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 36: Mardi Gras

It was supposed to be a quiet free Sunday before the cricket finals, but it seemed that half our world had hung around till or drifted in by lunchtime which found mum and increasingly me plying them with food. For their local gigs, the band hired a van from an outfit in Mascot, so Lucas got the job of picking it up because he could always find some bed or other down our way in the early hours and from there he could also pick up their road crew of Warren and Davo, as our boarder was happier to be called, as well as any extra promotional gear they might need from our place. Sean had arrived with Lukie and Warren, while Hayden had turned up independently, both intending to get me to go to the beach with them, and Walshie had dropped in expecting a quiet natter with mum. As I handed him a drink, he said that he had been meaning to pass on to me for ages that Joey Mantari had accepted my message in the spirit it had been sent. “It just goes to prove one of my theories of life—you don’t have to like all your friends.” Feeling several pairs of eyes glaring at me, I quickly added: “But I don’t apply that to my lovers. Speaking of which another donation to the club development fund should have turned up recently.” “Actually two ... but I think the much bigger one might be from the same place as one of the early ones. Anyway the one from Seattle is still a bit more than the rest but together—hope you didn’t have to do anything we wouldn’t do.” I’d expected it might have been much less after he had discounted the bell hop: “They must have used a Pentium to calculate the exchange rate,” I joked at the same time as thinking to myself it’s about time somebody got something back for all the shit software they inflict on the world. But I was genuinely concerned about the unexpected double payment and asked if it was from the north coast. “Lismore, I think.” “I’d better send some e-mail.”

By the time I got back, our unplanned party looked like it was starting to break up. “Just before we all go, I’ve decided that I want to go openly to the Mardi Gras parade and party and was hoping a few of my ... friends ... might be prepared to show a bit of solidarity.” To my complete surprise, mum jumped in immediately, and Sean suggested he could probably get his mum to come too. The band was actually booked for a private alternate party after the parade. Lucas said he could swing up to twenty extra tickets and that we might find it a bit more to our taste that the official party. Only Hayden had any reservations but he agreed that we take a circuitous route to and from the beach that afternoon to see how many other of our friends we could rope in.

A couple of days later I received a reply to my cryptic e-mail:

Subject: Re: U shouldn’t’ve

Brett came home to me on Christmas Day for keeps.

If I hadn’t had your advice, I probably would not have been here for him.

Nothing could ever repay that, but I trust you will be able to make appropriate use of my modest token of appreciation.

After putting the second load of hankies in the dryer, I forwarded the message to the Perth lawyer who had been the ultimate source of much of my advise, appending an equally cryptic. “Fuck women :-) —B”

Even though we tried to keep it private, organising the group that was going to the Mardi Gras, became a significant distraction inside and outside school. I thought all was going smoothly until Joey fronted me—I automatically assumed because he wanted to get on his high horse and tell us how evil it all was. I could not have been more wrong—he actually wanted to come with us: “Not that I’m gay or anything, but this thing’s bigger than that.” For once in his life he was spot on, but the prospect of him coming presented more problems than if he had publicly announced that we were all faggots, because there was absolutely no way that his parents could ever find out. The only answer we could find was that he would have to appear to be somewhere else that was perfectly safe for the night and that field very quickly narrowed down to Troy Wilkins who proved to be equally keen to join our Mardi Gras party. Hayden got his licence and some wheels during the week and with them his reluctance to join us vanished, especially after Felicity bashed her way to the front of the organising group, and he and I reckoned we might still have enough sway with Peter Wilkins from our long ago season together in Under 12s that we could get Troy’s parents in on our conspiracy. That all went smoothly until somebody remembered the telecast, and none of us were sure enough about spots out of the range of prying cameras that we had no choice but to agree with Felicity’s proposal that Joey would have to really join the spirit of the parade and wear an unrecognisable costume. Someone else realised that it would be just as bad if Troy was spotted, so he would have to get dressed up too.

