This is a mobile proxy. It is intended to visit the IOMfAtS Story Shelf on devices that would otherwise not correctly display the site. Please direct all your feedback to the friendly guy over at IOMfAtS!

What We Are II

Summer Heat

by Richie Ryan

Chapter 10: Let's Ride

Once they had their helmets strapped on, Richie and Lindy kick-started the bikes to life, then fell in behind the Suburban as it pulled out of Harry's on it's way to Jake's Road. When they reached the snowmobile trail, Kyle and Kevin continued on to the cabin while the younger boys peeled off to the right to begin what promised to be an exciting adventure.

Since Richie had spent more time on the trails last winter than Lindy, and therefore was more familiar with them, he took the lead. Well, this was their thinking, anyway. In reality, what they traveled across now bore very little resemblance to the snow-covered terrain they rode over last winter. Even so, the swath cut through the woods to accommodate the trail was quite pronounced and well marked with signs. As long as they didn't wander too far off into the surrounding woods they felt confident that they wouldn't get lost.

They began their ride fairly slowly, sticking to the trail while Richie became accustomed to the feel and power of his machine. Ten minutes from the time they'd left Jake's Road, with Richie feeling more comfortable, their riding became more aggressive. At the bottom of one particularly steep hill, Richie spotted what appeared to be an abandoned logging road angling off to his left. Without seeking Lindy's approval, he immediately maneuvered his bike onto it. Their many hours of practice at the quarry paid off for them as they constantly jumped over, or scooted around the many logs, rocks, and other obstacles in their path. For the most part the logging road paralleled the snowmobile trail, so it only took an occasional glance to their right to maintain their bearings. Whenever they encountered obstacles such as fallen trees that were too large to go over or around, they would work their way back to the trail again.

About thirty minutes into their ride, they were following the trail when they came to the boat landing. Stopping there, they shut off their bikes to take a short break.

"Whoa!" said Richie as he pulled off his helmet. "That was awesome!"

"Fuckin right!" replied Lindy. "Sure beats the hell outa the quarry, don't it."

Neither boy wore a watch, but they guessed the time to be somewhere around 3:30 in the afternoon, giving them more than enough of daylight to finish their trip. Looking out over the dead calm of the south end of Gull Lake, it struck them for the first time that there was no wind today. With the temperature hovering in the mid eighties, and the humidity higher than normal for this time of the year, the lack of a cooling breeze had both boys sweating profusely from their hard ride.

"What d'ya say we stop at the little gas station at the other end of town for a can of pop before we move on?" suggested Richie.

"Sounds like a plan to me, bro. I'm dyin for somethin cold to drink."

That said, they donned their helmets, kick started their machines and headed for Benson. When they turned onto Main Street, Richie wondered for a moment if they could get into trouble for riding the dirt bikes through the middle of town. After all, the bikes they rode weren't the quietest of vehicles and, if they should get stopped by the local authorities, neither boy had a driver's license. His big-city thinking quickly became a non-issue when they encountered no traffic on the nearly empty street. They passed only nine cars during the entire trip through town, all parked at various spots along Main Street, five of the nine in front of the town's only tavern. To Richie, Benson had the look of a ghost town - the only thing lacking was the trademark tumble weeds bouncing lazily down the middle of the street.

Pulling into the two-pump gas station at the far end of town, they eased their bikes under some shade trees at the near end of the building, then made their way on foot to the pop machine. Even though it felt hot when they stopped at the boat landing it felt even hotter now that they were away from the lake. After selecting a Pepsi apiece, they casually walked back to the shade trees where they'd left their bikes.

"Whew!" said Richie after taking a healthy swig of his drink. "Sure is hot without the wind blowing."

"Yeah it is," said Lindy. "When we get back to the cabin, I am so heading straight for the lake... and I'm not passing GO, or collecting $200.00 on the way."

"I got your back on that, dude," said Richie before they did their slap-tap handshake.

"So, how long ya think it'll take us to finish the trip?" asked Lindy after a few moments of silence.

"Don't know, bro. My guess is that we've come about a quarter of the way around so far, but if I remember right, the terrain gets a lot rougher once we get on the other side of McCarthy's. A lot more hills and shit, ya know?"

"Yeah, I think you're right. I doubt there's any hill these babies can't climb, though," said Lindy while he patted the seat on his bike. "You think there'll be any logging roads up there?"

"You kidding? Does a bear shit in the woods? Course there'll be some. They're all over the place around here."

"Cool," said Lindy before finishing off his Pepsi. "Then what're we waitin for, dude? Let's do it."

That said, the dynamic duo were off again. Richie was right about the rougher terrain around the north end of the lake, but there were plenty of logging roads to choose from, some older and some newer than the one they traveled at the south end. There were also two well maintained fire breaks at this end, but since they were so well-kept and used to accommodate power lines as well, they weren't very exciting to ride through. When they reached the northwest corner of the lake, the logging road they had chosen - by far the oldest one they'd seen - suddenly came to an abrupt end. It stopped at the edge of a fairly large clearing spread out at the base of a steep hill that the boys estimated to be about fifty feet high, rising at about a forty five degree angle.

"What d'ya think, Rich?" asked Lindy thoughtfully, "Wanna go for it?"

"I don't know, man, it looks awful steep... and awful high."

"Shit, bro, it ain't no steeper or higher than the big hill at the quarry... and we go up that one all the time."

"True that," said Richie. "But we know that hill. We don't have a clue what's buried under that long grass on this one."

"Only one way to fine out, bro. C'mon, what d'ya say? I'll even go first." When Richie didn't answer for a moment, Lindy knew he almost had him convinced. "C'mon, Rich, don't wuss out on me here... it'll be like a maximum rush."

"OK, you bozo, but keep your eyes open and watch yourself toward the top... it looks a little steeper up there."

"No prob, man, it's cake," said Lindy before he gunned the motor a couple of times to blow out the built-up carbon.

The third time he gunned it, he dumped the clutch. Popping a wheely, the rear tire slid a few inches to the right, kicking up a cloud of dirt and rocks as he headed for the hill. Barely breathing, Richie watched intently as his best friend began his upward assault.

Always watchful for objects hidden by the grass, Lindy expertly feathered the throttle just enough to maintain his forward and upward momentum, the powerful two cycle engine screaming its high pitched sound as he went. When he got to within twelve feet of the top, Richie's suspicions proved to be correct. The hill abruptly went from forty five degrees to nearly sixty. His eyes wide, his body shot full of adrenaline, Lindy shifted his weight forward to put his center of gravity over the front wheel, a maneuver necessary in order to prevent the bike from falling over backwards. When he did this, however, he inadvertently rolled the throttle forward nearly killing the engine. Quickly realizing he was in trouble, that he wouldn't be able to reach the top with his straight-on approach, he lifted, then jerked the front end of the bike to the left. This brought the front end down to where the bike was parallel with the hill and out of danger of flipping over. Once he was at this safer angle, and in control again, he completed his journey to the top without further incident.

