Episode 4 -- Saluting Cowboy

Episode 4 —
Saluting Cowboy


Episode 4:
Saluting Cowboy


Within the lunar base I am lying on a sickbay bed in the high technology medical facility. I am naked on a flat, leathery surface covered by a shiny silvery sheet. Computerized panels and blinking lights are everywhere. There are familiar beeps and tones playing from somewhere deep inside the panels on the walls. I absolutely know where I am. I know with utter certainty that I am back at the lunar base because I can feel the lunar gravity.

An older gentleman walks up next to me. He is wearing a completely white medical uniform and thick black boots. He looks tanned and fit. A thick mustache that is frosty white like his long, curly hair punctuates his friendly face. He resembles a guy who was either a 1960s rock and roll star or some famous Shakespearean actor from England who stopped coloring his hair and has grown a mustache especially so that he would not be recognized in public. He hands me a thick blue robe and motions for me to get up from the bed. I examine him as I quickly put on the robe. I feel two fingers touching my forehead between my eyes. He holds two fingers there on my temples for a few seconds.

He speaks to me slowly and deliberately with what seems to me to be an official, British accent: “Welcome back, Mr. Avila. Tell me how you feel.”

“Dazed. Lightheaded.”

“How’s your memory?” he asks.

“Faulty,” I say to him with complete honesty. “Cannot remember my name. I don’t remember your name, either. I do know that we’re at the lunar base. Gravity tells me that. Why did you touch my forehead like that?”

“Standard procedure,” he responds.

I ask him, “I must be dreaming? Are you fucking with me?”

He leans his face closer to mine once again and I think I hear him say through his accent, “I am most certainly not ‘fucking with you,’ as you say.” He frowns at me and continues, “What curious slang, Mr. Avila. Where do people from the 20th century come up with such puzzling language?”

“Twentieth.” I repeat back to him.

“Oh, yes,” he replies, “We brought you back to today from yesterday. Where you belong.”

“How is it that you can correctly pronounce my surname?” I ask him.

“I know many things,” he replies. “You are known as Ted. Nickname for Theodore. You hate being called ‘Teddy.’ Born and lived in Arizona. Also, you died in Arizona, too. If I remember things correctly. Not that it matters.”

“I don’t really understand what I’m experiencing,” I assure him.

“Just know that I am here to help,” he says to me with a smile. “Help you get your bearings. Help you pull your memories together in some reasonable semblance of order. Then, off you go to complete your work.”

By the time darkness has claimed the entire Arizona sky, I am back in my 4×4 by myself in 1991 in the parking area of a hotel in Kingman just off Interstate 40. This feels new. Somehow, this does not feel like any experience that I have previously had on my previous travels in time.

The hotel clerk accepts my Arizona driver’s license and credit card as perfectly legitimate. Even though I feel that I am, indeed, here in Arizona in 1991, I question the logic of it all. I am convinced as a reasonable person that there is no such thing as time travel. A man cannot materialize in one place and time and then suddenly be transported somewhere else to some other time. That just does not happen in real life. I just do not understand how it could be happening to me.

When I am inside my hotel room, I start to consider that I really might just be present here at this very moment in Kingman, Arizona. I really might work for a Phoenix television station. How else can I explain to myself all that is happening to me? Into my hotel room I brought only a gym bag with what I need for a short stay. That gym bag seems like it is a standard practice for me on such a short trip from the Phoenix television station.

“Where am I going?” I ask myself aloud while seated at the table in the small hotel restaurant with its Desert Southwest décor. But, there are no other customers in the restaurant. Nobody hears my question. A cool drink of beer from a frosty mug tastes perfect in my parched mouth. The healing properties of cold beer upon a man certainly must be an eternal concept.

The doctor with the British accent at the lunar base told me that I was born and died in Arizona. I guess that I really don’t understand how time flows. But, I presume that someone looking back from a future date would have an awareness of events in a timeline that I cannot yet see from my vantage point in the here and now. But, the way he spoke to me about having died was so casual. It was as though somehow my death was irrelevant or unimportant. I was alive when I was there getting up from the Medical Section. He interacted with me like I was alive and well. Yet, he spoke of my having died. How can both be possible?

I fight to stay off the sharp edge of panic that seems to be intensifying inside of me. All the while I know I must keep pumping myself up emotionally to have faith in the process. I must keep being positive, doing positive things, and moving forward. My chief fear is one of not surviving with my sanity and my memories intact.

I am aware that I may have experienced life-altering events. I believe that any normal person would feel disrupted after experiencing what I have experienced. But, I cannot call into focus what it is that I have experienced! And I am beginning to grasp the importance of my trauma-induced memory loss. I feel instinctively that my identity has been altered.

As I sit there in that hotel room, I fear that I will be discovered as someone who is living a false existence—someone who is only acting in a role that was written for him by someone else.

How awful a demise it would be to die like this in Kingman, Arizona. I am certainly that there are far better places for a man to die alone.

When I awaken in the morning, I am still fully clothed. It is clear to me that I fell asleep on top of that Kingman hotel bed. I make my way downstairs to the restaurant in desperate need of nourishment. I choose to sit at the nearest seat I see as I enter the restaurant—at the very left edge of the counter where there will be only one seat next to mine. Most people would choose to sit at a booth or a table. But, I feel the need to be alone, so I choose that first seat at the counter. That choice would mean only one person could possibly sit directly next to me and I will be able to guarantee my solitude. At this early hour, I feel certain that I will be able to enjoy the peace of eating solo.

I quickly consume one cup of coffee and a breakfast pastry to prevent myself from the unwanted side effects of low blood sugar. That is the precise moment when I look to my left into the hotel’s elevator lobby. That’s when I see a young cowboy standing there. He is saluting me.

