so the first time i went to wake him up after he'd started leavin the door to the bedroom open bern was lyin on top of the covers.  he was rolled over on his belly, his face turned away from me, & he was wearin a pair of white, tight-fittin boxer shorts – & nothin else.  i'd knocked on the door just like he told me to.  i knocked & he grunted & then i heard his breathin go slow & regular again & i knew he'd gone back to sleep.  so i waited behind the door a minute, wonderin what to do.  then i stuck my head in, meanin to call him, to tell him to get up . . . & thats when i seen him.  his legs was bare.  the whole of his broad, meaty back was exposed.  he was wearin those thin, tight, form-fittin white undies . . . & nothin else.

now, one thing about berns body i'd always found totally weird was that it didnt have no hair on it.  his legs was completely smooth for instance, just like a womans legs would be.  i mean, they was shaped different from a womans legs of course, they was alot bulkier than a womans legs – bern was bulky all over cuz he worked out alot – but they was completely hairless.  there wasnt no hair on his forearms neither, or even in his armpits.  which, like i said, i thought was totally weird.  even the hair on his head was shaved, practically right down to the roots – i could see the pink of his scalp right thru it.  his neck was nearly as thick as his head, & he had these big lumps of muscle on the tops of his shoulders, & just underneath, right between the shoulder blades, there was this tatoo . . .  i mean, bern had tatoos all over, he had a drawin of a womans face on one of his ankles for instance, & on the other ankle there was this picture of an eagle with its wings spread out, & his forearms was all covered with these weird lookin patterns of interwoven lines, & there was a kind of spiky chain thing circlin his arm just above his right bicep – but the thing about them tatoos was that they was all either black or blue.  the only one that had any color to it was the one he had in the middle of his back.  that one was a circle divided in half by a kind of elongated s.  half the circle was colored in red & the other half was colored in black, & there was a red dot in the black part & a black dot in the red part & then the whole thing was circled round some more by an interlacin pattern of red & black lines, all very pointy & thorny lookin . . .  very weird.  i'd always wondered what that tatoo was about.  i mean, was it a gang thing or a prison thing or what?

anyhow, i'm standin there lookin at this tatoo on his back when suddenly bern shifts on the bed.  that was like an alarm bell goin off in my head.  before he had a chance to realize how long i'd been standin there starin at him i real quick rapped my knuckles on the door & said "hey!  hey bern!  its time to get up!"  he lifted his head slowly, then rolled it round to look over at me.  "what the fuck" he grumbled, his eyes movin up & down me suspiciously.  i'd never stuck my head thru the door before.  "whad'ya want?" he asked grumpily.

"uhhh . . . i'm here to get you up" i said.

he grunted.  "uh-huh" he said.  "so, i'm up."  then his eyes grew narrow.  "what else you want?"

"nothin" i said, shruggin.  i started to move off but he called me back.

"hey, fuckhead.  how long you been standin there?" he asked.

"oh . . ." i said, "not long."

"uh-huh."  he scowled.  "what you been lookin at while you been standin there?"

"uhhh . . ."  i tried to think fast, then decided maybe the truth was my best bet.  "that tatoo on your back" i said – "thats all."

he moved his head round like he was tryin to look at himself over his shoulder.  "yeah?" he said.  "what about it?"

"i dunno" i said.  "i was just . . . tryin to figure out what it was."

he grunted again.  "its a ying-yang symbol" he told me.  "not that its any of your damn business."

"oh?" i said.  "huh.  a ying-yang symbol.  whats that?"

"christ" he mumbled.  "what are you – a fuckin idiot?  male & female.  good & bad.  the wheel of life, fuckhead.  infinity."  stretchin his arms up over his head, he yawned hugely.  "forget it" he muttered.  "its nothin you'd understand."

i had the feeling it was bern who didnt understand.  he sounded like he was just makin stuff up.

he tucked his hands back under his pillow & closed his eyes.  i lifted my hand, meanin to rap my knuckles on the door again to make him get up like i was supposed to when suddenly he bent both legs outward at the knees, raised himself up on his elbows, arched his back & gave another huge yawn.  lookin back over at me, he blinked his eyes & said "what?"

i shrugged.  "i'm just makin sure you get up, thats all.  like you told me to."

he stared at me a few seconds longer.  "well" he finally said, "as you can see, i'm up."  his eyes locked onto mine, & for a moment i couldnt move.  "well?  was there somethin else you wanted?"

"no . . ."

"then why the hell –" he started to say.  but before he could say anythin else i was gone.

when he came out into the kitchen he was wearin a pair of cut-off jeans & a blue tank top that had greasy handprints wiped down the front of it.  with evenin comin on it was startin to get chilly, but bern always liked dressin as skimpy as he could.  he liked showin off his body, i guess.  when my mom was at home he used to go round half the time wearin nothin but the tiniest, shortiest little pair of shorty-short shorts you ever seen on a man.  with no underwear on underneath neither, so far as i could tell.  & if my mom was in the room when he was dressed like that she'd always have to be huggin him & touchin him . . .  then he'd start in on huggin her & rubbin himself up against her, & his hands'd be all over her back & down on her ass & she'd be runnin her hands all over him too, & pretty soon they'd start into kissin, then they'd be kissin with their mouths wide open & their throat muscles workin & before you knew it my mom'd be givin me a look over his shoulder like, you can leave anytime, kevyn.  which i was glad enough to do, cuz watchin them go at it like that was kinda gross.  but the really weird thing was, sometimes when bern was huggin my mom, he'd be lookin over her shoulder at me.  like he wanted me to know that she might be my mother, but she was his "woman."  like i didnt get that already.  i mean, duhhh . . .

