Doing Something by Cole Parker

A sixteen year old boy faces major life changes, ones he hates,
and there isn’t anything he can do about them but make the best of it.

Chapter 6

I walk back up the road the next morning.  It is hotter than yesterday, and I am sweating by the time I am halfway to Lindsey’s house.  I dressed for the heat today, and to play basketball again.  I am wearing basketball shorts and heavier socks.  I also have a muscle shirt on.  The no-sleeve look shows off my upper arms and shoulders, which aren’t bad for a kid of 15.  Most guys my age don’t have much muscle development.  Playing all the sports I have and working out with weights for wrestling and football have made a difference.

I keep hearing a little voice inside me saying I am trying to impress Lindsey.  But I’m not.  I know I’m not.  I like Chase, I’m gay, and while Lindsey is very attractive, I don’t want to do anything with her.  And I certainly don’t care if she thinks I’m attractive.

Well, I don’t.

And I keep telling myself that all the way to her house.

I stop at the top of her driveway.  I can’t hear a ball bouncing, and suddenly I’m a little shy.  Maybe she won’t want to play today, or maybe she has chores.  Maybe I should have arranged this yesterday instead of just saying, “See ya,” waving and walking off when I left.

I tell myself I am being silly and walk down the driveway.  She’d been able to goof off yesterday by this time, so if she had chores, they should be finished by now, right?

I walk to the barn and check the court behind it.  She isn’t there, although the ball is lying under the basket.  I think of picking it up and practicing my shot but decide that would be awkward.  I haven’t been invited and so it would feel rude to start playing as if I owned the place.  At least it would feel that way to me.

I walk back out in front of the barn, then think, what the hell, and go up to the back door of the house and knock.

She opens the door, smiles, really smiles, and says, “I thought you probably wouldn’t come back after I kicked your ass so totally yesterday.”

“Only the first game and that was before I knew you played dirty,” I say, grinning.

She laughs.  I love her laugh.  I thought she’d argue or deny it or complain.  She doesn’t do that at all.  She’s dressed much like I am.  I can see the dark image of her sports bra under her thin, white tee shirt.  I can’t see if her nipples are pooching it out today.

“You want to come in?”  She moves aside a little.  I can see she’s standing in a kitchen.  I don’t see anyone else.

“No, I want to kick your ass today.  Can you play?”

“Give me a minute,” she says.  “Go warm up or something.  I’ll be right out.”

So I sort of wave and turn and walk back to the court.  I’m suddenly feeling really good.

We play for over an hour, and I’m totally exhausted when we stop.  We played four games and split them.  She is amazing—and not just because she’s a girl who can play that well.  She is really good and could probably make it on the boys’ team at my old school.

I slump back against the barn, just like yesterday, and she brings Cokes for both of us again.  I drink half the can without stopping.  I’d lost my shirt long ago and am so slippery with sweat I keep sliding against the barn wall.

“That was really fun,” I say.

“I like playing against you,” she says.  “You don’t cut me any slack.  Most boys ease up a little, don’t go all out.  It’s more fun this way.”

I grin at her, then let out a sigh.  “Is it always this hot here?”

She’s just wearing her shorts and bra, and her sweat has caused the bra to form to her body.  Breasts don’t do anything for me.  Well, they haven’t in the past.  I have a hard time keeping my eyes off them.  My shorts are wet, too, but I wore a jockstrap today.  She can probably see the straps showing through in back, but nothing else, although I realize, looking down at myself, the bulge in front is more obvious since the wet shorts have sort of molded themselves around it.

She answer’s my question.  “We’ve had a hot summer so far, but this is hotter than usual.  I like it.  I like to sweat.  Makes me feel good.”

“I read someplace that girls don’t sweat, they perspire,” I say, trying to be funny.

“I sweat,” she says, and I hear that challenge in her voice that’s so often there.  I realize that calling her a girl—and meaning she’s less than a guy because of it—would be the wrong thing to do with Lindsey.

