John's Power


By Sedan Elgar

One Saturday afternoon, John Avery became the most powerful man on earth, perhaps the most powerful man who had ever lived. But his transformation actually began the week before, which unfolded in a more desultory fashion.


John awoke with a start.

"Good lord," he gasped. He was drenched in sweat. Under the sheets, his crotch was soaked in semen. My God, not only had he come in his sleep, but how many times had he come! It was the most intense erotic dream he had every experienced. Apparently, God was making up for the lackluster experience of the night before.

John looked down without appetite at the man who lay beside him in his bed. What was the expression? Wolf trap ugly. Because you'd rather chew your arm off than wake him up. His name was Reggie. No, Raddie, whatever the hell kind of name that was. At least it wasn't one of those gay names with unnecessary double letters: Kenn, Gregg, Dann. It was his own horny fault. Cruising on Thursday nights was always a chump's game, ending in acts of desperation.

John reined in his sarcasm--what he called sarcasm, anyway; actually, sarcasm was supposed to be witty--and surveyed the lad. He really wasn't so bad. Cute in a Disney dwarf kind of way. But John had betrayed himself again, as he did every weekend night, suffering the humiliation of going out to the bars, usually without success, enduring the disdain of the people that he really wanted, that everybody really wanted, going home alone, or with someone not at all acceptable. Bars were for Greek gods, not ordinary people.

Their sex had been satisfactory in a conventional sort of way: fifteen minutes of fumbling culminating in an orgasm of acceptable intensity. Did anybody ever really have good sex? Yes, of course they did; Harvey Kell and Jamie Ragin and the rest of what John called the Golden Circle--the gorgeous ones who stood together in a corner of the bar and disdained the attentions of anyone not as beautiful as they--had excellent sex, probably every day.

"What must that be like?" he whispered. He was careful not to wake up Mr. Wolf Trap.

He pulled himself into his bathrobe and shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee. Perhaps he could push a cup of it into his guest's face to avoid more sex. Where did the straight people ever get the idea that gay men had orgiastic sex lives? Most of the gay men he knew hadn't gotten laid since disco was king.

Mr. No-Name stirred and John cringed.


He showered without enthusiasm. He knew there were people who loved to shower, and to parade around in their underwear and take their shirts off in public, people who loved to strip at every possible opportunity because their bodies were so beautiful. He had cast his ire on some of them during his reflections over Mr. Whoozis (who had left with merciful haste). For John, undressing was a painful reminder.

He appraised himself in the full-length mirror, which he had purchased long ago when he first joined a gym. The imagined metamorphosis had never happened. He looked well enough, slim, not flabby, with acceptable pectorals, an angular face beneath close-cropped dark hair, but he had nothing any other faggot with a gym membership didn't have. And then there was his cock, the final disappointment. It was a dreary okra-sized cock, puny and uninspiring. John always fantasized an enormous cock for himself, a weapon of mass destruction that devastated anyone it touched.

John's standards for sexual fulfillment were impossibly high, the result of having been left hard up for so many years. His internal fantasy life had evolved into a spectacular sexual extravaganza in which he was ruler of the Golden Circle, a god above all gods, massively muscular, irresistibly desirable, insatiable and rapacious.

No external reality could live up to it. He wondered if other men had the same intense imaginings and he suspected they did not.

"I'm a sick puppy," he murmured.

He pulled his office clothes out of the closet, not bothering to mix and match. He had long ago arranged his job wardrobe so that any combination of shirt and pants would be acceptable. And he dressed for work.


The Pfeiser Branch of the city library system was an undistinguished, flat-roofed structure tossed up in the late 1960s, pebble stucco and plate glass, an architectural non-entity. John had worked their since acquiring his degree in library sciences. He had been told repeatedly that he was lucky to have gotten a position immediately upon graduating in such a crowded field. John was often mystified by other people's concept of luck.

He had gone into library science for the same reason he did most things: to find a lover. Tired of the bar scene, where appearance was the only criterion for--well, for anything--he decided to do his searching in more rarefied atmospheres. He attended lectures and book club meetings and volunteered for socially responsible activism. None of these venues proved fruitful, but this had never stopped any faggot from repeating the same activity over and over for years. Witness, again, the bars.

