One Semester

Date 7 July 2016.
Author Palantir
Subject One Semester.

The author retains copyright (2016) to this story. Reproducing this story for distribution without the author's permission is a violation of that copyright.
This story is fiction.

Thank you Nifty for the opportunity to post this story.


Next morning in Computer Networks the topic was Health and Safety and it mostly seemed like common sense. Joel found it especially easy because nearly all of it was in one of the pre-requisite topics which he'd already passed, and when he did the online Cisco test he aced it with a score of 94%.
In the second part of the lecture the teacher set a group assignment on Ethics in the Workplace and handed out guideline sheets. Joel was really pleased when Phillip, who was once again sitting next to him, wanted to work with him and Sam. He was even more pleased when Phillip took charge and organised the assignment into three sections so they wouldn't be duplicating each other's work.
There was a quarter of an hour break in the middle of a long session and Joel sat talking with Phillip.

"I'm curious, Joel. Yesterday when you gave your talk you kept looking at me. I wasn't distracting you somehow was I?"

Joel felt awkward and rushed to explain.

"I'm sorry. I was panicking before the talk and my friend said to speak to someone I know and forget everyone else. I started with Sam but you looked like you were more interested."

"That's a great idea. I hope it helped."

"It got me all the way through."

"I was probably more interested than you realise because you mentioned Wycheproof and I used to live in that area of the state."

"Dead set? Whereabouts?"

"A bit further north from Wycheproof actually. A little town called Quambatook."

Joel stared in disbelief.

"You've got to be joking? I'm from Tittybong but I didn't say it in case everyone laughed."

"The Bong? ...Well, it certainly is a small world."

Quambatook was only twenty kilometers from Tittybong and in that sparsely populated area it was like being next door neighbors. Joel lit up with excitement.

"I can't believe it. When did you live there?"

"Ages and ages ago. I was seventeen when my family moved there and we stayed for four years. My first job was working in the big silver silo at the railway station when the farmers were carting in their oat crops and I remember the dust nearly drove me crazy."

The image of the long tin silo with its silver roof glittering in the sun filled Joel's mind.

"I was carting wheat there are only four weeks ago."

Phillip stared at him.

"You were? Wow, small world's right."

Joel wanted to speak more, but people were returning from the break and the lecturer was waiting at the front.

"Would you like to have some lunch at my unit, Phillip? If you don't have anything else planned I mean."

"No more lectures today so the whole afternoon's free. I'd love to."

After the lecture, 42 was the busiest it had yet been and Joel set to work producing toasted tomato and cheese slices which kept disappearing into five hungry mouths faster than the stove could cook them. Peter brought in two chairs from 43 but that still left one short so he and Martin shared, shoving and calling each other wankers and chair-hogs all the time. Joel wondered whether Phillip would think they were idiots but he looked like he was enjoying their carrying on.
When the food was finished Phillip started asking about Tittybong and Quambatook, and the conversation continued for over an hour. Phillip sounded more and more interesting as the time went on. Joel saw Peter's eyes light up when Phillip said his favourite thing of all was reading.

"What sort of books?"

"Anything really, but my main thing is Sci-fi and Fantasy. I've got quite a collection at home."

Joel's eyes locked with Peter's and the interest factor went up another notch.

"Joel's reading Ender's Game at the moment. Do you know that one?"

"Orson Scott Card. Yes, he's controversial in some ways but he's on my list of good authors. I've got all his books."

"All of them? This is the best though, don't you think?"

"Third best I think. For me Songmaster is top and then Lost Boys. Don't get me talking about books, Peter, or I'll waffle on all afternoon."

Martin burst out laughing.

"Peter's the one who talks about books all the time, and Joel's nearly as bad."

There was more talk about books now, and Joel nearly fell over when it came out that Phillip's collection took up five walls of his home.

"Five walls? That's unbelievable."

"Why don't you come out and look through them? I love loaning them to people who appreciate them."

Joel and Peter had another eye lock and they both nodded.

"We'd love to. You just tell us when and we'll turn up."

"Well, there's no time like the present. Why not today? It would suit just fine."

Joel felt disappointed.

"Um... That's a bit awkward. Martin's helping us with swimming and then he's got other stuff to do. Is there any public transport?"

"Public transport takes ages. Come in my car and I'll drive you back whenever you like."

Just after three o'clock Joel and Peter bundled into the bench seat of Phillip's big farm ute and they set off on the twenty minute drive to the hamlet in the hills. There was talk about books then Phillip asked about the swimming which he'd just been watching.

