As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Serial: Down the River – Chapter Three

I’m finally revisiting the characters from The River City Chronicles nine years after their original timeline. I’ll be running the series weekly here on my blog, and then will release it in book form at the end of the run. Hope you enjoy catching up with all your faves and all their new secrets!

Today, one of River City’s gay couples returns…

< Read Chapter Two | Read Chapter Four >

Join my email list to get my weekly newsletter
with notifications of new chapters.

Down the River Header

Chapter Three
Cardboard Box

“You’re doing it wrong.”

Marcos grinned. “You wanna come do it?”

“I offered.” Dave’s voice carried from the kitchen. A tantalizing aroma of chicken curry casserole emanated from the oven with it, making Marcos’s stomach growl.

“Besides, how can you tell?” He glared at the old VCR, bought off an online auction site the week before. Damned thing doesn’t even have HDMI.

“There’s a coax to HDMI converter in the wires box in the laundry room cabinet.”

“It’s like you read my mind.” He shook his head in wonder. Nine years in, and Dave could still surprise him. “Dinner smells heavenly.”

Dave snorted. “Yeah, if you don’t mind the curry stench lingering for a day or two.”

Marcos pecked him on the cheek on the way by. “Hope this is all worth it. The VCR, not the curry.”

It had started with one of Dave’s infamous “clear out the house” projects, something he’d been doing increasingly with his free time, as their business had begun to tank the year before. No one seemed to need web designers or graphic artists anymore in the age of algorithms and artificial intelligence. Intelligence my ass.

Dave had come across a mixed box of old VHS tapes with the labels mostly missing. Before they paid to have them converted to DVDs, he wanted to see what was on them. Which of course meant getting a VCR, which cost money, which was in increasingly short supply as their business plummeted. But it would make him happy, so Marcos had acquiesced.

He pulled the old Amazon box down from its perch above the washer and rummaged through it. Sure enough, there was an adapter.

Something glittered, catching his eye. A worn envelope sat at the back of the box, held in place by an assorted clump of cords—lightning, USB, USB2, USB-c. Why are there so many kinds of USB cords?

Curious, he plucked it out.

Inside, he found a variety of papers… tickets from the Sacramento zoo, from that time they fed the giraffes. A playbill for Tribes, the first play they’d ever seen together at Cap Stage, and a coffee-stained napkin from the Everyday Grind just down the street. He saved them, all these years.

And at the back…

Marcos’ breath caught. It was a photo of Dave and his ex-partner, John, who’d passed away fourteen years before. The same photo that had sent Dave into shock one fateful night, not long after they met.

“Find it?” Dave’s voice floated in from the kitchen. “Dinner’s almost ready.”

“Got it!” He hurriedly stuffed the mementos into the envelope and put it back where he found it. He eased the box back up into its cabinet and closed the door almost reverently.

He’d always known Dave loved him. But seeing how he’d saved all those little pieces of their courtship? It was the first time he understood that his husband loved him as much as he’d loved John.

The slow decline of their business had taken its toll on both of them. They fought more often, and had less of a buffer—Dave’s word—for the idiocy and ignorance of the world. But in a strange way, it had also brought them closer. Two warriors fighting a common enemy.

He slipped back into the kitchen and put his arms around Dave from behind, pulling his warm body close. “I love you, you know.”

Dave paused chopping cucumbers for the salad. “What’s that for?”

Marcos shrugged. “Just realized I don’t tell you often enough.” He kissed the back of Dave’s neck, then headed for his nemesis again, across the living room. “Give me two minutes and I’ll have this hooked up.” Hopefully the old beast still worked.

“Perfect. Then we can test it out after dinner.”


Dave grinned as Marcos sat back and patted his ample tummy. He’d grown more comfortable with himself over the years, seemingly no longer afraid that Dave would leave him if he didn’t keep himself always trim and in shape.

Not that he wasn’t still a handsome man. The extra weight suited him, and Dave loved to grab a hold of it when they made love, kneading it like putty. Or bread dough. “Good?”

“Fantastic.” Marcos grinned. “Where’d you get that recipe again?”

“Friend of my mother’s. Mom passed it along. You sure you don’t mind them coming for Thanksgiving?”

“Not even a little. Especially if your mom will make us a batch of her famous calevicitas.” The tomato, cheese, and zucchini dish was one of his favorites.

