"Lake Harmony twenty-seven miles," Deb sang over her shoulder to Michael.
He didn't hear her. He didn't see the Pocono foothills smeared across the window. He hadn't heard most of the conversation between his mother and his uncle Vic. He had tuned out somewhere outside of Pittsburgh. His quiet only made Deb's efforts to get his attention more strident.
All he could hear was Brian's voice.
"You are. You're still a virgin."
They had been standing at the bar at Babylon, he and his best friend, Brian. The noise and the crush of the place along with the forbidden sour frost of beer on his underaged tongue, and Michael was settling into a pleasant buzz. It was made more of the heady feel of freedom than of the minuscule amount of beer he was able to afford. Brian could always manage to get them drinks for free, but then there was his mom to deal with if he came home too wasted. But worse than Deb's sermonizing was missing out on the complete sense of freedom that he felt inside the walls of Babylon. He wasn't special, wasn't unusual, there was nothing wrong with him here, nothing to hide, no one to be other than Michael Novotny. At Babylon, Michael was just one of the queers.
So, when Brian had called him out about his sexual experience or lack thereof, the blow had come especially hard.
"I am not a virgin," Michael shouted back, more to make himself heard over the music than to be heard by anyone other than Brian. It challenged Michael's right to belong here, the only place where he felt he truly belonged. It was more than the forged ID's and memberships Brian had somehow managed to get for them. It was a tribe, a fraternity, and the only rite of passage, the only gay rite, was sex with another man. Or that's how it seemed to an eighteen-year-old boy in his first gay club with a fake ID and forged membership.
"Michael," Brian said, draping his arm over Michael's shoulder and giving his left nipple a little playful tweak. "Getting two blow jobs does not break your gay hymen."
"So you're an expert?"
"At least," Brian snorted and took another slug of his beer. Brian liked the beer buzz better than the queer-boy contact high that Michael loved; though he didn't mind that too much either.
"Okay then, uber-fag, what constitutes a loss of gay virginity?"
"Oh, come on, Michael, do I have to explain the facts of life to you?"
"For that matter, what constitutes any man's loss of virginity?"
"You see that guy, right there, the one with the Duran Duran thing going on with his hair?"
"The blond, with the blue thing on?"
"What about him?"
"Ask him in about an hour."
"And how will he know?"
"I'm getting ready to show him," Brian said as he slid off the bar and laced his way through the crowd toward his target.
Why not stay and show me? Michael thought.
"Stay and show you what?" Deb asked, desperate for any crumb of contact from planet Michael.
Deb sighed. Vic looked up from his copy of Dancer from the Dance and smiled at her across the front seat before he returned to his reading.
Michael watched, as much in awe of Brian as jealousy of the Duran Duran guy for stealing Brian's attention away. The truth was, Michael knew what he thought losing his virginity was, what he longed for it to be. He had lived it over and over in his mind ever since that day with Brian. If only his mother hadn't walked in. If only they'd had just a little bit longer.
"Michael," Deb said, jerking on the emergency brake. "We're here."
Michael began to go through the motions of arriving at the rented vacation cabin, almost acknowledging Deb's and Vic's presences. Almost.
It had been perfect. He smiled, laughed a little. He could still see it. Brian, closing in on Duranguy, the lone wolf closing in on the stray from the herd, all deadly grace and lethal poetry. And then, wham, it happened. There was suddenly this tall, dark, handsome wall between Brian and his prey. The immovable object put his two hands on Duranguy's shoulders, leaned down, and spoke directly into the boy's ear, so close that his lips brushed the peaks of the channels that wound into the canal. Hot breath and vibrations penetrating him, the boy shivered in the 100-degree heat radiating from sweaty bodies glowing hot around him. His forehead came to rest on The Wall's broad chest, and the Arm & Hammer forearm clamped around the boy's shoulder and upper body as The Wall enclosed him.
As Duranguy and The Wall moved toward the whispering, seductive recesses of the back rooms of Babylon, Brian was left standing, mouth partially agape, poised to speak the first word of the litany that would lead him to the inevitable consummation. But that word was never spoken and Brian stood, struck silent, staring directly at Michael. Both boys turned to follow the path of the great Wall. The Wall turned and caught Brian's eye and winked at him over Duranguy's shoulder.
"What's so funny?" Deb asked as she and Michael dragged the cooler full of God-and-Deb-knew-what-all up the cabin steps.