Watching all of this take place from below, Richie began to breathe normally again only after he saw his friend safely reach his destination. 'Whoa, a little more power and you'd a made it, bro,' he thought. Learning from watching Lindy, Richie was sure that he could make it all the way. Besides, since Lindy rubbed it in so bad when he found the anchor, making this straight-on climb when Lindy didn't would be a sweet comeback indeed.

Out of breath from his near disastrous experience, Lindy was sitting astride his bike at the top of the hill looking down at his friend below. He knew Richie was going to try the same straight-on approach as he did - he would be totally out of character if he didn't. Cupping his hands by the sides of his mouth, he yelled as loud as he could.

"Start from farther back, Rich. Ya need more speed to make it up the last ten or twelve feet."

Lindy knew Richie got the message because the ant sized figure below waved back to him just before he fired up his bike. He continued to watch until Richie disappeared into the trees as he made his way back down the road to give himself more room to build up his momentum. Once he was out of sight, Lindy turned his attention to the surrounding area. For the first time since he'd completed his climb he noticed the top of the hill was actually a six foot wide ridge that dropped off in a gentle slope on the back side. 'Not a problem for Rich,' he thought. 'Shit, if he comes up at just the right speed, he'll stop right on the top of the ridge. If he's going a little too fast for that, he might just catch a little air and come down on the other side. Either way, it's gonna look pretty cool.'

Then Lindy's eyes drifted off to what lay at the bottom of the slope. The first thing he saw was the tall grass, and beyond that, the taller cattails. 'Whoa,' he thought as he stood on his toes, straining his neck to see what lay beyond the cattails. Sure enough, as the tall grass and cattails would indicate, he could just make out the surface of the water that made up a large swamp.

'Oh God, Rich, please don't come up too fast,' thought Lindy as he looked back to the road where his friend, still hidden within the trees, was just now revving up his motor.

Seconds later, Lindy watched anxiously as Richie burst into view on his way to the base of the hill. He was traveling much faster than Lindy had, and by the time he was half-way up the hill, Lindy knew he was going too fast. Helpless and unable to change what was about to happen, he watched in terror as his friend literally flew up the last twelve feet toward the top of the ridge.

'I hope you're watching this, Lindstrom' thought Richie with confidence as he began his ascent up the steeper incline. Smiling now, he knew he had more than enough speed and power to complete his climb. So what if he caught a little air as he cleared the top, all the more of a show for Lindy.

Just as his bike launched itself over the top, the look of triumph on Richie's face quickly turned into one of horror. Although he was mildly surprised to see the unexpected down-slope on the back side of the ridge, it was the sight of the swamp beyond that caused his eyes to grow wide, and his mouth to open with a silent gasp. Thinking quickly, he knew he had no options - as soon as he was on the ground again he would have to lay the bike down and pray that he would come out of this in one piece.

That's exactly what he did. As soon as his rear wheel touched down, he pulled the handlebars back with all his might while leaning all of his weight to the right - much like a rodeo cowboy would pull down a calf during a calf-roping competition. Mentally bracing himself, he clenched his teeth, closed his eyes, and prepared to ride it out.

Lindy's face was etched with fear as he watched his best friend's body bounce off the ground like a rag-doll when he laid his bike down at the edge of the swamp. The crash caused bike and rider to separate, then both to disappear with a splash into the tall grass. Moments later there was dead silence.

"RICHIE!" screamed Lindy as he ran and stumbled his way down the bank toward the swamp. "OH GOD, NO! RICHIE!" he screamed again through newly forming tears as he raced into the grass where his best friend had disappeared. Straining against the mud that sucked at his feet as it tried to rip off his shoes, Lindy fought his way deeper into the swamp, his arms frantically beating aside the cattails with each labored step.

"RICHIE! WHERE ARE YOU MAN?! TALK TO ME, RICH!" he yelled again and again, his tear-filled eyes searching through the seven foot weeds. Suddenly, he thought he saw movement off to his right. Straining his eyes in that direction while wishing he had Superman's X-ray vision, he saw it again, a slight rustling of the grass a few yards from where he stood. Wiping his tears on his forearm to clear his vision, he began to slog his way toward the movement.

Moments later he was standing over the prone figure of his best friend. He was lying spread-eagled on his back, his left forearm raised at the elbow, slowly moving back and forth against some cattails - the movement that had signaled his position. As soon as Lindy spoke, Richie's arm flopped unmoving to the ground.

"Oh God, Rich, don't move, man. I'm calling 911," said Lindy, fighting back his panic as he dug the cell phone from his pocket.

"Uhhhh," groaned Richie.

"Don't try to talk, man. Help'll be here soon, bro. Just hang in there," sniffed Lindy, trying to focus his tear filled eyes on the cell phone.

"Uh Uh," groaned Richie again. His groaning was louder this time, and he was shaking his head slowly from side to side.

"What're ya sayin, Rich?" asked Lindy, putting his call momentarily on hold.

"Don't.... call," said Richie, almost inaudibly, "I'm OK... ," he said, a little louder this time.

"Oh, man, you don't look OK... and ya damn sure don't sound OK," said Lindy, his crying almost under control.

"Just the wind knocked out of me," said Richie when finally, he could take a deep enough breath. "I'm fine, bro. Just help me off with this helmet and give me a minute to catch my breath."

"OK, man," said Lindy, gently removing his friends helmet for him. "But if you don't come around soon, I am so on this phone."

A few minutes later Richie's breathing had returned to normal. "Whoa, now that's something I don't think I want to try again. Give me a hand, would ya, bro?"

"Don't ya think you should stay put for a while? You know, just to make sure there's nothin broken?"

"What?! Are you fuckin nuts, man?! I'm lyin in a fucking swamp here, Lindy, now help me up, would ya?"

Relieved to see his friend's sense of humor was still in tact, Lindy cautiously helped Richie to his feet. As soon as he had his bearings, and Lindy was sure he wasn't seriously hurt, they slowly made their way out of the mud. Once they were on solid ground again, they sat down to give Richie time to recover.

"You sure you're OK, Rich?" asked Lindy, his eyes beginning to mist up again.

"Yeah, I'm sure. At least I will be as soon as I stop shakin."

Despite the heat of the day, now that it was all over, Richie's hands were shaking uncontrollably. Seeing this, Lindy turned away from his friend to hide the tears that once again began to fall across his cheeks. A few minutes later, with Richie's adrenaline level back to normal, his hands became steady again.

"Whoa, what a rush that was," he said. "How'd I look when I came over the ridge, bro?" When Lindy didn't answer, Richie put a hand on his shoulder, gently turning his friend to face him.

"Hey, bro, you deaf or somethin? I asked ya how I looked." When Lindy was facing him again, Richie saw the crocodile tears.

