“The Cocktail Hour” by John Morgan Wilson from Men of the Mean Streets (Bold Strokes Books, 2011). Edited by Greg Herren and J. M. Redmann.
There’s a temptation, early on in the reading of this story, to compare it to a certain play-turned-movie. While the two works do bear similarities, they turn out to be quite different.
It’s 3am on a seedy side street in Hollywood when the phone in Jack’s motel room rings. It’s Randy, his lover from seven years back. Randy tells Jack he’s lonely and wants to see him, but only that. He swears he isn’t looking to re-kindle anything because he’s in a committed relationship—he professes to be in love—with a much, much older and also very well-off man. He invites Jack to their ranch.
Jack shouldn’t accept the offer, of course, but he does. He shows up and is introduced to the cook and the ranch hand, and finally to Arthur, the man who replaced him in Randy’s life. Arthur is surprisingly welcoming, and it all seems hunky-dory…until it doesn’t. Things slowly start to unravel, but it’s hard to say if Jack’s simply feeling jittery because he feels guilty about his and Jack’s tumultuous past, and the feelings that are being stirred up by seeing his former boyfriend again, or if, as he begins to suspect, there’s something sinister at work on the ranch.