Oswego Academy was a small school, so I had to wear more than one hat. Besides teaching history, I also had a drama class. I once directed a play in which two seventh grade boys played the roles of boyhood best friends. Trying to help the boys get inside their characters I asked if either of them had ever had a best friend, someone they felt really close to. The taller of the two boys, Sean, said he had a best friend he had known since kindergarten. I asked him how he felt about his friend. "I love my friend," he said, without hesitation or embarrassment.
At the time I thought it remarkable that a twelve-year-old boy would so openly say that he loved his friend. Even more remarkable was the way Kelly, at age fourteen, kept holding my hand. I had my suspicions about the reasons. His step-parents had fed his body, but they had never fed his soul. He was starving for affection, especially the affection of a man. In spite of his mention of a sleepover with his friend Freddie, I doubted that he had spent much time socializing with other boys. His story suggested that his stepparents had kept him constantly burdened with work. If the home was as emotionally abusive as I suspected, they had in all probability tried as much as possible to exclude other people. I wondered how he ever came to spend that night with Freddie.
Then I remembered the two occasions when he had run away. He must have spent the time at Freddie's house; he had said he spent the time with a friend, not with friends. Those were the only times when his stepfather had not been in complete control. I wondered just how close a friend Freddie had become. In any case, Kelly did not seem to have learned the suspicion with which our culture regarded the idea of two males holding hands. I had no complaints on that score.
He led me back to our camping spot -- I noticed how quickly I had started thinking of it as 'ours' -- which was located at the top of a six-foot slope leading down to a swift, shallow stream. The spot was large for an RV park. The sense of spaciousness was increased by the fact that the nearest trailers were three sites away in either direction. I showed Kelly how to hook up the water and the power, and switched the refrigerator over to external power. Finally, I cranked up the top. Kelly tossed in his backpack, and for the first time we could enter the living portion of the camper together.
But we didn't. Instead, we walked hand-in-hand to the edge of the bank and stood beneath a large shade tree. I released his hand and allowed my right arm to lightly drape itself over his shoulders. "There might be some trout in those waters," I observed. "Have you ever been fishing, Kelly?"
"No, have you?"
I had to laugh out loud. "You caught me. I'm not a fisherman. I never learned. My dad never had time to teach me." I turned to face him. "Kelly, I can never fully appreciate what you have gone through. But we do have a few things in common. I had a dad, and he did love me, but he was never around enough to really show me. He was a traveling salesman, and he was gone from home for three and four months at a time. When he was home, he was always busy with some kind of project or other. He never had time for us kids. He never took us on a vacation. He took me and my brother fishing once. Only once. He took my brother to a baseball game. One time. Those are the only things I can remember him ever doing with us kids. My life wasn't like yours, but I know what it's like to be lonely."
Not for the last time, Kelly surprised me. He put his arm around my waist and pulled me closer. "I'm sorry," he said. We stood side by side, watching the white water dancing over and around the stones of the riverbed. He could not see the tears that slowly trickled down my cheeks. I was more than old enough to be his father; it felt almost as if he really were my nephew, or even my son; but he was the one who was comforting me.
There was something else as well. I felt the warmth of his body as he snuggled against me. Clouds were moving in from the west and the bright sun, now lower in the sky, was obscured. A cool breeze touched my arms and legs where they extended beyond my shirt sleeves and my shorts, but I could feel heat radiating from Kelly's slim frame. Like many other teenage boys, he seemed to be an organic furnace, putting away enormous quantities of food and producing so much energy that the excess was given off in BTUs. An architect friend once told me that a concert hall had to be heated when it was empty, but cooled when the seats were full, because the bodies in the seats put out so much heat. If a thousand Kellys occupied the seats, they would have to turn the air conditioning up to full!
His warmth was bringing some very un-fatherly thoughts into my head. My mind drifted away to those naked boys digitized on my computer monitor. I could feel the touch of Kelly's bare leg against mine, and I began to wonder what he would look like with no clothing at all.
I was saved from this line of thinking by a sudden loud gurgling sound from the region of my belly button. Kelly turned his head toward me and laughed. "Got a tiger in your tummy?" There it was again, that boyish playfulness one might expect in someone two or three years younger. He could swear like a sailor's parrot, then turn around and use a little boy's expression. Part of the uncertainty of adolescence, I decided.