"Whoa, dude, your eyes are leakin. What's wrong, man?"

"Oh God, Rich, you coulda been killed," sniffed Lindy. "I swear to God I thought you were a goner, man... and it's all my fault."

"Whoa!" said Richie, "Let's back this puppy up a minute. What the hell makes you think it's your fault that I took a header into Okefenokee here. Seems to me that I was the one on the bike."

"Yeah, but it was me that talked you into doin it. Besides, I should've seen that swamp in time to warn you about it."

Unable to look his friend in the eyes anymore, Lindy shifted his gaze to the ground in front of him. "When I saw you go down, I... God, Rich, it was horrible. I thought for sure you were toast. I thought I'd just gotten my best friend killed... all because of some stupid stunt that I just had to talk you into doing."

Lindy's tears had stopped now, but he still felt guilty, and he was angry with himself for putting his best friend in danger. Understanding this, Richie did his best to convince him otherwise.

"Aw shit, Lindy. C'mon, bro, don't be doin this. You know damn well that climbing that hill ain't no different than the million other things we've done together. It just turned out kinda bad is all... but none of it's your fault. And look at me, man... I'm fine... better'n new. So let's just forget this bullshit, OK?"

"You sure you're gonna be OK?" asked Lindy, a trace of guilt still present in his voice.

"You know it, bro," said Richie. Then, noticing the smell of the swamp that rose from his drying clothes, he wrinkled his nose and added, "Nothin wrong with me now that a shower or a couple of cans of deodorant won't fix."

"Yeah," said Lindy, smiling his Lindy smile. "Ya do kinda stink."

"Ya think?" asked Richie as he smiled back at his friend. This of course sent them into their slap-tap handshake.

"How bout we see if we can't find Kyle's bike," said Richie with a grimace as he stood, his bruised body a little sore from his ordeal.

"Oh, yeah," said Lindy. "I think it went off this way when you two parted company."

Leading the way, Lindy took them back into the swamp a little to the left of where Richie landed.

"So, ya never answered me, bro. How'd look when I cleared the top?"

"Oh, it was classic, man. Right out of a Yamaha commercial," said Lindy, his normal self again.

It wasn't hard to find the bike since it left a wide swath of downed cattails in its wake. It was lying on a bed of flattened grass and looked to be in better shape than Richie.

"Hey, this puppy don't look too bad," said Richie. "C'mon, let's pull it outa here and see if it'll run."

That said, the boys dragged the Yamaha across the grass to dry land. Looking it over closely, they found nothing more serious than a few minor scratches. Once they were satisfied with their inspection, Lindy straddled it and began to kick it over. It took him five or six attempts, but to the amazement of both boys it finally turned over, then roared to life. It ran a little rough for a minute or two, probably due to some swamp water in the gas, but soon it was running as good as ever.

"Yes!' exclaimed Richie after Lindy shut it off. This called for a high-five, followed by another slap-tap between two very relieved and happy teenagers.

"Let's hit it, dude," said Richie, exchanging places with Lindy.

"OK," said Lindy. "But let me take the lead this time. With you smelling like 'Swamp Thing', I'd like to keep you down-wind from me."

With both boys laughing, their spirits restored, Lindy returned to his bike and they were off. They passed several more logging roads, but thinking they'd had enough excitement for one day, Lindy decided to stick to the trail. About a mile or two down the west side of the lake they came across a small creek that flowed down from their right, then through a culvert under the trail on its way to the lake. Stopping on top of the culvert, both boys shut off their machines. Although the creek itself wasn't more that six feet wide, and only a few inches deep, the creek-bed was much wider and varied from 15 to 20 feet as it sloped gradually upward into the forest. After a thoughtful glance upstream, Richie looked at Lindy with a broad grin.

"Oh no, Rich!" said Lindy as he shook his head, knowing exactly what his friend was thinking, "No fucking way, bro! We've done just about enough of that shit for one day."

"What d'ya mean, man?" said Richie. "Isn't this what we came out here for? Now I might stink a little, but that don't mean we can't still have some fun, right?"

"Aw, I don't know, Rich. You sure you feel up to it?"

"What did I just tell you? C'mon, man... it ain't steep, and the creek-bed looks pretty tame, so what d'ya say? We'll just follow it for a little while to see where it goes, then come back down again."

"OK, Stinky," said Lindy, rolling his eyes. "But this is your idea, so you take the lead."

"Yes!" exclaimed Richie before kicking his machine back to life.

So off they went. The creek-bed continued its gradual climb, occasionally meandering to the right or left through the woods, never once becoming too difficult for the boys to follow. The ride was so easy in fact that neither boy had any desire to turn back - they just kept going and going, farther and farther, higher and higher.

Eventually they came to the first obstacle to their continued ascent. The creek-bed ended at the base of an outcropping of huge rocks that rose sharply to a bluff about 30 feet above them. The water wound its way down through the rocks from the top of the bluff, occasionally cascading over a series of mini-waterfalls on its way to the creek-bed. Braking to a stop, the boys shut off their bikes. The heat of the afternoon sun was oppressive, but that didn't seem to bother these two as they looked in awe at the beauty that surrounded them. It was quiet and peaceful where they sat and, other than the occasional fly or mosquito that lazily buzzed past their heads, the only sound they heard was from the creek and the trickling waterfalls that fed it.

"Pretty cool, huh, Rich?" said Lindy.

"Yeah, man... unbelievably cool."

After a few minutes of quiet reflection, Lindy broke the silence. "Well, bro, looks like it's trail's end for us. What d'ya say we head back down?"

"Shhh, Lindy. Listen."

"What?" asked Lindy after a few moments. "All I hear is the creek."

"No, man, listen harder," said Richie as he looked toward the top of the rocks. "I think there's a waterfall up there."

"Well, duh, there's lots of 'em coming down the rocks, Rich."

"No, no, not those. There's a bigger one up top. C'mon, let's climb up there and check it out."

"Oh, man... are you serious? It's awful hot to be climbing up all them rocks."

"Yes, I'm serious. C'mon... we'll take it slow. I just wanna check it out, then we'll head back down, I promise."

"OK," said Lindy. "But there better be one hell of a waterfall up there, or there might be only one of us coming down off this mountain."

"Oh, it's up there, bro, I know it," said Richie with an excited smile as he leaned his bike against a large pine tree.

"What about the bikes, though?" asked Lindy, trying to think of an excuse not to make the climb. "Ya think they'll be safe here?"

"Well duh! Like who's gonna steal 'em, Lindy? Yogi Bear? I think he's only into 'picinic baskets', bro."

Feeling a little stupid at his lame attempt, Lindy sighed, parked his bike against another tree, then followed Richie on his way up the bluff. The climb through the rocks to the top of the bluff wasn't a difficult one, but the sweltering heat had both boys soaked with sweat by time they pulled themselves over the last pile of boulders.