"Nothing." Michael spoke the first word since Allen-town.
The Wall was amazing, or at least Michael thought so. He had named him The Wall, as neither he nor Brian had ever spoken to the guy. In the few brief weeks since the two had been coming to Babylon, Brian had pretty much had it his own way. He picked out whom he wanted for the night and that was the only decision that counted. Unless The Wall was present. With maddening accuracy, The Wall would pick out the blip on Brian's gaydar screen and sweep him into the clouds before Brian could bring him in for a landing.
"Who is that guy?" Brian asked as he took up his place beside Michael at the bar.
Brian didn't care so much about losing Duranguy or any of them. For him the sport was in knowing that he could have any man at the bar, not in the having of him, though there was certainly something to be said for that part. Still, Brian always threw them back after he caught them.
"I don't know, but I'd like to." Michael grinned at Brian.
Brian scowled and looked away.
Michael's smile broadened.
Michael had named him The Wall because he obscured everything around him when he was present. Dark unkempt hair, dark sparkling eyes, and a crooked smile that said "I'm the one who lit the cherry bomb." And he was just huge. Not fat, but literally bigger than life. It was as though a normal-sized person had simply been blown up, still in perfect proportion and of seemingly normal scale if there was no one else around. But next to regular mortals, the scale of The Wall became apparent. He was like a real-life version of the superheroes that peopled the pages of the magazines under Michael's bed at home.
"Let's get out of here," Brian said with a belch as he plunked his empty beer bottle on the bar.
That was the other thing that Michael liked about The Wall. The thing he liked best, in fact. All Michael had to do was say anything favorable about him to Brian, and the jealousy was immediate and palpable. So, in a way, The Wall got Michael what he wanted: Brian's attention.
"Where you want to go?" he asked Brian.
Brian shrugged, attention drifting. Michael had only to look in the direction that The Wall had gone, and Brian was standing between Michael's knees. He placed both hands on either side of Michael's barstool as he leaned in to regain 100 percent of Michael's attention for himself. Their foreheads touched. "You want him?" he asked Michael.
"I don't even know him," Michael answered.
"What does that have to do with it?"
"You have no idea."
Brian's hand ran up the inseam of Michael's jeans.
"What about Patrick Swayze? You don't know him. You seemed to want him that afternoon, we were in your room."
"Michael," Deb said, pounding on his door. "Could you go to the store for me?"
"You mean there's something you didn't pack?" Michael said, startled back to his room overlooking Lake Harmony.
"Are you talking to me again?" Deb said, coming in and putting her arms around Michael's shoulders from behind.
"Yeah," Michael said. "Sorry, just remembering. It doesn't seem the same without Brian here."
"I know, honey," Deb said, not letting on how much she knew. "I'm sure he's missing you too," she went on, not really sure at all. "But he won that soccer scholarship, and so he's got summer training camp."
"Maybe we can come earlier next summer," Michael said hopefully.
"Sure, baby," Deb rewarded him. "We'll come earlier. But right now I forgot Clabber Girl, and there'll be no biscuits without that or buttermilk."
"And that would be the end of civilization as we know it." Michael grinned.
"Or at least breakfast, mister smart guy," she said, giving his butt a playful pop as she propelled him to the door.
"So which is it?" Michael called, bounding down the stairs.
"Which is what?" she answered him.
"Buttermilk or Clabber Girl?"
"It's Harmony Bait & Gas," she answered. "I figure it's whichever they've got."
"Can I get something for me?" he called up, rifling her purse for her wallet.
"I doubt they have any comic books," she said, following him down the stairs at a real human pace and volume. "But you can have five dollars' worth of whatever they do have," she concluded, snatching her wallet and counting a few bills out to him. "And keep it down; you don't want to wake Uncle Vic."
"He's not out working on his tan?"
"He's not feeling well," Deb said, trying to sound distracted instead of worried. She wanted to confide in Michael; needed to. But she didn't want to spoil his vacation any more than Vic had wanted when he'd insisted that they come despite his news.
She didn't succeed in concealing her concern, but she needn't have worried. The screen door slam was the only answer she got from Michael, who was bounding down the front steps and up the little road to Harmony Bait & Gas.
"Brian," she sighed as she watched him go.
"What?" Vic said, scaring the shit out of her.
"Oh my God," she called out, wheeling on him. "You scared the shit out of me. You're up."