With only our senior eleven in the finals, Peter was able to collect Joey from his home mid-afternoon and drop him and Troy at Felicity’s where she had costumes ready and would help them get into them. Hayden was going to pick up Felicity, Joey and Troy as soon as he could get away from his own cricket and we were all to rendezvous at a prearranged spot a couple of blocks back from Oxford Street before heading for the parade viewing area. Even those who knew exactly what was planned could not believe their eyes when Hayden helped three stunning women out of his car and escorted them in our direction. The job Felicity had done with Joey was amazing and Troy was an absolute stunner. Having hardly seen them since the day I first proposed the Mardi Gras expedition, Warren and Natalie hadn’t been kept up to date on some of the details, and she was into him almost immediately for being unable to get his eyes off Troy, until we couldn’t keep from laughing any longer.

Almost as soon as we found a reasonable viewing spot on the parade route, the crowd seemed to close in around us. Jarod Kendall was at first almost beside himself seeing his mates of old cross-dressed, but even he settled into the mood of the evening until, unconsciously scanning the crowd opposite he nudged Joey and stage whispered: “Don’t look know, but isn’t that your parents straight across from us.” Jarod had once known them pretty well and they hadn’t changed that much over the years, and suddenly there was panic in the camp. It took Warren to settle things down with the indisputable observation that not even their parents would recognise them in their current outfits. Then Felicity floored us with a completely different take on the situation, suggesting that seeing as Mr and Mrs Mantari were obviously broadminded enough to come to the Mardi Gras then they were sure to appreciate what a good job she had done cross-dressing the boys. The three of them were almost under the barricades when I realised I had to take some responsibility in a way I have become very reluctant to do: “Lickety, NO. Just think for a minute. You go to all this trouble to dress the boys up like no one could believe, because we had all agreed that there is no way the Mantaris could accept Joey coming to the Mardi Gras. Then they are left at home without him to worry about and they decide to have an evening out. They look up What’s On and decide Bankstown’s too far to hear Keating’s capitulation and everything else is Mardi Gras. So with absolutely no concerns about their own sexuality they decide to come and have a look at the parade for exactly the same reason that Joey originally wanted to come—because this thing’s bigger than anything. Now you want to go over there and confront them with their precious son and his trusted mate dressed as girls, even as absolutely fabulous a job as we all recognise that you have done, and they will either die on the spot or they will kill him and maybe you two with him.” “I’m afraid Blake’s right, it’s not the kind of thing they could ever be told about until I’m safely married, but I will want to tell them then so I hope Corey’s pictures turn out ok and we can put them away safely till that day comes. It probably means Troy will have to be my best man so he can tell the story at my wedding.” “Bridesmaid more likely,” Warren chipped in and got a good kick in the shin from Natalie who I really thought should have known better than to react to Warren’s occasional flirtation with boys. I could see Felicity was still peeved, so I gave Hayden a quick glance that was intended to move the responsibility for her happiness from me to him, seeing as there was nothing I could do or say at that stage which she would accept. Fortunately the parade soon started to appear in the distance and we were generally swept up in the spirit of things.

We somehow managed to keep our group together and found our way to the venue for our party. The door staff looked as though they maybe should question Nicholas O’Donnell and Robbie Vander, but they were obviously with Sean and me and we were with our mothers. Warren, Davo, mum and I were waving official band staff passes. Our whole group had the right tickets and we were soon all inside. Mum and Mrs Douglas gave the place a thorough once over, decided they had seen a lot worse, interrupted Lukie’s tuning up for a minute’s chat and were gone to join Walshie and Mr Harris for coffee somewhere much quieter, leaving half our gang in a place they had never dreamed existed. I was sure everybody had made it, but now couldn’t see any sign of Troy and assumed he must have gone off to get changed, although Joey and Felicity were still taking the place in. I had a vague thought that it would be a pity if Troy had got changed as his costume might have given him a better chance of getting some action. After about half an hour Joey, still in drag, grabbed my shoulder and asked what he should do if some lesbian tried to make a move on him. “Tell her very quickly that you are a boy dressed up as a girl so that your parents wouldn’t know you had come to the parade and that you are waiting for your mate to get back with your clothes so that you can change back. Also ask her to keep it quiet ’cause you don’t want to precipitate a stampede of horny faggots. Then if you like the look of her you could add that if that’s cool by her, it’s cool by you.” Keeping my eye on Joey and making sure that I appeared to be with either Davo or Warren most of the time so I wouldn’t get hassled, I completely lost track of where Sean and Nicholas might have got to, and knowing the two of them I didn’t really want to know. One thing Joey had was a good memory for detail and the first couple of older women who approached him soon walked away smiling gently, but then when another a bit younger, but still at least ten years older than him, passed his way, the next thing I knew they were into it and soon off to one of the private rooms.

