It pulsated and leaked, curving slightly to the left. So he answered him, “I’m coming too.”