An Honest Man


























 STORY BY Derek Adams   

 ART BY Michael Kirwan      


Originally published in Honcho magazine - September, 1990



"What?" I looked up from my sandwich and found myself staring at a belt buckle that was straining to hold back a beer gut of monumental proportions. I craned my neck to look into the face of the belly's owner. He was a pig-eyed, lank-haired man of indeterminate age who appeared to have an I.Q. of about fifty or so. He licked a stray glob of egg salad from the corner of his mouth and rewarded me with a conspiratorial smirk.


"I just said, ya gotta be careful who you hang with 'round this here place." He lowered his voice and leaned forward, generously sharing his bad breath with me. "We got us some undesirable types working here."


I looked at him blankly.


"You know, commies and foreigners. Shit, we even got some of them cocksuckin' faggots working here. You don't wanna get yerself linked up with the wrong folks. That's all."


"Yeah." I just sat there, hoping to hell that he'd go away. Currently, I didn't have any views on politics or sex to speak of, and I sure as hell didn't want to talk about them with this geek. I concentrated on my lunch, hoping the dude would take the hint and leave.


"This seat taken?" Another voice altogether this time. I looked up and the view was much more welcoming. A young guy, roughly my age I figured, standing across from me, smiling expectantly. I gestured for him to sit down, noting with some relief that the fat man had scurried away at his approach. He set down his lunch box, swung a long, denim-clad leg over the back of the chair across from me and settled down. His brawny arm shot out across the table and we shook hands.


"Mike Foster," he greeted me cheerfully.


"Charlie Winston."


"I see you've met Otis, our company scandal monger. Don't let him worry you too much. Mostly just hot air and bad gossip."


"Yeah, he was evidently concerned about immigration and my sex life. Real caring guy, huh?" I chuckled ruefully and downed the lukewarm coffee I'd purchased from one of the vending machines that lined the big room where the warehouse workers took breaks.


"So, where you going to be working, Charlie?"


"Loading dock, it looks like. I was hoping for something else, but a job's a job. I just spent the whole morning filling out enough forms to choke a horse. I still don't even know where the loading dock is for Christ's sake!"


"I can help you with that part," Mike assured me. "I work out there myself. Maybe we can get you working on our crew. We've been down a guy for over a month. Jake and I have been enjoying the workout, but we could sure use more help."


We finished eating and I followed Mike through the warehouse to the dock. Sure enough, I ended by being teamed with Mike and his buddy Jake. There were five loading bays, and we were in number five at the far end of the platform. Once I limbered up and settled into the routine, things went real smooth and easy. The furniture made in the factory came out in crates, and all we had to do was muscle it into the waiting trucks for shipment. Didn't take all your concentration to handle it. So, we got a great workout with no brain strain.


After the first half hour on the job, Mike stripped out of his shirt and tucked it into the waistband of his jeans. Tell you the truth, I'd never paid much attention to other dudes' bodies, but this Mike had a really great build on him. He had the kind of tight, knotted-up muscles that twitched and jerked around under his tanned hide every time he moved. He was heavy in the shoulders and arms, thick through the chest, then tapered down to a narrow waist and a sleek, flat belly. When he'd grab a crate and heft it into a waiting truck, the veins in his arms would stand out like cords. He was one healthy-looking specimen.


Oh, great! Just when I glanced up, I noticed that Mike and Jake were both staring right at me. It was real obvious that they'd both noticed me staring at Mike. No doubt they'd figure I'm one of the fags that fat geek in the lunch room was trying to warn me about. I knew I needed to say something, but I couldn't make my mouth work. Then Mike fucking winked at me and gave me this big, old, shit-eating grin. Not a mean sneer or anything, just a big grin that flashed a mouthful of brilliant white teeth, straight and even just like in the toothpaste ads on TV.


I could feel myself turning about fifteen shades of red. Then, they both started rapping with me and I forgot about the whole deal. Next thing I knew, the whistle blew and people started clearing out of the place like rats scurrying off a sinking ship.


"Hey, Charlie," Mike said slapping me heartily on the shoulder, "how about a nice, tall, cold one to celebrate your first day on the job? I'm buying."


"You're on." We trooped across the street with Jake and pushed our way into Dewey's Place, one of several taverns within a block of the plant entrance. Mike left Jake and me near the door and shouldered his way through the crowd to the bar. He was back in record time with three beers.


