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 24: Gary

My shortened third term came and went at an easy pace as memories of the world faded and preparations for cricket began, but first day back from an uneventful term break the pace distinctly changed. The team from my first year as Under 12 captain was basically back together under Walshie despite there being no love lost between a few of us. With the start of the season fast approaching Joey Mantari was making it increasingly obvious that I should not be captain, although I don’t think he had much idea who should be and at least had no serious aspirations for himself. I knew for sure that I shouldn’t be and that I wouldn’t be and had made my position totally clear to Walshie although I too did not have any real idea who should be. But that wasn’t good enough for Joey and, without ever breaking the letter of our oft recalled wager, by our regular Monday extra practice session he was freely offering his opinions as to just what I was doing with whom so as to gain favours at cricket. I might not have minded had he had the judgement to make some accusations that were even close to the mark but he could not have been further from the truth. I might also have been not quite as easily pissed off by it all if we hadn’t been putting up with the build up through our almost daily practice sessions during the holidays.

Still I bided my time till we were all through with that first Monday’s practice session, before I suggested that we really ought to sort a couple of things out. I quietly explained again to Joey how the whole captaincy thing had pissed me off over the past two years and that while I knew I would probably be expected to be captain again before my junior days were through, that it definitely was not going to be that year. Hayden then went on to make the point that their bowling had not really kept up with our batting to the point where it wasn’t all that much practice for him when they had not been able to get him out all holidays or even me for our past four sessions, so he had lined up a couple of final year Under 16 bowlers who would give us more of a work out from the following Monday. I then said to Joey that I thought that he was being rather hypocritical to fabricate the innuendoes he had about Walshie and then use Walshie’s place as somewhere to hang out most Friday nights. Hayden told Troy that we weren’t pissed with him although we wished his bowling had come on a bit more, and I said that the last thing we wanted to do was to upset their friendship with each other and that we would still consider them friends: “It would just be nice to stop tripping over each other quite as often.” To my eternal surprise, they took the hint, but our new line up for Monday training didn’t last long before we all found a few too many other things in our lives.

During the hols I had enough time on my hands to thumb through Tuesday’s Australian and noticed that Malcolm Forsyth’s company had got itself into the news a bit through a merger it was rumoured to be planning with a company that had run into financial difficulties. I thought I would see if there was any more news on that front before heading off for the second day of term and found the story beat up again with comments from x and comments from y, but “nobody available for comment” from Forsyth’s side. “Mum, haven’t you got around to chasing up that bloke who gave you his card in Boston yet?” I yelled across the kitchen. When she shrugged it off, I added: “From what’s in the paper it looks like he is in need of some PR help in a hurry.” “If there’s something in the paper, there will be a queue a mile long beating a path to his door.” “But none of that queue has got me as part of the team.” “Hang on a minute, that shit we talked in Boston must have been the jet lag, I couldn’t think of letting you get into anything like that.” “Hey, I know it would be fun and ‘if you’ve got it use it’ is my motto. ... Look just grab the phone and give it a try. If he shows any interest then we can work out what we do next.”

Mum must have been supremely confident that he would not take us seriously, so she dug out the card and tried his number: “I was wondering if Malcolm Forsyth might be available. ... I can understand that, I might try again later. ... Just say the woman who he met with her son in Boston. ... He has. ... Good morning Mr Forsyth. ... I’m pleased you remember. ... I had said I would contact you to tell you a little about our services and Blake suggested that you might be on the look out for some effective PR. ... You are. ... You would. ... Yes four o’clock will be fine. I will bring over some background and get a clearance to show you a couple of our other clients’ files. ... Yes, I’ll look forward to it. ... See you at four. (Click.) Holy shit!” Mum is no prude but she doesn’t swear out of habit. “Good girl, at least you had the sense to drop me in when the opening was there. I imagine we have work to do.” “Shouldn’t you have left for school.” “Hey, I took three weeks off to go round the world without any damage to my education. I don’t think one day off making sure we get a million dollar contract will do all that much harm.” “Don’t get your hopes up too many zeros, but you’re right, I will probably need a hand with some photocopying.” I thought she might also need a hand to think straight but I bit my tongue.

