Being 20-years old and unemployed, 'Oddsox' had no choice but to still be living at home with his parents. It wasn't ideal, but then again, he did get most things done for him - he was fed, he had a roof over his head, he had his laundry done. Even so, he tried to keep his independence by spending most of his time at home in his room, surfacing only when necessary for meals and only then those that he couldn't take back upstairs with him. His parents accepted the way he was, though, like many others, they prayed he would find himself a job and start earning some money. The unemployment benefit he received from the State was barely enough to pay his way and he was forever borrowing from them to ensure that he retained some sort of social life.
'Oddsox' as an ID seemed to suit him. Nothing to really get out of bed for in a morning - or at all, come to think of it, so when he did, he looked as though he had just thrown himself together and, yes, on occasions he did find himself wearing a pair of odd socks, but he didn't let that bother him. At least he knew he had an identical pair in his sock drawer. In fact, he had worn odd socks since a football match at school and it had become somewhat of a trademark and the friends he had then had often referred to him by that name, rather than the one he was given at birth.
That was Carl. Carl Mitchell, to be precise and, when Carl did find the energy to pursue a life outside of his bed and the Internet, he went running or swimming. The former had started out as jogging with the dog, but the dog had died and he gave it up for a while, then, for no reason that he could remember, he decided to take it up again, even entering the local fun runs for charity. Running wasn't something that he did every day, but when he could be bothered he found that it kept him physically fit and, even though to look at clothed Carl probably left a lot to be desired, in a pair of shorts, or indeed swimming trunks, as he was now, he looked quite a catch for any girl who tried to catch his eye.
Carl, however, wasn't interested. Not that he kept it a secret; it was just that he had never seen the need to tell anyone that he was gay. He'd never had a boyfriend, so what was the point? The fact that he'd never had a girlfriend, either, didn't even seem to arouse suspicion. Carl had, like many other boys, known he was gay for some time. The difference between him and them was that he didn't like it, so he did nothing about it.
The water was warm and Carl had set himself a target of around a mile, equal to 64 lengths of the local pool and oblivious to the few others that were using this public facility, he breast stroked, butterflied and freestyled his way from one end to the other. In fact, so oblivious was he to other people it was they who had to get out of his way before he ploughed straight through them, such was his determination.
It was early evening and he'd spent the morning in bed, catching up on some much needed sleep. He'd woken up at 11.30 and scrambled his way out of bed when he heard the church clock strike midday. He'd been worrying about the virus on his computer and was equally worried about the 'phone bill his parents would be receiving as a result of it connecting him to a premium rate number if he hadn't caught it in time. When he first got his computer he had signed up to an Internet Service Provider and a package that allowed him to access the Internet at any time of the day or night for under £20 a month, his parents could cope with that, but because of the virus he wasn't sure how much the next bill they received would be and he had no intention of telling them about the virus until he felt it was absolutely necessary.
Because of the virus, Carl had surfed the Internet and found the website he had visited quite by accident two days earlier and discovered then that he wasn't alone in having this virus. No one, however, seemed to know how to get rid of it and no one had anything constructive to offer, which annoyed him. Not because he knew how to get rid of it, or because he had something constructive to offer, but because he was a complete plank when it came to things like that and had hoped that someone - anyone - would have been able to help him.
He'd tried the suggestions 'Whizzer' had made, but they hadn't worked and the one that 'Anchorman' had made had taken so long that the virus had re-appeared before he had had enough time to complete his task. He'd even 'phoned his Internet Service Provider to see if they could offer any advice, but all they could suggest was downloading Ice-It, which he had done, but to no avail.
It was starting to depress him and being unemployed was depressing enough. He didn't dare connect to the Internet for too long and, as a result, he found himself getting more and more frustrated. In order to relieve that frustration he had decided to go running and, if he still felt depressed, he would also go swimming; and so it was that he had scrambled from his bed, into the bathroom, taken a shower and thrown on the first things he could find to wear. And yes, that included odd socks.
As he swam Carl thought about the American, 'Tracker', with whom he had chatted with the previous evening. At least he seemed as though he wanted to help and any suggestions he could come up with would be better than nothing. Maybe American's knew more about this kind of thing than the British. Whether they did or not, Carl knew he had to remain hopeful.
During his run, he had thought about nothing else and knew that it wouldn't be until around 10 pm that he would be able to talk to 'Tracker' again and find out what progress he had made if any. Then again, perhaps he wouldn't show up. Oh, well, if that were the case, at least he wouldn't be any worse off.
The run had revitalised him and he had been looking forward to his swim. He'd started slowly and, as he got more into his stride, he was finding that he was getting from one end of the pool to the other with a reasonable pace. Obviously, he had slowed down somewhat as the repetitive lengths increased, but he didn't seem to notice.
As he started on his 64th and final lap of the pool, he pulled out all the stops to summon up enough energy to complete the length in record time. Physically exhausted he was, nonetheless, proud of his own achievement and even the resident lifeguard had to applaud his stamina.
"That was impressive," said the lifeguard, walking towards Carl, who pulled himself from the water to sit on the edge of the pool and catch his breath.
"I think I've seen you here before, haven't I?" asked the lifeguard.
"Yeah, probably, I try to get in a couple of times a week if I have any time and cash to spare, otherwise I go running."
"You like to keep yourself in shape, then?"
"When I can be bothered. Actually today was a good day for me, I did both."
"Good for you and, as far as keeping in shape goes, it looks to me like you succeed."
"Seriously, not many people can do what you just did without a break. Not even when they're being sponsored for charity and believe me, we get a lot of those in here."
"Well, I had some time to fill today, seemed a good way to do it."
"Plans for later, eh?"
"Nothing much, I just need to be home for an Internet meeting."
"Oh, one of those high-flying businessmen, are you? Conduct all your work online?"
"Me? You're joking!"
"You're not then?"
Carl laughed. "No, I'm not a high-flying anything. I haven't even got a job."
"Oh, sorry, I just assumed when you said about the meeting."
"No, that's with an American. We have a time difference and I have computer virus needs sorting out."
"Oh, I see. He's helping with that, is he?"
"Nasty things computer viruses."
"This one is."
"Hope you manage to get it sorted, then."
"Thanks, so do I."
"You know, we could do with someone with dedication like yours on staff."
"Any jobs going?"
"No, I'm afraid not. Not at the moment, anyway, but if you're interested, you could always ask at the desk on your way out for an application form which they'll keep on file."
"Really? Okay, I will, thanks. If nothing else it'll please the bastards at the Job Centre if I can prove I'm looking for something."
The lifeguard laughed. "You're welcome. My name's Tom, by the way."
"Pleased to meet you, Carl."
The two young men shook hands and Carl quickly took in the finely tuned body of the resident lifeguard, but in such a way that Tom would not have noticed and, despite having the body of a God, Carl also noticed that the third finger of Tom's left hand was sporting a gold band.
"Look, I have to get back to work and keep an eye on this lot, but it really was nice to meet you, maybe see you again next time you come in."
"Yeah, I'll be back, it was nice meeting you too and thanks for the suggestion about the job application."
Tom smiled and Carl watched as he retreated and then decided that his own best course of action would be to head for the changing rooms before anyone noticed the bulge that was beginning to develop inside his swimming trunks.
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