I decide to change the subject.  “Where can a person go around here to cool off?  There isn’t any air conditioning in that house where I’m living.  The other day I explored a little of the woods by our house, and it was nice in there.  Want to go for a walk, see if it’s better there?”

She starts to answer, then stops for a moment and gives me an unreadable look before grinning.  “Come on,” she says, “I’ll show you something.”

She leads me into the woods.  The temperature drops immediately, and it feels good to have the sun blocked from my head and body.  I can see we’re walking on a sort of trail because the green ground cover that’s so common everywhere else is missing here, and except for some fallen leaves, the ground is bare.  The trail is wide enough for us to walk side by side.  We do that, but for some reason, neither of us speaks.  Maybe it’s the relative silence of the woods themselves that inhibits us. 

We walk for about ten minutes.  I’d worry about getting lost except for the trail.  When I glance back over my shoulder I can see it easily.

We come out of the trees to an open area that is mostly taken up by a lake that’s surrounded by woods.  A small one, a little larger than a football field I’d guess, more or less.  The lake is pretty, the sun glinting off stray ripples on the surface.  There is a collar of grassy groundcover around the lake about ten to twenty yards wide.  The surrounding trees make it all feel very private.

I look at the water in silence, surprised to see it; before, there’s been nothing but woods.

“We come here to swim a lot in the summer.  My parents and brother sometimes—me a lot.  I come here by myself after working out on hot days like this.  The water’s a little chilly, but not bad.  The sun warms it.”

“It looks great,” I say. 

She looks at the water, then at me, opens her mouth, then hesitates. 

“What?” I ask.

“Uh, well, nothing, I guess.  Maybe next time you can bring a bathing suit and we can swim.  You swim, don’t you?”

“Sure.  There was a municipal pool at home, and we, uh, I swam there all summer long.”

“OK.  Next time, then.”

I look at the water.  I am still hot, and the water looks so refreshing.  Even though I’ve been out of the direct sun while hiking here, the hike itself has kept me sweating.  I see that water, and I want to be in it.

“We could go in like this, couldn’t we?  I mean, take our shoes off, then just swim.”

“Yeah, we can.  But the walk back through the woods in wet clothes isn’t fun.  I’ve done it and don’t want to do it again.”

I think for a moment.  “So what, you bring a towel with you?  And a change of clothes?”

She looks at me, more directly than usual.  Then she says, “What I usually do is skinny dip, then dry out in the sun before getting dressed again.  I do bring a towel to lie on.”

The way she says it, so matter-of-factly, looking me in the eye, I can tell she’s testing me.  But there is more to it than that.  I think how exciting it would be to skinny dip with her, in broad daylight, and my body reacts to it. 

She is still looking at me, reading me.

Do I want to do this?  Yeah!  But can I?  Undress in front of her?  Especially as excited as I feel?  And I know that seeing her naked would excite me even more.  It shouldn’t, that little voice says, bothering me again.  I start to blush.

“But not today,” she says, after a moment of silence, still watching me.  For the very first time since I’ve met her, I read some uncertainty in her.  Not a lot, but it’s there.  I have no idea what she’s thinking.  “Let’s go back,” she says.

We walk back more slowly than we’d come, and this time, we talk.  After that moment by the lake, for some reason, I feel as if something happened, and I’m suddenly very comfortable being next to her like this.  She’d been someone I’d just met, so that newness came with a feeling of distance between us.  Now, that seems gone.  It’s replaced by a good feeling, a closeness, something that usually doesn’t happen so fast, at least not for me.

She feels it, too.  Somehow, I know that.

She tells me some about her life, her family, living on a farm, the boyfriend she had for a short time last year, how she’s used to the loneliness of living here.  By the time we get back to the road, I know a lot more about her, and for the first time, it feels like we’re real friends.  When I turn and start for home, we’ve planned to get together tomorrow.  Playing basketball is understood.  The rest hasn’t been discussed, but for sure, I’ll be bringing swimming things with me.  Whether I’ll use everything I bring is something for a lot of excited speculation between now and then.

