SUMMARY: At a time of national turmoil, the lives of four boys become connected as each struggles to accept his sexuality and to address the challenges he faces in life. To the extent the boys succeed in coming to grips with those challenges, it may be in ways that prove surprising or troubling. This story is also being published on my blog and you can find a longer synopsis there. While some events, locations and features in the story have been moved forward or back in time for dramatic and other purposes, it takes place during an era when prejudice against homosexuals is rampant and the gay revolution in America is still in its infancy. Italics are typically used within the story to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is purely coincidental.
WARNING: Sex is not the primary focus of this story. If you're looking for erotic content, you'll do much better with other stories on Nifty. While sexual content is secondary and incidental, the story does include some scenes that depict sex and violence, sometimes graphically depending upon the characters and circumstances involved. For that reason, the story is intended for mature audiences only. If you do not wish to read such material or it is illegal for you to do so, please look elsewhere. The story remains the property of the author and may not be reproduced in any form without written permission. It is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author, but you may not use this work for commercial purposes. You may not use any of the characters, bars or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon this story in any way.
AUTHOR NOTES: This is my first effort at writing a story. As a general rule, I only plan to publish one chapter a week and you'll always find the latest chapter on my blog initially. However, I may publish more frequently on Nifty during the first month. Comments and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames will be ignored. If you would like to let me know what you think, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE PREVIOUS CHAPTER: In Chapter 5, Nolan is frustrated when his parents insist on visiting Burlington overnight, taking him away from Josh. He gets into a fight with his father over a gift he wants to buy for Josh and then persuades his parents to take him on a tour of the University of Vermont, where he ends up buying still more gifts for his friend. When they return to the farm, Nolan finds Josh already asleep. Then Josh disappears the next morning before Nolan can see him. Later in the day Nolan wanders down to the lake by himself. Josh finally shows up, but says he'll only go swimming if Nolan agrees to wear a swimsuit. Nolan reluctantly agrees and Josh races back to the farmhouse to get his swimsuit, leaving Nolan alone by himself momentarily.
Part I - Innocence Aroused
I’m not exactly sure when the thought crossed my mind, but it wasn’t very long after Josh had run off.
He knows I'm queer. And he’s really mad at me too.
I mean, the thing is, he had been really abrupt with me, as if even talking to me disgusted him. Why else would he be act like that if he didn’t know?
That has to be it, I said to myself. He knows. And he hates queers.
Suddenly I remember shuddering.
This could be bad, very bad.
Maybe Josh wasn’t really going back to the farm after all. Maybe he was just going to get some friends so he could bring them back to the lake with him. In fact, that's probably where he had been all afternoon, rounding up some friends. And now he was bringing them back and they were going to to beat me up. They would call me a lot of bad names and taunt me for being a faggot. Then they would beat me senseless while Josh watched and encouraged them to do it to me. Then they would drag my sorry ass back to the farm and tell his Mom what a twisted sicko I was. Josh’s Mom would be shocked, of course, and she would have to tell my parents, no doubt about it. And then she would tell us we had to leave the farm, that she didn’t want some sick, twisted, pervert like me around her son. My parents would take me back to New York and make me see a psychiatrist, hoping against hope he could cure me. But he wouldn’t be able to do that, of course. I was just too twisted and sick to be cured. So he would tell my parents they had to put me away in some kind of psychiatric facility, that it would be the best thing for me and for everyone else. And loving me as much they did, my parents would do that. I’d end up with a bunch of other lunatics somewhere, locked away from any contact with decent folk. Except maybe occasionally they would bring in some boys who thought they might be queer and show me to them as an example. And I would be drooling at them because I hadn’t seen a really good looking boy in such a long time. And I would be panting and begging them to kiss me. And the boys would be just totally disgusted with me. Just seeing me would make them go straight after that. And then I would be left alone in my room at the lunatic asylum, just drooling all over myself.
Yeah, that’s what was about to happen. I knew it for sure.
By the time Josh got back I was almost hysterical, wondering why he was insisting on us wearing swimsuits. I decided to ask him straight out. I had to find out what he knew.
“What’s with the swimsuits, Josh,” I asked, trying to remain calm? “I thought you liked to go skinny dipping?”
“I do,” Josh replied,“when I’m alone. But I don’t think it’s right to skinny dip with some other boy the same age as me. If we were younger, sure, maybe it would be okay for us to do that. But we’re getting older now, Nolan. Our bodies are changing. We need to be more private with our privates. What if someone came along and caught us out here naked?”
“What if they did,” I responded, challenging him? “What would they see, just two boys swimming in the lake, having a good time? What’s the big deal, Josh? It’s not like you would be raping me or something,” I added, grinning at him, wishing I was wrong about that.
