“You’ll be training with Pops. He’s one of our best. We call him that because he’s probably the oldest guy working here, but mainly we do it because he’s the biggest,” said my new boss as he took me through the massive workshop.
I liked the sound of that – the biggest. Of course, he could have been talking about the guy’s waist size – which wouldn’t have bothered me – but something in the way my boss spoke reverently and respectfully told me Pops must be really tall. Man, how I loved giant guys. We walked around one of the rows of many machines and I quickly noticed my mistake. I was instantly reminded of the sides of beef that hung from hooks in my uncle’s butcher shop back in my hometown. It sometimes took two guys to carry just one of those big things. Pops had sides of beef hanging down from his neck – highlighted beautifully by the fact that he sported a sleeveless green shirt. I could have been standing at the other end of the huge expansive workspace and could have easily picked out the guy. He was definitely the biggest man around. His muscles had a light sheen to them as he worked the big machine and I immediately thanked the gods for making this a warm day. When my boss called out his nickname and the guy turned to me I almost melted into a puddle of helpless mush. The man’s butch, half-smile lit up the room the same way a spotlight can illuminate an actor on stage. His raised eyebrow immediately told me he figured out I was his new trainee. I could feel him sizing me up in the seconds it took for us to reach him. He showed no sign of approval or disdain – a slight upturn of one side of his mouth was all I got. My new boss introduced me and when Pops took my hand it felt like I had slammed my fingers in a truck door. I forced myself to not scream in pain and tried unsuccessfully to squeeze back equally as hard. He clearly felt nothing. Again, I detected Pops making decisions about me based solely on my handshake.
“Well, I’ll leave you in the capable hands of Pops. Come by my office at the end of the day.”
“Thank you, sir,” I said, nodding, and Pops laughed at my choice of words – I immediately got the feeling that Pops was the only one in this place that usually received such respect.
“Know anything about these machines, kid?” Pops asked and I was immediately offended by his choice of words – but also slightly turned on because of the way he said it and the fact that he sounded like a southern, muscled, super-masculine Barry White.
“A little,” I replied – telling my first lie, since I instantly wanted Pops to spend a lot of time with me – so I didn’t tell him I probably had run similar machines all of my working life.
Sex dripped off of this guy in amounts that equaled dew drops on every leaf of a giant willow tree in the wee hours of the morning. He rolled his eyes telling me he was bummed he’d have to spend a lot of time getting me up to speed. I figured I’d act like I was catching on fast, so he’d think I was a really smart student. He reached up to scratch his left pec and I’m pretty sure he caught me glancing down at the big rock-hard thing while he did it. There was a flicker of a smile and then he immediately started telling me about the machine in front of us. It was one I knew well, but I acted like I was listening intently and when he stopped and asked me to go through and reenact what he had just shown me, I did it without missing a beat and even showed off by doing the shortcuts he had barely mentioned. I could tell he was impressed. I also detected – in his eyes - a little spark of something beginning in the back of his brain. Maybe I was acting too smart – I decided to back off a little. This time, I was sure he caught me looking at his beefy arms. The rest of the morning was taken up with four different machines – all ones I was familiar with.
“Time for grub,” Pops said and I was surprised to look at my watch and see the morning had flown by.
The big man then just walked off – and I could tell he expected me to follow him. I just instinctively knew he assumed I was like his shadow today. I hurried to catch up with him. He grabbed one of those large black lunch pails, which look like a mailbox, from a huge fridge in the large break room. I grabbed my tuna fish sandwich in a brown bag, bought a soda and turned to see where he had chosen to sit. He seemed to know everybody – smiling, saying hello, and slapping guys on the back – but he had chosen a table over in the corner all by himself. He pushed out a chair beside him as I walked up. The silence that followed was kind of nerve-wracking. I could tell he was watching me closely as he unloaded large quantities of food from his packed box. The big man clearly had a big appetite.
“Why do I feel like I’m being hustled,” he said, finally, staring at me.
“I’m sorry?” I replied.
“You know these machines. That’s quite obvious,” he answered – still staring at me.
“I . . . um . . . wanted to impress you.”
“Well, tick that one off your list, kid. You did. But don’t ever lie to me, again. Understand.”
And instantly, I could see he was finished with the slight reprimand. Suddenly, his demeanor changed and I could tell he had forgiven me. His beefy body didn’t seem as knotted up as before and he even smiled at me. I felt like a puppy that had just been given a treat after getting in trouble by its master. I seriously sensed my body celebrating the fact that I had somehow pleased this big man.
