Fic post

Apr. 10th, 2015 12:19 pm
sekritomg: (mew mew)
[personal profile] sekritomg
Title: spring fic
Pairing: Stan/Kyle
Rating: PG
Summary: The first weekend in April; two holidays.


It’s hot out, or not hot exactly but unseasonal for early April, hovering round 70. So the air conditioning is running as they walk through the door, the TV blaring from the kitchen with the oven on full-blast, finishing the brisket. The whole condo smells like Jewish cooking, and Stan knows by now that it’s a mingled course of celery leaves and rendered chicken fat with shallots, horseradish with beets and the world’s most singly disgusting concord grape wine. Anyway it’s both muggy and freezing in there, and yet Stan embraces everyone, suffers their mock kisses cheek-to-cheek, and watches Kyle swoop around his mother to try to find a wine glass like he knows the place, which he doesn’t, though he should, because isn’t this his mother’s kitchen, his parents’ house?

Sheila grabs him by the shoulders and suddenly he’s put to work, fixing a salad. Kyle’s slicing a head of iceberg and he shoots Stan one of his ‘help me’ looks, like the kind he puts on at office happy hours. He tosses some lettuce in a stainless steel mixing bowl and bitches that Ike never has to help and Sheila says “he’s not even here yet” and Kyle points out that “how could you not know that that’s why he’s always late?” Stan slides into a seat at the breakfast bar and listens to them gossip about Ike’s girlfriend, who’s a “Long Island Jewess” Teaching for America. Kyle’s not met her but Sheila has and they kibitz about her in an uninformed way that bothers Stan but not enough, he’s so hot and overwhelmed.

Ike is so late they begin after sundown, and Gerald just sighs and Sheila rails at him and Ike shrugs these admonishments off like he’s got more important things going on, which he probably does. Kyle whines that he “had to chop salad” and he shakes the bowl of salad in Ike’s face until Ike says “I get it, you love tossing salad” and Kyle says “that’s so hurtful” though he’s 30 and Stan knows for a fact he’s got a sense of humor. Also, he does love having his salad tossed, so to speak, and Stan knows this and he tries not to dwell on it while they’re standing around the table after Kyle’s finally put the salad bowl on the buffet. Sheila holds her hand over her eyes as she lights the candles and then Stan’s senses are awash in a foreign tongue; no matter how many times he hears it it’s still new and guttural and frightening. At one point, when they get to the questions, Ike points out Miriam is actually the youngest at the table. And as she sings the questions in a shaking, stifled voice, Stan looks across the table at her, trying to say: I was an outsider once, too, so I know what you know; I’ve felt everything you’ve felt. But she won’t make eye contact with him, and he links his hand with Kyle’s under the tablecloth, dry fingers brushing for a moment that ends in a squeeze.

No one goes hungry before the meal; everyone picks at his piece of gefilte fish and slathers margarine on matzoh, in between emptying cups of wine and raising the bitter herbs and reclining to the left. Stan is hardly excited for dinner, which has been sitting on Sterno in the dining room for an hour. He tries to make small talk with Miriam while they both serve themselves fruit with little plastic forks which Stan fears might break if he tries to spear a melon wedge. She gapes at him like he's the strangest man alive, and then she reaches up into his hair and tells him his kippa's falling off and he might stand to fix it. Kyle's such a fussy mother hen that he nearly clucks when Stan asks him how it looks, but then Kyle blushes and says "the seder's over, you don't have to keep wearing that stupid thing," and he reaches up and pulls his out of his hair, not without some difficulty, the clip lost in his overgrowth. Stan wants to help but he's still holding his plate of brisket, salad, potato kugel, and four hunks of honeydew.

"You look fine," Kyle whispers, and he pats Stan's cheek. "Very modern orthodox.”

“Maybe I’ll start wearing one every day.”

“Are you trying to make me barf? That would remind me too much of my dad.” It’s the same reason Stan is not allowed to grow a beard of wear a cardigan, under penalty of some ill-defined threat, ‘you don’t want to find out what would happen.’ It’s a silly threat in the way that Kyle is silly, which is to say that he is typically at least half-serious, the other half idealistic projected bullshit. Kyle tugs the thing off of Stan’s head and reads the imprint. “My cousin’s wedding,” he says, fingering the sating fabric, and it takes Stan back two summers ago to a synagogue in suburban Connecticut, the party immediately following at a country club. It was another time then; Ike had a different girlfriend, Kyle’s parents still Stan’s parents’ neighbors.

The sun is fully set and the candles half-consumed, and Stan sits at the dining room table and listens to this other family’s mealtime blather, which is boisterous and insecure and peppered with seemingly convoluted questions and hypothetical dilemmas. Ike comments that instead of speculating whether he’ll apply to medical school, they should be discussing the exodus story, as commanded.

“Discuss nothing,” Stan says, “it never really happened.”

“But there’s got to be some kind of truth in it.” Kyle pushes kugel around his plate and looks at Stan and reaches for his wine glass and says, “There’s truth in all those bible stories, no matter how crazy.”

“That’s a very good point,” Kyle’s mother praises, “my little bubbelah is so smart.”

“Don’t call me that,” says Kyle, “I’m a lawyer.”