“I don’t want to hear it, Nolan,” he replied, sternly. “A promise is a promise. And that’s it. I don’t want to hear any more of your politician talk. If you want to change your mind and go skinny dipping, I can always leave.”
“No, I don’t want you to leave, Josh. If you want us to wear suits, we will,” I said, giving in. I could see he had his mind made up and nothing I said was going to change it.
“Good,” Josh replied. “So let’s go swimming and have some fun and stop talking about all of this other nonsense. It’s not healthy to be thinking about this stuff all the time, let alone talking about it.”
Later, after we had finished playing together in the water, we went back to the house and had dinner. My parents didn’t have any plans for the evening so Josh and I took a walk into town. He showed me the school he went to, then took me to the general store so we could buy ice cream cones. At least I bought one. Josh said he didn’t really like ice cream, but I knew he was lying and why he hadn’t bought one. Before the evening was over, he introduced me to a couple of his friends. We hung out for a while and they seemed nice enough.
When we finally got back to the house, it was time for bed. The two of us went down to the tent. I knew something wasn’t really right when Josh turned his back on me while he stripped down. I noticed he was wearing a pair of the briefs I had left behind for him. That made me happy, but I wasn’t real happy when he slipped into his sleeping bag still wearing them.
I didn’t want to make a big deal of it so I pretty much did things the same way as him. But I was definitely frustrated that Josh was suddenly becoming so modest around me. He hadn’t told me for sure. But I was still wondering whether he suspected I was a pervert and, if so, whether that was what was making him so nervous around me. I tried to push it out of my mind because I didn’t want to lose my best friend.
After I had stripped down to my briefs, his briefs actually, I sprang my surprise.
“I got some stuff for you while we were up in Burlington,” I said. “Like this new pair of Speedos,” I added, tossing them to him.
I saw his eyes go wide and he started to say something. But before he could get the words out, I cut him off because I knew what he was thinking.
“They were having a two for one end of season sale at the store,” I lied. “I knew I needed a new pair so I bought a little larger size for next year. I figured I would give the second pair to you. No way I’m wearing two pairs of Speedos to that lake just to please you,” I added, smiling at him.
“Oh, wow, thanks, Nolan,” Josh finally replied, looking at them over and over. “You really shouldn’t have done that. But I appreciate it a lot, Nolan, I really do. I’ve never, ever, actually had a pair of Speedos before, but this pair is way cool. Thanks again, Nolan.”
I was really glad to see him happy again.
“While we were in Burlington, my parents and I took a tour of the University of Vermont,” I continued. “It seemed like a really nice school. Is that where you’re planning to go to college, Josh?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “It’s too soon to decide I guess. My Mom wants me to go to college real bad, but I’m not really sure we can afford it. For all I know, I may not even end up going to college, at least not right away. I might join the Army because I hear they’ll give you money to go to college if you agree to sign up.”
“Well, you can just forget about that, Josh,” I said, firmly. “You definitely have to go to college and sooner rather than later.”
“Why,” he replied, challenging me? “What’s the big deal about college? It’s just another one of those things everybody does whether they want to or not because it’s the cool thing to do. So why do I have to go right away?”
“Because you’ll get your ass shot off if you join the Army instead of going to college,” I replied.
“In case you haven’t noticed,” I continued, “there’s a war going on over in Asia and the Army needs lots of young boys to fight it. If you don’t go to college next year and join up, I imagine they’ll be sending you on an all-expenses paid tour of North Burkistan. You could get killed over there.”
“And if that happens,” I added, grinning at him, “you’ll never see my smiling face or experience my charming personality again.”
“Big freaking deal,” Josh responded, still trying to resist. “Not that I wouldn’t miss you, of course. I would. But, you know, sometimes I think I would be better off dead. So maybe the Army would be doing me a favor.”
“What is it with you,” I replied, suddenly angry with what I was hearing?
“You’ve got everything in the world to live for, but all I’m getting here is a lot of self-pity. Well, listen up, goat boy. There ain’t no way you’re going to die in North Burkistan if I have my way about it. So forget about joining the Army.”
“And here’s another thing to think about, too,” I continued. “If you don’t go to college, you’ll probably end up spending the rest of your life in this town in Vermont because you won’t be able to do all the stuff a college education will open up for you. And I know how much you really want to spend the rest of your life in Vermont,” I added, trying to shove that dagger in even deeper.
“Why do you even care about any of this, Nolan,” Josh finally replied, softly? “What’s it to you?”
“I care about it because I like you, Josh,” I said. “I like you a lot. We’re friends. Remember?”
He didn’t reply immediately and I wondered whether he would be mad at me for saying something like that. But, when he did reply, it was evident he wasn’t mad at me.
“I like you too, Nolan,” he said. “It’s just hard, really hard, to say that sometimes, especially for someone like me.”
