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The Seventeenth Summer

A time for sun, surf and self-discovery . . .

By Mark 'Ponyboy' PetersPublished 2 years ago Updated about a year ago 16 min read
2
Original image by Janan Lagerwall on Unsplash.com https://unsplash.com/photos/8NuDsZegIpQ

Chapter 1

The boys heard the sound of the vehicle long before they saw it. The deep, throaty, burble of the v-8 motor reverberated around the township, the sound bouncing off any solid surface, even before the vehicle itself had come around that last bend in the road before the shopping centre.

'Probably another tourist,' Danny remarked to Nate as they looked up from where they were sitting.

'Yeah, my guess is it’s some rich dick with two girlfriends and a bunch of surfboards strapped to the roof, thinking he's oh-so-cool,' Nate replied, emphasizing the last few words, while sticking out his chest and theatrically brushing back his longish, sun-bleached hair as he did so.

'Yeah. The lucky bastard!' giggled Danny, as did the other two boys with them, Pat and Thomas.

It was December, nineteen seventy-five, and while Australia might have been in turmoil, following the sacking of the Prime Minister in the previous month, life in Thompsonville was sweet for this small group of friends. They were all currently sixteen years old and enjoying their summer break from school, doing the usual stuff . . . hanging out at the beach, checking out chicks, buying burgers, milkshakes or Streets ice-creams from the corner store, and then hanging out at the beach some more.

Yeah. Life really was pretty sweet.

The four boys had been friends for years, all having grown up in the small sea-side town of Thompsonville, but they all knew that at their age change wasn’t far away.

Nate was the cool one of the gang. With his surfer looks and likeable character, he was the one looked up to by the others. He was also the one that was most often the ringleader when they all found themselves in trouble.

Danny, with his darker skin and brown hair, the tips of which tended to bleach when he spent too much time in the sun, was the studious one, the one who did best in school, the one who was always looking to the future and trying to figure things out. ‘We’ve got to have a plan,’ he would often say to his friends, and more often than not he would come up with one.

The other boys were Pat (the skinny kid with big ears) and Thomas (the obligatory chubby kid), who were the stragglers; not that bright, ready to be led wherever their friends wanted to lead them, but good and loyal friends nonetheless.

As the oldest – he was about to turn seventeen – and the wisest, Danny always had all the answers, but lately something was bothering him, and it wasn’t something he felt he could talk to his friends about.

Suddenly the source of the noise roared around the bend in the road just in front of where they were sitting, which was by the car park near the lake. The fish and chip wrappings, the remnants of their lunch, on the ground between them.

The boys watched in amazement as the shiny Holden panel van, with its burnt orange paint job, flames painted up the sides, and chrome wheels cruised past them. It looked brand spanking new, as if it had just been driven out of the showroom, and they all thought it was just ace. They didn’t even care that there were two surf boards strapped to the racks on the roof. This was one sweet ride!

‘It’s a Sin Bin!’ exclaimed Thomas as the monster throttled back and slowed.

‘Nah, they call ‘em Shaggin’ Wagons,’ offered Pat, as the vehicle turned into the gravel car park, just in front of where they sat.

‘My brother reckons they’re called Fuck Trucks,’ Nate solemnly declared.

‘I don’t care what they’re called,’ said Danny. ‘When I get my driver’s license I want one!’

‘What’s the good of you having one? You won’t be able to get anyone to fuck in it!’ teased Nate, his very best friend, thumping him in the shoulder as he did so.

‘Will too!’

‘Who?’ Thomas wanted to know.

‘Rebecca Harrison . . .’ Danny blurted out, but no sooner than having said it he was cut short by the raucous laughter of his three companions.

‘Rebecca Harrison? Why would she want to fuck around with you? They tell me she’s already dating some eighteen year old who has a car of his own . . . so there’s just NO WAY she’d be interested in that little pecker of yours!’ Nate teased.

‘Who says it’s little any more?’ Danny quietly replied.

