I was walking the dog along the river just a stone’s throw from our house and thought of Once Around Seven. It was published in July 2018, so not very old, but I thought I’d give it a post now anyway.
About the only thing you can do around here is to go down the river by canoe – I live in the middle of nowhere – so when I was trying to come up with something anyone who was visiting Nortown for the first time could do, canoeing seemed like a good idea.
When Oz is taking a dip, it’s autumn and not early March as the pictures below, but you get the idea. I also included a photo of my companion on the walk, our dog, who’s the inspiration behind Tristan’s dog Og.
As Joshua looked out over the river again he thought something moved on a rock just a little bit above where the currents really sped up.
The form moved again, and a moan travelled in the wind. Fuck. He’d hoped he’d imagined it. “Are you all right?” Stupid question.
“Splendid. Thanks for asking.”
Josh smiled. A man judging from the voice and probably not in danger of dying on him. “Well, then, are you planning on sleeping out there tonight or could I perhaps persuade you to join me up here where it’s a little dryer?”
The silence lasted too long for Joshua’s liking. “You still with me?” The man groaned, and Josh’s stomach knotted. Perhaps he was more hurt than he’d assumed. “Wait there. I’m coming to get you.”
He ran back to the branch he’d tripped over and grabbed it. It was long enough for him to test the ground before stepping into the stream. He hoped it wouldn’t be deeper than his waders. “You still with me?”
Poking with the stick, he tested the uneven ground and slipped first one then the other foot into the water. He held on to the grass on the riverbank for a few seconds while trying to determine if it was safe to let go. The current was strong, not enough to pull him down, but if he slipped…
Moving one foot, then the stick, then the other foot, and all the while the tug of the current intensified… The man on the rock was crawling towards him, still out of the water but seemingly prepared to take another dip.
“Wait for me, okay?” Joshua looked at him, blond hair clinging to his forehead and the closer he came the clearer he could hear his teeth chattering. “Oswald?”
The man narrowed his eyes, but the chatter of his teeth didn’t stop. “Great, of course, it’s someone who knows who I am.”
Joshua chuckled. “Sorry, man. May I ask, though, why the late-night swim?”
Oswald groaned, one foot slipping in the black river. “Late night? What time is it?”
“I’m guessing around seven.”
Oswald Sattle has been sleeping in his Toyota Camry for the last two hundred and seventy-three days, the exact number of days since he discovered his fiancé cheating on him. Now, out of money and out of options, he’s on his way to Nortown. Aiden, an acquaintance from his past, has offered him a job opportunity he can’t turn down, no matter how much he’d like to.
Joshua Roth moved to Nortown four years ago and he has everything he needs—a job, friends, peace and quiet. He’s not looking for a boyfriend; no one even knows he’s gay, and he’d like it to stay that way. But a stranger in town has Joshua rethinking his decision.
Oswald looks like he wants to hide from the world, and Josh finds himself wanting to get him to smile, to feed him, and make everything better.
In a small town, where everyone knows everyone else’s business, reaching for what you want can feel like a risk. But some risks are worth taking.
Part of Seasons of Love Anthology
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