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The following contains descriptions of graphic sexual acts between consenting underage boys. It is a work of fiction and has no basis in reality.

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3) If you don't want to read about gay/bisexual people in love or having sex.

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What We Are II - Summer Heat
By: R. Ryan

Chapter 12:  Let's Sail

Each with a sail tucked under his arm, Richie and Lindy followed TJ as he led them up the stairs and through the back door.  The sun was high in the cloudless sky, and if not for the cooling effect of the steady south wind, the heat and humidity would be near unbearable for the three boys as they made their way down the dock towards Kyle's boat.  High above them a half-dozen seagulls, the snow white plumage of their breasts contrasting against the blue of the sky, rode the stiff wind.  They seemed to be suspended from invisible wires as they bobbed and weaved to hold their position while scanning the lake below for food.  Fascinated by their aerodynamic acrobatics, Lindy squinted his eyes against the brightness of the mid-morning sun to watch them soar and screech, then drop like a rock as they dove to the surface for a quick snack.

What Lindy didn't consider as he watched this cycle of the food chain, was that whatever went into a seagulls stomach, eventually came out.  A biological fact that was made all too clear to him when a massive dollop of gray-white bird shit landed solidly on the top of his hat with a loud `plop'.  Even though he couldn't see this desecration to his lid, when the slimy bomb hit its target, Lindy had no doubts as to what it was.

To add insult to injury, Richie happened to turn to say something to him just as the missile hit its mark.  The look he saw on his friend's face when he realized what had happened sent Richie into an uncontrollable fit of laughter.  This, of course, caught TJ's attention, and as soon as he figured out what had happened, his laughter joined Richie's.

"Oh, man, that is classic, bro," said Richie when he regained enough control to speak.  "Even the seagulls think your hat sucks."

"Fucking garbage eating shit machines," grumbled Lindy as he whipped off his hat and threw it into the water next to the dock to wash it off.

This remark caused Richie to laugh even harder, forcing him to sit on the edge of the boat to keep from falling down.

"Looks like you were in the wrong place at the wrong time, dude," said TJ.  "Now I see where the expression `Shit Happens' comes from."

Ignoring the gibes from his friends, Lindy continued to grumble while he scrubbed the stain from his hat.  When it was as clean as he could get it, he wrung out the excess water, then placed it back on his head as he continued down the dock to where Richie and TJ were still chuckling.

"Hey, at least it'll keep my head cooler now that's its wet," he said as he tried to save face.

This lame attempt did nothing to dissuade the others, and for the next twenty minutes Richie couldn't keep from giggling whenever he looked at Lindy and the still visible stain on his hat.  Through all of this, he still managed to control himself enough to ferry them out to where the sailboat was moored.  TJ wasted no time in displaying his knowledge and expertise as he quickly tethered the Bayliner to the sailboat's buoy, then held the two boats steady while Richie and Lindy transferred themselves and their gear from one to the other.

Deferring to TJ's expertise, Richie and Lindy followed his leadership and willingly began to perform the tasks assigned them.  Watching with interest as his friends began to mount the mainsail, Lindy kept the two boats from banging against each other.  This was not an easy job considering the difference in their sizes and the constant motion caused by the waves.

"We'll mount both sails before we hoist either of 'em, Rich," said TJ, showing the confidence he'd acquired from many hours of experience.  "That way, when we're ready to go we can hoist 'em both at the same time and it's a done deal."

As with most things, Richie caught on quickly, and in no time TJ was unhooking the sailboat from the buoy while signaling Lindy to push them away from the Bayliner.  Before they could drift too far from the mooring, TJ positioned himself by the mast where he began to pull on the halyards that would raise the sails.  When they were halfway up, the pressure that the wind put on them made them increasingly difficult to raise.  Noticing this, Richie jumped in to give a hand.

"Alright!" exclaimed TJ when both sails were up.  "If you guys wanna have a seat on the port-side gunwale, we'll be ready to fly."  When he saw Richie and Lindy look at each other with perplexed expressions on their faces, he went on to explain in non-nautical terms what he wanted them to do.  "In other words, have a seat on the left side of the cockpit.  And just to let you know, in nautical terms, port means left - starboard means right."  Grateful for the clarification, Richie and Lindy did as they were told while TJ positioned himself on the same side next to the tiller.

Once settled, TJ pulled on the line for the boom until the wind filled out the mainsail enough to stop it from flapping.  Almost simultaneously, the jib ceased to flap when it, too, filled to capacity and the boat began to move forward in a near direct, upwind tack.  Choosing this tack wasn't very exciting, but TJ's reasoning was twofold.  On the one hand it would carry them upwind enough to give them plenty of room for a wilder ride later, while at the same time it would give his friends a chance to get their sea legs before he showed them how much fun sailing could really be.

After a few minutes of sailing in this manner, Richie made the first observation as he spoke in a rather condescending tone of voice.

"Man, this is like so different from riding in a power boat.  It's so smooth and quiet we can actually talk to each other without yelling."

"Yeah, but won't this puppy go any faster?" asked Lindy with less diplomacy than Richie.  "I thought these babies hauled ass in a wind like this."

"What... this isn't thrilling enough for ya, Lindy?" asked TJ.

"Um, its OK I guess," said Lindy, slightly embarrassed.  "I just thought it would be a little more exciting is all."

