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One thing about growing up on a farm, even if nothing untoward happens, you never lose the love for open space and green growing things. When the farm economy went to helI in the 80's, I was entering high school, and my parents were caught. The family farm was too big to continue without a major investment in new equipment, and too small to be run as an agribusiness. I knew my dad wanted to save the farm for me to take over when he retired, but I already knew I didn't want to battle the uncertainties.
After a family conference, I told my dad to sell if he had a good offer for the place. A year after I entered college, a large farm next to ours was bought and the buyer wanted our acreage as well, so dad sold out, retaining the family home and the surrounding four acres on the creek. I switched my major to horticulture instead, something I knew I could do well without operating heavy machinery, impossible since I had lost an argument with a corn picker when I was just six.
The folks sacrificed to get me my first prosthesis, but I hit a growth spurt and it was soon too short. Instead of another, I got a peg-leg instead. With a three inch nub below my right knee, it felt so comfortable I never considered another prosthesis. I now have three pegs, one of dark polished wood for 'dress-up', the other two plain utilitarian jobs for daily work. I never think about it at all, for after nineteen years all the accommodations a peg-leg requires have become instinctive.
After I received my degree, I bought five acres of good land near town and opened a greenhouse and garden supply business. Thanks to a rapidly expanding community and by offering lower prices than my competitor in town, I had plenty of business from the first. I spent the slower time the first winter renovating the small house on the back of the property and lived comfortably. Though I was not discontent, the long winter evenings became lonely. I longed to share my life with someone, but in this small town there is no gay community, and being openly gay is a stigma that could hurt my business.
Our winters are relatively mild here, so with long hours and the help of two women who live near by and want part-time work, we had rows of flats of flowering plants seeded and ready to start in the two large greenhouses I built. The plants will be ready when warm spring weekends bring out home gardeners. My helpers had gone and I was adjusting the automatic watering system and thermostats when I felt the presence of someone. I turned to see a figure standing in the shadows by the entrance. "Sorry, but we're closed."
"I know. I was just wondering if you needed any help."
"Not really. I have all the help I need at present. There's not a lot to do until business picks up in the spring." Expecting him to leave, I finish making the adjustments and start toward the door. I'm startled to see him still standing there.
"How far is it into town?" He asks.
"About four miles."
"Guess I'd better get started then. Didn't think it was that far."
"Yeah. I hope I can hitch a ride."
I switch off the few lights I had on. There's something appealing in his soft voice. "Come on over to the shop. I've got to close up."
He follows me into the retail shop, where I switch on more lights. He stands almost six feet. His slender build, thick dark hair, and beautiful face delight me, but when I notice the left sleeve of his jacket hanging empty, there is an instant strain in the crotch of my jeans. He looks no more than a couple of years younger than my twenty-five. I notice, too, that he's giving me the same close scrutiny I'm giving him. 'Naaah, no way,' I think. "What kind of work are you looking for?"
"Most any kind. I got my degree in business and was going to work with my old man, but he and my mom surprised me with a visit just before graduation." He laughs ruefully. "We all got surprised. They walked in my room and caught me and my roommate in bed together and that was it."
"Your dad didn't want you to work for him just because of that?"
"Worse. They're ultra religious, so they told me they didn't care what I did as long as I didn�t ever come home again. I quit going to church with them before I started high school, because I couldn�t take the crap their preacher handed out. Hell, I've known I was gay since I was thirteen." He shakes his head. "Don't know why I'm standing here telling a stranger all this. Must be tireder than I thought."
I can feel the damp chill already, making me eager for my house, a hot shower, and some dinner, but I'm reluctant to leave this beautiful guy. "You have some place to stay in town?"
He shakes his head. "Just hoping to find some place cheap. I don't have much money."
"I know a place. Come on." I lock up, and we walk up the lane to my house. He looks surprised when I open the door, switch on the lights, and turn the heat up. "Coffee is next to the maker. You can fix a pot while I'm in the shower, then I'll hustle up something to eat."
"You don't know me, so why're you bringing me into your house like this?"
"Because I like what I see. If you don't want to stick around, you know where the door is." I start to my bedroom, feeling more sure of my decision because of what he said. I'm just hoping he doesn't leave.
