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Living Standards

by Bill Kowaleski

Table of Contents

Living Standards: synopsis

In a future world marked by extremes of poverty and wealth, 13-year old Jiri has known only poverty. One day, a wealthy woman appears in Jiri’s enclave, the slum he calls home, and offers his mother an unimaginable amount of money for Jiri’s services. Little do Jiri and his mother know what the woman intends, but they accept. As Jiri grows and prospers in his new life, he becomes involved in a dangerous movement that will change his life and everyone else’s as well.

Chapter 4: The Gift

“You’ve been visiting him here for over nine months now, and you’re telling me that all you’ve given him are some premium game credits? You’d better do more than that or I’m going to introduce him to someone who’s a little more generous.” Imelda Gates was sitting in her spacious parlor, facing Jackson Bain as he sat, his elbows on his knees, his shiny black expensive shoes tapping nervously, silently into the plush sienna carpet.

“But he loves those games, he thanks me profusely every time,” Bain protested. “And besides, I’m paying you a lot for the privilege of visiting him here.”

“You’re getting more than visitation rights, you know. Our discretion is absolute. You have no need to fear discovery as long as you visit with him here only.”

“Yes, and I appreciate that, but isn’t he making a fortune already? I see his name everywhere on the net, he’s a breakout star, you’ve even put him in some mainstream commercials now.” He looked her hard in the eye. “You’d better be paying him well. I have ways of finding these things out, you know.”

“He is fourteen years old, been working here a little more than a year, and he’s already capable of owning a home, supporting a staff, being one of us. I’ve never had such a boy or girl. There is something about him that comes out on the screen. He appeals to so many people. I only hope I can keep him here another year.”

“And he’s making you even richer, of course. Well, OK,” he sighed, stood up, put his hands on his hips. “He’s still too young to drive, but I’ll buy him a car anyway. DeShaun can drive him. He just sits around here doing nothing most of the time anyway.”

“Now you’re being more reasonable. But the car may give him ideas. Don’t teach him too much about taking care of himself.”

“I’ve been teaching him how to invest, how the world works, really works, I mean. He’s incredibly smart, never forgets anything. You know what he told me last time we met?”

“No, please tell me.”

“He’d been studying classical history, and he said that he and I have a relationship like the ones in ancient Greece where an older man helped a younger man or boy in return for sexual favors. He said that’s how he sees it, that he expects me to teach him how to operate in the world, and when he’s ready to enter the world then we’re through.”

“That’s quite grown-up for a boy just fourteen years old!”

“Clavies grow up fast, but he’s a prodigy even among them. In fact he’s the smartest kid I’ve ever met, period. The strange thing though is that when he told me about the history, I can’t even begin to explain how hurt I felt. You see, Imelda, this is the problem: I’ve fallen in love with him!”

“Oh for heavens sake, how ridiculous. It’s just an infatuation. By the time he’s sixteen you’ll be bored with him and sniffing after some other youth. I know you.”

“No, it’s never been like this before. Maybe I’m getting older, but I see myself living with him forever.”

Imelda shook her head, adopting the motherly tone she normally reserved for her stable of stars. “Jack, that will never happen. He is hetero, and I can see in his eyes how he just barely tolerates you. He’s told you already that when he’s through getting what he can from you, he’s gone.”

Bain paced nervously, back and forth across the room, his head down. Finally he looked up, into Imelda’s eyes. “I know you’re right. But when I’ve wanted something, I’ve always found a way to get it.”

“Jack, let’s say you did live with him. How exactly would that work with your career ambitions? Gay lifestyles are acceptable in our society, but not forty-five year old men living with teenage lovers. No, you had better let this one go. Enjoy him another year, then get over it. Stay in touch, become his ally, celebrate his successes. Let me tell you, that’s the best you can do when faced with a love hopelessly unrequited. I know. Firsthand.”

“Oh, Imelda, you do like to bring that up! But now that I’m playing the role with Jiri that you played with me, I can see your point. And you have become my ally, celebrated my successes, helped me in ways I could never really fully repay.”

She smiled thinly, looked at the floor, and speaking in a whisper said, “If you wanted to come back to me today, I’d still be there for you.” She shook her head, looked back into his eyes. “But that’s ridiculous. You lust after thirteen-year old boys. How I wish I’d known that then!”

“I was terrible, I was so unfair to you. I’ve told you how sorry I am a hundred times.”

“Yes, of course. No need to go over it again. Well, I suppose you’d like to go and see him now.” She walked to a screen on a table in a nook behind the grand staircase. “I’ll debit you the usual amount.”

“I’m sure you will.”

He strode into the garden, now lit by well-concealed, soft fixtures that created a magical glow in the humid, still, night air, then into the South Wing, upstairs, to the open door of Jiri’s bedroom. Jiri sat on his bed, dressed only in white cotton shorts, deeply absorbed in a video game, not seeing him until he said, “Hello, beautiful, having fun?”

“Just wait a minute, Jack, I gotta get to the next level before I can pause it.”

Bain stared in silent admiration, caressing with wide eyes Jiri’s smooth, long, naked legs and boyish chest. My God, Bain thought, I’m just aching for him! This is worse than my obsession with Jaden. I need to get control of myself before I do something really stupid. I can’t ever forget how young he is, how much trouble he could cause me.

“OK, Jack, how’s it going?”

“I’m the happiest man alive right now, Jiri.”

His love looked terribly uncomfortable. He could see it so clearly: the boy had no feelings for him, but so what? He could indulge in fantasy for the evening, deal with the reality later.

“So today, before we get friendly, I thought I’d explain investing in mutual funds. How does that sound?”

“Sure, but Jack, I don’t know if I’m really in the mood for ‘friendly’ tonight. You know, I’ve been thinking about my parents. I haven’t seen them since I got here. I want to go to Lakewood and visit them. But how can I do that? Could you help me with that Jack? It would certainly put me in a better mood.”

He’s so crafty, so clever. He’ll make a great politician when he grows up. Jiri’s shameless manipulation did nothing but add to Bain’s fawning admiration.

“Well, Jiri, funny you should mention that. I’ve just been talking to Imelda, and she says that if you had a car, DeShaun could drive you until you’re sixteen and old enough to drive yourself. Would you like me to get you a car?”

Jiri leapt off the bed and wrapped his arms around Bain, pressing his body tightly against the older man. Bain nearly fainted with joy, his head swimming with the intoxication of Jiri’s nearness. “We can go tomorrow if you’d like,” he whispered into Jiri’s ear. “I’ll let you pick it out.”

Jiri stepped away. “OK, tomorrow after my scenes. Now tell me all about mutual funds, then I’ll thank you for the car.”

Proceed to Chapter 5...

Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski

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