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Gourd Reckoning

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The decorative gourds arrived at Whole Foods in mid-September. Zhenya saw the display set up in the produce section and lingered over it for a while, examining the different sizes and shapes. Studying them, he was increasingly convinced that Sid had been joking. Every squash had ridges or nubs, or a spiny stem at one end. There was no way.

Maybe if he trimmed off the stem and washed it really well.

Sid had probably been joking. Zhenya left the gourds where they were and pushed the cart on.

Sid liked to have his decorator do seasonal table arrangements for the dining room, and as soon as autumn hit, summer florals turned to a Thanksgiving spread. Zhenya poked through it again that afternoon when he got home, after he put the groceries away. He liked Thanksgiving—the food was good—but did they really need so many candles? The fake greenery did nothing but collect dust. But it made Sid happy, or at least satisfied the part of him that liked a well-kept home. Zhenya suspected Trina’s influence.

They ate dinner at the table most nights because eating in front of the TV was an ugly, American custom that Zhenya refused to adopt. He liked to fuss over Sid’s cooking, because it made Sid smile and blush, and drink a glass of wine and talk about whatever they could scrape up that wasn’t hockey. Tonight, it was the latest updates from Flower.

“He sent me a bunch of pictures,” Sid said. “I’ll show you later. I guess James is getting his first tooth. Estelle likes her teacher. Can you believe how big they’re getting? Remember when Vero was pregnant and Flower was so freaked out?”

“I remember,” Zhenya said, smiling at Sid’s expression. It was time for a baby of their own, maybe. They could start talking about it.

“Well, anyway,” Sid said, and launched into some story about Flower’s teammates in Vegas, which Zhenya found less interesting than baby news. He started fiddling around with the centerpiece as he listened, rearranging a cluster of fake berries and then one of the gourds, a white miniature pumpkin. The one beside it had a long neck, arched like a swan’s.

He realized Sid was watching him and snatched his hand away. “What.”

“That’s a nice gourd, eh?” Sid said, with the little smirk that always meant trouble. “Nice long stem there.”

“You stop,” Zhenya said. He absolutely wasn’t going to indulge this, especially when Sid was probably only teasing him and if Zhenya took him seriously it would only lead to further teasing.

“I’m just saying,” Sid said, “it looks exactly—”

Stop,” Zhenya said, feeling his cheeks heat. He didn’t need to hear another earnest description of how the gourd looked kind of like Zhenya’s favorite dildo.

“And it’s got those bumps,” Sid went on, undaunted, “like that plug—”

“You’re worst,” Zhenya said, kicking at him under the table as Sid laughed. “Sid! It’s vegetable.”

“It’s multipurpose,” Sid said. “Okay, yeah, I see your face, I’ll quit giving you a hard time about this. You’re cute.”

Mean,” Zhenya said, and got up to clear the table.

+ + +

Despite his promise to lay off, Sid kept poking at the issue, only more subtly. He printed off a few pages from some website about gourd crafts and left them on the kitchen island for Zhenya to discover. He rearranged the centerpiece to put the most dildo-like gourd closest to Zhenya’s habitual place at the table. Worst of all, he came home from the store with additional gourds and put them in a bowl in the hallway, and they were all phallic. There was no way to look at any of them without thinking about a penis. How long had he spent picking through the offerings to find these dick gourds?

“You like those?” Sid asked, when he caught Zhenya poking through the bowl. For a large guy, he walked like a fucking cat and routinely snuck up on Zhenya and nearly gave him a heart attack. “I can get more. The store had a whole bunch.”

“It’s not in grocery budget,” Zhenya said, which was Sid’s eternal excuse when Zhenya tried to talk him into buying the fancy ice cream.

“Uh-huh,” Sid said. He took a bite of the apple he was holding and grinned.

Zhenya ignored it. He was playing hockey; he was busy. A pumpkin appeared on their front porch. Sid bought more gourds and lined them up on the wide windowsill above the kitchen sink. He didn’t say anything about it, but the way he watched Zhenya, always smiling a little, spoke volumes.

Where had Sid even gotten the idea? Zhenya went through the browser history on Sid’s tablet, expecting to find weird porn, but there was nothing. Had he spontaneously thought of it on his own? Sid could be kinky, but he wasn’t that creative.