We were bouncing words back and forth as she was pounding the keyboard and I was dragging out files to copy, when I realised what might be the key: “What about the band?” “What about the band?” “All you seem to be presenting is the tiddlers. Forsyth is successful and the band is our success story. He is not going to be able to justify a decision to use us on the basis of all your nice work for nice little companies in vaguely related industries, a couple of which will undoubtedly have some success in a year or two. He needs to know that before we took their account eight months ago that the band was getting $1,000 a gig max, despite Lukie’s bragging to Henry, and now they command four times that.” Mum was slowly seeing the point: “I don’t think I’ve got enough of their stuff here to do a proper presentation.” I said it was about time we got Lukie to do something for us and grabbed the phone: “Is that my favourite arsehole? ... Of course I mean it in the nicest possible way. ... You sound like you don’t have anything on. ... I mean before four o’clock dummy. ... You must have enough of your shit on tape that they can jam with a tape recorder for the first hour. ... Yes. It is that important.” I gave Lucas a quick run down on the opportunity with Forsyth and relayed messages from mum on what we needed him to bring over. “Just grab all the stuff and get your arse into gear. ... No, we won’t have time for that. ... I promise you can fuck my arse the day after Malcolm Forsyth does. ... See you, lover.” Click. “Blake!” “Hey, it’s called ‘management by incentive’. They had a whole program on 2BL about it during the hols.” “You could have at least given some cue that your tongue was sometimes firmly in your cheek.” “Good comedians never laugh at their own jokes.” “Another 2BL program?” “Nah, actually heard it on the in flight audio going across the US, but I think I already knew.” Mum made four o’clock well prepared, which was just as well as Forsyth needed to be seen to be justified in his decision to use our services.

It had taken the whole of the third term of Thursday afternoon change-stops at Natalie’s for us to complete a thorough exploration of those erogenous zones which did not require the removal of underpants. It was all very clinical, but I didn’t mind as her tits at that stage of her life were the most attractive physical attribute I have ever seen on a female, and my eyes, then hands and, eventually, lips and tongue were able to get right into them in the pursuit of Natalie’s belated education in such matters. But during the holidays, something had happened to move her interest and expectations into what was by her standards fast forward. I eventually worked out that some 20 year old guy who her parents knew and thought would make a good husband had tried coming on heavy with her. She had successfully resisted, but realised that she would need her act together before the next holidays if she was going to get any real choice in how her life turned out. There was no way she could escape the message she had been given all her life that her primary goal was to find and serve a husband, but she at least had managed to keep alive a dream that it should be a man of her choosing. If she hadn’t been so much prettier than Hayden and Warren, I doubt she could have held the place in our walk home’s lower order that came to provide her with me as an unthreatening educator in matters which would never be raised by her parents.

By the time we got to her place for the Thursday stop, she had made clear that she needed to understand male arousal. We got out of our school gear as usual and for the first time in her company, I kept going as though I was going to bed and presented myself naked and unexcited before her still pantie and bra-clad body. I explained that most males who found themselves in my position would have already had a roaring erection, but that as I had already become accustomed to seeing even her tits, that there was also a role for manual stimulation which I showed her how to apply to a dick which was barely starting to show signs of early pubertal growth. I tried to explain that my dick would before too long be almost the size of a grown man’s my comparison to her own experiences of puberty and quickly discovered that her knowledge of her own downstairs anatomy was hopelessly incomplete. After her attentive fumblings had finally brought me to yet another dry climax, and I had explained about the semen that would be coming one day, I finally removed her panties and gave her genitals the first manual simulation they had ever received, but it took until the next Thursday for me to get her to orgasm using oral stimulation.

Meanwhile, cricket had got started and I was invited to try out for our local association’s Under 14 representative team which was to play an annual fixture against a team from an association in the southern highlands and which served as a lead up for the extra competitions provided for more advanced junior cricketers during the summer. I knew about it from Hayden who had got into it all two years earlier, but was still pleased to get my invitation and even more pleased when I turned up at the first trial session to reacquaint myself with Jarod Kendall who I hadn’t seen since he had disappeared from our club soon after the start of what should have been his final Under 12 year. As somebody who likes to keep track of everything around me, I felt a real heel that I did not have the faintest idea what had happened to Jarod in the interim but he soon and willingly brought me up to date. His family had long planned to go on a 12 month round Australia trip and decided that it would fit perfectly with moving house. “Like you, we moved up market, but we had to go four suburbs rather that the four blocks it took you,” he explained. He had dropped out of Under 12s because he could not finish the season and we had other kids looking for a game, then when he got back from their year away, a couple of phone calls had established that our numbers were still high but that the club around the corner from his new place had been short all season in Under 14s. In the few games left after the previous summer holidays, he had quickly found his best touch ever and became their automatic nomination for combined trials. By the end of that first two hour session Jarod and I were back to being even closer than he had been as one of our five guests for my ninth birthday.

