The story is not true and derives solely from imagination. If your reading of this material violates laws in your place of residence or where you are currently located, stop reading. Thank you.
This story is protected by the copyright conventions of the United States.
Author's note: I have not written a story for Nifty in many years. Recently, however, an online friend challenged me to create a story, and since he is a young man who deserves to be paid attention to, I took his challenge to heart.
The result is the first High School story I’ve written. I suppose many will read it simply as a love story, but others will find in it the pain of denial and the injustice of a society that denies to gay boys the same life experiences that straight boys take for granted. The result: beautiful lives that are too often wracked with the pain of frustration and keeping secrets. This story asks a simple question: What if it didn’t have to be that way?
I am not sure when or if I will write for Nifty again, but I am glad a good friend challenged me.
Those who wish to comment may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The boy lifted his leg, resting his foot on the low wall at the edge of his driveway. He tied his shoes-with double knots, first one, then the other. He’d already gone through his warm-ups just the way Coach had instructed. He always did them the same way. He respected the coach, and wanted to please him—and why not? What he expected his runners to do worked. Now he was finishing up these last minor steps in his daily ritual. He straightened up, stretching tall, trying to shake the last fuzziness of sleep from his body. He was glad it was a Saturday. No school bus to worry about, so he could relax a little. He sighed when he realized there were still three more weeks—three more long weeks—before summer vacation.
He lifted his face to the sun, still low enough to be mostly hidden by the trees that lined his street, yet there were spots where the brilliant yellow-white broke through, and he felt the early morning warmth on his face. In these first days of summer, the sun had already bleached his corn-stalk blond hair a few shades lighter, and his skin was a rich, tan color.
His eyelids drifted shut over his sky-blue eyes, and he breathed in deeply. Already he could tell it was going to be another warm day. He thought for a minute, then shrugged, and pulled his T-shirt off. What was revealed was an upper body that was trim and muscled. His smooth, body was set off nicely by his dark shorts, emblazoned with a wildcat, his team’s logo, Those shorts were now all that covered his taut body, save, of course, for his running shoes, and bright, royal blue socks.
The other kids on the team kidded him about his socks, but it was good-natured, and he secretly liked that the colorful socks were a sign that he was somehow a little different from his teammates, who wore those ho-hum athletic socks. It made him grin, as he carefully folded his T-shirt and laid it down on the low wall. He pressed his ear buds into his ears and adjusted the volume on his phone, slipping it into the holder strapped to his left arm. He checked his watch. 6:35. Taking a breath, he set out, slowly jogging down the driveway and turning right onto his street.
Wright Steinbeck loved this time of day. He loved that it was mostly quiet, save for an occasional car. As he ran, he shook out his arms, trying to stay loose. He liked the early morning for another reason: It gave him time to think. Sometimes he’d use the time to organize his day’s to-do list. Sometimes he’d work on visualizing the next race he was going to run. Sometimes he’d just listen to some tunes, and allow himself to drift away from all the turmoil that seemed to haunt him.
The turmoil. That’s really why he liked running. Most days, running helped him escape the uncertainty in his life. But that wasn’t happening today. The problem—if it was a problem—was last night, more precisely what he had watched on ESPN. It was the lead-up to the upcoming Summer Olympics, and he’d been watching some of the Men’s Track and Field events from Europe. The outcomes of these events would determine who would end up representing their countries. He’d been sitting there in the family room with his parents and siblings, looking at the 100 meter dash, and before this particular heat, they’d focused on one of the favorites, a 19 year old Swede. Sven Pedersen—you can’t get much more Swedish than a name like that—was a shaggy blond, blue-eyed god. Yes, a god, at least in Wright’s eyes, and Pedersen was only two years older than Wright was himself. The Swede had the perfect sprinter’s build, and his body was taut. In one shot, the camera took in his whole body, and Wright’s eyes fell naturally (well, naturally for him) on a the swelling under his shorts. It didn’t feel pervy when Wright did that, well, maybe it was a little pervy, but he’d been checking guys out like that forever. He’d gotten it down to a science, coming up with ways to “sneak a peek” without anyone really noticing. (Like rubbing your eyes with the heels of your hands. Or squinting, rolling your eyes around and blinking as if there might be something in one of them, all strategies that seemed to work.) One of the nice things about watching the TV, was his gaze could linger longer without anyone really noticing.
After a commercial break, the announcers switched to a background story about Sven Pedersen’s life in his hometown of Vallsbo, Sweden. The place was so small, it really didn’t have an official population. Pedersen was attending college in Stockholm, about a hundred miles away, but when he really wanted to concentrate and prep hard, he’d go home and work there. The segment on Sven’s life showed his working out, and Wright watched, practically drooling, as Pedersen stripped off his shirt, picked up an axe, and began splitting wood for his folks’ fireplace. His glistening skin showed off his muscles, and watching with all his family around him in the family room, Wright felt his manhood begin to swell, and tent out his shorts.
