In the Neighbourhood

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Chapter 8: It's Hard at First

“Here ya go.” Darrell popped the can and handed it to Keith.

“Thanks.” He sipped, shading his eyes with his hand. “Can’t believe this weather.”

“Lawn’s gonna burn up soon.”

“I gotta water more.”

“Yeah.”

The sun played on the surface of the pool, which shivered slightly at the faint breeze. A couple of leaves drifted towards the filter, but Darrell couldn’t be bothered to get the skimmer out in the heat of the afternoon.

“So I guess you gotta be extra careful with teenagers around,” Keith said.

“Nowhere’s safe, it’s true,” Darrell agreed. “At first, we could put ’em on the top shelf of our bedroom closet. And under the sink in our bathroom. But kids—they’re not bad kids, mind you. But they get in everything.”

“You must need to find places where they don’t want to look.”

“Like under the lawnmower.” Keith chuckled at that. “Actually, I did put them in the shed for a while. But then I realized, what if we wanted to go get one? They’d probably wonder what I was doing in the shed, in my bathrobe, at midnight.”

“Kids are smart enough to put it all together.”

“Yeah.” Actually, Darrell didn’t quite agree with this. He was pretty sure his older son, Wayne, was more or less a moron. But he couldn’t take the chance.

“So lately,” Darrell went on, “I’ve been putting them in a box with the home movies. Transferred a bunch of eight millimetre movies to videocassette a few years back, and if there’s one thing kids don’t want to see, it’s their sixth birthday party.”

“Good idea.”

“’S worked so far.”

“That’s good.”

They both sipped their cans of beer. Keith obviously had something to say, but Darrell didn’t want to push him. He was content to wait, sun on his face, leaves still drifting idly around the pool.

“So—” Keith started, and stopped.

Darrell took another swig, waited.

“So did you get a chance to watch...” Keith tried again.

“Your tape?” Darrell finished for him.

“Yeah,” Keith said, with a relieved breath.

“Of course,” Darrell answered. He knew he was being a little bit mean, drawing it out like this, and knew it would be making Keith sweat. He was only teasing, of course.

“So was it... okay?”

“It was great,” Darrell said, deciding to let him off the hook at last. “Really nice,” he added. He didn’t want to sound insincere.

“So... is it what you guys...” Darrell could hear him, feel him, searching for the right words. “What you’re looking for?”

“It was fine. I mean, it could be—so do you want some tips? I’m not criticizing, here.”

“Sure.”

“Just suggesting.”

“Anything would help.”

“Well—the lighting—I know, we’re all used to the lights being off. But if you want to tape at night, you really need more lights on.”

“Okay. I left the one light on, beside the bed, so...”

“The more lights, the better.”

“Okay.”

“Really, the best thing would be to tape outdoors, on a sunny day.”

“Have—has someone done that?”

“Not yet. I mean—”

“Oh, of course. It would be—”

“Anyone could be watching.”

“Yeah.”

Keith took another gulp of beer, swallowed, took another. “Anything else?”

“Well, this isn’t a big thing, and I know it’s hard at first. But you’ve gotta try not to look at the camera so much.”

“Was I?”

“All the time. It’s kind of distracting. For the watcher, I mean.”

“I guess I was a little self-conscious.”

“Like I said, we all are at first. It’s not a big deal. Lisa was fine, by the way. I don’t think she looked once.”

“Oh—that’s good.”

“It’s actually the women who do, usually. They tend to be more self-conscious, I think. Till they get used to it.”

“Right.”

“But don’t get me wrong, it was great.” Darrell didn’t want to scare Keith by criticizing him, make him stop making tapes. “It was really good. I hope it won’t be your last.”

Keith didn’t reply, and Darrell looked over at him. Keith’s brow was furrowed.

“Don’t take it—I wasn’t saying anything personal, just—you know—technical, uh...”

“What about the—” He swallowed, licked his lips, wiped the beads of sweat from his brow. “What about the actual—you know—”

“The sex?” Darrell asked. He wasn’t sure Keith could manage to spit the word out if he didn’t say it for him.

“Yeah.”

“Oh, that was fine, just fine.” He glanced over at Keith again; he was wide-eyed, expectant. Darrell searched for more to say. “I mean, that’s kind of personal, if you—whatever you both enjoy is fine. You’re a couple of good looking young people. Whatever you want to do on that score is okay.”

