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Learning the Ropes

by Cole Parker

Damn! Our gym teacher this year didn't seem to have a clue what our capabilities were. Well, some of our capabilities. He had us doing things that many of us just couldn't begin to do, or things we could do but not how he wanted us to do them.

Like, how many 13-year-old boys can run a mile in less than eight and a half minutes? That's four slightly over 2-minute quarter-miles. I might, on my best day, be able run one of those quarters that fast, but four together without stopping? Not a chance.

Then he had us lifting weights, too. I've read that that can be dangerous when you're still growing. Something about growth plates. But he had us doing it. Granted, he was more about reps than actual weight, but still. The guy was nuts.

He had a speed bag set up and showed us how to make it dance. He had mats put down for us to wrestle on, wrestling each other. For that, he matched up boys of more or less equal weight, but even that wasn't very fair. Some heavy boys were just fat; some were quite muscular. Didn't matter to the guy who insisted we call him Coach.

I hated all this, but I was a good boy. I never got in trouble, never sassed or talked back to teachers, always did what I was told. So I did the best I could with what Coach had us do, and if I didn't come up to the mark, well, I was with the majority there and didn't stand out any. I got with the program, did it all, but really, truly hated it.

Some of the boys, the athletic ones, loved the challenge and tried to meet the standards. Some of them succeeded, too. Most of us couldn't, but that was no surprise. We were a gangly lot, lightly-muscled, scrawny, growing into new bodies and, as in my case, kind of weedy. Hey, I'm 13! How many kids my age are Schwarzenegger-look-alikes? I think I look fine. Like most of the others in that gym, catching frowns from Coach.

For the rope climb, he had us put on long socks. Usually, we just wore shorts and sneakers, but we had to stop what we were doing and add long socks for the rope. Maybe it was to prevent rope burns. He never did tell us why.

For some reason, Coach never said anything about wearing underwear or jockstraps, either. He evidently didn't care. I'd heard at some schools jocks were required, and the guy in charge would actually check. Coach didn't care, which meant most of us didn't wear anything under our shorts because we didn't have a jock and didn't want to have to wear sweaty underwear the rest of the day after gym class. Most of us didn't have a jock because we hadn't needed, and now, we were a little embarrassed to ask our mom to buy us one. We'd reached that age where things were starting to happen down there, and the less mention we made about that part of our body, the less attention we drew to it—especially from our mothers—the better.

But I always wondered why we had to put on socks to climb ropes and then take them off after. The only reason I could come up with was that Coach liked the idea of us all wearing as little as possible. Maybe he had a bit of perv in him. I wouldn't have put it past him. Maybe that was why he handed out towels to us as we left the showers rather than just having a pile of them on a table near the door.

The fact he didn't insist on jocks had ended up being rather embarrassing for a couple of the guys on the wrestling mats. Most of us sort of went through the motions of wrestling without much intensity. We simply weren't wrestlers and didn't like the activity. Some, though, the competitive boys, took it seriously. When you're stripped of everything but your shorts and getting into it with another boy, and you're both sweaty with flushed faces and your juices are flowing, there's lots of grabbing and rolling around and falling down and getting back up, and sometimes your grabbing hands will slide off a sweat-slick body, slide down to the one thing that's easy to grasp, and when the boy being grasped jerks away, the shorts being grasped can remain in the hands of the grasper. Which explains the embarrassment if the graspee is jockless, like most of us were.

It would have been more embarrassing had this not been the first year when showers were mandatory. But it was, and so we'd already seen each other. That was in a different context, however, one where you were supposed to be naked. You weren't supposed to be in the middle of the gym on the wrestling mats naked, so that did make a difference.

There was another activity that made a few of us overcome our shyness with our parents about buying a jockstrap. It was the rope climbing. What an awful trial that was! We were supposed to be strong enough to climb a fairly thick rope all the way up to a knot in the rope that was 16-feet above the floor, then climb back down again. To make it slightly less impossible, a boy would stand at the bottom and hold the rope so it wouldn't be swinging all over the place while you were trying to ascend it. Of course, that boy would naturally look up, and if you were jockless, your equipment would be seen flopping around inside your shorts every time you released your feet from the rope. The floppiness would be quite apparent for anyone looking up through the leg holes.