My mouth opens in surprise. The cowboy continues to salute me as I stare at him. He is smiling like he knows me and is happy to see my again. I look around me at the restaurant counter to see if there is anyone else nearby. Certainly, the cowboy must be saluting someone other than me. But, I am quite alone except for him.

When I look back at him, I see that he is walking directly to me. I am annoyed that my morning solitude has been interrupted by this cowboy.

Before I have time to react, he sits down at the restaurant counter right next to me. I study him carefully because he has invaded my personal space. He is young, tall and muscular. He wears impossibly tight blue jeans that force me to stare at his midsection. His cowboy boots are faded brown in color. They looked like they have a lot of mileage on them—as though this cowboy has just walked all the way to Kingman from El Paso.

He leaves on his cowboy hat, which is, of course, white. I guess a guy can leave his cowboy hat on indoors in the state of Arizona. Maybe there’s a state law here. I know that Arizona tends to have unusual ideas about state laws. I notice that the cowboy’s torso seems to be trying to force its way out of his white tank top. His skin is evenly tanned as if he has spent a lot of time outdoors with his shirt off. The moment he sits down next to me, his masculine scent overpowers me. This guy captures my complete, undivided attention. I immediately forget about wanting to be by myself.

He smiles politely at me. His bright white teeth are perfectly framed by thick lips. “Mind if I sit here?” he asks me too late. He has a surprisingly deep voice with a Southern accent. Before I can answer him, he says, “I will move on over to some other seat if you want to be alone.”

“You’re good there,” I say to the cowboy. “You’re not from around here, are you?” I ask him.

“No, sir,” he replies. “I’m from Lew-zee-ann-uh.”

“Ah,” I say to him. “You were in the Army?”

He frowns at me. “No, sir,” he says.

I assure him, “You were saluting me. Navy, then?”

“No military service. I was born and raised in Nawhlins,” the cowboy says with the exact pronunciation that is expected of Louisiana natives. “Mostly worked in my uncle’s shrimpin’ business.”

“New Orleans. Real long way from home,” I say to him.

The cowboy replies, “Wanted to change it up. Work on dry land. Not on water.”

“Cowboy from Louisiana?” I ask him.

“Just a costume,” he replies. “I play a cowboy. Just an actor. In a Wild West cowboy show. For tourists. Out on old Route 66 near the airport.”

“Well, you certain look the part, cowboy,” I tell him, trying not to stare too long at the inviting bulge in his blue jeans.

“You’re in the military,” he says to me. “That is why I decided to salute you.”

I am so overwhelmed by how sexually aroused I was getting sitting there next to the cowboy. I just answer him without thinking, “Yes, that’s right.”

His innocent eyes grow wider in response because he knows that I have given him the wrong answer. “Not supposed to talk about it, are you?” he asks quietly as if with respect. “Special ops or something like that.”

I instantly sink into a deeply mortified feeling. “Forget it,” is all I can manage to say to the cowboy. “You gonna order breakfast or what?”

“Sure,” the cowboy replies with a handsome smile. Then, he adds, “I feel like I should buy you breakfast since I obviously have interrupted your private thoughts here this morning.” He brushes his thick right hand through his long blond hair that reaches down to the nape of his neck. This seems to be a gesture that this man has perfected to draw attention to his good looks.

I cannot remember ever having felt so immediately attracted to a man. The cowboy is too perfect, too tempting. He has the look of a man who has successfully left behind the innocence and immaturity of teenage life.

Yet, he is not yet physically worn down or wounded by adulthood’s inevitably rough lessons. Or gravity on Earth. He also probably can have 8 or 10 or even a dozen orgasms every day if he wants. Why would I want to be by myself when I could be with someone as fresh and alluring as this cowboy?

“I have a gift,” he says to me quietly just as the waitress delivers my order of scrambled eggs with sausage. “I’ll have the same as him,” the cowboy tells the waitress without taking his eyes off me.

I cannot break eye contact with him even though I want very much to look away. “What are you talking about?” I ask him.

“You should drink your coffee,” the cowboy says to me like it was more of a command than a suggestion.

I finally break eye contact with him and drink from my coffee cup. Somehow, I don’t remember that the waitress had given me a refill.

“A gift,” the cowboy repeats in the same exact way as before. “My relatives down in the Gulf region. Born with certain gifts.”

“Good looks?” is all I can think to ask the cowboy as I focus on sipping from my coffee cup instead of looking into his eyes.

I hear him reply softly, “Thanks. But, not what I meant. Look at me.”

I turn my head towards him in response to what he had said to me. Once again, I am locked in unwanted eye contact with him. “Telepathy. That’s what you mean,” I say to him confidently.

The cowboy makes a slight, almost imperceptible gesture with his left hand. At that exact moment, I felt that I am suddenly free to turn away from him. But, I chose instead to keep making eye contact with him. “Wow,” he says to me as I continue eye contact with him. “You’re challenging me, sir?”

I assure him once again, “No need to call me ‘sir.’ And, you can stop poking around inside my head. Or I will do more than challenge you.”

He looks stunned and quickly turns his face away from me. The cowboy asks me what seems like a strange question: “You could feel me in your mind?”

I try to muster as much authority as I can. He resumes eye contact with me, but I know somehow that I am no longer under his control “Fuck, yeah. Don’t know where you learned to do this. But, I definitely could feel you inside my brain.”

He smiles apologetically. “Most people do not have the mental skills that you do,” the cowboy says.

I reply to him, “So, you take advantage of people with your mind games. That’s why you like working it so hard wearing that cowboy costume. At that tourist trap. You’re good at what you do. Ripping people off. They never know what hit them.”

His eyes reveal that I’ve hurt his feelings. That surprises me. He seemed to have me completely under some sort of spell. But, maybe I have broken free.

“You’re right about me,” he admits. “I can tell you weren’t expecting me to be honest and say that.”

