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Matt and Tim II

by Small Town Guy

Chapter 6

Within a half hour more, hugs were given as well as last minute instructions. The boys watched the last of the cars drive out from the camping area. Tim raised his hands in the air.


Toby grabbed Scooter around his shoulders.

"Let's get nakey and have buttered boy sex!"

Matt hung his head.

"...You just aren't going to let me forget that now, huh?"

Tim blushed, yet couldn't resist a smile.

"Gee, Toby!....I don't know who you are, but we want Toby back!....The real Toby!"

Chris hung his head.

"...Oh gee....Oh gee..."

Tim studied the layout of their camping area. He looked at the picnic table and the limbs of the tree above.

"I think we should hang a plastic tarp over the table here. Even if we don't get any rain, the dew will be heavy at night. And it'll also provide shade if it gets hot out."

They busied themselves with drawing out nylon rope and a large blue plastic tarp. Tim noticed Chris watching with indecision. He wanted to include him.

"Come on Chris!....Shimmy up that tree and tie these ropes to that limb."

He gave a bright grin as he made his way to the tree. Out on the limb, his expression was apprehensive, yet not excessively. Straddling the limb, he carefully knotted the ropes. Ethan was on an opposite limb, doing the same. The ropes were threaded through the metal grommets of the tarp and it was hoisted up.

"Cool!" Matt put in, "Just make sure those knots are tight. We'll have wind and maybe even rain! We don't want that coming down full of water."

Tim came walking up, dragging a dry limb which was fairly straight.

"I was thinking about that myself. I think I've already got that solved."

He tied an old dishtowel to one end to serve as padding. He pushed it up against the center of the tarp and set the opposite end on the table.

"There!......Now the rain will run off instead of collecting inside it."

They busied themselves with rolling out their sleeping bags, organizing their supplies and gathering up four plastic water containers.

"Well," Matt began, "Let's head over there to the water faucet. We'll need water for cooking and doing up dishes tonight."

On their return trip, Chris gripped his container with both hands before himself.

"Oh! I had no idea water was heavy! "

Matt glanced at him with a smile.

"Chris!....I'm surprised at you!....With all your facts 'n figures. Water's eight and a third pounds per gallon! That's five gallons there....Forty pounds!"

Chris smiled and gave a determined expression as he struggled on.

Soon the boys all sat at the table. Several seagulls set down nearby, curiously eying them. They each looked at the other. Chris held his hands out.

"Mmm....Well this is sure exciting!"

They all chuckled.

"Well," Matt began, "I think we should all go to our tents and take a good inventory. The camp store closes at nine. If we need anything, we can take care of it right away."

They all agreed as they got to their feet.

Within minutes they all gathered within the center of the tents. They all agreed they were well stocked for several days.

"So Matty," Tim began, "Are there any trails around we could explore?"

Matt shook his head with a slight smile.

"Only one....and it just follows along the lake for a couple miles. Then it's just a dead end."

"Well, I've got my camera," Chris chimed in.

They began walking along. The dirt trail weaved in and out along the shoreline. At times there were stands of trees blocking the view of the lake. At other times, the rocky shoreline could be seen clearly.

"Gee!" Scooter shot out, "What a shitty beach!"

Matt turned to him.

"The beach is the opposite way....It's right behind the camp store. It's a nice clean sandy area....And there's changing rooms and showers and everything. And a bit beyond that is a boat rental. They got canoes, rowboats and even paddle boats!"

Tim gripped his shoulders from behind.

"With our bikes, we don't need to be peddling paddle boats! We need a rowboat! Gotta build up our arms 'n shoulders."

They soon reached a clearing. Here was a wood deck, surrounded on three sides with a rustic log railing. There were several coin operated telescopes mounted here.

"Hey!" Chris put in, "This is a great place for a group shot. I'll put my camera on timer and we'll all get in the shot!"

They gathered along one side as Chris placed his camera on a rail. They quickly threw their arms around each other with silly smiles.

They continued walking along again, glancing at only three aluminum boats on the lake. The day was still a gray overcast with a cold breeze coming from over the water.

"Matty, where's your camera?" Tim asked.

"At home on my dresser!......I didn't know we were going to be out here!"

Chris held his camera up.

"The only reason I've got mine, is because Father put it on my sleeping bag!"

"Well," Matt continued, "I don't think I'd have taken it anyhow. I don't want to ruin it!"

He glanced at Tim.

"...And besides....Timmy gets awful nervous when he knows I have my camera!"

"Well shit, Matty! You're always trying to get a shot of my ass!"

The others laughed.

"Well I can't help it! You've just got such a cute little....bubble butt!"

The others laughed again.

"Hey! Now there's a cute nickname!" Scooter shouted out.

"Oh shit too!"

"Why not?" Matt asked, "We'll call you Bub for short."

Several hours later the boys tended to a small fire on the rocky beach before the tents on the hill. They had gathered up windfalls and driftwood. They had roasted franks on sticks and each were finishing up their third. They sipped sodas and glanced over the large lake. A young boy was walking along the shoreline. He searched for flat stones and was skipping them over the water.

"Oh gee," Scooter put in, "He looks lonely. Should we call him over?"

Matt could nearly see a vision of himself two years prior.

"Nah!......I think he just wants to be alone. I can tell. If he comes real close, we'll ask him to join us."

Ryan gazed at the distant boy.

"Gee, I though that Butch haircut went out years ago."

"Oh," Ethan put in, "Lots of the boys on sports teams have them. Even some of the football players have nearly shaved heads!"

"Well, he sure doesn't look like a....a football player!" Ryan put in.

"Awh, just let him be," Matt continued, "I can kind of identify with him. I spent lots of time alone. I can just kinda tell by his body language...

"Yeah, I spent lots of time alone. It didn't really bother me..."

He reached for Tim's hand.

"Well, it would now!...

"Oh gee, Timmy......I keep tellin' you I could never do that now."

They all understood Matt. Each couple drew closer to each other. Some drew their windbreaker zippers up to their necks. It was growing dark and the wind still hadn't shifted from the west as it often did at night. The damp, cool air from over the lake began to penetrate them.

Tim stood and began pouring a bucket of water over the remaining coals of the fire. There was a loud hiss as more steam than smoke rose from the circle of rocks.

"Well, I think we should call it a night. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm getting chilly. There really isn't much to do in the dark."

"Yeah!" Toby put in, rubbing his hands together, "It's time to get nakey!......Time for some hot buttered boy sex!"

Matt moaned as he placed his elbows on his knees and covered his face with his hands.

"I should never have said that yesterday!......I was joking!"

Toby threw his arm over Scooter's shoulders.

"Well I'm not joking!......Come on Scoot. That sleeping bag is just begging for us to get into it!"

Chris and Joe both gave a slight blush as they got to their feet.

"Well Chris," Joe put in, "now you'll get your wish of sleeping out in a real tent!"

Chris rubbed his hands together.

"Yeah, but I wasn't planning on it being quite this cold."

"Awh!" Matt put in, "Don't worry about it Chris. Once you warm up that bag, you'll sleep like a rock!"

They began making their way back up to the tents.

"Umm," Ryan began shyly, "How are we going to work this out in the morning? I doubt we'll all be up at the same time."

"Okay," Matt began, "Whoever gets up first, starts the charcoal grill. That's real charcoal and it's not going to heat as quickly as gas. I guess me 'n Tim will be the cooks on this trip. Gram is showing us a few things around the kitchen...

"Bacon 'n eggs!....And pancakes! We got some of that add-water-only stuff. It shouldn't be too hard to do...

"Umm....Once the charcoal is going hot, whoever is up....Well, just shake the flaps on the other tents. We'll wake up who's not already up yet!"

Matt and Tim entered their tent. Compared to seeing the others, theirs seemed nearly twice as large as they recalled.

"Oh this place feels like the Big Top to me!" Matt said, removing his jacket.

He pulled the camping lamp from the cooler and pretended it was a megaphone.

"Ladies and gentlemen!......I draw your attention to the center ring!"

Tim quickly removed his jacket and pulled his shirt over his head. He gazed at Matt seriously.

"Get bare-assed and get into that bag."

"Ohhh!...Let's get nakey!"

"Yeah....It's time for buttered boy sex!"

Joe and Chris entered their tent.

"So, Chris....Are you sure you don't want to run that extension into here?"

"Positive! I want to do this primitive as possible. With as little modern conveniences as possible."

He suddenly reached for his LED lamp and switched it on. Three columns of bright, white diodes lit up.

"...Ummm....Except for the lamp! Gee, I couldn't see a thing in here!"

Joe smiled as he sat on his bag and removed his shoes.

"Well, if you want the regular light here, we can plug it into the power pole out there."


"...Umm....Joe....I might as well admit, I'm going to be scared on this camp out. I've never done this before. Gee!....There's so much I haven't done before! I've really got to get used to this...

"I knew we'd have to do our own cooking....Probably our own laundry at the coin-op next to the showers. I knew we'd be sleeping on the ground......or well next to it. I knew we'd be in a flimsy tent. I knew it was going to be dark in here. But now I'm actually here and it's....well, it's rather scary for me."

Joe simply smiled and stood. He dropped his jeans and drew his shirt off. He helped Chris out of his jacket and drew his shirt over his head.

"Come on......I'd like you in my sleeping bag."

He unzipped the side and drew Chris by the arm.

"Now I've already told you I'm not going to try anything with you. I told you that over and over."

They crawled into the bag. Joe reached over Chris and switched the lamp off.

"...Holy shit!" Chris shot out.

"Hee, hee....You're really cute, Chris."

"Oh wow!....I've never seen darkness like this!...

"Umm....I've still get to get my jeans off..."

"No. Not right now. Not tonight. We'll see how you acclimate to the cold out here first."

They drew up the bag and Joe zipped it closed. He turned to Chris. He gathered him into his arms as he stretched out on his back.

"Just lay on top of me a bit. All I wanna do is hold you. Oh, this is going to be so nice."

Joe could feel Chris' movements. He could nearly see his head swiveling.

"Oh gee!....Oh gee! I've really never seen darkness like this...

"I mean....I'm not afraid of the dark or anything! It's just the first time I haven't seen streetlights or my digital alarm clock....or a little light coming from under the crack at the bottom of the door."

"There's streetlights out there....Well, yard lights! They have to keep some light out there for people to see their way to the bathrooms. This is one of those brown canvas tents. They're darker than the green ones. You're eyes will adjust."

Chris seemed to relax some. Joe felt his arms go around his neck and his head rest on his shoulder. Joe gave him a deep hug.

"Oh gee, Chris....This is so nice. I'm really going to sleep sound tonight."

Joe paused, yet Chris understood he wasn't done talking.

"...I can't believe you chose me Chris!......There are so many boys out there that you could have it so much better with."

"Joe!....Please? We've been through this so many times. That....that prince and pauper stuff! Remember we talked about love not knowing any gender?....Well, I believe it knows no social status as well."

"Well, I can't help it! I keep thinking you might think I'm just in it for what I can get!......I don't feel like a pauper....I feel like a chimney sweep next to you!"

He felt Chris' hands on his cheeks. Soon he felt his lips press gently to his.

"Awh gee, Chris....You can say so much with your kisses. I really think this is what I've been looking for all along."

"Umm....Let's just drop this. Matt and Tim explained it to me. You're just too good to have been treated as you were. Let's just forget all stuff and just be together this week. I keep telling all of you....It's just so good all of you have accepted me. Back in school, well....I'm not exactly mistreated....bullied......It's more like I'm sort of invisible! In some ways, I think that can be worse!...

"Now let's just hold each other together."

Ethan and Ryan lay shirtless in a single bag in their tent. At their heads appeared what was an old fashioned designed kerosene lamp, yet it had a small electric bulb at its base. They gazed at each other between quick kisses. Both were lost in their own thoughts. Ryan drew him close in a deep hug.

"Oh gee, Ethan......I keep thinking back to registration last year. I saw you standing in line at the office. I mean, it's not like the first time I'd seen!

"You had that blue shirt on and those sorta like cargo pants. And you wore those sneakers with the blue line down along the side. You just looked so....impatient for some reason."

"Oh gee!....I hate standing in line for anything!"

"Yeah, well....You just looked so cute standing there. You were kinda shifting your weight from one foot to the other. Your hips were kinda tilting from side to side. Oh gee! I was soooo hoping we'd have at least one class together...

"Well we had English and history together. Then we got assigned that history paper. That's when I sort of....well, wanted to start hanging with you. I just couldn't come right out and say anything."

Ethan nodded his head.

"...Yeah I remember that well. That's the first time I sort of looked at your face. I never knew you had green eyes! They weren't! They were just sort of.... well, super cute! Okay?"

Ethan hugged him back.

"Yeah, I knew I was getting attracted to you....but it's like I keep saying....It was just one of those.....all-of-a-sudden things. I....I didn't always know! It's kinda like I just sort of woke up! That's the only way I can describe it. I just suddenly discovered it!"

He hugged him tightly again for a moment.

"...My parents still think of this as a....a stage that I'm going to grow out of. I mean, they're doing some studying on all this....but....I really don't think they're going to go along with it..."

"So, did Jenny sort of....well, set us up? I sure didn't say anything to her!"

"Well, I didn't either!..." he replied with a quick hug, "I'm wondering if we might be giving off....signals or something. Oh gee! Can we be giving off signals that are so strong that....that girls are picking them up?!"

"Well, she was in the library with us about the same time. I think she had some science paper or something. I can't think of anything I did!......Well, I guess I was looking at you quite a bit."

Ethan rubbed his shoulders for a moment in thought.

"Well, I was kinda looking at you too! Oh gee!....I wonder if any of the boys noticed us."

Chris had moved his head to Joe's chest. Joe continued to hold his shoulders, yet his arms had gone limp.

"Oh gee, Joe's asleep already. This is kinda nice but I was hoping to fall asleep first. I keep seeing all these shadows on the tent. I keep hearing things! Awh gee! I don't want to have them all thinking I'm a little baby. No! I've got to do more of these things. Yeah, it's awful frightening but the only way I'm going to get used to it is by doing these things."

It was here a twig slid down the side of the tent.

"Oh gee!....Oh gee! Now I know that was just something falling from the tree above sounds so spooky! That sure was loud. It was almost like the canvas was ripping. Oh! I'm pulling the bag over our heads. I don't want to see or hear anything!"

The light along the side of the gravel road shined against the green tent. Tim looked at Matt in the subdued light.

"Matty....I think you're gonna get pissed with me......I gotta PEE again!"

"Hee, hee....No I won't. I umm, gotta go too! And we forgot our detergent jug!"