“But, yeah, if I go to college, I would probably go to UVM,” he added, weakly, as if our conversation had drained all the emotion he was feeling away. “It would be the cheapest way to go, I guess, unless I could get a scholarship to some other place. There are lots of good colleges in New England.”
“I hear you,” I replied. “My Mom mentioned two places she said were pretty close to here, Middlebury College and Williams College. Do you know anything about them?”
“They’re both really excellent colleges,” Josh replied, “but expensive too. I couldn’t go to either one of them unless I got a scholarship that paid all the expenses.”
“Do you think you have any chance of getting a scholarship,” I asked?
“I don’t know,” Josh replied. “I’ve got pretty good grades, actually the second best in my class. Jessica has the best grades, of course. Jessica is the best at everything at my school,” he added.
It was the first time I had ever detected a hint of sarcasm in anything Josh said.
“Who is she,” I asked? “Do you like her?”
“Oh, please, give me a break,” Josh replied quickly. “Jessica is Miss Goodie Two Shoes. All the teachers like her because her family is rich and provides a lot of support for extra stuff at school, like concerts and such. So she gets the best grades. She’s the Yearbook Editor and in charge of just about everything where the students don’t get to vote on it. No one really likes her that much, but her grades are a little better than mine so I kind of doubt I can get an academic scholarship that’ll pay my way to a really good school like Middlebury. But I may have a chance at an athletic scholarship. Coach Johnson, he’s my gymnastics, swimming and hockey coach, he says I might have a chance at an athletic scholarship.”
“Well, that’s good to hear, Josh,” I said. “Wouldn’t it be great if we could go to the same college,” I added?
“Yeah, that would be really great,” Josh replied. “But I try not to think about things like that. Nothing ever goes right for me and that’s a long shot, that’s for sure.
“Well, who knows,” I replied. “Maybe I could even persuade my parents to let me go to UVM if that’s where you end up going to school.”
“And if I do, you’re in luck, goat boy,” I added, grinning at him, “because while we were up there, they gave me a voucher to use at the campus store for taking the tour. So I used it to buy a couple of t-shirts for the two of us, and a pair of running shorts for you,” I lied, tossing the stuff over to him. “You’ll be all prepared for UVM with this stuff.”
“Wow, I don’t know what to say, Nolan, you shouldn’t have,” he replied. “I mean, why spend it on me? You could have bought more stuff for yourself.”
“I could have,” I said, dismissing his question. “But I like you. You’re my best friend. So I wanted to spend some of it on you.”
“And there is one other thing I bought for you,” I continued. “And this one did cost me some money because I had to buy it out of my own allowance. But I saw this teddy bear at a store up there. They had him dressed up just like me. You know, all preppie and such. And he looks kind of like me too. I thought you might like to have him just as a way of remembering me. You could name him Nolan if you want. I wouldn’t object to that.”
I handed the bear to Josh.
“This is too much,” Josh said, smiling at me and shaking his head. “I never had a teddy bear when I was growing up. Now that I’m older I don’t even know whether I should accept one. I mean, he’s definitely cute and cuddly, and I won’t ever want to forget you. But I’m not sure my Mom would want me to be taking all this stuff from you. These teddy bears are very expensive, Nolan. You shouldn’t be giving him away.”
“Even if you don’t want a teddy bear to take to bed with you because you think you’re too big and masculine for one now, you could keep him in your room just as a reminder of the terrific summer we’re having together, Josh,” I said. “That would really make me very happy if you did that.”
“Oh, sure, that’s a terrific idea,” Josh responded. “And thanks again, Nolan. It really is a very cute teddy bear, just like you. I’m going to enjoy waking up each morning and seeing him looking at me just like you do sometimes.”
What did he mean by that, I remember wondering? Is he on to me?
Suddenly, I was nervous all over again.
“Cool,” I said, trying to stay calm. “I guess we should go to sleep now. It’s late and I know you have to get up earlier than me.”
“Ok,” Josh responded. “Good night then, Nolan. I’m glad you’re back.”
When I looked over to say good night, I noticed that Josh had tucked the teddy bear into his sleeping bag with him. That made me feel really good and I fell asleep pretty quickly after that. I didn’t even bother messing around.
The next morning it was Josh who finally woke me up once again, not my mother, and I was really glad about that. When I went upstairs to shower, I noticed Josh had placed all of my underwear on my suitcase. They were clean and perfectly dry. Since I hadn’t messed around the night before, I figured I should do the same. I opened the drawer on his bureau and put his briefs back in. I remember feeling totally miserable about that.
After a quick shower and a change of clothes, I went downstairs and checked in with my parents. My Mom said they had a trip planned for the morning, but that the afternoon would be free if I wanted to go swimming with Josh.
“Do you want to go swimming this afternoon,” I asked Josh after we had finished eating breakfast?