"Yes, I have a tiger in my tummy, and I have instruments of torture at the ends of my arms." I attacked his rib cage with my wriggling fingers, and he collapsed in helpless laughter.
"Stop, I'm ticklish!"
"That's what makes it so much fun," I growled, but after a few more seconds of tickling I stopped. That kind of stimulation could quickly turn to pain if the boy was really ticklish; I was not exaggerating when I said my fingers could be instruments of torture. I shifted my grip to his underarms and lifted him off the ground, throwing him over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes and holding him with my arm around the backs of his knees. I would be surprised if he weighed eighty pounds, because I wasn't staggering under the load. "Come on, tiger, let's go get something to eat." As I carried him back toward the camper, I decided he didn't smell that bad. A thorough cleanup could wait until we were fed.
Just inside the camper door was a drawer holding wash cloths and hand towels - the paper towels in the community bathroom were probably a little rough for anything except hand washing. Setting Kelly back on his feet I grabbed the necessaries and turned him in the direction of the bathrooms, which stood at the other side of a plank bridge over the river, closer to the tent camping area. We could have used the sink in the camper, of course, except that it would take us twice as long, and besides, I didn't want to unnecessarily overburden the small portable gray water holding tank. "Just wash your face and neck and ears," I said as we approached the sinks. Now why did I use that expression? I couldn't recall ever having said that to my daughter, but it was what my father used to say to me.
It was getting late, and I did not feel like cooking, so we headed toward the restaurant. There was only one other couple -- I mean one couple, not one other couple; I was slightly shocked to see the direction my thoughts were taking me. The owner/ bartender/waiter/chef introduced himself as Jack, and joked that his wife, who was also the hostess, thought that meant Jack of all trades. His specialty was Italian fare, and he made a mean spaghetti Bolognese for Kelly and a delectable clam linguini for me. Having nothing better to do, he sat on a nearby bar stool and chatted away about cowboys and wolves and his military tour of duty in Europe where he learned to cook and met his wife. That explained the lilt in her voice that I had been unable to identify.
My MasterCard was taking the hit when I remembered the need to launder Kelly's clothes, so I asked to get a few dollars in quarters for the coin-op machine. Then I asked Kelly, "Do you have anything you can change into after your shower?"
Kelly's face took on that embarrassed look again. "I don't have anything clean," he answered.
With my thirty-six-inch waist, nothing of mine would do him any good. The camp store was closed, but Jack the cook was willing to open it up for us. A pair of running shorts and a Wyoming souvenir T-shirt were all they had in Kelly's size, but they would do. Kelly thanked me, but otherwise made no protest about my buying him clothes.
By the time Kelly and I made our way back to the camper it was after nine o'clock. Showers and laundry still lay ahead. I tossed the shorts and T-shirt to Kelly, then turned around to get towels and a clean pair of shorts for myself from the under-bunk storage tray. I heard Kelly complaining, "I don't have any clean underwear to put on under these new things," I turned toward him, and suddenly found myself deprived of the power of speech. Kelly's blue jeans and formerly-white Jockey shorts lay puddled at his feet; his blue plaid shirt was casually tossed onto the cushion of the little dinette. From the skid mark on the Y-fronts and the yellow stains on the fly I concluded that he had worn them for two or three days at least. Kelly was completely, gloriously naked, and he scarcely seemed conscious of the fact.
Astonishingly, he looked almost as I had imagined him while sitting in the McDonald's earlier. He really was uncircumcised, and his three-inch penis lay softly over a hairless scrotum. His pubic hair was still sparse and soft-looking, not tight and kinky as it often was on older boys. He was indeed very thin. His chest and arms showed almost no muscular definition, and his rib cage was clearly visible. He was not skin and bones by any means, but he could not afford to lose any weight. I had thought he had a deep tan, but in fact he was a light brown all over, and I was fairly certain he had not been skinny dipping. Now that I could see him in all his glory, it was clear that he had some Mediterranean heritage, perhaps Italian, or maybe there was a bit of Mexico in his family tree. No wonder the deep blue of his eyes commanded so much attention. They were unexpected, intriguing. Kelly was beautiful; that was the only word that would do.
I had not seen a naked fourteen-year-old boy since the gym showers when I was in junior high. Back then, most of the boys tried to turn away from each other, and I tried harder than the rest to hide because I was a full year younger than others in my year. I was in ninth grade, and I still had not grown my first pubic hair. With the exception of two or three of the oldest boys, who liked to parade around with their big dicks wagging in front of them, we were not exactly exhibitionists in my junior high school. Kelly showed no embarrassment at all.