Tim got to his knees, the bag sliding from his shoulders.

"Oh shit, that's cold!" Matt gasped.

They quickly dressed and set out toward the bathroom and showers.

Inside the rustic log building were dim, bare light bulbs on the slanted roof. Tim literally ran for a urinal, already pulling on his fly.

"Oh!....Oh!....Oh wow! That was close! Oh gee, this chilly weather! Every time I get a chill, I gotta PEE!"

"Yeah, too. We'll have to go through our stuff and find some container that has a screw cap on it. I can't think of anything we've got that has one. Everything is either paper or cardboard! All those freeze dried camp foods!"

Chris suddenly drew the bag from over his head.

"What was that?......I hear a crunching sound. It's footsteps! It sounds like they're walking over gravel. It doesn't sound like an animal. That's human."

Matt and Tim were making their way back to their tent, unaware their shadows were against Chris' and Joe's tent. The distant light on the gravel road made their shadows appear large on the canvas.

"Oh gee!....Oh shit!....There's two of them! And they're huge!"

It was here he heard Tim's voice.

"We should have brought the light along," he said softly, "We're going to trip in that tent! With all those supplies in there?"

"Well ours is bigger!......I don't mind the others storing stuff in there."

"Oh gee....That's Matt and Tim. Oh did that scare me for a bit there...

"Oh, I've got to get a hold on myself! I'm letting my imagination get away from me. I've just got to get used to this. I've got to toughen myself up a bit. Lots of boys go out camping. Some of them nearly every weekend for the whole summer. Gee, there are a couple boys in school that actually go out over Christmas vacation! I'd never make it. That doesn't even sound as though it would be fun. Camping out in the snow?!...

"I wonder what we could do tomorrow. I think I'd like to try one of those paddle boats. I've seen them on TV. That looks like fun."

Ethan drew Ryan tight against himself.

"Awh, Dew!......I just can't seem to get close enough to you tonight. I mean it's not like I'm cold or anything. This just feels so nice."

"Oh yeah...

"Mmm....I was just thinking. Remember our parents saying there weren't going to be any overnighters with us?......Well, I can't believe they went along with this! I mean this isn't just an overnighter!'s a whole week of 'em!"

"Yeah, you got a point there. I never really thought of that......I wonder if they're doing this on purpose. You show me this is just a phase with me. Maybe they're thinkin' that I'll come to see that or something."

Ryan looked at him seriously.

"Do you think it is? I sure hope..."

"No!....I've never been more sure of anything in my life......Well, I gotta keep sayin' it......This all just hit me all at once! It's not that I don't like it or anything. It's just I really 'n truly never even thought of it before....until our little library thingy."

"Hee, hee....You really never umm....knew about it at all?"

"No!......I even looked up stuff on the Net! Everything I've's like the boys always knew!....Well the girls too! I've never ran across a case like mine."

Ryan reached out with his hands. His fingers ran over Ethan's cheeks. His face drew near until their lips touched lightly.

Ethan's arm came from the sleeping bag and fumbled with the lamp at their heads. He switched it off.

"Aw shit!" Chris thought, "Now I'm hearing that wind!......Ohhhh it just sounds so spooky! It's not a's kind of a sighing sound. And I can hear those waves against the rocks out there. And the branches in the trees. It's kind of a hissing sound....almost like rain.

"I really wish I could have done more for myself. I really see where Tim's father is serious about not doing too much for him. He's right!....Oh! He's soooo right! I've had everything done for me. Shit, I even have my bath drawn and all my clothes laid out for me. That has truly got to stop! Perhaps Father will understand such if I explain it to him. I've....I've got to be more independent!"

Ethan ended another soft kiss to Ryan. He drew his head down to his shoulder and rubbed it.

"Awh gee!....Rye, I just feel so close to you all of a sudden. I mean right now!...

"We've had some really hot make-out sessions but I'm not even talking about that. I umm....feel something here tonight."

Ryan didn't reply but nodded his head without lifting it. Ethan rubbed his back.

"I really don't know what's going on here. All I know is I'm really feeling something here."

"Oh yeah. Oh yeah."

"You too?"

Ryan lifted his head. They had forgotten to zip up one of the window flaps and the yard light passed through the netting and onto Ryan's face. He nodded weakly, seriously. He gripped Ethan's shoulders and leaned in for another light, gentle kiss. He put his head back down.

"Oh shit!....I'm gay!....I'm gay!...

"Oh! I didn't mean it like that, Rye! It's just since we kinda got together in the library......I've been thinking about it. I mean it doesn't bother me or anything. In fact, I kinda feel good about it. Sound silly?......Well it isn't. I umm....wasn't too sure which way I was going there for awhile. I actually feel better about it now. Really! It was that, well that....indecision all the time! Okay? And umm....yeah, I don't think my parents are going to be all that thrilled about it....but I seriously doubt they'll kick me out or get violent about it."

He continued to rub Ryan's back for a moment in thought.

"...Yeah! This is okay. Umm....You're starting to kinda....well....feel like a boyfriend to me....or whatever!"

"Hee, hee," Ryan replied, lifting his head. "Ethan......I think I've got to be more honest with you. I mean, at first I was just too scared to say anything. Later I was just too shy to find the words."

He gazed down at Ethan's face.

"The first time I saw was in wood shop when we first started junior high. We were from different grade schools. It was the first day of school....You had that green shirt! How that thing just hugged your chest! All I could think of was......Oh gee! This is going to sound silly but......All I could think of was being that shirt! All wrapped around you all nice and tight!"

"Really?! Hee, hee."

"Yeah....I know it sounds silly but I had such a crush on you!...

"Oh gee, I didn't know about you. And I was so shy. I sure didn't want to say anything to you. I just kinda kept an eye on you. I wanted to see if you were giving off vibes or whatever. I mean we kinda talked around school. We were in lots of classes together. And....oh gee! I was too shy to even give you hints!...

"It was when we were in eighth grade......Wood shop again! Oh gee, you wore these jeans that weren't exactly....well....skinny jeans, but they sure hugged you everywhere it counts!"

"Hee, hee."

"Really, Ethan!....I'm serious!...

"Well, I was still so clumsy and self-conscious....I still couldn't say anything to you! And I was building a coffee table. Oh shit! I must have hit my thumb four times! I was too busy checking out your....jeans! Oh gee!....My thumb was actually purple! Really! And it was like twice the size!...

"I had to go down to the nurse's office. She drilled a hole in my nail!"


"No!....It didn't hurt at all. In fact it let some of the pressure out. It actually hurt less. Oh, it was sooooo hard trying to concentrate on my project with you walking around in those tight jeans!"

He grinned again as he gripped Ethan's shoulders.

"Well, then we finally got assigned that history paper. I thought if I kinda hung with you a bit more......I could check for....signals or something...

"I really don't know how Jenny fit in there. It was all her idea we get together at Harvey's. Oh shit! I was just soooo scared and nervous!"

"Oh yeah!....I was right behind you on that one. I already told you about that. It felt a date!"

"Oh yeah!......Then we finally ended up at Tim's house. Oh wow! That giant TV and all the video games!......Oh! When you're concentrating on playing a game, you just have all these cutest expressions on your face. I think that's what did it! Oh shit, Ethan! I just wanted to kiss you soooo bad! For a while there....I thought that was going to be the end of it."

"Did I give you that idea? I sure wasn't fighting it!"

"Well, umm....I don't know exactly what it was. I was just scared, okay?....Yeah, I kinda used that experiment thing for an excuse. And I really never did kiss anyone before! I wanted to see what it was like. I umm....really enjoyed that....I ahh.... hee, hee, didn't want you exactly knowing that at the time though."

Ethan smiled as he squeezed his chest.

"Dew....for your first kiss ever....I'm tellin' you....that was hot! You just looked so cute that night....You were still wearing that scarf..."

"Oh you and that scarf!"

"I'm being serious here! I don't know what it was. You just looked cute 'n hot at the same time. Even Matt and Tim noticed it! Maybe it wasn't just the....scarf thing. Maybe it had to do with everything else you were wearing...

"I was thinking about all that. Umm....neither of our families are really well-off. Neither of us exactly have designer clothes! It just got me to thinking....It didn't matter what you were wearing....Oh gee, Dew! You always look hot no matter what you're wearing!"

Ryan slowly settled his head back down. He pressed his lips to Ethan's cheek. It hadn't been as much a kiss as it was a simple, warm, close gesture. They continued in silence, both absorbed in their own thoughts.

"Oh shit!....What was that?" Chris thought, "I heard another noise. I've got to get a hold of myself. I'm going to be sleeping out here for a week!"

He raised his head and turned it back and forth, listening.

"It's coming from the lake!....It's kind of a thumping noise. Oh shit! Now I'm going to start thinking it's some kind of monster walking up the beach!"

He squirmed deeper into the bag, gripping Joe's chest. He woke.

"You okay, Chris?"

"...Umm....No! I don't wish to sound a baby, but I hear some kind of thumping out there. I find it truly frightening."

Joe listened for a moment.

"Oh yeah. I hear it too. Sounds like someone didn't tie up their boat too well yesterday. It sounds like a small boat being pushed against the rocks by waves."

"Oh I hate being such a pain in the ass, Joe....but I'm really frightened. I've never done anything like this before."

He felt Joe's touch as he drew his arms over his shoulders. He could nearly feel the caring which Joe had placed within it.

"Come on up here. I want your face up here."

Chris drew himself up and placed his head on Joe's shoulder.

"I can understand that. This is all so new to you. Well, umm....I went out camping with Mom and Dad when I was real young. Things scared me too. I mean, this isn't exactly air conditioned boudoir, hee, hee......I heard lots of scary things too. I kinda played games in my mind. If I heard something scary. I'd try to think of something nice....pleasant to compare it to. I think the wind did lots to scare me. Twigs would slide down the tent. Paper bags would roll down the roads...

"Hee, night I could have sworn I heard something like kinda thumping at the tent. Oh shit! Did that scare me!......In the morning we found out it was some kid's beach ball blowing up against the tent. I felt so silly for bein' so scared...

"Yeah, the first couple nights are like that. You'll get used to it."

He hugged Chris tightly and kissed his cheek.

"Umm....I didn't mean to fall asleep so quickly like that. It's just that this feels so good. I told you all about that......I really enjoy just huggin' and kissin' like this. I won't push you into anything more. And I can understand how things scare you easy."

Chris returned a kiss to his cheek.

"Oh Joe!....I'm just so pleased that you're so patient with me. There's such a big world out there. And, yes!....Everything frightens me. I believe that's why I'm so pleased with meeting you."

"Patience has nothing to do with it. I'm not in any hurry for anything. Really Chris! Just laying here holding you like this....Wow! There's just nothing else in the world I need at times like this. You're just so sweet!"

"No! You are!....You're such a....a comfort to me. I think most kids would be laughing at me."

"Chris....Remember what Matt and Tim told us about when they first came out to each other? They said they were going to take it one day at a time......One hour at a time if they had to. I know it's easy to say, but you've got to stop worrying about so much.

"Now come on. Get on your side here. Lets just hold each other and not worry about stuff......Let's not even think about anything bad."

They lie in silence for several minutes. Joe felt his leg cramp but refused to move. Soon, Chris' arm slid from around his neck. He fell into a deep sleep with a regular rhythm to his breathing. Joe kissed his cheek again, pausing for a moment.

"Oh sweet little Chris! I've been waiting so long for someone like him."

Tim woke to the sound of seagulls over the lake. Although warm in the bag, he felt a chill at the thought of stepping outside.

Although Matt had his arms around him, there was no tension to them. He was obviously in a deep sleep.

"Oh gee! How many seagulls are there out there?! I think that's nosier than in town! They must be feeding......Oh yeah, feeding! Oh gee, I'm really hungry this morning."

He thought he'd heard footsteps outside the tent. It was here he heard the unmistakable sound of charcoal briquettes falling into a grill.

"Well, someone's up out there. I guess we could get up and at least eat. Oh gee, I don't feel like moving! I don't feel like doing anything today. It just feels cold out there. I can tell by just laying here."

Minutes later he stepped from the tent. He zipped up a windbreaker. He saw Joe sitting on the edge of the picnic bench, studying the charcoal.

"Oh shit! Is it cold out here!"

Joe looked over his shoulder.


"Umm....I had to run to the bathroom this morning. I didn't even want to get up. I had to. I figured what the hell!....I decided to just start up the grill."

"Oh gee. Oh gee!....You had to say bathroom!"

Joe chuckled as he watched Tim break across the lawn surrounding the showers.

On returning, Tim held his hands out.

"I just thought of something. Do any of us have eggs?"

"Gee, I don't know. Umm....That would be kinda messy on a camping trip, huh?"

"Don't worry," a voice called out.

It was Ethan, stepping from his tent. He held what seemed a container of milk.

"I found this in the ice chest......Liquid scrambled eggs! I've had 'em. They aren't really bad if you like scrambled eggs......Personally I like over easy..."

He set the container on the picnic table. He shivered as he drew up the collar of his jacket. He also fastened the top button.

"...Oh gee!....Oh gee!....I think I've got to take a quick trip fort necessity!"

Tim and Joe laughed as they dug through a cardboard box of cookware.

They were soon joined by Ryan and Matt. Ryan paced around, flexing his arms and doing quick squats.

"Oh shit!....Isn't this kinda like planning a parade or washing your car?!....It's sure to rain! I don't ever recall it being this cold in June! What are we going to do in weather like this? We sure can't go swimming!......I mean, I don't care if it's cold at night. It's just it could be a little warmer during the day!"

Tim smiled at him as he set a large griddle over the charcoal.

"Well me 'n Matty were going to do a little rowing today. As long as it doesn't rain, I think we'll be okay."

They all began to gather at the table. They drew out plastic tableware and paper plates. Tim struggled with the griddle.

"Shit!....This is too cool up on the grill and too hot on the coals! Everything's burning! I'm okay with burgers, but I'm just learning to do eggs!"

Matt joined him.

"Maybe I could find a few rocks and we could get the griddle at just the right height."

"Baaaahhhh!" they all heard Toby yell.

They saw him rip at the snap fasteners of the tent flaps. He ran out in only his shorts. He ran a distance from the tent, barefoot over the dew soaked grass. He was followed by Scooter who held a wad of paper towels in his hand.

"I got it Tob!"

He dropped the towels into a large green drum lined with a plastic bag. He glanced at the others with a slight smile.


Toby jumped and slapped his arms at his sides.

"Oh shit!....A spider! A BIG hairy spider! Oh shit! I HATE spiders!"

