We live in a university town, my wife and I, and we live in a neighborhood within five blocks of the edge of that university. It's an affluent neighborhood, built on heavily wooded, well-manicured lots on the side of a ridge, with narrow streets running up and down and twisting here and there. Almost like the country, but a wealthy enclave right in the small city. Quite staid we are. Not ones for quirkiness. Almost all of our neighbors work for the university in some academic or administrative capacity. I, for instance, teach English literature, and my wife teaches French literature. Both of us have held deanships but quickly gave those up, preferring to spend our time on our own studies rather than the squabbling of other professors.

At one time the house on every lot touching on ours, on either side and along the back, was occupied by university couples. We serve in different departments, though, and both a university football team assistant coach and the women's basketball coach are living in the neighborhood, so our neighborhood gatherings aren't quite as stilted and inbred as our required-attendance departmental functions. On the whole, other than the women's basketball coach living with another woman, however, we're a pretty dull, vanilla bunch, full of pomp and circumstance and stuffy academic dignity.

Ours also is a pretty "in for the duration" neighborhood, university positions here being coveted and safe enough that, once acquired, they are not often given up. We've lived here nearly a decade now, and we are the next-to-newest residents for a block in any direction. It was the recent turnover in the house backing on the south side of our property that threw my world off balance.

When we moved in, Wilfred Singleton lived in that house, a brick Dutch colonial with little back yard to speak of at all, which, however, was so overgrown when we moved in that we couldn't even see his house from ours—nor did we hear anything from that direction, even though we had a screened garden pavilion almost abutting the fence between the side of our lot and the back of his. So peaceful and inviting was the pavilion, which overlooked our flagstone garden, with a fishpond and trickling fountain, that I immediately claimed it as my writing study during the warmer months of the year. The pavilion had electricity, with Wi-Fi connection, a grouping of comfortable patio furniture at one end, and a table at the other end big enough for me to lay out my laptop and all of the research material I might need. We lived in the lower middle south, so I could work, sometimes until 3:00 am, in the pavilion with just the sound of the fountain, crickets, the frogs in the pond, and the ceiling fan lazily whop, whop, whopping overhead.

Singleton had been an economics professor at the university—quite a well-known one too. I had heard of him before we came to the university. But he was retired and was a recluse—and obviously had done little or nothing to keep up what had once been an extensive rock garden, teeming with azaleas, rhododendrons, hemlocks, and Japanese maples surrounding his house. I was actually surprised he was still alive, as I hadn't heard anything about him for several years before we moved in.

I was told that he had resigned his professorship and become a recluse some five years earlier, when his wife, a Spanish literature professor, had been hit and killed while she was out for an evening walk by a car on the winding, narrow road in front of their house.

I did see him now and again, standing among the clutter of his back yard, blinking his eyes and looking a bit lost, and we did exchange brief pleasantries on some of those occasions. I think he knew who I was, but he was always vague enough that I wasn't sure. My pavilion was set high enough off the ground that I could clearly see over the wooden fence separating our lots.

Last year about Christmas time, though, I heard sirens on his street. It was cold enough then that I was working in my study on the second floor, which had a window overlooking his lot. I could see the flashing red light on top of an emergency vehicle through the trees and, both curious and concerned, I walked around the corner to see what was happening.

Singleton was sitting on the tailgate of an ambulance and several other neighbors had already gathered around him. He was wrapped in a blanket, but I could tell that he otherwise was naked. He had the vacant stare of someone who just wasn't there.

"My husband called 911," a neighbor, who was the director of the university press, was telling a small group of people when I walked up. "Wilfred was just out on the street, stark naked, and screaming for a car to run him over. Poor dear. It's happened before, but never this bad. I guess now he'll have too . . ."

