Naked Persimmon ~ Don’t Mention His Name, and His Name Will Pass On - Part 1

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"Don’t Mention His Name, And His Name Will Pass On

- Part 1"



Title: Don’t Mention His Name, and His Name Will Pass On—Part 1 of 8

Author: Virginia Plain
Genre/Pairing: Mike/Peter (TV, but I did cheat and slip in one real-life guy)

Rating: overall NC-17 (this part R for sleaze)
Warnings: slash (sexual situations—takes a while, but I promise they get there), language, angst, sleaze
Disclaimer: This story is purely the result of my imagination (which should probably worry me), and not at all any claim to ownership of these TV characters or their real-life counterparts.
Summary: A prequel to the TV show.  Some time before all four Monkees come together in that California beach house, the paths of Mike and Peter happen to cross in New York City.  

Author's Note: So… Midnight Cowboy.  An Oscar-winning film based on an acclaimed novel about a tall Texan who journeys to the Big Apple in the Sixties to seek his fortune but ends up a two-bit street hustler. Some of those streets include Times Square, 42nd Street—and Greenwich Village.  Please tell me I’m not the only one sleazy-minded enough to draw the obvious connection.  



***



~JUNE 1963~



Damn, baby.  I miss you.


Mike pressed his face against the pawnshop window.  The sight before him was but a cruel tease.


His hat.  His beautiful, beautiful hat.  All white and shiny, its jaunty wide brim spangled with blue stars.  Just what a hero would wear in the movies when he galloped into town to kick some outlaw ass.  A little bit of Mike’s soul had died the day he’d had to pawn it, but it was either his hat or his guitar—and one was more easily replaced than the other.


Not that it mattered in the end.  He’d pawned his guitar a month later.  Just as he’d pawned the rest of his suit—his perfect, genuine cowboy suit that he’d bought himself in Texas with every intent of knocking New Yorkers out of their collective socks—in bits and pieces in the months before.  He never was able to pay back the loans, so his things were his no more.  Even worse, all those bits and pieces were still sitting there, unsold, in various Manhattan pawnshop windows that tormented him every time he walked past.  This crazy town really did not like country singers or anything to do with them.  


Even now his hat was on sale for less than half of what he’d originally paid for it.  His guitar, too, was still waiting for a buyer.  But however insultingly low the sum that pawnbrokers asked for Mike’s former possessions, they always magically managed to raise the price just out of his reach whenever he started making noises about possibly buying the stuff back himself.  


He’d still needed to keep the hair out of his eyes, though (brylcreem being one of the first expenses he’d had to cut), so for the princely sum of a nickel he’d bought himself a ragged, green, wool replacement.  The attention it brought him was unexpected, but convenient.  He supposed it got people curious as to what sort of lunatic wore a wool hat in summer, or because it made him taller than most other trade…  


“Mister?  Uh, mister? Would you please watch a movie with me if I give you five dollars?”


Annoyed at being interrupted in his self-pity, Mike didn’t know whether to laugh or snarl at the ridiculously polite inquiry.  Must be some kid.  He didn’t bother turning around to confirm it; he already knew.  Only kids tried this kind of shit, hanging out with no school during summer in the afternoon but before the real sharks, the ones supposedly old enough to know better, surfaced in the evening.


And five bucks?  Only a quarter of the going rate.  Definitely a kid.  Some pimply-faced fourteen-year-old, probably: old enough to sense he was missing something in life but too young to know what to do about it.  Well, damned if Mike was going to initiate him into that mystery.  He did have some scruples left, and messing with kids was a line that he would never cross.


“Get lost,” he growled over his shoulder.  He tore himself away from the painful sight of his white hat behind the glass, but he still kept his back to the kid.  He slouched sideways against the shop’s front wall, making it clear that he wasn’t goin’ no place, no sirree bob.


His surly attitude had been another factor in his spectacular lack of success in the New York music scene.  It hadn’t taken him long to realize that this city was full of nothing but folkie snobs and jazzheads and Broadway buffs who wouldn’t know a Jim Reeves tune if it gave them the clap.  And who could care even less.  Every door of every club seemed closed to him: no country music needed or wanted here.  Hell, he couldn’t even swing a spot in the basket houses, where you just walked in off the street to play and didn’t even get paid.  The obvious thing to do was start playing folk or jazz or Broadway tunes, but Mike had not uprooted himself from home and hearth and family just to give in to others.  He would make it on his own terms, or not at all.


And not at all was exactly what he’d made.  His stubborn insistence on playing his own kind of music, his open contempt for his uncomprehending audiences, his insistence on fair pay and fair play, had done everything to alienate him from the scene.  The last straw had been that day he’d argued long and hard with a coffeehouse owner for just one ten-minute set … and then the asshole had introduced him to the patrons with the memorable words: “Here he is, the original ‘cunt’ in ‘country’.”  