"I don't know about you boys, but this dump is too hot and noisy for me," Mike shouted over the din from the jukebox. "What say we head back to my place? I've got a case of beer on ice and a freezer full of pizzas. You guys up to it?"


"Lead the way," Jake piped up, guzzling the last of his beer. I was wedged between a fat man on one side and the cigarette machine poking me in the ribs on the other. So, I couldn't think of any good reasons for staying. I nodded and started threading my way through the crowd. As I pushed my way out onto the sidewalk, I took a final look around. The fat man from the lunch room seemed to be looking at me, but he quickly turned his head when I caught his eye. What a jerk!


Mike's place was about five miles out of town, tucked back into some heavily wooded acreage. It was an old, wooden farmhouse with a porch around three sides. Inside, it was clean and bright with hardly any furniture. There was a table with four chairs in the middle of the big kitchen, the dining room was empty, and the living room boasted a stereo and television on a low shelf under a window with a big pile of pillows in front of a fieldstone fireplace. The other doors leading out of the living room were closed.


"This is it," Mike announced hanging his coat on a hook by the front door. "House compliments of a great-aunt, furniture by alimony. What you see is what you get. Make yourselves comfortable and I'll get the beer."


"So, Charlie," Jake asked me after we'd sunk into opposite sides of the pile of cushions, "what brings you out here to Hog's Ass, Nowhere? It isn't exactly the sort of place a lot of people move to on purpose."


"Hey, Jake," Mike hollered from the kitchen. "I moved here on purpose."


"Yeah," Jake laughed. "It was as far away from your ex-wife as you could get without applying for a Chinese work permit. Besides, you inherited the house. That doesn't really count."


"I ran into a little woman trouble," I muttered vaguely. Woman trouble! That was a laugh! Cock trouble was more like it. My dick was stretched out past the eight-inch mark most of the time when I was home alone, demanding strokes. Just put me in a room alone with a woman, though, and the damned thing would shrink up to a nub and refuse to function at all. I'd tried everything I could think of including going to a doctor. All no go. Bottom line, I was twenty-six years old and the only one who'd ever enjoyed the pleasure of my fat, throbbing cock was Rosie Palm. I jacked off twice a day, just for discipline. But, it hadn't made me a happy man.


Mike seemed to sense my discomfort and managed to turn the conversation to a more neutral topic. He sank down cross-legged between us and we talked and laughed like a bunch of schoolboys. After my third or fourth trip to the bathroom to take a piss, I stopped in the kitchen for another beer and wandered back to the living room. Jake was standing up, putting his shoes back on, getting ready to go.


"Sorry, I just opened another beer, Mike," I apologized. "I hadn't realized how late it was getting."


"No problem, dude. Jake here told me he's reached his limit. I'm going to have another. Stick around and join me." I sank back into the cushions a little surprised at how light-headed I was feeling. I leaned back, slipped off my shoes, and closed my eyes. I heard the door to Jake's truck slam and listened as the roar of the engine died out in the distance. Mike came back into the living room, put on some mellow music, and turned out the overhead light.


"Nice," I mumbled softly. I heard him moving around the room. Then, he kicked his shoes aside and flopped down on the cushions piled right next to me. I knew he was close because I could feel his bare foot on my ankle. Then a couple of minutes later, he shifted around again, and I froze. His hand was on my belly! My whole body stiffened, like I was going to jump up and run, only I didn't. I figured that he was asleep and his hand had just accidentally ended up there. It felt warm and kind of made my belly tingle.


My shirt was pulled out of my pants and his fingers were tangled in the dense chestnut-colored fur that grew all over my torso. I could feel his fingers moving slightly, gently massaging me. It felt like sparks of electricity were shooting in my gut. I still didn't move, just concentrated on trying to breathe regularly.


When I finally dared to open my eyes just a crack, I saw Mike sprawled out beside me on his belly, stark naked. His ass glowed like marble, in sharp contrast to the deep bronze color of his back and long legs. It swelled out like two ripe melons, smooth and ripe-looking, a deep dimple in the side of each cheek. There was a small triangle of golden fuzz at the base of his spine. But other than that, Mike was real hairless.