“Stop making those noises at my tablet,” Sid said without looking up from his book. “It didn’t do anything to you.”

“I don’t make noise,” Zhenya said, and vengefully left the tab open to a video of sea slugs mating.

But Sid had cursed him, because he kept thinking about it. He did like the bumps on that one plug. And it was kind of hot, in a way, to think about fucking himself with something that wasn’t at all meant for that purpose. Subversive, kind of.

Not that he was going to do it.

Their sex life always took a hit at the beginning of the season as they both readjusted to the grueling schedule of travel and games. Sid had it worse than Zhenya did because of his media obligations and was too tired at first for more than a quick handjob before bed. This had happened before and Zhenya knew they would bounce back in a week or two, but in the meantime, he had needs, and whenever they were home he started to look at the gourds and wonder.

One afternoon he was home alone after practice. Sid had gone to Tanger’s to help with some household project the details of which Zhenya hadn’t bothered to extract. Zhenya ate lunch and cleaned up the kitchen, puttered around watering the houseplants and sorting the mail, and thought about taking a nap, or better yet a “nap.”

The gourds on the windowsill caught his attention. Sid had picked well: they really were exactly the right shape, a round body to hold and the long, sharply curved necks. Plus the bumps.

He picked up the likeliest suspect. It really did look like—well. If a squash could have a dick, this one would be well-endowed. He ran his thumb over the very tip of the long neck, where it rounded into a head. The stem had come off, but there was a rough spot remaining where it had been attached. That probably wouldn’t feel good.

Still refusing to acknowledge what he was doing, he thoroughly scrubbed the squash under the tap and used a knife to carefully trim off the rough part. The flesh underneath was firm and a little slimy. Well, he could use a condom.

If he did it. He wasn’t actually going to do it. He had a whole drawer full of sex toys that were actually intended for that purpose and weren’t vegetables. There was no reason for him to go down this primrose path.

He set the squash on the counter and checked his messages. Nothing from Sid, and he would probably text before he left Tanger’s to see if Zhenya needed him to stop by the store. Zhenya had time.

He took the gourd with him when he went upstairs.

Maybe he was doing this.

The bed was still unmade from that morning. Zhenya ditched his sweatpants and settled back against the pillows, and turned to dig a condom from the nightstand. He and Sid still used condoms for anal most of the time just because they made cleanup easier, so he had his choice of multiple sizes and textures. He picked one of the thicker condoms Sid used to help with his hair trigger and rolled it down over the squash.

God, was he really going to do this? He dropped the gourd on the mattress and tried to get a handle on himself. He palmed his dick, which was more than half hard. So what if he did it? Nobody had to know, and if it didn’t feel good, he could stop.

Before he could talk himself out of it, he took his favorite lube from the nightstand and lubed himself up with quick fingers. He gave the gourd a thorough coating, too. His breath came faster. He pulled his thigh out of the way to open himself and rubbed the rounded head of the squash against his hole.

He was no virgin, and an easy breath out and a push in had the long neck of the squash sinking into him. He went slowly to make sure the shape agreed with him, and it seemed to. It slid in and in, long and slender, and Zhenya hiked his T-shirt higher on his belly to clear a space for his dick. He could tell he was going to make a mess.

Unlike the best dildos in his collection, the squash wasn’t carefully sculpted for ergonomic handling. The base was a little too large to comfortably hold in his palm, and the neck was slightly too hooked to effortlessly nudge his prostate. But he was committed now, and he kind of liked that he had to work for it; the effort made the pleasure sweeter when he finally got a good rhythm going. Sid hadn’t fucked him in almost two weeks, and he missed it, and the slide in and out and the deep fullness were so good. The bumps teased at his rim just like he’d thought they might, a delicious jolt of sensation.

He paused for a moment to stuff a pillow under his hips, which eased the strain on his wrist and made the angle so much better that he moaned aloud the next time he slid the squash in. He fumbled at his dick with his left hand, wishing for probably the millionth time that he were ambidextrous. All he could manage was rubbing awkwardly at his dick with the heel of his hand, but frankly he didn’t think he would need much more.

Then he heard the garage door open, and froze.

Sid was home. Fuck.