"Who could sleep with that herd of -- what was it? Buffalo? -- coming down the stairs," he said, laughing as he sat on the sofa to put on his sandals. "Besides, I've got to work on my tan. Can't go back to the Big Apple paler than when I left."
"Do you think you should?" she asked, sitting by him suddenly, her hand on his arm.
"What about Brian?" he said, avoiding the topic as he fussed with a strap.
"Oh," Deb said, easily shifting from worry about Vic to worry about Michael. "Michael misses him. I hope it won't ruin the whole vacation that he wouldn't come."
"Couldn't come," Vic corrected, sitting up.
"Wouldn't," Deb said. "He didn't have to be in the dorm until the end of the week when practice started."
"But we're here for two weeks," Vic said, rummaging through his beach bag for the right weight of oil. "What were you going to do? Drive him home on Friday and then come back?"
"He has a car of his own," Deb snapped, getting up and crossing to follow Michael's progress down the road. "I know Michael feels more for him than he feels for Michael," she said after too long a pause.
"Maybe." He squeezed some Hawaiian Queen Magnifying Oil Number One into his hand, and the room was filled with fresh coconut. "Maybe he just doesn't show it the way Michael wants him to."
"I don't know," Deb said, not looking back. "I just don't want Michael hurt."
"Too bad," Vic said, rising and pulling his shirt over his head. "Life hurts. Do my back, will you?"
She turned just in time to catch the tube.
"God, this stuff smells good enough to eat," she said, warming a dollop between her hands as she watched Michael disappear around the bend in the road.
As Michael turned the corner, the landscape opened up around him. The road had been carved into the side of Mt. Harmony, and as he rounded the bend, the view opened up to the valley and the town below. There was Lake Harmony the lake and Lake Harmony the town, and the two had surprisingly little in common, or at least in the summer, when the town turned the lake over to the summer people and kept their business in town, save for those who worked such resort facilities as Harmony Bait & Gas.
The walk made Michael think of Brian. It was an annual tradition. Deb would forget something, and Brian and Michael would begin their annual two-week exploration of the lake and its environs with a trip to the tiny grocery nook to try to replace what Deb had forgotten. There was a perfectly good A&P in Lake Harmony the town where Deb easily could have purchased everything she insisted on hauling all the way across the state of Pennsylvania. But there was no reasoning with her. She was "saving money," she would insist. Or, "they don't have the same stuff." The fact was, once Deb was in the cabin -- the same cabin, the same two weeks at the end of June and beginning of July ever since Michael was three -- she did not leave for any reason or act of God.
"Mount Mom," Brian called her.
Michael smiled at the memory, but the smile faded as quickly as he wondered what he would do without Brian for two weeks in this frowsy excuse for a resort. He remembered the feeling of Brian's hand on the inside of his thigh last night. He had done it intentionally, Michael thought bitterly at his own foolishness. Brian had done it to compete for Michael's attention, and of course he had won.
It wasn't Patrick Swayze who had gotten Michael all sweaty and short of breath that afternoon in his room alone with Brian and the magazine with the Dirty Dancing spread. It was seeing Brian hard, not Patrick Swayze's picture, that had caused Michael to rise to the occasion. Just as it was Brian's hand where it had been that day that brought the same response the night before at Babylon. And then again that afternoon, just from the memory, on the side of Mt. Harmony in the eastern Pennsylvania Pocono Mountains.
"Let's get out of here," Brian had said, his hand disappearing as soon as it made contact with his objective.
Michael had followed, mesmerized, all thoughts gone as Brian took his hand and led him to his Nova parked on a nearby side street. They had ridden home in silence. The tension of the moment and their mutual excitement took up all the words they might have said and left them speechless.
Back to Michael's, back to the scene of so many nights together, so many almosts and maybes, so much fun and so many near misses. The promise carried Michael up the stairs, careful not to wake Deb, but she had heard. They stumbled into the darkened room and fell onto each other on Michael's bed. Brian nuzzled the curve of Michael's neck, just below the ear, and bussed his way to Michael's mouth for one perfect kiss before turning to go to sleep.
It was a moment before Michael realized that Brian was done. Anger and disappointment and frustration as well as the press of their two bodies, both aroused and slightly drunk, fused into a moment that Michael would give anything to take back. "I want to lose my virginity," he had whispered urgently into Brian's ear.