He found that he had invested two years of his life and a considerable amount of money earned waiting tables to enter an occupation that didn't pay very well and bored him to death. He had thought that working in a library would be about books: handling books, talking to people about books, recommending books, making eye contact with handsome strangers at the checkout counter, furtive sex in the stacks; (he had always heard other people's tales of sex in the library). But it was actually about numbers: long strings of Dewey decimal figures that had to be maintained in perfect order according to rigid protocols. He might as well have joined the army.

He heaved a long sigh and entered through the front doors; they were already open. He was on late shift that day. He didn't much like working until 10:00, but at least it meant he didn't have to spend much time in the company of Best, who worked the morning shift and only part-time.

Best--whose first name was Besterton--was behind the counter, merrily performing the mindless and repetitive tasks that were the entire corpus of the job. He stacked one book upon the other as if it were a party game. He was irrepressibly cheerful.

"Greetings," he chirped.

"Hello," John said. "Where's dragon lady?"

"In her office. She's in a good mood today."

A good mood. It was difficult to imagine their boss, Mrs. Callaway, in a good mood, though Best frequently announced that she was. John came around the counter and saw that Best was wearing John's favorite pair of pants, gray Calvin Kleins that displayed the boy's spectacular butt with great flair. Best's ass was one of the finest John had ever seen, aggressively round and firm, standing out majestically from his hips, straining the fabric of his trousers into puckers. Best had figured out years before what was needed to succeed in the gay community. He had got himself a gym membership and set out to become the most sought-after body in town. He had succeeded. He had transformed himself from an impish twinkie into one of the most famous bodies in the city. He fucked who he liked when he liked--or rather they fucked him--and he had acquired several rich old fools who bought him gifts and paid his bills. He worked part time at the library so that no one could call him a tramp.

"I'm going into the stacks," he chimed, his arms barely managing the stack of books they held. He flexed his tits at John. "You cover, okay?" He disappeared into the shelves with a snaked-hipped walk that displayed his buttocks very effectively.

After he began work there, it took John some time to come down out of the hormone cloud Best kept him in perpetually and realize that the little tramp had no sexual interest in him whatsoever, despite his constant teasing. Best used his sexiness to control his world. People stumbled over themselves to give him anything he wanted in the hope, however remote, that he might have sex with them. A couple of his rich benefactors had never even had him. Just the possibility of it kept their wallets open. Once Best had discovered that he had this power, he did not hesitate to use it. Any gay man who had to be around him could expect to be in a constant state of sexual agitation.

Mrs. Callaway emerged from her office like a newt seeing the sun for the first time. "John, do you have those labels?"

Hello, John. How are you, John. Lovely day, isn't it, John?

"Just have to print them out," John said.

"So, the answer is no. Sometime this year, if you please." She returned to her dark warren.

Evil bitch.

The day wore on. Best regaled him with the tale of his latest sexual encounter, a pro football player who had the combined attributes of extreme hunkiness and great wealth.

"Are you going to see him again?" John asked, against his better judgment.

"If I decide I need him for something."

Suddenly, John felt a strange chill, a vague portent of negative events coming. He shuddered and furrowed his brow.

'What?" said Best.

John shook his head. "A weird feeling. You know the expression, 'Like someone walked over my grave?'"

"No." Best's literary acumen didn't go beyond the latest issue of GQ.

"Well, that's what it was like."


A customer had bellied up to the counter. Best ignored him as if he couldn't see him and walked away.

"Best... " John said. It was Best's stated responsibility to deal with the customers before John. The boy walked off into the stacks like Huck Finn in a field of yellow grass.

Go figure.

It was an older gentleman waiting to check out. He was quite elegant, obviously a prosperous individual, wearing an expensive gray Italian suit. His hair was steel-colored and flawlessly groomed, as was his thick handlebar mustache. In utter defiance of library regulations, he was smoking. John opened his mouth to comment on it, but something in this man's demeanor stopped him. He would be out the door soon enough, this scofflaw.

"And how is your day?" the old gentleman asked in honeyed tones.