The early action concentrated on the bar, the lounge areas and increasingly the dance floor as Lukie’s band started to warm up. Being national election night they had also placed some TV monitors away from the line of site from the main performance areas, but the result was already clear so nobody was taking much notice until ex-Prime Minister Keating came on with his concession speech. The band cut for a break and ran the TV sound through their amps without actually being booed off stage, and I was more impressed with Keating in defeat than I had been previously until I realised that what I should be thinking about was tracking down his now out of work speech writer to see if he might be available to do some work for our clients. Not long after, the band cut again for Howard to claim victory, but this time the crowd was quickly abuzz. It turned out that this surprising response had absolutely nothing directly to do with the new Prime Minister who most were as indifferent to as they were hostile to the old, but had everything to do with the handsome young man who appeared to be hogging centre stage beside him. The rumour mill quickly established that it was the new PM’s 15 year old son, and a wit’s exclamation: “There’s hope yet. A boy in the Lodge,” brought the house down.

Joey had been gone more than long enough to have found out a fair bit more of what life is about, and eventually returned with his outfit looking considerably the worse for wear. Felicity tried to straighten a few bits to little effect when finally in waltzed Troy, fully cleaned up and changed and tossed their shared clothes bag to Joey apologising for being so long before collapsing back to his giggly worst. I told him very quietly that I knew he hadn’t taken all that time to get changed and he told me between giggles that I would never know. I said I didn’t care if I ever knew, but that if he wanted to do us all a favour and really had some deep dark secret, then he should share it privately with Felicity who was still peeved about not being able to show them off, and who would benefit from such a sincere expression of appreciation. “Seeing it was her handiwork that got you whatever you scored, maybe you might realise that it can be good to share even your darkest secret with somebody you can totally trust.” At least I managed to quiet his giggling and gave Hayden another meaningful glance to make sure that Troy and Felicity could get a bit of space, which they found to my surprise on the dance floor where the less adventurous of our group had already spent much of the night. I was starting to double check whether we really would find everybody when it was time to go home and didn’t notice Troy come back over to me until he put his arm around my shoulder and whispered: “I really have to thank you too for everything. There are a couple of things that I’m sure I’ll never tell you, but I would really like to be able to stay over at you place say next Saturday night just to make sure we will stay friends from now on.” I only had time to nod ok, when I spotted Sean run across the stage, whisper in Lukie’s ear and run off, and I knew that while we now probably hadn’t lost anybody that the party may have only just begun.