"Not tonight," Brian said, kissing Michael's eyes as he clutched Michael to his chest, his most prized possession, and drifted off to sleep.
It had been strange between them after that. Brian wondered what he'd done wrong, and Michael was too humiliated to tell him. And so they said nothing. Brian decided to skip Lake Harmony. Michael decided not to tell him how much that would hurt.
"Virgin." He heard the challenge in Brian's voice again as he came back around the hillside and Harmony Bait & Gas came into view. The truth was that the shortest way to the little store was across the lake, but despite the fact that they had spent every vacation of Michael's life in the same lakeside cabin, they had no boat. There was a lot they did without on Deb's wages as a waitress. Not that Michael felt much deprived, for the truth was, his mom did without far more than he did.
He sometimes wondered what their lives might have been like if his father hadn't been killed in Vietnam. The Purple Heart did little to take the place of another income and a present father. Still, you can't miss what you've never had, and Michael only wondered at the idea of a father; he didn't suffer the pain of not having one. Brian's father was pretty awful, and he was in perfect health, if drunk counted as perfect health.
But the boats buzzing up and down the lake, dragging skiers and white caps in their wake, always made him feel just a bit deprived. As did the walk around the hillside when the bait store was just across the cove from the cabin. The gas of Harmony Bait & Gas was actually on the lake side of the store. This was where the boats on Lake Harmony came for gasoline, and the pumps were out by the dock.
Brian and he always made it their business to sneak a peek at the dockhands who pumped the gas each summer. Michael thought about it as he sweatily made his way down the aisle, past the lurid-colored rubber worms plastered against eye-popping contrasting-colored cardboard blister packs. It seemed much riskier to steal a solitary look at the sun-bronzed, coveralled demigod. It was harder to be a queer boy by himself, or at least without Brian there.
Still, it was a tradition. Harmony Bait & Gas did not have buttermilk officially, though a careful check of expiration dates on the few greasy milk cartons might have offered more hope of buttermilk than a more cursory review of the labels might have suggested at first glance. The clerk had hinted as much when, in answer to Michael's query "Do you have buttermilk?" she had wryly answered, "Not yet."
And so, can of Clabber Girl clutched firmly in his hand, he made his way to the dock side of the store. Michael tried to look interested in the boat accessories that were nearest to the window, but only succeeded in knocking over a bin of plastic faux-wood paddles. He bent down to pick them up, and as he righted them his eyes fell on what was clearly the best, most beautiful pump jockey who had ever graced the docks at Harmony Bait & Gas. The domestic deity reclined on the back two legs of a straight chair leaned against one of the metal posts, which supported the wavy green fiberglass awning just beyond the windows where Michael was standing. And better than the long, tanned naked legs that stuck out of what was little more than nonregulation gas jockey uniform -- denim fringe pretending to be cutoffs -- better than the prehensile toes that clutched the rusty metal post and rocked the straight chair back and forth, better even than the sunburnt blond highlights in the carelessly unstyled yet somehow perfect shoulder-length hair, best of all he was reading a copy of Captain Astro. Michael's heart soared. The paddles fell over again. And the Clabber Girl went skittering across the poured cement floor of the establishment and under a display of Day-Glo orange life vests.
Michael's reflexes were slowed, but the demigod's were not, and Michael found himself staring directly into the green eyes of perfection that looked up at him from the comic to see what the racket was. Michael smiled before he thought about what he was doing, and that's when he lost the Clabber Girl. He felt his face go hot and was relieved to be able to dive to the floor to collect the plastic paddles once again. If only he could stay down there until everyone went home.
"Is this yours?" said a set of prehensile toes lapping over the front edges of a cheap pair of cream and OD flip-flops just in front of Michael's nose. Actually the voice came from much higher up, but Michael was by then physically incapable of looking up past the can of Clabber Girl, which was extended down to him by long, tanned, tapered, godlike fingers with carefully bitten nails and just the slightest hint of grease.
And then, without meaning to, Michael made it worse, if that was possible -- and it was. It wasn't his fault really, it was the little band of white boxer briefs sticking out past the end of the cutoffs that first caught his eye, and then, naturally, he had to look, and Michael found himself, like a bird hypnotized by a cobra, kneeling and speaking to the well-packed, weather-beaten crotch of the slightly too tight nonregulation cutoffs that all the demigods were wearing that season. "Yes, it's for my mom," Michael croaked to the denim-skinned cock in front of him.
"I'm up here."