Everyone laughed.

Matt held his hand out, palm up.

"I don't find that too funny myself. I'm not a big fan of spiders!"

Scooter grinned at Toby.

"Come on in here, Tob......You're going to get arrested running around in your tighty-whities!"

"Oh shit! Oh shit! Are you sure there aren't any more in there?!"

"Well I can't promise you!"

"Turn on the flashlight! It's dark in there. I wanna check it out."

After a minute Tim turned to Chris.

"Oh gee! I'm just no good at cooking over charcoal! Chris, I know you wanted to rough it a bit....but do you mind if we used your hot plate?"

Soon the double element hot plate was plugged into the power pole near the table. Tim had no trouble with adjusting the heat. Soon there were eggs, bacon and pancakes.

"These are those add-water-only foods. Don't bitch about my cooking."

"Mmm...nah! Ryan put in, "In fact I think it's kinda good! I just wish we had some toast! I need toast at breakfast."

"I was thinking the same thing," Matt put in, setting several large rocks around the heating elements.

He set a slice of bread over each.

"I wanna eat my pancakes warm! I'm not going to stand here with a fork!"

Tim carefully turned the bread to see a golden brown on one side.

"Hey, this works kinda nice. Great idea Matt!"

An hour later they all entered the camp store. They paid rent on rowboats and a paddle boat for Joe and Chris as well as an aluminum canoe for Ethan and Ryan. They all walked out onto a wooden pier and jumped into their boats. Chris seemed a bit apprehensive stepping out.

"...Umm....Let's not go out too far, huh? I've got to get used to this."

Tim glanced over his shoulder as he set an oar into an oarlock.

"Chris!......Look at that sky. None of us are going out too far. We'll just go up and down the shoreline here. If we were way out in the middle of the lake and get caught in a cloudburst, we'll freeze before we get back!"

Matt struggled beside Tim on the seat. He placed another oar into the lock on the left side.

"Matty! What are you doing? There isn't enough room on the seat here for the both of us! We'll take turns."

Matt gave him a silly grin as he rubbed his back.

"Yeah, but then I won't be able to touch you or kiss you!"

"Well you aren't kissing me! Not out on the lake with two hundred and fifty campers looking at us!"

"Well, I wasn't planning on that until we get over there where all those trees are draped over the water. We can kinda hide in those branches."

"Oh shit!....Oh shit! Matty! Don't start with those puppy-dog eyes! You know I can't resist you when you do that!"

"Hee, hee....Yeah!....That's why I'm doin' that!"

Joe released the line of their paddle boat. Chris seemed to tense as his eyes became large.

"Oh shit, I'm getting a little nervous here!"

"Just relax Chris!....Now come on. Put your feet on those pedals there."

"Oh gee!....This isn't as easy as I thought it was going to be. I can't believe this is so difficult just turning a paddle wheel in back of us."

The wind began to increase for a moment. Several large swells rocked them from side to side.

"Whoahhh! It feels like we're going to tip over!"

"Relax!....Here, you grab the handle here and steer."

Although Joe could see apprehension on Chris' face, he began to smile slightly.

"...Mmm....I believe it's going to take a bit to get used to this tippy feeling."

"We're out on a lake Chris!....Not some pool. We'll rock around a bit but I seriously don't think we'll tip over!"

Matt and Tim managed to squeeze together on the single seat. It had taken them only one minute to coordinate their strokes. Both were watching Ethan and Ryan. They both dipped their paddles into the water and drew on them with precision timing. The canoe moved silently over the water with barely a ripple.

"Oh gee," Tim put in quickly, "I can sure tell they've done lots of canoeing."

They were kneeling in the canoe, leaning forward with barely their shoulders above the sides. They were clearly trying to reduce their wind resistance. They set a course for farther out into the lake.

"Hey!" Matt put in quickly, "Scooter 'n Toby are already into our trees over there! I'll bet they had the same idea."

It was here they saw Toby stand up. He pulled the oar from its lock and began slapping the blade into the water.


"Hee, hee!" Tim chuckled, turning back to Matt, "I'll bet he saw a water spider!"

"Well, as much as I hate spiders, water spiders don't bother me too much. They all got kinda long thin legs. I sure hate those big hairy things though!"

"BAAAHHH!....BAAAHHH!......It's crawlin' up my oar!"

"Hee, hee....Maybe we should go over there and give 'em a hand."

"Well....I'll have to see how big and hairy it is first."

It was here Toby tossed the entire oar out into the water.


"Toby!" Scooter yelled out, "Why did you do that?! How are we going to steer with only one oar?!"

"Oh shit too!....Not with that thing crawlin' up my paddle!"

Matt and Tim drew close. Matt held his hand out, palm up.

"Don't tell me......You've got a water spider on your oar!"

"Shit too! It's a BIG FUCKIN' SNAKE!"

He began tugging on Scooter's shoulders.

"Get me the fuck OUTTA HERE!"

Both Matt and Tim studied the oar floating out. They clearly saw what appeared a thick, black rope twisted around the blade.

"Oh shit!....You're on your own!" Matt yelled.

Chris and Joe neared in the paddle boat.

"What's up?" Joe called out.

Nobody said a word as they all pointed toward the oar still drifting out.

"Oh GEE!" Chris yelled, "What did I get myself into?!"

"Take it easy, Chris," Joe put in, "There aren't any poisonous snakes out here."

"I don't give a shit! And I don't care how little they are either!"

He gave the steering tiller a sharp turn.


"No, Chris! Come on! We gotta go out there for their oar."

"NO!....YOU gotta go out there for their oar!....After you drop me off BACK AT THE DOCKS!"

Joe overpowered him at the steering tiller and set out for the oar. Matt and Tim reluctantly followed. They approached the oar slowly and cautiously. Tim pulled his oar from the lock and stood.

"Maybe I can scrape him off."

"Oh shit, Timmy, NO!....If that thing ends up in this boat, Joe 'n Chris will have a third passenger!"

Tim tried to scrape the snake toward the edge of the blade. The oar pushed out even farther.

"It's kinda like tightening itself around the blade. It doesn't want to let go."

"Maybe if we just let it be, it'll let go."

"I got it!" Tim put in, "Back your paddle wheel into it! That'll scrape him off!"

"Shit too! I can just see that thing flippin' into here. Oh gee! That's four feet of slimy snake!"

It was here they all seemed to gaze back at the oar. They all caught sight of a pointed tail slipping back into the water.

"He let go!" Tim said, "Grab that oar quick!"

"Shit too! I'm not putting my hand into that water!" Chris put in, wide-eyed, "In fact that about does it about any ideas I have of swimming out here!"

Tim stroked his oar over the side of the boat and caused it to move sideways. He reached out for the oar and drew it in. He sat back down and placed his oar back into the lock and looked at Matt.

"Well, let's get this thing back to Scooter and Toby."

They rowed back to Scooter and Toby, holding the oar out for them. Toby eagerly grabbed for it. He inserted it into the lock and looked at Scooter.

"Now let's get the fuck OUTTA HERE!"

Tim studied the tree limbs and soft canopy of vegetation overhead. Although they couldn't see them, they heard birds chirping within. A breeze waved a large spiderweb nearby. Within the dense foliage there seemed to be a slight breeze which was cooler than that over the lake. Although the day still remained overcast, it was much darker here.

"Well," Tim began with a smile, "let's drop anchor here and....cuddle up a bit."

Matt's blue eyes were large disks.

"Shit too!....And have a snake drop down on my head?!...

"Let's umm....row along out here......Out from under that!"

They continued to row along the shoreline, being careful not to draw too close to the overhanging vegetation.

"Okay, Matty....We came out here for some exercise. Let's put a little into this! We'll go back and forth from here to the dock at least four times."

They developed a smooth coordinated cadence, pulling at their oars. They both watched the shoreline passing beside them.

"Now isn't this lots better than being on some rowing machine in some gym somewhere?" Tim asked, "Smell that fresh pine in the air! Smell the water! Smell that sweet vegetation!"

"Umm....Timmy....Let's not get too carried away here. We don't want to wake up all sore tomorrow."

"Nah!....We'll go from here to the docks four times over and call it quits. We'll see how we feel about it tomorrow. And each day we'll try to do a bit more. Awh shit, Matty I don't ever want to end up as sore as I was from digging that trench! We'll ease into it. Each day we'll try to do a bit more...

"Now concentrate on something in your mind. Don't keep staying aware of rowing! Think about other things."

They both drew heavy on their oars. Both fell into silence. They continued with a precise cadence. They heard the dips of their oars into the water. The locks clanked with each draw. The bow cut through the slight ripples on the water with a steady thumping noise. Matt glanced at Tim from time to time. He knew he was indeed concentrating on other thoughts.

After an hour had passed, they drew up to the docks and lifted their oars. The boat glided smoothly to their mooring area. Tim stood and tossed the looped rope over the wood piling. He began to flex his arms and shoulders.

"Sore, Timmy?"

"Nah! Not really. I'm just kinda feeling if I'm gonna be hurtin' in the morning. I don't think we pushed that too bad."

They returned to their campsite and found Joe and Chris sitting at the table. Chris had an apprehensive expression on his face.

Tim slapped his arms around himself several times.

"What's up?....You guys get too chilly out there?"

Chris looked up with a solemn expression.

"No......I think it's me! That snake scared the shit out of me. Oh gee! I keep tellin' you that I'm just scared of....everything!"

Tim dropped his hand to his shoulder and shook him.

"Chris....I don't like snakes either! Poisonous or not! I never went out onto the desert out in California. Oh gee!....There's snakes all over! And huge centipedes! And big hairy spiders! Oh! Just the thought of it makes me shiver!...

"Don't worry about it. Everyone's afraid of something!"

"Well, I'm frightened of everything! I'm starting to have second thoughts about this trip. I was hoping it would toughen me up a little."

"Chill, Chris! Give yourself some time. We'll help you along."

He gazed at the grill on its post.

"Well, it's a bit early yet but we could get this grill going. That'll take a bit. I think I could sure put away a couple burgers!"

Chris directed his attention to the west. It appeared the clouds were growing much darker.

"Oh gee! Now I believe a thunderstorm is moving in. Oh I'm frightened of thunderstorms as well!....And the wind!....And bugs!....And frightening sounds during the night!....And spiders in the tent!....Oh shit! I'm being a real pain in the ass, aren't I."

Tim tried to remain up-beat. He understood Chris' position.

"...Chris....We understand. You've already admitted to us you've been cared for by an army of servants! That's why this is so scary for you. You've got to start doing things for yourself..."

He tossed his leg over the bench and straddled it, looking at Chris.

"...Umm....My dad has had some talks with me over the past year......He's an engineer! And Mom's a doctor! I have no idea what they're making in the money department, but it's gotta be up there. And he keeps telling me about his younger days. He was awful shy for quite awhile. When him and Mom were just starting out....they didn't have Jack shit! They could hardly afford a burger on a Saturday night..."

He pulled at the bag of charcoal briquettes under the table and passed it under the seat.

"Umm....Well, Dad kinda admits they didn't get along with their parents too well......Well, him especially! I think his dad was an alcoholic er somethin'...

"Mom?....Well, her parents were from Korea and I guess they were very into well.... tradition. And....well....They were kinda together while they were in college. It caused lots of problems. Well, maybe not like today, but back then it was something really bad!...

"They just admitted to each other they were going to....well, sink or swim, as Dad put it. They were determined to make it on their own! And I guess it was rough! They could have had it lots easier if they....conformed. Dad just didn't like that! He isn't really a stubborn person....but he's very independent!...

"Well, he told me they aren't going to get me a car or a cycle or all those expensive gifts lots of other kids have. He says you get too dependent on that...

"One of his buddies had a boy. Well, he did everything for him. Bought him anything he wanted! He thought he was doing good! I mean, he sure wasn't going into debt over it. He could afford it! I guess his kid couldn't hold a job. He was married and divorced twice! I guess he just finally came back and dropped onto the couch! He didn't even look for a job. And he laid there until he was almost thirty! I guess they had all kinds of arguments and stuff. And the guy even admitted to my dad that it was his fault for doing too much for him! I guess this all came out one day when my dad said he wasn't going to do that with me! His buddy told him he was smart!"

He gazed off over the lake for a moment and turned back to Chris.

"Umm....I guess they had to get some kind of court order to get the kid out of the house! Really!......And I guess there was some kind of big fight over it. They had to get the police over there to drag the guy out!"

Tim glanced down as he set the bag of charcoal between his feet.

"Well....I guess that's the last time they saw him!....Really!....They don't know if he's dead or alive! They haven't heard a word! I guess he's a vagrant....a bum! Or maybe he turned to drugs. He could even be dead for all they know!...

"Umm....Dad was worried about all this stuff. Spoiling me too much. Hey, I told him I understand! And I told him I'll never lose sight of my priorities in life."

He gazed up at Matt who stood beside him. He reached out and held his hand.

Matt leaned forward and hugged him. He quickly turned to Chris.

"I keep telling Timmy we don't need new cars and world trips....We got each other!"

Chris' face seemed to brighten in understanding.

Tim got to his feet and slid the charcoal bag before Chris.

"Okay, now you're going to start the charcoal fire today. And you're going to help me grill hamburgers!"

Chris wiped a tiny tear from his eye with his sleeve.

"Oh! I keep telling you're the greatest! It's so nice not being.... ignored all the time. I've always dreamed of doing this stuff, but I'm so frightened of everything!"

He lifted the bag and went for the grill. Tim followed him.

"Chris....You're a genius! A real one! You just kind of have to apply that to.... well, real life situations. Problem solving! You just need a bit of experience. We'll help you along."

"YOU ARE SUCH A DORK! YOU ARE SUCH A RETARD!" Toby's voice called out.

They all looked toward Scooter and Toby walking back from the docks. Scooter was staggering along, laughing, nearly tripping.

"Hey, what's up?!" Matt called out.

Toby trudged along, shaking his head.

"Oh!....This DICKHEAD!......He had the BRILLIANT idea of RACING Ethan and Ryan an ALUMINUM CANOE! Like a BIG....WIDE....WATERLOGGED wooden rowboat is going to beat a sleek aluminum canoe!"

"Hee, hee....I was just bein' silly, Tob!"

Toby rubbed his shoulder as he flexed his arm.

"Oh shit!....I think I pulled a muscle in my shoulder."

"Oh come on, Tob," Scooter put in with a laugh, "Just be honest with us. Too much fappin' with that hand......You gotta start using your left hand a bit more!"

"Arrgghhh!" Toby yelled as he grabbed Scooter's shoulders.

