Rancho Manteca

You can be an anyman on Rancho Manteca, any single body you want to inhabit is yours. The biker sludge and the sidewalk trash, the rootin’ tootin’ phantoms of boyhoods past. You can be the beefcake. You can be the smoosh. On Rancho Manteca life’s an all out brawl.

Marshall knew what he was up for when he got the mailer. Knew what Ken was offering up for the sort of weekend meeting he wasn’t really allowed to miss without a major friend fight. He didn’t want to fight with Ken. They’re both freshly out of relationships that separated them for a long time, stuck a spike in their regular patterns. Ken said something like, “I need this.” Marshall said he’d meet him there on the second night.

There’s a big man behind the counter in a small shirt. Hairy tummy peeks between large buckle and white tee. Big man hands Marshall the room key. Big man says, “Enjoy it.”

The closet is full of tropes, anymen stuff, the warrior, the gladiator, the street punk, the elegant mister, the ancient monk. Marshall changes from his clothes to clothes that are like his clothes. He’s wearing a t-shirt and blue jeans. He puts on a t-shirt and black jeans. There’s a hole in the knee. He’s never had a hole in his jeans. Then he sees the jacket. Big. Black. Leather. Moto. Marshall slides an arm in, then the other. He turns to an adjacent mirror. He looks immensely powerful.

In the bathroom at Rancho Manteca’s room thirty-three Marshall runs fingers full of pomade through his hair. He’s never used pomade. He likes the waxy thickness on his hands. He can feel his dark curls twist around his fingers as he claws them back. He pats his leather chest, and as if dreaming it into fruition, feels a slender object. He removes a wood comb from the jacket’s inner pocket and runs it through his hair. That’s so fucking Boss he thinks. “So fucking Boss,” he says to his reflection. He instantly grows a moustache and high fives his reflection while a guitar solo blasts off at an alarmingly high volume.

Marshall struts around Rancho Manteca, acclimating to his moustache. He likes to twist the end. He remembers the movie with Alex P. Keaton as the basketball playing teenage werewolf and wants to surf on a van. He grows wolf hair and runs and jumps super high onto a passing cargo van. The van is going pretty fast, but Marshall’s wolf paws have claws. He grips through the metal surface, sees a kid up ahead with a boombox. He leans down while the vehicle passes the paperboy. Marshall snatches the boombox. He snaps his wolf fingers and the Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” blasts.

Marshall wants to have some wolf sex. He goes to the only leather bar in Rancho and finds a really hard mister, dressed as a really soft rocker. He’s got a rat tail for hair and a peach fuzz blonde moustache. They kiss tongues only as a way to say hello. They grab cocks and then they go to the photobooth. Marshall stops being a wolf in the booth. Demme is the guy’s name. They french like mad. A bar fight starts as Demme climbs on Marshall. Their quick sex is masked in screams from outside the booth. Screams and broken stools.

Marshall emerges from the booth, he needs to find Ken, make sure he’s having a good time. He squeezes his pecs and his chest muscles engorge, rip through his shirt and leather jacket. His moustache is greeted by a beard. Shirtless-total-beefcake Marshall makes hammers of his fists and fights back the crowd. Then, almost forgetting what brought him to the bar in the first place, he punches his way back to the booth for Demme.

“You can be anyone here,” he tells Demme. He throws him over his shoulder, carries him out of the bar.

They take a lasso class. They’re told not to ever call the rope a lasso. It’s a rope. The knot is a honda. The rope passes through the honda to form a loop. They cast their ropes at targets. They throw their rope around a little calf. They talk about that movie with Billy Crystal where everyone is close to divorce on ranch vacation with ice cream makers. Demme ropes Marshall. They head back to Marshall’s room and Marshall turns back to his normal shape. Demme turns back to his normal shape too. When Marshall turns around to look at his normal shape, Demme is Ken. Marshall hoped Demme was Ken. He was thinking if Demme was Ken he’d shape his whole life around him and squeeze.