Friday afternoons had remained the Warren and Blake last wicket partnership which kicked off with a big session with Buster out in the back park and finished up with us grabbing a snack and lazing around chatting until often quite late. Mainly it was me telling him stories of my adventures which he found to be a real turn on, even while the physical side of our relationship remained simply affectionate and conspiratorial. Those story telling sessions eventually made it a lot easier to write this book in a couple of ways: firstly forcing me to sort through and organise the many fragmented memories of my early years, even recovering a few which had been blocked by the darkness of sixth grade; and filling Warren’s thirst for detail to the point of making him a great help with the task of recollecting and editing this story. However, in that last of the four school terms I was to share with Warren before he headed to university, my objective to turn our relationship into something more had become more urgent, and had me planning and telling my stories in a sequence intended to overcome his reserve. I had covered my life up to the end of grade six before the holidays and so was ready to start that final term with the summer long orgy of Bermagui, with which I quickly decided to mix the even more current story of my education of Natalie.

The Thursday after I had brought on her first orgasm, it was Natalie’s turn to give me some education on the messy side of the female sexual cycle and the equipment used to mop up. This provided us with an excuse for a very clinical discussion of the general yuckiness of physical intimacy and we agreed that neither of us could see any attraction in adding any other excretory functions to produce the kind of dirty mix that was an occasional subject of schoolyard speculation. Buster and I left Warren and Nat alone for longer than ever before, until our eventual return gave her an excuse to head home. They had both looked a bit more warm and animated than they had together previously and I presumed, correctly, that it was the first awakenings of mutual attraction and not yet based on any physical contact. It took less than five minutes of a Bermagui dolly bird story to find myself giving Warren head for the first time in his life and, displaying the sensitivity that keeps us friends, he was more than happy to reciprocate. Without ever having been brain washed on such matters, Warren was very comfortable with the prospects of a life as a good husband and father, and saw his bit of playing around with Hayden and now me as a safe way to build up his knowledge of life in the liberal eastern suburbs of Sydney. The next night Buster got only a short run before Warren and I were back inside for a much longer one that thoroughly covered much of the ground that had been skipped the previous night.

Even if you have never done it before, there is not much in life more boring that the drive out of Sydney on the Hume Highway, even when it brought together twelve of the best Under 14 cricketers in our local association who crowded together down the back of the mini-bus provided for the occasion, comfortably separated from the small knot of officials up near the driver. As I had got to know most of the kids passably over the years, I was happy to sit with Jarod in the front most seat of the players group and continue our long process of catching up. However, I gradually found myself caught up with snatches of the only other first year Under 14 in the team trying to big note his sexual exploits to the older kids, most of whom I thought to be fairly reserved. I had only heard Gary Marshall’s reputation as a cricketer but had never actually met him before the trials and didn’t have any cause to speak to him there, so allowed myself a little surprise that he was wagering, based on his claims regarding some girl, that he could kiss longer than anybody there. Needless to say there were no takers, but he kept at it to the point of starting to grate, so I warned Jarod: “I’ll bet he’ll back down, but if I’m wrong I might need you to cover for me.”

I got up, turned round and extended my hand: “Gary.” “Blake.” “I was getting a little tired of your bullshit, so thought I should give you a chance to settle your wager.” The boys on the back seat melted past us to block the view from up front and neither of us backed down. After ten minutes, the captain declared a draw because we were getting close enough to our destination that one of the officials might soon head down to talk to us. Jarod must have had a quiet word to a few and most of our teammates took it as nothing more than two leading first year players trying some oneupmanship, although the wicketkeeper and his teammate spin bowler tried to make in conspicuous that they were avoiding us and mumbled the standard insults whenever Gary or I happened to pass within hearing range. Gary and I also kept out of each other’s way for the rest of the day, that is other than the fifteen overs we found ourselves batting together in the middle of our innings. At such games you are expected to build up an understanding with the other batsman by talking mid-pitch at every change of overs—it was just that the state of the game never entered our conversations. Quickly establishing that we did not mind in the least what had happened in the bus, we went on to agree that, with neither of us likely to be needed to fill in for our respective senior teams the following Saturday afternoon, that he would use the excuse provided by both his morning and afternoon teams visiting us to stay over at lunchtime: “We could then head down the beach for the arvo to see what we can pick up.”

On the next Thursday I fucked Natalie at her request. It was the most clinical fuck I have had since before I was seduced by Cherie Vander, devoid even of the over acted romantics of the worst of the dolly bird nights at Bermagui. While the smallness of my dick limited penetration, I still had the skills to get us both to orgasm, even without any show of warmth, but helped in no small part by Natalie’s very high level of sexual sensitivity, which I saw turning her from virginal to monogamously nymphomaniac within a few short weeks—a prospect which made me fearful for the health of Warren’s back. In true form, she had me go back over every detail in serious discussion which eventually brought us round to the question of contraception, at which I loaned her a couple of condoms “to get you started” without me being asked why I bothered carrying them. She raked over the coals until it was way past the time we were expected to be at Warren’s and it became clear that she really did not want to go there that day because her mind was far from settled. I finally persuaded her that she should put in a five minute appearance and use the excuse that we had been held up by an unexpected call that meant she had to get back quickly.

