Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Perch

 Jacob's Ladder

Paul Chambers hated hunting. Killing animals, any animal, stabbed at his soul. However, it was the killing of animals that had brought his band of brothers together today. They were hunters. In order to infiltrate this group of men, Paul had to be a hunter, even if each excursion to the woods serial killed his soul. Every October, every deer season.

It was not as if he actually killed anything. In the ten years they'd participated in this ritual, he'd come away with nothing to show from his time amongst the ticks, snakes and earth dwelling insects. Instead, he spent his time sipping whiskey from a flask he'd inherited from his grandfather and reading Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil.

He hated nature. Hated the trees, bugs and the dirt. The fucking dirt. Ten years of inserting

himself in a world that he absolutely loathed just to be with a group of guys, his band of


It was all a lie.

All of this wasn't to be with his brothers.

It was to be with him...Jacob Ladder.

The roar of laughter pulled Paul back through the mirror of reality. The five of them were sitting at the table in Denny’s among the greasy remnants of their breakfast. Paul laughed in all of the right places. Talked about the women he'd fucked and dumped. The same stories that reflected theirs. Like most things, for him life was a puzzle where he had to bend and carve his edges in order to make the pieces fit. The smirk on Jacob's face whenever Paul lied about his abilities with women was irksome. The mocking look in his eyes, reveling at Paul's ability to lie so convincingly.

It was so effortless. Of course it was, lying had been how he’d kept himself alive in a world of wolves looking to rip people like him apart.

Paul hated Jacob. Hated him as much as he fucking hated deer season yet here he was.

"Time to go hunting'" Wes White boomed. Wes was six foot four, two hundred and sixty pounds, dressed head to toe in camouflage. He looked like an oversized hillbilly. Wes worked hard on his good ol’ boy

persona. He only got a haircut once year. He drove a massive pickup truck with a gun rack attached. Wes always had an empty Coke can in hands reach to spit his tobacco into. Wes was a bully. A tough guy hick who kicked ass and took names. It was all an act. Wes' dad was a wealthy hedge fund manager whose millions gave birth to millions on a yearly basis. The

last thing Wes White was an average joe. His stress-free life revolved around fishing, fighting and, of course, hunting. Big game, little game, all game. He'd even shot a few people, a fact his family had managed to cover


Wes hated everybody in certain degrees. Tinted skin? He hated you. tits and clits? He hated you. Sexuality tied to an initial? He hated you. Paul knew Wes wouldn't think twice about dragging him behind his Ford F-350

if he knew who he truly was. Every hunting season, Paul put himself in mortal danger all for Jacob. Everything he did was all for fucking Jacob Ladder.

“Here’s the tip, baby doll,” Wes said handing the waitress a hundred dollar bill before slapping her hard on the

buttocks. The waitress gave him a weary smile before hurrying off. Wes eyes fell on Paul. There was a curious glint in his eyes. He opened his mouth to speak but was cut off by Jacob.

“Let’s go huntin’!” Jacob said beating his fist on the table top.

"Yeah, let's fucking go!" Paul whooped, his stomach having a grand mal seizure.


For Paul, arriving in the woods was like pulling up to a funeral. Every time he entered the forest he always felt like a burglar slipping through someone else's window, into someone else's home. Their footfalls seemed to echo for miles, rippling through the silence.

The dirt. The insects. Nature. Fuck.

Jacob. Jacob. Jacob. Fuck.

Paul purposefully lagged behind the others so he could watch Jacob unobtrusively. Without warning, Jacob looked back over his shoulder. Wait, did he wink? Did he? No of course not. A special moment for him. A special a moment, that meant nothing to Jacob. Still he trudged behind like a dog. A dog traipsing behind wolves. Walking through a woodland maze under a canopy of trees. The leaves rained down on them like crispy confetti. Paul slapped the side of his neck narrowly missing the gnat that stalked him.

"You're right here, Paul."

Wes said, pointing to a tree. Wes always assigned Paul a tree, never anyone else, just him. It pissed Paul off but he never said anything, less he ended up behind that F-350 belly skiing on asphalt. Wes was unpredictable in a very real way.

So, this was his fucking tree. He put the harness on and tether his straps around the tree and methodically made his way fifteen feet up the tree. Once in his stand, he removed his copy of Beyond

Good and Evil and settled in to read. After a few sips of whiskey, he was feeling warm and cozy and he was able to forgive his surroundings and read while getting tipsy. Lost in his book, time seeped away from him until he heard the leaves rustling below.

Paul's heart sank. A regal doe made her way towards him. It never failed. Every hunting trip, it was like the deer sought him out. This one was no different. It was like it had a deer death wish. It continued wandering

towards his tree. Paul sipped more whiskey watching as the deer continued foraging, looking up occasionally to assure its safety. One couldn't help but see the irony in the doe crossing in his path. Any of the other four guys in his party would have lit the deer up and it would have been the main course for dinner.

Jacob wouldn't have had any problem killing you, Paul thought. No, Jacob didn't have a problem hurting things. Perhaps that was what attracted Paul the most? The ability to master

compartmentalizing things to the point you never held yourself accountable for anything and could get rid of people who no longer served a purpose. Paul was accustomed to being discarded by Jacob. The first time they'd connected had been a conspiracy of circumstance while in college.