They fell to the ground laughing, playfully wrestling.

Minutes later, Tim scanned the lake.

"So where's Ethan and......and DEWDROP?!"

Scooter and Toby sat at the table. Toby held his hands out.

"They said they wanted to take a shower!......They said they were overheated! Oh yeah! They're overheated all right! I think they're havin' a quickie in the shower!"


"Awh! Ethan 'n Ryan tried to convince us they haven't......done anything yet! Shit! Even as shy as I was....I didn't take that long!"


Tim noticed Chris studying the charcoal lighter fluid can.

"That's it Chris, just squirt that over the coals. And just give it a minute or so to soak in."

It was here they saw the small boy with the crew-cut down on the shoreline again. He had a small plastic bag in one hand. He was drawing out pieces of bread and rolls to toss into the rocks. The seagulls took no longer than seconds to land and begin eating. Several of the birds actually fought with each other over the larger pieces. Matt drew up beside Tim.

"Awwwhh! I feel kinda sorry for him, know?......He looks kinda lonely."

Tim nodded.

"I was thinking the same thing...

"Well, maybe you're right. Maybe he just wants to be left alone. If he comes closer, we'll call him over."

A minute later, Chris drew a wooden match from a box. He cautiously struck it along the side. The large head flared with a puff of smoke. He was hesitant to touch it to the coals.

"That's okay, Chris," Tim said, "Just hold it close to one of the briquettes. It won't flare up like it was gasoline."

He held the match to a coal. There was a small puff of smoke and he noticed a yellow flame begin to spread out. A large smile spread over his mouth.

"Wow!......Ummm....You probably aren't going to believe this but..."

"...This is your first fire you ever started?..."

"...Umm....No!....That's the first match I've ever struck!"

Tim chuckled as he hugged his shoulders from behind.

"We'll help you out. Don't worry about a thing. By the end of the summer, there will be all kinds of things that won't scare you any more."

A half hour later, Tim poured several aluminum pouches into a large kettle. Matt poured boiling water into it. Tim stirred it as he glanced around.

"Okay, okay! I'm cheating again! This is that dehydrated stuff....Beef stew! I just don't want to go crazy with burgers all week."

It was here that Ethan and Ryan made their way to the campsite. Tim reached for several plastic bowls as he eyed them.

"You two must be waterlogged! How long does it take to shower?!"

They both sat at the table with slightly red faces.

"Well," Ethan began, "We didn't actually....shower. We don't even have a change of clothes! We saw this in the woods there. Under those trees that overhang the water? Well, it looked like a nice place to just lay down for a bit."

"Whoahhh!" the others all sounded out.

Tim glanced at them.

"Well, I'm sure we have something in the first aid kit for......chapped lips!"

Ethan and Ryan hung their heads as the others laughed.

Chris leaned forward.

"Hey, you two looked really professional out there in that canoe. You must do lots of that, huh?"

"Well," Ethan began, "we're hardly professionals but we've both done lots of canoeing."

He glanced over the water.

"Umm....You probably won't believe this, but....I really hate motorboats! I just love a canoe. You just kinda glide over the water. It's so quiet and peaceful. You can hear the birds singing. You can even hear the fish jumping out to grab insects. For me,'s just not camping without a canoe!......We're going out again tomorrow! For the whole day!......Well, if it isn't raining!..."

He glanced around at the horizon in the west, pulling his jacket zipper up.

"Oh shit!....This weather! I sure hope it warms up some! I wouldn't even mind any rain if it was just nice 'n hot out!"

Tim set a bowl before each of them.

They both began eating. Ethan looked around.

"Yeah....Well, it wasn't too bad out today. We kept warm while we were paddling. It's just that out on the lake....there's nothing to act as a windbreak!"

They all began eating the stew. Several had a burger. There were also several extra side-orders of canned vegetables. Tim had instructed Chris to simply set the open cans onto the charcoal.

"Hey, this isn't bad," Scooter put in, "You're a great cook, Timmy."

"I didn't cook!....I boiled water and put it in here. This is a couple pouches of that freeze dried trail food."

The wind had shifted from the west. Although the easterly breeze from over the lake was more humid, even the drier air still felt cold. They all kept their heads down against the wind and ate quickly. Each spoonful of stew seemed a bit cooler than the last.

Ryan glanced up and gazed toward the west.

"Oh!....What shitty weather! I mean....why doesn't it just RAIN on top of everything else?!"

They glanced up at the blue plastic tarp overhead. They could distinctly hear the drops of rain beginning to fall.

"RYAN!" Tim put in, "Don't you know to NEVER use that word while out camping?!......It's bad luck!"

They all glanced toward motion near the large green drum which served as the trash container. The crew-cut boy was tossing in two plastic bags which had contained the bread and rolls. Ryan stood up between the bench seat and table. He leaned forward, squinting his eyes.


The boy turned to them.


"Holy shit, Add!....What did you do to yourself?!"

He slowly began to make his way to the table. He ran his hand over his head.

"...I didn't do this!....THEY did it to me!"

"Awh, you always looked so cute with that shoulder-length brown hair!...Oh shit!....Oh shit! You didn't come out to your family, did you?!"

He shyly sat on the very edge of the bench seat and nodded.

"ADD!....I TOLD you not to do that! I....I could kinda tell! All that stuff you told me about them being so religious an' all. You should have waited 'til you were out on your own!"

Adam nodded with a serious expression.

"...I thought about that."

He gazed out over the lake. They noticed he wore only a thin t-shirt.

"...I umm....was really just going to kinda keep quiet about it......but I couldn't! It's kinda like lying, you know?..."

His head bowed as he reached for a twig on the table.

"...I just can't keep going on like that! It's not ME!......I wanna be honest with people."

"Oh shit!......Did they send you to that....that camp?!"

Adam nodded. He obviously had a deep questioning expression on his face.

"We were wondering what happened to you!....You just kinda....disappeared!"

"...Oh yeah!......They pulled me outta school! I think I'm going to have to take the whole year over again!......Not that I might not have had to do that anyhow.......My grades weren't all that great. It's hard to concentrate on schoolwork with everything else goin' on in my mind. And I'm really having trouble with math!..."

He glanced toward Tim.

"...My teacher....umm....wanted me to tutored by you, Tim."

He bowed his head. He nervously began breaking up the dry twig in his fingers.

"...Umm....You're kinda like....well, umm....out around school now. And umm.... well, I guess my MOM heard about it through all her gossipy friends..."

He rubbed his hand over his face for a moment.

"...Well umm....she didn't want me around you......Oh gee, I'm sorry. She thinks you're gonna get me into lifestyle!"

Tim only gave a warm grin as he pushed bags of chips and popcorn toward him.

"I understand that.......In fact, your mom isn't the first person to do that."

Adam gave a slight grin as he glanced at him.

"...I umm....really like your new hairstyle, but....umm....I see you got your braces off.......Umm....Oh gee, hee, hee....You really looked cute with 'em, know?"

Tim covered his face with his hands for a moment, then held them out to the others.

"I keep tellin' you guys......I'm going to be seventeen in two months! I don't wanna look....CUTE, okay?!"

"...So, umm," Ryan put in, "Were they mean to you at that camp?"

Adam quickly lost his smile.

"...Umm....Well, it's kinda hard to explain...

"I mean they didn't....well, beat on me or anything! And....and they didn't give me electric shocks or like that..."

He kept breaking sections off the twig he was holding, tossing them onto the ground.

"...Oh shit!......I was really scared! I read about all those places on the Net!...

"Oh gee! Some of them have pig farms! And you really have to bust your ass working! Some of 'em give you electric shocks! They beat you! Well, it wasn't quite that bad for me. And you''re well just so isolated from everyone. I think that was the worst. You feel kinda like you're all alone and the whole world doesn't even know you exist...

"It was more, umm....working with your head! Oh gee! I couldn't say shit without it being all twisted around! They really have a way of gettin' on your case!

"And....yeah....there's lots of religion in it too. And they try to make you feel guilty about it. I kept tellin' 'em I was gay and I couldn't help it! Oh shit! DON'T EVER SAY THAT! You can't say gay, fag, queer or even homosexual! It's called SSA for same sex attraction.......And well....I kept hoping that all this was going to be like.... zapped outta me! I really thought they were going to help me! And I kept tellin' 'em that....nothing's changed!"

He continued snapping at the twig in his fingers.

"...Well, they called my parents and told them I was being....difficult or something like that. They said I was resisting them!......They told them I needed more time there."

"Oh yeah! Oh yeah!" Tim put in quickly, "They gotta keep that MONEY rollin' in! That's all this anti-gay shit is!....People gettin' rich off HATE."

He gazed out over the lake again. His innocent face reflected deep concentration.

"...Well, let me tell you....I quit asking questions after that...

"Well, I just about quit talking! And....well, I just started telling 'em what they wanted to hear! I knew I wasn't going to get out of there any other way!"

He finished breaking up the twig and brushed the pieces from the table.

"...That's supposed to be a....a religious organization! And....and they teach you how to lie! Well, they kinda force you to!"

He glanced around, still with a questioning expression on his face.

"...I seriously don't even know why I was sent there!......Well I know why, but they sure didn't DO anything for me! They kinda made it sound like I was the one to do everything!....Do what?....How?......I didn't wanna be there in the first place! I was sent there! What am I supposed to do about this?! I never asked for any of this. I just wanted to be honest with everyone. They....they just bitched at me! Like this was all my fault! They want me to be straight?......Well then they can show me how that's done!"

Tim wandered up behind him and held his shoulder.

"Adam......This isn't anyone's fault!......In fact there's no fault there! It's what you are! All these....psychological places will tell you there's no changing what you are. And they admit these....camps....can be very psychologically damaging...

"The American Psychological Association.... American Medical Association.... The American Academy of Pediatrics....Child Welfare League....National Education Association....The Royal College of Physicians......The list goes on and on! There's no scientific evidence anywhere that someone can go gay to straight!......And....and those so called ex-gays?......I say bullshit! They've just been pushed so far into denial that they don't know which way is up! They're living in a state of denial sooooo deep, that they can't even admit it to themselves! ...

"There's nothing wrong with you, Adam!......There's nothing wrong with any of us! We are what we are and there's just no changing it!...

"Okay, I was lucky! My mom is a doctor! She understands all this stuff. Dad's an engineer!......Well, okay....he'll tell you he doesn't exactly like it....but it's more about our safety than anything else. He already admitted he doesn't care if Matty 'n I have these.... feelings for each other! He's not embarrassed about it. He just keeps saying he's worried about all the bigots out there!...

"Adam....Love is love....Oh shit!....When me 'n Matty here came out to each other....We were worried about even using the term love! Oh gee! Now we're trying to find a word stronger than that! It just keeps getting deeper 'n deeper. We're like a part of each other! Yeah, I know that might sound silly, but it's true! It's the only way I can explain it! There's nothing wrong about you......You're just different! Just like the rest of us here!

"Last winter......well, Matty told me he was wondering if I should have played the field a bit more, before meeting him. Oh, gee! I wouldn't want to even to even try that! What we've got for each's just sooooo special.

"I umm....Well, I'm one of those people that think there's someone.... somewhere for everyone. It might take some time to find them, but you will eventually. And well, bein' gay....that just sort of complicates things.

"Just try to be cool around your parents. As you say....Tell 'em what they want to hear. And don't think of it as lying!......Think of it as survival! Yeah, it's a bummer at times, but lots of people have done it. Before you know it, you'll be out on your own. You'll find that special someone."

Adam gazed down at the table.

"I don't know....I'd like to have someone right now! I don't wanna wait! I mean even if it doesn't work out for years 'n years. It's just so lonely..."

He gazed out over the lake.

"I've got my computer for school but you might as well call it a word processor! They had the Internet disconnected! Well, they buy programs for it, but it has to be something they approve of!...

"I never had a cell!....Big deal!....Who would I call anyhow?"

He gazed at the bag of chips which Tim had pushed toward him. He carefully rolled the opening shut.

"They don't mind me hanging out with the girls......but I'd better not even mention a boy's name! Holy shit!....I get the third degree! I....I just don't want to go back to that camp! I mean, I wasn't beat on or anything....but they sure fuck with your head!"

He slowly got to his feet and glanced around.

"...Umm....Not to be nasty or anything, but....I think I'd better be going now. I mean my parents are on the other side of the campgrounds, but I wouldn't put it past them to come looking for me. If I was caught here with all you boys....Wow! I don't even want to think about it! They're just always holding that....that camp over my head now!"

"Well, just try to cheer up some. You'll be outta here in no time. You'll become independent and you can do what you want. There'll be nothing they can do about it!"

Adam gave a weak nod and began walking away.

The boys watched him slowly walk away. They saw his thin t-shirt ruffle in the strong, cool breeze. Several of them actually drew the zippers up on their windbreakers. Adam seemed to have no feeling for the cold wind. Indeed, he appeared to have no feelings at all.

"Oh shit," Ryan nearly whispered, "I feel so bad for the little guy. I told him not to say anything!"

Ethan was sitting next to him and grasped his hand.

"...Rye...... This is what I'm kinda worrying about. I mean....with my parents thinking this is all some....some experiment with me. Well, I didn't know myself, which way I was going! I keep tellin' you......Well ALL of you! It really doesn't bother me! In fact....I think just knowing and accepting myself is....Well, it just makes me feel better about it all..."

He gazed down at the table.

"Oh shit!....What if they find out this is...... for real! Or whatever you call it! I'm really worried about that! Umm....I don't think they'd send me to some boot camp over it, but I'm sure they're going to try something!"

The others could think of nothing positive to say to him.

Tim finally went for the grill and drew out a large kettle.

"Well, Chris, now it's time for the dishes!"

Chris' expression instantly brightened up.

"Well," Tim continued, "We only have a few forks and plates. I wasn't about to dish that stuff up on paper plates! With this wind, we'd have 'em in our laps!"

He drew out a clear plastic tube with a pink contents.

"This is concentrated soap, Chris. Most places have banned detergents in their parks and trails. It doesn't break down as quickly as plain soap. You just use a tiny dab of it in this whole kettle. If you use too much, it'll be nearly impossible to rinse it all off..."

Chris began to chatter along as they washed the dishes. He'd simply started the charcoal, assisted in warming canned vegetables and heating water, yet he felt happy over the accomplishment.

"Oh! I'm telling you......You guys are the greatest! I've never done anything such as this before. At times I feel truly embarrassed over such. I sure don't wish to be a burden on any of you. You just show me things along the way and I'll try my best to accomplish them."

Tim grinned at him.