“You into brewskies, kid?”
“Yes sir, I drink beer.”
“A few of the guys meet up at a place called ‘Joe’s’ after work – to hammer back a few, shoot the breeze, and not think about machines for a few hours. It’s always open invitation and a good way to get on the guys’ good side. Trust me, you want these fellas to have your back – both in here and outside the workplace. Buying one round will get you a place at the adult table, kid.”
“That sounds cool,” I said, trying desperately to come across as manly, in-the-know, hip, and part of the team all at the same time.
“Yeah,” he said, smiling at my words, “it’s cool, kid. Cool. You youngsters.”
I had no idea if he was making fun of me or complimenting me. I had a feeling you were never quite sure of anything around Pops. He didn’t reveal much – either in his speech or his actions. I could tell he was a private person and he watched everything happening around him as if he worked for the CIA and needed to recall details at the drop of a hat. That afternoon went smoothly, except for the bandana incident. It had gotten a lot warmer in the big shop and both of us were sweating over this particularly difficult job. Pops kept wiping his face, neck, and huge arms with this blue bandana he carried in his back pocket. I just wiped the sweat off with the back of my shirt sleeve. At one point, late in the day, Pops said he was going to hit the john and he dropped his bandana on the keyboard console of the machine doing the job we had punched in. I swear it looked like he left the bandana on purpose, looking at me to make sure I noticed what he was doing before he left. I figured I was just wishing, but as soon as he walked away I became obsessed with the thing and kept stealing glances around to see if anyone was nearby. The piece of material was soaked with his sweat and I longed to smell and taste it. I felt like I was addicted to chocolate and someone had left an opened Snickers package in front of me. God, how I wanted to pick up that bandana. Finally, after making sure the machine was still doing its job, and glancing around one more time, I picked up the bandana and first put it to my upper lip, so I could inhale the aroma of big Pops. It was just as I expected – a heavy masculine musk that made me think of a dense forest of tall trees, huge lumberjacks, and man-on-man action that ended with eruptions coupled with uncontrollable screams of passion. When my tongue darted out and got its first ever taste of Pops’ all-natural, thick, salty, he-man juice, you could have pushed me over with a feather. I’d never, in my entire life, tasted something that seemed so full of testosterone – so completely male. My crotch responded with a Pops-induced salute that was so hard I feared I’d pass out from the pressure. That’s when the corner of my eye noticed something massive and green in the distance. I quickly wiped my now totally crimson face with the bandana to cover up my lustful action, but it was quite clear by the look in Pops’ eyes when he arrived he had seen me trying to soak up all his manliness. I held out the bandana to him with a forced look of thanks.
“Keep it, kid. I’ve got others. Consider it a ‘welcome to your new job’ present.”
“Um . . . thanks,” I said, turning a darker shade of red and quickly stuffing the think into my back pocket and then turning to look at the work of the machine in front of us – feeling the man continue to stare at me, smiling.
A few hours later I was sitting drinking a cold one at this hole-in-the-wall bar called ‘Joe’s.’ I instantly liked the place because it was full of more manly men than a gay sauna on a holiday weekend. I quickly did the statistical math and figured out I was probably the only gay man at the place – not that I came across as anything other than one of the men from the big shop down the road. It was quite clear to the other patrons that I was the new kid on the block – having ordered the second round of beers for the seven guys from our team gathered that afternoon and instantly being asked to join in games of darts, pool, and arm wrestling matches as the number of empty beer bottles increased a lot. I’m a decent-sized guy, so I held my own when it came to the arm-wrestling, impressing my co-workers in a way that made it clear I had been accepted. I noticed Pops only participated in darts and pool. I thought this odd, so my slightly buzzed mouth spoke without thinking.
“Why doesn’t Pops arm wrestle?” I said a little too loudly and this made the big man look at me, a grin creeping across his face.
“Just look at his fucking arms and you’ll figure that out, kid,” said a more-than-slightly inebriated co-worker standing in our small circle. “He beats all our asses all the time. We’ve given up trying. He even takes two of us on at the same time and still wins. The monster curls the back of his jeep when we beg him to show off, so there’s no way any of us will ever be able to beat those big guns.”
I caught Pops watching my face, closely. My eyes uncontrollably got wider when I heard about him lifting the back of his jeep. My crotch also twitched uncontrollably, but I was behind a bar chair, so it was hidden. He was watching my reaction and patiently waiting for me to make some kind of move after the information sank in. I got the feeling that my next step would clinch some kind of deal with the man one way or the other. I let the numerous beers I’d inhaled guide me. I smiled at the group standing around.
