This story contains descriptions of sexual acts involving a man, a teenager and two MINOR boys. Such descriptions are an integral part of the story. While the story may appeal to prurient interests, it is intended to have serious literary value. As a friend once said: "Everyone has the right to fantasy. No one has the right to censor an imagination, or dreams."
With that in mind, know that this story is not true, although it is based on fact and some real events! Further, it is not intended to promote illegal acts against minors, but to demonstrate that men and boys can love each other despite the prevalent attitudes of western society. It is my goal to help readers appreciate that love. The sexual acts described in the story are the result of my imagination. I have not performed these acts, and I do not encourage others to perform them with minors. If the subject of man/boy love offends you, if this material is illegal in your place of residence, or if you are under the legal age for such material, do not read further!
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The story is copyrighted under my pseudonym, Ganymede. A copy has been placed in the Nifty archives for your enjoyment. The story cannot be used to derive monetary gain. The story cannot be placed in archives that require payment for access, or printed and distributed in any form that requires payment either directly or indirectly.
Any similarity to individuals, living or dead, is entirely accidental. Reference is also made in context to movies, characters, and actors that have become part of modern western culture. No other implication about the true sexuality of the people mentioned or their private lives is intended.
Now that the preliminaries are out of the way.....
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Like all boy-lovers, I live in the twilight. I exist in a realm between the honest lucidity of daylight and the safe concealment of darkness. My life is a chaotic sham that shields my true self even while I struggle to satisfy desires that society has chosen to call 'depraved'. It was never a matter of choice for me. It was never something I sought or wanted. Indeed, I had barely attained the age of eleven years old when I learned what it meant to love a boy. It was late December, 1968. I was the carefree, innocent child one would expect of that era, smooth-skinned, blond-headed, and more sun-tanned than would be considered healthy today. To any one who knew me thirty six years ago, I seemed destined for the good life that Australia provided to its wealthy land-owning scions.
My passion for boys occurred spontaneously, and without there ever being an alternative. There was very little warning that something was wrong. I was still some two years away from starting puberty, but the desire suddenly became so strong inside me that I now wonder whether I was always intended to love prepubescent males. From the outset, I found boys to be a lot more fun than girls, and back then all I was interested in was having fun! Half a lifetime has passed since then, but what started on the last bell of the last day of that school year was forever etched into my mind. Falling in love for the first time is not something that one ever really forgets.
The nurture or nature question certainly wasn’t on my mind when 837 rambunctious high school students disgorged out of the 19th century and into the freedom of an Australian summer. Picture the scene, boys surging through the portals of the dismal grey-stone century-old buildings of Sydney Grammar School. Good-looking boys everywhere, like a plague of rabbits or locusts, or even mice, an unstoppable horde as they crossed the manicured green lawns, and poured onto College Street in Darling hurst. Some ran, but most walked, talking with their friends, making their plans for the holidays ahead. I clearly remember watching those boys with devoted fascination, not understanding why I was so excited. My best friend, a boy who I was very fond of, some people would say unnaturally so, sat only a few inches away from me, looking out the same window. Even as close as we were, I searched the crowd for someone else. There was one face in particular that I wanted to be the first to see that afternoon.
Now, those attentive readers who spend a moment or two to reflect on the opening paragraphs may think that they are somewhat misleading. That certainly isn’t my intention, but as any man who has a preference for young boys knows, high school students can hardly be considered sought-after, at least not in the ways that are important to men who love boys. They might even think that I am simply confused. After all, it was 1968, so I am obviously getting on in years. Of course, it is entirely possible that their misunderstanding arises because they didn’t grow up in a country like Australia, which had six years of high school in 1968. There were no middle schools or junior high schools. Instead, in the best British tradition of surrounding relatively innocent pubescent boys with sex-starved adolescents, boys usually went straight from primary school to an all-boy high school.
The one advantage of an otherwise depraved educational system was that some of the boys who shouted farewells to their friends that afternoon were only twelve or thirteen years old. To be certain, a great many of them were very desirable, especially if a person was attracted to bronzed youthful bodies and sun-bleached blond hair. The golden-boy image was both iconic and reasonably accurate in 1960s Australia. That characterisation of the typical Australian male existed until Germaine Greer’s liberated 'Female Eunuch' and the open-the-flood-gate immigration polices of the Right Honourable Gough Whitlam finally subverted the culture.
Boys like that, the epitome of sun-loving still-dormant manhood, continue to give me an erection to be proud of; along with brown-haired Italian boys, and Eurasian boys with almond skin and ebony hair, which should go to show that I’m not xenophobic. However, one still shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that those handsome young high school boys were the object of my attraction in 1968. Those boys didn’t interest me very much, not then, and even less now that I am settled in the celibacy of middle age. For as long as I can remember, nine, ten and eleven have been my favourite numbers for good reason. Those are the years of fleeting childhood, of the purest form of male beauty, and yes, of emerging if mostly latent sexuality.
It is entirely possible that peculiar quirk that causes men to love young boys occurred because I was a loved boy myself. I count myself lucky in that respect because I grew up without a father’s presence. Perhaps I became a boy-lover because my formative years were largely spent in the company of two women. There is no way of knowing for certain, but my mother and grandmother dominated every moment of my life while I was growing up. And then, out of the blue came unexpected freedom. I spent three weeks surfing on a mostly deserted beach with my best friend, his seventeen-year-old brother, and their uncle, a world famous surfer and board manufacturer. Those three weeks changed my life forever. However, as wonderful as learning how to ride a surfboard was, and it was surely a great experience, of more interest to most readers will be what transpired to become an even more important part of my life. It was only a matter of a few days before I lost my virginity, insofar as boys can be virgins. By Christmas Eve, I learned how to make love. In that regard, this story is particularly pertinent
Yet, even as I began my journey on that still largely quiescent pathway to pederasty, there were ample signs of what lay dormant inside me. A crucial part of my sexuality was already formed by the time I reached eleven years old. After all, I had been secretly experimenting with my best friend, Blaine McIntyre, for the best part of a year by then. Our sexual activity was anything but extraordinary. Just about every boy experimented with his friends at one time or another. It was part of growing up during the halcyon years of sexual freedom that preceded women’s liberation. Boys, curious about their bodies, often took advantage of other boys of the same age to engage in harmless sex games. We did things back then that nowadays would have society in an uproar. From my current perspective, it was an important part of learning about one’s role in life.
So there we were, at the end of 1968, Blaine and I, lurking in the shadows, enjoying the last year of childish innocence before we started high school. Both of us were anxious to grow up without really understanding what it meant. We were time-bombs of boyish lust, barely aware that our bodies were beginning to ripen, waiting for the right moment to explode into the full-blown sexual creatures that we were supposed to be. Until the time was right, our sexual explorations took the form of clandestine games. It was safer that way. Rather than expressing the deep-seated love that we shared from the age of five, we played and pretended, and entertained our budding desires without making a commitment. It was innocent and exciting, and deeply satisfying, but it was also unsettling. My awareness of Blaine as someone who was much more than a friend was held in check by a dreaded fear, that of being the one thing that all Australian boys loathed, a poofter. [A 'poof', or 'poofter', is a quaint colonial colloquialism for a homosexual.]