"What's the story? It looks like you're part of a team. Is Martin your instructor?"

Peter laughed.

"More like the boss. He's making Joel go for his Bronze Medallion."

"Making him?"

"He's not making me. It's a good idea and he's helping me. Peter carries on sometimes."

"No I don't. Not ever."

"Not ever? I distinctly recall some outrageous carrying on at the start of semester."

"Well, maybe a little, and we aren't a team. It's just that Joel was such a piker he wouldn't wear proper racers unless Martin and I did."

"You boofhead, Peter. I was wearing a pair before we bought the new ones".

Phillip glanced across and laughed.

"All right. How did you meet each other? I think the only Second Year I've spoken to before today was the one assigned as my guide."

This was too good to resist and Joel jumped in before Peter could say anything.

"I met him in the residence laundry when Martin was stuffing jocks down his throat."

Joel received a dig in the ribs for that but Phillip was obviously enjoying the badinage.

"So, Peter's outrageous and Martin's violent. Life must get interesting for you."

The ute slowed down and turned into a block with a double story house set into the sloping ground.

"Well, this is home. I'll show you around quickly so you're oriented then you can have a go at the books."

Joel couldn't get over how much space there was for one person.

"Do you live here all by yourself?"

"At the moment I do. I've had a couple of families upstairs and four people in the downstairs flat at different times. Here we are. This is my den."

He unlocked a big steel covered door and they went in. The room was large, and here were the books. Three of these walls had bookshelves from the floor almost to the ceiling and they were all filled with books. Joel's eyes goggled.

"They're all sci-fi and fantasy?"

"Yes, and they're all in alphabetical order. Hang on. I'll get the Card books and leave you to it for a while."

Phillip left and then returned about half an hour later.

"How's it going? Found anything you like?"

"There's too many. I've found twenty so far and I haven't finished the first wall, and Peter's picked out more than me. We can't take that many."

"How about taking nine or ten then swapping whenever you're ready for more? I'm happy with that."

"This is bad!"

Joel stared at Peter.

"I don't really mean it is bad. I've got a rule not to read more than one book a week when I'm studying but if I get good ones I can't stop myself."

Phillip was grinning.

"Me too. My rule is to only read on weekends till I've finished the course. What about you, Joel? You said you were a bookaholic in your talk."

"Half an hour a day. I usually end up going longer, but it's working okay so far."

There was serious book talk now till about five o'clock when Phillip said they should stay for the evening meal.
While they were eating Joel listened eagerly to Phillip's stories about his four years at Quambatook. It was amazing for both of them because some of the farmers Joel worked for had been young people Phillip knew when he lived there. After the meal Joel and Peter went through the big HTML assignment and showed Phillip most of the things he didn't know.
After that they looked at some of the photos Phillip had taken in his travels around Australia. There was more book talk and then they ended up staying the night so Phillip could take them for a walk to a tree-fern gully where you could sometimes see lyrebirds.
They left the den and went through to the flat where Phillip collected two fresh towels in case they wanted a shower.

"Help yourself to anything in the little fridge. There's enough to rustle up a snack or you'll find some sweet biscuits in the blue tin on the bench."

He took them to the bedroom next and pulled back the covers on a large double-bed.

"What do you want to do? There's another bedroom upstairs, or we can bring down a foam mattress, or you can share this one."

"Um. ...This is great thanks."

"Right. What about tomorrow morning? Early or late? There's a much better chance of seeing the lyrebirds if we go early, but it's a great walk any time if you want to sleep in."


Joel and Peter said it together.

"Great. I'm an early bird myself so if I haven't heard any activity I'll wake you at seven o'clock. Goodnight."


The door clicked shut and Peter bounced gently on the bed.

"Hey, hot-dog. Want to share?"

"Wow, he's friendly."

"Get your clothes off. I want to christen the bed."

"You've got a one track mind."

"Feel how soft and smooth and warm and cuddly and sexy these sheets are."


In the morning Joel woke with his usual pattern, a very erotic dream lingering in his mind, an urgent rush to the bathroom and then back cuddling close so Peter could hold him again. So good. He rolled on top and started the wriggling game.

"Whoops! Sorry! I'll come back in a few minutes."

Joel whirled his head just in time to see Phillip's back disappearing down the little hallway towards the kitchen. Oh no! Joel didn't know what to think and then there was a giggle from beneath him.