Keith’s face relaxed a little. “Good. I didn’t really know what people did. It’s not like—well, we’re not porno stars.”

“No, no, don’t even think about that. It’s about whatever you and Lisa enjoy.”

“Okay.”

“Really—and don’t take this as a criticism, it’s not directed at you—I think the best tapes come when you—when the couple is really enjoying themselves.”

Keith looked away now. “Right.”

“It’s like—I don’t know your history, so maybe this makes sense, maybe not. But it’s always seemed to me that the best, uh, partners, are the women who wanted it the most. You know what I mean? It’s like, if she’s not a hundred percent into it, it’s still great and all. But when she really wants it...”

“I see what you mean,” Keith said after a while.

“Now, don’t go taking it like that—”

“No,” Keith said. He didn’t sound angry, or at least not terribly angry. Darrell knew he shouldn’t have kept talking like that, but for some reason he wanted to say what he thought of it all, and somehow Keith seemed like the right person to say it to.

The long and short of it, though, was that Keith’s tape really wasn’t very good. First, Darrell had to hunt for the actual video for a while; there was about forty minutes of static at the beginning of the tape.

When he found the very start of the video, he was disappointed to find that it started with them on the bed, already going at it. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but Darrell had always liked seeing women take their clothes off—it was like a package, a Christmas present, being unwrapped. He had especially anticipated seeing Lisa disrobe; he hadn’t seen her up close, but something about her, the way she stood, made him think she would have nice, soft, round curves—great tits.

And he was rewarded with that, at least. She did have an excellent body, rounded without being saggy, plump without losing her waist. In ten years, sure, she’d be a fat, middle-aged woman—Darrell knew this all too well—but for now she was just perfect.

Darrell had to watch the tape a second time before he could put his finger on what was really wrong. Throughout their session, Keith pumped gamely along, scowling with the effort, wiping sweat from his brow—clearly doing his best to give a good performance. But Lisa just lay there, staring vacantly. And when Keith came, collapsing on top of her with a deep, guttural groan—Darrell stopped the tape the second time and rewound it just to be certain—yes, he was sure: she actually rolled her eyes.

He felt terrible for Keith at that moment; Lisa might as well have been a sex doll, in spite of this dedication, and then at the end of it all, for her to act like the aggrieved party—it was just mean, is what it was. Unfair to Keith, and unfair to him, too—he had completely lost his own arousal.

Darrell immediately put in one of his own tapes, and watched Sherrie’s face closely. Granted, they weren’t quite as boring or predictable as Keith and Lisa; in this one, Sherrie was holding the edge of the Jacuzzi tub and leaning over as Darrell took her from behind, and then Sherrie turned around and sat on the edge of the tub and rested one leg on Darrell’s shoulder while Darrell held her up, keeping her from falling backwards into the tub.

But the point was, Sherrie had been an equal partner, wanting to be fucked just as much as Darrell had wanted to fuck her. With Keith and Lisa... well, he might as well have been watching Keith masturbate. And who wanted to see that?

“Well, at least you tried it out,” Darrell said, trying to turn the conversation’s tone cheerful again. “Did you guys watch it together afterwards?”

“Oh, no. We didn’t.”

“You should. Sherrie gets mighty excited when we do that. Sometimes more than the first time.”

“Huh.”

Keith obviously didn’t want to be drawn out, but Darrell felt he had to keep pushing. It was his responsibility, in some way. “So what did Lisa think about the whole thing, then?” he asked. “Are you guys going to become regulars, or—”

“I didn’t tell her,” Keith said.

“That you were going to show the tape? Oh—don’t worry about that. Sherrie and I wouldn’t say anything. We wouldn’t want to make—”

“No, I mean—we’re not—” Keith took a long drink of beer, emptied the can, crushed it with his hand and dropped it beside his chair. “I didn’t tell her I was taping us.”

It made sense, now—the furtive glances at the camera, the lengthy section of erased video at the start of the tape, all of it. “That’s not really—” Darrell struggled to put it into words. “It’s not fair,” he said at last.

“I know,” Keith said. “I wasn’t trying to violate Lisa’s trust. I just wasn’t sure...”