According to my teachers, I was a curious and clever boy who was destined for success, at least according to what was written on my annual school reports of which I still have a few left. Indeed, I remember myself as always being anxious to find out all the mysteries of the world, and that irrepressible need to learn even more seemed to be growing stronger with every new day. All too soon I would find out about the biggest mystery of them all. However, that December afternoon, sex was the furthest thing from my mind.
When it came to sex, I’ve always considered that not having a father around made my curiosity all the worse. It wasn’t simply that I lacked a male role model, although that was certainly a factor. Imagine having two women fussing over your every minute of every day. Because of them, I was mostly innocent in the ways of the male world. However, I wasn't totally innocent. For one thing I knew a few things about sex, having spent my formative years living on a sheep station in western New South Wales. I was aware of how lambs were made, which was useful, if not essential knowledge. Neither was I completely inhibited. Brindajari, the sheep station I grew up on, was huge. It had lots of secluded places for a boy to discover himself, even if it was alone. I spent a great deal of time at Callan Creek, most of it naked.
Thanks to the sheep shearers who visited Brindajari, and an analogy to the reproductive mechanisms of sheep, I picked up a mostly accurate, if somewhat scant understanding of human anatomy. Along the way I even learned a few of the words to describe the female apparatus that was so foreign to me. However, without exaggeration, most of what I knew about the human body and sex was provided entirely by my best friend. Thanks to his progressive medical-practitioner father, Blaine had the opportunity to attend a father-son night at school that extended his understanding far beyond mine. It was a two-hour event that purported to ‘fully prepare boys for sexual maturity’, an assertion that is tantamount to comparing the sex-education programs of today with getting a college education in the subject.
My mother and grandmother thought I was too young to attend the father-son night, even though Dr. McIntyre was more than willing to take me. Just about every boy in my class attended. Not that my absence mattered very much. What Blaine didn’t learn there, or later was elucidated upon by his father, he picked up from his older brother. Over the next few weeks I had the benefit of Blaine’s explanations and a much-thumbed 30-page pamphlet, boldly entitled ‘What Every Boy Should Know About Sex’. It came complete with black and white drawings of the important equipment of both sexes. This also supposedly contained enough information to guide a boy into puberty. With Blaine beside me, I stared at those drawings, some more than others, and tried to understand what having sex was all about. None of it made much sense, especially when a person wasn’t attracted to the opposite sex, although that possibility never entered my mind. A cross-section through a male’s lower abdomen and a few paragraphs of vital, if vague information about masturbation, a hurried description of boy’s genital development and a series of sketches showing the growth of axillary hair had to suffice my growing thirst for knowledge.
To be honest, I knew a little about my own body even before Blaine’s booklet was available, but my knowledge wasn’t enough to know that I’d been circumcised. Indeed, that wasn’t covered in the pamphlet beyond a few easily overlooked words, ‘circumcised, meaning the removal of foreskin’ in particular. Perhaps it was downplayed in the booklet because, unlike nowadays, every Australian boy was circumcised like his World-War-Two-veteran father. Indeed, the 1960s was an era when if a boy didn’t know that he had been born with a foreskin, he would never notice it was missing.
In the process of growing up, I learned the words that were whispered among boys in the distant corners of the school playground. While I mostly avoided these words because they were ‘rude’, I still made the appropriate associations. I knew from about the age of eight or nine that a dick or a dong was the same as a penis, and that my nuts or knackers were properly called testicles. Thanks to Blaine, by the time I reached ten I knew that masturbating was really called wanking, and it was lots of fun as well. That December, with my balls still hugging my dick on a hot day, it would be nearly two years, before I could spunk properly. Somewhere along the way I learned the words for sexual intercourse were ‘fuck’, ‘root’ and ‘stuff’, but more importantly that none of them were ever to be used with adults present, although one could safely say ‘root’ and ‘stuff’ so long as they weren’t in the wrong connotation. 'Fuck' was a very different matter. I discovered, much to my surprise that older brothers were usually forgiving if one used an inappropriate word, and that they used the words too sometimes. Although I wasn’t aware of the precise details of how it was done, I knew that sex involved putting a dong inside a ‘fanny’. I was careful not to use ‘cunt’, because somehow, despite my persistent innocence, I learned that it was the worst word of all.
All told, the astute reader should get the impression that I wasn’t what might be called sexually aware. However, I wasn’t completely unsullied either. I was a happy, healthy boy whose only problem was a singular lack of interest in girls. Like most Australian boys in the fleeting years of childhood, I eagerly ventured into uncharted territory. In the privacy of Blaine’s bedroom, I shyly touched my best friend’s penis. Needless to say, he touched mine too, but somewhat more aggressively. We learned how to wank by rubbing ourselves, and then, when we were comfortable with that, we moved on to doing each other’s. We quickly discovered that mutual masturbation brought even more delight, and we engaged in it with boyish, if guiltily restrained glee. It was Blaine who taught me to keep wanking despite sensations that bordered on painful and a pressing need to urinate. The whole point of what otherwise have been a futile effort immediately became very obvious. I was lucky that he convinced me to keep rubbing until I got the ultimate feeling. After reaching climax just one time, going all the way was the only way to go. Wanking quickly became our most popular pastime after surfing. It was entirely mutual, meaning that from ten to eleven, the number of times I gave myself an orgasm probably numbered less than a dozen. It was Blaine who got me to admit that having him do it to me was far better than anything I’d ever felt before by myself. After that, there was no turning back.
From the outset we had different ways of doing it. Blaine liked using his hand with four fingers braced against his thumb, rubbing fast and furious, going back and forth along the shaft. I liked using a finger and thumb. Not that our penises were all that different in size for most of 1968. For some reason, what I liked most of all was pinching and squeezing on the very end on mine. Either way, we rubbed and rubbed, creating enough friction on Blaine’s penis to make fire, or for the bulbous head of my penis to become inflamed. With regular practice we soon became experts at ‘spunking up’, or ‘getting the jerks’ as we mostly called it back then. Together, we learned how to pleasure both ourselves and our partner in ways that I still fantasise about. We didn’t know that we were able to do it several times in a row because there wasn’t any ‘spunk’ to interrupt the need to achieve release. After a while, we even learned not to stop after the first climax. It felt much better after the sensitivity diminished. Our turn-around time was so short that we never had to worry about delaying for more than a minute to get our breath back. There were even a few times when we wanked to exhaustion, when our penises became ruddy and bloated from overuse. We did it because if felt good, because, with the sole exception of the exhilaration of surfing, there was nothing else even remotely like that ‘jerking’ feeling from deep inside our bodies.
Over the period of a year, my innocence began to retreat, taking a backward step every night that I slept at Blaine’s house, or when we were brave enough to do something at my house, which wasn’t very often. For some reason I never have understood, we didn’t do more than masturbate, not until the last day of school. By then, I was well on the way to changing into the person I still am today. However, the recognition of that person was still a long time away, in emotional terms as well as in actual days. I was always happy being with Blaine, but I was happiest when we were both naked and lying in his bed at night, holding each other’s penises and pleasuring each other in the way we most liked. Had I known more, it would have been so easy to do more with him, yet we were utterly content with what we shared. I made poofter jokes like all the other boys in my class at school and never dreamed it would happen to me.