Warren and I took Buster for a short hard run together during which I brought him up to date on Natalie’s education and warned him to expect that once she got her claws into him she would never let go. He was quite looking forward to the prospect. Next night Buster and I had to go on a long reconnoitre and when I finally got back to Warren’s I found him in his room in the process of mounting some of my mother’s handiwork ready to display on his wall: “Mum did a pretty good job with that one, getting the mag to give her the full centre fold, didn’t she?” “Whose mum?” “What? ... My mum, of course. ... Hey, don’t tell me you didn’t know and you’re actually a fan.” “I think they’re great ... the guitarist is super cool.” My head was shaking in disbelief: “The guitarist ... Lucas Coulter ... my friend Lukie from Bermagui ... who the fuck do you think I’ve been telling you about for the last few weeks?” His head had caught the shaking problem and I glanced at the partly dismembered mag long enough to remind myself: “Do you want to drive us up to their gig at Bondi Beach on Sunday week. Mum always has a few spare passes. We can take Hayden and Sean, and I might have another passenger you don’t know about yet.” He finally found a point to reenter the conversation: “You mean the Sean from Bermagui. I haven’t met him yet either.” “You will next Friday night. Buster and I have just been out finalising those arrangements.” “But what about Natalie?” “You might be fucking her by then, but it is likely to take a year before she can get things sorted out enough at home that you two can actually start dating.” The banter became physical and soon sexual, though no more so than a week earlier and more relaxed, concluding with a promise I desperately wanted but hadn’t expected: “The day after I fuck Natalie, I am going to fuck your arse exactly the way Lucas did the first time.”

Saturday afternoon saw both my club and our opponents for the round with a surplus of players, so Walshie agreed to lock Gary’s and my cricket bags away safely while I gave my now friendly rival a look around the area. Before long we were at the beach where his performance was so expert I had to concede the claims he had made in the lead up to our session on the bus. I struggled to half match his skill in the waves which quickly attracted the two young ladies he was targeting. My only contribution to our performance was knowing the side track to a safe hideaway where we could give them everything they had ever wanted except bigger dicks. Having seen them safely onto their bus, we had plenty of time to detour via my place and introduce Gary to mum to whom he diplomatically spilled the essence of what we had been up to. Seeing as we were going to be in the same situation the next week, I asked if he would like to stay over and then go with us to Lukie’s gig at Bondi Beach on Sunday after which we could drop him home. After again establishing that yes, we did know that Lucas Coulter, it was all agreed, except that I insisted it was mum’s turn to tell the story of how well she knew Lukie, and she wasn’t quite ready for that.

Tuesday was usually a rather indifferent trek home for our “test team” as nobody was in a real rush, nor did they have enough free time to get up to much of interest. I kept it as the night for short instalments and a moderately long walk with Buster. But on this of all Tuesdays when the tail was getting ready to mount a real charge, we received an unexpected reminder of how rapidly the end of our first innings was approaching. The last six of us had stalled deep in conversation at the separation point before Natalie’s and suddenly out of the blue, two grade six boys walked straight up to us and introduced themselves to the other five with surprisingly firm handshakes and: “We hope we’ll be welcome to walk to and from school with you guys next year.” I had kind of known the two of them second hand through my gang of earlier years and later through various members of the tackers, so I just exchanged nods and civil smiles, before realising that my companions had been thrown a bit by such a brazen breach of pecking order and tried to lighten it a bit: “You’ll have to do without Warren’s company. As young as he might look, he’ll be off to university, but I’m sure my friends will eventually make you as welcome as they have made me this year,” and suppressed my urge to add that they might have as much to teach us as we would to teach them. At least the intrusion quelled some of the nervous expectations which were running between the last four members of the old year’s team, to the point that I was able to set Warren and Hayden up with enough minutes to themselves while Buster and I again hit the back park.

Two days on it was the change at Natalie’s routine which this time was stripped down to just enough time for my lips to turn on her nipples and for me to remark on how much her breasts still turned me on. On our short walk down to Warren’s I again explained about the adventures I went on with Buster via the back park and that I might not be back before she wanted to go home. I timed our return for five minutes after the time she had always “had to go” on other Thursdays, and was pleased she was still there to give me a thank you kiss before leaving. As soon as he was back from walking her back up to her house, Warren lifted up his shirt and turned to show me his back: “How bad are they?” “Three of them are bleeding a bit.” A wry smile crossed his lips: “She bled a bit too.” “I trust you will be recovered enough for tomorrow night.” “Oh shit, my mind has been otherwise occupied. That’s right. Sean is coming over. But hang on. Didn’t I promise you something else. Which will it be?” “Both. But don’t worry. I’m sure you will survive. ... Hey man. I forgot too. Congratulations!” I gave him a real kiss and was very careful where I put my hands, but it was time for me to go too.

