This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. A big thank-you to my editor, Michael, who finds the errors I miss, ensures clarity, and keeps me from straying too far from reality. Any remaining errors are my responsibility.
Eric was ahead of his time. The Summer of Love was six years away, and acceptance of homosexuality further out, but Eric was already there. At a time when condom was an abstract concept to a rural fifteen-year-old, he was getting a fun head start on the future.
Eric had discovered that, when hitchhiking, fewer clothes not only produced faster results but sometimes fringe benefits. That day, in addition to his white Converse low sneakers, he was wearing the provocative pair of white shorts he'd seen in an Esquire ad and mail-ordered from Parr of Arizona.
Form-fitting without being snug, Eric's lightweight tank trunks clung to him like a loose layer of skin. With neither visible means of support nor apparent method for removal, they seemed to be an integral part of his body. Like the model who inspired the purchase, Eric was ten percent soft seductive swimwear and ninety percent hard adolescent hunk.
Standing at the freeway entrance, Eric stuck out his thumb. As usual, it took only a couple of minutes.
The farm boy driving the 1957 Chevy Cameo Pickup was hot, no doubt about it. As he reached to open the passenger door, his white muscle shirt displayed biceps that made Eric green with envy and rigid with arousal. The barbed-wire tattoo around the dark-haired hunk's right upper arm provided him with a country-tough-guy look that turned on the blond fifteen-year-old even more.
"Where ya goin', kid?"
"Rooster Rock State Park."
"Hop in. I'm Wayne."
The rock for which the park was named was a basalt monolith which didn't resemble a rooster at all. In fact, it resembled a huge, erect penis, which was why its first anglicized name was Cock Rock. Before the arrival of Lewis and Clark, who camped nearby, the American Indians had also recognized it as a giant phallus on the horizon and named it accordingly. Early twentieth century political correctness had produced the clever name change. In a final twist of irony, the east end of the park became a sanctioned clothing-optional beach.
Eric climbed in and set his day pack on the floor between his legs. Making a token effort to adjust himself so he didn't show so badly, he smiled at the stud sitting next to him.
"Thanks for the ride, Wayne. I'm Eric."
"No problem. Do you live around here, Eric?"
"Yeah, how about you?"
"A ways east of here. Out in the ranch country."
Wayne paused briefly as he merged with traffic and accelerated to well over the speed limit.
"Dressed like that, I bet you're headed for the clothing-optional section."
Eric smiled. "Yeah, you got that right."
"I hear a guy can pick up pussy pretty easily there."
Eric looked out the window so that Wayne couldn't see his smirk. Picking up was on his agenda, but his object of interest wasn't the same as Wayne's.
"I wouldn't know about that. This is my first time going there - just to check it out."
Wayne glanced at Eric's attire.
"Nice shorts, Eric. Never seen any quite like them."
His eyes traveled over Eric's smooth, suntanned body.
"Do they come off?"
"When they have to."
Wayne laughed. "I'm glad to hear that, 'cause you'll have to get them off if you're gonna make it with the chicks on the nude beach."
Wayne seemed to have a one-track mind. That he was casting himself as straight wasn't surprising. The guys who gave Eric rides usually did, and sometimes were, though picking up a kid who deliberately radiated sexuality suggested otherwise.
For the next half-hour, they made small talk about the weather, the waterfalls on the left, the river on the right, and what it might be like to be the captain of the tugboat that was pushing three barges upstream. Eric learned that Wayne was exactly what he seemed to be - a seventeen-year-old, high-school-dropout ranch hand.
A mile before the official exit, Wayne pulled off the freeway and stopped.
"If you hop the fence here and cross that meadow, you'll be at the river near the upper end of the nude beach. Turn left and follow the trails."
Reaching for his day pack, Eric opened the door and stepped out, slightly disappointed that Wayne was apparently as straight as he seemed.
"Thanks for the ride and the advice, Wayne. Maybe I'll see you again sometime."
Hopping the fence, Eric followed Wayne's instructions, which proved to be accurate. He swung his pack onto his back and began his downriver hike.
For the first several hundred yards, the network of social trails passed through tall, thick brush typical of the riparian environment. Dead-end side trails were common. Persevering through the maze, he found himself on a wide, sandy beach, where he dropped his pack. Reaching inside for his towel, he spread it out and sat down.
Leaning back, Eric surveyed his surroundings. The beach was occupied by nude sunbathers of all races, genders, ages and shapes. Some were cavorting in the water, others lounged on the beach. He quickly observed that the demographics were skewed - there was a lack of fit, young, male teenagers.
Pulling his water bottle out of his pack, he hydrated himself as he continued to watch. For the most part, he was ignored. Occasionally, a single male would pass and look at him with interest, and then quickly move on. He lay back on his towel and closed his eyes, soaking up the sun, muttering to himself.
"I'm jailbait. No one over seventeen is even gonna talk to me."
After a while, he sat up and scanned the beach again - and made an important discovery. There were more guys upstream. And a couple of volleyball nets. He quickly gathered his belongings and strolled up the shoreline. As he progressed, the population thinned out, and what was left quickly became all male, more fit, and much younger.
The activities changed too, so he noted. The guys were mostly hanging around in pairs, and some of them were doing more than talking.
The volleyball nets had been a good indicator. A small group of athletic, high-school-age boys were hanging out, some playing two-on-two beach volleyball, others watching. Two older boys served as referees.