"'ve already admitted you had too much done for you. You'll catch on. You don't need a PhD to go camping."

The drops of rain began to become larger and more frequent. They gathered under the plastic tarp over the table. They all looked at each other.

"Well, this certainly is exciting," Ethan put in, "What in the world are we going to do in the cold rain?"

"Well," Tim put in, "My mom didn't forget to throw in a few paperbacks! We might as well just go sack-out and read! I've got enough books in there for all of us."

Toby threw his arms around Scooter's shoulders from behind.

" READ?!....BOOKS?!...... It's time to get nakey!"

Matt nodded his head.

"Yeah! And have some hot buttered boy sex! HA! I beat you to this time!"

"Tob!" Scooter put in, "These boys are going to think that's all you've got on your mind!"

"Nah! I wasn't going to say that......In fact......after that rowboat today and that stew....I seriously think I could do with a nap! What the heck! There's nothing else to do!"

They all began to nod in agreement. They each began to wander off to their respective tents.

Matt and Tim entered their tent. Being the larger tent, the others had stored much of their supplies in here. They glanced around. There were three heavy metal and plastic coolers along the perimeter. The forth was simply a cheap foam plastic unit which could be bought at any supermarket. There were also brown cardboard boxes containing anything from snacks, canned goods, plastic wear to clothing and extra shoes.

Tim unzipped his jacket and tossed it aside. It had taken Matt by surprise. He reached for it and shook it out.

"Whoa!....Timmy....the neat freak!......Tossing his jacket aside...

"We really should hang these up, Timmy. They're wet! And I don't wanna smell rotten, moldy clothes."

"Awh shit, Matty!......I don't mind the cool wind today, but this rain is just depressing."

Matt grinned at this. He removed his jacket and spread it out over their cooler. He toed his shoes off, quickly removed his shirt and jeans and crawled into the sleeping bag. He held his arms out.

"Oh yeah....I'm sooooo depressed. Oh gee, this has to be the most boring camping trip I've ever been on! With that rain....there just isn't a thing to do! Maybe we should call up your mom and have her come out here and get us. Wow! We could be playing video games in the family room. Wouldn't that be so much better than cuddling up in this sleeping bag together?"

A smile grew on Tim's mouth. He sat on the top of the bag and began removing his shoes.

"Matty, you sure got a way with cheering someone up!"

Scooter sat on their sleeping bag. He'd removed his jacket and began on his shoes. He studied Toby cautiously examining bags of snacks. He shone a flashlight into a deep cardboard box.

"Tob! Save on those batteries. It's not all that dark in here!"

"Shit too!....I don't wanna reach for a box of cookies and find a....a SPIDER on it!"

"Well, I don't like 'em either! It's just I don't mind mashing it with a paper towel."

Toby pulled out a box of crackers which he inspected closely. Next he drew out an aerosol can of cheese spread.

"Yeah!......I really stuffed myself with that stew, but with camping trips....I always seem to have the munchies!"

Ethan sat on the sleeping bag in their tent. He appeared in a spell of serious, deep thought.

"...Come on E!" Ryan put in with a cheerful note, "So it's raining! We still get to be together. If the weather was a bit more with us, I wouldn't mind doing something. Yet, with this rain....I wouldn't mind a little nap either...

"That sure was great out in the canoe today. I'm not exactly exhausted, but that was a bit of exercise 'n fresh air today."

"Umm....It's not the rain, Dew......Out there I just kinda started thinking about my parents calling this a....umm....stage I'm going through..."

He looked at Ryan seriously.

"...Umm....I'm still kinda....well....thinking about all this still. Oh! NOT that I'm having my doubts. There isn't a doubt in my mind! I know what I am! Well, now I do. It's just that thing I hear about......The I always knew thing! Shit! Even the gay girls admitted it. I still say that never happened to me. I never though of it when I was out with Heidi. I don't ever recall....umm....looking at boys either! I had to keep thinking about it......Am I gay?......The way I understand don't have to think about it!"

He began pulling his shoes off. Ryan sat beside him and began removing his shoes as well. Ethan looked at him seriously.

"...You umm....always knew, huh?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I did......Well, I'm not sayin' I remember way back to like three years old!......But I can remember about five. Oh shit. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I looked at lots of cute boys......Yeah....It was always there. I mean I didn't have a name for it at the time, but I sorta figured it out..."

He drew off one shoe and set it aside. He looked at Ethan with a smile.

"I told was in drafting class. I just loved to watch you sit on that stool. Well, not that I wasn't looking at others......It's just....well, hee, hee....I just kept coming back to you."

Ethan blushed.

"Well, I still think of that kiss in Tim's family room," Ethan began, "I mean....well, it's not that I didn't want to kiss you. I guess it's just that I was kinda shy about it. I mean I wasn't even wondering if I'd like it. Oh gee, I sure did. Umm....I wasn't worried if I liked it either. Oh!....You were just looking so cute that day. I mean, even more than normal! I think it was just because I was looking at you....umm....differently. And with Tom and Jenny picking me up....oh gee! I still say that felt so much like a....a date! Yeah, I was shy....but I was also very nervous too! I mean, I was never nervous about going out with Heidi. Really! And umm....we kissed and that. But it was kinda....well empty! That's the only way I can explain it. I mean, it was sweet 'n all. Kinda nice....but nowhere as good as yours. And I told you that night your kiss was hot!"

Ryan blushed as he pulled off his other shoe. He nodded his head.

"...Oh wow, E!......That umm....really made me feel good! I'm not lyin' here. I was a little worried about that. I mean with it bein' my first kiss and all......I was really hoping that you'd like it. I mean even if you told me it was nice or something like that. I was never expecting you to say it! Oh gee, that really got me umm.... excited!"

Ethan had removed his second shoe and let it drop. Ryan looked at him. He suddenly gripped his shoulders and pushed him to his back. He held his head in his hands and kissed him deeply.

Joe and Chris had removed their shoes and crawled into their sleeping bag fully dressed. Chris drew up on top of him.

" know sometimes I like to have you on top of me too!"

"Chris!....I might not be two hundred and fifty pounds but I keep telling you about that. I just feel too heavy for that. I feel like I'm crushing you."

"Never! Oh!....I get to rub your back and sort of grab your ass a bit."

"Well, seeing as we're in here fully dressed, can I assume we plan on getting a nap in?....I mean it doesn't make any difference to me one way or the other."

"Let's get a nap in and warm up."

"Warm up?!"

"Well, I realize it's not twenty below, but I'm just not used to this....outdoor stuff. I think it's just the dampness in the air today. I'm just too used to a climate controlled environment!...

"Gee....When I was a little baby, I had all kinds of allergies. Well, I believe I've outgrown them now. It's just Father has left everything in place....The filters....the humidifiers, slash, dehumidifiers....the air quality controls....furnace and air conditioners. They're all rather high tech. I'm used to seventy degrees and sixty percent humidity. I know Father means well....yet....I believe living in such a controlled environment isn't as healthy as the so called experts claim. One's body doesn't build up any resistance to some of the most common bacteria and viruses."

Joe gave him a deep, strong hug.

"You'll do okay out here. Things are a bit....rough!....A bit unpolished....That's the whole point of camping......To.... as they say rough it a bit. I think you'll adjust."

Matt was spooned-up to Tim in the bag. He heard Tim's science fiction book fall from his hands for the third time.

"Shit!....I've got two pages left to this chapter. I just can't do it! I keep nodding off! Oh gee! This rainy weather just makes me so tired all the time."

"And bored?" Matt asked.

Tim turned over to his other side and drew Matt into his arms.

"Not a chance!......That's not boredom, Matty! It's called contentment!"

"Well, I have to admit it too. Rainy weather just makes me so sleepy all the time. I'll tell's easier for me to get up for school on a cold winter day than on a dreary, rainy one! I think there's just lots of psychology to it."

"Yeah....I'm sure there is..."

There was several minutes of silence before Tim spoke.

"Remember me telling you out there to kind of concentrate on something while we row?"

"Yeah. It seemed to work too. I was thinking of another science project for next year."

"...Well, I was thinking about that first day I met you in school."

"Oh yeah. I still think about that lots!"

"Well, I think I may have mentioned it to you before. I don't recall the exact words but I think I called you....cute....or that you had done something cute."

"Oh yeah....I remember that. I don't recall exactly how it was either. Let me tell you, I really umm, liked it."

"Oh gee!....That just wasn't me, Matty. I believe I was thinking it quite a bit. And with thinking about it....I guess it just came out when I was talking..."

He adjusted his position, hugging Matt again.

"I never really gave it a thought......Well, until my mom picked me up that day. I was kinda tellin' her about meeting you and that we ate lunch together. Oh gee! There were a couple times there I just caught myself about to say you were cute or something like that......Well, I'm not so sure she'd even have caught it. She was just like....'Um hum!' and 'Okay,' and 'That's wonderful.' I'm sure she thought I was doin' a snow-job on her. I don't think she believed a word of it. And she's right. I was just way too shy. In fact, it kinda surprised me!...

"That first day I was awful nervous......The second day....well, I was scared, but for different reasons..."

He gave Matt a deep hug again.

"I umm....I knew my mom wasn't buyin' it. You know, about talking to you and all. That's when I thought about inviting you over......And yeah, I wasn't just scared about it....I felt bad about it. Like I was using you. That's why I had such a hard time asking you. When you said, yes....Wow! I was just soooo happy!...

"Oh gee, I was so scared they were going to send me to a psychologist. Really! Matty, I was GAY!....And....and I didn't want anyone finding out about that! I was sure they would. And that was kinda the whole reason I asked you over. Oh shit! That just made me feel so bad...

"In the family room that first afternoon....Well, I was kinda trying to tell you that. Well, without having to come out to you and actually tell you I was gay. I kinda kept pushing the shy thing a bit......Well, that was quite a problem with me too! Oh gee, I was just so scared!...

"And then I started thinking about me taking that nap in the family room that night. Oh shit! Matty! I was just sooooo tired that night. I think I got a couple one hour naps in like forty eight hours! I was so tired it hurt! Real pain, Matty! And I just had to get that nap in...

"Umm....Well, I was planning on layin' down on the opposite side of the couch. Then I thought that might be kinda nasty. I'd have to put my feet next to you. It felt like I was kinda kicking you off the couch. I didn't want you to think like that. So that's when I kinda laid over your legs. And......well, it did feel a bit uncomfortable to me at first, but bein' so tired....I guess it didn't bother me too much. I don't believe I put a whole lot of thought into it."

"Yeah....I remember that first day I saw you in school..."

He suddenly hugged Tim deeply for several seconds.

"Timmy......I'm telling you.......I just never saw a....a hotter, better lookin' boy in my life! Just everything about you! Oh shit there were so many times I was almost right there with coming out to you......Then at the last minute I'd chicken out. I just kept thinking at least I had you there...

"Then we spent that night in the tent. Oh wasn't really for me. I mean it was because you were so sick and in pain with having your braces tightened that day. I really felt bad about that. And I spent lots of time just laying there thinking about stuff. I guess I got myself really psyched to come out to you the next morning. Well......not that I exactly said anything about it. I was just so scared it would end everything between us..."

"Matty, I already told you, even if I was straight, I'd never have..."

"Yeah!....Yeah! I know that now, but I didn't know that then!

"...I just couldn't resist that kiss......Well, I sure wasn't planning on it being quite that long! It's just when you hugged me. Oh wow! You hugged me so tight, it almost hurt! Oh!....That was just so....wonderful!...

"Yeah Timmy......When I first had to admit to myself I was gay....I really didn't like it......Then I figured, nobody has to know......Then I met you, and....and I really didn't care if I was gay anymore!"

He hugged Tim's neck.

"Ohhhh!......I think I'm getting into another clingy thingy!"

Ethan and Ryan remained in their sleeping bag, sharing a pillow. Already Ryan had fallen asleep. Ethan gazed at his face.

"Oh gee, Rye is just sooooo cute 'n sweet looking. I like his hair too. I like how it sorta sweeps out against his cheek and just holds so tight to it."

He shifted to his back and looked up. He could clearly hear the large drops of rain pelting the tent. The tent had stopped shaking and flapping. He listened for the wind in the trees.

"Gee, I guess that nasty wind finally stopped. I keep laying here wishing the weather was better....yet....what would we be doing? We'd probably be back out in the canoe. Shit!......I think this is lots better...

"Oh! All winter I kept wishing the weather would be warmer. There was no place for us to go and....well, kinda cuddle-up...

"Oh gee!......I wonder if we're going anything on this trip. I never really put any thought into it. This was all a surprise for us. I think if I'd known about this in advance I'd be having all kinds of thoughts."

He began to scratch his right thigh again.

"Oh gee, oh gee......I feel like I kinda want to do something with him. Maybe I should just let him take the lead......I won't well....resist him that's for sure...

"Oh gee....While we were out in that little cluster of trees there. That felt so good just laying in that deep grass. That little dip in the ground just felt like a kind of natural hammock. It just sort of supported us all around. And he sort of reached under my jacket. He was rubbing my hip and waist......It wasn't exactly....well, hot. It just felt so good. It was so nice to be that close.

"Yeah, in the canoe....we couldn't really do a heck of a lot. All I could really do was look at him. Oh shit! Those green eyes! A couple times I almost wanted to move forward and grab a kiss. I doubt anyone would see us out there that far. Then again, there were lots of guys out there fishing.

"Oh yeah....It was so nice laying in that grass. Well, we were at least out of the wind. It was just so nice holding each other."

He turned back on his side to gaze at Ryan again. He gently placed his arm over his shoulders.

"I don't want to wake him up. I want to hug him so tight, but I don't want to wake him!...

"Oh gee!......That....that sweet face of his. I've been noticing that lots over the last couple months. I'm gay....I'm gay......Am I gay?......Oh yeah! I sure am! And I don't care! I don't care at all!......Not with my little Dewdrop here. Oh he's just soooo sweet! I wonder if it's love. Mmmm....Tim 'n Matt sorta wondered about that. They told me all about that. I guess they were a bit scared about it too. Oh gee! Oh gee!..."

He began scratching his thigh again.

"Yeah....this is nice. I think I'm going to just get a nap in here too."

He drew his face close. He gently touched his lips to Ryan's.

"I've gotta feel those lips against my own. Oh they're just sooooo soft and sweet. We've got lots of fruit snacks here. Maybe I could talk him into eating another apple. Hee, hee....It sounds silly but ohhhh how I enjoy smelling apples on his breath. Oh that first kiss he gave me. Oh! That apple and cinnamon! And I was right about that. I knew every time I smelled apples after that, I think of that kiss. And I could just taste that sweet apple juice on his lips...