Before the next song, Lucas made an introductory announcement: “On our very first album we dedicated three songs to a very big little boy, who just happens to be here with us tonight—not quite so little any more and much bigger still. He has even agreed to put on a special act for the Mardi Gras while we play his songs.” As the music started, Warren and Davo manhandled a large imitation marble column from the corner of the stage to the centre of the dance floor and then bunked Sean up to the top of the column in the full glare of the spot lights. What followed must have been the grossest public act ever seen. Amongst even my bizarre dreams I had never even thought of the possibility of somebody doing a pirouette at the same time as having an orgasm. I even stopped loving the brat for a few minutes but the fags adored ogling his ever longer dick and slurping his spray from wherever they found it. I was for once very glad that he did not go to the same school as the rest of us. At the climax of his bracket he simply jumped off the pillar and they killed the lights for long enough for him to be whisked away to safety, and then as the lights came up again I heard Lukie’s announcement that I had been dreading: “Our whole second album was dedicated to another young man who is also with us tonight, and while I haven’t asked him I am sure performing as required is written into his contract.” I tried to disappear into a crack but found myself firmly pinned between Warren and Davo. Conceding resistance was useless, I reluctantly allowing myself to be lifted to the top of the column. At least there I though it would be impossible for them to make me do anything I didn’t want to do. I also could not really see how any songs on the second album could possibly require an act as gross as the one which had preceeded me, but I was still relieved when they broke into ‘Cap’n Sez’, even if it had one small section of the crowd immediately rolling on the floor. I gradually got into the act, giving directions to the crowd from the top of the column, but I took a while to realise how easy it was to adapt the simple lyrics of that song to the needs of almost any audience, and this audience was soon feeling under the covers when the original had them fielding in the covers. From there it wasn’t far to a mass orgy all over the floor, although I’m still sure a fair few were faking it, and the heat of the spotlights eventually forced me to start shedding clothes. I failed to notice that the band had also stripped and my mind had gone into spectator mode by the time they finally wound the song out. They played with the lights as Lucas resumed his announcements: “We’d like to thank you all for coming, especially Sean for sharing his cumming with us,” as they hoisted him from nowhere, and still naked but now as unaroused as me, up to join me on the top of the column, “and I just really wanted you all to know that these two handsome young men are two of the best friends I’ve got in the whole world.” Lukie was hoisted to join us, equally naked, and dropping the microphone as the cord ran out. He wrapped his arms around us and we did likewise as he whispered: “As the top of the column starts to crumble, let go and throw yourselves backwards. Don’t worry, you’ll be safely caught and we will be out of here before the lights come back up.” We did and it worked as promised and the next thing I saw was the whole of our gang plus the band in a securely locked room, some of us being shoved clothes to get back into, while muffled chants for “More” filtered through the walls. Nobody quite knew where to look, and Lucas, nearly dressed, made his final announcement for the night absolving me from blame for what we had got into and thanking Sean for being so totally gross, promising he could have his arse any time. Troy started giggling and it quickly spread and the whole crowd were laughing and back slapping. Some drinks and snacks appeared and for a while we were able to unwind before it was considered safe for us to be snuck out the back to a seeming fleet of limos for the trip home. Everybody was sorry for Hayden having to be dropped at his car, so I offered to pass the limo ride and give him some company. He knew what was eating me and assured me that it was completely cool with everyone and that we should both just get some sleep and get some runs the next day.

I had had a pretty good cricket season personally, although I was disappointed that my junior and rep sides had just missed out on their respective finals. In fact our club had to be content with only one side in the finals, largely because we were now in the top grade of the local competition at all levels. But seeing as that one team was our senior eleven, the mood around the club remained really buoyant, even if nobody seriously gave us a chance of getting past the semi. The selectors were well aware of our Mardi Gras expedition, and I told them it would not worry me if they wanted to bring a senior player back in my place for the business end of the season as I had not been doing anything special since the runs I got in my first couple of games up. They decided to take more notice of my junior form and allowed that I wouldn’t write myself off and would have plenty of time to sleep in. So I eventually found my way to the crease on what was shaping as the last time for the season with our score at three for not many and needing almost 300 more off 50 odd overs—the kind of position that nobody in their right mind seriously expects to win from.

I let the first ball go through to the keeper, dabbed the next through point for a couple then pushed the next past the bowler for two more, suddenly feeling completely comfortable. Any serious batter knows that the worst thing you can do is feel comfortable too early—next thing you cop a good ball and you’re out of there. But part of me was still at the Mardi Gras and those rules and self-discipline could not reach my conscious mind. The strangest thing was that everyone told me later that I never looked like getting out. I just continued batting without a care and try as the bowlers might every shot I played found the middle of the bat. I still wasn’t strong enough to thump boundaries with any kind of regularity, but my timing must have been near perfect as we only had to run just over half my runs, and the scoreboard was soon ticking along nicely. Our worst problem was that the batsmen at the other end kept trying to take a leaf out of my book and got themselves out doing it, at least until Davo came in at number nine with us still needing over a hundred. He got me past my century which I was chided for not acknowledging but by then I was in a deep trance, and while that should have been enough for me to relax and get out, for some reason I will never properly understand, I just kept rolling along. Davo was still there at the end as we ran three with the scores level. I hadn’t spoken a word to him except when calling runs, but we high fived as we crossed for the first, and when the ball was finally being thrown back to the bowler, I walked down to speak to him mid-pitch, put my arm around him and started to walk off the ground. He realised my thoughts instantly and asked: “Don’t you want to get your two hundred? There’s five overs left.” I told him if I faced another ball I would get out so I couldn’t see the point: “I feel like I’ve been watching this performance from somewhere else ... pulling the strings ... it was absolutely awesome ... but I don’t really think it is something I ever want to do again.” We reached the boundary, still arm in arm. He was equally exhausted having done some really hard physical work at the party and I think we would have both fallen over if we had let go.