“I agree to let you buy me breakfast,” I say to him. “You weren’t expecting me to say that, were you?”

He sighs with obvious frustration at me. “Okay. I agree to buy your breakfast. You figured me out very fast, sir. Sorry. We say ‘sir’ a lot in Nawhlins.” Then, the cowboy quickly adds, almost like it was an afterthought: “And yeah, I can read your thoughts. All your memories.”

“Okay,” I say to him with a chuckle. “Good luck with that. I’ve just been through some sort of trauma. Fucked up my brain. Memories are all over the place.”

He scares me when he replies, “I saw that, yeah.”

The waitress delivers his order of scrambled eggs with sausage and gives him a cup of coffee. She then refills my coffee cup and walks away.

“Not that I believe you,” I say to him. “But, what did you see when you looked inside my brain?”

“You hold many secrets,” he says as he started to eat his scrambled eggs.

“Does that kind of shitty opening line usually work for you in your parlor games in Louisiana?” I ask him aggressively as I watch his thick lips and how he chews his food.

“Pretty much, yeah,” he says in response with a self-conscious grin. He stops eating his breakfast and looks at me more carefully than before. I could tell that he knew he would have to work harder to get inside my head if he actually could do so. He says, “Most people do not have sophisticated mental training like you have had.”

“So, you think by trying to flatter me, I will be easier to read?” I ask him.

“Look,” the cowboy says, “I’m for real. This is not fake. You should sense that.”

“Okay,” I admit. “I will stop pushing back. I thought at first that you were coming on to me. Sexually, I mean. That was the vibe you gave off when you sat next to me. Showing off your chest and shoulders in that tank top. Your package. Bulging in those blue jeans like you cannot wait to let your cock out and show me.”

He replies, “You’re right. Absolutely. I was coming on to you. And, I’ll tell you something: You can easily get me into your bed upstairs this morning. That’s right. You weren’t expecting me to say that, were you?”

I can feel my face glowing bright red from deep embarrassment. “Stop saying that ‘weren’t expecting’ shit. I accept that you do have the power to read my mind,” I say to him. “I’m sure that you can see the twisted wreckage that’s in there right now.”

“Just relax,” the cowboy says to me. “Let me see. Make eye contact with me again. Please.”

So, I do what he has told me to do.

I am falling again from a stormy desert sky at sunset. Why am I always falling wearing only blue jeans? I can hear deeply masculine voices in the distance performing Gregorian chant in ancient Latin. I’m hopelessly pathetic.

Now I know that I have lost my sanity because I’m having Roman Catholic end-of-life fantasies. Below me I see the strangely familiar desert sand dunes. I recognize the terrain from pictures I have seen of Death Valley in California. An appropriate name for where I will soon die.

That must be why the guys are singing to me in Latin. Where are they? I cannot see them. I spend what surely will be my last moments wondering whether how much pain my fall will cause. Maybe the desert floor will be soft enough so that my fall might not be fatal? I am losing consciousness. I won’t feel the inevitable impact.

Suddenly, I am back in that Kingman, Arizona hotel restaurant in the year 1991 seated next to the very sexy man from the Deep South who is in cowboy attire. He squints at me as though he is having difficulty keeping his eyes open as he tries to maintain eye contact with me.

He rubs his forehead and frowns as if he has acquired a sudden, unexpected headache. Then, he quickly gets up from the counter of that restaurant and hurriedly moved towards the hotel lobby entrance. For some reason, he unexpectedly is motivated to leave the building immediately.

When I step outside of the hotel to check on him, the New Orleans cowboy is on his knees near some bushes at the edge of the parking lot. He is throwing up like he had just eaten something so deeply corrosive and painful that his body needed to dispel it quickly and totally. He holds up his left hand and gestures to keep me at a distance. He keeps on throwing up nonstop for what seems like two full minutes. Then, he starts sobbing uncontrollably as he remains on his knees. He cries out mournfully like a young person who has never before experienced deep, unrestrained grief.

I turn to walk away to give him privacy. But, the cowboy cries out to me, “Don’t go, sir.”

So, I stand there watching him get up from his knees with his back turned to me. I see him withdraw a bright white handkerchief from a back pocket to wipe his mouth. He takes off his cowboy hat and runs his large left hand through his thick blond hair. Then, he quickly drops the handkerchief to the parking lot and puts his cowboy hat back on and turns to face me.

I stand there in silence just staring at this young man. He looks both highly masculine and yet utterly vulnerable at the same time. That makes me want to just hug him and take him upstairs to my hotel room as fast as possible, remove all his clothing, and fuck him. He slowly walks up to me until he and I are face-to-face with only a matter of centimeters between our noses.

The cowboy clears his throat and says to me with a very hoarse voice, “Mr. Avila, you know what? I really need to sit down somewhere. Right now.”

I am stunned that he knows my surname and how to pronounce it correctly. Yet, I have come to believe that he really can get inside and look around my mind. I say to him, “My 4×4 is parked here in front of the hotel. Let’s go sit there, okay?”

The cowboy nods and with his large right hand pointed forward for me to lead the way to my 4×4. I want him to walk in front of me because he seems so unsteady. I do not think he will be able to remain on his feet and I want to help catch him if he suddenly drops to the pavement.

“Don’t worry, I won’t fall down,” he says to me as he keeps facing away from me and keeps walking.

“How are you going to sit in my truck unless I show you where it is?” I ask him.

“Got that taken care of,” the cowboy says confidently as he keeps walking and correctly announces all the letters and numerals from my Arizona license plate.

“This way over here. Can’t see it yet. A new 1991 Ford Explorer.”

“This is too fuckin’ weird,” I say to him. “Walk ahead of me, okay?” As I walk behind him, I continue to feel the residual emotions of my terrifying fall into what I presume was Death Valley. But, I want to forget all of that and just take this cowboy up to my hotel room for some intense sexual activity for the entire morning.