"Oh shit!......I've gotta stop this. I'm starting to pull a woody. Gee, Ryan felt me before. Lots of times. I think I'm still kinda shy about that though. Oh gee, we've been together for months now. That shouldn't bother me like it does. Yeah, it's me! I'm the shy one. Ryan....well, he acts kinda shy at times. He sure isn't shy when it comes to kissin'! He wasn't shy about that first one!......He didn't even know if I was gay or not. Well, not that I knew myself. He said he wanted to kind of experiment with me. Oh gee, that was so hot 'n sweet 'n sugary 'n....Oh! Just everything wonderful!

"I'm gay!....I'm gay!....Am I gay?......Why do I keep thinking that?! Of course I am! And....and it really doesn't bother me. I think it's the way it happened to me. I think it was just too....well, sudden! I didn't always know! Oh shit. I actually hope this isn't some kind of....of experimental stage with me! I really do! But I never really thought about it one way or the other. I don't recall always looking at boys when I was younger. Shit, I wasn't interested in girls either! I just never thought about any of this! Then Ryan came along......Hee, hee....Well it's not like he was just there suddenly. I still think it was that library thing! I was looking at the computer monitor reflecting off his face. Oh shit! Those green eyes!....That mouth. Oh I think I wanted to kiss him right there. It all just hit me!....All at once. I didn't always know!...

"Oh I gotta stop thinking about all of this. I'll just lay here and listen to the rain falling on the tent. Oh wow! This just feels so nice..."

Tim woke and reached out toward Matt and found he wasn't there. He heard the flaps on a cardboard box rub together. He then heard the crinkle of cellophane.

"Matty!....What are you doing?"

"Getting some munchies out."

"Well just no potato chips or crackers, huh? I don't wanna have to lay in that tonight."

"...Awwhh!....That's nasty....I wouldn't kick you out of bed for eating crackers."

"Real funny, Matty."

"I'm getting a chocolate cupcake. There's chocolate inside too!"

"Well use a plate or something. I don't wanna be layin' in sticky crumbs!"

Matt stepped over Tim and sat on his crossed legs. He held a paper plate in his hand with a plastic fork.

"What are you eating?"

"I told you....A chocolate cupcake....Want one?"


"Potato chips?....Cheese twists?....Wheat crackers?..."

"No. I'll eat a decent supper."

He gazed at Matt.

"Umm....What do we make for supper? I don't want to live on burgers and beef stew!"

"...Umm....I was going through that box there. We sure got lots of canned veggies. I was thinking of tossing a bunch together and having a sort of vegetable chowder!"

"Oh gee, yeah. That sounds good...

"So what time is it?..."

"Little after four...

"Hee, hee....Your mom texted me."

"Oh shit!....I turned my phone off! She said she wasn't going to check up on us."

"Well she just asked if we were okay....I texted back and told her we were sleeping......Hee, hee....She texted back, 'Oop's!' Hee, hee."

"Oh shit!"

"Oh, I texted her back and told her, 'Really sleeping!'...... Then she texted back she was going to call you around six. Make sure you have your phone on."

"Oh that chocolate cupcake smells good."

"Want one?"

"No....I want a cup of chocolate milk!"

"There's only white milk in the cooler."

Tim got to his hands and knees.

"We got some chocolate powder in here....I saw it!"

Ethan woke and gazed at Ryan's face still before him.

"...Oh gee! Ryan's just soooo cute when he's sleeping. Oh gee, that hair! Oh, the way it just sweeps out along his cheeks."

Ethan used his fingers to comb it out a bit more orderly. Ryan's left eye opened.

"Oh shit, Dew!....I didn't mean to wake you."

"Oh gee, what time is it?....It feels like we've been sleeping for hours! I don't wanna be up all night!"

Ryan flipped his cell open for several seconds.

"It's four ten....We only slept for about three hours."

"Oh gee. Oh gee. I just caught a chill. I gotta PEE!......Where's our pee jug?"

"I was going to use an empty milk container....It's not empty yet!"

"I saved that empty scrambled egg container from this morning."

"Dew!....Once you tear that open, there's no resealing it again! I don't want that tipping over in here!"

"No. It's got a screw cap on it....Just like those cream containers."

"Well, where is it?"

"Behind that cardboard box...

"Oh! Hurry!....The sound of that rain is making it worse!"

"Oh shit, yeah!....I hear it. It's coming down harder than earlier today."

Ryan got to his knees and dropped his jeans and shorts.

"Rye!....You've got a zipper on those jeans!"

"I can't take that long fumbling with a zipper! Hurry! Uncap that thing! I've only got one hand here!....I'm pinching it off! Hurry! I'm gonna pee on the sleeping bag!"

Ethan handed him the container.

"OH!....OH GEE!....OH!....WOW!....OH! RELIEF!"

"Well holy shit, Rye!....You gonna fill that quart container?!"


Tim sipped at a mug of chocolate milk he'd mixed up. Matt rose up from the bag and went for the cardboard box again.

"Matty!....Quit with the munchin'!......You won't be hungry for supper tonight."

"Just one more cupcake!....Oh gee! These are good!"

He returned to the bag and sat on crossed legs. He cut into another cupcake with the plastic fork.

"Umm....Timmy?......When did you....well, kinda think I might be gay?"

Tim sipped at his mug thoughtfully.

"...Well, I never really did know for sure. Oh, not that I wasn't hoping!...

"Umm....Well, I was kinda testing you here 'n there. You wouldn't move away from me if I sat close to you. You....umm....Well, when I kinda hugged'd hug me back! Oh shit! How I loved that! How I needed that!"

He sipped at his mug again, gazing over the rim.

"...I....I think it was that morning in the tent....When you were trying to come out to me?......I don't know what it was......Your body language....The way you were looking at me. I mean not that I didn't wonder about it before that. It's just....Oh shit! I'd never seen you so serious or....kinda scared at the same time..."

He drew his mug down, resting his forearm on his knee.

"I think maybe that night you spent there with me kinda got me thinkin'. That night we were on the couch?......I was kinda....well, touching you. Rubbin' your belly and chest. Oh shit that was sooooo wonderful!...

"Remember I asked you if you minded that?....if you felt uncomfortable?"

"Oh yeah! Oh gee, Timmy, I think my heart was poundin' against my ribs! Oh shit!....I was in heaven!"

Tim gave a shy grin.

"...Well, you never said that but you said it was nice or something like that...

"Oh! I think I was awful close to coming out to you right there. I just couldn't do it! I was just too shy 'n scared. Wow! I enjoyed that night."

He took another sip of his chocolate and gazed out at nothing in particular.

"Oh Matty......I was just goin' crazy that night! You didn't back away from me. You let me hug you..."

He gave a silly grin.

"Yeah Matty......In the morning is when it all hit me. Oh! I just felt so guilty about it all. That's all I had on my mind! And, yeah, I started talking about everything else! I think it's because I was trying to get my mind off it. I think I was really falling for you about here. You just looked so cute 'n sweet. I was soooo scared if I came out to wouldn't want to be friends any more.

"And I was thinking about that in the tent that morning. I....well I kinda thought you were trying to come out to me. I couldn't do it first! You had to! And I was scared! Yeah! I was scared!......I was scared you wouldn't say anything!"

He reached out and rubbed Matt's knee for several seconds.

"Oh Matty! just seemed so concerned about me! You kept asking me if I wanted anything. You wanted to go into the house and nuke me a hot chocolate because I was so cold. You told me to get into the sleeping bag and you'd get me warm!"

Tim gazed into his mug for several seconds.

"...Oh wow! I'll never forget that. You were so warm! Actually hot! And it just felt sooooo good! You rubbed my chest and cuddled up against me. Even though I was hurting with my braces....I wanted that to last a bit longer. I mean I didn't want to go to sleep too quickly. I wanted to enjoy that. It's just that pill started kicking in and I just couldn't keep awake any longer...

"It was kinda early when I woke up. I mean I didn't hear any birds singing yet, but I could see the tent getting lighter. Then I heard that loud thunder. I figured the birds probably weren't going to be out, if a storm was coming in. And I suddenly realized my braces didn't hurt. Oh wow! That was just great!...

"I felt hungry again and that's when I woke you up. I mean you were just about layin' right on top of me anyhow. I couldn't get to our snacks without waking you anyhow."

He sighed and gripped his mug in both hands.

"...And....and then you told me you had to tell me something! Oh shit! I....I got so excited about that. Oh shit, Matty! I was sooooo hoping you were trying to come out to me. And you really tried! You tried so hard!...

"Then you just sorta stopped talking and kept staring at my face. Oh gee, I'd never seen you like that....that serious before! I....I was soooo hoping you were going to kiss me."

He gazed off, looking at one of the window flaps. It hadn't been zipped entirely closed. On the outside, he saw raindrops running down the mesh screening.

"You just kept getting your face closer 'n closer to me. Then I felt your lips just sorta barely touch mine. Oh shit! I almost busted out crying right there!......I was just so happy!"

"You never told me that before!"

"Well, that's when you started kinda kissin' and lickin' at my braces. I think I just went from happy to hot in three seconds!..."

Tim looked back toward him with a shy smile.

"...I keep telling you this, Matty......I was just so scared I was dreaming! Really! I just kept thinking this is just too good to be true!...

"Remember Scooter and Toby always saying they didn't need anything because they had each other?......Well, this was way before that....but....I think that's what I was sorta thinking it at the time....I thought, 'Oh wow!....I've got everything I ever wanted, right here in my arms!'"

"Oh gee, Timmy....That's kinda....umm....nice..."

Tim set his empty mug on the cooler and leaned forward. He held Matt's head in his hands and kissed him deeply.

"Mmmm....mmmm....Oh gee, Timmy, that was nice."

Tim could only manage a shy smile.

Matt suddenly stood, pointing his finger at him.

"....You know what you need right now?"

"What's that?"

"...A chocolate cupcake!"

"Oh shit, Matty! You aren't going to eat another one of those, are you?"

Matt returned to the bag and sat. There was another chocolate frosted cupcake on his paper plate.

"...Sure I'm gonna eat another one!"

"That's just too sweet!....How do you do that?!"

"Just like this."

He picked up the cupcake and bit into nearly a third of it, chewing.

"Oh gee, Matty! Quit grossing me out! You're going to ruin your appetite for supper!"

"Supper?....Yeah, sure! Listen to it raining out there. Like we're going to start the grill and make anything?"

"Well, we can sit under the tarp! In fact, I'm going out there to start the grill. That charcoal will burn for hours."

Ethan and Ryan looked at each other as they sat on their sleeping bag.

"...That sounds like charcoal briquettes falling into the grill," Ethan put in, "Someone got up to start the grill."

They began to pull their shoes on.

As Tim was pouring the charcoal from the bag, he happened to notice the flap on Joe and Chris' tent pull back.

"Oh gee. That's Chris....That little round head....Oh gee, he's so cute."

"Timmy! Wait!....Just allow me get my shoes on! I wish to help."

A minute later he came running out, still pulling on his windbreaker.

He drew up to the grill with an excited smile.

"Please. Allow me to help. I believe there won't be a whole lot of tasks which I should be capable of."

"Chris! Knock it off. This isn't all that technical."

Tim suddenly squatted and crossed his legs.

"Oh no! I just caught a chill! I gotta go pee!"

He broke into a run for the showers as he yelled over his shoulder.

"Go for it, Chris! You know how to start that up!"

Chris had no problem with starting the grill. He sat on the very edge of the bench seat on the picnic table. He was just under the tarp. The moderate rain fell vertically as there was no wind. He listened to the drops striking the plastic above. He gazed at the grill.

"Oh gee....These boys are the greatest. They never leave me out. They always try to include me. I've....I've never known anything as this before. This is so nice."

He removed his glasses and wiped his eyes on his sleeve.

"I've got to try and help out here where I can...

"Should I try to start heating something? Nah! It's going to be a bit before these coals are all burning nice."

He looked around the campground. It seemed everyone was inside with the exception of six campers under an awning of a trailer. They were sipping beers and playing cards.

"Gee....I really must thank Toby for calling me up that one day for tobogganing. I believe that's what started all this. He's got wonderful friends. They don't push me around and call me Shrimpo! They're so nice to me!"

Again he wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

Matt came from his tent. He was holding his crotch.

"Ohhhhh!" he yelled, breaking into a run for the showers.

"You might meet Timmy in there!" Chris called out with a laugh.

Ethan and Ryan came from their tent. Although rainy and overcast, they squinted in the dim light. They rushed for the picnic table.

"Awh gee, Chris....We can give you a hand with this."

"Oh! No!....I'm fine here. I truly wish to help some...

"Umm....Has it been decided what we're going to have for supper?"

They both shrugged.

Thirty minutes later, they were all sitting around the table. Tim had asked each to get a can of their favorite canned vegetable. These, he was dumping into a large kettle. He was reading the labels out loud, waiting for any disagreement as to it being added.

"Green beans?!....Yuck! No way!"

Ryan held his hand out toward a smaller kettle.

"...And exactly what is this for?"

"That's MY kettle!....The one that isn't going to have anything GREEN put into it!"

He held a key operated can opener in one hand and reached for the next can.

"Lima beans?!"

"Oh gee!"...."Barf!"...."No way!"...."Oh gee! Who got these out?!"

Ryan shyly reached for the can.

"You?!" Tim asked.

"Awh!....Yeah, but I thought those were those little potatoes! I can't see in the tent! Awh! I think my mom's tryin' to be silly with me!"

The large kettle was placed on the grill. Tim dumped in two large cans of miniature potatoes. He went for the hot plate on the table, holding his kettle. He eyed the rectangular plastic container they had placed over it. A large rock was placed in the center to protect it from the wind. He shook his head.

"No way! I'm not plugging this thing in with all the rain!"

He returned to the grill and placed it on the coals beside the larger kettle.

Chris was stirring the larger kettle, peeking inside.

"...Umm......Eeewww! That doesn't look all that appetizing!"

The others filed past, taking a look.

"Oh gee! I sure hope we didn't waste eight cans of food!"

Minutes later, Chris dipped a teaspoon into the kettle. He took a dainty taste of it as the others looked on.

"...Mmm....I must say, that's rather delicious!"

The others sampled only a small amount in their plastic bowls. They all soon returned and dipped out large portions.

"Oh gee!" Joe put in, "This is really good Timmy!"

"Well, this is actually Matt's idea......He called it vegetable chowder!"

Minutes later, Matt had finished his third bowl. He was holding the kettle at an angle and soaking up the remainder with a piece of bread.