The book he was checking out was Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil.

"I hear this isn't so good," John said, avoiding the man's question. Discussing "his day" was not something John ever cared to do.

"Good for a laugh," the old fellow said.

"Uh, yeah, sure." John looked dubiously at the weighty tome and wondered what this stranger would find to laugh at in it.

He handed the man back his library card. "Here you go."

"Be seeing you, Mr. Avery." The old queen bowed and departed. It wasn't until after he was gone that it occurred to John to wonder how the guy knew his name. He called up the transaction again on his computer to check the man's identity. Curiously, there was no record. He looked up the book's title and found that all the copies in the system were on reserve by patrons and unavailable. What did the old guy check out then? A rogue copy, one that had fallen under the radar nets of people like Mrs. Callaway and was circulating unbeknownst to anyone.

Let him keep it, John said to himself.

The day wore on. John went through his daily routines like a man sleepwalking. There was really no need to be conscious to perform his job. Best flexed adorably about the room, sexually disconcerting any gay man who saw him. Within an hour, John was in a rage of hormones, as always. The little faggot was a sadist.

Best was finishing up with a borrower, a pretty young blonde girl. They warbled enthusiastically about nothing. Best talked to females like he was one of the girls down at Verna's Boutique of Glamour having her bouffant retooled. John half expected him to suggest they go down to the Black Angus for steaks and mai tais. They, in their turn, adored him.

"Somebody should talk to her about those Donna Karan bellbottoms," he said after she left. "Definitely not for her."

"I thought she looked fine."

"Oh, no. Not for her." He sighed cheerfully. "An ugly ass is a curse from God. Don't you agree?"

John, whose ass was flat as a recycled box, glanced briefly at Best's delicious posterior, but turned quickly away before he could get caught looking. Best leaned his pelvis against the counter, causing the muscles beneath his white shirt to strain against the fabric. At any given moment, some part of Best would be straining against some piece of his wardrobe. His pecs displayed admirably, with the perfect rows of his abdominals below them. His shoulders looked like two halves of a coconut. "You know, Best, I've never really considered that men with ugly asses are cursed by God."

"Well, it's true. Have you gotten laid lately, by the way?"

"Why should I tell you?"

"Oh, dear. That was a no. Jeez, John, it's going to fall off if you don't use it soon."

"Yours, no doubt, is callused by now."

"Ooh, I hear the sound of jealousy, that's what I hear!" It was difficult to insult Best. He had his life entirely the way he wanted it, and if anybody else didn't like that, it wouldn't cross his mind to care. At work he acted like John was his best friend in the world, forgetting him utterly once he walked out the door of the library. Best was the one who was enjoying the world, after all; John just looked on. Both of them knew this, and it was Best's blithe disregard for John as a person of no consequence that most infuriated.

At last, the little creep's shift was over. John was to be left mercifully alone for the rest of the day. Best began to get his stuff together. Mrs. Callaway came out of her den.

"Mind if I leave a few minutes early?" He chirped at her.

"Of course not, dear. Good work today, Best."

"Thank you!" He perambulated out the door, bulging coquettishly.

John was unaware that Best ever did much work at all, but Mrs. Callaway always praised him. A few minutes early. If I asked to leave a few minutes early. I might as well ask for her firstborn.

Mrs. Callaway hobbled arthritically back into her nest.

Horny bitch, you want him as much as I do.


After work, John met Stewart at a bar where the two of them went to drink but not to cruise. A quick perusal of the clientele reminded him why. The place was mostly full of sagging middle-aged characters whispering to each other about the few young men in the room, most of whom were for sale.

Jeez, is this my future? John wondered. Hissing queens!

Stewart was sitting in their usual spot by the window, so that they could look outside rather than look at the depressing inside. John looked forward to these meetings not because he enjoyed Stewart's company all that much but because it gave him an excuse not to go home to his one-bedroom apartment and do nothing. He assumed Stewart's motives were similar. Stewart was John's best friend. John did not like him very much. But John had accepted the fact some time ago that if he didn't have Stewart to appear with in public, he would be utterly alone.