Busted. Totally busted. Michael realized, looked up too quickly, and lost his balance knocking over the bucket of boat paddles once again.
Then there was laughter. Not harsh, school-bully, caught-you-looking-at-my-nads laughter, but genuine, you're-funny laughter, and the demigod got down on all fours and began helping Michael with the boat paddles.
"What's going on with you and these paddles?" The demigod grinned beneficently.
"Off day," Michael managed, dropping one.
"Here, let me," the godlet said, scooping the whole lot up in his arms and depositing them deftly into the white plastic five-gallon paint pail they were displayed in. "I'm Chuck," he said, rising with a cursory brushing before extending his hand to a still crouched, cowering, and largely tongue-tied Michael, who was fighting every instinct in his whole body to force himself to look into Chuck's eyes.
Chuck took his hand and lifted him up and slightly off the floor before setting him back on his feet.
"Chuck." Michael stupidly repeated the name embroidered on the white patch sewn at eye level onto the mostly unbuttoned top with the sleeves torn off. He caught himself drifting into the dark cleft of the V in the open front of the shirt and snapped his gaze back up to almost blinding green eyes. "Captain Astro," Michael added, completing the unalterable first impression that he was a complete drooling idiot. "Saw you reading it," he added, but realized that it was now hopeless.
He grabbed the can of Clabber Girl and ran for the register. Of course there was no one there, and Chuck made his way over to ring up the purchase. "Yeah," he said easily, as if Michael had made perfect sense and wasn't behaving at all erratically. "I'm a big fan. That'll be eighty-nine cents."
Michael handed him a dollar and Chuck began making change.
"I have a pretty good collection. I'm probably not gonna sell it and retire or anything. I mainly get 'em cause I like to read 'em. There's something about him and Galaxy Lad, you know?" He extended his hand with the change in it.
Michael reached out to take the change, and Chuck took his hand and held on to it a moment.
"I'm Chuck," he said again as though for the first time, still holding Michael's hand.
"Michael," Michael said, getting the idea and cooled by Chuck's breezy manner.
"Got a couple of copies if you'd like to come sit for a bit?" he said by way of invitation, pointing at the patch of greenish shade beyond the windows.
"Um, sure," Michael said, his voice cracking a bit.
Deb paid no attention to the sound of the powerboat engine. The cabin, punnishly named the "Lake HerMoney Manor," was just across the cove from the lake's primary source of boat fuel, Harmony Bait & Gas. As such there was the noise of an awful lot of powerboats, scooping through the little inlet as they cut an arced approach to the gas dock. Technically the boats were supposed to cut their engines, as the cove was a "No Wake Zone." But who was she going to call to complain that no one ever did? And the racket meant that while the cove was scenic, it was also cheaper than other areas on the lake. And the market was close enough to walk. So she took the bargain and ignored the boats, a skill she had perfected after sixteen years.
What did catch her attention as she took the lasagna out of the oven and placed it beside the sink to cool was the view out the kitchen window. For the first time in sixteen years, a boat was pulling up to the dock that the landlocked Novotnys only ever used to sunbathe.
She tore some paper towel and dried her hands as she continued to stare at the boat, as though it might explain itself to her, as she stepped out onto the long low porch that ran along the three sides of the cabin. As if in answer to her unspoken question, Michael endeavored to step from the boat, almost fell back, was caught by the boat's other occupant, and rather protectively placed back onto the dock. Her heart stopped a moment, as her relief was so great that it almost hurt.
"Too bad for you, Brian," she said quietly to herself as she waved.
Michael managed his way over the wake quake of the floating dock and began the short climb up the partially wooded bank to HerMoney Manor.
"See you tomorrow," the boat's skinny young captain called to Michael's back as he gunned the engine and made way too much show of hurtling the boat across the lake and out of sight. Michael turned and walked backward up the hillock to watch.
Deb discreetly did a shuffle-off-to-Buffalo dance step back into the kitchen's screen door and high-fived her startled brother, who was just coming to see what the racket was.
"What's that for?" Vic said, involuntarily raising his hand to give and receive the five. "Was there a boat at our dock?"
"The first one ever," Deb said, humming to herself as she began to set the table.
Michael banged the screen door.
"Where you been all afternoon?" Deb asked, not looking up from her side work.
"Harmony Bait & Gas," Michael said, bussing her a little as he set the Clabber Girl down next to her.