Finally, there are other two people who greatly changed my life, and for whom this story is also dedicated: Blaine’s older brother, Bruce, and their uncle, Byron McIntyre. I will not spoil the story at this point to tell you why. While it was Blaine who taught me the basics of sex, it was Bruce who taught me how to make love, one-sided though it was. However, even before that happened, there were feelings on both sides that made my heart glow whenever he was close to me. For no reason at all, I stammered whenever he was near. It wasn’t that I was nervous by nature. There were emotions that I’d never felt for any other person pouring out of me without explanation. Looking back, I know now that I wasn’t in love. At least I wasn’t in love with Bruce. Hero worship, puppy love, what ever it was, at the time it was just disturbing and strange. Even harder to understand was how quickly my life changed after that day in December, 1968, when school ended for the year and holidays began. That afternoon, as I have already said, I was almost eleven years old, just one day away in fact.
Thank you for your patience.
It was a hot afternoon in December of 1968, that day when I waited somewhat impatiently outside Sydney Grammar School. It wasn’t the first time in my life that I had waited there. Neither was it the first time in my life that I was wide-eyed and nervous with excitement, but that day was different to any other day of my life. Somehow, I knew that day was different. It was sticky hot and the noise of the inner city seemed very distant, so far away that one could hear the sounds of the starlings and sparrows that gathered in the trees overhead. I fancied I could even hear my own heartbeat. And amidst that unsettling disquiet, I had to think in order to breath. In and out, counting seconds until the next breath, just waiting, just thinking in silence.
I was a confident easy-going kid, everyone said so, but not that afternoon. That afternoon I searched 837 faces for one face in particular, because I was obsessed with one of them. I just didn’t know it at the time, or if I did, I would never have admitted it even to myself. That afternoon, those swarming, vigourous, handsome specimens of budding manhood were literally a plague of mice. However, there were no mice among them. Like Darwin’s Origin of the Species, they were the very best that Australia had to offer. Sheer selectivity made certain of that. Sydney Grammar School was arguably the best high school in a country of some 10 million people, although at least one other private school could argue to the contrary. Those 837 hot-blooded patrician youths represented 114 years of school history, and maybe more, depending upon when you started counting. They were all hand picked, culled from the posh suburbs of Sydney and from across the state of New South Wales. They were so selected that you wouldn’t know that when Muck-Up day occurred at Sydney’s most prestigious private school. Back then, the worst thing that ever happened on Muck-up Day was a few rolls of toilet paper being spread around the foliage and festooned from the buildings.
Everywhere I looked, I saw crisply-ironed long-sleeved white shirts with sleeves rolled up and precisely arranged ties emblazoned with the school insignia, a Scottish cross with five stars and an open book to symbolise learning. All of the students were dressed exactly the same, which was the raison d'être of a uniform after all. They all wore grey woollen trousers, even though it was the height of summer. Eight hundred and thirty seven sweaty boys aged twelve to eighteen, and one of them was Bruce McIntyre.
Bruce McIntyre! Even now, when I write his name I still feel the same thrill that I felt when I looked out the side window of Mrs. McIntyre’s car. Looking past my best friend, Blaine, not realising how lucky we were to be wearing our short- sleeved shirts and grey cotton shorts, no ties at the Lower School, thank you very much. We were both looking to see his older brother, Bruce. However, in my case, it was for a reason other than brotherly familiarity. Bruce! My hero, Bruce! Just saying his name to myself used to make me warm with excitement. There was always an uncertain thrill that came whenever I was close to him, a thrill that I never felt with any other person who was older than me. Later on, a few days later, that thrill would come for a very different reason.
The whole thing was vaguely unsettling, not sex, but watching that seething mass of teenage boys emerge like cicadas from their shells. As soon as each boy reached the street, he was reborn, shedding his chrysalis of rigid academic control, becoming free again. School ties quickly came undone, and if not taken off, remained loose around their necks. Authority was denied in that simple act of self expression. The uniform rule was rigidly enforced at Sydney Grammar, from the time a boy left home in the morning, to the time he returned in the afternoon. We were expected to be proud of our school.
However, that afternoon, six weeks of summer lay ahead. Part of that six weeks would be sun and fun and endless days of surfing on Sydney’s beaches. Six weeks of heaven, of growing one’s sun-bleached hair far beyond the regulation top-of-the-collar length, but only to lose it again a day or two before we went back to school.
And there, amidst a hundred soon-to-be-senior boys as they strolled forth with mature disengagement from the lower forms, was Bruce. I saw him first, which probably meant I was looking harder than anyone else in the car. He finally emerged through the doorway and stood there for a moment as if reflecting on the importance of leaving school on the last day of the term. But there he was, looking about him, saying good-bye to his friends, grinning as they answered him. Seventeen-year-old Bruce McIntyre! And there was me, Allan James Harding, waiting nervously in the car. I was about to engage on the adventure of my life, but not knowing anything about what awaited me. Looking back, I was never as innocent as I was that day.
He raised his hand and gestured a salute of recognition, or so it seemed to me, and then he walked down the scalloped stone stairs. He was still talking with some of the stragglers, but not as earnestly as they sought his interest. His attention seemed to be focused entirely on the car parked beneath the trees. What a sight we must have made to anyone who saw us gazing at each other across a hundred-yard distance as he approached. Bruce Graham McIntyre, already elected by his teachers to be a prefect when school resumed. Bruce, with his ready smile and curly brunette-like-his-mother hair. Bruce, with his ever-friendly wave that always made me smile and instantly wave back. He had eyes like Blaine. Big and brown like a loveable, languid kangaroo, not innocently blue like mine.
Even when he was nothing more to me than my best friend’s older brother, the strange thing was how much I liked being with him. I had always liked Bruce, going all the way back to when he was my age and I was five years old and starting kindergarten. I liked him, not because he was Blaine’s big brother and he could take care of us if danger threatened, which it never did of course, or that he could do a thousand things I couldn’t do. I liked him because he was always treated me as if I was special to him. I liked him for a thousand different reasons, including his ability to ride a surfboard. He was famous for it, not world famous, but he was famous in the eyes of at least one eleven-year-old devoted fan. I saw it as my personal responsibility to make sure that every boy who attended Sydney Grammar’s preparatory school in Edgecliff knew that Bruce McIntyre, who was Blaine’s older brother by the way, had come third in the 1967 New South Wales Junior Surfing Championships at Narrabeen. At the time, Bruce was sixteen, a fourth former, and his photograph was on the third page of the Sports Section of the Daily Telegraph! I worshipped at his feet.
As soon as he was in the car and the door was closed again, Bruce skewed around in his seat and grinned at me. He had nice white teeth. He had full lips like Blaine. Both of them had their Hungarian mother’s mouth. There were tiny freckles flecked across the bridge of his nose. He had a head of untamed russet- brown hair, like his brother, unlike his very-Scottish auburn-haired father. He was a third-generation Australian, but he was more Australian than most people whose convict ancestors arrived on the First Fleet.
“Hi ya Mum. Ow-yar-goin’ mates.” The accent was exaggerated. He did that either to annoy his mother or impress his friends. He also he did it to make me laugh.