“I’ll take a shot at beating him,” I said with the kind of bravado usually saved for a superhero in comic books.
You would have thought I was a mere mortal challenging the power of Zeus by the loud response of the guys around us. An approving smile crept across the face of the big man and it was followed by the kind of pec roll usually saved for gay muscle worship videos I constantly watched online. There was suddenly so much cockiness in Pops’ gaze I was thrust back to the feeling when I tasted him in the damp bandana. In a move that required the help of a guy standing next to him, the elder muscleman pulled his shirt off of his big body. My mouth dropped open without shame as I beheld his mammoth, lightly fur-covered, thickly-nippled chest for the first time. Two guys had been forcibly removed from their chairs and a table had been cleared by the crowd as soon as the shirt had been removed. I registered comments like ‘don’t break the kid’s arm’ and ‘fifty bucks he doesn’t last ten seconds’ being thrown out around me, but I only watched as the bare chested gorgeous mountain swung his leg over the back of a chair to sit down and then placed his right elbow on the table. He tightened his fist making the already big arm balloon to the kind of size that filled my orgasm-inducing fantasies. I knew there was no way I was going to win this battle – but I wasn’t arm-wrestling him for a victory and, somehow, I realized he fully knew this. My substantial sized manly arm was going to look like a twig next to his, but that didn’t matter. I was proving something – and I didn’t even know what it was – by taking on the elder god.
“I’m not one to show mercy, kid,” Pops said as I sat down.
“I’m not one to give up easily, old man” I said, trying to equal his confidence, which made the sparkle in his eye flash even more.
I then did something unplanned and so out of character for me I would probably analyze the decision for the rest of my life and still not understand it. I took the big man’s bandana out of my back pocket, brought it up to my face, pressed it against my mouth and nose, and then inhaled deeply. The move clearly caught my huge opponent off guard, his fist unclenched, his biceps deflated a little, and the cocky smile disappeared. I saw a glimpse of vulnerability and shock. Pops wasn’t used to someone being this bold – this open. I pushed the envelope even further.
“Just getting an extra shot of strength, sir. I got this from a big strong mountain of a man who radiates cockiness without even trying.”
It was like when boxers are being photographed before a battle and they try to psyche out their opponent with a stare down, a surprise kiss, or even a creepy smile. My words and actions made Pops briefly lose his foundation – shook his core a little, just as I had hoped. That was also when I grabbed his big beefy hand and the guy leading the match, steadied our arms, and counted off for us to begin. It took a while for Pops to gain control of himself, as I knew it would - as had been my intention when I took out the bandana. On the word go I pushed my arm with all of my might – getting a head start on the still-startled Pops. I was no match for the big arm before me, but I took advantage of him being distracted. Instantly, his arm was pushed back and looked like it might hit the table. This caused the crowd around us to erupt in shocked cheers. The unimagined was about to happen. I felt powerful and hot as hell. The cheering from the crowd spurred me on, but it also brought Pops out of his temporary fog. The back of his hand stopped so close to the wooden top you wouldn’t have been able to fit a magazine between the two. For the first time ever, in my entire life, I got a glimpse of what real power felt like. My arm – decently sized for a man of my age and stature was halted in a way that could make wild beasts cower in fear. The green, golden-flecked eyes of Pops had instantly gained all of their confidence back and more. He had stopped my journey to a surprise victory with a fraction of his total strength and that fact instantly registered to my unmoving arm. His fingers gripped so hard that I had a feeling some of my bones would be rearranged. Pops surprised me – and everyone else – with an uncharacteristic deep growl as he started to methodically and devilishly raise his hand and mine slowly with what I could tell was little effort.
“I specialize in putting young bucks in their place,” Pops said, whispering in a way that made it quite clear I was giving his hand no resistance.
“That’s been obvious all day, Pops. I just needed to gain some respect by challenging you and shocking people with an almost victory.”
Pops definitely didn’t like the idea that I even thought for a second I could have potentially defeated him. He was not a man who took to being challenged and, as a matter of fact, I guessed it almost never happened. Some kind of primal, I’m the stronger animal instinct suddenly overwhelmed the man and he quickly brought our hands through the arc to slam the back of mine into the table. A little bit of pain shot through my arm, but it was clear the big man’s fingers had taken – and not even registered – most of the blow. It was quite obvious that Pops needed a decisive and powerful victory. He had not liked the fact that his hand had dropped so low to the table. He held my wrist down – like a wrestler waiting for the count. He was the winner, but I had scored some points with the crowd . . . and, hopefully, with the big man, as well. There was a tight squeeze of my fingers before Pops released my hand.