"Mmm," she intoned under arched brows. "Waiting for the big Clabber Girl shipment to arrive?"
"Just reading comics and junk," Michael said, slipping away from her and moving toward the stairs.
"Clabber Girl salesman?"
"Comic book fan?"
"Captain Astro," Michael said gleefully, and dashed up the stairs.
"What the hell was that?" Vic chuckled, snitching a carrot off the salad. "English?"
"You live with a teenager, you pick things up," Deb said, slapping his hand away from her salad. "Michael," she called. "Dinner's almost ready; get washed up."
"So, what did you pick up from that cryptic encounter?"
"He met a really cute boy who works at the Bait & Gas and who is not only a comic fan, but a Captain Astro fan, Michael's favorite. They spent all afternoon together and then the guy gave Michael a ride on his boat. They've got plans for tomorrow. Did you bring condoms?"
Tears streamed down Vic's face as he convulsed in fits of breathless laughter.
"That is amazing," he said at last when he was able. "You got all that out of those few words? You're a regular modern-day Sherlock."
"Elementary, my dear. Did you bring condoms or not?" she said as she tested the lasagna with a finger to see if it was cool enough to cut.
"Oh, that question was for me? I thought it was part of the translation. I'm sure there're some in my bag. You think?"
"You never know, and I want him to have some just in case."
Deb tried to act casual and unconcerned as the boat horn sounded. There had been relatively little additional information out of Michael over dinner or breakfast, or at all. She had managed to learn that Michael was going on a picnic with Chuck (that was his name) and some of his friends to Harmony Island out in the middle of the lake. But that was it. There had been complete information blackout after that.
So, she packed him a lunch and tried to restrain her irrepressible joy that Michael had replaced Brian within twenty-four hours of their arrival, and that there had not been a sighting of the dark clouds of Hurricane Michael ever since.
The boat horn sounded again, the storm warning all clear.
"Michael," she called, rising.
There was a crash from upstairs.
"Shit," Michael said as he half tumbled down the stairs. "Sorry about the mess, Mom."
She pressed his lunch bag into his hands and her lips against his cheek. "Have a good time and don't do anything I wouldn't." She smeared her lipstick off of his cheek with her thumb to erase evidence of the kiss.
"That should leave things pretty much wide open," Vic said, coming down the stairs in time to wave to Michael's back. "Have fun."
"'Bye, Mom, 'bye, Vic," he said, almost looking at them, and was gone.
"You want breakfast?" she asked as she tried to look out the window without getting caught. Chuck plus three other boys were already in the ski boat's seats but the front seat beside Chuck was empty and waiting. She liked that.
"Maybe some tea," Vic said, sitting heavily on the sofa. "I don't feel so hot."
"No more sunbathing," Deb said, moving to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
It was a perfect day. Michael had felt a little awkward with the new kids at first. But Chuck had made it clear from his arrival at the boat that Michael was with him.
"Michael, these are my friends, Jim, Alvin, and Caleb," Chuck said as he lifted Michael onto the boat but made it look like he was only giving Michael a hand. "And you're first mate," he said by way of pointing out that the seat beside him was reserved for Michael.
And that was pretty much how the day had gone.
Michael was with Chuck, and the other boys were with the two of them.
The other boys were lake dwellers, so water-skiing was second nature. Michael never did manage to stay up for long, but he had had a great time falling. Chuck had skied alongside him and let go of the rope every time Michael had fallen so that he was never alone in the water. After more than a few tumbles onto the surprisingly hard surface of the speeding water, Chuck had let Michael stand in front of him on his skis, wrapping his arms around Michael to hold the tow rope in front of them. The tandem wipeout was spectacular, but the turns they took around the island, flying across the water in each other's arms, had been as magic to Michael as if they had really flown.
Wet and exhausted, the little group had beached the boat and gone ashore on the island for lunch. Chuck spread out a thick, nappy riding cloth blanket on the rocks, sand, and clay that made up what passed for a beach. There was a cooler with some beer, someone produced a radio with some tunes, and the little party settled in for lunch.
Michael made his way to the blanket with the rather large bag that Deb had packed for lunch.
"What you got in there?" Chuck asked. "Jimmy Hoffa's head?"
"Probably," Michael said. "My mom packed it, so there's likely enough for us all to be stranded here for a few months."