What they saw as they stood next to each other at the top literally took away their collective breaths. Spread out before them was a huge pond, or small lake, depending one's perspective. A geologist could probably explain how something like this could exist in the middle of a pine forest, but to the boys it was pure magic - a place usually found only in story books, or drawn from a little boy's dreams and made into reality. Directly across from where they stood was a rock cliff about twenty feet high, its top edge jutting out over the pond with the water from the creek, it's origin still unknown, pouring over it.

"Told ya," said Richie in a hushed voice as he stared wide-eyed and unbelieving at the falls. Lindy was too mesmerized to speak.

The water from the creek that cycled through the pond on its way to Gull Lake was crystal clear, enabling the boys to see all the way to the bottom. It was deep, too, appearing to the boys to be at least twenty feet deep at their end. When Richie scanned the perimeter of the pond, his eyes detected a slight movement at the tree line on the far side. While he strained his eyes in that direction, Lindy spoke for the first time.

"Whoa, Rich, this is like..."

"Shhh, Lindy... " interrupted Richie, his voice no louder than a whisper, "and don't move." Then, pointing to where he'd seen the movement he whispered again. "Look."

While they watched, two white-tail deer, a doe and her fawn, emerged from the forest and sauntered over to the pond to drink. Richie and Lindy were beside themselves with awe. A few moments later there was more movement at the tree line. Tearing their eyes away from the deer, the boys looked back to the trees just in time to see a magnificent buck strut proudly into view. He was gorgeously majestic as he slowly but deliberately moved to join his family. With his eight-point rack of antlers held high, he continuously sniffed the air while searching the area for possible predators. Satisfied that they were safe, but never relaxing his vigil, he cautiously lowered his head to drink.

Richie and Lindy were barely breathing. Although they'd seen deer at the zoo before, it was nothing by comparison to what they witnessed now. A few minutes later, their thirst sated, the deer wandered back into the woods as quietly and casually as they had appeared.

"Whoa, Rich, that was like so cool."

"Yeah, it was," said Richie, still transfixed by what they'd seen.

"Rich? Do you remember riding through some sorta time warp, or falling down a rabbit hole on our way up here? Cause this place reminds me of somethin out of one of those dinosaur movies."

"You mean like one of the Jurassic Park movies?" asked Richie with a smile. "You worried that a couple a Raptors are gonna jump out and have us for lunch?"

"No, those movies are more about T-Rex on a feeding frenzy. I'm talkin more about the older movies like 'The Land That Time Forgot', or the original 'King Kong'."

"Yeah, I see what you mean," said Richie as he walked to the edge of the pond. Stooping down, he put his hand in the water, then looked over his shoulder to Lindy. "Well, wherever we are, it's real, and the water ain't too bad, either. I'm guessing it starts out as spring water somewhere up the mountain, but gets warmed up here in the pond by the sun beatin down on it all day."

Just then, Lindy saw something out of the corner of his eye. On closer inspection he discovered it was a rock. What intrigued him about it was that unlike the rest of the flat, colorless rocks that surrounded the pond, this one was smooth and shiny, about the size and shape of a red and white speckled chicken egg. Because it seemed so out of place amongst the others, he stooped to pick it up.

"Look what I found Rich." he said as he joined Richie by the water's edge.

"Cool, Lindy, you found a rock," said Richie, rolling his eyes and speaking in a 'so what' tone of voice.

"Oh, no, Rich. This ain't no ordinary rock, dude. This is a magic skipper."

"A skipper? Are you nuts or somethin? That thing's shaped like an egg, man. No way could you skip that puppy, even if your life depended on it."

"Oh yeah? Then watch closely and you just might learn something, Grasshopper."

Sure that Richie was right, and thinking that he'd be lucky to get one or maybe two skips from the rock, Lindy leaned back and flung it as hard as he could in rock-skipping fashion toward the falls. To the total amazement of both boys, the rock did skip. Not only did it skip one or two times, but it skipped, and skipped, and kept on skipping until it reached the shore next to the falls on the other side. Richie and Lindy continued to stare in disbelief as the ripples left by the rock slowly disappeared.

"What were you sayin, Rich?" asked Lindy, covering up his surprise with a smug look on his face.

"Whoa! How the hell did you do that, bro?"

"Like I told ya, man, it's magic."

"Must be," said Richie as he slowly shook his head in wonder.

Then, without another word, Richie dived head-long and fully clothed into the water. The magic skipping-rock quickly forgotten, Lindy pulled the cell phone from his pocket before dashing to the edge where he dived in to join his friend. Swimming unhurried just below the surface to where Richie was, Lindy relished the cooling effect of the water as it seemed to rinse away all the sweat and dirt from their ride. When he finally broke the surface, he was only a foot away from his friend.

"What the hell did you dive in with all your clothes on for?" asked Richie with a sparkle in his eyes.

"Um, I don't know... you did it."

"Well yeah... cause I smell like the creature from the black lagoon," said Richie with a smile. "Thought I could rinse some of it off."

"Oh, um... well maybe I just wanted to wash some of the dirt and sweat off," said Lindy in a lame effort to excuse his actions. "Besides, so what? They'll dry easy enough."

"True that. Just please tell me you took Kyle's cell out of your pocket first."

"What d'ya think I am, stupid?"

"Hmm, bad question to ask when you're treading water with all your clothes on."

"Bite me, Andrews." The last part of Lindy's reply came out in bubbles when Richie shoved his head under the water.

When he returned to the surface, Lindy saw Richie making his way across the pond toward the falls. Swimming after him, he noticed for the first time just how difficult it was to make any progress fully dressed. When he caught up to him moments later, they were directly under the falls where the water pounded down on their heads.

"Whoa, that shit's cold!" exclaimed Lindy.

"Got that right. Pretty fuckin deep here, too. C'mon, let's get out and give our clothes a chance to dry."

They swam to the edge of the pond away from the falls and began to strip out of their wet clothes, spreading them over some large boulders in the sun to dry. It had been several months since Richie last saw Lindy in the nude, and as he watched him undress he noticed that his friend, much like himself, had grown some during that time. He couldn't tell if his dick had grown as Lindy had claimed yesterday, though, because it was shriveled up close to his body from exposure to the cool water.

Once they had their clothes all laid out, Lindy walked back to the water's edge, shaking his head from side to side like a shaggy dog in an attempt to remove the excess water from his hair. Richie had always admired Lindy's body, but looking at his back as he stood by the pond, he realized that his recent growth spurt made him look even sexier.

Watching him shake the water from his hair, Richie reflected back on their mutual jack-off session during a Friday night sleep-over last winter. They had jacked each other off that night, and it was the first and only time they'd ever touched each other. It was also a major turning point in Richie's life - it was that particular event that caused him to seriously question his sexual orientation. Thinking back on it now, Richie remembered how much he enjoyed the feel of Lindy's dick and how much he'd wanted to suck on it ever since. Feeling his own dick begin to stir at these thoughts, he knew he had to focus on something else before Lindy turned to see him getting hard. Looking to the top of the cliff, then to the rock-strewn hill next to it, he quickly moved to its base, calling to Lindy over his shoulder as he went.