His head was turned to the side and he seemed to be watching my crotch intently. I followed his gaze and saw a lump in my pants the size of my fist. It was straining against the fabric like a wild animal that wanted out of its cage. I closed my eyes again, afraid to look. Then, Mike's hand started moving up under my shirt, finally coming to rest with his thick fingers curled loosely over my right pec. His callused palm was pressed against my tit, and every time he moved his hand, these little sparks of pleasure would arc from my nipple down to my balls. It was a weird connection that I'd never known about before.


Mike shifted slightly, then his whole arm was pressed tight against my torso and my crotch was nestled in his armpit! The heat coming off this guy's body was intense! The light was catching in his blond hair, practically making it glow. You could just barely see his pink scalp, right at the crown of his head. I had this wild urge to put my hand on his head, but I didn't dare to move, not knowing what the hell might happen if I did.


I didn't have to wait too long to find out what was going to happen. Mike seemed to take my silence for agreement. Hell, maybe it was. Anyway, he got up on his hands and knees and the next thing I knew, his lips were pressed against the knot in my jeans. I let out a groan as I felt his hot breath on my aching shaft. Then, I kind of snorted, so he would think that maybe I was snoring, asleep.


Since I didn't resist, Mike continued to explore my family jewels. He slowly loosened my belt and unbuttoned my jeans, pulling them down around my knees. Then his mouth was back, massaging my cock through the thin fabric of my underwear. My dick was like an iron bar, swollen so stiff it was almost painful. Mike had pulled aside the elastic around my right leg and fished my balls out of the cotton pouch. They fell heavily into Mike's warm palm. His fingers gently closed over them, sending more electric shocks through me. My mind kept telling me I should be jumping up and pounding this dude with my fists, but my body was craving more.


Even though I figured I knew what was coming next, I wasn't really prepared for the sensation of Mike's hot mouth slipping over the business end of my prick. His lips clamped down just behind the ridge that ran around the head and his tongue was all over the sensitive, swollen surface. My whole body tensed and trembled when he dug into my cum-hole, then rammed his head down until he was kissing my pubes. All the time he was doing this, he still had my nuts gripped firmly in his hand, rubbing his thumb over the tingling spheres.


Then, his head started bobbing up and down, up and down. His lips skirting the length of my cock, his tongue dancing all over the veiny skin stretched tight around the straining cylinder of flesh. His other hand was stroking the hair on my upper body, tickling along my sides and down over my hard belly, then up to my chest. He made contact with my left tit and gave it a hard pinch. That was the end of the line. My hips arched up off the cushion, and my nuts snapped out of his hand as the spunk started boiling up along the length of my cum-tube, ready to spout out into space.


I expected that Mike would come up off of me, but he didn't. Instead, he hung onto my prong like it was the most natural thing in the world as my scum pumped into his mouth. I heard him groan and felt his throat muscles caress me as he swallowed my juice as fast as I could pump it out. By the time the last spasms had wracked through me, he was whimpering like a puppy.


When I was drained dry, he reared up on his haunches, grabbed his own pecker and pumped away like a madman. I watched him through half-closed eyes, fascinated by the sharp definition in his perfect chest. Then, he threw back his head and shuddered as the jizz started to shoot out of him and splash down onto me. The feel of his hot juices pooling on my belly made my rod throb again. Afterward, he licked me clean and curled up to sleep beside me on the pillows, his head propped against my thigh. After a long, confusing time, I drifted off to sleep, lulled by his steady, purring breath.


Neither one of us mentioned this incident the next day. I apologized for getting drunk and passing out on him, and Mike laughed the whole thing off like nothing had happened. I was so confused I didn't know which end was up, but I went through the day like I was in a cloud. The sensations that I'd felt had been far better than any handjob--probably about what sex was supposed to feel like, I figured. The thought really shook me up.


As for Mike and me, we kept getting to be buddies as we worked together, talking and carrying on like we'd known each other forever. We began to hang out together at work. Then, after a couple of days, he asked me back to his place for a beer. The same thing happened after we'd had a few tall ones. Then, I went back again and again till, finally, I was spending practically every night together with Mike. I'd always pretend to pass out, and he'd always believe that it was true--or at least he'd pretend to. Then, he'd go after me with his magic mouth and I'd be in paradise.