"Showing off your sexy butt again?"

"What will we do?"

"We could get dressed, or you could lie there flaunting your rude bum till Phillip comes back. He did say a few minutes."

Joel was out of the bed and into his clothes in record time and wishing Peter would move faster. They had plenty of time though and when Phillip appeared again he was smiling.

"Don't look so worried Joel. I'd apologise for the interruption but your door was wide open and I was into the room before I realised just what the activity was. What would you like for breakfast? Pancakes, or cereal and toast?"

"Ah... Whatever you're having."

"Pancakes. What's for you Peter?"

"The same please."

"Good. I'll get it going. Come upstairs whenever you're ready."


The walk made its way beside a tinkling creek for a quarter of an hour then veered up a steep spur and across a cleared flat area then into a stand of giant gum trees. There was a shrill call them a sharp sound like a whip cracking and Phillip gave a happy nod and cautioned them to silence with a finger at his lips.

"You go first, Joel, since you've never seen one before. Move slowly and step as lightly as you can."

The soft whisper of his voice added to the atmosphere as they carefully moved closer and closer to the strange mixture of sounds. Just past a slight bend in the track Joel came to a dead stop. To the left was a kind of natural tunnel in the under-story and he caught a dark glimpse of movement. The sudden, raucous call of a kookaburra sent a thrill to his senses. This was no kookaburra. Peter bumped into him from behind as another call came and then Phillip whispered.

"No sudden movements, and edge forward another few meters."

Slowly and silently Joel did this, he knew it was to allow Peter and Phillip a view, one small step at a time then freeze in place. Ten meters away a dark beady eye watched. Joel thought that would be the end of it but the lyrebird scratched at the ground, picked at something then lifted its head and the screech of a cockatoo sounded. Peter's arms sneaked round and hugged Joel close.
For five minutes they watched and listened to the concert of sounds and mimicked birdcalls. A different call came from somewhere further in the bush and the lyrebird lifted and cocked its head. Joel thought it was going to leave but instead there was a strange chirring noise and the long tail feathers arched wide in a vibrating fan of silvery white lace. The fan closed, opened and shivered again, then folded when the bird made another call. A reply came and with a slow graceful strut the virtuoso performer left his stage and the sounds gradually receded.

"Magic. Let's have a look at his display mound."

As they made their way back down the track Phillip listed off the bird-calls he'd recognised, grey fantail, golden whistler, white throated tree creeper, grey song thrush... there were eleven altogether.

"You know all those birds by their sounds?"

"It's not hard. They all come to my block so I'm used to them. If there's anything unusual I look it up in the bird book."

Back at the house he jangled his keys in front of them.

"I've got some errands to run so I'll leave you to your own devices. I'll be at least an hour and I'll toot the horn when I get back."

Joel was sure he saw a quick wink. Maybe it was a blink. At the sound of the ute reversing out the driveway Peter started to chuckle.

"Dirty old man."

"No he's not."

"I know, but he thinks you're horny and he cleared out so you can finish what he interrupted."

"You reckon?"

"Well don't you? Why else would he leave us alone for an hour. ... at least an hour."


Joel studied all afternoon then had tea at Martin's flat and finally met Danielle. She was really nice and had beautiful brown eyes that looked at you. She was quiet in a way, but when Peter teased her she just laughed at him and teased back. Martin kept giving her hugs.
Peter was dead meat. He was going to cop it so bad when they got back to 43. Martin was always going to hear about their morning interruption, Joel knew that, but not when Danielle was right there, and having it called the return of the bouncing butt was totally embarrassing.

"Again? Deadset in front of Phillip? See Dani, I've told you how horny he is. He used to chase sheep up in Whoop Whoop."

"You're so crude, Martin. Do you talk to Joel like this all the time?"

"Worse. He's being polite because you're here. You should hear what he says at College."

"I can just imagine, Peter. Specially since he learnt it all off you last year."

Martin nodded in exaggerated agreement, then a moment later shook his fist in mock anger when Danielle said she was going to trade him in and take Joel because he was such a gentleman. She was curious about Tittybong and had lots of questions about country life.
After tea Martin dumped them back at College because he and Dani were having a night to themselves.