Oh, crap, Wright thought and lifted his butt off the couch enough to gather up loose material in his shorts to try to hide his body’s response. He hoped no one would notice, especially his dad. It was his dad he worried most about because it was his dad whom he thought might notice what was happening to him “down there.” His dad seemed to notice a lot about Wright; he always had. “Do it this way,” his dad would command. “No, Wright. This way!” Sometimes it seemed Wright could do nothing the way he was supposed to—even down to walking or standing or holding his hands by his sides. “No,” his dad had said one day, “get your hand off your hip. Makes you look like a fag.” His mom had shot his dad a look then, but his dad had just shrugged and said, “What. It does.”
And, that was the problem…that and the fact that 17-year-old Wright Steinbeck had started getting hard at the sight of Sven Pedersen’s firm, beautiful body. And that’s what Wright was thinking about as he settled into his rhythm and moved from a jog to a run. He headed down Crabtree Lane and turned onto Wheeler Drive. Wright knew who he was—knew what he was. He was exactly what his father had warned him about. Yeah, he was worried about looking like a fag (he hated that word, just hated it!), but that was because he was one.
Yes, Wright Steinbeck was gay. He had pretty much figured that out when he was in middle school, but the idea was so terrifying that he’d kept it a deep, dark secret all these years. Well, honestly? Honestly, Wright wasn’t terrified of being gay. What terrified him was being found out. And for all these years, Wright had been successful at keeping his secret hidden.
Now, however, there was a problem, and it wasn’t coming from his dad, or from anyone else. It was all on Wright. As a junior in high school, he was oozing hormones, and every other boy around him was also oozing hormones. Sometimes he thought he’d go out of his mind if he had to listen to one more of his friends talk about some girl and how they made out and how she had done this, and how he had buried his face between those, and blah, blah, blah, blah. It almost made him nauseous. Listening to that near-constant talk about horned-up guys getting it on with girls began to get more and more frustrating for Wright.
All that making out play-by-play was really getting to him. Straight boys—and to Wright that meant every other boy in his school—could get it on, but not him. He was locked out of all that. Oh, he checked guys out, no doubt about that. He even had his “A-list” of some incredibly cute guys in his high school. For example, one boy at just about the top of his list was Chris Donnelly, also a junior. He practically took his breath away—literally. Just a few days earlier, he had walked into the local Walgreen’s, and Chris, this boy god, was behind the counter. After finishing with the previous customer, he looked over at Wright and smiled, showing those incredible dimples. “Hey,” he said, recognizing his classmate. Wright was so…so unprepared that he blushed a deep red before finding his voice. “Hey, um…ahh…I didn’t know you worked here,” he said back, and plunked his Right Guard deodorant stick onto the counter.
“Just started,” the other boy grinned. He was fully aware of the effect he’d had on Wright as he bagged his purchase and handed it to Wright. Chris glanced around to be sure no other customers were around, and leaned slightly toward Wright. “No need to be embarrassed about deodorant,” he said with his deep, dark chocolate brown eyes dancing in the light. “I mean it’s not like you were buying condoms!” A sly smile stretched across Chris’s face, and he savored the renewed blush that colored Wright’s face from his temples to his neck.
Now Wright’s eyes darted from side to side. Had anyone else heard? He’d have been mortified if he thought someone had. “Yeah…well,” he stammered, “…later.”
Now suddenly the other boy was all business. “Thank you for shopping at Walgreen’s,” he said in an “official” sounding voice, and then softening his tone a little added, “Please come again. Soon.” And again, he offered that incredible grin. But even that was frustrating. He didn’t have a chance with a guy like Chris Donnelly. Duh! Of course he didn’t! Chris was as straight as a guy could get. In fact, Chris was often the one getting the ball rolling when guys started talking about their “conquests”. He often supplied lurid details about his dates, and Wright could almost see the other guys turning green with jealousy.
Anyway that’s what was swirling around in Wright’s brain as he ran down Wheeler Drive. He loved the tree-lined road. The heavy cover kept the street a little cooler. Wright smiled, then frowned as images, like a repeating slide show,switched from Sven Pedersen to Chris Donnelly. He imagined being with first one and then the other, but both, he knew, were only ever going to be just one pervert's fantasy. The reality was much different. Chris Donnelly behind the Walgreen’s counter led to no fantasy, only awkwardness for Wright.
