"Camping?" I repeated the word that my best friend Simon had just spoken.
"You mean in tents?"
"In a field somewhere, full of cows and cow shit and all that stuff?"
"In a sleeping bag."
"In the middle of nowhere."
"I thought it might be fun."
"You said that."
"I know. It's just that I can't get my head round the fact that you think camping would be 'fun'."
"Ever been camping?"
"Then how do you know it isn't fun?"
"Er, duh! Just a guess!" I was being sarcastic, I know, but the thought of spending a couple of nights in a tent, sleeping on hard ground - albeit in a sleeping bag - in the middle of nowhere, with no TV, no central heating, no warm bed, well, come on, get a life.
"Fine, if you don't want to go, fair enough, I'll go on my own."
"Well I'm going anyway, I just thought you might want to come along."
"No chance. You enjoy and think of me all tucked up in a warm bed in a warm house, while you're lying in your hard, cold field, surrounded by cows and the smells of the country."
To be honest, the thought of spending any time at all anywhere other than in the comfort of my own home was not very appealing. The thought made me shudder. I hated the cold, I hated the country I hated everything about outdoor life. It was one reason why I refused point blank to join the Cubs, the Scouts, the Venture Scouts, the Boys Brigade, the Brownies, the Girl Guides or any other organisation that participated in such exercises. My parents couldn't understand it - well, actually, they never really suggested the last two, but still - what's not to understand?
Most of the kids at school had 'paper rounds before and after school and even that wasn't appealing. Having to get up early, go out in all weather to push a few tabloids through the front doors of those who couldn't be bothered to get up off their arses to go down to the shop and buy one and then have to do the same thing after school with the evening rag. No thank you. An extra hour in bed before school and a quick get home to sit in front of a warm fire after school that was me - creature comforts all the way.
Simon had obviously been planning this expedition in his head for some time. I knew this because of the way he had been talking. He'd planned out the route, the stops, what he would need to take with him and made it sound like a real adventure - very Enid Blyton. I even suggested he took lashings of ginger beer and a bag of barley sugars, but he ignored the remark.
"Listen, Simon, as much as I want to share your enthusiasm for your proposed venture into uncharted wastelands of suburbia, I really have limited interest and it's almost used up."
"I thought you'd be interested, that's all?"
"Tell me - in all honesty - when have I ever shown any kind of interest in camping, cows, fields, the countryside, the great outdoors, or anything outside of my four bedroom walls?"
"Thank you, I rest my case. Besides, I haven't got a sleeping bag or tent."
"I've got a spare sleeping bag and you can share my tent. It's a big one, big enough for about four people, so there's plenty of room."
"I appreciate the offer and that's lying through my teeth, but I have no interest. Now can we please change the subject?"
I could tell Simon was upset that I was showing no interest in his trip, but why pretend? He'd get over it.
"We could go for one night - not two, how about that?"
"Jesus, Simon - what part of no don't you understand?"
"Okay, I'll shut up."
"Just thought it'd make a change for something to do this weekend."
"Okay, I'll say no more about it."
We walked in silence. I hated silences like this. I could see he'd been thinking a lot about this and then I dismiss it with a single word - no. Was I being mean? Could I not just do this one thing, just this once? Jesus, now he had me feeling bad about myself. Nothing, but nothing on earth would get me to change my mind. I mean, the thought of just one night in a tent with Simon, sleeping side by side in sleeping bags, alone, with only the cows outside in the middle of nowhere was really rather appealing. I could do it, couldn't I?
"Okay," I said. "One night - not two - one!"
"What? You mean it? You'll go camping with me at the weekend?"
"One night and it's under sufferance."
"It'll be great - you'll see, I bet you enjoy it."
"Don't push it."
Simon's grin spread across his face, his blue, hypnotic eyes shone as though someone was holding a candle behind them and he swept his blonde hair from his eyes as he punched the air with his fist. My heart leapt to see him so happy and for knowing I was the cause of such happiness, then it sank at the thought of what I'd agreed to.
After school, I went round to Simon's house where he showed me the tent - pitched in his back garden to give it an airing. The tent was a big one - Simon had not exaggerated when he said four people could fit into it. He presented me with a sleeping bag, which felt as though t would keep off a chill and then he showed me a map of the route he planned we should take. It would lead out of town and towards the woods about seven miles away, where we would make camp. I attempted to look excited, but despite his enthusiasm, which usually rubbed off on me, I was beginning to panic. I wanted desperately to change my mind, but I couldn't do that - not now - not to Simon and before I knew it he was explaining our second day to me and somewhere along the way, I'd signed up for the full weekend. Simon was in seventh heaven, I was entering the bowels of hell - well, actually, I guess I wasn't - hell would have been warmer that a cold field full of cows.
The weekend soon arrived. Our first night was to be straight after school, with Saturday being our second night - we had to be back on Sunday because of school again on Monday - thank God for school, I thought for the first and only time in my entire life.