"...Well, we won't have to wash that pot!"

"Matty!....Where are you putting it all?"

"I can't help it! That was really good, Timmy!"

The others nodded and put in compliments of their own.

"Well I just don't see how you had all that much of an appetite after all that junk food you were munchin' on!"

"Well," Ryan put in quickly, "I would have probably been eating junk food too. It's just after all that paddling in the canoe today....I kinda zonked out!"

Tim shook his head glancing at Matt.

"Well you should have seen....Cupcake Boy here!"

He suddenly dropped his head in thought for a moment and raised it again with a large grin. He threw his arms around Matt's neck from behind. He pressed their cheeks together.

"That's what I'm gonna call you!......My little Cupcake!"

"Awwwhhh," Scooter put in quickly, "That's kinda cute! I like that!"

Matt could only roll his eyes up.

Chris got to his feet and reached for the empty kettle. He began pouring water into it.

"And I'll take care of the dishes!"

He set the kettle on the charcoal.

Ryan folded his arms on the table and looked around. He glanced up at the tarp. There was the patter of a steady rain.

"Oh gee!....Wash your car, plan a picnic, or go camping and it'll RAIN!"

The others all looked around. They made no attempt at hiding their despondence.

"What are we gonna do in weather like this?!....This is really depressing!"

Toby gave a slight grin as he turned to Scooter. He began to rub his chest through his jacket.

"Oh gee!....I guess we'll just have to get nakey 'n have some hot buttered boy sex!"

Matt dropped his head on the table as the others laughed.

"Awh gee! I should never have said that!"

Tim glanced around. He noticed thick, dark clouds forming in the west. There were faint flashes of lightning, although no thunder could be heard. He gazed at the tent.

"Well, I've got lots of books in there if anyone's interested."

This brought out a series of moans.

"Well, while the water is heating, I think I'll be headed to the showers."

They all agreed and went for their tents for changes of clothes.

As they arrived at the showers, they found the entire building empty. It took them only minutes to shower and change into clean clothes.

Tim pulled his shirt over his head as he gazed up at the high, frosted glass windows.

"Awh! Look at how dark it is out there already!"

Ethan stood at a bench. He rolled his towel up with his clothes inside. He looked at Ryan before a sink with a mirror behind it. He brushed his hair. A simple flick of the brush and his hair before his ears curved forward and held to his cheeks.

Tim gazed at him as well.

"I sure wish I could do that with my hair. It's so fine and limp, I can't get it to do anything!"

Scooter smiled at him.

"...There's nothing wrong with your hair!......I still miss your silver smile though. Oh! Those braces were just soooo keeuuutt!"

The others broke out laughing.

Ethan smiled as he drew up behind Ryan. He put his arms around him and kissed his cheek.

"Oh my little.... Dewdrop! "

They all gathered at the table again. Chris poked his finger into the water in the kettle.

"Ouch!....Shit that got hot awful fast!"

"Fast?" Tim asked, "That's been on there for forty five minutes."

Chris placed the kettle on the table and added more cool water.

"Come on, Chris," Scooter put in quickly, "Me 'n Tob can do these dishes this time."

"Oh no!....Please? I wish to help. Truly! I'm actually enjoying this. I want to try new things as much as possible on this trip.

"You boys are the greatest!......You don't push me around and call me names."

Tim drew near with a dishtowel.

"Chris, we'd never do that. I bet you'll learn a lot on this trip."

Ethan came from his tent with four apples on a paper plate and set them on the table. Taking a knife he began slicing them into wedges.

"Hey, do we have any brown sugar and cinnamon?"

"Oh sure!" Tim put in, "I never go camping without brown sugar and cinnamon!"

"Now I'm serious!"

Scooter started for his tent.

"Hold on....Hold on. I've got some. I like it on instant oatmeal, okay? I noticed my mom put it in one of the boxes."

Tim began pulling plates from a shallow, plastic, rectangular container. He was sure it had served as some cake or cookie container. It was excellent for rinsing dishes.

"Baaaahhh!" Chris suddenly shouted and drew closer to the table, "I just had that cold rainwater run down my neck."

He glanced over to the west. The dark clouds were making their way closer. Again, lightning could be seen but no thunder heard.

"Ohhh shiiitt!" Chris said, nearly shivering, "How I hate thunderstorms! And I mean in a house! Oh gee. I'm gonna be in a flimsy tent tonight!"

"Oh don't worry about it Chris," Matt put in, trying to pay it down, "Me 'n Timmy have been out in lots of thunderstorms......Well, hee, hee....I mean we were in his backyard at the time."

He reached for a dishtowel and pulled another plate from the rinse water. He began drying it, an expression of thought on his face.

"...Yeah, Chris......Me 'n Timmy.......Well, we kinda came out to each other during a thunderstorm. And I'll admit it....I don't exactly like 'em, but it's more the wind I worry about."

His eyes seemed to go distant. It was almost as if Chris could see a 'memory' on his face.

"...Oh gee....I was scared that morning. Well, not of the storm! I was scared of coming out to Timmy. Oh gee. I was so scared of that......In fact......I don't think I really even paid much attention to the storm."

He smiled at Tim.

"Wow!....That was quite the morning, huh?"

Tim hugged his neck and gave him a quick kiss. He glanced around at the others.

"Yeah, actions speak louder than words. Matty couldn't say it, but he sure showed me! He just kissed me!"

The others all gave a shy smile.

Matt turned back to Chris.

"Well, what I'm getting at, Chris....I umm....Well I'm still kinda scared over high winds....but the actual thunderstorm itself?......I try to associate something nice with it. Yeah, every time it storms......I think of that morning in the tent with Timmy....Our kiss. Holding each other so tight. The....the relief I felt! Oh! That was the happiest day of my life!"

Tim glanced at him shyly.

"...Mine too!"

It was here Scooter dashed from his tent. They all began to notice the rain was becoming more heavy. It ran from the tarp overhead. Scooter set a plastic shaker on the table. It was divided down the middle, with two plastic caps.

"Just pop those little tabs," Scooter put in.

Ethan grinned as he sprinkled each over the apple wedges. Ryan pointed his finger at him.

"I know what you're thinking!"

Ethan grinned and nodded. He looked at Matt and Tim.

"...That first time me 'n Rye came over to play that sub game......Oh gee! I umm, couldn't stop looking at him. That was....umm....our first kiss...

"Remember your mom sent us down with that big serving dish of fruit snacks? Well, Rye was munching on those apple slices. Oh shit!......I could smell those apples 'n cinnamon on his breath!"

He drew the shaker to his nose.

"Oh gee....INSTANT WOODY!"

They all burst out laughing. Tim kept nodding.

"Yeah....It's so easy to associate one thing to another like that."

A sudden bolt of lightning shot directly overhead. The thunder was more a loud crackling sound. A gust of wind came up and the rain began blowing sideways. Chris jumped and pushed his fingertips under his glasses, covering his eyes.

"Holy fuckin' shit!....Now that SCARES ME!"

They all began to glance around for a moment. Tim shrugged and held his hands out toward the tents.

"Well, we might as well just all turn in for the night!" he shouted over the wind.

They each began to rush for their tents. Toby gripped at Scooter's jacket.

"Let's get nakey!....It's time for some hot buttered boy sex!"

There were several snickers and giggles at this as tent flaps closed up.

Inside the tent, Matt reached out and held Tim tightly.

"...Umm....Let's get out of these damp jackets, huh?" Tim put in.

They stuffed the sleeves of their jackets between the tent canvas and the metal frame. This allowed them to hang and hopefully dry.

Matt turned to Tim and hugged him deeply as he hung his chin over his shoulder.

"Okay, Matty!....What are you thinking about now?....I can tell you're thinking!"

"...Oh....Umm......I think I feel one of those CLINGY THINGYS coming on again!"

"Well CLING all you want!"

"It's just....well, it makes me happy, yeah....but....It's kinda scary at the same time."


"...Umm....yeah......It's like that saying goes....'If it's too good to be true, it probably is!' I....I just love you sooooo much, Timmy. I mean really! It's almost like I'm falling in love with you more every week! It''s nice....but it's kinda scary too."

Tim managed a small side-step toward the sleeping bag.

"Come on, it's chilly in here....Let's get into the bag."

Ethan and Ryan sat on their sleeping bag on crossed legs. They had removed their damp jackets and had drawn up a blanket around the both of them. They both continued to munch on the apple wedges which Ethan had placed into a deep paper bowl.

Ethan watched Ryan bite into a wedge and chew thoughtfully. He blushed for a moment, as it was obvious he was about to speak. He turned to Ethan.

"...So umm....You really thought my fist kiss"

Ethan nodded seriously. He reached out and rubbed Ryan's shoulder for a moment.

"...Umm....Well not that very first one......You had your mouth all scrunched up! It was actually the second one. You were more relaxed for that one."

Ethan looked straight ahead as he held the bowl on his knee.

"Awh gee, Rye......I was kinda like lookin' at you a lot that night. And I'm not kiddin' about those apple pieces you were eating. Oh wow! The smell!....It was like heaven! And when you did finally kiss me....Oh gee!....I could smell that apple on your breath......I could taste it on your lips!"

Ryan glanced at him, thinking he was joking over the incident. Ethan's eyes were closed and he had a serious expression on his face.

"Wow," Ryan continued, "...So you really umm....liked it, huh?"

Ethan's hand left his shoulder and ran down his back.

"Ohhhh yeah!...

"Well, you have to remember here......I was still kinda thinking about....things. I'd keep asking myself, 'Am I really gay?' I kept looking at you......Then I realized I'd been looking at other boys....and....and wondering if they were cute.

"Oh gee, the day I got that 'e' from you. Oh shit! I was just soooo nervous about that!......I mean I really did wanna hangout with you, but I was just so shy about it! And I didn't want to tell you I didn't! I sure didn't want to hurt your feelings. You were just too cute 'n sweet to do that to."

Ryan gave him a shy smile as he chewed the remainder of an apple wedge.

"...You thought I was....cute 'n....sweet?" he asked in a somewhat joking manner.

Ethan looked at him seriously. His brown eyes were large, yet soft.

"Oh shit, Rye!....I keep tellin' you......It was that time in the school library! I think that's the......well, first time I really looked at you. I was just umm......Well, I had all this stuff on my mind, okay?!......I mean....well....It's not like I didn't want to be gay. I was just trying to figure out....well....which way I was going!"

He drew his hand from Ryan's back and held it out before himself. He shook it in the air.

"...I keep tellin you....All of you!....I didn't ALWAYS KNOW! Okay? That's all I hear from people. They always knew!"

Ryan reached for the bowl and set it on the floor.

"Come on, E....Let's get into the bag here......It's chilly in here."

He quickly pulled off his shirt and began removing his jeans.

"Come on, E....No sleepin' in our damp jeans tonight, huh?"

There was a flash of lightening outside with an instant crash of crackling thunder.

"Wow!" Matt put in quickly, looking around, "That had to have hit something!"

"Yeah, I felt that right through the ground."

Matt turned to his side and rubbed Tim's chest.

"...Oh I hate this weather!"

Tim smiled at him.

"...And what would we be doing if it was nice out?"

"Gee...Hee, hee......You've got a point there."

They drew each other into a deep kiss for a moment. Tim drew back and looked at his face.

"Matty....You just don't know how happy I am for you to come into my life."

He squeezed Matt's chest for a moment and dropped his head to the pillow.

"...When we were out there rowing today. Remember I told you to think about other things?......Not to concentrate just on rowing?......Well, I was thinking of us first meeting in school. And I keep saying it....You just looked different to me. I mean in a nice way. And I'm not even saying you or anything. There was just something about you that I seemed to identify with. Almost instantly I was, well, I won't say exactly relaxed, around you....but there was just something there!...

"Then I started thinking about the next day......We kinda ran into each other on the way to school. Oh gee, I knew my parents were planning to get me into some psychologist. I didn't want that Matty! I....I was gay! And I didn't want them knowing about that!...

"Remember I had such a hard time asking you over to my place?"

"Yeah. I remember that. Oh gee, yeah! You had a real hard time with that. I couldn't understand it at the time."

"Well, I kinda admitted it to you later that night. I....I felt like I was using you at the time. I didn't want to do that!......You were so sweet 'n nice to me. I didn't want to do that to you, but like I say....I was so scared!...

"Then I started thinking that maybe it's good it happened that way. It gave me the push I needed to get things going."

Tim drew him into his arms for a deep hug.

"I'm just soooo happy everything turned out the way it did."

"Ohhhh, me too, Timmy."

They stretched out in silence for a minute. The rain was heavier against the tent.

"So umm....Matty......Do you feel like umm....doing anything tonight?"

Matt's arms twisted around Tim's neck.

"How about seeing if we wake up early in the morning? We'll be all rested. I seriously don't think we'll be sleeping late. Not with going to sleep this early."

Ethan felt Ryan's body literally trembling beside him.

"...Come on, Dew! It's a bit chilly in here but it's not that cold!"

"Well, it sure feels it to me. I umm....thought it would be better if we got those damp jeans off...

"And besides......I'm a little scared of that storm too......Listen to that wind and that thunder! Oh shit I hate thunderstorms."

"Well, I don't exactly like 'em myself, but I think I've always kinda enjoyed the rain. Oh! All the kids at school! I just can't get them to understand...

"Umm....Well, can't go out and really do anything, but I don't care.

"One week a couple years ago I was awful sick. My mom bought me one of those big wedge-shaped foam pillows. It was so I could sit up in bed a bit more and read or eat. I'd get it out of the closet when it rains and set it up right at the window. I'll just lay there and watch the rain fall. And I open the window too! I like listening to the rain come down off the roof. It hits the ground and kinda makes those muddy bubbles."

There was another brilliant flash against the tent with a crackling rumble of thunder. Both boys jumped.

"Oh shit! Oh shit! I'm umm....really gettin' scared here, E."

Ethan reached out and drew Ryan close to him. He placed a long, rather affectionate kiss on his cheek.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared too. Let's just try to forget about the storm right now. Let's together! We've waited so long for this day."

Ryan managed a slight smile.

"Yeah, I know....And it's really nice. It's just so cold in here! I can't stop shivering!"

Ethan drew his arms around his chest and placed his hands on his shoulders from behind.

"We'll warm up in a bit. This whole place is cold 'n damp...

"Come on and just hold me, Dew......This just feels so nice. We'll just lay still for a bit. This bag will warm up shortly."