I knew that at some point, I'd have to stay awake when Mike sucked my cock and maybe even tell him how much I enjoyed the feeling, but I wasn't quite ready to acknowledge it. Not yet. Then, all of a sudden, it was like I was in a nightmare and it was all too late.


"You're in pretty tight with that pretty boy Mike Foster, aren't you, Winston?"


I looked up from the wash basin in a panic and found myself staring at Vic Dinkins, a team leader from one of the other gangs on the loading dock. Actually, he worked with Otis, the fat geek who'd approached me on my first day with his warning about cocksuckers.


"What's that supposed to mean, Dinkins?" I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I looked at this guy. He had a sneer on his face that left little doubt as to what he was driving at.


"You a cocksucker, Winston, like your little blond buddy?" He spat out the word "cocksucker" like it was the worst curse he could dream up.


"Hell, no, man. I don't know what you're talking about."


"Come on, Winston. We know you're hanging around those two fags, Foster and that Mills dude. You must be sucking some cock." He was right in my face, and his voice was loud enough so that it was beginning to attract the attention of a couple of guys who had come in to piss.


"I ain't the one doing the sucking, Dinkins," I blurted out, immediately hating myself for not just walking out.


"That mean they been sucking you off, Winston?" He had stepped back from the sink by this time and was blocking my exit.


"I may have let Foster suck me off once or twice when I was really tanked. There don't seem to be a steady supply of pussy around this town." I tried for a laugh, but it felt like a rattle in my throat. "You can't blame a guy for that, can you?"


"Well, all I know is that you better be careful who you hang with. That cocksucking is a real bad rap to live down." Dinkins looked at me curiously. "Now that we know he's been out trying to convert a regular guy like you, we may just have to do something about it. Thanks for the tip, Winston." With that he turned on his heel and stalked out of the john. I knew I should call out after him and try to explain. But what the hell could I say to him?


"You okay, Charlie?" It was Mike, looking at me as he hefted a crate into a truck, his brow wrinkled in concern.


"Unh," I grunted, not able to make myself look him in the eye.


"Wow, man, that must have been some piss. You look like your best buddy just fell off a bridge and you found out it was your fault. Cheer up, dude. I'm buying the beer tonight after work." He winked at me and the sick feeling in the pit of my belly just got worse and worse.


The jukebox was winding up an old Hank Williams song as we walked in to Dewey's. Nobody fed the box and the conversation sort of died down as we approached the bar. It felt like the weather feels just before a storm. You know something is brewing but you haven't quite figured which direction it'll come from. I immediately stiffened up, but Mike walked on up to the bar. Hell, the poor dude didn't have any reason to be nervous. Not like I did.


"Hey, cocksucker!" The whole bar got quiet as a tomb. Jake looked over at me, his face going pale. Mike's back was to me but I could see the muscles in his back and shoulders tightening. I felt cold as ice, all over.


"What'd you say?" It was Jake, his voice strained. He turned and looked defiantly at the group that had formed around us.


"I was calling cocksuckers. You answered the call." Dinkins pushed forward, a mean look on his face.


"I ain't a cocksucker." Jake bristled, drawing himself up to his full five-foot-eight inches. "You back down, you big bag of shit."


"Then I was talking to your pretty blond buddy." Dinkins wasn't going to give it up, the bastard. This was the end of the line.


"You talking to me, Dinkins?" Mike turned around at the bar. His face was brick red, but his voice was calm as he faced his accuser. "Where you getting your information, if you don't mind telling me."


"Your buddy Winston here was just tellin' me today about how you get him out to your place, booze it up with him, then suck him off after he passes out. You're a fucking pervert man, and we don't want you around here, polluting our air."


"None of that means fuck, Dinkins," Jake blurted out, his hands balling into fists. "Mike's still my buddy, and I want you to shut your goddamned trap about him."


"Thanks, Jake." Mike laid a hand on Jake's shoulder. Then he turned to me. "Did you say that, Charlie?" His voice was real quiet and controlled, but I could see the misery in his eyes as he waited for my answer.


"Yes," I answered, almost inaudibly. A single tear welled out of his eye and slowly rolled down his cheek. "But he walked out on me before I finished saying what I had to say." My voice seemed to be coming from someplace outside of me and I wasn't even sure what I was going to say next. I focused on Mike's handsome features as I spoke, my voice gaining strength as I went. "The truth is, Mike only sucked my cock after I demonstrated how to go about it. So that means you're calling me 'cocksucker' Dinkins, and I don't want to hear that coming from someone I don't like."