The cowboy and I arrive at my 4×4. I take out my keys and unlock the passenger side door to let him in.  He removes his cowboy hat before sliding into my truck.

I walk around the front of the vehicle to the driver’s side while keeping my eyes on him. When he is sitting in the passenger seat, tears start streaming down his handsome face. Once I am inside my truck, I ask him, “You okay?”

He cries freely as if he is not embarrassed to be showing so much emotion to me. He looks at me like wants to start talking, but he cannot speak because he is unable to stop crying.

“Just take your time,” I say to him. “You’re okay here now. At least seated, you can’t fall down and hit your heard on the pavement of this parking lot.”

He regains his composure after a few minutes. He wipes away the tears from his eyes with his hands and looks at me again. His expression is one of strong sympathy.

“Who are you? What did you see poking around inside my brain?” I ask him.

He clears his throat and replies, “Really am from Lew-zee-ann-uh. No bullshit. Lot of folks in my family can do what I do.”

“I meant your name, cowboy. Tell me your name,” I say to him.

“Matthew Lejeune,” he replies.

“Okay, Matthew Lejeune,” I answer him, careful to pronounce his surname the same exact way that he has. “What kind of spooky shit did you find when you jumped into my head like your kinfolk on the bayou taught you to do?”

He replies with a very uncertain and unsteady voice. “Was no parlor trick. No mind games. Can you show me some respect?”

“Fair enough,” I say. “Just cannot tell whether you’re my enemy.”

He coughs nervously and he tells me, “Your intense mental training far surpasses anything I have encountered before.”

“What do you mean?” I ask him.

“Don’t know how to explain it to you, sir,” he says. “Your mind. You’ve had some seriously fucking advanced training. For your mind. But, you should know that I am not your enemy.”

“Well, what caused you to throw up and act so stricken with grief out here in this hotel parking lot?”

He looked me in the eyes for the first time since we left the hotel restaurant. I could tell that he was deeply wounded emotionally because of what he had experienced.

“I saw you. In this very 4×4 we’re sitting in right now,” he says. Then, he starts to get tears in his eyes again. “There was a horrible crash,” he says with hesitation, obviously having difficulty expressing himself. Then, he starts talking with more confidence. “Here in Arizona. A real big explosion. You did not get out of this truck alive. I watched you descend into a ravine after losing control of this truck off the edge of a two-land highway. Huge fireball jumps into the sky. I saw how you died.”

“How old are you? You’re too young to be able to do this,” I say to him.

He chuckles nervously and asks, “You wanna see my ID?”

“Your date of birth, man,” I reply. “When were you born?”

“I was born on the 15th of July in 1970. I’m 21 now. Street legal.”

“Okay, street legal,” I say to him. “You’re making all this shit up. You’re an actor. And a damn good one, too.”

“Yeah, but I’m not acting right now. I saw this 4×4 I’m sitting in explode with you in it,” he says. “A horrible way for a man to die.”

“Sure it is,” I admit. “I’m just not sure that what you saw means anything. It could all just be in your imagination.”

He says, “You look like you’re around thirty years old. But, when I was reading your mind—.”

“Well, don’t stop now. How could things get any worse for you than seeing how I die?” I ask him. “Just tell me everything. This obviously was very upsetting to you. I see that. But, I’m ready to listen with an open mind to all you’ve got to say. And I have to say that I do respect your abilities.”

“Freaked me out emotionally,” he says. “I really can read your mind. Your memories are, as you say, a real mess. Twisted wreckage. I did learn that your birthday is June 29th. Odd thing is your memories are that you were born in the year 2162.”

What this young man has told me makes me feel suddenly very dizzy. “What?” is all I can manage to say.

“You have memory loss,” he says to me. “Your memories are like scrambled eggs. But, I could clearly get from reading your mind what your birthday is. Everyone remembers their own birthday. An easy thing for me to find out whenever I read minds. I just never read anyone’s mind before who’s got a birthday that’s in the future.”

I just stare at the cowboy next to me in the passenger seat of my 4×4. “It’s 1991,” I say aloud to him.

“Of course,” he replies as if I am trying to trick him. “And yet, I know for a fact that you were born about a couple of hundred years or so from now, sir,” the cowboy says to me. “More or less. And I know that exact date this truck explodes with you inside!”

I cannot break away from intense eye contact with him. “I don’t want to know anything more about my death. I don’t understand how you are doing this.”

“Mr. Avila,” he responds. “I don’t understand, either.”

“You also know my first name?” I ask him.

“Yes, of course,” he answers. “You’re Ted Avila. From that news show in Phoenix.”

“You’ve seen me on the news?” I ask him.

“Of course not,” he replies. “Don’t watch much television. Never watch the news.”

“You mean to tell me that you just read my mind and picked up my full name, my date of birth, and my occupation, and my supposed death in this truck?”

He replies, “Like I told you. An easy thing for me to do.”

“I’m feeling really fucked up right now,” I say to him.

“That makes two of us,” he replies quickly as he smiles in an apparent attempt to be reassuring to me.

“Tell me, Matthew Lejeune,” I say to him. “Do you really work out on old Route 66 in that cowboy costume as an actor?”

“I do,” he replies. “It’s all true. Everything I’ve told you. Everything. I’m staying at this hotel for now. Just moved here from the Gulf ten days ago. Haven’t yet found an apartment I like. Living in Kingman is not at all like living in Nawhlins.”

“So, you were on your way to work today when you stopped by the restaurant for breakfast?” I ask him.

“No, got time off from the cowboy show so I could find my own place and move out of this hotel,” he replies. “As I passed through the hotel lobby, I saw you sitting at the restaurant counter. Something told me to salute you and then walk up and talk with you.”

“Something told you. How nice for you,” I say to him.