I retreated, having heard what I needed to hear and not wanting to intrude any further into Singleton's melt-down or the grief he never had seemed to be able to recover from. I thought this was all very sad, but I knew that the neighborhood would be relieved—that Singleton had become much too shocking and unconventional for the comfort of the community and that now, naturally, he would have to be put in a nursing home.

The house sat vacant until the late spring—and quiet except for the three weeks in the last part of March, when a couple of middle-aged couples—probably Singleton's daughters and their husbands, went through an orgy of filling a dumpster in the house's driveway with what looked like perfectly good items. I remember nearly hyperventilating one day when standing at my study window and watching them toss in Singleton's extensive collection of books. I was sure that a small fortune in research material—and most likely the makings of a core library for an economics department in some university—was going to the landfill. But the couples were from out of state and I'd never seen them there while Singleton was alive. So, I guess their lives and interests had not intersected with the professor's for some time.

I didn't think more about Singleton or that house until mid summer. We always went to either England or France in May and June, officially to continue our own studies, but really because we loved being in Europe so much. We crossed the Atlantic together, but often, once in Europe, my wife, Joanne, and I went our separate ways. We weren't a close couple, but we were compatible; we liked and respected each other and our careers bolstered each others. We were both professors by the time we met, and both were people more focused on our individual lives and interests than on a significant other. But, teaching at the same university, we found we were comfortable with each other and we both had reached a stage in our life when we appreciated having a companion to share meals and discussion and little discoveries with. I suspected that Joanne was a lesbian, and, for all I knew, she was aware that I had only slept with men—seeking out a particular kind of man that would be an extra taboo where we now lived—and not even men for a few years before we married. At our stage of life it just didn't seem to matter. Not that we were old; we were both in our early forties. But because we were settled in our ways and happy with them. Or, in my case, resolved to be as happy as possible under the circumstances.

I'd kept my needs and wants private pretty successfully. In my twenties, I'd gone looking for what I wanted—and in some pretty dangerous areas. I don't think anyone who knew me now would guess at the peculiarity of what I wanted, what aroused me. As I'd gotten older and became more successful in academia, I increasingly realized that what I wanted just would not be acceptable in the world I was entering. I had wanted it so badly that I let myself be degraded to get it in my late twenties. As my career was firming up, I listened to myself when I was being satisfied the way I wanted to be. It wasn't dignified; it wasn't what a mature English literature professor should pant for. So, I slowly weaned myself off it, at least here in this town. But I still wanted it. I couldn't deny that. Marrying and settling down in this university town—in this particular neighborhood—was part of my campaign to overcome my latent desires.

But I—and I presume Joanne, as well—saved our pursuit of our fetishes for a time, she for her Spanish women, and me for my Francophoned young men from northern or central Africa, for our European springs. At least through my thirties. I had given up my short spring European affairs with young black men six years previously in a burst of self-control and denial. I didn't know if Joanne had given up her fetish too. I rather thought not.

I noticed the difference next door when I came back to our university town in late June. I suddenly—and a bit distressingly—could clearly see the back and back garden of the Singleton house. To my eye, it had moved a good twenty feet closer to our lot line while I was in England. Joanne was still in France, having secured a sabbatical there. She wouldn't be home until the fall. So I was batching it. There was a glassed-in sun porch on the back of the Dutch colonial, an addition to the house that I hadn't even been fully aware of while Singleton was in residence. I could clearly see into that from both my garden pavilion when I stood up as well as from one of the windows in my second-floor study in the house.

The house hadn't moved, of course. It just had sold and the new owners were having the gardens cleared, which made the house loom larger—and closer—visually. And they were having a stone patio laid to cover all of the back yard except for the bushes and ornamental trees that were being kept.

It was several days after I returned that I espied any activity over there, though. It was the sound of a woman's voice on the telephone—a voice that carried and a conversation that was interspersed with lilting laughter—that brought me to the window of my study.

