Big Little Rich Boy


By Richard Jasper

My father married because he felt like he need an heir to carry on the family name. My mother married for money -- his! Her family had had it long ago but by the time she came along not-go-genteel poverty was the order of the day. she was a beauty, even so, and she had nice, wide child-bearing hips, or so I've been told. She was even reasonably well-educated, a distant relation having paid for her four years at Vassar. When they married, Mother was 25 and Papa was 45. He was dismayed to learn that despite her tendency to flirt she had virtually no interest in sex (at least with him) and NO interest in children. She put it off as long as she could but finally, one sunny spring morning, I arrived. Mother was 32, Papa was 52 -- and dead of a heart attack a little more than three years later. Mother got everything, of course. Well, control of it, anyway. It was almost all in my name. She had a plenty big settlement, thankfully, and the house and the cars and the furs and the jewels. But the real wealth was in my name. I sometimes wonder what she would have done if it had been the other way around. I'm sure she would have found a way to ditch me. As it was, she was stuck. Fortunately for both of us, there was Aunt Jess, my father's maternal aunt. She came with the house. She was already 70 by that time and Mother hated her -- Aunt Jess was much too practical and level-headed for my remaining parent to appreciate. So, out of spite as much as anything else, Mother handed me over to Jess -- an arrangement that suited all of us perfectly. Aunt Jess was a dyke and she led a reasonably independent, sexually adventurous life up to the age of 50, when her lover died. About the same time my grandmother's and Aunt Jess's mother became ill and Jess moved back home to take care of her and then her father and then my grandmother. By the time I came along she was the last one left and she had been taking care of people for 20 years. You might have thought she'd be sick of so much care taking but I never felt that she was anything other than delighted by my presence in her life. I think I must have been her opportunity to start living again, not matter how belatedly. The house, high up in the hills above Los Angeles, was two-story, Italianate, and huge. It was shaped like the letter U, with a big pool and formal gardens between the two winds. Aunt Jess and I had the upstairs half of one wing, my mother the downstairs half of the other wing. Except when she was at the pool and during Sunday brunch, when the three of us ate together, I rarely saw my mother. Which was perhaps just as well. Frigid with my father, Mother turned out to be a sexual lioness once he was gone. There seemed to be a new lover every six months, rather like the new color scheme and the endless redecorating. There was the French playboy, the movie star, the politician, the Italian count, the German industrialist, the British poet, and a very long line of jocks. (There was even a real horse jockey, Fredo, who swore like a sailor and was my favorite out of the whole lot, and Jess's, too. He actually liked kids and he was extraordinarily patient in teaching me how to handle horses when, along with the influx of Hunter green, Mother decided I ought to learn how to ride.) They came and went and except for Fredo and a couple of others they were forgotten as soon as they were gone. (Thanks to Aunt Jess I was able to stay in touch with Fredo, who treats me like a favorite nephew to this day.) Jess and I had our own life, almost always separate and apart from my mother's, and it was a good one. Jess was a gifted teacher and I turned out to be an apt pupil. There was painting and sculpture and music and literature and poetry and philosophy. And travel. We went to Europe and Asia and Latin America and even Africa. (I learned math doing currency conversions under the eagle eye of Jess, who could do long division in her head and for the longest time thought I should be able to do so, also.) And lest you think that I was some poor home schooled wallflower she also made me go to dances and birthday parties and concerts and church socials and somehow I always wound up having two or three close friends to hang out with even though I didn't go to a regular school. All that changed the summer I was 14. Aunt Jess, at 84, was beginning to slow down. Ditto, my hormones had kicked in and Jess had no patience for adolescent males. She'd already figured out I was gay (too bad she didn't bother to tell me then!) and, yes, she adored gay men. But teenagers? Pubescent boys? Quelle horreur. But what changed everything, all our lives, was Jake. Jake was a 24 year old bodybuilder, Mother's latest (she tended to prefer jocks in the summer months) boytoy. Mother wasn't quite sure what bodybuilding was all about but she certainly liked LOOKING at the results. And how not? Curly blond hair, blue eyes, tanned, built, he looked like he should have played Dave Draper's baby brother in "Don't Make Waves," that silly Tony Curtis flick. (And, no, I will NOT tell the Tony Curtis story again.) And *jeez* was he built. No more than 5'8" tall, Tony weighed 225 lbs. of solid muscle. Enormous shoulders, huge pecs, amazing arms, awesome legs, and a minuscule 28 inch waist. We were at poolside for afternoon cocktails when Mother introduced him to us. He was wearing the tiniest pair of gym shorts I'd ever seen and a tank top that left nothing to the imagination. I'd never seen anything like him. My erection was instantaneous and even though I immediately settled the NY Times Book Review section into my lap, raptor-vision Jess immediately noticed. "Oh, brother," she said, taking another, bigger swig of her Gibson. "Here we go again..." •

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