Lisa’s trust—that, too. “I know it probably seems sort of weird and unusual,” Darrell said. “And it’s not like we’ve got a set of rules written down or anything. But I wouldn’t—I mean, your wife is very attractive, don’t get me wrong. But like that—no, that’s really not right.”

“Okay.”

“I won’t say anything to the others,” Darrell promised. “And I won’t give the tape to anyone else. But if you want to be part of this, you and Lisa both have to be on board.”

“Right.” Keith sounded brighter, even eager, not embarrassed as Darrell expected. He really should have been at least a little ashamed about what he had done. Well, it was really between him and his wife.

“It’s not as big a deal as it sounds,” Darrell added. “We all have this idea that women won’t be into it, but look at the few of us here. Sherrie, Marie, Elena—all of them were all right into it, soon as they had the chance. And it was Doreen’s idea in the first place, after all.”

Keith sighed slowly. “I’ll try. I think Lisa’s different, though.”

“They all are, in a way. But in bed, they’re all the same, in a way.”

Darrell hadn’t expected to come up with something so profound; it just came out, somehow. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made, though.

“Hmmm,” Keith agreed, but Darrell got the sense that he didn’t think it was profound as Darrell did. Oh, well. He was young—he still had a lot to learn about women.

“Da-are,” Sherrie’s voice floated out the back door of the house.

“Out here,” Darrell called. “Bring’s a couple of beers, willya?” He looked over at Keith. “You want another, eh?”

“Sure.” Keith was relaxed now, lying back as far as he could in the deck chair. The sun was just hammering down, now, pressing them both lower and lower towards the baking-hot deck.

“Did you remember to get more chlorine?” Sherrie asked as she approached. “We’re almost out, and—oh! Hello there, you!”

Keith looked up. “Hiya.”

“You didn’t tell me we had company,” she clucked at Darrell. “I only brought one beer. Hold on.” She held the can out to Keith. “I’ll go get another.”

“It’s okay,” Keith said. “I should—”

“No, no, you stay right there. I won’t be a moment.” She put the can in his hand and disappeared.

Keith was sitting up, now, holding the can in his hand, sweat steadily dripping off the cold metal. “Did she—” he started.

Darrell waited. “Did she what?”

“Did you—” he began again, then popped the can open and sat back. “Never mind.”

“What’s the matter?” Darrell asked. He looked back at the house. Sherrie was coming out again with another beer. What had she said? This guy got harder and harder to read.

“Here you are,” Sherrie said, opening the can before she gave it to Darrell. “Hot, isn’t it? I was thinking of going for a dip soon.”

“I went to Pembroke’s for chlorine, by the way,” he added. “They were out of the liquid stuff.”

“It’s been a week. Better go to Canadian Tire.”

“It can wait till tomorrow.”

“Well,” she said. Last word on the subject, as usual.

Keith tipped his can back. He must have been hard at work on that beer, Darrell realized; he was almost done already.

“What about you?” Darrell asked. “Feel like cooling off in the pool?”

“I’m okay,” Keith mumbled.

“Maybe you should ask your wife,” Sherrie suggested. What was that strange, giddy tone in her voice? “It would be nice to have you both over.”

“Can’t really—I should go, actually.” Keith swallowed the last of his beer.

“Well, I’m going to go change,” Sherrie said. “But you and Lisa are welcome to come over for a dip, any time,” she added, that weird, giddy tone returning.

“Thanks,” Keith said, not sounding particularly thankful.

When Sherrie was back in the house, Keith turned suddenly and fiercely to Darrell. “Did you show her the tape?” he hissed.

Darrell couldn’t find an answer at first. “I don’t—what, your tape?”

“Yes,” Keith scowled. “Did she see it?”

“Of course,” Darrell answered.

Keith stood up. “That’s—” He threw his empty beer can on the concrete, like a child, and it clattered around for a second. “That’s just great.”

“What?”

Keith glared at the ground. “Nothing,” he said. “Never mind.”

“Don’t worry,” Darrell tried to sooth him. “It’s not—”

“I have to go,” Keith said abruptly, and stalked away. Darrell was a little annoyed when he heard how hard Keith slammed the gate closed as he left, but in the end he just sat back in his chair. He had almost a full can of beer to finish, anyway.

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