--- --- {} --- ---

Walking home, I think about her and about skinny dipping with her.  About being naked with her outside in the bright sun.  About looking at her naked body.  About her looking at mine.  I’m very hard most of the way home.

But I can’t help but think about Chase.  I decide my arousal is because I was just thinking about being naked with someone and how exciting that would be, and that’s the reason I’m now thinking about Chase, which is the main reason I’m hard.  I’m gay, but I’m still a teenager.  Sex of any kind, including even looking—just thinking about it—turns me on.  So thinking about being naked with Lindsey, who is different from any girl I’ve ever known, should make me hard, shouldn’t it?  There’s nothing wrong with that.  I don’t even think of her as a girl so much as just someone I like being with.

Being outside, in the sun, naked with her?  Yeah, that’s a turn-on.  I‘m hard.  I let my mind and memory take over as I walk down the dirt road.  Thinking about being naked with Lindsey.  And thinking about Chase.

OK, so maybe I’m a little confused.

--- --- {} --- ---

I’d really had my first deep feelings for Chase on that rainy day I went to his house.  It was then I’d first seen the solid, thoughtful, more mature side of him.  I started to fall in love with him then. 

But then, those memories are always balanced by ones of his adventuresome side, which attracted me almost as much as the deeper side.  When he was feeling adventuresome, the twinkle in his eyes was astonishing.  I’d do anything for those eyes. 

One time, he’d decided we were going to play tennis.  We’d played before, but somehow, this time, when he said we were going to play, that twinkle was stronger.  He was thinking about something.  I just went along as I always did.

Being bigger and stronger than Chase, I had a harder serve than he did and could hit harder ground strokes.  Being lighter and quicker than I am, he could cover more court.  But I was the better player, even if sometimes the games were close.  Usually that happened when I let up a little.

It was a hot summer day.  Only a couple of kids like us would be dumb enough to be out on an unshaded tennis court.  Adults would have had more sense.  But we weren’t adults; I’d just turned 13, and Chase would join me as a newly minted teenager when he had his birthday the following week.

We were in that terminal boredom stage only kids feel in the middle of summer vacation.  After kicking around several other ideas, Chase got the look on his face like he’d always got when he’d had one of his brainstorms.  That was when he told me we were going to the park to play tennis.  We grabbed our gear and took off on our bikes, me saying this was crazy and he not even bothering to answer.  It was about a ten-minute ride to the park that had the best tennis courts.  We arrived about 1:30 in the afternoon.  The sun was high, the sky cloudless, the temperature well over 90, the humidity high enough to steam vegetables.

The courts were deserted.  The park seemed to be, too.  When we stopped riding, the breeze we’d felt while moving stopped, too, and I immediately thought of those Englishmen mad enough to go out in the midday sun.  I guessed we were crazy, too, just like they were.

We hit the ball back and forth awhile, warming up.  The longer we warmed up, the less enthusiasm I had for the game.  I seemed to feel the heat more than Chase did.

He announced he was ready to play.  I walked to the net, and he joined me.

“You sure you want to do this,” I asked.  “It’s hot as hell out here.  We could go get an ice-cream cone or a frozen custard or a Slurpee and sit in the shade instead.”

He looked at me, then glanced around us, then refocused on me, and his eyes had that look he got.  The twinkle was there as well as a challenge.  His whole face was alive.  I loved him like this, even if sometimes it got me in trouble.

“We could make the game more interesting,” he said, rather indifferently, purposely suppressing his enthusiasm.  When he got like that was when I needed to start worrying.  I knew how he was.  But I was curious as to what he had in mind.

“How’s that?” I asked, already wanting to be walking toward the shade instead of having this conversation while being broiled.

“Well,” he said, drawing it out and glancing around again, “we’re not going to be able to play very long.  The sun’ll do us in if we do.  So, let’s make it short and sweet but interesting at the same time.  Make us both try our hardest.  OK?”