“I had no choice,” he says. “I was drawn to you. I sat down next to you like I was supposed to. Now I feel like we are linked somehow. I don’t like this.”

I try to ignore what he has just told me and instead asking him, “Do you always go out in public dressed in that cowboy costume?”

“Why not?” he replies. “This is Arizona. A guy can get away with dressing like a cowboy here. Easy to do.”

“I know that,” I say to him. “I was born here in Arizona.”

“I know, I picked that up also,” he says. “Place has an odd name.”

“Sedona,” I say to him. “A woman’s name. It’s about a three-hour drive east of here. Haven’t been back there since I was a kid.”

“We should go there today,” he says to me quickly. “Where you grew up. Maybe if you have me there with you today, I can help disconnect us. Read your mind while you’re there in the place where you were born. The energy should be exactly right.”

“Listen to yourself,” I say to him. “You sound like you’re buying this whole crazy shit that you are linked mentally to me with scrambled eggs that pass for my brains and I’m from two hundred years in your future. Oh, and you saw my death. I fucking don’t accept any of this. It’s just not possible! What you’re reading in my mind must be nothing more significant that the thoughts of a crazy man. I’m having hallucinations. This obviously is my mental breakdown, and you’re just playing a bit part in this tragedy of mine.”

The young man breaks off eye contact with me. He stares straight ahead out the windshield of my Ford Explorer at the hotel entrance. He looks as though he is about to start throwing up again.

He touches the fingers of both hands to the inside of the windshield. “You’ve jerked at least two different guys off with your right hand while you drive with your left. Made them shoot their loads as they sat here in the passenger seat,” he says. “Their man-juices splashed onto the glass right here.” He points to a certain spot on the inside of the windshield with his right hand and he traces it on the glass using circular motions with his left.

I am so stunned that I cannot reply. I reach over and touch his left shoulder with my right hand. I can feel the warmth of his skin. He inhales suddenly as I surprised him by touching his shoulder.

His facial expression is that of a man who is starting to experience an orgasm. Is this because he was reading my memories about my having given hand jobs to Vincent Wauneka and Carlo Zarelli when they sat in the passenger seat?

I very quickly withdraw my hand from his shoulder. His apparent vicarious orgasm ends immediately. He looks over at me with sadness on his face.  “You see what happened? I feel that I am linked to you,” Matthew Lejeune says. “Locked to you mentally. Against my will. I cannot stop reading your mind. I want to get as far away from you as possible. Trust me. I just cannot break free from you for some reason. This has never happened to me in my entire life before.”

“Your entire life consists of a couple of decades,” I say to him, trying to change the subject quickly. I do not want to explore what I may have just caused happen to him. “When you’ve lived a couple of centuries like me, you’ll achieve a better perspective.”

When he realizes the meaning of what I said, he chuckles. Then, he says, “Your touch. I felt like I was gonna shoot my load.”

“Let’s not go there. Talk about something else, will you? Like what you do in that cowboy show in Kingman that you’re in.”

He nods at me. He apparently does not want to talk about what just happened any more than I do. He says, “Singing and dancing mostly.” I imagine seeing Matthew Lejeune on a Wild West stage in a small saloon. There is honky-tonk piano music playing a fast-paced tune to a packed house of all-male cowboy customers.

This seems to be a Wild West gay bar where the patrons are watching sexy cowboy actors, including Matthew Lejeune, dancing suggestively on the stage. He is one of five sexy cowboy performers. Each man was selected for this show based on the way Hollywood films and television series conceived of masculinity during the late 20th century—men with square, lantern-jawed faces who look like they have spent their whole lives working out in a gym somewhere.

Matthew Lejeune and his four fellow cowboy gang members on that Wild West stage show are not like cowboys that the polite public would expect. This group owns the stage wearing blue jeans, cowboy boots, and cowboy hats while they simulate cock sucking and butt fucking accompanied by a honky-tonk piano.

“Then, at the end of the show, we’re all hung,” he says seated next to me at the Kingman hotel restaurant. “No cowboy boots on. No shirts on.” What Matthew Lejeune says interrupts my fantasy of his cowboy gang dance.

“All hung?” I ask him.

“Yeah, the grand finale of the show is a scene in which all five of us cowboy outlaws are hoisted up off the stage floor at the end of our nooses to die brutally,” he replies. “Tourists love that. Especially the men.”

“And why wouldn’t they?” I ask sarcastically.

“I mean, a hanging of an entire cowboy outlaw gang. Wow. It’s a great way to end the show,” he says. “Tourists really like watching that. Tell you what I saw. Some of the men, the tourists, seem to get sexually aroused as they watch our pretend hangings. We use these special rope devices that makes the hangings look very real, but it’s completely safe. The male tourists grab their crotches while we’re up there doing the show and stringing up the doomed cowboy. I can tell they think that cowboy hangings are homoerotic. I don’t think they can help how they respond.”

“What makes you think that?” I ask.

He replies, “Well, it feels really strange being hanged. Even though it’s only acting. It feels kind of real. How can that be erotic? I have no idea. But, I struggle and fight for my life at the end of that rope. The five of us cowboys are up there acting, of course. Kicking in agony, not wanting to die like that. Always makes me wonder what it must’ve felt like for a real cowboy to be hanged back in the days of the western frontier. Couple of times I started to get a hard-on when the noose pulls on my neck and I am suspended in the air above the stage. I don’t mind telling you I was bothered by how my dick responded like that. Against my will.”

I reply, “So, tell me what has this got to do with you and me here? And why is it that you want to help me?”

He starts to answer, “Whatever psychic connection you created between us—.”

“Wait a minute,” I interrupt him. “I did not find you. It was the other way around.”