Dinkins took a step forward and I cut loose with a left hook that caught him right in the jaw. He hit the floor like two hundred pounds of shit. Old Otis was out the door before Dinkins had stopped bouncing and everybody else all of a sudden found their beers real interesting, eyeing them like they were the only show in town. Mike and Jake and I drank up and walked out to the parking lot. The guys then said good night, just like they always did, every time we left the place.


I walked in silence with Mike over to his pickup. "Can I come out to your place with you?" Mike nodded and I slid into the cab of the truck. We drove out of town and cut off onto the county road that led to his property.


"Why did you lie back there," he finally asked, breaking the silence. "I could have handled Dinkins."


"I knew you could, but I started the problem and I figured it was my place to put an end to it."


"You ain't going to make most of those guys like you by announcing you're a fag. You know that, don't you?"


"I only want to make sure that one guy 'likes me," I retorted. Mike looked over at me, a faint smile playing around his lips.


"I'd like you to make an honest man of me," I quietly continued. "Please."


"What's that mean, Charlie?"


"You know what I mean." We rode the rest of the way in silence. I followed Mike into the house and when he stopped to hang up his jacket on a chair in the kitchen, I put my hands around his waist and brushed his neck with my lips. He turned around and looked at me, his brow crinkled in concentration. "Please," I mouthed silently.


I dropped to my knees and pressed my cheek against his belly. My fingers trembled as I fought with his belt and the zipper on his work pants. When I finally got them pushed down around his knees, I buried my face in his briefs and got my first whiff of his cock and balls.


He smelled of sweat and piss and a faint musky odor that I couldn't quite identify, but it made my heart race. I pulled down on his briefs till his goodies spilled out and hung down free.


His dick was thick and hooded, hanging down protectively over a pair of fat nuts, one drooping about an inch lower than the other. I touched them with my finger and they both shifted around in their silky bag. A couple more gentle pokes and they were both snuggling up between Mike's strong, muscular thighs, trying to get away from me.


My attention was soon drawn to his cock. It throbbed to life and started poking at my lips and nudging against my nose and cheeks. I studied it intently. I'd never seen another man's dick up close before. It stuck straight out from between his legs, the shaft an almost perfect cylinder. The head was bigger around than the rest, covered with a velvety-looking cowl of skin. It kept bouncing up and down, the head trying to poke free of its hood as I played with his big nuts.


I licked under the tip and it jerked up till it slapped his belly. When it swung back down to my mouth, there was a big drop of clear liquid hanging on the tip. As I watched, it drooled down, hanging on by a thin thread like spun glass. I stuck out my tongue and got my first taste of cock-juice.


His salty sweet juice snapped my dick to attention. I wedged it between the thick muscles of his calves and started humping back and forth as I sealed my lips around a cock for the first time. It jerked around in my mouth like it was alive a wild thing that was trying to get away from me. From the sounds Mike was making, it was happy enough where it was. He stroked my hair gently, his fingertips massaging my neck as I licked and nibbled and sucked on his fat honey-stick.


I did my damnedest to remember all of the moves that Mike had made over the past few weeks that had set my heart to racing and made my whole body feel like it was on fire. I grabbed his hard ass and pushed forward till his cock hit the back of my throat. I gagged at first, but took a deep breath and pushed forward again. On the third try, I was able to open my throat and take him in up to the hilt.


I loved the smell of him and the feel of his hardness in my throat, responding to every move of my mouth. He was starting to gyrate his hips, his fingers digging into my shoulders as he fucked my face with long, powerful thrusts.


"Charlie," he Whispered, pulling out of my mouth. I looked up to protest, but he put his fingers over my lips. "Stand up, Charlie." He grabbed me under the arms and slowly pulled me to my feet. Then I rubbed my hairy chest up over his thighs and belly and nestled against his bulging chest. When I stood, I was rewarded with a kiss, his tongue shooting into my mouth. It was the first time a man had ever kissed me and it felt just right. I liked the strength of his lips and the roughness of his stubbly chin on my face. I gripped his biceps and squeezed hard as I returned the kiss, my tongue dueling with his.