Chuck snatched the bag out of Michael's hands and ran with it. It became a game as Chuck threaded his way in and around the other boys, the campsite, and nearby trees, Michael giving chase every kink in the way. At last the two tumbled onto the blanket, struggling over the bag. The craft paper gave and the lunch items spilled out around them as the two boys came to rest, prone and facing each other, surrounded by sandwiches, pickles, and, strategically placed between their two faces, a short foil-wrapped ribbon of Trojans.
Their eyes locked on the condoms. Michael was frozen with fear and anger and humiliation. He hated his mom almost as much as he wanted to die. Why couldn't she just stay out of his life?
"What you got there?" Jim said, closing in on the lunch bonanza strewn around Chuck and Michael on the blanket.
Just as the other three were on them, Chuck snapped up the condoms and stuffed them into the band of his shorts as he sat up. "Pretty much anything you could want," he said, nonchalantly taking a roast beef on rye. "Toss me a beer, would you?"
But for Michael the other boys' seeing was the least of it. He really only cared that Chuck had seen. There was no escape. They were on a fucking island, for God's sake. He ran away anyway. The brush and tree branches tore at his naked legs and chest, as he was wearing only an old pair of gym shorts as a bathing suit. Stones and twigs bruised the bottoms of his feet as he ran. But he was soon out of island and out of places to run. He collapsed into the crook of an ancient live oak limb as it bent low to the ground under the weight of its own mass and years of life. The tears came quick and hot, and he shivered slightly in the shade of his hiding place.
And then darkness descended. Well, actually faux-southwest stripedness descended, as Chuck tossed the blanket over his head and tackled Michael even as he made to run again. Michael's struggling only tangled him in the blanket more, and finally he simply gave up as the larger boy had him completely. He lay breathing in short gasps, awaiting...what? Derision? Rejection? A beating?
Chuck knelt on part of the blanket and gently, as though unwrapping a relic, peeled back enough of the riding cloth to see Michael. The two boys stared at each other, both still gasping for breath. Tentatively Chuck took Michael's hand and held it a moment. Michael did nothing to resist. Chuck tugged Michael's fingers slightly, walking forward on his knees. And then he placed Michaels's hand on the front of his swim trunks, holding it there with his own hand over the top of it.
Michael stopped breathing. It was the first time he'd ever really felt an erection other than his own. There was the occasional "accident" with Brian, but nothing as amaizing as that. Chuck moved Michael's hand up and down with his own, as though giving Michael silent instructions, permission. He masturbated himself with Michael's hand through the thin material of his Jams for several minutes. He let go, and Michael continued to trace the outline of Chuck's hard cock with his fingers through the loud tropical pattern.
Neither spoke. he only sounds were both boys' short gasps of breath, water lapping nearby, and the June breeze stirring the branches with the sticky air.
Chuck tore Michael's hand from where it was nestling and pinned both of Michael's wrists to the ground on either side of his head. He straddled Michael's chest, holding both of Michael's arms with his knees. Michael did not struggle much at all. Chuck held him in place more with his unbroaken stare than with the weight of his body. Abruptly Chuck snatched free the knot in the drawstring that laced up the front of his Jams, and the lazy fabric fell away, leaving his erection pinned against his bare stomach by its own youthful determination
Slowly he leaned forward, slipping a hand behind Michael's head, fingers threading into Michael's thick, soft hair. Michael opened his mouth as he came nearer, loosing sight of Chuck as he closed his eyes and took Chuck inside.
It didn't last long, but it went on forever. Such are first times. Michael remembered the taste, the feel, the smell of Chuck on him. It seemed to stay with him even after he'd showered.
When they'd finished, Chuck sat back on Michael's chest and then rolled onto the blanket beside him.
Michael starred, breathless, into the branches tangled overhead and to the sky beyond. He had done it. He had given another boy a blow job. He was a little bit less of a virgin. He began scheming ways to let Brian find out. And worrying: He'd swallowed some, was that okay? And beaming, as he looked over at the beautifull boy he'd get to spend the next two weeks with, and then who knew?
"Guys? Where are you?" Caleb's voice rang out.
Chuck and Michael bolted and began scrambling to clean up. They looked at each other for signs that the others might read.
Chuck reached out and wiped Michael's face a bit. "Over here," he called ad he held Michael in place. He dropped his voice. "Camping, tomorrow night." He handed Michael the condoms. "We're going to need a lot more of these."
Copyright © 2003 by Showtime Networks Inc.