"So, it's excitement you want, is it?" said TJ.  "Then prepare to come about and I'll show you some excitement."  Again a perplexed look filled the faces of TJ's passengers.  "OK, `coming about' means to change direction, or `tack' in sailor-speak.  So whenever I say `prepare to come about', you guys get in the center of the cockpit and duck your heads so the boom won't take 'em off when it comes across.  Then, as soon as we're under way again, sit on the upwind side to provide ballast.  Got it?"

"Aye, aye, skipper," said the two boys as they snapped mock salutes in unison before assuming their positions in the middle of the cockpit.

They came about smoothly, and even though they were still headed upwind, they now had plenty of lake to cruise when TJ decided to change to more of a downwind tack.  When Richie and Lindy took their seats on the starboard side of the boat, TJ issued one more instruction for each of his riders.

"OK, Rich, now pull the jib sail in a little tighter, would ya... and while he's doin that, Lindy, dig out three lifejackets from under the deck."  When he saw the look of mild concern cross Lindy's face, he added, "It's just a precaution, dude.  It's not as easy to maneuver a sailboat as it is a speed boat if we should come across a log or something.  Better to be safe than sorry, ya know?"

When the boat began to list a little to the port side as Richie pulled in the jib, TJ was prepared, quickly compensating for it by easing the bow slightly further upwind.  Moments later, with their lifejackets on, Richie and Lindy looked to TJ as if to ask `OK, now what?'

Reading their expressions, TJ grinned broadly.  "Alright!  Let's see if we can't make this more interesting."  Then, silently to himself he added, `and hang on tight you land-lubbers, cause it's time to sail'.

Without further preamble, TJ let out the mainsail a little.  At the same time he pulled on the tiller to redirect the boat in a slight downwind tack.  In coordinating these two movements, he was able to move into more of a cross-wind position without affecting the boat's attitude.  When he felt he was ready, that the boat was headed in the direction he wanted, and that there was clear sailing ahead, he eyed his friends with a smile and said, "Alright, dudes, hang on."

Watching his passengers closely to ensure that they wouldn't be caught off guard completely, he quickly but steadily pulled on the line for the mainsail's boom.  By moving the tiller in the opposite direction at the same time, he was able to point the bow further upwind.  This minimized the change in the boats attitude which enabled him to secure the line into the quick-release clamp fastened to the deck next to him.  After a final check that his friends were ready, he pulled on the tiller to ease the boat downwind again.

As he did this, the slip of the wind through the sails decreased, and the boat began to heel steadily to the port side.  Continuing this change of direction caused the boat to pick up speed while it heeled over even more to the left.  Soon the boat was listing so much that the water was lapping over the edge of the port side deck.  This, of course, caused Richie and Lindy to lean back and sit higher on the starboard side to keep from falling off.

Suddenly, Lindy's foot slipped, causing him to lose his balance and fall forward into the cockpit.  The sudden shift in weight when this happened, caused the boat to nearly capsize.  Thanks to TJ's watchful eye, however - coupled with his experience in dealing with, and averting such disasters in the past - he was quick to react, releasing the mainsail to allow the boat to right itself just in time.  While TJ's quick thinking, and subsequent action, saved them from going over, the sudden righting of the sailboat caught Richie completely off guard.  Much to his surprise, he suddenly lost his balance and fell backwards into the lake.

"You OK, Lindy?" asked TJ when his new friend crawled from under the deck while rubbing his bruised ankle.

"Yeah, I'll live," he said.  Then, unable to find Richie anywhere, he asked, "Where the hell did Rich go?"

"Oh, he's a few yards behind us.  I guess when you almost capsized us, he decided he'd rather get out and walk."

Looking from TJ to Richie, who was bobbing and waving to them from the water, Lindy finally grasped the meaning of his statement, and both boys began to laugh hysterically.

"Hey, Rich," called Lindy.  "If you don't want to sail with us, just say so and we'll drop you off... you don't have to swim back."  This caused the two to laugh even harder, and Richie to flip them both the bird.

A few minutes later, with Richie fished from the lake, they exchanged a few good humored jokes about the incident before taking up their positions for another run.

"Too exciting for ya, maybe?" asked TJ as he put them back on course.

"Hell no!" exclaimed Lindy.  "That was cool, cept this time I'm gonna be better prepared."

"I sure as hell hope so," said Richie while brushing the excess water from his hair onto Lindy's exposed back.  This, of course, caused Lindy to jump from the cold spray before initiating their `slap-tap' handshake.

After crossing the lake without further incident, at times reaching what TJ estimated to be speeds of 25 to 30 mph with the boat heeled over so far that the water reached the splashboards, he came about.  Once everybody was settled again, TJ kept them at a more relaxed pace - what he called `old people's' cruising.  During this time, he offered to turn the helm over to one of the other two.  Although Richie wanted to give it a try, Lindy was quicker to respond and took the first turn.  After explaining the basics to him, such as how a true sailor relied on the feel of the wind and the tiller to maintain control more than anything else, he gave up his seat to Lindy and sat down next to Richie.

"If you plan on getting wild and crazy, Lindy... which I hope you don't... at least give us a little warning first, would ya?" said Richie.

"Hey, not to worry, bro.  I might be crazy, but I'm not stupid.  I know I got a lot to learn about this before I could do what TJ does, so I'll just take it slow and easy, thank you very much."

Relieved at Lindy's attitude, Richie relaxed to enjoy the easygoing ride.  Just as Lindy seemed to find his sailing `groove', TJ reached under the deck and pulled a pack of Marlboros from his backpack.  Being as Richie and all of his friends were non-smokers, Richie was surprised to see that TJ smoked.  Of course, when TJ offered one to his companions, they politely declined.

"No thanks, man, never use 'em."

"Nah," said Lindy.  "We don't smoke nothin that don't get us high."

"Probably a good idea," said TJ, returning the cigarettes to his backpack without taking one for himself.  "I don't even know why I do it.  I mean, it's not like I smoke a lot or anything.  Hell, this pack's lasted me all week.  I guess I just do it when I get nervous, or when I drink beer."

"Really," said Richie.  "Well you're not drinking beer now, so does that mean you're nervous?"

"Well, yeah, a little I guess.  See, I don't really have any friends... most of the people around here hate my guts, and all the kids at my school are snobs or jerks.  So whenever I meet someone new that I think I'd like to be friends with, I'm afraid I'll do something stupid to fuck it up."

"Well, you haven't done anything to fuck things up with us."

"Hell yeah, TJ," said Lindy with a broad grin.  "You can be friends with us... we ain't too choosy about who we hang around with, especially if he's rich and has a cool sailboat."

After shooting Lindy a cold stare, Richie said, "Don't listen to that dip-stick, TJ, he's just jerkin your chain.  What he said about being friends with us is true, though... besides, you and Brian are good friends, aren't ya?"

"That's true," said TJ.  "Brian's the only true friend I've ever had.  He's so cool, ya know?  He understands me, and never judges me, either."

"Cool," said Richie.  "That's what friends are all about.  That's the way it is between me and Lindy, though I can't say as I always understand him all the time.  I'm sure you could be friends with Kyle and Kevin, too, if you gave 'em a chance."

"Ya think?" asked TJ, his face brightening a bit.

"Hell yeah.  You should have heard what Kyle was saying about you last night, man."

"Yeah?  Like what?  That I was a loser, and a total fuck-up or something?"

"Whoa, not hardly.  He told me that if I wanted to learn how to sail that I was lucky to be going with you.  He said that you were the Ace of Gull Lake, and that you really knew your shit when it came to sailing."

"No shit?  Jacobson said that about me?"

"Sure did, and that's for real.  Look, man, all you gotta do is give people a chance to get to know you.  You don't gotta pull any stupid stunts like ya did last summer to get attention, either.  That kind of shit just turns people off and gets you a bad rep."

"Yeah, that deal sure as hell didn't put me on anybody's Christmas list, that's for sure.  By the way, I want to thank you guys again for pulling me out of the lake the other day."

"Shoots, nothin to it, bro.  You'd a done the same for any of us."

"Yeah, that weren't nothin, TJ," said Lindy.  "Course, it was the Boy Scout in Richie that got us movin on that deal."

"Really?" asked TJ as he looked at Richie.  "I kinda thought so.  Thanks, man, I owe ya for that..."  Then, reaching over to gently squeeze Richie's thigh he added, "Big time."

A small shiver coursed through Richie's body, and his dick twitched in his wet cutoffs at TJ's unexpected touch.  Afraid the look on his face would betray what he was feeling at the time, he quickly changed the subject.

"Hey, consider all debts paid with this great sailing gig, OK?  Now tell me about this girl that's been chasing you.  What's her name again?  Sounds like she wants to be friends with ya."

"Who, Cheryl Anne?  Oh yeah, she'd love to be my friend.  Problem is she's nuts and I can't stand to be around her."

"So what," piped up Lindy.  "She's got a pussy, don't she?  If ya ask me, that's reason enough to put up with her."

"God, Lindy, you can be so crude sometimes," admonished Richie.

"Nah, that's OK, Rich," said TJ with a chuckle.  "All you gotta do is spend some time with her, Lindy, and you'll see how wrong you are.  Matter of fact, if ya want, I could probably fix you up with her.  I'll bet you could get into her pants on the second date.  What d'ya say, wanna give it a shot?"

"Nah," said Lindy, though not before considering the prospect.  "I'm kind of in a relationship right now, but thanks anyway."

"How bout you then, Rich?  Wanna meet her?"

"No thanks," said Richie as he shook his head slowly.  "Not my kinda gig."  Then, realizing what he'd said, he snapped his head up to see a puzzled look on TJ's face.  "You know, cause she's dingy.  I don't think I could put up with the dingy part even if it meant getting laid."

He hoped his excuse didn't sound too lame, so when it appeared that TJ bought his explanation, he looked over to Lindy just in time to see him stifling a laugh.

"You sure, Rich?" asked TJ.  "She has her faults, but she's pretty hot."

"Nah... thanks, man, but I sorta just came out of one relationship and really don't want to get into another one right now."  Lindy continued to smile.

"That's cool, but be sure to let me know if ya change your mind.  The sooner I set her up with some other dude, the sooner I'll get her off my case."

Looking at Lindy again, Richie could see his smile broaden even further.  He could easily imagine how frustrated he must have felt, his head filled with countless one-liners that under the circumstances would have to remain unspoken.

While Richie watched, Lindy's expression changed into one of recognition as they neared the western shoreline.  "Hey, Rich," he said, pointing toward shore.  "Isn't that the creek we followed yesterday?"

Following his line of sight, Richie agreed.  "Yeah, gotta be, bro.  It's the only creek we crossed on this side of the lake."  Then, for TJ's sake who was following their conversation with mild interest, he went on to explain.  "See that creek over there, TJ?"

"Yeah, it comes down from somewhere up in the hills and flows under the snowmobile trail.  What about it?"

"Me and Lindy took Kyle's dirt bikes for a ride around the lake yesterday and we followed it to see if we could find out where it starts."

"You followed that creek?  What did ya do, hire some Sherpa mountain guides from Tibet to lead you up there or somethin?"

"No, man, we rode the bikes up."

"Now I know you're bull-shitin me.  That thing is like so full of downed trees and shit, there's no way you could get up there on a bike."

Remembering that Kyle had said the exact same thing this morning, Richie and Lindy looked first at each other, then at TJ.  It was almost as if he and Kyle had been conspiring to discredit them.

"I'm serious, man.  We, honest to God, rode our bikes all the way up to the pond... and no way was it full of trees and shit."

"Really?" asked TJ, his expression revealing his continued disbelief.  "Every time I've been by there, it's been damn near impassable."

"That's what Kyle told us this morning, but it sure as hell ain't that way now.  You'll believe us after we talk to him and Kevin later, cause they're probably at the pond right now."

"Yeah," said Lindy.  "Rich convinced them to ride up there and scope it out for themselves."

"No shit?" said TJ.  "I always wondered what it was like up there.  So, there's like a pond?"

"Oh yeah, there is.  A big one, too," said Richie.  "More like a small lake, really.  Course that's not where the creek originates, and we didn't go any higher, but the pond is there, and that's for real."

"Really... I guess I'll have to take a ride over there and check it out sometime.  Hey, maybe you could go with me.  You know, to show me where it is and shit."

"Show you where it is?" asked Lindy.  "Hell, ya can't miss it, dude.  Just follow the creek till ya can't go no further, and there's the pond."

At this remark, Richie shot him another cold stare that said `Thanks, big mouth', then proceeded to answer TJ's question.  "Um, sure, it'd be a kick to go up there again."

While saying this, Richie fondly recalled what he and Lindy had done when they were up there.  Fantasizing about how things could go if he went up there with TJ made his dick stiffen which, in turn, caused him some mild discomfort because of its position within his cutoffs.  There was no way he could realign it, though - not without being obvious - so his only recourse was to try to think of something else in hopes that it would go down.  Before this could happen, however, Lindy shouted out the `prepare to come about' command.

Silently cursing his friend for his bad timing, Richie joined TJ in the center of the boat.  Fortunately, crouching down as they were, his embarrassing condition remained concealed.  Not only that, but the chances were good that by the time they had to get up again his hard-on would be gone completely.  This would have most certainly been the case if TJ were at the helm, but since this was the first time that Lindy had ever brought a sailboat around, his inexperience caused the unexpected to happen.

As soon as Richie and TJ were positioned at the center of the boat, and out of the path of the boom, Lindy did as he'd seen TJ do - well, almost.  Pushing the tiller hard away from him as was the proper procedure, the bow of the boat swung first directly into the wind, then onto a slightly upwind tack on the other side.  What he'd forgotten to do, however, and with near disastrous results, was to release the mainsail first.  Omitting this particularly important move caused it to catch the wind much too quickly.  When it did, the boat instantly heeled hard over on the opposite side, surprising Lindy and catching the other two completely unprepared.

Since neither one was expecting this sudden development, Richie and TJ lost their balance and tumbled into the downwind side of the cockpit.  As luck would have it, when they fell, TJ landed squarely between Richie's legs with his left thigh pressing firmly against Richie's manhood.  Both boys were instantly aware of their compromising positions, but with the boat heeled over as far as it was, no matter how desperately they tried, they couldn't manage to untangle themselves.

Quickly figuring out where he'd made his mistake, Lindy hit the quick-release for the mainsail causing the boat to immediately right itself.  This sudden correction in attitude caused TJ to fall backwards off of Richie, the back of his head barely missing the boom when it swung over to the downwind side.

"Lindy!" exclaimed Richie as he caught the free-swinging boom in his hand.  "What the hell are you doing?"  If he sounded angry, it was because of what Lindy's lapse caused to happen between him and TJ more than anything else.  His remarks may have been directed at Lindy, too, but as he spoke, he was looking at TJ for any signs that he'd felt his hard-on when he fell on top of him.

"Hey, man, I'm sorry.  I guess I kinda forgot about the sail," pleaded Lindy.

"Yeah, I guess you did, dummy!  So try to like NOT forget it next time, would ya?"

"Aw, lighten up, Rich,"  said TJ, speaking for the first time from the opposite side of the boat where he'd landed.  Then, with a smile on his face as he continued to look at Richie, he added, "It's easy for shit like that to happen with a first-timer.  It's my fault for not paying attention."  Richie was pretty sure he saw TJ's smile widened when he added, "Besides, no one was hurt, right?  So, no harm - no foul."

"Yeah, I spose so," grumbled Richie, unable to read the meaning of TJ's smile.

"Hey," said Lindy, defending himself.  "If you think you can do any better, Andrews, get your ass back here and take over."

"No thanks," said Richie, crawling across to join TJ, afraid the bulge caused by his still semi-hard member would be visible if he were to stand.  "Just be careful, OK?"

"Why don't you take us back to my place, Lindy?  It's about time we headed over to Kyle's, anyway... and don't be afraid to let it out a little this time.  One thing about sailing - the worst of disasters isn't all that serious.  Besides, we'll pay better attention this time in case something goes wrong."

When Lindy looked to Richie for his approval, his friend smiled and said, "Sure, bro, go for it.  We'll keep an eye on ya."

With his confidence restored, Lindy tentatively pulled on the tiller to ease them into a faster tack, though still not as fast as the one that TJ had chosen.  The trip back across the lake was uneventful, and when they neared the Bayliner, TJ took over the helm.

"Hop up on the bow, Lindy, and when we come about and get close to Kyle's boat, grab onto it and hold us steady while we lower the sails."

Not sure how TJ was going to manage this maneuver, the mention of coming about had Richie watching TJ intently.  Angling the boat to where it was pointed almost directly at the Bayliner, TJ slowed it only slightly.  When they shot past the buoy on their way into shore, Richie and Lindy looked at each other with disbelief.  Then, just before they were in water too shallow for the center board, TJ hollered, "Coming about!"

Not knowing what to expect, Lindy lay flat on the deck at the bow and held on with both hands while Richie crouched in the center of the cockpit.  With the skill that only an experienced sailor could exhibit, TJ brought the boat around, immediately releasing the mainsail as he did.  As soon as they were heading directly into the wind, and pointed at the Bayliner, their momentum carried them to within inches of the other boat.  Totally impressed by how casually TJ performed this tricky move, Lindy reached for the Bayliner, then pulled them closer until they were safely alongside.

"Whoa, smooth move, dude," said Richie with a grin.  "I got the feeling you've done this before."

"Yeah, once or twice, I spose."

"Well, if you dudes don't mind," said Lindy with a grunt, "could ya put the chit-chat on hold and drop the fucking sails before my arms get pulled out of their sockets?"

Still smiling at each other, but now with amusement at Lindy's predicament, the two boys joined each other at the mast where, much to Lindy's relief, they quickly dropped the sails.  When they were folded and safely stored under the front deck, Lindy continued to keep the boats apart while TJ transferred their gear.  While they were doing this, Richie fired up the big boat's motor to let it warm up.  As soon as they were ready, Lindy climbed into the Bayliner with the other two, then gently pushed them away from the buoy.

"You need anything from your place before we head for Kyle's?" Lindy asked TJ.

"Nope, got everything I need in my backpack."

When he said this, Richie thought he detected a smile, or some sort of silent signal pass between the other two.  Unable to fathom what it could possibly be, and needing to focus his attention on piloting the boat, he quickly shrugged it off, then forgot about it completely.

With Lindy and TJ chatting with each other in the back, Richie headed  the boat toward the south end of the lake.  During the trip, his Hardy Boy's mind was working overtime trying to figure TJ out - more specifically, he was trying to figure out why he was so obsessed with him.  Sure, he had a great body, but he's met guys before that had bodies as good as TJ's and he didn't obsess over them.  As a matter of fact, most of the time he would quickly check them out, then pretty much forget about them.

As the Bayliner approached the south end of the lake where the trees sheltered it from the wind, the whitecaps morphed into smaller, gentler waves until they were little more than ripples on the surface of the water.  Without consciously thinking about it, Richie gently pulled back on the throttle, slowing them to a more leisurely cruising speed.  Had he not been so wrapped up in his thoughts about TJ, Richie might have noticed the other boat anchored about fifty feet to their right as they passed, its two occupants obviously fishing.  Lindy did notice it, however, immediately recognizing one of its passengers.

"Jesus, Rich, that's him!" he exclaimed,  "That's the fucking guy from McCarthy's!"

Shaken from his thoughts by his friend's outburst, Richie looked over to the other boat in an attempt to understand what had Lindy so excited.  One of the occupants was an older man, perhaps in his late fifties to mid sixties, with thinning gray hair.  His companion was a young boy whom Richie guessed to be around 11 or 12.  There was nothing remarkable, or recognizable about either one.  Slowing the boat to a crawl, he looked a second time, but still came up blank.

"What the hell are you talking about, Lindstrom?" he asked as he looked from the boat to Lindy.  The man and boy, both occupied with their fishing, were oblivious to the Bayliner that slowly made its way down the lake.

Unable to understand why Richie would ask such a dumb question, Lindy turned to him with a surprised look of disbelief written on his face.  Almost immediately, however, he connected the dots to remember that neither he nor Kevin told anyone else about the loud-mouthed drunk they'd run into at McCarthy's.  Concerned that even the quietest of voices can carry great distances across a calm lake, he moved to the front seat next to Richie to fill him in.  Since TJ had no more of a clue than Richie did as to what was going on, he scooted up closer to Lindy in order to hear his explanation.

"Sorry, bro," began Lindy.  "I guess we kinda forgot to tell you guys about it."

"Tell us about what?  Just what the hell are you talking about, man?"

"The guy in that boat over there."

"Which one?" asked TJ.  "The kid or the old dude?"

"The old guy.  Shit, I can't think of his name now."

"That's old man Larson," said TJ.  "His first name is George."

"Yeah, that's it!" exclaimed Lindy.

"Now that we know his name, what about him?" asked Richie, mildly irritated at Lindy for taking so long to come to the point.

After relating the story of how he and Kevin had a run-in of sorts with the drunk Mr. Larson in the arcade, both Lindy and Richie turned to TJ.  Thinking they didn't need to say anything, they looked at him in silence, fully expecting to get some sort of response.  While Lindy was curious as to what issues this guy had with TJ, Richie was wondering why this Larson would refer to TJ as a faggot.

"What?" asked TJ, his friends quietly starring at him.

"Um, nothin, I guess," said Lindy as he looked away.  Then, unable to let it go, in a quieter voice he said, "I was just wondering... nah, forget it, man.  It's none of my business why this guy would have a problem with you.  I was just curious, that's all."  Richie remained silent.

Looking back to the other boat, now a good distance behind them, TJ said, "Who knows?  Shit, man, who knows why everybody around here has a problem with me?"

From the tone of TJ's voice, both boys were certain there was something more to it than that, perhaps much more - something that TJ had an answer for, but was unwilling to share.  When he continued to silently look back at the other boat, Lindy turned to look at Richie who shook his head just enough to send a message - `drop it'.  After all, it really wasn't any of their business, so Lindy shrugged his shoulders in agreement while Richie turned to the front where he eased the throttle up to three quarter speed.  Although the subject was immediately dropped from discussion, no way was it dropped from Richie's mind.

When finally he slowed the boat for his approach to the Jacobson's dock, Richie saw a small group of people milling about the beach with large red plastic cups in their hands.  The first person he recognized was Kevin, standing on the end of the dock waiting for them.  Behind Kevin, on the beach next to the yard-light, was a keg of beer immersed in a washtub filled with ice and water.  There were three people standing next to the keg engaged in what appeared to be light conversation.  He immediately recognized two of the three as Kyle and Steve, but it wasn't until he got closer that he recognized the third person as Harry.

`Whoa,' he thought, `even Harry came to my party.'  The realization that all of these people were here just for him made his chest swell with pride, and a huge grin to spread across his face.  Maybe he wasn't growing up so fast after all.  Grinning like a Cheshire cat, he eased the big boat onto the boat-lift.  As he did so, he noticed two more people that he'd missed earlier, standing behind the keg.  One of them was Brian, but he had no clue as to who the second one was.  He couldn't even see his face because he was leaning against the light pole, facing away from the lake.

"Bout time you bozos got back," said Kevin.  "Hope ya don't mind, dude, but we kinda started the party without ya."

"So I see," said Richie as he climbed out of the boat.  "Are we late or did you guys just start early?"

"Hah, I guess I'd have to say we started a little early.  Well, you know how it is, man... once we tapped the keg we just had to test it to make sure it was good.  So that's what we're doin, testing the beer.  And after a thorough analysis I'm happy to report it's great."

"Yeah?  Well maybe I should be the judge of that... gimme a sip of that bad boy."

Just when Richie took a gulp from Kevin's beer, the mystery kid who was talking to Brian turned to look in his direction.  The smile that was on Richie's face instantly disappeared to be replaced with tightlipped anger.  He did know who this kid was after all - he was the bag-boy from the supermarket.  `Fucking Kyle,' he thought, glaring in Kyle's direction.

"Scuse me a sec, would ya, Kevin," he said while giving his shoulder a gentle squeeze.  "I gotta kick me some serious ass."

With that, he slipped past a very perplexed Kevin and made his way down the dock toward Kyle.

"Hey, birthday boy," said Kyle as he approached.  "Glad to see you could make it to your party."

"Congratulations, young fella," said Harry, extending his hand out to Richie.

"Thanks, Harry," replied Richie with a forced smile.  "I didn't expect to see you here.  Who's minding the store?"

"Aw, things was kinda slow this afternoon, so I left the wife to look after it for a while.  She'll give me a call on Kyle's fancy cell phone if she needs me.  Besides, when Kyle told me you was havin a party, I figured you could use someone who knows how to grill up enough burgers to feed a crowd of  hungry kids."

"Harry's no stranger to workin a grill, Rich... and he knows how to put together some awesome burgers," interjected Kyle.

"Cool," said Richie.  "Nice to have you here, Harry."  Then, grabbing a hold of Kyle's arm, he looked back to Harry and said, "Would you excuse us for a minute, Harry, I got something to discuss with my friend here."

"Sure, son, don't worry about old Harry, here.  Long as I got somethin to wet my whistle, I'll be fine."

"Thanks, Harry," said Richie as he began to forcefully drag Kyle away.

When they were out of earshot of the rest of the group, he stopped and turned to face his chuckling friend.  "The bag-boy, Kyle?!  You invited the fucking bag-boy?"

"Whoa, slow down a sec, would ya, Guppy?"  Unable to stifle it any longer, Kyle began to giggle.

"You think that's real funny, don't ya, Kyle... inviting the bag-boy like that, just to get a rise out of me.  What the fuck are you tryin to do, anyway?"

"Hold on a sec, Rich," managed Kyle through laughter that seemed to have increased with every word Richie spoke.  "I swear to God, I'm innocent here."

"Bullshit," said a furious Richie.  "If you're so fucking innocent, then how..."

"Hey, birthday dude," interrupted Brian as he approached them with the bag-boy close on his heels.  "Say, I hope you don't mind, but I brought a friend of mine along for the party.  I tried to call you this morning, but nobody answered."

"Um, uh, no, I don't mind at all... the more the merrier."

"Cool," said Brian, "Rich, this is Daryl, Daryl - Rich."

"Hey Daryl.  Um, actually, we kinda already met... welcome to the party, dude."

"Thanks, man... yeah, I remember you dudes comin into the store where I work yesterday.  By the way, your cabin is fucking awesome, man."

"Um, thanks, but it isn't mine."  Then, glancing over to a grinning Kyle, he turned back to the others and said, "Look, how bout you guys get yourself a beer or pop or somethin, and we'll catch up with ya in a minute, OK?"

"Sure thing, bro," said Brian.  "We're running on empty here anyway.  Can I bring ya somethin?"

"Nah, man, we're cool.  We'll be over in a minute."

When Brian and Daryl walked off toward the keg, Richie turned to Kyle who was smiling very smugly.

"Well?  What the fuck did you expect me to think?" asked Richie, slightly ashamed of himself for assuming the worst and jumping to conclusions.

"Just exactly what you did think," said Kyle.  "And you are the cutest guppy when you're mad, by the way."

"Yeah?  Well, I'm sorry, OK?"

"Hey, you ain't got nothin to be sorry about, Guppy," said Kyle, playfully ruffling Richie's hair.  "The look on your face when you saw him was classic, dude.  I just about shit when I saw him get out of Steve's truck a while ago, and I've been goin nuts waiting for you to get back ever since."  Then, with a sigh, he added, "Ah, another Kodak moment lost forever."

"Go figure, huh?" said Riche as he looked at Brian and Daryl filling their cups from the keg.  "I mean, like what're the chances of those two knowing each other?"

"Pretty good if ya think about it," said Kyle, still obviously amused by the whole event.  "Pine City ain't all that big, Rich."

"Yeah?  Well then how come they have such a huge high school?  That fucker's bigger than Radison."

"True that, but there's a hell of a lot of kids that go there that don't live in Pine City, too.  Hell, they come from every one-horse town there is in Pine County.  C'mon, let's get you a beer and me a refill, then we'll hit the lake for some water-skiing."

When Kyle turned to move toward the keg, Richie grabbed his arm, spinning him around so unexpectedly that he nearly lost his balance.

"What?" asked Kyle.  When Richie just looked at him with that `Say again?' look on his face, Kyle knew exactly what he was thinking.  "No, Guppy, I'm not gonna be drinking and driving the boat.  Steve volunteered to be designated driver.  He said he'd have no problem catching up to the rest of us when we're done skiing."

"Cool, then let's do it."

Although the keg was the center of the activity by the light pole, the whole area was like `party central' with coolers stocked with pop lined up next to the keg, and two Webber grills set up next to them.  Already, Harry was readying the charcoal for the hamburgers and brats that filled still another cooler on the ground between the two grills.  A steady stream of guests came and went like worker bees, refilling their cups, or snatching a fistful of chips on their way through.

While he waited for his turn at the tap, Richie took in all the activity around him.  Steve had already pulled the boat off the lift and was attaching the tow rope to the tow bar while Lindy laid out a variety of skis next to a pile of life jackets.  When Kyle finished filling his cup, he moved off to check with Harry to see if he needed any help with the grills.  Just as Richie began to fill his cup, Steve hollered at him from the back of the boat.

"Hey, birthday boy, you got `first ups' if ya want 'em."

`Nah, I'm cool," he replied.  Then, noticing Lindy with a life jacket half on, looking at him with restrained excitement on his face, Richie added, "Why don't ya take my bonehead bud out first?  He looks about ready to go."

"Yes!" exclaimed Lindy as he quickly snapped the remaining plastic buckles into place.  Five minutes later, as Richie watched from his place next to the light pole, he heard Lindy give the command to `hit it'.  With Steve at the controls, and TJ as the spotter, the powerful Bayliner lurched forward, quickly and effortlessly pulling Lindy out of the water on his way toward the middle of the lake.

"Hey, birthday boy," said Kevin, as he and Daryl slipped between Richie and the yard-light on their way to get a refill.

"Hey guys, what up?"

"The sky... and my spirits, since for once I don't have to stay sober," said Kevin, genuinely enjoying himself.

"Cool, and I'd be bettin there's a bunch of us ready and willing to race you to the bottom of that keg, too."  Then, scoping out Daryl while he waited for his turn, he said, "By the way, Daryl, I didn't mean to sound like I was blowing you off earlier.  I just needed to talk to Kyle about something."

"Not a problem, dude, I had a serious case of empty beer cup, anyway."

"Yeah, just what the hell was up with that, Guppy?" asked Kevin.  "If looks could kill, Jake would've been dead as a doornail when you got out of the boat."

It was obvious that Kyle hadn't let Kevin in on the bag-boy story, and with Daryl standing next to him, there was no way Richie could fill him in now.

"Um, nothing really.  Just a small misunderstanding that needed to be cleared up is all."

Apparently satisfied with his answer, Kevin poured out the excess foam from the top of his beer, then glanced around as if looking for something.

"Know what?" he said a moment later.  "We need some bags down here for trash."

"Good idea," said Richie.  "I'll go get some."

"Whoa, no way, Guppy.  You're the birthday boy, so you ain't spose to do any work... it's the law.  So drink your beer, and I'll get 'em."

With that, Kevin was on his way up the hill to the cabin.  Once he was gone, Richie eyed Daryl as he filled his cup.  He looked even hotter in his khaki cargo shorts and turquoise T-shirt than he did the other day.  It was obvious that he spent some time in the sun by the deep tan on his arms and legs.  When he caught himself checking out his package, perhaps staring at it a little longer than he should, he looked up to see Daryl looking back at him.

"Um, so how long have you and Brian known each other?" he asked, hoping his embarrassment didn't show.

"Since first grade, I guess, but we didn't start hangin out together until we started high school last year," said Daryl before taking a drink from his cup.  Then, thinking that Richie looked like he felt uncomfortable for some reason,  he wiped the beer-foam mustache from his upper lip and asked, "You sure you're OK with me crashing your party, Rich?"

"Fuck yeah, I am.  Like I said before, man, the more the merrier.  Why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know.  I just thought from the way you looked at me earlier that I wasn't welcome or something."

"Nah, that's bullshit, dude.  Hell, any friend of Brian's is welcome anytime."  Not convinced that Daryl believed him, he went on to explain.  "Look, Daryl, if you thought I kinda weirded out before, I'm sorry.  It's just that I was surprised to see you is all.  You know, what with just running into you yesterday, then seeing you here again today, it kinda caught me off guard.  I mean, like what're the odds, ya know?  That's all it was... really."

"Yeah, I guess it is kind of weird, alright."  Taking another drink from his beer, Daryl must have thought of something funny, cause he started to laugh, spitting a mouthful of beer on the ground next to him.  "Oh, man," he said, wiping his mouth on his forearm.  "Sorry bout that, but I just thought about you guys in the store yesterday.  I must've surprised you then, too, cause you had one helluva time telling me if you wanted paper of plastic."

"Oh, that," said Richie, beginning to blush.  "Yeah, ya did surprise me then, but for reasons I'd be too embarrassed to tell you about now.  Is that what you do?  Make a habit of surprising people like that?"

"Hah," laughed Daryl.  "No, not that I'm aware of anyway.  Especially not the same person twice in a row.  Looking at Richie thoughtfully now, he asked, "So, if ya don't mind me askin, why do your friends call you Guppy?"

"Oh," said Richie with a smile, "that's just Kevin and Kyle that do that.  See, they both play hockey for our school, and me and Lindy... by the way, have you met him yet... Lindy?  He's the one water-skiing right now."

 "No, I haven't."

"Then for sure I'll introduce you when he gets back.  Anyway, Lindy's my best bud, and we're on the swim team together.  So, through some twisted sort of hockey player logic, Kevin and Kyle just started calling me Guppy.  It's cool though, they don't do it to be mean or anything."

"The swim team?" asked Daryl, his eyes lighting up.  "You mean you both swim for the Varsity team?"

"Yeah... well, Lindy swims short and mid-distance freestyle, and I dive."

"Whoa, that is so cool."  Then, looking a little sad, he continued.  "I tried out for our team last year but didn't make the cut.  I've been workin on it all summer though," he hastily added, his look brightening.  "You know, swimming laps, doin some endurance training and shit.  I even signed up for a clinic with the coach at the high school.  He says he doesn't think I'll have a problem making the team this year."

"That's great, man.  From the looks of that tan you got, I figured you had to be doin something outside this summer."

"Yeah, it ain't too bad, I guess," said Daryl, lifting up his T-shirt to check out his tanned stomach and chest.  "No way is it as good as TJ's, but it's enough to get the chicks to notice."

`It ain't just the chicks that are lookin,' thought Richie, his dick twitching in his cutoffs as he scoped out Daryl's chest and abs.  Just then, Kevin hollered at Richie from the cabin.

"Yo, Rich, your ma's on the phone for ya!"

"Shit, I gotta get that.  Look, what d'ya say the three of us have a little race or somethin later.  You know, to see if your training is workin for ya."

"Cool," said Daryl.  "Who knows, maybe I can pick up some pointers from the pros."

"I don't know about that, but it'll be fun.  I'll catch up with ya later, OK?"

That said, Richie ran up the hill to the cabin.  When he entered the kitchen, Kevin and Kyle were both there, engaged in conversation - a conversation that came to an abrupt halt when Richie entered.  Smiling at Richie, Kyle handed him the phone, then he and Kevin made their way back to the party.  Wondering what they could have been discussing to make them stop when he barged in on them, Richie put it to the back of his mind when he answered the phone.



"Hey, Mom, what up?"

"What up?  It's your birthday, sweetheart, that's `What up'.  Surely you didn't think I could go the whole day without talking to you and wishing you a happy birthday, did you?"

"Aw Mom, it ain't no big deal.  But thanks, I appreciate it.  Is everything alright at home?"

"Oh yeah, everything's fine... except we miss you.  You know this is the first time you've been away on your birthday, don't you?"

"Yeah, I know.  Matter of fact, I was just thinkin about it this morning.  It is kinda weird, I spose."

"Well, weird or not, we love you, and we miss you.  Just wait till you have your own kids, then you'll see how weird it is."

This last statement hit Richie like a punch in the stomach.  How would his mother feel when she found out that he would never be fathering children of his own.

"Richie?  Are you still there, honey?"

"Oh, yeah... sorry, Mom.  What were you saying?"

"I was asking you how your party's going.  Kyle said you went sailing this morning."

"Yeah, I did, and the party's goin great."

Richie spent the next ten minutes filling his mom in by giving her the short version of what they've been up to since Tuesday.  When he'd finally finished, he politely excused himself.

"Well, I better get back to the party now before they come lookin for me.  I'll see ya sometime on Monday, OK?"

"OK, Richie.  I love you, honey, and you boys be careful up there.  I don't want to get any calls from some hospital.  Oh, by the way, did you take enough underwear with you?  I've seen you pack before, and I could never figure out how you could get enough clothes into the little bag of yours."

"Aw, jeez, Mom... I got plenty of underwear."  `Especially since I don't hardly ever wear 'em', he thought with a grin.

"Well, OK then, if you're sure you're going to be alright.  I love you, son."

"Love you, too, Mom... and say hey to Dad and Carl for me."

"I will, honey.  Take care and we'll look for you on Monday."

"Will do, Mom, bye."

"Bye, Richie."

When the line went dead, Richie himself felt suddenly disconnected.  He loved his parents very much, but he was gay, and there was no way he was going to get married and have kids.  How could he tell them this.  How do you tell your parents, who love you with all their heart, that you will never be able to give them the grandchildren they so desperately desire.  Tears began to well up in his eyes, and for the first time in many months, Richie truly wished he wasn't gay.