He’d sat there, stone-faced, listening to the beatnik crowd laugh their heads off at him.  After a grand total of two minutes, he’d flipped them the bird and stalked out of the place.  He’d pawned his guitar the next day and blown a good share of the proceeds on a bottle of drain-cleaner strength whiskey to drown his sorrows.  At least in New York he was considered of legal drinking age, unlike in Texas.


“Did I do it wrong?”


The polite voice refused to go away.  Mike almost turned around, now growing curious against his better judgment.  Usually the kids were easily intimidated, scared off by his gruff manner.  Maybe this wasn’t a kid after all?  Could be some guy actually looking for a hard case…


That was the funny thing: his streak of pure cussedness had killed his quest to land a music gig—or even the most menial of straight jobs—but it did beckon a certain type of client his way.  While by no means in high demand, ol’ Wool Hat (as the other street trade dubbed him) was known for being able to satisfy a certain need.  Some folks, it had surprised him to learn, liked being treated bad.  Not physically.  He wasn’t willing to go any further than administering the occasional spank, in that regard.  


But verbally—hell, yes, could he ever deliver!  It didn’t matter who the john was, where they were from, what walk of life.  All of them shared the same wish to hear him insult them, tell them what a bad husband they were, or what a worthless son they were, what a disgusting fag or spineless wimp, or just what a general all-round piece of shit they were.  They lapped it up.  And they especially loved hearing every poison syllable stretched out long and slow and savory in his Texas drawl—the only real use he’d found for his background in his whole time in this damn city.


“What’s that again?” he asked carefully.  His ears pricked up, listening for the tell-tale cues of a pathetic human chew toy.


“I’m sorry, I thought—I was told I could pay someone to watch a movie with me, that’s all.  I guess I did it wrong.  Sorry to waste your time.”


Sorry?  That definitely wasn’t the normal way these exchanges went.  Mike whipped his head around just in time to see the back of a thin, sandy-haired guy of medium height disappearing into the crowd down the street.


“Whoa there,” Mike called after him—another breach of accepted protocol, but he didn’t care.  “You, the movie guy.”


The guy looked around, confusion all over his face.  He tentatively walked back to Mike.  “Me?”


It wasn’t a bad face, Mike decided.  Nothing special, but pleasant enough.  Boyish, not too much so.  Older than fourteen, thank God.  Light dusting of freckles, no pimples.  “Yeah, you.  I wanna talk to you.”


Now that he could see the guy up close, Mike didn’t know what to make of him.  Late teens, he guessed.  Deep voice, so he couldn’t be that young.  Maybe just a couple years younger than Mike himself.  Past his growth spurt, at least, but not quite grown into himself yet.  Regular clothes, no beatnik black sweaters or berets.  Regular short haircut, too, though Mike was a tiny bit amused to see that this guy, like himself, skipped the brylcreem and also had a real problem keeping the bits on top out of his eyes.

He now watched those eyes carefully as he laid it out: “You straight-up, honest-to-goodness, just want me to watch a movie?”  


He knew from his fellow tradesmen the way these deals usually went down.  Awkward kids taking advantage of the darkened theater for a handjob in the seats, then a blowjob in the restroom.  Then they find out they’ve bitten off more than they can swallow, so to speak, and end up vomiting in the sink or on their escort’s shoes.  And then, they usually don’t have the money they promised anyway, leading to a nasty old scene.  


Mike had no truck with that kind of mess.  He wasn’t that desperate.  Hungry, broke, and mad at the whole world, yes, but not that far gone.


“Yeah.  It’s—don’t get me wrong, I mean, it’s a good movie.  It’s just hard to watch.  I thought it might be easier if someone was with me.”


Interesting.  This one might be worth checking out… but Mike knew he wasn’t in the clear yet.  It could still be some whacked-out film—A Bucket of Blood or something similar.  Or one of those Swedish porno flicks that were so clinical as to make sex look about as stimulating as a Mets doubleheader.


On the other hand, sitting through one of those flicks might well be the only job he’d come by today.


“Tell me something,” he said in his most uncompromising don’t-fuck-with-me voice.  “This theater showing the movie—it got air conditioning?”


“Sure!”


Well, what else would a person say when they were trying to get their way during a sticky New York summer?  The place might have decent AC, or it might not—


“I mean, I think it has to.  Isn’t that the law or something?”


Mike simply stared.  Either this was truly the most guileless soul on the planet, or the best actor this side of Spencer Tracy.  He searched the boyish face, tried to read anything hidden in the clear brown eyes.


“All right, then,” he said at last.  “I’ll watch your movie on two conditions, so listen up.  One, I’m only watching it.  No other stuff.  Two, I don’t do nothin’ on a promise.  Five dollars—wallet—yours—mine—now.  Understood?”