They’ll do this again tomorrow night, with reheated leftovers and the same prayers, minus Miriam, who’s going with her friend  Melanie to a prix-fixe “seder” at a cocktail bar that has small plates.

Stan doesn’t look forward to it. Once is enough. It’s a long weekend.

~

Sunday is cooler than it has been, and bright out, though early that morning it rained, and Kyle underdresses in two senses, both too informal and not warm enough. He should have brought a sweater. He makes Stan turn on the heat in the car because he’s already pissed that he’s up at 6 on a Sunday of all days because he has to be in South Park by 9 for church, and there was a moment around 6:17 when he was still in bed and Stan was kneeing him in his side in which Kyle was pretty sure he was about to bail on this whole thing. Then Stan offers coffee and doughnuts and Kyle relents, because putting fried yeast between himself and Passover leftovers sounds like a great idea. He gets an apple fritter and chugs ibuprofen with his coffee and clutches his ears with his sunglasses slid over his face, muttering, “I’m so grossed out right now, do you want this?”

“Do you not like it?”

“I think I’d rather have yours, yeah,” and Stan is such a generous soul that he trades his glazed chocolate cake doughnut with Kyle’s apple fritter, and Kyle is pleased when Stan says it’s good but still too ill to choke anything down until they’re even out of the city and Stan’s driving 15 miles above the speed limit on 285. Then he wolfs down the cake doughnut and wishes he hadn’t so rashly wished away the fritter, because it was like twice as large and though he should be old enough not to put away half a bottle of Mt. Carmel rose and then top it off with several shots of slivovitz, at the time it seemed like a great idea. Kyle hopes he never has to celebrate a holiday ever again.

As a courtesy they pick up Stan’s parents, who are dressed in fashions Kyle only described as “church clothes,” which is always surprising because in her daily life Sharon Marsh is a very brown sweater/black dress kind of woman, but today she’s wearing a yellow shift which a matching yellow jacket and it’s ruffled up the front, and the color yellow Kyle perceives from behind his sunglasses and through his slitted eyelids is a butter kind of tone, warm but dampened, dying. It will take heroic restraint not to take her aside and say Sharon, listen, I like you, you’re okay, never wear that again. That’s what happened last year, when Kyle had really overdone it on mimosas, which will surely be forthcoming at brunch. There’s no worse look of which to be on the receiving end than the “fashion advice from my son’s boyfriend, really?” look, and Kyle doesn’t even drink most of the time, which is maybe the problem, but there’s literally no worse combination for him than this: the old town, his old classmates, his in-laws, the early morning, the weird Catholic aspect, the children. Grown men dressed like rabbits. Butter yellow, as a fashion choice. The very scary idea that the grim specter of death hangs over these proceedings. The fact that he has to do this just following two nights of seders is cruel. Is what it is.

A nonbeliever, Stan flips through the missal shoved into the seatback and Kyle studies how Stan’s lips don’t speak but rather mouth the words to each response, each utterance ingrained on his consciousness like a dead language that’s not been deciphered but scholars know it means something. Like hieroglyphs before Champollion, or linear B, or some pictorial script made up for two friends to pass back and forth on paper scraps in fourth-grade homeroom, because if their teacher catches them he’ll make someone read the message aloud. Stan once described Catholicism as “inscribed on his heart” and it made Kyle very sad to hear that, because he knows himself what it’s like to carry the burden of a faith you can’t really believe but fully understand, and how understanding without belief is Stan’s very essence, his self-destructive burden. Around the time Stan’s sister’s baby starts screaming and she has to rush him out of the sanctuary, Kyle gets hungry and wishes he’d had two doughnuts.

Like always brunch is ham, croissants, potato salad, carrot-raisin salad, and a two-tiered grocery store cake with buttercream in colors so pastel they make Kyle’s mouth burn just staring at them, in all their basket-tip striated glory. He leans into Stan at the table and begs Stan not to let him drink anything. He will be good and drink only black coffee. As soon as Stan agrees his father comes downstairs with the fucking rabbit ears again and Stan’s mother says “I told you to wait until after brunch” but the kids love it, as any kids might love the humiliating adult performances that precipitate presents and candy. And that’s it, the whole meal goes to hell, and though the grass is still wet (as opposed to dewy) they run outside barefoot and trample around the hyacinths and forgo the baskets entirely so that real eggs and plastic eggs are slippery in their hands and because they can’t carry them the eggs fall on the ground and begin to crack and in their excitement the children step on them and their feet end up covered in egg and eggshell and to that sticks the grass and lavender hyacinth petals and dirt.

And the worst thing is that Kyle stands there holding his plate, his plate of congealing ham, staring gap-mouthed and in disbelief at Stan’s family, coming to terms with the fact that they are not going to put a stop to this, they are delighted by this, they are clapping their hands and Stan’s brother-in-law is filming it and not one of them has said one direct thing to Kyle, neither complimented him on making partner finally nor asked him how his Passover went.

And maybe Kyle is about to lose it, maybe he’s about to get a mimosa, but then Stan appears with two, and when Kyle takes one Stan rests an arm around Kyle’s shoulders.

“We’re never having children,” Stan says, and he rests his head against Kyle’s. Both of them sigh at the same time, which is eerie, but Kyle forgets about it as he finishes the mimosa in three sips and realizes his headache’s gone away.

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