“From my vantage point,” he says, “You pulled me into that hotel restaurant with your mind. I’ve been zapped like an insect that happens to fly into one of those fuckin’ bug lights. Except this insect—talkin’ about me here—didn’t die. Just fuckin’ fried to a crisp. Being dead would be a whole lot easier on me. I’m sure of that! Instead, I saw horrible things. And you and I are linked. Our minds are locked together. Truth is, I believe if I help you regain your memories, I can disconnect from you. That’s my only option. Then I can go on and live my own life. You go your way. I’ll go mine. Like in the old cowboy songs.”

I glance back at his handsome face. He is telling me the truth. I can tell. I also decide at that moment that I will trust him unlike I had ever trusted anyone else in my life. “You got a deal,” I say to him. “But, maybe my memory loss is preventing me from recalling any cowboy songs about time travelers and mind readers.”

Driving on Interstate 40 heading eastward from Kingman to Flagstaff at normal freeway speeds occupies around two hours of time. There is not much to focus upon during that time except sky, trees, and the relentless ribbon of pavement stretching out in front of you.

The cowboy psychic from New Orleans named Matthew Lejeune becomes my traveling companion on that Northern Arizona journey after he retrieves his duffel bag from his room in the Kingman hotel. He tosses that one canvas bag into the back of my 4×4 on top of the taped boxes holding my worldly possessions.

“Matthew,” I say to him as he sits in my Ford Explorer’s passenger seat, “We should be on a first-name basis. I’ll stop calling you ‘cowboy’ and you can call me ‘Ted.’ No more ‘sir.’”

He nods at me.

“How did you end up in Kingman, of all places?” I ask him.

“By accident,” he replies. “I made the decision to leave the Gulf area. Packed this one bag I’ve got. Traveling real light. Hitchhiked to Dallas.”

“Why Texas?” I ask him.

Matthew says, “This guy from Fort Worth picked me up hitchhiking in Lew-zee-ann-uh. Rode with him a full day ‘til we got to Dallas. He paid for me to buy these worn-out cowboy boots, blue jeans, and cowboy hat at a Texas thrift store.” He grabs for his crotch with the instincts of an exhibitionist.

“You wear your costume well,” I say to him. “Makes it easier for you to pull off your telepathy tricks, isn’t it? Tight, faded blue jeans. Cowboy vibe. Muscled sexuality that you don’t mind showing off.”

“Yeah, something like that,” he admits without any apparent self-consciousness or embarrassment.

“Sure beats working on a shrimp boat,” I say. “Now you’ve acquired all this new access to lot of new people. No more just drifting around all shirtless and pointless in the Gulf waters. Getting a great tan and little else.”

Matthew does not respond.

“So, you kept hitching rides westward from Dallas,” I conclude. “More or less a thousand miles of playin’ your mind games. Becoming a very popular fellow along the way. I can only imagine what you did at every truck stop on the Interstate from Amarillo to Kingman. And don’t give me that ‘aw, shucks, sir’ bullshit.”

“Something like that,” Matthew repeats. Now, however, he seems genuinely embarrassed.

“The thing is, Matthew. You are authentic,” I tell him. He reacts with surprise and looks over at me as I kept focusing on the sky and trees and freeway ahead of us. “I know you’re not merely playing mind games with me.”

“Wish you wouldn’t keep calling it that,” Matthew finally says to me. “I need to make a living. Any man does.”

“I get it,” I tell him. “And trust me. I predict that when you see Sedona, you’ll say ‘goodbye, Kingman.’”

“What do you mean?” Matthew asks me. “Never heard of the place before today.”

“Well, I can’t get a clear focus. My memories are so fucked up,” I admit to him. “But, nobody could ever forget Sedona.”

“What’s so special about it?”

I explain to Matthew, “Sedona has a longtime reputation of being this highly mystical place. An energy vortex of some kind in North America. Those of us who were born there heard that all our lives when we were growing up.”

“So, you do remember growing up there?” Matthew asks me.

“Yeah,” I reply. “Sort of. It sounds crazy to say it out loud. But, I remember red rocks all around. Very strong memories. Nature and advanced technology in an odd harmony.”

“What technology?”

“In my memories, faulty as they certainly are, I can see glimpses of my life as a kid. In Sedona. Surrounded by advanced technology. Scattered throughout the region were geodesic domes.”

“Never heard of those,” Matthew admits.

“Spherical triangles,” I say to him as if that would clarify. “You’ll see when we get there.”

“Are you planning to move back home to Sedona?” he asks.

“No. I’m just here temporarily in Northern Arizona on special assignment for the Phoenix television station.”

“What are you looking for?” he asks.

“Patterns. Tracing down evidence of crimes that happened.”

“Like a cop?” he asks.

“Sort of. But, I track down the story, not the perps.”

“What kind of crimes?” he asks.

“Well, this is where it gets a little twisted, Matthew, especially after what you’ve told me today.” I reply. “The general public does not yet know this. Law enforcement wants to keep this quiet. But, there have been gang executions of men throughout several counties here in Arizona. Hanged by the neck until dead.”

“You mean, like in my Kingman cowboy show?”

“Hangings, yes. But, real suffering. Real death. Naked guys. Not wearing costumes. Not make-believe like in your Kingman cowboy show. Guy gets hard to full salute. If you know what I mean. Shoots all he’s got. Then, that noose suffocates him. All in front of spectators. Captured on video that gets sent around for others to watch.”

“Don’t know what to say. Why would anyone do that?” Matthew asks.

“I’m looking for answers. Then, this morning, I meet you. Cowboy psychic from New Orleans. One short venture into mind-reading me. Next thing I know, it’s like you suddenly need an exorcist.”

Matthew says nothing in response.

“I’m not a demon,” I assure Matthew. “I don’t even believe in such things. Or God. Or heaven. Or hell.”

He starts shifting his weight in the passenger seat as though I had made him feel uncomfortable and threatened. If my truck were not moving at about seventy miles per hour on Interstate 40, I’m sure that Matthew would have opened the passenger door to jump away quickly to get away from me.