Over the next weeks life settled into a hectic routine. In classes Joel nearly always sat with Sam and Phillip and they helped each other with everything. At lunchtimes they'd eat together at 42, taking it in turns to provide supplies. On Wednesdays and Fridays Peter and Martin were there as well and sometimes they'd use 43 instead. There was swimming every day for about half an hour, or an hour when Martin was there, because according to him they were all slackers. Evenings between seven and eleven were strictly set aside for study and assignment work and then the night would be spent either in 42 or 43 with Peter. On weekends anything could happen. Martin caught them still in bed at eleven o'clock one Saturday morning and when he wormed it out of Peter that they'd been awake since six it was Joel who copped it for being the horny one.
Six weeks into the semester the number of people in the class had dropped to nineteen and would definitely go lower still because at least three more were obviously struggling to understand the work. Joel, and Phillip, helped them, but it wasn't doing any good. Sam was going well and once he knew something wouldn't forget it. He still looked tired and Joel noticed it was nearly always on Mondays. One Friday Sam asked if Joel would help him with his HTML assignment which was due in only one more week.
Joel was rather surprised because he'd seen some sections of it which looked really great. Evidently some of his image links wouldn't work properly. The best time was the evening and, since all his resources were on his computer at the granny flat where he lived, he arrived at 7:30 to pick up Joel. They worked for two hours, sorted out the problems and got everything working. Sam had a flair for graphics and Joel said he was going to pinch some of his ideas. When they finished Sam said they had to celebrate and produced three bottles of the same apple cider Peter kept, a couple of packets of potato crisps and a plastic container of biscuits.

"What are they?"

"They're brownies. I made them for you this afternoon. Here, try one."

The biscuit wasn't very big and Joel crunched away.

"They're pretty good. A bit strong."

Sam ate one then divided the rest into two equal piles.

"Finish them off then we'll have the chips. Which will we open first? Salt and Vinegar or Barbecue?"

Joel finished another biscuit and took a sip from the bottle Sam handed him.

"I love this cider. ...Your flat's a bit small isn't it?"

"I know, but a better place costs too much."

Joel kept eating and watched Sam drink half his bottle. The biscuits disappeared and then both packets of chips.

"Sorry, Sam. I must be hungry. I've eaten all your food."

Sam laughed and Joel laughed with him.

"No worries... There's still one bottle to share."

"Only if we sip and savor. You have to sip and savor when you drink cider."

Sam popped the top and passed the bottle over.

"Your sip."

"No, your sip. It's your bottle."

With more laughter than was warranted the bottle passed back and forth till it was finished.

"It's dead. This bottle is dead."

"Bottles are always dead."

"No they're not. If they've got spirits in them they must be alive. Sam, I'm feeling sleepy or something."

"Me too."

"How are you going to take me home? You've drunk too much to drive."

"What about a taxi? -Or sleep here in my bed."

"Mmm ...Bed sounds good. ...and taxis cost too much. What's the time? Let's go to bed. I mean what about you? Where will you sleep?"

"Cushions... On the floor."

"It's your bed. I'll use the cushions."

"My cushions, you use the bed. It's a good bed. I sleep with it every night. Try it and see."

That was very funny. And when Joel flopped on the bed it did feel great. He closed his eyes and opened them again to watch Sam gather two cushions.

"They're awful cushions. We'll both use the bed. ...I want a piss. Do I have to go into the house?"

"We'll water the garden."

For some reason that was funny too, and funnier still when outside in the moonlight they drowned a little stone garden gnome.
Back in the granny flat Joel sat on the bed and slowly stripped to his jocks, then laughed when Sam pretended he was doing a striptease act. The lights were switched off and a moment later Sam was sitting on him. What? Oh, wrestling. Joel loved wrestling and retaliated. He quickly rolled Sam over and squashed him flat but Sam was sneaky and started tickling. Joel squawked, laughed, and rolled away.

"No tickling."

"I love tickling."

Sam renewed his tickling so vigorously that Joel was almost helpless with laughter, and because of the darkness he had no way of fending off the persistent attacks.

"Stop, Sam. Stop. It's giving me a big one."

The tickling stopped and Joel jerked in a lethargic kind of shock.

"What are you doing?"

"Checking the big one."

Joel held Sam's hand and pushed it away, but as soon as he did that there was more tickling, and when he started laughing he was grabbed again.
Each time Joel removed the insistent hand Sam tickled and grabbed, and each time he grabbed he said 'big one'. Three or four times this happened till Joel, still laughing at the stupid game, rolled away and onto his stomach.

"I'm sleepy. Go to sleep, Sam."


The end of chapter 6.
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