"You're late," Stewart said, exhaling a cumulous cloud of smoke into the window pane. He did not look at John.

John, for his part, had not agreed to arrive at any particular time and so had no response to the accusation of lateness.

"Look at these people," Stewart grumbled. He cast a disdainful glance across the assemblage. John knew that this disdain did not exclude him.

"They're pretty jolly."

"Any jollier and rigor mortis would be setting in."

"Where's Lamont?"

"What do you care where Lamont is?"

"I see."

Stewart specialized in black men. More specifically, he specialized in black men with enormous cocks who were emotionally dysfunctional and easy to manipulate. The hoops that Stewart's boy friends jumped through never ceased to amaze John.

His sexual success was mystifying. Stewart was not bad-looking in a ferret-faced sort of way. He was slender and had excellent hair. Like John, his butt was as flat as a failed soufflˇ. But he had found an avenue for constant sexual gratification with willing partners who he could reduce almost to the status of domestic servants. Stewart's lovers never left him; he got tired of them dumped them, not very ceremoniously. John envied that.

"See anything you like?"

"Of course not. Here?"

Stewart shrugged. "They're certainly available. And it's been a while for you." John's failure in an area where Stewart was so successful was something Stewart never hesitated to allude to. It was important to him to keep everyone in his purview under the thumb, not just his sex partners. John's bland acceptance of this was probably the reason Stewart kept him around, assuming he had succeeded in dominating someone who actually just didn't care.

"There are worse fates than no sex." John surveyed the dismal bar crowd.

"I can't think of one. You really can't spend your life waiting to meet some beach boy with a big whistle. Beach boys only do it with other beach boys. Look, they even have their own clubs. You think you'd ever see one of them in here?"

"What should I do? Find my self a nice black man with low self-esteem I can jerk around?"

Stewart shrugged off the accusation. Why not? He was getting laid and John wasn't which made him the obvious victor in any confrontation. "I like black boys. They have nice round butts and big cocks."

With Stewart for his only friend, John had no friends at all.


The next day was a day off and so John went dutifully to the gym. The pointlessness of the activity did not offend him any more than the pointlessness of any other part of his life. John had surveyed the local gyms carefully and found the "most gay" one. He had a vague notion that he would meet his one true love in such a place.

When he arrived, the Golden Circle was already half-way through their exertions. They huddled together, swathed in Spandex and sleeveless shirts of one erotic design or another, oblivious to the unwavering attention of the other gay men in the place. They giggled and carried on between lifting massive amounts of tonnage, and planned their weekends which, as far as John could tell, were all identical: this bar, that party, that beach.

Jamie Ragin was there. Jamie was coming up--literally--in the world. Any gay man who salved his loneliness with porno magazines had had a session with Jamie recently. He was beginning to appear as the featured poser in skin mags. His visage was for sale through several body beautiful photography services. It was rumored he was about to cast off into the seas of the porno film industry. Everybody wanted Jamie, including John, who had a special loathing for him.

John had propositioned Jamie at the Roundabout one Saturday night; God only knew what possessed him to try. No, not true, he remembered exactly why. He was out cruising with Stewart who was, as he put it, "between negroes", and had suffered the radioactive glare of his condescension all evening. After some cutting remark about John's inability to connect with people even in an environment where everyone was, de facto, a slut, John stood up and marched over to Jamie, who was leaning alone against a wall as if he didn't have a care in the world, which he didn't. John and Stewart had been engaging in a stretch of one-liners about his glorious iconhood.

Jamie was almost six feet tall with a fine mane of permanently tousled black hair and bright blue eyes. His muscles were mythical: flawlessly symmetrical and rounded, bronzed and pumped. He maintained this body with little effort; it was a genetic gift, or a gift from God if you thought God was a sadist. Overlaying his physical magnificence, the crowning glory of his sexuality, was his utter and complete dislike for anyone who wasn't as beautiful as he was. This made him into a kind of walking challenge. "I could make you want me," the angry--and horny--onlooker would think. His hatred for all humanity made him irresistible.

"And you are talking to me why?" Jamie said coldly in response to John's nervous greeting. His voice was deep and manly, but with a faggoty lilt.