"Yo, Lindy! Let's go see what's at the top of the cliff."

Before Lindy could respond, Richie had already begun is ascent. Rolling his eyes and shaking his head as if to say 'oh boy, here we go again', Lindy quickly joined his friend in his climb to the top. Making their way over and around the moss covered rocks, the two naked teenagers looked like forest dwelling spirits, or elves, completely at home in a magical place.

The top of the cliff was all rock, devoid of any vegetation. The creek was about eight feet wide at the bottom of the hill behind the cliff, then branched out into many smaller streams and rivulets as it wound its way through the many cracks and crevices. These smaller streams then came together again before falling into the pond below. The two naked boys stood at the edge of the cliff to gaze out over some of the most beautiful scenery they'd ever seen.

"You think anybody else knows about this place, Rich?"

"Don't know, but I'm guessing Kyle does. Him and his dad used to ride out here all the time. Why?"

"Oh, I don't know... I was thinkin we should claim it as our place. You know, give it a name and shit... like the explorers did in the old days."

"Ya think?" asked Richie, "Like what would you name it? Lindy's falls, or Lindy's lagoon?"

"I don't know, you're the creative one. What do you think?"

"Truth?" asked Richie.

"Well, duh."

"OK, I don't think we should name it at all. For one thing, I couldn't come up with a name that would do it justice. For another thing, I don't think we have the right to stake a claim on it. It's nature, bro, so why don't we just leave it at that?"

"Yeah, I spose you're right," said Lindy, a little disappointed. "The pond kind of reminds me of that old movie we saw a while back, like from the eighties I think. You remember... it was about this dude and chick that got stranded on an island when they were little and grew up there. What the hell was the name of it?"

"You mean 'Blue Lagoon'?"

"Yeah, that's the one... with Brooke Shields, right?"

"No," said Richie, smiling ear to ear. "With Christopher Atkins."

"Well, duh, same mov... oh... You fucking queer," laughed Lindy as he punched Richie playfully in the arm.

"C'mon," said Richie, "We got some time left before we have to leave, so why don't we catch some rays for a while. Who knows, maybe we'll see some more deer or somethin. We got a helluva view from up here."

With that said, the boys stretched out on their stomachs near the edge of the cliff where they had an unobstructed view of the pond and surrounding forest below. They lay in silence for a while, enjoying the warmth of the sun on the naked bodies. Lindy was the first to speak.

"So, what's it like, Rich?"

"Now there's a typical Lindstrom question," said Richie without irritation. "What's what like?"

"What's it like between you and Kyle?"

"Oh, that. It's great, man. Course we have our moments, same as me and you do, but most of the time we have a blast with each other." There was a long pause before Richie continued. "Funny you should ask, though, cause I was just thinking about him. By the way, we sorta broke up."

"You broke up?!" asked a surprised Lindy.

"Yeah... at least as far a being a couple goes. We're kinda redefining our relationship, I guess. What you and I were talking about back at Harry's kinda fits into it, too."

"What d'ya mean?"

"Well, I never really thought about it before, but when you gave me shit about calling him 'dad' back there, and I said he was more like a big brother, I realized I was right. Not only is he the best friend I've got after you, but he's like a big brother to me, too. Actually, I think of him as more of a big brother than a boyfriend. That make any sense?"

"I guess... in a twisted, Andrews sorta way," said Lindy with a grin. "So, does this new relationship mean you won't be having sex anymore?"

Richie thought about this for a moment before answering. The quick answer would be 'no' because that, of course, is what they had agreed on. Even so, with a touch of sadness, he couldn't help but wonder how long it would continue. Rather than complicate it for Lindy, he decided to stick with the facts of what he and Kyle had agreed on.

"No. For now, anyway, everything will stay the same except for the 'one to one' commitment. We decided we'd both be better off if we let each other 'play the field' as Kyle calls it. But I'll tell you what... I seriously doubt that having sex with anyone else could even come close to what it's like to do it with Kyle. He's extra special, ya know? And having sex with someone who's extra special makes the sex extra special."

"Yeah, I guess... if you say so," said Lindy, his voice sounding sadly wistful. Beginning to feel uncomfortable on the hard rock surface, Lindy moved into a sitting position with his legs crossed, facing a still prone Richie. "So what's it like, Rich? Having sex with Kyle, I mean? Shit, what's it like having sex with anyone?"

"You and Nancy haven't done it yet, have ya, bro?" asked Richie with sympathy as he sat up to face his friend.

"Fuck no!" said Lindy, looking dejectedly down at his hands.

"Didn't think so, cause if ya had, you'd a for sure told me about it. Well don't worry, bro, it'll happen when the time's right," said Richie, trying to lift Lindy's spirits.

"I don't know about that. It's been six months and I barely got to first base. I mean, like we'll get goin pretty hot and heavy, but as soon as I start to go past feeling her tits, she breaks it off. She always has some excuse or somethin why we have to stop. It's like so frustrating, ya know?"

"Have you tried to talk to her about it?"

"Yeah, but whenever I bring it up, she changes the subject."

"Maybe she has some issues about sex that you don't know about."

"Yeah, maybe," said Lindy with a sigh. "But what the hell can I do if she won't talk about it. I don't know, Rich. I'm like up against a brick wall here... and if it goes on much longer, I don't think we can stay together." After a few moments of silence, Lindy looked up at Richie. "It's so damn frustrating, ya know? All my friends are getting fucked regular like, and the only thing my dick sees is my hand."

Despite Lindy's frustration, Richie had to chuckle at this. Then, in another attempt to make him feel better, he said, "That's not exactly true, bro... at least not if you're talking about me and Kyle... and Kevin, too, for that matter. First of all... yeah, I'd have to say Kevin is getting laid on a regular basis, but Stephanie won't suck his dick."

"She won't? I thought girls liked to suck dick."

"So did I, but not Stephanie. Now this is strictly between you and me cause it's personal, and Kevin's pretty embarrassed about it, but Stephanie thinks it disgusting and refuses to do it. And as far as me and Kyle are concerned... shit, I've only fucked him once, and he's never fucked me. So what I'm trying to say here, bro, is that everything is not always what it appears to be. I don't think there are any, at least not very many couples that are getting everything they want out of a relationship."

"Yeah, I spose you're right. I'd just like to get somethin before I turn thirty, ya know... and the rate things are goin with Nancy, it ain't gonna happen."

There was another long moment of silence while Lindy again looked down at his hands. Then, with a grin on his face, and a twinkle in his eyes, he looked up at Richie. "So... what's it like?"

"What's what like?"