We got an early enough start and armed with a large tent, two sleeping bags, a map and two rucksacks full of provisions - tinned meat, bread, bottles of Coke and some warm clothing in case the weather turned inclement, we headed to towards the woods. I had suggested we went on our bikes, but Simon said it would more fun to hike. I relented - this was his weekend, I'd agreed to it, so I decided to make the most of it.
I started singing as we walked, anything to take my mind off what I was undertaking and soon the two of us were laughing at the looks we were getting from passers by as we kept bursting into a chorus of "Teddy Bears Picnic".
"One more time," I shouted at the top of my voice, approaching a woman carrying two laden carrier bags of groceries.
"If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise, if you go down to the woods today, you'll never believe your eyes, for every boy that ever there was, will gather there for certain because today's the day that Paul is having dick licked."
The woman, startled by my rendition and change of words glared at me. I smiled at her, politely and she hurried on her way.
"What's that about having your dick licked?" asked Simon.
"Well, you never know, I might get lucky on this trip?"
"There's only you and me going to be there."
"But the tent sleeps four," I grinned. "We might pull."
"Well if we do, you can have Daisy and I'll have Buttercup," laughed Simon.
We eventually reached our camping spot, not too far into the woods, but far enough from the main road to be seen or disturbed and, I must admit, as we pitched the tent, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was beginning to enjoy myself. I'd worked up quite an appetite lugging a heavy rucksack and we settled down to open a tin of corned beef with which to make some sandwiches.
It wasn't a cold night and that was probably just as well. I don't think lighting a fire would have been that good an idea. After we'd eaten, Simon produced a pack of cards and we sat inside the tent and played by torchlight until we both started to feel sleepy.
"I guess we'd better get some sleep," I suggested. "We've got a bit of a trek tomorrow."
Simon agreed. The plan was that we left the woods and headed off towards the old railway line, which was about twelve miles further and pitch there for our second night, before heading home again on Sunday.
It felt really odd to be sleeping inside a stretch of canvas, all cocooned like some sort of chrysalis waiting to become a butterfly. I had removed my shoes and crawled into my sleeping bag fully clothed, expecting Simon to do the same, but he surprised me when he started to remove his jeans and jacket.
"What you doing?" I asked.
"Going to bed," he replied.
"But you're getting undressed - you'll freeze."
"Take it from me - I'll be fine - you're the one who'll be uncomfortable. Sleeping bags are very warm and you'll soon find you're over dressed."
And I watched as his jacket, jeans socks and then his sweater came off and he climbed into his sleeping bag wearing just a t-shirt and his underpants. He pulled up the zipper on the sleeping bag and settled himself for a decent night's sleep. Me - well, I was already uncomfortable.
Watching Simon strip for bed had excited me and I was unable to do anything about it. I lay there with the vision of what I had witnessed running through my mind and before too long I could hear his breathing change and knew he was asleep.
"Damn it," I said silently, as I realised that he was right - I was feeling a bit uncomfortable. I tried to make as little noise as possible as I unzipped my sleeping bag and fumbled around unzipping my jacket. I removed it quietly and then did the same to my jeans - the hard-on I had suddenly felt easier and I pushed a hand below the waistband to adjust myself before pulling off my sweater and it was then that I was suddenly startled by Simon's voice.
"Paul, are you alright?"
"What? Oh, yeah, I'm fine. You were right - I was too hot - I didn't mean to wake you."
"That's okay, I never really get a good sleep the first night camping, too many different sounds, they keep waking me up and besides, I knew you'd eventually decide to strip down and I didn't want to miss that."
"What?" I was surprised to hear these words.
"Well, come on, why else do you think I asked you to come along? Just being able to spend one night with you alone in a tent would have been enough - but two nights."
"Simon!" I was shocked. This was my best friend. He'd never shown any interest in me in any sort of sexual way - apart from in my dreams- and here he was, coming on to me. I turned to face him - he was lying in his sleeping bag, raised up and resting his head in his hand as he looked at me.
"I've got one of those," he said.
"One of what?"
"Those." He pointed to the hard-on in my underpants and then, as if to prove it, he unzipped his sleeping bag and as I watched he revealed himself to be fully naked, his gorgeous length in a rock solid state.
"Care to join me?" he asked.
I needed no second invitation as I crawled to where he lay and climbed into his sleeping bag where we embraced and his beautiful lips met mine, my nostrils filling with his smell sending me light-headed. How long we kissed, I don't know, but it was magical and I wanted it to never end.
"Now, what was that song you were singing earlier," he grinned and I grinned back.
"Paul, are you alright?"
"You've got a silly grin on your face and you didn't answer me, is something wrong?"
"No, I said," turning to face Simon as he lay in his sleeping bag, raised up and resting his head in his hand as he looked at me. "Just getting undressed - you were right, it is too hot."
Simon smiled in a "told you" sort of way and said - "Well make less noise, will you, some of us are trying to sleep."
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