"I... I thought I saw you looking my way."

Jamie chuckled softly. "Oh, no, dear. If I'd been looking at you, you'd be attractive." He patted John on the shoulder. "What are you after, little man? Status?" He laughed and walked away.

John had hated Jamie Ragin--and anyone who associated with him--from that moment on.

His ire consumed him as he watched them work out. Why should they be so happy? They produced nothing. They made no contribution to the world, unless being decorative is a contribution. Some of them, the ones with rich patrons, didn't even do anything. And yet in the gay community they were treated as elder statesman, worldly philosophers, celebrities. The unfairness of it galled him. It did not occur to John that he contributed nothing either. But he did suffer through a job he hated every day, and this created in his mind the illusion of service.

He sometimes entertained himself by imaging terrible fates for these Adonises, usually inflicted by him. Falling out of windows, scarred by hideous illnesses, murdered by tricks. It was some solace. ----

Saturday night he went out to the bars, as he always did. He knew it was a pointless venture, but the alternative was to merely sit home, which appealed to him even less.

He went to the Roundabout, a colossal dance bar that catered to the under-thirty set, of which he was no longer a member. He could have gone to a place with older, more sober patrons, but his impossibly high standards drove him to seek out the choicest cuts of meat in the city, even though he had never so much as touched one of them.

Stewart was "busy," code for "I'm getting my butt-fucked by a big black dick," so John went alone. He paid his cover charge, walked around the perimeter of the dance floor speaking to no one, watched the Golden Circle in their gyrations for a few minutes and left. This had been his ritual for years. There was no point in staying longer and he knew it.

Everybody goes home alone, he said to himself as he left. Faggots went out to the bars week after week after week, always going home alone. It was utterly perverse.

As he left, he passed by a dapper older gentleman standing on the sidewalk outside the front door. He was dressed in an expensive Italian suit. His hair and handlebar mustache were steel-colored. He was smoking. A rich queen searching for chicken, John concluded.

"Good evening," the grand old fellow said as John walked by.

"Fuck you," John said.

He lay in bed that night thinking how much fun Stewart was having out in the city somewhere and hating him for it.


Sunday was errands day. John looked forward to it with the same pointless anticipation that he looked forward to Saturday nights at the clubs or his visits to the gym. Errands gave him an excuse to get out, to see who else was out. It was a chance to meet someone wonderful in the produce section.

It never occurred to John that the best way to succeed in his search for Mr. Right would be to abandon it altogether, to devote his energies to more productive pursuits. It never occurred to him that he might meet that perfect someone while engaged in an activity that had nothing to do with the hunt. He did what most of his brethren did, hammered away at an array of behaviors and activities that had not produced what he wanted ever, though he had been at them for ten years. Faggot logic.

He rose at 8:00. He made breakfast, checked his answering machine, which was eternally silent. At 11:30, a time he calculated would see the highest population density out on the street, he went up to the main commercial drag of his neighborhood.

He didn't feel well. He felt hungover, though he'd drunk no alcohol the night before. Somehow, the knowledge that all those people had gone home alone disturbed him deeply. John had never had much success at the bars, but he had always assumed that most everybody else did. Surely, what he was imagining couldn't be real. Surely, whole populations of gay men couldn't be going out to the bars en masse every Saturday and going home alone only to return and experience the same thing again and again for years on end.

The image sent a chill down his spine and he banished it.

He made his rounds: Bartell's for shampoo (he had received a coupon book in the mail, and they were offering a better price on his brand than were Fred Meyer's or PayLess), Starbuck's for coffee (Estate Java ground for the coffee machine, French Roast for lattˇs), a quick browse through Waldenbooks where he discovered the new Michael Nava novel, and then down the street to Crown Books where he knew they'd be selling it at a discount ("If you paid full price, you didn't get it at Crown Books!"), then to the newsstand for the latest issues of Torso and Genre, then back north to Volume Shoes which was having a sale, then grocery shopping at QFC ("Quality Food Center," also known as "Queen's First Choice" and "Quick Fuck"), followed by a trip across the street to Safeway where John knew, thanks to his careful research, that certain items could be purchased at a better price.