“Sure,” Josh responded. “I can try out those new Speedos you got for me. They’re awesome, totally awesome. I tried them on this morning after I took my shower and they looked really super good on me. I bet all the girls will really like them when they see me wearing them at the swim meets this fall.”
It kind of crushed me hearing him say that, no doubt about it. But I knew Josh wasn’t trying to hurt me deliberately. He was too nice to do something like that.
I remember sighing.
I’ve been wrong about Josh all along. I keep wanting him to be queer like me. But he isn’t. He likes girls, not boys. That’s why he’s been behaving the way he has. He still likes me, but just as a friend. I wish it could be more than that, but it shouldn’t be that big a surprise. Life sucks. And there’s nothing you can do about it except roll with the punches.
So, there I was, off on still another trip with Mom and Dad, totally bored, totally hopeless, and totally clueless when it came to understanding boys.
What else is new, I remember thinking?
I can’t even remember what we did that morning, that’s how boring it was. Eventually we found our way back to the farm and still another incredible lunch. I was eating like a horse by now and remember thinking I would be totally fat if I didn’t stop pigging out on the food Josh’s Mom was making for us.
Josh was already wearing his Speedos and just looking at him in them took my breath away. He was just so well defined and those Speedos totally showed him off to best advantage. Even my Mom complimented him on them, which caused him to blush.
Josh waited patiently while I climbed the stairs, stripped off my clothes, and changed into the matching pair of Speedos I had bought. I looked in the mirror and gagged. I didn’t look nearly as good in them as Josh. But there was no getting around it. He expected me to wear them. I wrapped a towel around my shoulders and tried to cover myself up as best I could. The last thing I needed was people making fun of me at the same time they were panting over Josh.
We walked down to the lake, but this time Josh told me to take the lead. I wondered whether he knew I had been looking at his butt on our previous trips to the lake and didn’t want me doing that any more. Whatever the reason, it was a pretty boring trip down to the lake that day, especially knowing Josh wouldn’t be examining my butt with anywhere near the same interest I had previously shown in his.
When we got down to the lake, both of us went in immediately in order to cool off. After horsing around together for fifteen or twenty minutes, Josh climbed out of the water and stretched out on the rock. I followed suit.
We lay there together just taking in the sun for a long time. Finally, I decided I would make one final protest and try still a different way of getting Josh to go skinny dipping with me.
“Look, Josh, I know you’re worried about someone seeing us swimming naked down here. But I’ve never seen anyone come by in all the time we’ve been down here together. And, the thing is, I really hate wearing this suit. How about we settle this the fair way, through a contest? Do you see that tree over there across the lake,” I asked, pointing it out to him?
“Sure, I see it,” he responded. “I’m not blind.”
“Ok, then why don’t we have a race to see which one of us can get over there first. If you win, I’ll stop bugging you about going skinny dipping. But if I win, you have to go skinny dipping the rest of today with me. But, the thing is, you’re on the swim team at your school so the race wouldn’t really be fair unless you gave me a head start.”
“How much of a head start,” Josh asked, looking at me skeptically?
“How about half way,” I said? “It’s a pretty big lake. If you can beat me after giving me that big a lead, it’ll be a fair win. I’ll turn around when I get half way out and let you know you can start. Is that fair or what?”
“It’s fair enough,” Josh said. “I’ve seen you swim. I think I can still beat you.”
“I may not be on a swim team like you, but I know how to swim. And well enough to beat you too,” I added, boasting. “So you better get ready to take off those Speedos, Josh. Because I’m going to whip your butt in this race,” I concluded, smiling at him. With that I dove into the water and started swimming across the lake.
About the time I was approaching the half way mark I remember thinking it was definitely longer across that lake than I had counted on, but by then I was totally focused on winning the race. At the half way mark, I turned around and signaled to Josh he could dive in and start trying to catch up.
Then, just as quickly, I turned and started swimming as fast as I could toward the opposite shore, really putting all my energy into it because I knew Josh was a better swimmer than me. I was already a little tired, of course, and that tired me out even more. My arms were getting a little heavy, but I was determined to win that race and get Josh out of those Speedos.
I’m not exactly sure when I noticed, but at some point I recognized I was struggling trying to keep myself afloat. I wasn’t making any progress in getting across the lake any more. Instead, the water seemed to be overwhelming me and I started to panic a little. By then, I was really thrashing around like crazy, not making any real progress at all. And I was tired, really tired.
I remember thinking the best thing to do was to just rest for a moment even if it meant making it easier for Josh to overtake me. If I just rested for a moment or two, I knew my strength would come back and I could finish getting across the lake and maybe still win the race. The water was really calm and inviting. I remember letting myself slip below it momentarily in order to rest.
Then everything went dark on me.