We kissed for a long time, Mike's hands massaging my back and slipping down to cup the cheeks of my fuzzy ass. He was forcing his breath into my lungs, then sucking it back out, like we used to do in lifesaving class. Only then it had never felt like this! He kept it up till I was getting dizzy. Next thing I knew, his fingers wandered down into the crack of my ass. My eyes popped wide open when his fingertip snaked into my poop chute. I pulled my head back long enough to give him a quizzical look.


"I want your cherry ass, Charlie," he said urgently. "Please let me fuck you, Charlie. I've wanted you for so long. Please."


I'd never thought about this angle till he mentioned it. All it took was one look into his big blue eyes and the memory of his kisses to make all my resistance melt away. I wanted to give him anything he wanted, and I'd never felt that way before about anyone. The feeling was too strong to fight it.


"Don't hurt me, buddy," I whispered. He turned me around and I braced my arms against the wall, spreading my legs wide apart. Mike milked my cock into his palm and smeared my juices over my asshole. Then he started fingering my hole while he leaned forward and kissed me on the neck, gradually working his way down my spine till he was running the tip of his tongue over my quivering ass lips. He stood up, reached between my legs and slowly started jacking my prick, working his fingers into my chute at the same time.


I expected it to hurt, but it didn't. He made contact with something up my butt, but soon he had me spasming and twitching every time he gave it a poke. It wasn't too long before he had two fingers in all the way, stirring them around, loosening me up for his dick.


"Don't worry, Charlie," Mike whispered as he positioned his prick against my asshole. He gently pressed forward, pinching my tits and squeezing my nuts till I opened up for him and let him in. "Pop! There goes Charlie's sweet cherry," he whispered in my ear as he sank deep into my burning gut. "Oh, baby, you feel so sweet and tight and hot. I love being up your ass. Oh, yeah, Charlie. Oh, yeah."


I whimpered and my knees went weak as his cockhead raked over the swollen knob in my butt. He'd only done two strokes when I popped my cherry wad. It shot out of my prick like a high pressure hose and splattered against the wall. I would have fallen if Mike hadn't been holding on to me.


"Oh shit, Charlie. You like that dick up your hot butt, don't you? I could feel you cumming, buddy. You're grabbing my cock like you really mean it. You want me to pull out?"


"No!" I barked it out like a command. Mike chuckled and kissed me on the back. Then he started humping me again, fast in, real slow on the way out. Between the tit work and the yanking on my balls, it wasn't more than five minutes till I was pumping another shot out onto the wall. This time I howled with pleasure and started slamming my ass back against Mike, flexing my belly muscles down tight, hoping he could feel it while he was dicking me. From the way he was plowing in and out, I figured he could.


Mike forced me down onto my hands and knees and braced his hands on my shoulders as he continued pounding into me. I could feel the drops of sweat dripping off of him onto my back and ass as he slammed into me harder and harder 'til my arms buckled and my chest hit the floor. Then Mike drove in one last time and stopped dead still. I felt his big cock flexing and throbbing inside my ass, then the first shot of his cream gushed into me. Then he began humping frantically and I started cumming again and I couldn't tell his orgasm from mine. The next thing I knew, I was flat on the floor, trembling uncontrollably, with Mike on top of me.


"Mike?" I finally said, once I had caught my breath.


"Yeah, Charlie. What is it?" He nuzzled my ear.


"Did that do it?"


"Did that do what, Charlie?" His cock pushed into my ass again, slow and easy.


"Pop my cherry. I mean, I didn't hear it pop or anything. Maybe we should do it again. What do you think?"


"Dinkins was right, Charlie. You're a pervert."


"But I'm honest, right?" I turned my head and strained to look up at the man who had wised me up to myself.


"That's right. An honest man. Now shut up and kiss me, Charlie."



Stories Main Listing



Any images, writings or other content on this website may be copied for personal viewing only. They may not be: redistributed; sold; altered; enhanced; modified by artificial, digital or computer imaging; used on another website or blog; posted to any internet or computer newsgroup, forum or media sharing site; nor used for any other purpose without the express written permission of the artist or

Any images, writings or other content on this website may be copied for personal viewing only.
They may not be: redistributed; sold; altered; enhanced; modified by artificial, digital or computer imaging;
used on another website or blog; posted to any internet or computer newsgroup, forum or media sharing site;
nor used for any other purpose without the express written permission of the artist or