That was all he said. Blaine gave him a disinterested glance and went happily back to reading his comic book. Of course, I grinned back at Bruce like a dummy, not realising that my smile said more than words ever could. He called me mate! Instead of turning around again, he kept staring at me as if he was trying to think of something else to say. It made me feel like I was being examined. It made me feel uncomfortable, even nervous. And yet, even then, I was filled with admiration for him, awed that Bruce somehow found me, not-even-a-first-former, to be worth a few seconds of his time. It also made me feel uneasy, deep down inside where I kept my secrets. There was a lot I didn’t understand about the world I lived in, and even though I wanted to know more, there was no one who I could ask except my best friend.
Blaine giggled then, while Bruce was still looking at me, probably because of something he was reading. It was music to my ears, the sound of a boy in high spirits and carefree like me. I studied him from the other side of the car. No doubt he was destined for great things like his father, but one would never know it from his obsession with comics. His profile held my interest for a moment too long. I admired the way that his hair glistened in the sun. It was both darker and shorter than my sun and salt-bleached blond hair. Even to my eyes, so inexperienced in judging beauty, he was a very handsome boy. He glanced at me and rolled his eyes, but already I had committed the image to memory. At the time I did not appreciate the significance of the ache in my heart when I finally avert my eyes and forced myself to look out the window next to me. It intimated that I was infatuated for I was surely too young to be in love.
I was glad when Bruce finally gave me a parting wink and turned around again. He leaned down to fiddle with the radio button, found 2UW, and turned the volume up. Only then did I realise that I had an erection. I could feel it growing, stretching out to make that warm but comfortable tightness in my underpants. It usually happened only when I played with it at night, or when Blaine and I talked about sex, or did something together that we weren’t supposed to even know about. I felt awkward, exposed, keeping my knees together, silently praying that no one would notice the pointed lump in my shorts.
Suddenly, the Beatles boomed out from under the dashboard and from the two round speakers mounted behind my head. ‘Roll over Beethoven’ filled the car. For no reason at all, my penis became absolutely rigid. My face was hot, and my mouth was very dry. It was difficult to concentrate on what Blaine was saying, but it wasn’t because I couldn’t hear him over the radio. It bothered me that he was giggling while he was trying to say something serious. .
“Turn it down please, Bruce. We don’t have to entertain the street.”
Like my mother, Mrs McIntyre could be strict at times. However, she was also funny. I was almost part of the family. There were always invitations to stay for dinner, or go to the beach with them. She joked with my mother about adopting me and having three sons.
“Cripes!” The volume went down slightly. “It’s summer, Mum.”
“I know that dear.” It was the patient parent voice.
“We’ve cast off the shackles of the tyrants once again. No more school. No more teachers. We’re free at last!” Bruce continued ebulliently. His sing-song voice at the end made it sound even funnier. I snorted, trying to hold back from laughing.
“Yes, dear. You won’t get into trouble for not wearing your tie in the car, will you?”
It was the perfect ‘shut-down’, which made my need to laugh even worse. I was almost choking in the back seat. Blaine was oblivious. The sun still danced off his hair, bringing out red highlights. An unruly strand curled over his furrowed brow. His concentration on his comic was both reassuring and disconcerting. My grandmother said he was blasé, which suited him about as much as the nick name I called him in private. ‘Tugga’, because that was what he did when he played with his Australian boyhood. He tugged on it, sometimes so hard that it seemed as if he wanted to hurt himself. For some reason he liked doing masturbating far more than I did. I remembered when I starting calling him ‘Tugga’. It was a rainy Saturday afternoon on a day when Australia played England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and won 342 to 270. Instead of watching the game television with Blaine’s father and brother we were upstairs in Blaine’s bedroom. After about an hour of mutual masturbation, my penis hurt and my wrist ached, but he kept tugging on his until it swelled up to the point of becoming bloated. Only when both of our arms were too tired to continue did he stop. It took hours for the inflammation to go down. It was the first of our marathon wank sessions.
I looked away, feeling odd because Blaine always ignored me whenever his brother paid me any attention. Sometimes it seemed like they were competing, but if Bruce was winning, Blaine always threw in the towel.
“No Mum.” Bruce’s voice was baritone deep, rich and smooth, and to my ears, very manly. I loved to hear him talk, especially about surfing.
The car, a 1966 Jaguar 3.8, pulled away from the curb and into the traffic. We headed down College Street. I turned in my seat and watched the school disappear in the oval-shaped window behind me. It wasn’t my school, not yet. It would be in another six weeks.
Both Blaine and I wore the uniform of the Sydney Grammar’s Edgecliff Preparatory School. We wore the same grey and white clothes as the older boys, but no ties, and short cotton pants instead of woollen trousers. Blaine and I were like mirror images of each other, only my clothes were one size smaller and they were still loose on me. And then, for no reason other than it was so very obvious, it struck me that I would never wear those clothes again. Suddenly, I laughed out loud. Blaine nudged me in the ribs. Bruce was right. We were free, free for six weeks. Six weeks was a lifetime. And when it finished, I would be going to high school.
“What’s up with your weirdo mate, Blaine?” Bruce called out from the front seat.
Blaine gave him the ‘don’t know, don’t care’ shrug and a confirming grunt that only made my humour worse.
“We’re free. We’re free. We’re free,” I called out gleefully over the radio. “No more tyrant teachers. We’re free at last.”
I almost sang the words, except at the last moment I stopped. It would have been hard to sing, not because of the Beatles, but because Bruce was sitting in the seat in front of me. I didn’t want him to laugh at me. I had a boy-soprano voice that was good enough to get me into the first row of the school choir and the occasional solo part in performances. I wanted Bruce to like me. I didn’t understand why. It was just a need I had buried down somewhere inside me.
“Yep, I think dingbat’s finally got it worked out. He’s on hols,” Blaine returned joyfully.
I laughed. My erection had gone down as fast as it had sprung to life. All it ever took for that to happen was some distraction that sent my mind in a different direction. Until then, I hadn’t given it much thought, but it seemed that I had been getting erections more frequently. Poor Blaine somehow managed to have them non-stop. Every time I looked at him, his penis seemed to be bulging out into his shorts. It didn’t seem to bother him like it did me. In fact, he seemed to be oblivious to it most of the time, and for the rest of the time he made a game of it. Sometimes, I wondered whether he was actually proud of it. Vaguely, I wondered what I’d been thinking to cause mine to get hard in the first place.
Bruce turned around again. He looked directly at me again. He always seemed to be doing that. He always stared right into my eyes. Every time he did that, I wondered what he saw. Some dumb kid? His little brother’s boring friend. That was all I could ever be to him, but this time for no reason at all, he seemed more intense, more introspective, as if he wanted to say something to me, but he could not put it into words. He raised his eyebrows, not frowning, but showing surprise. It made me smile back even though it made me feel apprehensive of what he was going to say next.
“What are you getting for your birthday, motor head?”
I tried to mimic Blaine’s ‘don’t know’ shrug. Bruce often called me motor- head because I knew so much about cars, because I lived for cars back then. I dreamed of E-type Jaguars, of Ferraris of which I had seen only one or two, and of Lotus Cortinas. I knew more about engines and gearboxes that any boy I knew. I was proud of being the car- expert, however, it was also another way that Bruce made fun of me.