“Great!”  The guy pulled out his wallet in full view of everyone—idiot! Mike thought—and handed over a crisp five-dollar bill.  “Thanks, mister—oh, sorry, what’s your name?”


Could this john possibly break any more of the unwritten rules?  Mike nearly answered with his Wool Hat tag, but something stopped him.  For some reason, he didn’t want this guy calling him what everyone else on the streets called him.  “You can call me,” he paused, trying to come up with something short, fitting, and forgettable, “… Tex.”  


“Hi, Tex!”  The brightest smile Mike had ever seen lit up the pleasant face, dimpling one lightly freckled cheek.  “I’m Peter.”


“You’re not supposed to use your real name, stupid!”  Suddenly Mike was uncomfortable again.  He was starting to believe “Peter” really was as innocent as he seemed, and that made Mike revert to thinking of him as a kid, no matter what his actual age.  “Next time you ask someone like me for the odd favor, first take a minute to watch how the other guys do it.  You might learn something.”


“I shouldn’t tell you my name?”


“Yeah.  That’s how the game is played.”  Does he even know it’s a game?


“Oh.  I’m sorry; I didn’t know.  Um… hi, I’m… John.”


“There’s no point giving me a fake name now.”  And he would go and use the name “John.”  John, for Chrissake!  Did he really have no clue at all?  “Damn, kid, you just fall off the bus?”


“I didn’t take the bus—”


“Aw, never mind!  Look, you wanna see this movie before one of us dies, or not?”


“I—oh, yeah!  Yes, yes, I do.”


“Then get moving. I ain’t got all day.”  Places to go, people to fuck.  Though he really didn’t have a waiting list of either, nor was he likely to.


As he walked with Peter toward 42nd Street, Mike started to doubt again.  Kid or no kid, Peter seemed to know where the X-rated entertainment was.  Maybe he was even looking for something harder than porn, maybe he was into snuff films.  Maybe Mike was escorting a budding mass murderer lurking under that sunny smile.  And even leaving aside what kind of movie was in store for him, he could already imagine the venue: smelly, stifling close rows of stained seats full of winos and garbageheads and dozing geezers and noisy brats.  Probably two people at most in an audience of thirty would actually be watching the film, whatever horror it was.


“Wait a minute.”  Peter halted in his tracks.  “Does that mean your name isn’t Tex?”


Mike stared again.  “I’m gonna just pretend I didn’t hear that.”


When he saw the old Sonnet theater looming ahead, Mike was certain he’d been had.  Innocent kid, my ass!  Looked like he was in for a Swedish porno—in fact, a triple bill if the marquee were anything to go by.  I hate you, Peter… or whoever the hell you are…


But Peter kept walking.  The Sonnet was soon behind them, its stench forgotten.  When Peter finally stopped before a much smaller, much less garish cinema, Mike almost wished they had stuck with Swedish porn.  He could not believe the title spanning the modest single bill.


“You have got to be kidding me!”


Peter looked confused.  “What?  Are they closed?”


“You gave me five bucks to watch—I can’t believe this—Old Yeller?!”


“Um… yes?”  The confirmation stumbled out as a question.  Peter still looked at him with nothing but puzzlement.


“You’re scared to watch a fuckin’ Disney movie?!”


“I didn’t say it scared me.  It just upsets me.  You know, when they have to shoot the dog.  I can’t take it.”


“Then why the hell go see it?”


Peter ducked his head.  His hair fell into his eyes again.  “I have… this problem,” he said softly.


Problem.  Oh God, no.  Was that it?  Was Peter a sicko perv, a kiddie fiddler more interested in the brats in the audience than the maudlin tragedy of a dead dog on the screen?  Mike felt seven kinds of anger, disappointment, and sadness all at once.  He was just about to turn on his heel when Peter spoke again.


“I cry too much.  It’s embarrassing.  My father said I should try to watch stuff that upsets me.  You know, watch it enough times until I get used to it and it doesn’t bother me anymore.  It’s supposed to make me tougher or something.”


Just how many more loops could this kid throw him for today?  Mike was surprised to find himself still angry—but not with Peter.  No, his anger was aimed at Peter’s unknown father, whom he suspected was really the only one “embarrassed” by his son’s teary ways.  “With all due respect to your pa”—with none, actually—“that is just about the worst advice I ever heard.”


“Why?”


“Why?  Because!  Doesn’t life give us enough kicks in the nuts without asking for more?  Don’t go borrowing trouble, that’s the advice I’d give my kid.”


“Oh, wow, you’re a dad?  That’s great!  How many kids—”


“I ain’t a dad.  I’m just saying, if I were, that’s what I’d tell ‘em.”


“You’re saying if you were a dad, you’d tell your kids you weren’t a dad?”


