• The Carnal Issue

    Iron Range

    The Carnal Issue
    Trade secrets

    Memoirs from the foothills of Nepal to the streets of America.

    Jptamang new

    J.P. Tamang hustled out of Portland, Northampton, and the Twin Cities from 2004 – 2012. He is currently a scholar and HIV activist in Minneapolis, MN.

    Ironrange featureart

    Trade Secrets

    Iron Range

    Not every small town redneck is a violent homophobe. In fact, some are quite the opposite.

    I was living on a piece of land cooperatively owned by a group of old hippies. It was south of the Vermilion Range, a fifty mile stretch of ghost mines in the arrowhead region of Minnesota’s northern tip. One morning I walked the long clay road to a swimming hole where I stretched out naked on a rotting log. I broke a sweat and rolled off, splashing into the water below. I floated on my back through trees and over stones into the lake’s center. As I swam to the bank and ascended it, my skin twitched in the breeze. I began to walk the path back until my nose caught something toasted. I turned around and saw a young man. He was twice my size, seated in a foldout chair near the bed of a candy-apple Chevy pickup. A small fire burned at his feet. One massive, soiled hand rose up to lift a pair of wrap-arounds above a set of green eyes. His cheeks were soft and flush, as if fed for years on butter and beer. I waved, sheepishly, covering my genitals. Then he spoke in a deep and bovine tone. 

    Him: “How’s the water?”

    Me: “Cold.”

    Him: “Want a beer?”

    Me: “No, thanks.” I started to walk away. 

    Him: “I didn’t recognize you there. Thought you might’ve been a beaver.”

    Me: “I’m not from here. Came down from the city.” 

    Him: “Figured as much. Where’re you at?”   

    Me: “I’m staying at the co-op on Artlip Lake.” 

    Him: “Known that spot a long time.” 

    Me: “Sure.”

    He replied with remorse: “I don’t mean it that way though.”

    Me: “What way?” 

    Him: “Everybody knows about the queers, so I…”

    Me: “...I see.” 

    Him: “I know you probably think we’re, you know. But we ain't.” 

    I watched him struggle to find the words to describe himself and me. A Styrofoam dish of meat in its juice sat on the bed of his truck. The boy produced a pocket knife from his athletic shorts and sliced a wooden skewer in half. He drew the meat from the dish with his fingers and held it, motionless, allowing the blood to drip off. I felt sick. The chill from the air left me and I noticed my skin was beginning to dry. I felt a bead of sweat forming under my arms. 

    Him: “We’re not the type out here. I’m not that type. That, you know...go around killin’ homos.” 

    Me: “What type is that?” 

    Him: “Well, I wouldn’t tell youyou’re a faggot, for one.” 

    Me: “I should go.” 

    Him: “I’m not that type, you see…”

    Me: “I see. I’m gonna’ head back now.” 

    Him: Come say goodbye before you go then.” 

    Me: “Will do.” 

    I walked back along the bank, half waiting to be followed. When I reached my towel I began drying off with a sense of unease. I looked up into a clearing with the sun beating down on the ground amidst a circle of balsam fir. During my time at the co-op I’d never seen people from the township, so I’d developed a sense of security in seclusion. But when I thought of the violence of the region, I was suddenly arrested. The Range, stolen from the Ojibwe nation, was home to over 40 different ethnic groups in 1924, drawn there by the prospect of mining jobs. It was a region of vigilante violence and an immigration ban. As I got dressed I realized there was a fear in me that’d begun long before I came, rumors of Klan chapters popping up in the arrowhead. Were they only a distant nightmare? I scurried into the clearing, a different way than I’d come. I didn’t want to pass the boy and his tailgate fire. I didn’t want to find out what he had in store for me. 

    When I emerged from the trees the clay road stretched out before me in either direction like a long, rusty ribbon. I didn’t recognize it, but I took off anyway, hoping for a sign. By the time I reached a building the sky had turned a dusky tangerine. The building was a small bar at the end of a snowshoeing trail, built out of the salvaged pieces of a railroad bridge, old bastions of the region’s once prestigious trade. The inner walls were decorated with Americana, wall hangings nailed to the massive rafters, painted saws and initialed canoe paddles fixed above old windows and boarded floors. The place seemed empty, until I sat down at the bar. The boy’s silhouette appeared in the doorway. 

    Him: “You never said goodbye.” 

    He rounded the bar. I asked him for a shot of whiskey and he produced two, placing them atop a cocktail napkin. Suddenly I was drawn back to the old hippies warning me about the locals, how they howled in drunken stupors. In a moment my fear left me and I smiled. I tilted the shot glass back with the boy in unison. It burned my throat, but we laughed and cursed. 

    Him: “You want to see the kitchen?” 

    Me: “What do you make back there?”

    Him: “Burgers.”

    The liquor lay like a hot rock in the pit of my stomach as the boy led me back. My thoughts felt hazy and heavy as I followed him. I watched his shorts clinging to his thighs, outlining the contours of a perky, rounded butt. The kitchen was mostly empty, unused, and every stainless steel surface was perfectly wiped. He explained how no one came around during the summer, just at the tail end of the snowmobiling season. He leaned up against a table, smirking. I looked down and saw the outline of his cock. I stared at it, transfixed, as if the air itself might have been drugged. 

    Me: “Are you interested?” 

    Him: “I might be. It’s nice to meet folks like you. They’re few and far. Cept’ for the Artlip folks. But they’re not, you know…”

    Me: “Twinky?” 

    He laughed. 

    Me: “So?” 

    Him: “So what’re you thinking of?”

    He placed a hand on his crotch and smiled. I fell to my knees and peeled the tank top from my chest. I reached both hands out, crawling up next to his thighs, sliding his shorts down until the tip of the waistband dropped below a tuft of pubes. His cock, nestled like an egg in a nest, was nearly the size of coffee thermos. It smacked my face as it sprung out of his shorts. I wrapped my mouth around its girth. I looked up at his face, which had acquired a faint, pink hue. He tilted his head back under the fluorescent lighting and moaned as I worked on him. I’d forgotten why I was afraid of him. When he came in me I choked and it dribbled from the corners of my mouth. I fell back on my legs and propped my torso against a table. I knew I wasn’t finished. I needed another revelation. So I wiped the cum from my lips and asked him if he had another one in him.

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