When I come into the kitchen, he's sitting at the table nursing a mug of coffee. Now that he's taken his jacket off, I can tell his left arm is gone at the shoulder. He looks up without saying anything, until I throw a couple of small steaks under the broiler and drop two large baking potatoes in the microwave.
"Where's the bath?"
"Second door on the left down the hall."
I've made a salad and have some rolls heating in the toaster oven when he returns. "Anything I can do to help?"
"All done, 'cept for the steaks. How you like yours?"
I pull the potatoes out and drop them on our plates, splitting them open so they'll be easy for him. When I take the steaks from the broiler, I put his on the plate and cut it before I set it in front of him.
I don�t know when the kid's had a decent meal before, because he eats as if he hasn't had anything for a week. When his plate is wiped clean, he drops the steak bone in the trash and rinses the plate, leaving it in the sink. He refills our coffee mugs and sits down with a broad smile. "Thanks, that was great. Silly to sit and eat with a man and not know his name. I'm Marc Thomson."
"Guess I didn�t give you much chance. I'm Wolfgang Norstadt, better known as Wolf."
"Thanks for a great dinner, Wolf. How long you been here?"
"Started the business about three years ago."
"Must be doing well. Businesses like this don't often have such a nice layout so quickly."
"Doing better than I expected, but the paperwork is driving me nuts."
"You need an office manager." He grins. "I'm available cheap."
"You'd have to come damn cheap. I'm still paying off a big loan I got to get started. Besides, we're pretty far out for a guy with no transportation."
Marc stands. "Least I can do is help you with the dishes, then I'd better be moving on."
"I thought you didn�t have anywhere to go?"
"Don't, but I'm no begger. Sure would like to stay and look the place over; I like growing things."
"You a farm kid?"
"Yeah." He places his hand on his armless shoulder. "Can be a dangerous place to work, though."
I have to smile. "Tell me about it."
"Yeah. Look, Marc, I've only one bed, but it's a big one. If you want to stay the night, you're welcome."
His smile is devastating. "You sure?"
"It's nice having somebody to talk to." I glance up at the clock. "Getting late, so I'll get the dishes done and we'll hit the hay. Go ahead and take a shower if you want."
I'm ready for bed by the time he comes in my bedroom. He's even more beautiful without anything on. He has no stump at all, his arm taken cleanly at the shoulder. I've dreamed of having a stump to nuzzle, but his shoulder will do nicely.
"Care if I sleep raw?"
"Been doing it for years myself. Hop in."
His arm goes around me instantly, and mine respond. Only when I drop down and begin to nuzzle his shoulder does he pull back with a gasp of surprise.
"I didn�t hurt you, did I?"
"No, but nobody's ever touched me there before. It's so ugly."
"Ugly? You're beautiful. There's nothing I would change about you."
The words are hardly out of my mouth before his arm is around me again, and he presses his cheek against mine. I can feel dampness in his face. "What's wrong, babe?"
"I've always been told nobody would want me without my arm."
I pull him around and kiss him. "You're perfect, Marc."
After an hour of the most intense pleasure I've ever known he snuggles against me. "It's never been this good before. You're wonderful, Wolf."
"You don't mind my leg?"
"How could I? Your stump and peg are a real turn-on for me." He begins to stroke my nub. "I've always wanted to be a good looking Nordic type like you."
I wake at my usual early hour, and look at Marc lying beside me. In repose he looks even younger. I lean over and wake him with a kiss.
We linger over another cup of coffee after we've eaten. "Marc, I wish there was someway you could stay and run the office for me, but I can't even afford minimum wage."
There are tears in his eyes. "I don't want to leave you, Wolf. If you'll let me share your bed and food, I won�t need anything more."
"Are you sure?"
"Please, Wolf. I'm in love with you."
I go around the table and pull him into a hug. "I love you, too, babe. We'll make it somehow. No way I'm letting a beautiful guy like you get away."
I order the computer Marc asks for, and within two weeks he has all my business records entered. Any question I ask he answers in seconds. He puts in the same long hours that I do without complaint. As a result, my overhead and excess inventory drop and, with the lower cost, I can pay him a little on a regular basis. He's soon popular with my help, and I see repeat business picking up, especially among the younger women. Productivity gains, and there's a new spirit around the place.
Yeah, everybody loves him, but I'm the greatest beneficiary of all. He makes my life replete with joy.