The garden room of the Dutch colonial had been transformed into a usable den. Whoever the new owners of the house were, they had traveled and had eclectic tastes. The room was furnished and had touches of both the Mediterranean and the Orient. There was a desk in a rich rosewood color that, from its carvings, was probably from China or Hong Kong. There were fan chairs; some brass work, perhaps from Turkey; and what appeared to be a double-bed-sized studio couch with a flamboyant Indian-design coverlet on it and a profusion of pillows in a myriad of textiles and patterns. As jumbled as the sunroom space was, it all seemed to go together well.

Sitting at the desk was a trim brunette, perhaps in her late forties. She was having an animated conversation on the phone and doing much of her speaking with her hands, frequently tucking the phone receiver under her chin. I doubted she had any idea her voice carried as well as it did. I had been sitting in my wing chair just in front of the window and trying to read some pretty difficult poetry passages in Middle English when I had become aware of the level of sound coming from the Dutch colonial. Fully aware of it now, I found myself standing at the window, looking down into her back yard, and concentrating on what she was saying—and just not quite being able to catch the words. It might have been all right and I could have focused away from it on my own reading if I either couldn't discern any words at all or could clearly hear the conversation. But this middle ground just would not work.

Still standing at the window, I was becoming resolved to move to my wife's study at the other end of the bedroom wing, when my eyes caught movement outside of the neighboring house, in the garden. A man was there, working on clearing undergrowth in the far corner of the lot. He was black and not too young or too old, perhaps in his early thirties. He was tall and well built. Not heavy and not thin. But he was very well muscled. He was wearing shorts but otherwise was naked. The muscles of his arms and chest were well defined, tapering down to a slim waist and flat belly. He was an ebony black, but seemingly not of the American variety. He looked more Caribbean, the aspect of a Harry Belafonte or a Sidney Poitier. Which, to me, meant that he looked sensual and desirable.

I stayed at the window, watching his movements perhaps a moment too long, as, possibly sensing he was being watched, he looked up and saw me in the window. We both stood, transfixed, if for only a moment, and then he looked away and picked up a pair of hedge clippers and I turned away and went, almost reluctantly now, to my wife's study, my Middle English poems in hand.

Over the next few days, I caught glimpses of them both—the brunette woman on her telephone in the sun porch—and the Caribbean hunk working on the garden. Within days, other neighbors had told me about Cleo. She was an anomaly for the neighborhood, so I could sense the hiss in the conversations I heard about her. A single woman and not connected with the University. Some neighbors believed she worked in some sort of import-export business but also that she was independently wealthy. The rumor was that she had paid cash for the house.

I didn't ask about the young black man, and no one else mentioned him either. We were well enough down in the south that it wasn't unusual for black workmen to be around and about—and for people to not really "see" them. Certainly not discussed by the likes of us. There were black professors and athletic coaches at the university, of course, but they were considered to be in a different class altogether. Almost acceptable.

I can't say I didn't "see" this young man—I took every opportunity I could to get glimpses of him. But then, I wasn't the typical resident in this neighborhood, I didn't think. This despite how hard I'd tried to be just right for this neighborhood.

Beyond those little snippets on the new owner, Cleo, no one seemed to know much of anything.

The shock, torture, and glory of my life came at the end of that first week. I had eaten dinner late and watched a BBC Masterpiece Theater mystery in the downstairs den that was a quite large extension off the back of our house, projecting into our garden. Having finished with the TV later than was customary for me, I was later than usual coming up to my study to work on a lecture. I entered the room and was just about to turn on the light, when a familiar—but very out of place—series of sounds assaulted my ears. Rather than turn on the light I moved to the study's window on the side of the house and, from the dark room, looked down into Cleo's garden.

The lights were on full on her sunporch. Both she and the black gardener were naked. She was on her back on the studio bed, in full view, and was writhing while she grunted and groaned in that voice of hers that carried so well. The black gardener was crouched over her between her legs, holding them up and out with his fists, and rhythmically fucking her. He periodically dipped his mouth down to the nipples on her full breasts and gave suck, while she arched her back and grabbed his short-cropped head.