“Forget it!  For both our sakes, just forget it.”


Peter looked around, then up at the marquee.  He seemed to be silently mouthing each letter on the bill, one at a time: O-L-D-Y-E-L…  “I still want to see the movie.”


“Go on, then.  Have a grand old time.”


Determination flashed in the clear brown eyes.  “I’ll give you another five dollars if you’ll watch it with me.”


“You will, huh?”  


No way would he say so out loud, but there was something kind of appealing about a self-confessed weeper trying to be stubborn.  If nothing else, it was a refreshing change from the usual types who whimpered and pleaded for Mike to exercise his undeniable talent for invective on their hapless selves.


“Well, then… okay.”  



***



“Didn’t that work out real well,” Mike said flatly as he watched the crumpled heap formerly known as Peter.  “No offense, but your pa’s a damn fool.”


On the face of it, the scene was playing out just as the other trade always said it did.  Here he was, standing in a shabby second-run movie theater’s restroom while his too-green john lost his lunch in the sink.  But actually they hadn’t got here by that route at all.  Peter had been perfectly well-behaved throughout the film, keeping his hands to himself and even treating Mike to popcorn, jelly beans, Hershey bars—the breakfast of champions, considering how sporadically Mike got to enjoy solid food.  


Mike himself had found the film less of a chore than he’d expected.  He’d seen it before some years ago and knew the story: boy gets dog, boy hates dog, boy grows to love dog, boy has to kill dog.  It was sappy, but there were some useful life lessons to heed: namely, that nothing good ever lasts and that love never did nobody no favors at all.  Better to go it alone.


But then came the climax when the boy had to shoot Old Yeller.  Even in the dimness of the theater, Mike thought he could see Peter’s face turning green.  A small choking sound alerted him to the imminent emergency.  He’d grabbed Peter by the elbow and hauled him to the restroom.  Peter had reached the sink just in time before heaving his guts up and bursting into tears.


“I’m sorry,” Peter sobbed, flinging handfuls of water into his face.  “I really thought I could take it this time.  But that poor dog—”


“The mutt had rabies.  They were just being kind.”


Peter’s reply was lost, muffled by the paper towel he was using to harshly scrub at his face.


“Say that again in English?” Mike asked.


“I said,” Peter emerged from behind the towel, “that’s kindness I’d rather live without.”


“Don’t knock it,” Mike snapped, suddenly uneasy and impatient to get this over with.  “When it’s all you got, believe me—you’ll take it.”


“I guess.  Maybe.  I don’t know.”  


“Yeah, well, I do know.  Now, where’s this extra five bucks you promised me?”


If he says he don’t have it—


“Oh, of course.  I’m sorry.  You put up with so much from me today, I know I’m not the coolest person to hang out with, or the sharpest, so I—well, here.”  


Peter held out a ten-dollar bill.


My hat.  My guitar.  Or at least bus fare out of this crazy-ass town.


A ten-spot wouldn’t solve any of those problems, but every little bit sure would help him on his way.  Except…  No, don’t argue: that was another rule of the game.  Just shut up and take what you could get.  


But was Peter really a john, after all?  They hadn’t actually done anything.  There was none of the mutual contempt that was part of such transactions.  They’d watched a Disney movie, eaten some junk food, enjoyed the air conditioning.  Peter had even been considerate enough to throw up in the sink instead of on him.


“Keep it, kid.  Buy yourself a handkerchief.”


“Are you sure?”  Peter studied the bill in his hand, frowning.  “Did I do something wrong again?”


“No.”  For the first time all day, in fact for weeks and months, Mike heard himself laugh.  It was a weary, wary sound, but genuine in its source.  “No, Peter.  There’s plenty of shit that’s wrong, but none of it’s coming from you.”


“Oh.  Well.  Thanks… Tex.”  


Just when Mike thought he was going to get out of this with clean hands and conscience, Peter asked the one question he dreaded above all others.


“Could we do this again sometime?  I’ll try to do better, I really will.”


Better?  Kid, the best thing you can do is go back to your nice, polite life and stay the fuck outta mine.


Mike bit back the instinctive harsh reply.  Delicate touch needed here.


“You might see me around,” he said carefully, “but I might not see you.”


Not risking a look back, Mike strode out of the restroom, out of the theater, with much more swagger in his step than he felt.  He should head on back to his tour of duty.  The real johns would be crawling the curbs come evening.  Maybe he could get another shot at ten dollars…


Instead he went back to his tenuous excuse for a home. On the way he passed the pawnshops that still held his leather boots, his star-spangled jacket and slacks, and of course his beautiful white hat.  


But he avoided the shop in which window still perched his guitar.  


Otherwise he might just burst into tears, and that was never going to happen.





Don’t Mention His Name, and His Name Will Pass On - Part 2