I still don’t drink, never have, never will. But as soon as I got another chance to speak to Davo, I told him he had to start sneaking me vodkas and orange or anything else where I wouldn’t taste the alcohol, because I had this ghost inside me that I had to exorcise. I also asked him to make sure I got home. Hayden turned up later fresh from a big ton for his Pennant club—I know because I’ve seen the pictures of the two of us together. But the next thing I remember was waking up when the sun hit my window and seeing Davo sitting on the end of my bed staring into space: “Hey man, I didn’t think you could bat like that ... gunna do it again next week huh?” He turned and smiled: “Your back with us?” “I haven’t been any place else.” “So, what time do you think it is?” I knew than one—could pick it almost to the minute by the angle of the sun on the drapes. “And what day?” “Monday, the day after Sunday, when you and I belted them all over the park.” “Hey, you’re the one who did any belting, I just pushed it around to turn over the strike, and I think your little effort was a bit more elegant than would deserve to be called ‘belting’ ... but, my little friend and lover, you are wrong about one thing ... it is now Tuesday, not Monday ... you’ve been out of it for thirty-three hours and we were starting to get a bit worried.” “I can believe that ... just what did you fix my drinks with?” “Actually just a dash of soda and bitters, so you would think you were getting what you had asked for, but you were already so far gone I could not have risked what you asked me to do.” “So the ghost might be still there.” “Hopefully, a day and a half in a deep trance will have got your synapses back in order ... Why don’t you go and tell Elaine that you’ve revived? She will be very relieved and will no doubt have a lot to catch up with you about.” I did and she did.

The next weekend, while our cricket season was effectively coming to an inglorious but overdue end to which Davo and I contributed a streaky 50 partnership, Troy came over to stay as promised, bringing with him a framed enlargement of one of Corey French’s photos of him dressed up for the Mardi Gras and looking an absolute stunner. On the back he had scrawled simply: “Thanks Mate.” Apart from a couple of fridge raids, we spent the night in my room, starting out by playing a couple of old CDs which really set the mood. It was a night which was indescribably wonderful, but the details of which easily slip from your mind—what I have come to call a ‘light sex’ night in which you do most things at some stage but always as part of a game and in a sense of fun. I’m sure I giggled even more than he did. And in the end he still would not tell me in words just what he had scored in those missing hours a week earlier, but I’m certain he had told me the essence of it through his actions.

A mid-week Sydney downpour disturbed my sleep just enough for me notice a small soaked figure sheltering outside the glass doors that provide a back entrance for Davo and me. Two clearly wanted to give me the impression that he had snuck out for some adventuring and needed my collaboration to ensure his wet clothes did not give him away after he snuck back into his place—the kind of plea it would be hard to resist if I wanted to stay a friendly neighbour. When I opened the door, he underlined his story by pointing to the legs of his trousers and foot wear which were clearly too muddy to traipse inside, to which I nodded and he preceded to strip them off. The urchin was no doubt observant enough to know our laundry is at our end of the house and it is not unknown for Davo or me to use it at strange hours. I had to rinse the mud out a couple of times before I could risk putting that stuff in the washing machine, by which time I had ushered him into our bathroom where he removed the rest of the clothes and hopped happily into a warm shower. With the washing cycle nearly completed, I though I should check on his progress in the bathroom and discovered him wrapped almost completely in the big towel I had left for him and satiating his curiosity about the contents of my bathroom cupboards. With only two healthy teenagers to serve there was nothing he could do much damage with, but he had managed to find my Ky supply and was checking out its slippery feel. Rather than make a fuss, I figured to use the opportunity to educate him gently and showed him how the Ky was to be used with condoms because petroleum based lubricants perish the rubber. Then it was time to load his clothes into the dryer.