Not that fantasy was bad. In the privacy of his room, fantasy was what brought him to hardness, and fantasy was what propelled him to life-draining climaxes. And since he’d come to believe that was all he’d ever have, fantasy was pretty important to Wright Steinbeck. Still, knowing he’d never have what straight boys had was a source of growing frustration, and fleeting moments of flaring anger. And it was only getting worse the more he thought about it. For the past few months, he’d been thinking about it a lot, and after becoming practically obsessed with the nearly-naked Sven last night, it was no surprise that he was thinking about all this again as he ran.
Wright was so focused on his frustration, that he didn’t notice the other runner until it was almost too late. On the other side of the road, some 50 yards ahead of him to his right was a young, dark-haired runner. His technique wasn’t nearly as good as Wright’s, but that didn’t really matter. What mattered—the only thing that mattered—was that the other runner was Chris Donnelly, and it was clear Chris had seen him, too. They grinned at each other, and as they began to pass by each other on opposite sides of the road, they twisted toward each other and waved, and that’s when it happened. Neither boy saw it coming until it was too late. Wright, when he did notice, waved his hands wildly and began to shout. Chris saw a totally unexpected reaction from the boy across the street, and it confused him. And then he was crumpled on the ground, dazed and trying to clear his head.
The first thing he could really focus on was a blond, blue-eyed vision crouched over him. The vision’s face wore an expression of panicked concern. “Hey, Chris, you okay?” the sweet, soft voice asked. “Chris, are you all right?”
The boy crumpled on the sidewalk reached up, burrowing his fingers into his thick, black hair, and touched the place where it felt like some giant wasp had stung him. Touching the spot made it throb even more and when his pulled his hand away, his fingertips were tinged with blood. “Wha…what…happened?”
Wright stood, tilted his head up, and pointed upward. Chris squinted and his eyes slowly focused on a low-hanging tree limb. “Two unyielding forces,” Wright said softly, and offered a hint of grin.
“Well,” Chris offered, “One yielded pretty damn fast. Straight down…’til it hit an unyielding sidewalk.” He lifted up his hand. “Help me up,” he commanded, and Wright reached down. His hand slid into Chris’s and he felt the dark-haired boy’s hand close firmly around his. OMG, thought Wright, I’m supposed to be helping the kid. Please don’t let him see I’m popping a woodie! Shit!
The two boys were eye-to-eye. “Ohmygod,” Chris muttered. “You know how they say you see stars?” He shook his head again.
That made Wright think about concussion. He’d been around trainers when they went through the drill.
“Do you know your name?”
Chris gave him a look like, Are you for real? “Yeah. George Washington.”
“I’m serious. You might have a concussion. What day is it?”
“July 4th, 1776.”
Wright rolled his eyes. “Go screw yourself.”
Without missing a beat, Chris replied, “Oh, if only…”
Wright shook his head, trying to get a handle on this kid standing in front of him.
“It’s your fault, you know.”
“My fault!” Wright blurted out.
“Sure,” Chris said. “If I hadn’t been staring at you, I would have seen the stupid tree.”
“I tried to warn you,” Wright offered.
“Oh, is that what you were doing! And here I was hoping you were just excited at seeing me again,” Chris huffed, flashing a coy smile.
Wright was thrown by all this. It was like his head was the one that had been rattled by a tree limb.
Chris saw the blond beauty growing more perplexed. “Hey, hey, Wright, I’m just playing with you. This?” He pointed to his head. “It’s all on me.” He grinned, but winced almost immediately. Wright could see blood oozing down under the boy’s matted hair.
“You’re bleeding. You live close?”
“Not very. A couple of miles from here.”
“Well, I’m just around the corner. You can get cleaned up there.”
Chris gave Wright a look. “Sounds good.” They started walking, neither saying much. After a couple of minutes they’d turned back onto Crabtree Lane. Chris offered, a soft, “Thanks, dude.”
Wright looked at him and offered his own award-winning smile. “It’s cool.”
By the time Wright got home, his parents had left for work in the city and his two younger siblings had been dropped off for a special events day run by the Park Department. Wright led Chris into the kitchen. “Want some water?”
“Yeah, that’d be great,” Chris responded.
Wright handed Chris a glass, and then went into the bathroom to get some first aid supplies. Returning, he laid out the Betadine and gauze pads on the counter, and pulled a stool over near the sink.
“Um…I can’t really see,” Chris said, “Would you mind?”
“Nah, it’s fine,” Wright said. He took a paper towel and soaked it in warm water. Stepping to the “patient,” he carefully began daubing and lightly stroking Chris’s head where Wright could feel a lump.
Chris winced. “Easy, doc!”
“It's hard to see past the hair.”
“Well, you're not gonna shave it,” Chris muttered, “at least not that hair.” He gave Wright a look, who blushed and rolled his eyes, somehow knowing exactly what hair his patient was referring to.