For those who have got this far into this book, most details of the following evening’s activities will be self evident. Buster and I rendezvoused with Sean at one of the other entrances to the back park and got back to Warren’s in time to find his rumpus room set up for a party with drinks and nibbles already on the table and the first of his two brand new CDs just starting to blast through the speakers. The imp observed that Warren “does his research too.” I realised that he must have ducked off from school during a spare to do a bit of shopping. We orgied until eleven, then the two who had to be up for cricket in the morning adjourned to the safety of separate rooms at my place.

We managed to tie the cricket match next morning—the only tie I have ever played in. Then Gary and I were off to a different beach with the same result, before getting back to our club house in time for the end of the senior games and the normal after match goings on. We split from there soon after our club’s best player awards for the round were announced and headed to my place where I at least won one point by knocking up a passable meal. Prior to sitting down for that meal, we had not said much at all about the rest of our lives away from cricket and my immediate circle of mum and close friends who Gary had run into, so I suggested he should start by telling me about his home life and see what else we might share. I soon found his story as interesting as it was different.

Gary’s mother had used an honours year to extend her stay in Australia while she birthed and weaned him in total secret from her family to whose culture she then returned, never to be seen or heard from again save some or other intriguing gift which appeared via his paternal grandparents each May. With birthdays only a week apart, it was doubly unusual for the two of us to be the stand out cricketers of our age group ahead of others more than six months older. In Gary’s case his father made the difference both in terms of heredity where dad was a high achiever both academically and in sport, and in terms of nurturing where dad took on the task of raising Gary as a single parent while still a graduate student and continued to give him quality time to help his sporting and academic development. Through Gary’s pre-school years in Canberra, they at least had the back up of his paternal grandparents who he still visited for a week or so in most holidays, but when it was almost time for him to start school, dad got a “once in a lifetime” career opportunity to move to Sydney, and Gary’s first real memory is of participating as a four and a half year old equal in the decision that his dad should take the job and that he would go with him. That move was made very much easier by an accidental meeting on their first day of flat hunting with a professional woman who was also the single parent of what Gary still remembers as the most beautiful almost ten year old boy he has ever seen, who had settled into a modest apartment in a block where they had gone to check out a possible temporary rental place and finished up buying the unit right next to the woman and her son Adam. The apartments remain just big enough for a successful single parent with only child, but more than make up for that with their location in the inner east. His grandparents never seriously considered uprooting from either Canberra or their holiday shack at one of the secluded beaches that have become virtual Canberra suburbs south of Bateman’s Bay, as they had Gary’s uncles, aunts and increasingly cousins’ interests to balance. The other factor was that dad, and Adam’s mother, after the separate experimentations that had produced their sons, each settled comfortably into an exclusively, but only modestly active, gay lifestyle. While they did not closet that fact locally, it was never something that confronted the rest of their respective extended families. But their big secret was something he had not shared with anybody until that night: “Within weeks of moving in, Adam and I had become lovers, as, separately, had Adam and dad. In both cases it was the younger partner who made all the moves”, in Gary’s case because he had simply fallen head over heels for the older boy and quickly discovered what came naturally. He added that he had never touched another male prior to our wager on the bus, but that he expected that to change before the night was over.

“The strangest part of my relationship with Adam has been that whenever we talk about sex it is always about sex with girls, more particularly about my sexual activities with girls which his attentive ear soon provoked. I have been playing around with them since my very first year at school and I reckon my performance in that area is at least on a par with my cricket and my surfing.” I had seen nothing to make me disagree and his self-confidence in these matters came over as more endearing than brash. “But Adam never tried anything for himself. He showed absolutely no interest in girls except through me until he was no longer able to duck some of the dating games in his upper secondary years,” he continued. By my reckoning, Adam should have been finishing his final school year, but Gary explained that his mentor was spending the year in America on a student exchange program: “His last letter told me that he was getting a bit more deeply involved with a girl over there, so I’m sure in the fullness of time he will come to realise his dream to be happily married with children of his own.” I suddenly saw the strange inverse parallels to my relationship with Warren who was preparing to live the same dream but who had entered my life for the year that Adam was missing from Gary’s, so I told him a bit about our chauffeur to the next day’s gig which led to the story about our parallel story telling which might have almost got us into an infinite recursion if I had not been able to get him back onto his own story: “The toughest part of preparations for his year away was weaning dad and me off our respective relationships with him. If you hadn’t stuck your nose into my baiting the older kids on the bus, I probably would not have looked sideways at another bloke in this life time. But I’m anything but sorry that you did.” I made a mental note that when I found an excuse to make a return sleep over at his place, that he would have to make an excuse to go to bed early.