He winked, deliberately giving me the impression that he knew more than I did about my birthday. I said the only thing I could under the circumstances, the one thing that might increase Bruce’s regard for me.
I gave another shrug. This time it was a more confident shrug. Still, there were butterflies in my stomach. “Um, S-surfboard,… m-maybe.”
I wasn’t prepared to say much more than that. If I did, I would have jinxed it for sure. Just one more day and I’d know for certain. I’d been hinting for a surfboard since mid-September, asking outright throughout November. I was told to drop the subject in early December. I offered, gratuitously no doubt, to combine both my birthday and Christmas presents seeing as they came so close together. The only thing I really wanted was foam and fibreglass and eight foot long. A good board cost nearly $60, without any fancy graphics, not like some boards had. The one thing I had going in my favour, as I saw it, was that at the end of November my mother had taken me into her bedroom. There amid her bottles of French perfume and make-up brushes she found a tape and measured my height. Her reason? Simply to see how much I had grown. Then, the next time we were in David Jones Department Store, she had taken me down to the cafeteria and weighed me on the scales. I was eighty pounds and four-foot-eight. She never used metric, but that was all we did at school. Afterwards, I couldn’t think of any other reason why she needed to do that. I asked her again. This time, she said ‘new clothes’, but since when did ‘new clothes’ require my weight. I hoped it was something else. Maybe a surf board?
Back then, in Christmas 1968, the best boards around, maybe in the entire world, were built by Shane Steadman at a workshop somewhere on the North Shore. Next best, according to the magazines I read, were the McIntyre boards that were made by Blaine’s uncle. I had high hopes of getting one. Compared to most kids who wanted a McIntyre board, I had an inside track because of Blaine. He had one already, a surfboard that was specially built for him. It was a work of art, more so that any Steadman board. The graphics on my best friend’s board were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. A Pacific wave, a cascade of bubbles growing from the creamy white fibreglass below, becoming blue, then breaking again into boiling white surf and flecks of foam. The graphics on Blaine’s surfboard must have doubled the cost of his board. I crossed my fingers. There was nothing like a last minute prayer to work miracles.
“Gangbusters! Reckon you’ll be another Midget Farrelly, Harding?”
I grinned, completely lost for words as much as I was afraid that I would stammer again. He seemed to enjoy it when I grinned at him.
“Good onya!” Another grin back at me.
He turned away before my face turned red.
I didn’t answer. The next song came on the radio. Back-to-back Beatles because of their upcoming tour—this time ‘Help’. The Beatles were ‘okay’, but I much preferred the surf music of the Beach Boys and the Ventures. Bruce turned around, winked directly at me and went back to humming and drumming his fingers on the burled walnut trim on the side of the door. Blaine and I sang the refrain, keeping it so quiet that it was mostly to ourselves.
The Jaguar was a great car if you liked polished walnut and the rich smell of leather, and an engine that had to be the best six-cylinder every made. Mostly aluminium, with twin overhead cams, triple SU carburettors, four valves per cylinder. I knew my cars. My personal favourite was the Jaguar E-type 4.2 litre convertible. I wanted one in red. It amused me to think that the very same engine, only smaller and detuned, was driving us along. It sounded like a very tame Jaguar.
“Are you going up to Brindajari for Christmas, Allan?”
Mrs. McIntyre’s accent wasn’t very strong, not like a lot of immigrants from Europe. It almost sounded Scottish, which wasn’t all that surprising because she had been married to Dr. McIntyre forever.
I sat up. “Uh huh.”
“How long are you staying this time?”
“For a week. Then, I’m back here for a day before I leave for camp, Mrs. McIntyre.”
After camp ended, I was returning to Brindajari to spend the rest of the summer holidays there, but she already knew what I was doing for the summer. I had been standing on the porch when my mother shared her schedule for my summer life.
“I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time, Allan.”
Adults asked dumb questions and said even dumber things in order to make kids feel at home. Some parents practised verbal diarrhoea for that very reason. Mrs. McIntyre wasn’t in that category so it didn’t make much sense that she was asking about something that she already knew the answer to. I glanced at Blaine looking for a sign that he was tuned in to something other than 2UW. He tapped his hand on the window, tired of singing for the moment. However, he was busy watching the buildings go past as we drove through the red-light district of Kings Cross. More than likely, he was trying to see some of the prostitutes. Even in the middle of the day, there were always a few women hoping to meet a U.S. serviceman on R and R. It seemed like the city was filled up with them. All of a sudden, he nudged my leg. His finger lifted up, below the seat in front so his mother wouldn’t see. He pointed to the side. The woman was walking slowly, casually, stopping to look in shop windows. She was blond-headed, but not gold- coloured like mine. Her hair was a mass of little curls, cascading down to her shoulders. She was dressed in a too-tight mini-skirt and long black boots that came up to her knees. Her top was made of fish-net material, showing diamonds of pink skin behind the black knit. She wasn’t very pretty.
Blaine answered for me because I was too stunned to move. The woman had turned around and was looking directly at me through the open window of the car. She couldn’t have been more than twenty years old, yet she still gave me the same look she gave any male. I gulped, frozen in fear of being seen staring at her. Blaine nudged my leg again, harder than before. Quickly, we both looked away. We weren’t supposed to know what the woman did for a living, let alone make jokes about the details of what she did in the cheap hotels around the corner for twenty or thirty dollars.
“Look the other way boys.” The stern voice from the front seat got my immediate attention. Blaine turned, smirked at me, and kept looking.
“They get more brazen every day.”
“She’s ugly as a box of blowflies,” Blaine laughed. “I reckon she’s just right for you, Allie.”
I scowled at him, but it was a waste of time because he couldn’t see me. He was still staring out the window.
“Crikey, you’re right Blainey. She’s looking at him like she’s his sheila. Talk about a pair of norks!”
“Bruce!” Mrs. McIntyre interjected.
Bruce laughed. “Dead cert! She’s built like Dolly. Anyway, it’s not like she’s a bush pig or something, Mum.” [Dolly was a hostess on the Pick-A-Box game show in 1960s Australia]
Blaine roared with laughter. “She’s pretty hot, Mum, and anyway, Allan’s perving on her too.”
“Man, is she stacked.”
“Bruce!” Louder this time. It was a voice that said ‘enough’.
“I’m just pulling his leg. He knows that, Mum. Anyway he’s too young to like girls, aren’t you mate?”
My answer was to say nothing. I couldn’t see the point. I hadn’t really thought about liking girls, or not. After spending most of the last six years at Edgecliff Preparatory School, and the rest of my life at Brindajari, I didn’t know a single girl other than seven-year-old Katie Tattersall from Dundgeroo Station. What was I supposed to say? In truth, I really didn’t understand why breasts were so important. Katie Tattersall didn’t even have breasts, but her nipples were already much larger than the tiny dots that I had. They seemed stick out much more than mine did. Sometimes, I could see them under her flimsy top.
The conversation ended as soon as we turned onto New South Head Road, returning the same way that we’d come from Edgecliff to pick up Bruce from school. I wasn’t even sure why we’d done it, made the round trip that is, except that it might have had something to do with it being the last day of school. Normally, Mrs. McIntyre dropped Blaine and me off at my house so we could play for a while, and then she went to get Bruce by herself. Still, I wasn’t about to complain. I liked being in the car with Bruce and it was good to see where we’d be going to school when the summer holidays ended.