“You owe me a beer,” he said, swinging his leg over the back of his chair as he stood up, like he was dismounting a horse.
I watched as he turned and was engulfed by a crowd that slapped him on the back and congratulated him. The last thing I saw before he was completely blocked from view was a tightly flexed bulging triceps and I could tell it was a gift offered specifically to me. I was also congratulated by onlookers and swept to my feet by a crowd that took me to the bar. Two, three, or maybe four more rounds were bought for me in the next hour or so. I couldn’t remember the exact number, since I was still high-as-a-kite from the euphoria of arm-wrestling Pops and feeling that brief squeeze of my hand at the end. I glanced around and couldn’t see the big man anywhere, feeling disappointed that he had left without saying goodbye or allowing me to give him the obligatory victor’s beer. I turned back toward the bar, a little sad. Suddenly, the now memorized massive gun of the older man was beside me as he rested his forearm on the wood in front of us. He was close enough for me to feel the heat of his body, but not close enough to be touching.
“I’ll take that mug now, kid. The table in the corner at the back,” came his deep, sexy voice and then he was gone.
He smiled at me when I walked up with two mugs and a pitcher. I intended on making this moment last as long as I could. I was pretty sure he understood that and maybe even wanted the same thing. I had luckily started my new job on a Friday, so there was nowhere I needed to be any time soon and I hoped the same was true for the big man. He took the pitcher from my hands and wrapped his hand around the thing – where I had been using the handle – and poured two mugs, making it clear that I did the buying, but he was in charge. He watched me, silently, as I took a sip from the frosted glass. To my disappointment, he had put his shirt back on. It still showed off his big arms, however. I just missed the massive salt-and-peppered furry chest.
“You don’t play fair,” he said, taking a sip of his own beer and never letting his gaze drop from mine.
“Look at those enormous arms of yours and then look at mine and tell me who doesn’t play fair,” I boldly said, not even blinking.
“You challenged me, remember.”
“And damn nearly beat you.”
“Is that what you think?” he asked, smiling.
“It’s what I’m going to tell myself.”
“You probably still think the tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter rabbit are real, too, don’t you? Because those are more likely than someone beating me.”
I knew the truth in his statement. I had felt it when the motion of my hand had been stopped so abruptly and easily. It suddenly dawned on me that he had probably allowed me to get his hand so far down on purpose – to orchestrate me being cheered on and befriended by co-workers and other patrons. Suddenly, there seemed to be less air in my self-congratulatory balloon. He picked up on the change within me and understood my disappointment and my gratitude at the same time. He needed to offer some kind of runner’s up prize.
“The bandana really did catch me by surprise . . . both times,” he said and I swallowed hard. “The first time was a . . . um . . . pleasant and unexpected surprise.”
We stared at each other – neither of us even breathing – for a good half a minute. He had caught me earlier than afternoon sniffing and licking his bandana. I was definitely excited beyond belief, but I was also very cautious. I knew nothing about this man, really, and my expert ‘gaydar’ didn’t even register a speck of closeted homosexuality in him. There might not be any hidden agenda in anything he was saying – even though I desperately wanted there to be. I got the feeling Pops was just a really nice guy and I’m sure he’d met tons of fellas over the years that found him stunning. He was simply trying to welcome the new kid – the guy who desperately wanted to make a first good impression. I relaxed into the moment even more and took another deep sip of my beer. He picked up the pitcher – again by just wrapping his hand around it in a macho sort of way – and topped off my drink.
“I’ve never slept with a man.”
“Excuse me?” I said, choking on my beer.
“I’ve never been in bed with a man.”
I didn’t comprehend what he was saying, at first, and then I worried that I had just imagined it – wished it was something he would say. I looked up and saw that there was a world of emotion in his beautiful manly eyes. There was fear – as if he was worried he had misread me, somehow. Had he misinterpreted my long stares and bandana tasting? There was doubt – as if he was questioning a lot of his own feelings and thoughts. And there was something akin to hope – as if he anticipated the next few minutes to change his life forever. My mind finally accepted, as fact, the words he had said and I was glad that sometimes our mouths work faster than our brains. I responded without even processing what I was going to say.
“Have you ever wanted to sleep with a man?” I asked, staring into his beautiful green eyes.
“Not until today . . . not until you,” he quickly replied.