I couldn't achieve more than two or three pulls up the rope the first several times I tried. We were supposed to climb all the way to the knot and back down again in twelve seconds. Twelve seconds! I could go up about six feet, stay there breathing hard with tired arms and hands, know I couldn't go farther, and carefully climb back down. We had to climb at least two-thirds of the way up and down to pass the course and earn a low-C grade on that event. I had some work to do.

I wasn't alone; very few of us could climb those ropes. Of course, a few could. There was one boy, Troy, who had some muscles and was athletic and good at the stuff most of us weren't. He was an ordinary-looking boy, dark-haired, my size, just a bit taller, but somehow, he stood out to me. Maybe his personality made him bigger than he was. I should have hated him because he loved doing what I hated, but he was always smiling and friendly to everyone, and I just couldn't get myself to do anything but admire him.

He was especially good on the ropes. He was the only one in the class who could climb them without using his feet. For the rest of us, it was grasp and pull with the hands, then lock our feet on the rope, reach higher with our hands grasp again and pull. And repeat. And repeat. Not Troy. He'd grab the rope and just go up hand over hand to the top and back down like some kind of acrobatic monkey! No feet at all.

He was a nice kid, too. He'd encourage the rest of us. I found myself drawn to him. I hadn't known him before; he was new at our school. I was shy enough that I couldn't try to get to know him. But I watched him a lot. Too much, maybe. I saw him glancing back at me now and then.

We rotated through all the things we did, doing them all every day for several minutes. Gym class was and hour and a half three time a week, so we had plenty of time on each exercise. Coach said by the end of the year, we'd all be fit and able to accomplish the standards on everything. I don't think any of us believed that. But he did; that was for sure. He was all business, and he made no bones about what he wanted—we'd all succeed. And he pushed us every class period to make sure it would happen.

Troy and I, being the same size, mostly, ended up one day wrestling each other. "You're Gary, aren't you?" he asked when Coach had pointed us out as a wrestling pair, and we were waiting our turn to go onto the mats together.

"Yeah, and you're Troy." I was hoping he wasn't a violent wrestler. I had seen him wrestle many times. He'd always seemed to win, but he hadn't been overly rough. I didn't know if his opponents had let him win, or he was just that good. I planned to let him win. I wasn't good at wrestling, and there was another problem I'd have to deal with. We were mostly naked, our shorts the only thing we had on, our bodies would be sliding around on each other, bare skin against bare skin, and I had an awfully quick trigger on my boy part. Really quick. Not shooting, but hardening. Knowing he was the one I'd be wrestling, that had already started to become a problem. Just sitting next to each other and talking.

The two guys ahead of us finished and left the mat. "You ready?" he asked.

"No," I said, "but what choice do I have?"

"You don't want to do this?" he asked, wrinkling his brow. To him, wrestling was evidently a highpoint of his day.

"No, I hate this. I hate all this stuff, but this and the ropes are the worst."

"Aw, that's too bad. I love it. But don't worry. I'll make this real fast, okay?"

"Okay. Just don't hurt me."

"Or you me," he said, and grinned, which had me so startled that when Coach blew his whistle, I was unprepared. Troy stepped forward, grabbed me so our bare chests were together, then stepped and fell backwards. I fell with him, landing on top, which I had to do because he never let go.

"Oof," he said, and just lay there. I just lay there too, on top of him. The coach slapped the mat, and the match was over. Coach pulled me to my feet and raised my hand. It was over so fast, I hadn't even had time to get completely hard!

Troy got up and shook my hand. "Good fight!" he said, grinned at me and walked away.

At the end of class, he came and stood next to me in the shower room. I wished he hadn't done that. He was beautiful naked. I wasn't very developed yet. He was slightly taller than I was, and slightly better developed, too. Neither of us had pubes. Both were circumcised. He was just a smidge longer and a smidge thicker. Beautiful. The problem was, seeing him up close, I couldn't help it. I sprung one. As I said, I do that really fast. It's kind of impressive, I guess. He watched it happen and said, "Jiminey!"