Well before our conversation petered out, we had separately sprawled naked across the big bed in our guest room, with the only stimulation we had exchanged being through our conversation. Next thing I noticed was waking with a light brown arm draped across me. Gary sensed my waking and immediately apologised for talking both of us to sleep. I didn’t care what time it was and spun myself to face him bringing our lips together and soon our hands and mouths were eagerly exploring and exciting each other’s bodies. A final shared climax caught the next wave of sleep which carried us safely until the sun searing through my guest room window had us dressing for a big breakfast and heading again for the beach. Gary claimed it would have been even easier to score at church on a Sunday morning, but I still don’t believe him after the ease with which he found and we fucked yet another pair of 14 year old beach girls.

We decided to head up to the gig an hour early. Hayden sat in Warren’s other front seat while Sean squeezed in between Gary and I in the back. My cursory introductions had not been quite enough for Gary and while he admitted knowing Hayden’s cricket reputation and to remembering my stories to Warren from the night before, he demanded an explanation for the presence of the “Under 12 kid” between us. Before I had a chance to say that Sean was a friend of Lukie and me from Bermagui, Sean provided a much more complete answer by arching his back off the seat so he could push his pants and undies down to below his knees in a single action, sitting back down with his flaccid dick laying in the groove between his thighs. Gary was mesmerised into placing his hand on Sean’s knee from where the tip of Gary’s little finger could brush the tip of Sean’s dick, bringing it to life. Within moments it was past Gary’s tonsils and my fingers were running through Gary’s hair and stimulating trigger points on his neck and shoulders. Fortunately we had got where we were going before we turned down the final hill into Bondi Beach and nobody in the passing traffic could have dreamed that we were anything other than three youngsters horsing around.

I talked Gary out of using the spare hour to hunt us up five beach girls, which was just as well, as by the time that had been settled Sean had disappeared and reappeared with the news that Lukie wanted Hayden and me to give the band a hand setting up and that he had promised to also deliver a couple of other suckers. I got Gary to help me with all the last minute extra promotional stuff while Hayden and Warren were coopted into the less familiar territory of actually helping the band move its gear in. I could not help but notice the often tentative and would-be cool Warren was really pitching in with physical work that I didn’t think his youthful body was up to and giving every indication of having a fair idea what he was doing. After the show was over, it was he who suggested that we should stick around to give them a hand packing up, and proceeded to lead the way. Lukie wanted us to take some of the promotional stuff back to our place so mum could sort it out, and I couldn’t help pinching myself when I saw Hayden bringing Warren’s car to a smooth stop right next to an equally familiar red sports car. Clearly, a few doubly illegal driving lessons were another of the unadvertised bonds between those two slightly older members of the tail of our “test team.” I formally introduced Lukie to Warren and Gary as Sean was swapping Gary’s cricket gear and overnight bag into the hatch: “seeing as Lucas has to drive past his door” and making room for us to pack the promo stuff. Lukie and Warren walked away from the rest of us to do the necessary transition from ‘you look ok’ to ‘you are ok’ but were soon back to announce to us kids and the other band members that they had just hired a new roadie. I thought for a moment that we might need Hayden’s recently acquired driving skills to get us home, but was quickly convinced that Warren was more than willing to take all his responsibilities as seriously as he had taken the unplanned opportunity to sell himself into his dream job.

Warren expected to be tied up with various activities surrounding the end of his school life for the rest of the week, so the tail had decided we should have a brief celebration of the end of our innings at Warren’s the next afternoon and even Natalie got official clearance to be there. We were just about to shake off a pair of precocious sixth graders when a red sports car with a couple of young passengers cruised passed waving. “Fuck me! That was Lucas Coulter.” I couldn’t resist announcing that fucking even him was off off off that afternoon’s menu. “Weren’t they great last night?” his mate added rhetorically and three of us realised that the two youngies must have seen us running our arses off at the concert and been cool enough not to press the point. However they had obviously put two and two together and got the kind of total I would expect from Sean and they beat us to Warren’s by the difference between running and walking. By the time we got there they had just about finished unloading the afternoon’s menu out of the hatch and onto Warren’s porch. With our planned hour more than up, I became the party pooper, taking Buster for his walk—on a lead—to Harris’s Sports Store where I arrived a minute before closing time and had some difficulty recalling many details of Saturday morning’s tie. By the time I got Buster home they had cleaned up and broken up, and Warren greeted me at the door with an extended hand which I shook manfully, then we looked into each other’s eyes and I cracked, which was too much for him, and we just stood in his doorway hugging each other and balling our eyes out.