They remained on their sides in silence for several minutes. Ethan kissed Ryan's cheek lightly. Ryan in turn would rub the tip of his nose over Ethan's. Ethan began to rub Ryan's chest, slowly lowering his hand to his belly.

"Oh shit!....Oh shit, E......Be careful down there......I....I think something's....rising to the occasion!"

"Hee, hee....Awh that was sweet, Rye...

"I....umm....won't do anything if you don't want me to."

"Umm....No....That's not it. I umm....Oh gee! You aren't even touching me but it almost feels like you are!......Just....don't touch me yet. I gotta calm down a bit. Umm, yeah....We gotta do something on this trip. I really wanna....but it's a bit....umm.... embarrassing too, you know?"

Ethan ran his lips lightly over Ryan's cheek and stopped near his ear.

"Dew....We've been together for months now. You sure don't have to be shy with me. And....umm....I really like our kissing sessions........But isn't it time we do a little more?"

"Oh yeah!......I wanna!......It's just....oh gee, I sure don't think it'll take very long for me. Oh! Just thinking about you touching me gets me all excited. Just let me kinda calm down a bit first. I don't want it to be be too fast!"

"Sure. We can just lay here for a bit."

Ethan eyed the paper bowl of apple slices again.

"...Umm....Let's finish off the apples. We could put them in the cooler, but it's in Matt and Tim's tent. I really don't want to interrupt them. Oh gee, that could be very embarrassing..."

He drew the paper bowl close to their heads.

"I really hate to waste these. By morning, they'll be all brown 'n soggy."

Ryan reached for a wedge and bit into it. He seemed to chew slowly, thoughtfully.

"...Umm....Do apple smells really get you thinking about our first kiss?"

"Oh shit, yeah!......Along with the cinnamon. Really Dew! How that reminds me of that night at Tim's. Oh! You just looked soooo cute that night. I think that was the first time I was....well, kinda looking at you....that way."

He drew his face close to Ryan's.

"Awh gee, Dew!....I could just smell those apples and cinnamon coming from you. And.....and when we kissed, wow!......I could just taste it! Your lips were like kinda cool at first. And you had that apple juice on 'em and the cinnamon and sugar. Oh that was the sweetest kiss!"

He drew closer to Ryan and lightly licked his lips.

"Mmmm....Oh, this drives me crazy, Dew!"

He drew back and studied Ryan's hair again.

"...Yeah....And I was looking at your hair sorta hanging down. You had it longer then. Oh, I almost stood up and grabbed your head and kissed your cheek."

Ryan seemed to blush. He took another dainty bite of his piece of apple with a shy smile.

"You were gonna kiss me?!"

"Well, umm....I sure wanted to. It's just that....umm....hee, hee....I didn't want you to see my woody!"

"You had a....a WOODY?!"

"Shhhh! Not so loud."

Ryan smiled shyly again.

"...Umm....I didn't exactly have a woody....but I was thinkin' about kissing you. I guess it was exciting, but kinda scary too...

"In fact....I think it was all the way back to those library days in school. That's when I first thought of kissing you. Then in the basement there. We kinda paused that game. Oh gee! I couldn't stop looking at you!....And....and I didn't want you to see me doin' it! It was a little embarrassing."

Ethan took a bite of his apple slice.

"I thought that was kinda sweet the way you said you wanted to kiss me as sort of an....experiment!"

"Well umm....that was sorta the truth. I mean I couldn't exactly....attack you! I thought if I kinda let you know I wanted'd try it with me."

"Oh shit, did I ever want to!...

"You gotta remember....I....Well, I was thinking about myself at the time. I mean I wasn't scared or like that......I guess it's what they call questioning!"

Ryan held the apple piece to his mouth, nibbling off little bits. Ethan grasped his wrist and pulled his hand away. He gently kissed his lips again and licked them.

"Oh yeah!....Sweet apples..."

He quickly sat up.

"Come on Dew......Shorts off!"

"Oh gee, umm....Really?....Umm, I think I'd feel a little funny about that."

"No. Come on Dew......It's going to be totally dark out in a bit. We'll be in the bag here anyhow. We won't exactly be able to see each other."

"...Umm....well, okay," he replied, removing his shorts, "Just don't do too much umm....touchin' huh? I mean I think I'm like really ready! And sure isn't gonna take too long! So....umm....I was kinda hoping we could take this kinda slow....and....umm....maybe we could sorta.... or whatever!"

Ethan pushed him back by his shoulders with a silly giggle.

"Oh shit, Dew!......You're a little doll, you know that?"

"Well, just be a little careful with your legs there."

Ryan hesitated hugging him and drawing him too close.

"Oh shit, E!......I'm gonna just say it....I'm LOCKED 'n LOADED!"

Ethan chuckled with his mouth to his shoulder.

"...I promise......We'll take it slow..."

"...Umm," Tim began, "Can you let go of me a bit?......I've gotta turn my phone on. I forgot you mentioned my mom was going to call around six. It's gotta be lots later than that."

"Well, if it was all that important, I'm sure she'd have called me!"

There was a musical chime in the dark tent. Matt saw the light of Tim's cell screen reflecting from his face.

"Oh shit, yeah......There's a couple missed call here..."

He pushed a button and put the phone to his ear.

"...Umm....Yeah! Mom!....Matty told me you were trying to call me. I forgot to switch my phone back on...

"...Mom!......No, we're not cold!........No, we're not wet!......No, the tent's not leaking! Cheezzze! MOM! You're starting to sound just like Gram!......Well, yeah, we're a bit depressed over the weather. We all just decided to go to sleep early tonight. Yes we're eating good!......We had chips 'n sodas 'n we really polished off a big plate of chocolate cupcakes! And those cookies! Wow! Delicious!....Almost as good as those candy bars we had!........Hee, hee....Mom......We had a sorta vegetable chowder tonight. For breakfast we had scrambled eggs, bacon, pancakes 'n toast! And for lunch we had burgers and beef stew!

"...Yeah were were out today. We took a rowboat out. We're trying to build ourselves up some. Digging that trench at the park just killed us. We're going to sorta ease into it...

"Oh! While were were out there, Toby had a snake crawl up his oar! Oh gee, was he flippin' out!......Hee, hee....Then this morning Toby ran out of his tent! Just in his underwear! There was a spider in their tent!......Hee, hee...

"Ohhh Mommm! We're okay. We're just hoping it'll be nice out tomorrow...

"...No!......We don't need anything! We've got all kinds of food left yet. I don't really think you'll have to come out here Saturday like you said. Our....our resupply ship, as you call it! All we need tomorrow will be ice for the coolers. We can buy that right at the camp store here......No, we don't need batteries! All the stuff out here is rechargeable......NO! We DON'T have electric heaters in the tent with us! YOU PEOPLE packed everything. Where would we get an electric heater?!......No, we aren't using the hot plate in the tent!"

It was here there was a brilliant flash of lightning and a shattering, crackling of thunder. The thunder was felt through the ground.

"...Yes, I'm still here!......Hee, hee....You heard that, huh?......Your lights went out? ........Well, I don't know if our electric went out! We aren't plugged into it. All we need the electric for is the hotplate and recharging our stuff......Umm....Yeah! It is coming down bad here! No Mom!........We aren't scared!......GRAM!..........Hee, hee......Well you sure sound like her! We're warm 'n dry. In fact I was almost asleep here before I remembered to turn my phone on......We're doing fine!"

They heard splashing feet outside the tent and Chris' voice.

"...Oh shit!....Oh shit!"

He pulled at the snaps and ties of the tent flaps and rushed in. Joe was behind him, carrying the sleeping bag. He tossed it inside as he turned to fasten the snaps again.

Chris dropped to the center of the tent on crossed legs. He covered his face with his hands.

"Ohhhhh! I'm so scared!"

"...Umm, no," Tim continued, "That's Chris. He's a little scared of the storm."

"NO! Not a LITTLE....A LOT!"

"Oh, oh!" Tim continued, "I think I hear sirens. I'll bet a substation got hit by that lightning."

Joe got to his knees beside Chris and hugged him. Chris hugged him back. It was obvious by his grip, he wasn't about to stop shortly.

"Oh shit!....Oh shit!....I'm going to have cardiac arrest before morning!"

"Hee, hee....No, we'll be okay. This can't last all that long...

"Well, if it's still nasty tomorrow, we've got lots of books to read. Maybe we won't exactly be having hot meals but we've got all kinds of stuff in here......No! Not junk food! We've got all kinds of canned stuff in here....'n fruit, 'n milk, 'n juice. We'll get by.........Yeah, it is a little depressing but you gotta expect stuff like this...

"Oh sure, Mom!......Sure! We'll go out tomorrow in an aluminum canoe! All the way out to the center of the lake!....In an electrical storm! Cheeezzee! What do you think we are?!....Retarded?!......Gram!....Gramma!....Hee, hee......Well I'll stop calling you that when you stop sounding like her! Hee, hee...

"Yes Mom, we can still laugh. Trust me! We're okay. We're warm 'n dry. If anything comes up, I'll call........Yes, even if we get scared.......Okay....Bye..."

Joe held up the sleeping bag.

"Outta the way Chris! I gotta drop the bag here."

Chris moved off to the side as Tim switched on his fluorescent lamp. He still covered his eyes.

"Oh gee....I'm so scared....I'm so scared."

Joe tossed the bag down.

"Sorry guys. I tried to tell Chris we really should leave you alone. I sure hope we're not interrupting anything."

"Oh, don't worry about it," Tim put in, "We were just about to go to sleep anyhow."

"Well Chris said he'd feel better if there were more of us together. He's scared of the storm with just the two of us."

"Awh Chris!....Yeah it's kinda scary but we're warm 'n dry in here. It's not really all that windy."

"It's not the wind that frightens me! It's the lightning and thunder! Oh! I'm so scared!"

Tim got up on his elbows and looked at Chris.

"Come on Chris....Where are all those facts 'n figures? Wind does more damage and kills more people than lightning ever did!"

Joe opened the bag and pulled Chris toward it.

"Come on....Let's just lay in the bag here."

Joe sat and reclined to his back. He reached out for Chris who threw his arms around his neck. He buried his face to his neck. Joe drew his arms around him and hugged him tightly.

"It'll be okay Chris..."

Chris drew up a pillow from within the bag and covered his head with it.

"Oh!....Oh, I'm so scared..."

Tim switched the light off.

Joe continued to gaze up. Flashes of lightning continued to appear through the canvas. Thunder rumbled across the lake.

"Awh gee, I tried to convince Chris to leave you alone. I still feel like we're interrupting something."

"Don't worry about it, Joe. I'm serious. We were just about to go to sleep. We weren't planning on doing anything! Really!"

They lie in silence for several minutes. Rain continued to pour over the tent. At one moment, the thunder and lightning seemed weak and distant. At the next moment, it seemed to be directly overhead.

"...Chris?" they heard Joe's quiet voice, "You awake?...

"Oh wow. He's asleep already."

"I could tell he was really scared," Tim put in.

Joe hugged Chris tightly.

"Oh yeah. I feel so bad for the little guy. He admits it....He's scared of everything...

"A couple months ago he was tellin' me stuff. You know....about being rich and being accelerated in school and all that. I guess he really hates that. I can tell. He isn't just saying all that. He wants a....a more normal life I guess."

The tent suddenly brightened as another flash of lightning went off directly overhead. The thunder was instant, being felt through the ground.

Tim sat up and looked around as he switched the light on again.

"Holy shit! Now that's scary!"

Within seconds, they heard feet splashing through soggy grass. The tent flaps opened to the sound of snaps popping loose. Scooter and Toby entered with a cloud of damp mist.

"Oh! Gee!" Matt yelled out, "Close that up, huh?!"

Toby carried a sleeping bag in as Scooter snapped up the flaps again.

"Oh shit," Scooter gasped, "That did it! We don't wanna be out there alone. I sure hope you don't mind."

"Nah," Tim nearly sighed, getting to his feet, "Let me move some of this stuff around and make more room in here...

"...I'm sure Ethan and....and Dewdrop will be next."

He slid cardboard boxes, plastic totes and ice coolers around.

Matt placed his hands behind his head and glanced up.

"...Oh well, so much for getting nakey and having hot buttered boy sex!"

Toby dropped to his knees beside Matt.

"Oh gee! I'm so sorry!....That last crash of lightening really did it for us!"

"...Tob!....I joke. That was a joke! Really!"

"Oh gee! Oh gee!," Toby gasped as he spread out their sleeping bag, "We umm, felt like the last people on earth! Oh, it's so scary all alone in that tent!"

Tim managed to clear an area for another sleeping bag. He hung up the lamp from the metal frame.

"I'm going to put this up here. I don't want Ethan and Ryan coming in and tripping all over us with wet feet!"

Ethan and Ryan hugged each other deeply as they panted.

"Oh shit, E!....That was....umm....way too fast for me! I couldn't help it!"

"Well, too......That was kinda my fault. Oh gee, Dew! I really wanted to stop but I think I just was too far along. Wow!....That was a really....umm....big one!"

They sat up and dried off with paper towels. Ethan eyed the simulated kerosene lamp with the electric light at the base. Beside this was their paper bowl with the apple slices in it. Ethan smiled.

"Well, we've gotta finish off our last four pieces of apple," he said, "I've just got to smell more apples 'n cinnamon on your breath."

Ryan could only look down, blushing.

Ethan gently held to the side of Ryan's head and drew it close. He kissed his cheek lightly, feeling several strands of his hair on his lips.

"Oh shit, Dew!......That was it was great, huh?"

Ryan could only nod his head. He reached for his underwear.

"No Dew!....Let's not get dressed right away!"

"Umm....E, it's not just that I'm a bit shy right now......I'm worried that wind is going to blow the tent over. I could just see us crawling out of here....bare-assed!"

Ethan suddenly blushed himself.

"Oh gee, yeah. I never thought of that. Umm....hee, hee....Maybe you do have a point there."

They pulled their shorts on again.

"Wow," Ryan said, "Did you hear that crash of thunder?! I thought for sure it hit a tree awful close to us."

Ethan looked at him with a smile.

"...You mean that was lightning?! I though the earth had moved!"

Ryan hung his red face again. Ethan drew up on his chin.

"Oh shit, Dew," he whispered, "That was umm....really great, huh?"

Ryan could only nod his head.

Ethan drew the bowl of apples closer.

"Come on. Let's finish these off."

Ryan nodded, reaching for one. He bit into it, chewing slowly. He noticed Ethan looking at him.

Ethan reached out and held his head gently in his hands. He ran his lips gently over Ryan's.

"Oh shit!....I'm gay!....I'm gay!....And you know something, Dew?......I love it!"

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