"What's it like to have sex with Kyle? How did it feel when you fucked him?"

"Getting a little personal now, aren't ya, bro?"

"Yeah, I suppose," said Lindy, a little embarrassed as he looked down again. After only a moment though, he looked up with just a trace of pleading written on his face. "But if I have to do without, at least I could live my sex life vicariously through yours... and you know I wouldn't tell anyone."

"Vicariously? Where did you learn that one, bro, 'word for the day' or something?"

"Word for the day?! Listen to you, Andrews!" said Lindy with a smile. "I can't believe you have the balls to be putting down my vocabulary. If I remember right, it was less than a month ago when we got our English finals back. You remember it, don't ya? Something about me getting 98 out of 100 compared to your 91 on the vocabulary test. That is how it went down, isn't it?"

Richie had forgotten about the test. He shouldn't have, though, because academics was just another area where these two constantly competed with each other. Even though they weren't in the same English class, they still compared test scores, and he'd caught his share of ribbing from Lindy on that particular day.

"OK, OK, I give up," said Richie, not wanting to get Lindy started again. "Ya beat me on the vocabulary test, OK? I still think you cheated somehow, though."

"Cheated how? It's not my fault you thought 'homogeneous' meant a 'smart queer'."

This got a huge laugh out of both boys. "Hey, gimme a break, would ya? I was at Kyle's the night before the test, and didn't get much sleep so I wasn't thinking right, OK?. Besides, when I couldn't think of the right answer, I wrote 'smart gay person' not 'smart queer', you dipstick. Old Ms. Boreland seem to get a kick out of it, though."

"I guess, since she couldn't wait to tell the whole class about it, but don't be changing the subject on me. Last winter you promised to keep me in the loop about you and Kyle, so give, bro. Tell me what it was like."

Richie thought about this for a minute. He knew Lindy was truly frustrated, and undoubtedly horny as hell. Quickly glancing between Lindy's legs, Richie thought he detected a slight lengthening of his dick, perhaps in anticipation of what he might tell him. Thinking about how he'd helped Kevin out on the raft, and about how he'd secretly wanted to suck on Lindy's dick for so long, an impromptu plan quickly formed in his head.

"OK, since you're my best bud, I'll give ya the short version. It happened on the last night we were at the cabin. I don't think either one of us thought I'd be fucking him that night, cause it all started out pretty normally. You know, us making out, then feeling each other up. When things got hotter, though, Kyle sat on the edge of the bed and started to suck my dick. Now we've both had a lot of practice on each other since then, and we're much better at it now, but even then he could give one helluva blow-job. Anyway, while he sucked my dick, he slipped his middle finger into my ass. Oh, God, Lindy, you have no idea how good that feels... especially when it's done right... and Kyle knows how to do it right."

While Richie talked, he occasionally glanced at Lindy's dick, and just as he had hoped would happen it was beginning to get hard.

"Well, all the time he was rubbing my prostate with his finger, he kept sucking on my dick. Pretty soon I was so close to coming that I had to pull out of his mouth. You know, time to switch off and give him a little. After pushing him back on the bed, I lifted his legs up to where his knees were on his chest. Then I dove right in and started to rim him. In case ya don't know what that is, it's when you lick your tongue around and into another guy's hole. I may sound gross to you, but trust me, it's not... and it feels awesome."

Lindy began to fidget visibly now, and Richie could see that he was almost fully hard.

"Now knowing that Kyle was just waiting for me to do a number on his prostate, and since my tongue isn't long enough to reach it, I goobered up my finger with spit and slipped it into him. As soon as I found his magic button, I sucked on one of his balls. God, he loves it when I do that. That's what's really cool about having sex with someone you care about. You know... knowing that you know how to give him exactly what he wants. Anyway, pretty soon I had two fingers in and he was like going wild. Then, all of a sudden he sits up making me pull my fingers out. Surprised the shit out of me. I thought I'd hurt him or something."

"Did ya?" asked Lindy, speaking for the first time since Richie started his tale. "I mean, two fingers at the same time?"

"Nah, two fingers ain't nothin if you do it right. Easy for me to say now, but I didn't know that at the time. But no, I wasn't hurting him at all, he just stopped me cause he wanted me to fuck him. Now my dick may not be the biggest in the world, but for sure it's bigger than two fingers. Tell the truth, I was a little scared. We'd never done it before, so I was afraid I might hurt him. Besides, to be honest I was kinda hoping I would be the first to get fucked. Well, he insisted, so we did it."

"Whoa!" said Lindy as he pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around them in an attempt to conceal his fully erect penis. "You just went from two fingers to fucking him with your dick?"

"Oh, no... hell no. I mean knowing what I know now, I spose I could, but no way was I gonna do that then. He had some KY lube in his bag, so I used that to get him ready first. Actually, to make sure he was loose enough, I worked up to three fingers before I put my dick in. Man, I was like so nervous, Lindy. Before I did it I made him promise to tell me if it hurt, too. I mean, I was like so ready to bail if he so much as looked like he was hurting. Well, you know Kyle, even if he was dying from pain he probably wouldn't tell me.

"Anyway, after I had three fingers in him, he was begging me to fuck him. Even though I started out slow, I know it hurt him at first cause he flinched, and his ass clamped tight around the head of my dick. After a couple seconds, though, he relaxed again and told me to go in further. Pretty soon I was all the way in, and it was fantastic. His ass is so tight, and so hot, I was going nuts.

"I kept it slow at first, just to make sure I wasn't hurting him, ya know. But before long I was slamming in and out of him like crazy... and the more I did it, the more he loved it. Before long... too soon now that I think about it... we were both coming at the same time, me in his ass and him all over our stomachs... and he came without either one of us touching his dick, either. I thought about it some afterwards, too. You know, about how I slammed into him like a wild man, over and over again, and the more I did it the more he liked it. Kinda weird when you think about it, huh? I mean, here's the 'always in control Kyle' letting me... no, more than that... wanting me to fuck the hell out of him, and me loving every minute of it. God, it was fantastic! Well, that's it... end of story. Oh, one more thing, he promised to do me the next time. Man, I can't wait to see what it feels like."

"Wow!" said Lindy, trying to act casual as he looked down at his dick. Looking up again he asked, "And that was the short version?'

Richie knew he'd drawn the story out longer than necessary, but it was part of his plan. He wanted to get Lindy as excited as possible. Besides, it was one of the most significant experiences of his life, and ever since, he'd been torn between keeping it private and sharing it with Lindy. What he hadn't figured on was that he, too, would get so excited recounting that night. Now, he was just as hard as Lindy. Thinking it might make his friend feel more comfortable, though, he never tried to conceal it.

"Yeah, well, I guess I got carried away a little," said Richie with a smile.

"Yeah? Sounded to me like you been dyin to tell someone about it ever since it happened," said Lindy, returning his friends smile.