Our Under 14 and Under 12 teams both had our official practice on Wednesday nights and that Wednesday two new faces showed up to practice with the Under 12s—those same two sixth graders who wanted to join our “test team” and who had crashed our mini-party at Warren’s on the Monday night. I almost always remember people by their real names even when I might use their nicks in conversation, but the nicks they got from Lukie—Chalk and Cheese—will always be the way I think of those two. While they always seemed to do everything together, they always played very different roles. We learnt that their mothers met at the maternity hospital where these two first borns had arrived on the same day and then discovered that they lived diagonally over the back fence from each other. I hadn’t even realised that our two Under 12 teams had been a bit tight on numbers in the early part of the season, but was hardly surprised that Graham Andrews had encouraged Sean to carry on the traditions of real captaincy that Hayden and I had established over the previous seasons and Sean had taken it on himself to do something about it when the opportunity arose to recruit the just twelve year old Chalk and Cheese straight “off the street” to play in his side and allow a younger boy who was struggling a bit to drop back to the tackers.

On the Sunday morning after the second day of our next Under 14 match, Gary called me to tell me about a bit of trouble he had got into with the wicketkeeper and the spin bowler from the combined side: “As soon as I came in, they brought the spinner on. His first ball was quicker and over-pitched outside the off stump and just as the blade of my bat set it on route to the cover point boundary, I heard the keeper whisper that he wanted me to give him a kiss. The shot was so good that I did, although certainly without any affection, and all hell broke loose. I finally established it had actually been a deliberate attempt to distract me enough that I would get out and it may have only failed by the half second that the keeper got his timing wrong by. In the wash up we have both been told that we are on report for bringing the game into disrepute. And while that was enough to shut them up, it didn’t stop me making my best score and getting us home. Now if you can beat them next round, we will both gain a good break on them, so I thought I should give you advance notice that they will probably try something similar with you, and that the keeper might have worked out how he got his timing wrong.”

I did a lot more bowling than I normally did at training on the next two Wednesdays, but as it turned out we batted on the first Saturday morning and the other part of my counterplan was brought into play. Troy had finished up captain because most of us were satisfied he would let the team run itself and he enthusiastically agreed that I could open the batting with Joey. I made sure I had strike for the first ball of the second over and after a heated discussion amongst our opponents, the spinner was brought straight into the attack. I adjusted my hearing circuits to record and ignore mode for everything but running calls and switched conscious control to my brain’s highly trained batting circuits. As soon as I confirmed that one aspect of their once-failed plan had not been changed, the spinner’s first ball went crashing into the cover point boundary. I then dropped back a notch to just keep the scoreboard ticking over for the balance of his first three overs. Before the start of his fourth, Joey met me midpitch with the news that if the spinner didn’t get a result that over that they would go back to their normal opener who was by then very visibly pissed off. I ensured the change by massacring that fourth over for more than I have ever managed off a single over, then Joey and I set the basis for a competitive team total, with Joey easily surpassing his best personal score.

On the following Saturday it was our turn to bowl and the rest of our team were more than happy to very audibly nickname me “Bunny Bowler”—a name that I was perversely very happy to see catch on and finally start to displace the loathed “Cap’n Marvel”. The wicketkeeper and the spinner were counted on to make a major contribution in the middle order at club level, but the over after the keeper came to the wicket our new Bunny Bowler was called to the crease. It took a couple of innocuous balls to turn the strike over and bring the keeper to face me and I tossed up another gimme which he thumped straight back at me. The reason I have never practised my bowling much was that it got in the way of fielding practice, and my catching didn’t let me down. This brought the spinner to the crease still convinced that my bowling brought no danger other than bad luck. I pulled out the ball I had kept in reserve since it embarrassed me so at the start of grade three and while he was probing outside the off stump, it was knocking his middle and leg stumps out of the ground. My final two balls were back to the safe balls I had perfected against Hayden all those years ago and I retreated to the field, leaving our reasonably competent bowling attack to mop up their tail. As they were packing to leave, Joey let their withheld opening bowler know that the real reason our team called me “Bunny Bowler” was that I specialised in getting rid of batting bunnies. I am sure it got back.

Next morning I rang Gary to give him the good news and invite myself to his place for my planned return visit. On the Monday after getting home from school, I headed as usual for the sports store where I filled Mr Harris in with the full story of some matters I had previously left out of my recent accounts of my cricket matches, from the bus ride to the combined game, through to the actual words whispered to me while the spinner was bowling. As a member of our local association executive, Walshie was able to confirm what he had seen at our game. However I knew by then that Mr Harris was well respected by many senior officials in local cricket and was one person I knew I could tell a few of the details without prejudice. The wheels of cricket administration turn slowly and, not to my surprise, Gary heard nothing more of the threatened charge, while the wicketkeeper and the spinner were never again selected for representative teams.