“So when are you leaving for Brindajari, Bunny?”
I realised Bruce was trying to make up, but Bunny was a name I preferred he didn’t call me. Not Blaine, not Bruce, not anyone. Bunny sounded so juvenile, and worse, when you called someone a ‘rabbit’ it was much the same thing as saying ‘idiot’. However, I was fairly certain that Bruce called me Bunny because it sounded cute. At least that’s what Blaine said. Most times, when his parents weren’t around, Bruce even made it sound endearing, like I was his pet rabbit or something. It was my own fault for telling Bruce about the rabbit plague that came through Brindajari earlier in the year. There had been rabbits everywhere in June. Millions of rabbits. You couldn’t go outside and not trip over them. You got tired of shooting them with a .22. It was too easy. Point in the general direction and shoot, eject the cartridge. It was a waste of bullets. There were so many rabbits it was impossible to miss. Rabbit death was guaranteed unless you were half blind like some of them were. For a week and a half I became a rabbit exterminator, second only to myxomatosis. My grandmother paid me three cents for each one. There really wasn’t any choice. If you didn’t kill them, there was nothing left for the sheep to eat. It was going to be a bad year for wheat as well. Everyone blamed the situation on the rabbits, followed closely by the government. My mother said times were bad enough for a person to vote ‘Labour’, even though she and my grandmother always voted ‘Country Party’.
“T-tomorrow,” I answered. One word was almost safe.
I tried to sound happy about it, because in truth I really did like staying at Brindajari. The only thing that would be better than spending Christmas at Brindajari would be having Blaine there with me. It was a lot more fun when there was someone my own age to play with.
“Tomorrow?” Bruce asked. He sounded surprised.
Now, I had to elaborate. I breathed in and held it. Why was I so nervous when I had to talk to Bruce. “We’re l-leaving a d-day earlier than usual,” I explained in a rush.
As far as I was concerned, it really didn’t make much sense to go up to Brindajari a day early, especially when it meant travelling on my birthday. However, it wasn’t up to me. It was a tradition to spend Christmas there. It was all that I had ever known. I thought Blaine was lucky to be spending his Christmas in Sydney. On Christmas Day he’d probably be surfing at Manly or Dee Why, while I was eating roast lamb and Christmas pudding and sweating like a pig. At that time of year, midday temperatures were usually over 100 degrees. For me, the high point came when it cooled down in the evening. Then, with the work day over, I’d ride my horse down to Callan Creek and swim beneath the river gums. Going ‘nud’, I called it. It was fun, feeling the hot sun on my bare skin, especially where it was pale. After a few days I would have a sun-tanned bottom. The front section always took a day or two longer to turn brown. I never told my mother and I made sure that she never saw me with clothes on. She would have said that there were snakes. There weren’t that many snakes around, but I was still careful.
Besides swimming and riding my horse, there wasn’t much else to do. At that time of the year I was there all by myself. For as long as I could remember, I was always left to devise my own amusement for the week of Christmas. That was the problem with my grandmother owning 67,000 acres. It wasn’t back of Bourke or Woop Woop, because Dubbo wasn’t all that far away from Brindajari—25 minutes or so by car—but the nearest station was still about seven miles up a gravel road. Its owners, the Tattersalls, always went down to Sydney for Christmas. So did everyone else, if they weren’t already living there. It got to be lonely.
“Blainey was telling me you’re going off to camp when you get back, Bun,” Bruce said. Once again, he was looking back at me from between the front two seats.
“Yep.” I intended to sound curt because he used the rabbit name again. It was beginning to drive me bats.
“Sounds beaut. Where’bouts, mate?”
At least Bruce sounded interested. I didn’t know why it annoyed me so much when he was making fun of me. After Christmas at Brindajari, my schedule included two weeks at camp at some place north of Port Macquarie. I had never been there. My mother’s brochure said something about water sports like skiing and sailing, along with horse riding lessons. Like I needed to learn how to ride a horse! I’d been riding since I was four. I’d even been bare-back on a brumby the year before. That took a lot of skill. Still, water-skiing sounded like fun.
“Camp W-Wangara or s-something l-like that.” If I sounded sulky it was because I didn’t think much of the idea of going to camp for two weeks. “It’s s-somewhere near Port M-Macquarie, I think.”
I stared out the window and caught my breath. My heart was beating quickly. I glimpsed Blaine smiling slightly, as if my acute embarrassment was somehow amusing. Glumly, I watched the shops slide past until I got over it. Then, I scanned for interesting cars. There weren’t many cars around that I couldn’t identify. Holdens were the most numerous by far. I saw them by the hundreds every day, but most of them weren’t worth a second glance. Every so often an interesting one would come along. An EH model pulled up beside us when we stopped at the lights in Elizabeth Bay. It was lowered a few inches and equipped with wide chrome wheels. The two-inch exhaust and a Candy-Apple-Red metal-flake paint job said the rest. The engine idled roughly. That was a special cam. The formula was pretty standard. A hotted-up car like that. would have extractors too. No standard- issue Stromberg carburettor, but a side-draft Weber, maybe even two of them. Properly tuned, it could probably do the standing quarter at Castlereagh in sixteen seconds. It got my attention immediately.
“Reckon boofhead’ll drop the clutch if Mum revs the engine a bit?” Bruce asked snidely. He was watching out his window as well. The other driver wasn’t much older than he was.
“Go on, Mum. Dad would do it,” Blaine added encouragingly. He didn’t add ‘Dad drag-races hotted-up cars all the time.’
“Go on, Mrs. McIntyre,” I piped in. “You’ll shut him down for sure.”
It was irresponsible, but I loved being in the car when Dr. McIntyre burned rubber at the lights. We liked it when we won, and he liked it when we laughed and carried on in the temporary glow of racing victory. If I had a father, I would have wanted him to be like Dr. McIntyre.
Mrs. McIntyre laughed and shook her head. It didn’t stop Bruce. He made a ‘v’ with his two fingers, the sign to the other driver that a race was on. The other driver must have been a mug. He revved the engine so loud that it roared beside us. He was going to glaze his clutch if he started off like that. Even a competition clutch couldn’t take that sort of abuse very often.
The lights turned green. The Jaguar pulled away in slow motion. The Holden left with a jumping lurch, a momentary squeal while its rear wheel spun. No limited slip differential, on that car. We’d gone about twenty feet in slow motion when Mrs. McIntyre put her foot down. The Jaguar took off. It sounded like an E- type then, not pushing us back into the seats like an E-type would, but still very respectable performance. It was as fast as my grandmother’s Jaguar, which never went over 50 mph, even on the long trip to Brindajari. As soon as we passed the other car, Mrs. McIntyre backed off the accelerator. The point was made.
“Ripper!” Blaine and I shouted out together.
Bruce laughed as well, adding his own, “Geez, what a hoon.”