"Hmm," said Richie a little embarrassed, but at the same time happy that he finally got it off his chest. "That's true enough, but I've never wanted to tell anyone else, just you... and by the looks of little Lindy, I'd have to say you loved every minute of it."

Suddenly feeling self-conscious, Lindy flushed a little as he pulled his legs up to his chest, resting his chin on his knees in an effort to hide his excitement.

"Can't get anything past you, can I, bro," he with a grin. Then, his smile disappearing, he asked in a serious tone of voice, "Is that wrong, Rich? I mean should I be getting a hard-on listening to a gay fuck-story?"

"Wrong? Not hardly, bro. Shit, Lindy, you're so horny a story about farm animals fucking would get you hard."

Lindy smiled again. Then, worried that he might be pushing it too far but wanting to get the full story, he asked, "So why hasn't he done you yet? It's been more'n six months since you guys were up here."

This question caused Richie to look down at the ground between his legs in thought before he answered. After a moment of reflection, he spoke without looking up. "I know, and it kind of pisses me off, too. Seems like every time I've asked him to, he always comes up with some lame excuse why he can't." Then, his face brightening considerably, he looked up to Lindy again. "He will, though, and soon. We talked about it when we went to Pine City today, and he promised he'd do it. I'm like really glad, too, cause... well, like I said, he's special to me, ya know? That's why I want him to be my first... cause he'd make it special. Besides, I trust him not to hurt me." Looking down again, he finished in a quietly concerned voice. "I'd never tell him this, but I gotta admit that I'm a little nervous about it. After seeing how much he liked it, though, I just gotta try it."

"Well, just make sure you tell me about it after, OK? And don't be waiting six months to do it, either, bro," added Lindy as he looked down at his swollen member.

Noticing this, Richie said, "I can help you with that problem if ya want me to, bro."

"Nah, it's alright... besides, you don't exactly have the right equipment for that."

"What d'ya mean by that, man... I got a mouth, don't I?" said Richie with mild irritation. When Lindy remained silent, Richie went on. "Look, Lindy, you know I'm gay, don't ya?"

"Well, duh!"

"Then you know that I suck dick. That's what I do, man, and I like doin it, so what's the problem?"

"I don't know," said Lindy, looking down at his pulsing dick again. "I guess it's because I couldn't return the favor. It wouldn't be fair."

"Who said anything about returning the favor. I think you're just acting like a snob, now, bro. If you're worried about it getting out that some gay dude sucked your dick, don't... I'm not gonna say anything to anybody."

"C'mon, Rich," said Lindy, looking at Richie seriously. "You know better'n that."

"Then what the hell's the problem?" When Lindy didn't say anything, Richie thought he'd make one more stab at it. "It didn't seem to bother Kevin when I gave him one on the raft last night."

He purposely left out the part about Kevin returning the favor. Not only would it hurt his case, but that was a whole other story that was best left untold, at least for the time being. Besides, he'd probably already told Lindy more about Kevin than he should have.

"No shit?! You sucked Kevin's dick on the raft last night?"

"What? Am I hearing an echo here? What did I just say? I told you that Stephanie wouldn't do it for him, so I sorta helped him out. So what? You got a problem with that?"

When Lindy didn't say anything else, Richie gave up. He couldn't understand why Lindy was so adamant about this, and he was more than a little irritated.

"OK then, fuck you, Lindstrom. All I wanted to do was help you out, but if me giving you a blow-job is so repulsive to you, then forget it." Then, standing up, he added, "C'mon, let's get outa here."

Before he could move, however, Lindy reached up to grab his leg. Looking up at him, he smiled. "You haven't changed at all since last winter, have ya, bro."

"Now what's that supposed to mean?" asked a still irritated Richie.

"Meaning that you're still a slut." This got a smile out to Richie, and Lindy continued on more seriously. "Look, I'm sorry, man, I was being a jerk. Tell the truth, I'd fucking love it if you were to give me a blow-job. Matter of fact, I've been tryin to figure out a way to ask ya for one for a long time now. I just thought you'd think I was taking advantage of you and end up hating me for it."

"Whoa," said Richie as he sat down to face Lindy, "How could I ever hate you, bro? You're my best friend, and ain't nothin ever gonna change that." Then, reaching between Lindy's legs, he wrapped his hand around his now semi-erect dick and gave it a squeeze. "Besides, I've been kinda wanting to suck on this bad boy for a long time now."

"Really?" asked Lindy with a sigh as his dick quickly swelled under Richie's touch.

"Oh yeah," said Richie. "You have a great dick, bro... and I've been wanting to get up close and personal with it ever since we jacked each other off that time. So what d'ya say? How bout we help each other out by lettin your best bud show you what a really good blow-job feels like?"

"Oh, go for it, dude," said Lindy, his gleeful anticipation evident in his voice as he stretched out on his back.

Richie was in heaven. He'd been wanting to do this for so long he even dreamed about it, and now his dream was going to come true. He started slowly, first relishing the sight of Lindy's naked body stretched out before him as he gently rolled his balls around within his soft scrotum. As soon as he started this, Lindy began to caress his own chest and nipples.

"No way, bro," said Richie as he pushed Lindy's hands off to the side. Then, after placing his free hand on Lindy's chest he added, "That's my job."

Alternating between kneading Lindy's balls, and squeezing his dick with his left hand, Richie massaged, then gently pinched one of his nipples with his right. Lindy began to moan quietly, his pleasure level increasing with each movement Richie made. Then he gasped out loud when Richie leaned over to suck on one of his nipples. As soon as that nipple was fully aroused, Richie licked his way over to the other one. A few minutes later, he kissed and licked his way down Lindy's chest to his stomach where he stopped to bathe his navel with his tongue before moving on to his pubes. Lindy was nearly beside himself with pleasure when Richie gently kissed, then nibbled at the base of his dick.

Lindy wasn't the only one in ecstasy, either. With each succeeding move, Richie's dick would pulse, discharging another clear drop of pre-cum. Lindy's body felt and smelled just as Richie had always dreamed it would ever since that one special Friday night so long ago. His dick pulsed with even more pre-cum when he thought about how he was finally going to do now, what he wished he could have done back then. So intense was Richie's arousal, that when his lips found their way into Lindy's pubic hair, and the tip of Lindy's dick smeared his cheek with pre-cum, he almost went over the edge.

Lindy was close as well, his whole body flinching when his dick came into contact with Richie's cheek. Knowing that Lindy was as desperate for release as he was, Richie closed his eyes, opened his throat, and took all of him into his mouth at once. Without hesitation, he grabbed Lindy's member at the base with his fingers while he bobbed up and down on its length. Reacting to this never before felt sensation, Lindy's body began to move instinctively in spasms of pleasure. Soon he was thrusting his hips upward, fucking Richie's mouth with abandon. Once Lindy started this fucking motion, Richie no longer moved his head. Instead, he held it motionless while he squeezed, then pulled on Lindy's balls with each succeeding thrust.