“So, okay, I accept you’re not evil,” he says to me after apparently mustering the confidence to reply. “I really can read your thoughts. I see that you’ve been honest and sincere with me this whole time. But, there’s something about us together that makes me really worried. You just touched my shoulder back in that hotel parking lot. I was gonna cum.”

“Yeah, told you. Let’s not get into that,” I tell him.

“You’re not the one who caused that, Ted,” he says. “I know that. You just touched me. I was connected to your memories of giving hand jobs to those guys who sat right where I’m sitting in this passenger seat.”

“This sure sounds to me like we’re talking about what happened, cowboy. I really don’t want to get into this.”

“Our minds are locked together right now,” he says. “No other way to explain this. I know you’re telling me the truth. I know who you are and what you do. I also know that you think your mission is to sexually manipulate me in Sedona.”

“Just stop talking,” I tell him.

He responds by raising his voice in anger: “Look, I don’t believe in time travel. I think you’re crazy. You even think you’re crazy. But, your mental power is real. Your memories are real. I know that and you know that. I’m not gonna let you sexually manipulate me.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

I know the geo coordinates by heart: North 34.859897 — West 111.789199. When I arrive at those coordinates with Matthew Lejeune, there are no global positioning satellites orbiting the planet to verify our arrival.

Nor do I find that Sedona looks as it did when I was a kid growing up. There are no geodesic domes like I grew up seeing in my youth. The physical landscape looks very familiar to me. Bell Rock in Village of Oak Creek and the other red sandstone formations that I had seen during my youth help me to feel the inevitable emotions of sadness and nostalgia returning to the place of my youth and upbringing—returning home.

But, this is not the kind of homecoming that I was expecting to find. I need something more. I need something physical that I can feel with my body to help ease my mind. It is not enough for me to think about being home in Sedona while I am in Sedona. Thinking about Sedona upon my return has left me feeling empty. I long to feel at home in Sedona in a more physical way.

When I explain all this verbally to Matthew, he looks puzzled. “What kind of physical feeling are you looking for here?” he asks me. “To touch the earth here. Run your fingers or your bare feet through this red soil here?”

“I cannot explain this,” I say to him. “I remember so many people flocked to Sedona when I was a kid. Like they were on spiritual pilgrimages. Seeking something. Expecting to be zapped into awareness while standing within the Sedona vortex.”

“So why would you think I would want to live in Sedona?” Matthew asks me.

“You belong here,” I explain. “Your abilities probably would be enhanced here. Amplified. I don’t know how to explain it. Not sure I even believe in all this mystical shit. But, I believe in you having natural abilities. Odd abilities, in all honesty. Yet, they are natural abilities. It’s all just a feeling I have. Something I think is going to happen.”

“You’re the spooky one,” Matthew says in response. “Not me.”

I drive to the parking area near the trail head where hikers come to explore Cathedral Rock in Sedona. This massive structure of red sandstone is amazingly impressive to see in person with one’s own eyes—even if you do not believe in the existence of the Sedona vortex. Matthew and I take a short hike up the trail heading in the direction of Cathedral Rock. We do not speak as we walk on the trail along with about ten other people.

Matthew loses his footing at the edge of the trail as the ground beneath his cowboy boots shifted slightly. I am standing next to him to his left when I notice that he has starting to slip. So, I instinctively reached out my right hand, palm down, to Matthew. If he had fallen, he would not have been injured, but I could not just let him fall without trying to help him.

The palm of Matthew’s large left hand directly makes contact with the back of my right hand. His hand crossed mine diagonally so that his thick fingers easily reach over the edge of my hand. He squeezes my hand so he will keep his balance and not fall down.

At the precise moment of our very first physical contact, I feel an intense and strange energy radiating throughout my entire body from his. His very masculine hand exudes a heat that exceeds normal body temperature. But, more importantly, I also feel a tangible transfer of energy from his body to mine. I feel suddenly both invigorated and stronger. This feels very different from earlier when I touched Matthew in my truck and he apparently started having an orgasm.

I perceive that the normal flow of time slows down and ultimately comes to a complete cold stop. The sound of the breeze through the low brush near the trail slows down until there is only an eerie silence. The voices of the other people on that trail ahead of us are also silenced. My eardrums feel like they will push outward from my head because of the sudden removal of all incoming auditory stimulation to my brain.

Matthew’s hand holds mine as though he cannot break away. The energy transfer from him to me continues without interruption. I shift my left foot forward in the dirt just to prove that I retain the ability to move my body at will.

I am conscious and I can move even though I am not within the normal flow of time like Matthew Lejeune and everyone else around me in Sedona are. Compared to me, they all are frozen. They all remain within the normal flow of time. But, I am somehow outside the flow of time. Compared to all of them, I am moving much faster than any other human being could possibly imagine.

As I stand there to the left of Matthew Lejeune, holding onto his left hand with my right hand, I turn my head to look at his face. He may be frozen immovable, but he is facing me. I look into his intensely wide eyes. His pupils have dilated as though he had reached the point of no return prior to an orgasm.

I glance down instinctively at his crotch. I can tell that Matthew has an obvious erection that is straining against the confines of his jeans. His mouth is open as though he has started to form words that he wants to say aloud. But, he cannot break through the deafening silence.

Because we are in physical contact, the transfer of that odd energy continues through our hands from his body into mine. Even though, for him, the flow of time has stopped, the energy exchange between his body and mine is both uninterrupted and strong.

That energy somehow established between us gives me access to the thoughts and memories that Matthew Lejeune holds in his mind. I can feel what Matthew Lejeune felt during all the sexual experiences he has had in his entire life.

I can plug into Matthew Lejeune’s complete awareness and acceptance of his deep-rooted sexual attraction to men. He has experienced so much even though he is so young. I feel the triumph Matthew feels whenever he stands in one hotel after another in improvised dances that tantalize each new sex partner:

I feel the wet, warm interior of a truck driver’s mouth in Tulsa brings Matthew to a sudden ejaculation.

I feel the release Matthew feels while he is shooting a major load into that truck driver’s throat.

I feel the dominance and pride Matthew feels as he is thrusting his thick, lubricated cock into another man’s anus while under a flow of water inside a shower at a truck stop.

Sharing in the intense and personal physical and emotional feeling of another man’s orgasms as if from inside his body and mind brings me a totally new experience I never even imagined!

This activity does not feel morally correct to me, but I am utterly powerless to stop. It feels too good to stop, even if I could.

I learn while physically connected to him on that trail in Sedona that Matthew Lejeune’s young body has experienced thousands of ejaculations while in sexual activities with other men.

I also learn how to randomly access this young man’s sexual activities like rewinding or fast-forwarding a video file on a computerized device. I can replay over and over particular sexual experiences this handsome young man has had. Matthew Lejeune becomes my private digital video playback sex toy.

He was right to fear me. I am able to use him as if he were merely an object to bring me sexual pleasure. He was absolutely right.

I can go where I want in his memories of his past and replay whatever I choose:

The muscular college football player in the Oklahoma Turnpike bathroom that Matthew allowed to fuck him without protection.

The redheaded driver who jerked Matthew off on I-20 near Boyce, Louisiana while the car was racing at seventy-five miles per hour.

The young male clerk who lost his virginity to Matthew in the storage room of at Fort Worth thrift store where Matthew bought his cowboy outfit.

I replay and replay again the exact sexual experiences of my choice from Matthew Lejeune’s life. I am not aware of how many replays I chose. I only know that my mind and my body have just endured more sexual activity experiences that most people have in an entire lifetime! I suppose that this certainly could kill me, but I feel comforted in the knowledge that nobody else has ever died like I am about to.

Then, without warning, the normal flow of time resumes. Matthew Lejeune withdraws his hand from mine quickly and with purpose. When we are no longer in physical contact, I know that the flow of energy from him into my body has stopped. I know that I no longer have access to his memories of his sexual experiences.

Matthew Lejeune regains his balance as he stops walking on the trail. When he sees that he has an erection, he positions both his hands over his midsection. I can once again hear the breeze through the vegetation and the sounds of tourists talking as they hiked on that trail.

The words that Matthew was forming on his thick lips become known to me: “Oh, fuck. What just happened?”

What was to be our innocent little hiking adventure in Sedona came to an abrupt end thanks to a psychic experience Matthew Lejeune shared with me on the trail below Cathedral Rock. I emerge totally exhausted and far wiser than I was at the start of this day.

After Matthew and I return to my truck and get inside, he just looks at me silently. I can tell that he wants an explanation from me. I don’t know what I could possibly say.

“I am not a demon, Matthew,” I finally say to him. “I am an ordinary human being just like you.”

“I’m sure that ordinary human beings don’t do what you just did to me,” Matthew says.

“Probably true,” I respond.

“You were inside my mind,” he says. “You were in control. You could do whatever you wanted in my mind. You raped me. That’s how I see it! It was helpless. I did not agree to this at all.”

“Wait a minute. You think I raped you?”

“Well, I don’t know for certain,” he says. “I’m confused right now. Did you cause this?” he wants to know.

“You think I brought you to the Sedona vortex to take advantage of you against your will?”

“I’m not really sure,” he replies.

“The vortex is total bullshit in my opinion. But, the scientific term is synergy,” I explain to him. “When two different things interact and the combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual—. Oh, never mind. My science training was so long ago. I’ve forgotten much of&mdash.” I stop talking because I realize that I am able to remember my military training. I also remember that I was never to talk about any of these matters to anyone other than people who have the proper security clearance. “Forget it,” I say to Matthew.

“You sexually manipulate men. That’s what you do as part of your work. I see that when I read your memories,” he says.

“What we experienced here in Sedona is unlike anything I have ever experienced in my entire life, Matthew,” I admit to him. “You should be able to see that when you read my mind.”

“I’m afraid,” he says. “I don’t want to read your mind again. I fear that we may be in some permanent lock that binds our minds together.”

“I believe that if you have sex with me, whatever is locking us together will become unlocked,” I tell him. “Having sex is the key here. I believe that.” I drive us in my truck to a roadside motel named Sleep off the Highway. The old neon sign that is out front in the parking area is in need of a paint job. As I turn off the ignition, I look at Matthew.

He is staring at me. “You’ve had an attraction to masculine males all your life,” he says to me. “Started when you were kid playing cowboy and Indians out in the desert not far from where this motel is. So, I know how significant being here in this place with me today is for you.”

“You just said that you didn’t want to keep reading my mind,” I answer quickly.

He is becoming more emotional as he explains, “What you did while inside my mind was like nothing I’ve experienced before. I had no control. I could not stop you. Yet, no denying I also felt a lot of sexual pleasure from what you did. Each orgasm I felt was as vivid and powerful as the original. I know that you felt a lot of sexual pleasure from me, too. But, this was sexual activity against my will. Maybe not rape. I don’t know what to call it.” Matthew has genuine fear in his eyes as he says to me, “So, now we end up here. You’ve brought me to this motel. What are you gonna do to me?”

“Where I work, they hire guys like me. Because we are gay. Because we are sexually active. Because we want and enjoy sex with other men. We go to work. We get involved sexually with other men. We get them to do whatever we need them to do. That’s what I do. That’s my job.”

Matthew cannot hold back the tears when he answers, “Yes, I know. You are telling me the honest truth. And you are not going to stop today until you’ve fucked me like I know you want to. That makes me feel very afraid of you.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

Episode 5 is next
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