Through all this I had caught his habit of not uttering a word, save our usual “Two” “One” greeting when I first opened the door. And now I figured he could just sit around through the drying cycle, by which time the storm would most likely have passed, and I was by then cold and tired enough to go back to bed. I also figured there was enough stuff around to keep him amused and that he knew enough about limits, even if he pushed them continually, to not do any irreparable damage. The one thing I had not anticipated was that my little namesake would immediately follow me into bed, making it totally clear in his strange non-verbal fashion that he was doing so to thank me. That didn’t stop him being all over me immediately, exploring my body as thoroughly as he had the bathroom cupboards, with our intertwined naked bodies responding as intertwined naked bodies do even in the absence of any intent. At one point he was lying on top of me squeezing by dick between his thighs; the next moment he was at my side, head bent to inspect, lick and briefly suckle my knob; then just as quickly his face was in mine and motioning to shush me before surprising me even more with a two word command: “Don’t move!” I hadn’t been the one doing the moving anyway, beyond minor adjustments to regain some level of physical comfort.

Just as quickly he was back with a condom and the Ky and proceeded to immediately apply the condom to my still half erect and soon again rapidly hardening dick, then he proceeded to apply a generous layer of Ky, and suddenly he was straddling me with his arsehole pushing down on my knob. Feeling that this was all completely impossible I could not help myself slipping into spectator mode, returning momentarily to reality when his sphincter slipped over my knob and I watched his consciousness separate, then leaving my body to join him as his first anal contraction almost crushed my shaft. It felt as though our minds were swirling clouds, twisting together to mimic our bodies, as we watched our finger tips press into each others shoulder triggers and our retinas bounce photons back and forth. Our disembodied minds at times seemed to merge, at times to separate and at times to pass right through each other. And just as strangely, his arse gradually began fucking my dick, reaching rhythmic balance with his repeated orgasmic contractions, and soon overcoming the last of my body’s resistance. I think he was as amazed as I that the condom survived intact and was back to his inquisitive self pouring the semen into a rarely used medicine glass to check the volume, before washing us both off in time to put on his now dry and warm clothes and walk the top rail of next door’s back fence home. As I returned from relocking the door, I realised that he had left something of himself inside me and had more of my mind than my body inside him, but the rest of my mind was gone again before I hit the pillow.

With nothing better to do with the last Saturday morning of the cricket season, I turned up at Colin’s grand final ten minutes before the start to discover Gary just settling in at the scorers’ table: “How come you landed this job?” “After I offered to give them some support during the finals, I turned up to discover they hadn’t had a regular scorer all year. Just look at this mess.” He flicked through the early pages of the score book which had obviously been passed around between whoever they could grab at the time, as often as not, the players themselves, with their poor one-out coach being left to do the totalling off at the end. I immediately suggested it would be better if he spent his morning giving their team a bit more direct support and that I would be more than happy to look after the book. “Well you know who you’re going to be scoring with,” he switched his address to the person now seated next to me: “Sorry, Bill, but I think I should accept Blake’s kind offer.” I shook hands with the Association president and said it was good to see him taking an interest in the important end of the Association. He responded that he was even more impressed with Gary’s and my involvement when we could have been lying in on a Saturday morning. While I had to turn up for the senior final to officially resume in the afternoon, already two hundred behind and having only taken four wickets, I couldn’t see us persisting beyond tea, yet didn’t want the end of what for me had been a pretty satisfying season just slip away unnoticed.

I had not realised how much Colin had grown in the ten months since I met him, but when he walked out to open the batting he towered over the rest of the kids, quickly settling in and accelerating the scoring rate. While we marked his runs off, I told Bill the story of how we had met when he was shifting in downstairs from Gary and how the connection with Charlie and Jacky Ng had made us “closer than most families”. He explained that their opponents for the day were the first time his old club had had any junior success for many years and that the club was thrilled just to have made the grand final from third. That reminded me of my very first season, when our club had been so excited about Hayden’s team even making the semis. “Speak of the devil, he should be back with our breakfast by now,” at which my very first cricketing hero and friend duly arrived just in time to catch the last of Colin clobbering the ball around the park. “Good morning, Hayden.” “Bill, good to see you.” “You seem to have settled into Pennant.” “If you can play a bit and are prepared to do things their way, they are all over you, but I wouldn’t want to have my dreams and still be making up numbers in the fourths.” Bill agreed that they burnt a lot of good young cricketers that way, and while I was taking in their conversation with half an ear, at least things had slowed down enough in the middle that I noticed that Colin was giving his priorities to getting his team-mates’ minds right with their biggest danger being trying to emulate their leader.