“Can you turn a little more this way?” Wright asked. He figured Chris would just turn his head. Instead, he swung his whole body, bringing his bare leg up against Wright’s shorts. As he worked, Chris’s leg rubbed ever-so-slightly up and down Wright’s thigh. Wright backed off once, but Chris moved right with him. “You banged your head pretty good,” Wright muttered as he worked.
“Well…good thing it was my head, and not somewhere…ahm…more vital.” He cupped his equipment, gave a leering grin and wiggled his eyebrows up and down two or three times. “Know what I mean?”
Truthfully, Wright knew exactly what Chris was talking about, enough of an idea to know he wasn’t sure if he wanted any further explanation. So much of what the dark-haired boy said seemed tinged with sexual overtones, and Wright knew if he said no, Chris would make it all too clear. And between Chris’s innuendo and the heat from his body that seemed to sear Wright’s thigh, and the dark-haired boy’s smell that filled Wright’s nostrils, the blond boy wasn’t sure how much more he could take before he’d have to excuse himself and go relieve the rapidly-growing tension that was spreading throughout his body.
He was almost getting angry. This hunky, straight boy was driving him wild, and it was almost like Chris was doing it on purpose. OMG, thought Wright, Does he know! Had he done something that gave Chris a clue that he was gay?
Wright had gotten so sidetracked with his worries and confusion, that he’d forgotten with he was doing. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “It might help if you just sat still.”
“Me!” Chris protested. “You’re the one rubbing yourself all over my leg.”
“Am no…” Wright groaned. “I give up.”
“Wait,” Chris said, “I’ll be good, Wright. I promise. Look, I’ll sit still, and just read the paper.” The dark-haired boy picked up the local weekly and began flipping through the pages. “By the way, where’d your folks come up with a name like Wright? I always thought it was pretty cool.”
Wright Steinbeck sighed. “Long story. Short version: named for an uncle. My grandparents were obsessed with Frank Lloyd Wright. They didn’t like ”Frank“ and they didn’t like ”Lloyd.“ Wright was all that was left. So, my uncle got tagged with Wright, and then I came along.”
“Well, I think it’s cool. Better than Chris, for sure.”
“I like ’Chris,’” Wright answered.
“Wow! You like me! Oh…sweet…” Chris gasped and grinned.
“No!” Wright immediately protested, and immediately realized his error. The boy was messing with him. “I meant,” Wright said, trying to recover, “the name.”
“Oh,” said Chris not missing a beat, “You don’t like me.” The boy was enjoying how easily he could fluster Wright.
“No, I do,” protested Wright.
Chris laughed out loud, and then quickly grew more serious. “I know you do,” he said softly, looking directly into Wright’s eyes, and before Wright could respond, Chris lifted the paper up like a wall dividing the two boys.
“Hey,” he said when he had turned another page. He folded the paper in half and slapped it down on the counter.“You see the previews for that?” He pointed at an ad for the biggest action picture of the summer.
“Yeah, looks pretty intense.”
“Gettin’ great reviews. It’s opening Thursday night. I’d go, but Lizzie would never go. It’s chick flicks or nuthin’ for her.” Chris rolled his eyes. Chris Donnelly had a reputation for “playing the field” when it came to girls. Liz Jacobs was just his latest girlfriend. It seemed to Wright that Chris changed girlfriends as easily as he changed clothes.
Wright was about to say, that sucks, but chose to simply shrug instead. Chris kept reading the ad.
“You wanna see it?”
“Yeah, it’s on my list. I’ll probably see it sometime.”
“Dude,” Chris reached up and grabbed Wright’s arm, stopping him from his work. “Sometimes…” He shook his head. “You’re so…I dunno.” He sighed and began. Speaking. Very. Slowly. “I’m asking if you…” He pointed to Wright. “Want to go to the movies…” He pointed to the ad in the paper. “With me.” He pointed to himself and smiled, as he watched Wright almost begin to vibrate. “Hey, man, it’s not a date.”
“Of course not,” Wright muttered. “I mean, that’d be…well…It wouldn’t be. That’s all.”
“Whatever. I mean, we’d like both pay for our own ticket.” Chris grinned.
Wright was paralyzed. He really couldn’t figure this guy out. Nothing was making sense. Not a date. Of course it wouldn’t be a date! Why would he even say that?
When it seemed like Wright might never answer, Chris sighed and tried another tack. ”Look, it’s simple.“ He look a breath. “Do you want to go to the movies with me?” Wright began to speak, but Chris headed him off. “Dude! It’s simple. Don’t over-think it!”
Wright looked down at this incredibly cute boy sitting with his leg rubbing against his. It was so confusing. As he thought about it, he knew he should say, let me think about it, but when he opened his mouth all that came out was a soft, “Yes.”