By the end of that week I had started to see signs of a slow down on the social front in anticipation of the silly season, so I opted to shorten my time with Buster and Warren in order to get to Walshie’s a bit before the time I was used to Joey and Troy landing there. I turned into Walshie’s drive to be confronted with Troy, sans Joey, who had seen me first: “Bunny.” “Cap’n,” which got him giggling as our role reversal was still something he had not completely come to terms with, so I probed: “You’re early.” “Very. I was just leaving.” I looked perplexed, and he willingly continued: “Joey and I have talked a bit about what you said a few weeks back about us just using Walshie and we now reckon it’s time we started to find our own entertainment, so I had really only come over to tell Walshie not to expect us later and have a yack about tomorrow’s game.” I was dumbfounded at the prospect of that last impossible dream coming true so suddenly, and left the opening for him to add a timely warning. “It’s really none of my business, but I felt that Walshie is a little uncomfortable with the prospect of having you around for extended periods by yourself without Joey’s presence to keep a bit of a check on you. I trust you really do care enough about him to tread with care.” For once in my life I understood and also understood that this friend in front of me, who I had never known whether to like or dislike, was starting to step out of the shadows: “The worst thing about this happy moment, is that I can’t see myself doing something I would very much like to do.” “And what might that be?” “To thank you in the only way I really know how—by giving you the biggest hug.” “Well, Joey isn’t here.” “I don’t really think we want to give Walshie’s neighbours any excuse to talk about little fags visiting him. ... Where were you heading from here?” “Actually to Joey’s to start what might be an impossibly long process of softening up his parents.” Desperately searching the local map in my head, I could see just one possibility: “Seeing as my reasons for getting here early just evaporated, I should show you a hidden track I found that can be much more interesting than the way you usually go.”

For the first time in ages, my mind flashed back three seasons to our Under 12 premiership when Hayden was captain, and which we celebrated with the sleepover at Troy and his next door neighbour’s place: “You know that crazy bet we won with you guys a year ago. You were just playing for time when you suggested it might take years to decide weren’t you?” “Yeah, I was just as certain as you that it would be decided that afternoon, but I thought we were going to win it. It was only later I realised that you must have seen that risk and only made the bet because you knew all about Lickety and Hades.” “Well it was the first time he had gone all the way, so there was some risk there and Joey being Joey made it hard to remember that you could obviously get anything you wanted next door whenever you felt like it.” “And I had every intention of dragging you all over to my place to do just that, but, you know, I’m really glad I lost my reason to. It would have certainly undermined Joey’s trust in me, and as much as I get this strange kick out of Joey being Joey, I also knew he was going to have to start discovering there were some limits to what he could get away with with other people.” “So how do you survive being next door to a nympho who’s into twelve year olds?” “Well I sensed what she was like from the welcome she provided when we moved in, but we both realised without talking about it that me satisfying her dreams could become a dangerous habit. So it has become a kind of game between us, in which I know her door is always open for me and I play on it enough to feed her fantasies.” “Yet that afternoon, you would have crossed the line without a second thought?” “And would have been left with the same nagging doubts that I am sure Lickety and Hades still have about the circumstances of their first.” “But those doubts have actually made them closer. ... So when did you finally walk through her open door?” “I still haven’t, but ...” he conspicuously slipped his hand inside his pants to fondle himself “... I expect it will be sooner rather than later.” The next part of my chosen track was largely overgrown and disrupted by some illegal rubbish dumping and appropriations by adjacent landowners, so we had to let the subject drop.

A few minutes later, I was pointing out where he could get back onto a street he would recognise only a block and a half from Joey’s, and I was rapidly realising that all the walking and talking had removed the spontaneity from the prospect of a ten second hug. Seeing as we were close by one of my little hideaways, I gave him a sharp flick on the bum: “You’re it,” and he reflexively chased me to a spot where he could see I was cornered. He cautiously closed in, assuming I would try to feint past him back into open space; but when he finally moved to tag me, instead of ducking away, I grabbed and upended him into a patch of lush grass and landed gently on top of him. Just as quickly I rolled us onto our sides and feigned tiredness: “After all that walking, I need some energy back to hug you with.” Troy’s giggles returned, so I rolled another ninety degrees and dropped my hands to my sides so he could flee. Instead of fleeing, he calmed instantly and propped himself on his arms so he could stare straight into my eyes while pushing his fingers under my shoulder blades. Never breaking the stare, he lowered his face until the tips of our noses touched at which point I reflexively hugged his chest. The contact point of two squashed noses became a pivot until his lips brushed mine for a moment before he sprung off me to a standing position, offering his hands to help me up. This time we really hugged just the way I had wanted to outside Walshie’s, then split and headed off to explore our new Friday night arrangements.