Both had been on the football team. Jacob at six foot one and a hundred and ninety-eight pounds

had been the star wide receiver and Wes White's best friend. Where Wes had come from money, Jacob had been born and into the proverbial potless and windowless poverty, but it was his good looks and athletic ability that had shielded him from the curse of the have-nots. His high school coach had rescued him from a drug-addled mother and gave him a surrogate middle-class lifestyle and a ticket to college.

Paul had been a star soccer player who'd been assigned the punting and field goal duty on the football team. He'd been a good kicker but was by no means a well-known player and he'd liked it that way. He'd liked keeping a low profile, it allowed him to position himself close to what he coveted and still be able to hide his secret.

An affliction, if you will, and he'd hid it well. In the showers, dicks out, swinging and lathered. While the others had joked and engaged in testosterone-fueled horseplay, he watched and lusted. Stealing glances at the hanging meat. Jacob had caught his wayward eyes on more than one occasion, but unlike Wes, who would have pummeled his face until it resembled a half-eaten blackberry pie, Jacob had simply sneered. It was the expression of a blackmailer. A knower of a secret who would use the leverage to bind another.

Paul had been wary. Jacob wasn't safe. He was a snake. A beautiful, unknowable serpent. No, a scorpion. He was a scorpion. A creepy, enigmatic scorpion who could sting without warning.




Paul had been content to live in his own private fantasy world, taking mental photos of locker room phalluses to take back to his dorm room, to enjoy within his fortress of celibacy.

He had been content until the day Jacob Ladder had stung him.

Bathroom Stalls

Paul had been content to live in his own private fantasy world, taking mental photos of locker room phalluses to take back to his dorm room, to enjoy within his fortress of celibacy. He had been content until the day Jacob Ladder had stung him.

It had been on a Saturday night, game day against their arch rival, the Raptors. Fourth Quarter with the game tied. Last down and Paul had been called upon to make the game winning field goal. The pressure had been borderline traumatizing. The weight of the stadium had been palpable. Competing hopes from opposing fans thrown into the universe it was a fist to his psyche to the point his nose had begun to bleed.

"Please let me make." Paul had pleaded. Coach Danforth had stepped in front of him on the sidelines.

"You got this kid." His thin mouth had muttered but his watery, alcoholic eyes had been colored with doubt. It was contagious. Paul had trotted onto the field. He was a great kicker, but some people weren't meant for the main stage.

He wasn't meant for the main stage.

The ball knew, the uprights knew it and within seconds the crowd had known too as the ball veered away from its target. A collective groan erupted, and everything went dark. He was present for the rest of the game but didn’t remember the Raptors getting the ball back and scoring a touchdown with three seconds left in the game. Didn't remember anything except being a pariah.

He would go on to make many more field goals for the team but was never able to wash away the stain of the flubbed kick against the Raptors. In time the intensity of the hate subsided, but the memory hung around his neck like an albatross. However, it was this incident that put him in Jacob’s orbit.

The locker room had felt like a powder keg. Paul had been afraid to enter the showers. He sat there listening to the team curse his name for missing the kick.

“Only had one job to do.” Wes had fumed.

“Fucking fag needs to get off the team.” Said another. They were hyping each other up like a pack of hyena.

“Hey, hey. Kill that shit. We’re a team.” Jacob said, stepping into the shower. “Take that shit out on your girlfriend. That’s what I plan on doing.”

Laughter erupted and, just like that, the energy shifted. Paul’s name was released from conversation and he was finally able to exhale. Still he’d sat there on that cold, hard bench in front of the lockers in his full uniform. Time elapse and the other players undressed, showered and redressed and left. Until it was just him. Only then did he have the courage to remove the plastic armor that had been useless against the spears of humiliation.

Paul had wrapped himself in a towel and headed for the shower. Jacob startled him when he shoved past him. Jacob thought he was alone. The shoulder check was a stinging statement. I’m no ally. It seemed to say. The scorpion stinging.

“Sorry, I thought everyone had left.”

Jacob looked at him, his damp hair was darkened from the shower and formed ringlets against his forehead.

“Yeah, well, I’m still here.” He said glaring at him, his dimpled chin jutting forward. He allowed the towel to fall from his waist and Paul’s disloyal eyes couldn’t resist doing what they’d been trained to do. When he’d realized what he done tears sprang to his eyes. When he’d gathered the courage to look at Jacob he was met with that familiar sneer.

The secret was out and by the look in Jacob’s eyes, it wouldn’t be long before the entire team knew and they would...Oh fuck... what would they do to him? The nightmare scenarios had been infinite. Paul escaped into the shower and turned on the spray. The water rained down on him mingling with his tears. He’d stayed until the water cooled and he resolved himself to inevitably facing the consequences of his nature.

When he returned to the locker room was surprised to find Jacob sitting on the bench with his head in his hands. He stood, and although the towel was back around his waist, it did nothing to the hide the horns shaped imprint poking through. The look on his face was one of revulsion, guilt and need.

Jacob grabbed Paul’s wrist in a vise-like grip and pulled him roughly towards the bathroom stalls.

“I’m sorry. Please don’t hurt me.”

Jacob ripped the towel from himself and...

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