“You still haven’t told me what you’re talking about.”

He grinned.  “Let’s play strip tennis.  Each point someone loses, he has to take something off.  Except for shoes.  We’d burn our feet without those.  But socks count.”

I looked at him, at his grin, and that confounded twinkle, and said, “Are you crazy?  You want one of us to get naked?  Here?  Outside?”

“Oh, and one more rule,” he said, ignoring my flabbergast.  “After one of us is naked, we have to play an entire game that way before quitting.”

I think my mouth dropped open.  He was grinning at me.  I could see how much he wanted to do this.

I wasn’t as adventuresome as he was, wasn’t as outgoing, and the thought of being naked, playing tennis, was appalling.  I didn’t want to do this!  But I didn’t want to disappoint him, either, or have him realize I wasn’t the risk taker he was.  Then I thought of something.  I was the better player.  I almost always won, and when I didn’t it was because I wasn’t playing my hardest.  So I wouldn't be the one playing naked.

“OK,” I said, finally.

He pumped his arm in triumph, and we retreated to our own baselines and began.

We each had five articles of clothing to remove: a shirt, shorts, underpants and two socks.  I decided to be magnanimous and let him serve.  We normally broke about even on his service games, while I won a high percentage of mine.

His first serve, instead of being his usual medium-hard flat one, was very soft, just clearing the net.  I had to race forward, and I just managed to get my racket on it before it hit the court a second time.  I flipped it up and over the net the best I could, then looked up to see him standing there waiting for it.  He’d followed his serve to the net.  Something he never did.

Instead of smashing the ball back, he sort of softly lobbed it up and over me towards the baseline.  But he hit it high enough that I’d have a chance to get back to it.  I turned and ran as fast as I could, ran it down and hit it back the only way I could—another lob.

But it wasn’t very deep.  He only retreated a few steps from the net, let it bounce, then watched it come down.  I was still standing at the baseline, panting.  When the ball was about waist high for him, he just softly hit a drop shot over the net.  I could have tried to get it, but I was already feeling the heat.  I just let it bounce and then roll all the way to me.

He was grinning.  “That’s your shirt,” he called.

I stood at the baseline, still huffing a little, but had a thought.  If I removed my shirt, the sun would be even more merciless.  I could see his plan: he was going to try to make me run, exhaust me in the heat.  And without my shirt, it would be easier for him to do that.

But what would be the best thing to remove, if not the shirt?  It didn’t take me long to decide.  I looked around.  We were the only people I could see in any direction.  So, I turned my back to him, yanked off my shorts and underpants, then pulled the shorts back on.  I was exposed for maybe five seconds, but no one except Chase was around to witness it.  I turned back to Chase, grinning triumphantly, twirled my undies on my finger, then tossed them back against the fence behind me.

I got ready for his next serve, creeping forward off the baseline, halfway between it and the rear service line.  Chase watched me, and when I was set, hit his serve deep in the service box to my backhand.  It wasn’t hard — he never served very hard — but had spin on it that took it away from me, and as I was forward of where I usually received serves, I didn’t have as much time or room to adjust as I’d have liked.  I got to it, but hit it weakly  over the net.

Chase had charged the net again.  He never went to the net; his serve wasn’t hard enough to let him do it successfully.  Now he had done so twice in a row.  I could normally pass him easily if he charged the net.  But not this time; I didn’t have that option now.  It was all I could do to get a racket on the ball.  I did and returned it, but he was waiting for it and hit an easy crosscourt shot that I didn’t even try to race down.

So now I’d lost my underpants and one sock.  And my nervousness had more than doubled.  Even though it still seemed unlikely, it was looking at least possible that I’d lose!

I didn’t want to think about it.  Instead, I focused on the next point.

He served softly again with lots of English on the ball.  I was again closer to the net than usual and was able to get this one back.  I hit a fairly hard forehand, but he hadn’t charged the net this time and was able to get to it and play it back pretty easily.  He hit a lob.  I was at the net by then and had to race back.  I got there in time and tried to hit a return lob, but my momentum was carrying me toward my baseline, and I didn’t get enough on the ball.  It fell on my side of the net.  And I lost another sock.

He grinned at me as I was standing at the baseline, catching my breath.  “Getting worried yet?”

“Serve the damn ball!”

The bastard was gloating now!  I’d show him.  I wasn’t done yet, and once he started peeling off his clothes, I’d have him!  At the very worst, if he won the next point, I’d still have my shorts, and it would be my serve.  Then he’d lose that grin.  Why had I ever thought those twinkling eyes were so attractive?

I crept up for his serve again, and this time he hit it as hard as he could, directly at me.  Had I been at the baseline, it would have been easy to control.  As it was, it was on me before I had time to really prepare.  I hit it back, but without the juice I usually could put on the ball.

He returned it towards the far corner of the court—deep in the corner—but as usual he didn’t have much juice on it.  I ran it down and hit it back, and he hit crosscourt again.  I was getting tired.  The sun, the heat and all this running were doing me in.  In fact, I took three steps toward the ball, then stopped and let it go.  He’d won the game, and my shirt, but now it was my serve.  I was in control now.  No more of his piddling little strategy tricks.  It was my turn to dominate, and I had extra motivation this time.

We changed ends of the court.  I took off my shirt.  The sun was heavy on my shoulders, but I was going to win. 

Sweat was running off me in buckets.  I felt a little lightheaded.  But I was determined.  So determined that I hit my first serve too hard and didn’t come close to getting it in the service box.  So I eased up, knowing it was vital to get this one in.

He’d figured out I’d do that, and as I tossed the ball up in the air, he came scampering in from the base line.  I hit a soft shot into the middle of the service area just to be sure I didn’t double fault, and he was there, waiting for it.  He hit a perfect forehand down the line, and I’d lost.

One of the things I loved about Chase: he wasn’t one to rub something in.  He was happy.  He was glowing, or else that was just the heat.  But while his smile was wide, he didn’t say anything to tease me.  He ran to the net. We always shook hands after a match.   We thought it was funny and ritualistic, and it allowed us to touch each other.  So we shook hands then, and he whispered, “Now the shorts.”

“Do you really want me to?” I asked.  He could hear the trepidation in my voice. 

“Yeah,” he said, slightly breathless, and not from the game.

I looked around.  Still no one in sight.  You could just make out a little bit of the street through the trees.  There wasn’t much traffic, and even if there was, no one could get more than a momentary glimpse of something as they drove by, and then only if they were looking our way just when they’d have to be.  The park itself was still empty.

He was grinning and looking eager.  “Fuck it!” I said, and yanked off my shorts.

It felt incredibly embarrassing, standing nude in the middle of a public tennis court in the middle of the afternoon.  But the look in his eyes, staring at me, made it a little bit exciting, too.

“One quick game,” I said and walked back to the baseline.  I quickly tossed the ball up and served.

Chase completely missed it.  He was watching me, and his grin had turned into a smile and then laughter.  I harrumphed and yelled, “Throw me the ball and stop laughing.”

Giggling now, he retrieved the ball and tossed it back.  I was looking all around while he did that, making sure no one was in the vicinity.  When I got the ball I quickly served again.  He was still laughing but hit it back.  I had to run to get to his return and felt myself bouncing all over the place as I did.  When I hit the ball, he was laughing so hard he didn’t even try to return my shot.

“Thirty - love,” I yelled, picked up another ball and got ready to serve again.

“Wait,” he cried, and then, to my astonishment, he stripped.  Shirt, shorts and underpants all got flung aside, and he was as naked as I was.  “Well, you shouldn’t have all the fun,” he said.

We finished the game like that, although we were both laughing so hard it wasn’t much of a contest.  It was, however, the most fun I ever had on a tennis court.  The only downside was, I didn’t quite know how to explain my sunburn to my parents.


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