Rather than being naked, most of the boys wore jockstraps, which made sense given the activity - stuff flops around a lot when you're jumping in the air and hitting a ball. The rest wore swimwear or cutoffs. Some of the jockstraps were dyed or decorated to reflect the wearer's taste and personality.
Eric spread his towel at a comfortable distance from the volleyball action and sat down to watch. Then he recognized one of the spectators - Nick Stone, the older boy who had sponsored him to go to the retreat for gay freshmen.
After a while, one of the games came to an end. After enthusiastic cheers, high-fives, and fist-bumps, the player dispersed, and Nick and the referee crossed the sand towards Eric. Arriving, they sat down beside him, and the referee addressed him.
"I'm Alfred, one of the referees for these games. Nick says he knows you. Are you here to socialize with guys like yourself?"
"Yeah, I am."
"Do you want to play volleyball with us?"
"Yeah, I'd like to do that."
"Excellent. Nick offered to be your first teammate." He paused to look up. "Those two guys walking towards us will be your first opponents. Nick will introduce them and you can get acquainted before the next games start."
The opponents Alfred had referenced were two African-American hunks. Like most of the boys, they wore jockstraps. Using red and black felt tip pens, they had decorated the waistbands in a black and red African geometric tribal pattern. Tossing down their own towel across from Nick and Eric, they sat down. Nick introduced his friends as Kofi, who was fifteen, and Kojo, a year older, and then gave Eric some more background.
"The volleyball games were the inspiration of a couple of gay bars, who sponsor them along with the condom manufacturer, Durex. Sex education is part of the program... Eric?"
Eric's attention had wandered. Nick soon found out why. Kofi was grinning at Eric while seductively stroking his exposed shaft. Kojo noticed what was going on.
"Kofi, put it away. You can't try to seduce him until after the games are over."
Kofi smiled as he followed his brother's instructions.
"He's cute. I just wanted to get a head start on the competition."
Smiling, Nick returned to the interrupted conversation.
"To finish what I was saying before Kofi tried to demonstrate for me, sex education is part of the program. You'll find some useful information and a couple of boxes of condoms on the table by the nets. Feel free to take a few for future use."
Nick looked at Kojo and Kofi. "Can you guys think of anything else Eric needs to know?"
Kojo shook his head. Kofi grinned at Eric.
"Yeah, I can, but it'll wait 'til later."
Kojo smacked his brother on the back of the head.
"What does that mean?"
"Hopeless, shameless, and beyond redemption. But I love you anyway."
Kofi stood and reached down to help Eric get up.
"Ready to play volleyball?"
Eric took the proffered hand and got up with a happy grin.
"You bet I am!"
As he and Nick stepped onto the sand court, Eric evaluated their opponents again. Kojo and Kofi were taller and more experienced. Eric hoped that he and Nick were faster and more agile. The referee blew his whistle and the game began.
It didn't take long to see where things were headed. Although the spectators encouraged both teams equally, it was clear that Nick and Eric were outclassed. They lost the first set, and scrambled to win the second, but in the third, their opponents pulled away quickly and they never came close to catching up.
With the final cheers and fist bumps over, the four boys stood around chatting while they watched the next game. Among other things, Eric was surprised to learn that Kofi and Kojo were not descendants of southern slaves, but rather first-generation immigrants from Ghana. Maybe he had some stereotypes to get over.
He also learned, after Kofi heard his growling stomach, that pizza and soft drinks would be delivered around one o'clock, courtesy of the gay-bar sponsors.
The pizza party gave Eric a chance to get acquainted with the other boys. The group was ethnically diverse and mostly urban. Kaito, with whom Eric had been partnered for a second game, was a third-generation Japanese-American. Twin brothers, Kyong and Minjun, were Korean immigrants who'd arrived with their parents ten years earlier. By the time the pizza was gone, Eric had a large group of new friends with similar interests.
When the party ended, some of the boys stayed to play volleyball, others stayed to watch, but most pursued other activities on the beach and in the water. Before he wandered away to swim with Kaito, Nick offered Eric a ride home at dusk when the park closed.
Kofi had been sticking closely - almost possessively - to Eric. He put his hand on Eric's shoulder.
"There's a more private beach further up the river. We could swim and hang out."
Eric grinned at his new friend.
"Should I grab a few condoms?"
Kofi grinned back. "Uh-huh, if you want to."
"And maybe that sex education booklet?"
"We won't need the instruction manual."
It was nearly dusk when Eric began his journey home with Nick. As he merged with the freeway traffic, Nick made some comments.
"I should have told you about the volleyball program. At first I was surprised to see you, but when I thought about it, it made perfect sense that someone who had the initiative to seduce a hotel desk clerk would find his way to the nude beach. Your arrival on Wednesday was quite fortunate, though, since that's the only day volleyball happens."
Eric laughed. "So, how did you find out about me and Randy?"
Nick smiled. "Word gets around, in spite of what Martin said at the seminar about keeping quiet. Did you enjoy your day?"
Eric looked out the window towards the beach where he'd spent the afternoon and early evening with Kofi. The volleyball games had been fun, of course, but how do you describe the hours, which now seemed like minutes, that you spent getting to know your kindred spirit? The adventure of swimming naked together. The excitement of sitting in the sun talking about everything and nothing. The pleasure of finding paradise on a pink-flamingo beach towel. He smiled.
"It was awesome."
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