“I think she could be convinced.” His parents were getting older. Dad had a pacemaker, and Mom couldn’t play the piano anymore with her arthritis. He was looking forward to seeing them both. “Let’s clean up, and then we’ll see what’s on those tapes?”

Fifteen minutes later the moment of truth arrived. “Which one?” Hopefully none of them had anything too embarrassing.

Marcos picked up a black VHS tape at random. “This one?”

“Sure. Pop it in.” It was strange to see one of those again, after years of DVDs and now streaming for almost everything.

The tape started, and music blared through the speaker’s TV.

“Oh my god. I can’t believe you recorded Three’s Company.” Marcos stared at him, eyes dancing with merriment.

“It was the closest thing to something gay I could find at the time.” He’d mooned over John Ritter as a kid.

 “Uh huh. Keep?” Marcos sounded doubtful.

“Nah. Toss. Next?” He didn’t need an old seventies actor now. He had Marcos.

His husband cued up another. Grunts and moans filled their little apartment. “Closest thing to gay, huh?” Marcos grinned.

Dave grabbed the remote and put it on mute, his face on fire. “In mainstream television, yes.” He’d forgotten about that one.

“Wait… how many arms does that guy have?” Marcos cocked his head. “Oh, I see. Three of them. Kinky.”

Dave snorted. “Like you didn’t do anything like that when you were younger… or worse.” Marcos had shared some of his tales of sexual conquest, and submission.

“Touché. Keep?”

Dave nodded sagely. “For old time’s sake.”

Marcos wrinkled his nose. “Of course.” He set it in a second pile, and tried the next one. “I think this one is one of mine.”

Static filled the screen, and when it cleared, a ten-year-old boy in a purple princess costume, complete with conical hat and matching lilac nails, stared solemnly at the camera. “I swear to protect the kingdom of Narnia, to rid the world of the One Ring, and to make all the boys kiss.”

Dave blinked. Here was a side of Marcos he’d never seen before. “Wow. Just… wow.”

It was Marcos’s turn to blush. “We can, um, dump that one…”

“Are you kidding? It’s priceless. I want to take screen shots and share it will all of our friends.” He watched it a moment more, then leaned forward and popped out the tape, setting it as far away from Marcos as he could without leaving the couch. “Wait, did they have VHS cameras back then?”

“My mom shot that on reel-to-reel tape. She had it converted to VHS later.” He sighed. “When my Dad saw that, he almost threw me out of the house.”

And he had done so later, when Marcos was older. Dave was glad they’d patched things up before his father had passed away. He gave Marcos a hug. “Next.”

The tape popped into the player with that familiar mechanical loading sound, and as soon as it started to play, Dave knew what it was.

So did Marcos. “Maybe I should go to the next one…”

“No. Let it play.” It was John’s thirtieth birthday. Dave had surprised him with breakfast in bed, filming the whole thing, which had been… awkward. Those old cameras were bulky, and holding a plate full of breakfast, syrup, and the camera had put his ballerina abilities to the test.

“Wake up, sleepy head.”

John lay on his back, eyes closed, his hands behind his head, his beautiful chest half hidden under the sheets. Those blue eyes fluttered open. “What’s this?”

“It’s your birthday. I made you eggs and pancakes.” The camera jiggled as he set down the tray.

“Oooh, those smell amazing, D.” He reached up and his hand pulled down the camera for a kiss for the chef.

“Sweet for my sweet—”

Dave hit the pause button, and closed his eyes.

“You okay?” Marcos sounded worried.

With good reason. Reminders of John had sent him spiraling before.

He took a deep breath. “Yeah. I’m… okay.” John was his past. Sometimes painful, sometimes uplifting. More of the latter lately. “He would have liked you, I think.” He squeezed Marcos’ hand. Whatever they were going through, however difficult it became, they would get through it. I’d live in a cardboard box with you, if it came to that, and still be happy.

“Keep it?” Marcos raised an eyebrow.

Dave nodded. “Keep it. It was a good time in my life. But so is this, with you. Even better, actually.”

And as he said it, he knew it was true.

< Read Chapter Two

Like what you read? if you haven’t tried it yet, check out book one, The River City Chronicles, here.

Join My Newsletter List, Get a Free Book!

Privacy *
Newsletter Consent *