Eventually, one partnership started to consolidate and it obviously dawned on Colin that if Gary was there with him encouraging the boys, that he could not be doing the scorebook. Realising who was, he jogged over: “Hey thanks mate, but you didn’t have to,” and gave me an unashamed peck on the temple. I told him I actually enjoyed it, but that story would keep, and introduced him to Bill who joined Hayden as if in chorus: “Well batted.” “I’m sorry sir, but I hope you won’t hold it against us if we can manage to beat you.” “Just call me Bill, everyone else does. And I would hold it against you a lot more if you did not do your absolute best, but our boys might still make a bit of a game of it.” Hayden chipped in: “Having only seen you that afternoon at the restaurant, at least I can see now what Blake has been talking about, but I hope you remember when you get older that you are not always going to have the physical dominance you have now and you are really going to have to work if you want continued success.” Colin conceded that Gary’s father Brendan had already talked to him about that, and he was happy to take his chances with the future, having risen from being a nobody in Campbelltown the season before.

A few more spectators were starting to role in, amongst them our own club’s current Under 12 coach and with him a couple of his players including my next-but-one neighbour Rosco, who hadn’t even managed to make his long promised trip to see his old club’s grand final as they had dipped out in their semi. I quickly introduced him to Colin, as our clubs had not met after Christmas, and suggested that the two of them could expect to see a fair bit of each other over the next four years, so they might as well start out friends. Rosco at least had the sense to tag along with Colin as he headed back to where their team was gathered to encourage his team mates through their final few overs batting. Scoring required a bit more concentration, so I wasn’t quite prepared for a slap on the shoulder from Robbie Vander which nearly caused me to mess the page and did cause me to glance over to the batting camp where Cherie and Charlie Ng were converging from opposite directions and just shake my head.

The next innings started off a bit more calmly, so Bill and I were able to talk widely without so many interruptions, especially after Hayden, Gary and Robbie had gone for a hit in the nets. We got back onto the subject of Brendan Marshall who I explained had given invaluable support to Gary, more recently me, and now obviously Colin: “Brendan had been one of those young superstars himself, but he is very reluctant to get involved beyond his immediate circle because of the risks of what might be said, even though he keeps his gay life very discrete.” “That whole media circus is anything but helpful as we struggle to find good people to help look after kids’ sport. A lot who would care enough to really get something out of it are effectively blocked. It’s just a good thing they cannot look inside our heads, or there might be very few left.” “Despite all the shit, the overwhelming majority of the kids don’t care. I’ve only ever had two hassle me in seven seasons of cricket and I think you know where they finished up.” “Yet even you will probably be reluctant to keep in contact with junior cricketers past your mid-twenties unless you have managed to go through the married and starting a family ritual.” I said I would have to take that one on notice, and Bill suggested that even though the run rates were now almost equal that the final margin would be forty. Almost as if prompted, Colin brought himself on and was immediately bowling pretty quick and pretty straight. What I would have done to know a bowler like him four years earlier when we had to be content with Joey Mantari and Troy Wilkins for practice. Bill’s young batters had been well schooled and managed to survive his onslaught, but their run rate dived, and after his second over, Colin brought on the little loopy spinner who some had seen as their weak link, but with the pressure on the run rate three quick wickets were thrown away, before they settled, more by default that intent, into just surviving the final overs. We had just totalled off the scores when Gary with Colin in tow came over to grab their book. Bill and I enquired in chorus: “Where’s the party?” and were invited to join them, which we each did for long enough later that afternoon to not feel we had really intruded, despite Colin’s protestations that I should stay.