John hated Sundays. He hated them because Sunday was the perfect day to be in love. The catching-up activities of Saturday were over, the obligatory Saturday night entertainments duly pursued, and couples were faced with a long stretch of Sunday to do nothing together. It was the best day of the week if you were married, and the worst if you were single.

Like Christmas Day once a week, he said to himself. For him, Christmas was not a day of gifts and family, but a day of more than usually crushing aloneness.

He stepped out his front door and ran into Kevin, who was returning from some assignation or other from the night before. Kevin was heterosexual, and the only person in the building John knew or spoke to. Kevin was a stud. Tall and rangy, slender yet opulently muscled with tousled brown hair and permanent five o'clock shadow, he was a walking advertisement from International Male. John never missed an opportunity to speak with him.

"Rough night," he said playfully.

Kevin turned and grinned hugely. "Definitely. Grueling."

"Congratulations." Kevin needed no congratulations. The ladies flocked to him. A sensitive new age guy with the body of a god. Kevin was a carpenter and had hands like legs of lamb.

"How about you?"

"Oh, stayed in last night," John said, not really lying. Kevin had the general straight person's misconception that gay men had spectacular sex lives. John had not enlightened him.

"Yeah. Well, I got to get some sleep, man."

"Yes, I'm sure you do."

Kevin let himself into his apartment. John lingered to watch his delicious butt disappear behind the door.

Kevin was the only person John thought he could ever love.

All the boys were out cruising the streets and shops. Like most gay men, John cruised reflexively whenever he was in public, but he never held out much hope for finding a suitable lover on a Sunday afternoon; after all, if these men were desirable in any striking way, they would be otherwise occupied on a Sunday morning after a Saturday night, wouldn't they? No, better to just get one's errands out of the way and return home to the unwanted privacy of an empty apartment than to pick through the leftovers from the previous evening.

John went into the Market, a three-story mall housing a broad spectrum of storefronts. The two competing espresso stands on the ground floor served as cruising bars for gay men with time on their hands.

Men cruised him as he passed by. He saw no one who interested him terribly much, and no wonder: the same men had been cruising him at the espresso stands at the Market for years. If nothing had happened between them in all that time, what could possibly happen now?

He went across the street to QFC. Like in the Market, men he recognized from years of cruising on the sidewalks cruised him in the aisles as he collected his weekly purchases. He paid hurriedly and went home. He spent the rest of the day in his apartment with the curtains drawn.

He went to work for another five days. Best tormented him as usual, Mrs. Callaway expressed her fathomless disdain. He sat at home at night and watched television. On Sunday morning he made his rounds. The same men were sitting out at espresso stands, the same men cruised him on the sidewalk, the same men cruised him at the grocery store..

He knew how he would spend the rest of the day. He knew there would be another week of work at his loathsome job and then there would be another after that and then another and another and another and another and another.

At the Market, the thought struck him that all the men around him were searching for lovers in a building filled with other men searching for lovers, and yet none of them ever found what they were looking for.

All that looking, he said to himself, every weekend for years. Why don't they meet? No one connects. No one connects.

He was stopped abruptly in his tracks in front of the Market's glass elevator by a vision of the inside of the building as an enormous fish tank. The cruising gay men all transformed before his eyes into languid tropical fish swimming in the harshly-lit waters in search of sustenance, occasionally bumping into each other, but otherwise oblivious to each other's presence, searching, searching, searching.

There's really no reason to go on with this, he said to himself as the scaled forms swam by around him.

And in that moment, the decision to end his life descended on him with the same pleasurable sense of finality as quitting time at the library. He felt no fear, and no pain, only the familiar satisfaction of having found the perfect solution for a long-standing pain in the neck.

"May I be of service?" said a suave voice.

John turned. Sitting insouciantly on a metal bench was the dapper old gentleman from the bar a week before. He was still smoking, still decked out in an expensive Italian suit.

"What did you say?"

"I said, may I be of service?"

"What's that's supposed to mean?" John usually just walked away from weirdoes who accosted him on the street. But something in this man's demeanor prevented such a dismissal.

"We have... a proposition for you, Mr. Avery." •

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