I stood at the window and watched the full performance from her first and second throatily announced orgasms to his answering ejaculation. I felt my buttocks cheeks clinch and expand in the same rhythm as his as he pumped her. The undulating ebony muscles of his back were glistening slightly with the effort of the primeval copulation. He was a magnificent animal in full prime and conditioning. I felt my hand go to my engorging cock, and I held myself through the material of my trousers and stroked down the length of me with a thumb. And then back up, and down.

When he was done, he turned, casually picked up a pack of cigarettes from the desk and came over to the glass wall opposite my window perch and lit up. My breath, already ragged, caught in my throat, and I heard a low growl coming up from inside of me. He was horse hung. His muscled body perfectly proportioned but for the noticeably oversized, magnificent black cock and the low-hanging testicles, giving him, especially in remembrance of his just-completed performance, almost a primeval aspect reminiscent of fertility rites.

Cleo, still spread-eagled on the studio couch was rubbing the fingers of one hand in the folds hiding her clitoris and working her nipples with the fingers of the other hand.

He was looking out into the night, and it seemed like he was looking up at where I stood at my window. Surely he couldn't see me there, but it certainly seemed that he could. And not just that he could see me but that he could see into, through me. That he knew that I wanted him inside me too. I could almost hear jungle drums in the background marking the exotic—and erotic—intrusion in our staid, very proper neighborhood.

I ached to be part of that tableau.

I gave a little cry as I ejaculated inside my pants. I drew away from the window, but I couldn't bring myself to leave the room. I withdrew only enough that there was no way that he could see me but that I could still see into the sunporch.

The young black man was masturbating himself with one hand while he smoked the cigarette down to its filter with the other. I unzipped my fly and pulled my cock out as well. It was a sticky mess, but that didn't prevent me from stroking it as I watched him stroking himself hard again—and felt myself getting hard again too.

In full, magnificent erection, he turned, stubbed out the cigarette in an ashtray on the desk, and returned to the studio couch. I watched, mesmerized, as he leaned down, put an arm under the Cleo's waist, and turned her, first, onto her belly, on the studio couch, and then pulled her up to her knees. She let him manipulate her as he would. I watched in both shock and arousal, as he pushed that long, thick, black cock into her again—but this time into her ass. She writhed under him again and became quite vocal again. But they were exclamations of encouragement and satisfaction.

I turned and fled the room, seeking out the bathroom in my room—Joanne and I have both separate bedrooms and bathrooms—and barely made it in time before I ejaculated a second time into the toilet bowl.

I couldn't punish myself any further. I stripped, tossed my clothes in the hamper to wash early the next morning in considerable embarrassment, showered, went to bed naked—and masturbated myself to another ejaculation while visions of the black gardener's erect cock and the clinching muscles of his buttocks played over and over again in my head.

That was only the first of frequent sexual couplings I saw between Cleo and the black gardener on the porch, both during the day and at night. And I participated in all of the ones I observed.

Ours was an insular university town and our neighborhood an even more close-knit, conventional community. Within a week I'd heard the scoop on the young black man from a neighbor with mutual property lines to mine and that of Cleo's Dutch colonial.

That neighbor was southern town raised and bred and thus a bit breathless and scandalized by what she had to tell me over our shared hedges running between our driveways.

"He's living with her apparently. He introduced himself to me as Emmet. He says he's looking for work. It's her house, of course. She's the one with the job. And she's obviously older than he is."

After a few more days I had occasion to introduce myself to Emmet myself. He was serving wine for one of the wineries at a wine festival being held on the grounds of a historical plantation house only about three miles to the west of our neighborhood.

His voice was deep and rich. I knew it would be. He didn't seem at all surprised when I asked him if he lived at the address of the former Singleton house. It was as if he knew who I was and where I lived.

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