After another five minutes we rounded the hill and officially entered Double Bay. Only then, for the first time, the full import of my summer schedule sank in. Except for a single day between getting back from Brindajari and leaving for summer camp, I wouldn’t see Blaine, or Bruce either for that matter, for the next three weeks. I sank into juvenile melancholy. Three whole weeks by myself. Then, a few days in Sydney until we went back to Brindajari. It wasn’t much of a summer for an almost eleven-year-old boy to look forward to.
Usually, I liked to watch the people, the cars, the expensive houses, the sailing yachts moored in the bay. That afternoon, I stared ahead, feeling sick to the bottom of my stomach and wishing I had a say in my own life. It was a matriarchal family. I was my mother’s only child, and whatever my grandmother said was law.
When we pulled into my street, I wasn’t paying much attention to anything, not even the radio. I didn’t notice the Ford Fairmont station wagon parked outside my house, or the man who stood beside it untying a surfboard from the roof racks. Had I paid even the slightest attention I would have seen a man who looked a lot like Bruce, even more like Blaine’s father. I wasn’t even aware that my mother was standing next to him.
I opened my door, ready to get out, trying to decide how I should say good-bye to Blaine. I wanted to get it over with, especially with his mother and brother there. I sighed emptily. We’d been best friends since our first day at kindergarten, almost six years earlier. I wouldn’t see him again until our summer vacation was halfway over. At least we’d have three weeks together when I returned. With luck, we would be able to surf every day, and with more luck he’d be able to spend a week with me at Brindajari before school started again. It would be a lot more fun with Blaine.
“You don’t have to get out, Blaine,” I muttered. “Hey, I’ll see you in a week, okay?”
I reached out to shake his hand, but Blaine was already getting out the other door. So was his mother, so was Bruce. Everyone was getting out of the car, except me. I got out, then picked up my schoolbag from the floor. It was much heavier than normal, full of everything from my desk, most of it rubbish. Blaine was grinning. So was Bruce.
“Wake-up, Allie. You’re as blind as a bat or something?”
“Huh?” I turned around then, looking to where Blaine was looking.
By then, the surfboard was off the roof of the station wagon and standing up. My mother was standing next to it. I figured it out in no time at all. Bruce would have said ‘nothing flat’. It was a McIntyre. Creamy white, with the same very expensive yet distinctive blue wave graphic that Blaine’s surfboard had, except where his wave dissolved into a spray of pearly foam and finally disappeared into the cream-coloured fibreglass, my name was formed instead. ‘Allan’.
“Mum?” It was all I could say.
“Yes, Allan. Happy birthday, sweetie.”
“It’s really for me.”
“Blimey, you drongo, of course it’s yours, Bun,” Bruce laughed from behind me. “It’s got your name on it, hasn’t it?”
“Mum?” I asked again. My mouth finally closed.
The man stepped from behind the board, still holding it upright with his hands and resting on the ends of his red rubber thongs. For the first time, I saw Byron McIntyre, the man himself, the man who created McIntyre True-Blue Boards. I was as wide-eyed as any boy had ever been. There he was, not as famous as Midge Farrelly that’s for certain, but still well known to anyone who knew anything about surfing. He represented Australia at the world titles in Hawaii. He’d surfed all over the world. There had even been a documentary on the ABC about him. He was a lot younger than Blaine’s father, maybe in his thirties, but he had the same unruly auburn hair that looked as if he had just trekked through the highlands or been boating on Loch Lomond. To me, he was everything that I wanted to be. I had a bad case of hero worship for Byron McIntyre even before I met him in person. I could not help but stare at him. And then he smiled at me.
“You’re Allan Harding, aren’t you? Four-foot-eight and eighty pounds? Eleven years old in a coupla days?”
Even his voice held me entranced. It was a James Mason voice, smooth as butter as my grandmother would say. It was a baritone, and to me, nothing short of reassuring. He sounded a lot like Blaine’s father who came as close to being a father to me as anyone I had known.
“Yes, my birthday’s tomorrow, but,…” I managed to say.
He grinned. “Then this is yours, mate. It’s specially made for you, in fact. It’s a real beauty, a seven-footer. but I cut the blank extra narrow for a skinny four-foot eight kid who weighs all of 80 pounds.” Another grin. “This is the smallest board that True-Blue’s ever made. From the look of you I reckon you’ll put it good use for a few years yet.”
He held the surfboard out to me to take. It was a little over two feet taller than I was, but it seemed to be so much bigger. He looked me up and down and seemed to like what he saw because he smiled right at me and nodded. Then, he turned serious.
“It’s a smidgen shorter than Blaine’s,” he explained to no one in particular, although I listened in rapt interest. “Just by a few inches, whatever that is in bloody metric. Oops, sorry about that. What I mean is it’s still a bit on the big side for you.” He looked at me again, not caring in the least that he had sworn in front of my gr. “Anyway, you’ll grow into it soon enough I expect. It’s got more rocker too, because you’re always going to be a bit lighter.”
I wished I knew more about surfing. All I knew were the basics. Rocker had something to do with directional control and acceleration, the length did too, but directly opposite. The way he described it, the board should be able to turn on a threepence.
I knew much more about the car next to him. No doubt my grandmother would have said too much! As far as she was concerned, cars were useful to ‘get from A to B’. His car was a 1968 Ford Fairmont XT. It had a V-8 badge on the front fender so that meant it had the 302 engine from America. It was essentially the same engine that Allan Moffat used to win the Hardie-Ferodo at Bathurst in his Ford Falcon GT. Like the GT, the Fairmont also had disk brakes hiding behind the polished mag wheels. It was off-white, and right there painted on the tail-gate door, where any idiot should have seen it, was the famous McIntyre True-Blue wave. Had I been paying attention, I would have known what I was getting for my birthday from the first moment I saw it.
“It’s really grouse.” It’s all I could think of to say to convey my utter pleasure.
“Allan,” my grandmother said sternly from behind me.
I turned around. “Hi Nana.” I kept grinning, even at her.
She was a tough old bird sometimes, make that most of the time, but this time her grimness evaporated. She didn’t want me to use what she called ‘the idiom’. It was ‘common and uncouth’, as she put it. That was why I went to private school. Everyone knew that I was being groomed to run Brindajari. My role in life was to take over from her and my mother as soon as I was old enough to vote. I was to become part of the farming aristocracy of Australia.
“Geez, what a drongo,” Bruce laughed. “You give him the best board in the whole world and all he can say is, it’s grouse.”
Then, I giggled. I had everything a boy could ever want right there in front of me. “It’s,… It’s the best present I ever got. Mum, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“I know your birthday’s not today, Allan, but we wanted you to have it before you leave tomorrow.”
I sounded like an idiot, but by then, I was almost crying. I reached out and stroked my hand across the smooth fibreglass. I had never felt anything that smooth, except a pane of glass. However, unlike glass, the surfboard was curved and rounded, and beautiful. I could just see the lines of the balsa stringers beneath the fibreglass surface, and it was mine. And it was mine! My very own surfboard. I wouldn’t have to borrow Blaine’s surfboard any longer. I wanted to jump up and down. I want to pick it up and carry it around. Then, suddenly, I realised that my grandmother probably had as much to do with getting it as my mother.
“Nana,… Thank you, ever so much. I really love it.”
“That’s better, Allan.” The stern face was back.
“It’s really mine?” I asked, still disbelieving that the surfboard was my birthday present, and probably Christmas too, but that didn’t matter because I had the only thing I wanted.