I don't know exactly how long I stared open-mouthed at this beautiful naked boy, but it was long enough for him to notice. "Uncle Art," he said, still using the honorary rank I had bestowed upon myself at the registration desk, "are you okay?"
My ability to speak recovered just in time. "Oh, um, I'm sorry for staring, Kelly, I just wasn't expecting you to be naked."
"I'm used to it. Jason won't let us wear any clothes anyway."
"Wait a minute, who is Jason?"
"I told you about him. My stepbrother, the jock." Kelly made no move to conceal himself. In fact, he appeared to rotate his pelvis slightly forward. He did take on a slightly shy look, however. He looked down at the ground, then back up and into my eyes. "Do I look okay?"
"Depends on what you mean by okay. What is it that you really want to know?"
"Well, I just wanted to know if, you know, if I'm getting... developed enough. I mean, am I normal?"
At Kelly's age, "normal" would cover a broader range than at any other time in his life. "I think you're coming along just fine, Kelly. Your penis..." I forced myself to say the word as calmly as if I were talking about the weather or a baseball game. "Your penis seems to be a good size for your age, and you're growing your first pubic hair. I'd say your development is coming along quite nicely. Now just put on those shorts so we can go to the showers without being arrested. You can go commando tonight, and we can get you some new stuff tomorrow. Wear your shoes, too; you don't want to get your feet in the dirt on your way back."
I hated to see him cover up, but I couldn't think of a good excuse to keep him naked, and I didn't want him to see the erection that was slowly developing in my shorts. Casually I laid a bath towel over my left arm and let it hang in front of my crotch, the way a waiter might. I had soap and shampoo in my toiletries kit, and besides my battery powered toothbrush I had the new standard brush I had bought in case I ran out the charge on the electric one. Kelly could use that tonight, and we could see about getting Kelly his own tomorrow, if he decided to stay with me.
I stuffed Kelly's clothing into my laundry bag with my own, including the few things from his backpack, and dropped in a cellophane pack of the detergent pellets I had bought just for this trip, plus a couple of fabric softener sheets. The quarters I had gotten in the restaurant wouldn't be enough, so I retrieved my leather coin purse from the small cupboard above the refrigerator.
The laundry room was at the other end of the bathroom building. It didn't take long to sort the white and colored laundry into two machines. I remembered Kelly saying that he and the other foster kids did the laundry, so I asked him to help me without presuming to instruct him. I did have to show him where the put the quarters to start the machines, and he was fascinated with the whole operation.
There were three shower cubicles, each with its own curtain, but they opened off a single changing area. There was no convenient way to avoid being naked in front of Kelly, so I decided to just go for it. Once I had dropped my shorts, I began to feel more comfortable with the idea. In fact, I made the process of hanging up my shorts and towel last as long as possible, then I actually stretched my arms above my head and faked a yawn. I wanted Kelly to be able to get a good look without having to be sneaky about it. He was a fourteen year old boy, he was bound to be curious. Not that there was anything very remarkable for him to see. Despite my embarrassment about my hairless ninth grade dick, I had eventually gone through the usual hormonal change. During the winter of my ninth grade year I grew six inches and lost twenty pounds. As a child I had always been chubby, and it was nice to have a nearly flat belly at last. The thought made me smile ruefully. I hadn't developed a pot belly, but no one would mistake me for an athlete. For a long time I had felt a little inferior because I seemed to have the smallest penis in every shower room, but I had been married and my wife had never complained, at least not about that. I remembered the old Marlboro cigarette commercial: "It's not how long you make it; it's how you make it long."
I tossed Kelly one of the several small, wrapped bars of soap I had picked up in various hotels, and we stepped into the showers. We had not been in there two minutes, and I had barely gotten the water temperature properly adjusted, when I heard Kelly say, "Uncle Art, would you wash me?" He didn't even say, "Wash my back," he just said "Wash me." The effect of his words went straight to my dick, and I was suddenly semi- hard.
"Kelly, I don't think that would be a very good idea."
"Please?" He didn't argue with me. He didn't ask why I thought it wouldn't be a good idea. He simply said the one thing that was guaranteed to break down my resistance. "Please?"
I was lost.
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