now he sat himself down on one of the kitchen chairs & said in a flat, gruff voice, "i'm hungry."  just like a little kid startin in to whine.  so i told him "well, i'll have dinner fixed in bout a half an hour.  why dont you have yourself an apple, if you cant wait that long?"

he went to the mat by the door & picked up a pair of sandals.  sat down on the chair again.  took an apple from the bowl that was sittin on the table & chomped out a bite.  put his sandals on.  chomped down the rest of the apple in bout two seconds flat, then tossed the core over into the sink.  "i'm still hungry" he said.

jeez louise.  "go" i told him.  "look, the sooner you get out of here, the sooner i can get dinner ready."  he sighed, got up & lumbered towards the door, movin like every inch of his bulky frame – shoulders, back, hips, legs – was poutin.  i just couldnt get over the way he acted sometimes.  like a little boy . . .

cept he wasnt no little boy.  he was 29 years old, & he was built like a brick shithouse.

next day, when i went to the bedroom to wake bern up from his nap again, he was sprawled out on top of the covers just like before, wearin nothin but a pair of white boxer shorts, just like before.  only difference was this time he was lyin on his back.  he had one hand lyin down over his crotch & the other one flung up to cover his eyes.  jesus, i thought for bout the millionth time, he is sooo freaky lookin.  i mean, his armpit was so smooth i could see the cord of tendon underneath the skin.  his chest was hairless too, the skin of it lookin very pale cept for where the two brown nipples stuck up.  & his belly had like, these ripples in it.  muscles, in his belly, risin & fallin every time he breathed.  & his legs – i mean, he must shave himself, he had to, his legs & everythin.  if a guy shaved his armpits, why wouldnt he shave his legs?  & maybe his belly too, & his chest, if he had any hair growin there in the first place.  my eyes moved down to his ankle, takin in the tatoo of the womans face, her long, black hair twistin & curlin round her her head like somethin alive, like snakes.  she had big round eyes, & full lips turned up at the edges in a little smile, & underneath, these two humongus, naked tits . . .  my eyes wandered back up his legs again.  jesus.  his calves was so thick.  & his thighs.  with these weird lumps of muscle stickin out all over them . . .

suddenly i realized how long i'd been standin there starin.  & all of a sudden i was afraid.  i was afraid that . . .   my eyes jumped back up to berns face.  yup.  he'd moved his arm up a little, & from underneath the curve of that arm he was lookin right at me, studyin me – watchin me.  watchin me watchin him.  but for how long?  how long?

"jesus" he grunted.  "what the fuck're you starin at?  what're you lookin at me that way for?"

i lowered my eyes, embarassed.  "i didnt . . .  i mean, i wasnt . . ."

"uh-huh," he said.  "riiight.  jesus, kevyn.  any guy who stands round starin at another guy . . .  in his bedroom . . .  i mean, what're you tryin to tell me here?  you sayin you some kinda faggot or somethin?"

my head jerked up at that.  i felt the color risin in my cheeks.  "no" i said back at him.  "why, bern?  you tryin to tell me your some kinda idiot or somethin?"

he gave a little snort, then lowered his arm so both hands was restin on top of his crotch.  hookin one of his thumbs under the waistband of his underwear he tugged them down, just an inch.  "you sure you aint no faggot?" he asked.  his lips was twitchin up in a creepy little smile as he said it.

i rolled my eyes.  god!  what a goon he was!  "i'm just tryin to get you up" i told him.  "your late already.  dinner'll be ready soon!"  i was shoutin now & i didnt know why.

but he didnt move.  the smile stayed on his face, creepy lookin as ever, & he kept starin at me in a way that made it so i couldnt look away.  slowly he crooked one knee up.  then he lowered his hand & started liftin up on the leg of his boxer shorts.  all of a sudden i found myself starin at an eyeful of dick.  the bright shiny tip of it was just startin to stick out of a fold of foreskin, & that nasty little grin on berns lips kept gettin bigger & bigger . . .

"maybe i got all the dinner you want right here" he said in a low voice.

at first i didnt know what to do, where to look.  then suddenly, i did.  i looked right straight at his dick – then right straight up into his face, into his eyes.  pitchin my voice so it came out soft & low, i said "jesus christ, bern, what are you – some kinda faggot?"

that straightened him out quick.  his mouth snapped shut & his eyes turned all ugly & mean.  in bout two seconds flat he was sittin up, feet on the floor.  next second, he's startin to stand . . .  thats when i pushed the door shut on him & went peelin off down the hall.

behind me i heard bern slam his fist against the bedroom door.

then i heard him do it again.

he didnt come out to the kitchen for a good five minutes.  finally i seen him out of the corner of my eye, leanin in the doorway, watchin me.  he was wearin cut-offs again, & a flannel shirt with the sleeves ripped out.  "i want you to know, fuckhead" he says, "that i waited til i was good & done bein mad before i came out here.  cuz if i hadnt, i just might've shoved your face into a wall."

i put my head down & didnt say nothin.

"i mean, first you stand there starin at me lyin in bed for who knows how long.  then you give me lip about it . . .  i wont take that from you, boy.  i swear to god i wont take it.  you hear me?"

i nodded – then raised my head up & looked at him.  "yes" i said.  "i hear you."

i was tryin to sound humble.  i was tryin to sound innocent.  but seein the look on berns face, mostly all i was tryin to do was not to laugh.