He could stop and get dressed and busy himself with putting in a load of laundry or something, so that by the time Sid came upstairs to change, he would only think Zhenya was doing housework. He could hide the squash in the hamper to dispose of later and switch over to a normal dildo, let Sid discover him, and maybe avail himself of some actual dick.

Or he could keep going.

With a deep breath, Zhenya slid the squash out and back in and set about giving himself the thorough fucking he deserved.

Sid’s path through the house was predictable: in through the mudroom to take off his shoes and set his keys and wallet on the console table, into the kitchen to wash his hands and see if Zhenya was in there, then upstairs to change into his house clothes. The whole routine didn’t take him more than a few minutes, but Zhenya was so tense with anxiety listening for Sid’s footsteps on the stairs that it seemed like an hour. Finally he heard Sid coming down the hall. He turned his head aside and closed his eyes.

“Couldn’t wait for me, eh?” he heard Sid say, his voice full of fond amusement. Sid’s belt clinked as he undid the buckle. “You shoulda texted, I would have come home sooner.”

He still hadn’t realized. Zhenya squeezed his eyes shut and pulled the squash out nearly all the way, until only the tip was holding him stretched open.

There was a pause. Then Sid’s voice, breathy with amazement, saying, “Geno, oh my God.”

Humiliation flooded Zhenya’s body. He’d made the wrong call, and now Sid would tease him about this for the rest of their lives. He turned his head and tentatively squinted his eyes open to check Sid’s reaction.

But Sid didn’t look weirded out or mocking, he looked turned on. Zhenya recognized the flaring nostrils and the dark eyes, and the way he had abandoned getting undressed and was just standing there with his jeans open.

“Put it back in,” Sid said, low, and Zhenya slid the squash in deep and let himself moan at how good it felt.

Sid swore and joined him on the bed, sitting sideways to run his hand over Zhenya’s bare hip and belly. “You kinky fucker,” Sid said admiringly. “I never thought you’d actually do it.”

“You tease for weeks,” Zhenya said. “You put gourds—”

“I thought it was funny,” Sid said, and then, “Hey, no, this is really hot. Happy October to me. Let me do it, I know you’re dying to jerk off.”

Zhenya really was. He ceded the gourd to Sid and finally, blissfully wrapped his right hand around his dick. Sid had years of practice at fucking him with toys and quickly figured out the right angle and depth, and then it was just good; it was so good. Zhenya was going to come on one of Sid’s decorative gourds and he couldn’t say he had any regrets about it.

“God, I love you,” Sid said. “I can’t believe you. Why aren’t we married already?”

“Sid,” Zhenya said piteously, because he was so close to orgasm and couldn’t process a marriage proposal right now. Sid laughed and bent to kiss him, and Zhenya grabbed his shirt and held him there and kissed him and groaned against his mouth as he finally hit the peak and shuddered blissfully over, clenching around the gourd and spilling over his belly.

“You’re my favorite person,” Sid said. He kissed Zhenya’s slack mouth and gently untangled Zhenya’s fingers from his shirt. “I can’t believe you. Let me clean you up. You want squash fritters for dinner tonight?”

“You not funny,” Zhenya said. He hissed as Sid slid the gourd out and waited as Sid went into the bathroom and came back sans squash and with a couple of tissues. He offered them to Zhenya, and Zhenya cleaned up the mess on his stomach and dropped the crumpled tissues on the nightstand. He was ready for a nap, but maybe Sid would want to screw now. “You fuck me?”

“Nah, you’re passing out,” Sid said. He bent to kiss Zhenya’s forehead and then went back to taking off his pants. Zhenya snuggled beneath the covers and watched Sid undressing. Sid was half hard, but not enough to make him urgent. They could screw after dinner, or tomorrow. They had plenty of time.

“Let’s nap,” Zhenya said. “For a little.”

Sid looked at him. His focused-on-undressing expression softened. “Yeah, okay. For a little while.”

Naked, Sid joined Zhenya beneath the covers. Zhenya pulled Sid into his arms and tucked him beneath his chin. He pressed a kiss to Sid’s hair. He loved Sid all the time, even when they were arguing, even when Sid was being a pain in the ass, even when they were far apart. “Let’s get married.”

“Yeah?” Sid said. He buried his face in Zhenya’s shoulder. Zhenya could feel him smiling. “I knew those gourds were a good idea.”