I blushed and tried to cover myself and felt awful. He saw that and said, "Hey, lots of guys get hard in here. It's our age. You look great. Nothing to be embarrassed about."

"But I am," I said. I felt terrible and was almost crying.

He saw that, too. "Here," he said, "maybe this'll help," and he gave himself a couple of strokes, and before I could say anything at all, he was as hard as I was.

He grinned at me. "See? No worries."

I couldn't believe it. And just when I wanted to say something, anything, I was tongue-tied. I opened my mouth, then shut it again.

"Cat got your tongue?" he asked, and laughed. I couldn't stand it. He was wonderful, and I was a drip. I let my eyes drop, and sort of wished I were dead.

He stepped over into my shower. The room was full of noisy boys and steam, and we were on the far end from the door. With horseplay and shouting going on, I don't think anyone noticed us. "Hey, come on, Gary," he said, sounding concerned now. "There's nothing wrong. Maybe you're a little shy, but getting hard's not a big deal. And no, I didn't mean it that way. You're plenty big!" He laughed again, and then, I couldn't believe it. He said, "Here, let me wash your back," and turned me around facing the wall and ran his suddenly soapy hands up and down my back; then he reached around me and made sure my stiffy wasn't only hard, but very, very clean, too.

I must have squealed when he did that because he whispered in my ear, "Shhhh. If they hear us, they'll want me to do them, too, and I'm only interested in you. I like you, Gary."

Standing like we were, his hardness was up against my butt. Hand on my boner, his boner on my butt, I was spaced out and dazed and practically euphoric.

He squeezed me with one arm and my member with his other hand and said in my ear, "Enough for now. We'll finish this later." Then he moved back into his own shower and began whistling as he washed himself. Anyone looking at him would have seen his condition, but that didn't seem to bother him. He had the confidence of a bulldog walking through an alley. Nothing seemed to bother him. If I had one-hundredth of his confidence, it would be ten times more than what I did have.

My boy part eventually ebbed, and I could finally leave the shower room. He followed me out. Coach gave us both the eye when he handed us our towels. Troy moved his clothes to where my locker was, and we dressed together. He asked me to come to his house after school. I did. We, uh, did finish what he'd started in the showers, but that has nothing to do with what my purpose is here, and anyone can figure out what happened without my help. It was just what I'd hoped would happen.

We were close friends after that, and he was usually at my side during gym class, helping me, showing me easier ways to do things, encouraging me, and I did get better as time passed. He was especially helpful on the ropes. We had several ropes in the gym, and he'd get on one next to mine and get me started. Then he'd climb next to me, staying just below me, using his feet to hold himself whenever I'd have to rest, but talking me through it, making me take the extra effort, climbing just as slowly as I did, staying just under me as though we were competing and I was winning. All that encouragement had a big effect on how hard I tried.

You know, if you really try to do something instead of just going through the motions, you do get better. You do improve with time. And I did. I never got to love it, I never could run fast, but I did make the speed bag dance, I did lift the required weight, I did win a couple of wrestling matches, and I did get so I could climb the rope to the knot without stopping, and once, after I'd got to the point I could climb up and down that damn rope without a problem, Troy got me to do it without using my feet at all going up. I did use them coming down. But, wow! I couldn't believe I'd done that. I was stronger by then, though. And I believed in myself.

At the end of the year, Coach gave me a medal as the most improved boy in the class. I told him Troy deserved it more than I did because without his help, I'd be the same boy who entered the class unable to do anything. Coach said Troy may have helped, but I'd done the work.

Troy taught me a lot in the gym. We taught each other in the bedroom. I liked that a whole lot more, which was good as we spent way more than an hour and a half a day, three times a week, on either his or my bed. Way more.

The End


This story is part of the 2021 story challenge "Inspired by a Picture: The Only Way is Up!". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 26 March to 15 April 2021 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

The challenge was to write a story inspired by this picture:

2021 Inspired by a Picture Challenge - The Only Way is Up!
Gymnastics at Ila school By Leif Ørnelund / Oslo Museum, License: Attrbution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA 4.0

Learning the Ropes

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