All too quickly Lindy reached the point of no return, and knowing that he was about to come, he tried to pull his dick from Richie's mouth. Richie was having none of that, though, as he grabbed the base of Lindy's dick to keep his lips wrapped tightly around it. It took just two more strokes before it started. Blast after blast of Lindy's cum began to fill Richie's mouth, flowing over his tongue on its way to his throat. As soon as Richie could taste Lindy's juices begin to flow he, too, reached his orgasmic summit. Although he could probably have realized total relief without touching himself, he reached between his legs with his free hand to stroke himself the rest of the way. In less than a heartbeat, Richie began to spray both himself and Lindy with his cum, while at the same time he swallowed continuously to catch all of Lindy's.

It was a very intense orgasm for both boys, and when it was over it took them a little while to recover. Lying side by side on their backs, it was Lindy who spoke first. "Fuck! That was like so fucking intense, man. I can't hardly believe it was real, it was so good. I'd even consider turning gay if I could feel like that all the time."

Richie had to laugh at Lindy's always present sense of humor.

"You don't have to be gay to get a blow-job, bro. I'm sure Nancy will come around... and if not, there are lots of other chicks out there that like to suck dick."

"Ya think? Man, I sure hope so." Then, sitting up, he looked down at Richie. "Thanks, man, that was unbelievable."

"No prob, dude, anytime," said Richie, casually raising his hand up to his friend. This, of course, sent then into their slap-tap.

"You swallowed it, didn't ya," said Lindy.

"You bet... every drop."

"So what's it taste like?" asked Lindy, a curious expression on his face.

"Why don't you see for yourself. Go ahead, dude, scoop some of mine off your belly and taste it."

When Lindy looked down at his cum covered stomach, he grimaced.

"Go ahead, man, taste it," said Richie with a grin. "It won't kill ya, and trust me, it won't turn you gay, either."

Not sure he really wanted to do it, Lindy's curiosity got the better of him. Scooping two of his fingers through a puddle of Richie's cum, he brought them to his lips where he tentatively sniffed at them.

"Go on, ya big wuss, taste it," said Richie, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Closing his eyes, Lindy put both his fingers into his mouth and sucked them clean. With Richie smiling at him, he pushed the fluid around with his tongue before swallowing.

"Hmmm," he said as he wiped his fingers off on his leg. "It's not repulsive I guess, but I don't think I'd want a steady diet of it."

This caused Richie to laugh out loud. "You are like so funny, Lindstrom... did you know that? C'mon, let's get washed off."

With that, Richie stood and walked over to the edge of the cliff.

"What the hell you gonna do, Rich... dive into the pond from here?"

"Sure, it's deep enough. We gotta get cleaned off, right? Unless you wanna lick it off us instead," he added with a huge grin.

"Um, since you put it that way... after you, bro."

With that, Richie stood up straight in his best diving form, then pushed off with his toes to float into what was probably the best swan dive he'd ever made. His entry was perfect, knifing into the water without so much as a ripple in his wake. Moments later, with Lindy looking down, he broke the surface.

"Not bad, dude," called Lindy, "Definitely in the high nines."

Since Richie was a diver, and had even played around on the platform before, he knew how to do a high dive. Lindy, on the other hand, was a swimmer who lacked the skills and experience that Richie had. Rather than risk breaking his neck, he decided to jump feet first and see how much of a splash he could make by doing a can-opener, instead. Taking a deep breath, he launched himself from the cliff with his arms spread wide, his head back, and his legs tight together. Just before he hit the water, he brought one knee up, then grabbed it with both arms while he tucked his head forward. He entered the water with a resounding whump, followed quickly by a rooster tail splash that reached nearly half way up the face of the cliff. When he broke the surface Richie was waiting for him.

"Awesome, dude! That's the best one you've ever done."

Once they were out of the water and on their way to where they'd left their clothes, Lindy caught sight of the rock that he'd skipped earlier. Still fascinated by its shape and color, and amazed that such a rock could skip like this one did, he scooped it up in his hand as he passed. Turning it over in his fingers as he continued on to where their clothes were, he wondered how such a rock, so different from all the others, could be found in a place like this. Unable to come up any rational explanation he casually slipped it into the pocket of his pants before pulling them on.

The sun was beginning to set as they dressed, the cliff casting a long shadow over the pond, and although their clothes were completely dry, Richie's still smelled of swamp water. Just as they were pulling on their shoes, they heard a shrill chirping sound coming from the other end of the pond. At first they just looked at each other, totally confused. It was Lindy who finally realized what it was.

"Oh shit, it's the cell phone! I forgot all about it."

That said, his shoes still untied, Lindy ran off to where he'd dropped the phone earlier. Fortunately, it was still ringing when he reached it.

"Hello? Yeah, who's this? Kyle? Yeah, man, we're fine."

By now Richie had caught up to him, and while Lindy talked to Kyle they headed for the edge of the bluff.

"Where are we?" said Lindy as he looked at Richie, "We're at the place where the creek goes under the trail. Really? Yeah, I know, that's why we're headed back. OK, see ya in about twenty. Bye."

"Ya know we're not exactly where you said we were," said Richie with a smile.

"I know. It's kinda like... well, no matter what you said up on the cliff, I still think of this place as ours... our special place... and I just wanted to keep it that way, ya know? At least for a little while. Kinda dumb, huh?"

"No, that's not dumb... pretty Lindy like, but not dumb."

When Lindy blushed and looked at the ground, Richie stepped up to him, then pulled him into a tight embrace. It wasn't a sexual embrace, but a hug to show Lindy how much he truly cared for him as his best friend. Knowing this, Lindy returned the hug with just as much affection.

"I love you, Rich," he whispered into Richie's ear.

"I love you, too," whispered Richie. "You're the bestest best-friend a guy could ever have."

A long moment later, when they began to release each other, Richie gave Lindy a quick kiss on the cheek. When finally they stood facing each other again, two sets of eyes were beginning to tear up.

"So, what did Kyle have to say?" asked Richie as he wiped his forearm across his cheeks.

"Oh, yeah," said Lindy as he squatted down to tie his shoes. "He said it was getting dark so they were worried about us. When I told him where we were, he said we were only about 15 or 20 minutes from the cabin."

"Cool," said Richie. "Looks like a perfect end to a perfect day."

"Yeah, perfect," said Lindy as he stood and looked across the pond to watch the sun slowly sink behind the cliff. Then, turning back to Richie, he said, "So what do we do now? Click our heels three times and say 'There's no place like home?'"

"Nah, I think this calls for Drizzle drazzle, drazzle drome..."

"...time for this one to come home," said Lindy, joining his friend to finish the chant from the Sherman and Mr. Peabody cartoon.

With that they did a final slap-tap, took one last look at the pond, then began to make their way back down to where they left the bikes.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead