by Blake Dawson* <>

From the Preface to Chapter 1:

If you like to read this kind of story but are concerned about possible legal implications, work to change the law! If you don’t, why are you here?

*Blake Dawson is the person the otherwise anonymous author would be if “trading places” became magically possible.

Chapter 22: Walshie’s

Turning eleven, I had dragged my celebrations out over fifteen days and seven special happenings. Turning twelve I celebrated over fifteen weeks of nonstop living in which I must have touched seven thousand individuals in a way that is only possible at that pinnacle of boyhood. Most kids hit that peak when they are still at primary school—big fish in a little pond—but I was amongst the youngest at my level and made a total mess of my approach to living through sixth grade. So it was not until I had settled into high school, especially into the little group I walked to and from school with, and Under 12 cricket was behind me, that I was finally ready to start being a real boy for a while.

Mum’s business stayed on the up and up despite the continuing economic malaise, in part thanks to the success she was having with the band. So, even with the expenditure of the new house and even my annexe, the days of having to be overly cautious with every dollar we spent were clearly behind us, although neither of us have ever really tossed the habit. But at least I picked clothes I liked, and for about the only time in my life what I liked matched what others liked to see me in.

I trace my celebration of boyhood as starting at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show. Being only a couple of suburbs away, the show was something at which I had always spent at least a day for longer than I can remember, but in 1993 I went early and I went often and was unselfconsciously putting myself on parade alongside the farm animals, commercial booths and entertainments. And I soon noticed that amongst the many things at the show which brighten people’s faces, a nearly twelve year old boy being a nearly twelve year old boy ranks highly with a substantial percentage. However, there were certainly some groups that are totally impervious to whatever it was about me in that peak of boyhood that so affected so many others. In general, females were much less responsive as were those closest to my own age.

In fact there were even a few girls around my age that made it quite clear that the only effect I might have by wandering through their lives was to make them want to capture me for their trophy cabinet. And they certainly did not want the kind of captured image that many older males I flirted with would have been more than happy with. Those girls clearly wanted to capture my powers and bleed off my spirit so they could turn my zombified corpse to the service of their own miserable little objectives. So I soon learnt to avoid their territories and flit amongst more appreciate audiences.

I could zoom in on almost any male who was alone or with people he clearly did not want to be with, and who was between two and ten or over fourteen and brighten their day with just a glance, or change their lives with a moment’s conversation. Most little girls, a good portion of late teen and twenties sans boyfriend and many woman who were past the reality or prospect of having their own sub-teen were smiling before we made eye contact, but those who were not seemed incredibly fearful. Aside from those few trophy hunters, females clearly polarised between admiration and fear, with a solid chunk of the admirers being at least as open as most males, while somehow retaining the feeling that we were playing a game—the same kind of game I felt with the smaller portion of males of all ages. The larger portion of males I came to realise just saw me as a mirror of a valued piece of their own life, either past or future. And the other side of that coin was that the indifference of those closest to my own age was obviously because they either were in or were too close to that piece of the their own lives. Before the end of the show I had determined that it was those, male or female, young or old, who had a feel for my game who I would play with at every opportunity through what I saw as several months of unhurried exploration between then and the next cricket season.

I only had one specific objective for that period and that was to break into the arrangement which Joey and Troy had established whereby they stayed every Friday night at Walshie’s. In cricket season this enabled them to go straight to the cricket with him on Saturday morning, but the arrangement was clearly going to persist into the winter, I am sure based only on none of them having anything better to do and certainly not feeling threatened by it. I knew the Wilkins knew Walshie well enough to totally trust him, but was a little surprised how quickly they had let Troy have his own space at cricket after their considerable involvement in getting him started, but maybe Peter remembered more of what it was like to be a junior cricketer than ’nineties parents are supposed to. Joey was a different kind of surprise, coming from a strict and traditional European culture at home, this outlet on top of our regular Monday extra practice may just have shown how much their traditional culture respected trusted friends, and how much they allowed those trusted friends to play a role in their children’s development.

But between Friday nights, there was a lot of week for my peak of boyhood to impact. Until winter really set it, our more popular local beaches up to Bondi took a pounding, with the water still warmish and Lukie passing me down a very old but not very worn wetsuit of a style that was again popular. I felt as free in and on water as I did bouncing around the city and suburbs and my performance in the water was as good as it has ever been. One thing the restless Pacific waters guaranteed was encounters that were less fleeting but even more clearly temporary than those on land. And it was even more acceptable to engage in blatantly attention grabbing tricks in water than it was on land unless you were on wheels of one variety or another. Until the day I turned twelve I had the choice of the wheels on an old skate board or an even older BMX. The only gift I wanted for my birthday was inline skates and they immediately became my main means of local transport.

The Sydney Swans were only at the start of their rebuilding program, but I was at the Sydney Cricket Ground for their every home game, coming to recognise more and more other regulars and learning which were particularly responsive to my vibrations. In most other public places, I became a person of varied habit so as to ensure the greatest turnover of fresh encounters. And even a couple of days each weekend plus the winter holidays were not enough for more than a few return visits to each of the many heavily peopled places, from Manly to Darling Harbour and Oxford Street, that I enjoyed visiting, either alone or dragging along one or more friends.

Quite often I went out in a foursome with Hayden, Felicity and Corey. Even as I showed them around all of the marvellous places I was coming to know, Hades and Lickety were too full of each other to notice my performance, while I am sure those trips sowed the seeds of Corey’s dedication to his photography and I know he still wishes he had been into it then when I thought he might have let himself go a bit, the way Sean did whenever it was just him and me, as it was equally often. Though still in fifth grade Sean was as ‘all boy’ as I was, and for him it was a much more persistent state of being. So when the two of us fluttered momentarily from skylarking to encountering we cracked endless faces and I’m sure, as soon as many of our male victims could find some privacy, another part of their anatomy.

Through those months I also went with mum to all of the band’s concerts within driving distance and had just about free reign, being too young to be called out for being too young, being with somebody official looking, and clearly being able to command the attention of their lead guitarist, except for the odd occasion on which we also took Sean with whom I managed at best equal billing. A week before my birthday, mum asked me again if there was anything I really would like. She already knew and had done something about the ‘blades’ and was pushing more towards the kind of special activity that I had notionally always had, even if the last couple had been adapted cricket gatherings. It was only when she pressed the question that the realisation finally hit me: “Hey, how can I have a party, when I have been having one long party for the past six weeks and I’m certain it is going to continue quite a bit longer than that into the future.” She immediately recognised exactly what I meant and could not help agreeing, so she switched back to some kind of more personal present that I would really remember. I told her I did not plan on losing the blades, and desperate for a way of killing an unwanted conversation offered: “But if you keep insisting, I will let you take me to England for a test match.” It might have stopped the conversation then, but the last thing I expected was for her to walk into my room on the morning of my birthday waving a couple of pieces of paper: “You know what you asked me for for your birthday?” I knew what I had intended to ask for: “Nothing beyond the blades.” “Well I hope you actually do want the other thing you suggested, because here are our tickets.”

There were some minor adjustments in our ‘test team’ for second term. Hayden and I were not quite as rushed on Mondays and Wednesdays respectively following the end of cricket commitments, which gave me the opportunity to get to the sports store a bit earlier on Mondays and allowed Hayden to half-heartedly train with one of the local football codes on Wednesdays on the pretext of keeping fit during the winter. Then on the first Thursday back Natalie just kept walking with us past her place—I at first thought she was just too deep in conversation and had missed it—and wandered into Warrens with Hades and me and we all sat around for half an hour before she announced that she still had a few things to do before her parents got home, and we realised that she might have been planning to make it a regular Thursday diversion. The next week we were all a bit more relaxed about it and the foursome was a good deal more animated than our traditional threesome had ever been. Another week on, Nat decided to drop in at her place to get changed before following us down, and the week after that I was so deep in conversation with her when we reached her place, that I was on her door step before I gave it a though and opted to walk in with her and get changed while she changed, seeing as I had got into the habit of carrying a change of clothes that were more suitable for taking Buster for his run in the back park. None of the four of us took my changing at Nat’s to be a subject for comment and it took a few more weeks before she and I even started exchanging surreptitious glances while half undressed.

I did not feel the least pressured about sex. I saw Sean and Lukie often enough for one reason or another and the summer holidays had at least served to breakdown most of Hayden’s discomfort with puberty, which Felicity and Warren continued working on in their own ways at least as keenly as I did. And that gave me three more semi-regular partners than I had been able to find in the latter half of the previous year as well as the teasing prospect of a bit more with Lickety or Corey and eventually Nat and Warren, although none of them were to come to anything in that part of my life. What still took a while to really dawn on me was that, of the literally thousands of people I brought a smile to by flaunting my boyhood, there were at least hundreds who would have been a lot more than happy to escalate that moment very quickly to a real sexual encounter at the very least.

One little corner of my life where I was even less conscious of any hint of sexuality was my self-made challenge to break into Joey and Troy’s Friday nights at Walshies. Our Monday night extra training foursome had got through the cricket season with a lot less tension than the seasons when I was in the same team as Joey and Troy and I was more than happy to be treated as their little mate as I settled into high school. And my satisfaction with life in general gave me the patience that that little project finally needed. One of the very few mentions that my birthday got was from Joey recalling the party three years earlier on the Friday before its anniversary, which I managed to turn into an invitation to symbolise me finally and indisputably not being ‘Under 12’ by staying over with the Under 14s. The only obstacle was lack of bedding which I was able to solve by taking the air bed and sleeping bag from home that I had used at Bermagui before we refurnished the new annexe. I have never found a reason to take them back home. However, it did not immediately become automatic that I would stay over on Friday nights. The band’s gigs also sometimes gave me a way out, but by the time I left for England the excuses provided by school holidays and a farewell for me had made me a semi-regular.

It took until the ferry trip home from Taronga Park Zoo with Sean on a very pleasant day in the winter holidays for me to consciously recognise just how erotic our being boys must have appeared to at least a portion of our audience. So I returned to school for third term with an injection of purpose into my play, especially as I was starting to recognise that the three weeks going around the world with mum could be expected to put my life on an even faster fast forward than I had come to recognise in my summers at Bermagui. During my term two of being the definitive twelve year old boy, my friendships with Warren and Brice provided plenty of opportunity to play to an audience of senior students and I realise on reflection that there were quite a few who had been giving me a bit of special attention. By the end of the holidays, I had decided that seeing there was so much more lust around than I could possibly use, that I should pick one from the thousands for a special prize, and I had a fair idea just which of those senior students I considered candidates.

I found more and more excuses to float past Warren during the first week back and one of my candidates quickly zoomed in. On the Thursday night change stop at Nat’s my heightened sexual awareness even had me making the first real notice of our being nearly naked in the same space and an audible comment that I would not mind seeing a bit more of her very attractive breasts, which I got as a going away present the next week. But I waited until I got back with Buster, after both Nat and Hayden had had to go, to ask Warren about his friend. Warren equally surprised me by giving me a full dossier down to the fact that his friend had Saturday mornings at home alone, without even nosy neighbours in their little court after eight o’clock. He also freely admitted that he knew all that because he had been doing a trade off over the past few days as his friend enquired more and more about me, and Warren promised him that he would get his answers if and when I ever asked about him, for which he wanted to be sure he had every possible answer in return. I spotted the friend momentarily by himself during lunch on Friday, flitted past and whispered for him to leave his door unlocked the next morning. When it was past time for our ‘test team’ to leave for home, I grabbed the opportunity to grab Warren and drag him away from an intense conversation with the friend who gestured that he had understood exactly what I meant, and I confirmed with Warren that he had got around to telling him that I was headed overseas the following weekend.

Even an increasingly rare Saturday morning in the comfort of my own bed could not tempt me to sleep in as I had no intention of wasting a minute after eight o’clock. My winner was still surprised when I actually walked into his bedroom and probably still does not have any idea as to why I was focusing the energy of thousands of erotic interactions onto one morning with him. He was also not quite ready for how far I wanted to go how fast and needed to break for a piss at an awkward moment, although we found that we each had on hand the protections needed for everything we could squeeze into that morning. At least in the end it was clear to both of us that it would be most fondly remembered if it remained a oncer, so I was glad to get to Lukie’s concert early enough to be able to confide in him just what I had concluded about the magic of being a boy. And I was hardly surprised that Lukie’s first detailed response was buried in the hastily improvised lyrics of their next to last song for the evening.