Mrs. McIntyre laughed. “I think he got what he wanted, Shirley.”
“I did, I did! It’s exactly what I wanted, Mum.”
“It’s a bewdy,” Blaine said approvingly. “It looks just like mine, Allie, except for your name. It’s super cool.”
There was something of a tradition of our parents getting similar gifts for us at Christmas and as well as for our birthdays. It began with the same bicycle, except mine was red and his was blue. There was a good reason for that. Our birthdays were ten days apart. However, when I turned eleven, just ten days later, Blaine turned twelve. We were born 355 days apart. At school, I always was the youngest boy in my class, and Blaine was the oldest.
“Now then, Allan, I want you to pay attention to what I going to say,” my grandmother began the obligatory lecture. “I trust you’ll be very careful with it.”
I nodded eagerly. “It must have cost a lot of money.”
“It isn’t the money I’m worried about. I don’t want you going out too far, Allan. It’s very dangerous. And I know I shouldn’t have to tell you to keep between the flags, but you must, otherwise the lifesavers won’t be able to see you. The sharks keep away from them.”
I didn’t have to see Blaine’s or Bruce’s faces to know they were barely able to keep from laughing. She made it sound as if sharks were afraid of a couple of yellow and red flags stuck in the sand. Besides, in all the times I’d been to the beach, I’d never seen a shark. There had been a few times when the bell was rung and we rushed out of the surf and waited for the all-clear, but those times were probably false alarms. I heard Bruce say something to me that sounded like ‘right on, Bun’, and for once it was appropriate because I felt about the same size as a rabbit. I was red-faced and hot. My grandmother could always humiliate me without trying. To make the situation worse, Byron McIntyre was smiling.
“She’s right you know, Allan.” It was the last thing I expected him to say. “Most people don’t realise how careful you have to be when you’re surfing. You don’t want to get hurt, and you don’t want to hurt someone else. There are some rules you’ll have to follow if you want me to teach you how to surf.”
I nodded glumly, barely believing that he could be on my grandmother’s side. However, I would do whatever was needed to be able to surf, especially with my own board.
“Yes Nana. I promise.”
“There’s another surprise, Allan,” my mother said hesitantly, yet she seemed eager to interrupt my grandmother’s lecture.
I looked at her nervously. What else could there be when I’d gotten what I had always wanted?
“You aren’t going to Brindajari this year,” she finished mysteriously.
“For goodness sake, Allan. Say ‘pardon’ or ‘excuse me’, or ‘I didn’t hear you’, but not ‘huh’,” my grandmother said loudly.
“Sorry, Nana,” I replied humbly.
“This year, you won’t be going with us, Dear.” My mother repeated. She smiled, somewhat reluctantly I thought. “And for the same reason, you won’t be going to summer camp either.”
“Because, you nong, you’re going to spend the next three weeks surfing with us, Allie.” Blaine burst into laughter from behind me.
I spun around. The light finally went on. “I’m staying at your place?” I asked, having visions of spending the best part of the next three weeks at Bondi Beach with Blaine and his brother. It was a dream come true.
Bruce grinned. “There’s no hope for you, Bunny.”
“Dr. McIntyre is taking you with him, Allan,” Mum said. She gave me a big smile, thinking she was finally letting the cat out of the bag.
“Taking me where?” I asked. I turned back, still not getting it.
“I have bit of a weekender up near Coffs’,” Byron McIntyre explained. I liked the sound of his voice. It was like Bruce’s, only deeper in tone. “It’s right on the beach. I’m taking you with me, and Blaine too, of course.”
“And me,” Bruce added. I turned the other way, almost in circle without stopping. “We’ll be surfing non-stop for three weeks. It’ll be unreal! The beach has some of the best surf south of Surfer’s Paradise. Assuming the waves are up.”
“I,…” I was lost for words.
Everyone was smiling at me, expecting me to say something. All I could think of was ‘you beaut’, and that would have made my grandmother madder than a nest of bull ants.
“I’m not going to camp at Port Macquarie.”
“Well, you could if you wanted,” my grandmother chuckled, “But I’m quite certain you’d have more fun with them.”
Byron was saying something, but I didn’t hear him. Blaine was smiling at me, and so was Bruce. The sun glistened in his hair, bringing out gold-red highlights that I’d never really noticed before. I stared at him, just like a rabbit caught in headlights, not shocked, but startled. He was very handsome. It was strange how I hadn’t noticed that before either. I’d never really looked at him, not like that, or perhaps he’d never smiled at me in quite the same way.
“I thought we’d celebrate your birthday this afternoon because you’re going to spend tonight at Blaine’s house,” my mother explained. “That way you’ll be able to get an early start tomorrow morning.”
“We’re leaving at four in the morning,” Bruce interjected. He smirked. I sensed there was a joke coming at my expense. “Do you think you’ll be up to it, Bunny? Missing your beauty rest and all?”
“I g-g-guess I’ll look so d-daggy you’ll h-have to h-heave,” I retorted.
“Allan!” My grandmother gave me a scornful look. I grinned. It was my birthday after all. She relented with a shrug.
“Well, lets all go inside,” my mother suggested. “Allan has some more presents and a birthday cake.”
Before we could do that, we had to the put the surfboard back on top of the roof of the station wagon. It took only one person to take it off, but three of us had to put it back. So much for many hands making light work. Mostly, I got in the way, but along the way, I learned how to put a surfboard onto roof racks and tie it down with bungee cords so it wouldn’t come off. Somewhere along the way, I was also informed with a slap on the back and a shoulder squeeze that from that point forward I was call to Blaine’s uncle, Byron, not Mr. McIntyre because it made him sound like Blaine and Bruce’s father. Then, we traipsed inside the house.
The view from the living room always stopped guests in their tracks even if they’d been there before. The house overlooked the expanse of Double Bay. The Lady, as the Lady Bolton ferry was known locally, had just docked at the wharf at the bottom of the street and disgorged her dozen or so passengers, mostly women who had spent the day shopping in Sydney. To a person, they carried black and white checked bags from the David Jones Department Store. Beyond rows of moored yachts, the harbour sparkled. There were sailboats in a line reaching almost to Manly it seemed, although we really couldn’t see much further than Middle Head from where we were. That afternoon, Sydney Harbour had to be the most beautiful place in the world.
Waiting on the coffee table was a pile of presents, some wrapped in birthday paper and some wrapped in Christmas paper. My grandmother and mother went about organising afternoon tea while Blaine and I busied ourselves trying to guess the contents of the presents. Needless to say I wasn’t allowed to open any of the Christmas presents. A few of them were to go with me so I’d have something to open on Christmas Day, the rest to remain until I returned. Not that it mattered. There were more than enough birthday presents to keep me busy. My favourite presents even more so than books and toys, were the things a surfer needed. Besides the surfboard, which I wanted to keep going outside to see, there were board shorts, boldly coloured with a Hawaiian pattern that was the same as Blaine’s, but blue and red instead of green and red, two jars of board wax, even a new over-sized beach towel with grey seagulls on it. It was big enough for two people to use and not get sand on them. However, I couldn’t get over the biggest surprise of them all, spending the next three weeks on McIntyre Beach.