Nate raised his eyebrows in his friend’s direction and smiled. ‘Must be all that working out, huh?’

‘Yeah, something like that,’ answered Danny.

‘Wait . . . you’ve seen his pecker? When?’ Pat demanded to know, while being urged on by Thomas.

‘And I’ve seen yours too, dick brain! Remember? That time we all went skinny dipping on the other side of the lake! Geez, sometimes you guys can be such morons!’

‘Well, just so you guys know . . . I’m gonna fuck in one of those things one day,’ Danny promised. ‘And when I do, you’ll all hear about it!’

‘You just keep dreamin’,’ laughed Pat. Thomas laughed with him, but Nate just nodded and smiled. He knew that if his best friend had his mind set on something, he most likely did it, or got it. That was just how he was.

Turning their attention back to the new arrival they watched as the van cruised by them. The driver looked young, though it was a bit difficult to tell just how young he might be as all they could see was his head and bare shoulders. He had shoulder length, sun-bleached hair and was wearing dark sunglasses. He gave them a wave as he cruised on by. They waved back. They all thought he looked pretty cool.

When the van pulled into a parking space just opposite them that was when they noticed the sign across the back of it. Sandman it spelled out.

‘What’s that mean?’ Thomas asked.

‘It’s like, the model or something,’ answered Nate. ‘They all have it on them.’

‘Yeah, and it’s something to do with living on the beach, or something like that,’ Danny added. ‘It’s all about that whole surfer lifestyle thing. I was reading about it in the paper.’

‘Man, wouldn’t that be the life?’ said Pat. ‘Cruising up and down the coast, just surfing, picking up chicks and doing whatever.’

‘And where would you get your money from?’ asked Nate, as they watched the driver climb out of his car.

‘I dunno . . . I guess I’d think of something . . .’

‘I know!’ Thomas exclaimed. ‘Pat, you could be a gigolo, and sexy women would pay you bucket-loads to have sex every day!’

‘Fuck, Thomas, have you even looked at Pat lately?’ Nate asked, while Danny chuckled beside him and Pat simply appeared to be pouting.

‘C’mon you guys . . .’ Pat cried. ‘Knock it off! Just coz I don’t look like you!’

‘Hey, I know . . .’ Danny said. ‘Nate could be the gigolo and supply the money for all of us to live off! I’m sure there’ll be some rich chick out there who would love a surfer toy-boy! Sounds like a plan to me!’

‘Hey! There’s no way you’re getting’ any of my money!’ Nate laughed. ‘If I earn it, I’m gonna spend it!’

‘Oh well, it looks like we’ll just have to do the best we can with Pat as the breadwinner . . . though I suspect that we’ll probably all starve to death,’ Danny sighed.

As the boys continued to bicker amongst themselves they failed to notice the stranger approach, until they heard the crunch of footsteps on gravel as he was almost upon them. It was Nate who brought Danny to his senses with an elbow in the ribs. The four boys all looked up at the same time.

‘Hi, boys,’ the stranger said.

‘Hey,’ Nate replied, trying his coolest James Dean impersonation, both elbows up on the top of the backrest of the seat.

The stranger smiled at him. ‘Do you guys know any good places to camp around here?’ he asked.

Danny was looking the stranger up and down, and for reasons he couldn’t quite understand, he was enthralled by the sight that was before him.

The stranger wasn’t much older than what he and his friends were, maybe twenty or so he thought, but everything about him spelt surfer cool. With his tanned skin and sun-bleached hair, sun glasses now pushed up onto the top of his head to reveal a pair of blue eyes that were mesmerizing. It was almost as if he were a slightly older version of Nate. But what really caused Danny’s mouth to go dry was the fact this stranger was shirtless, and showing off a defined body, while also wearing only a pair of cut-off denim shorts that were very tight and with frayed hems.

The feelings that were whirring around inside Danny’s head now were the same ones that he had been experiencing recently while he was around Nate. They were feelings that caused his mouth to go dry and something to stir deep down inside him, and they were feelings that he dare not share with anyone, especially Nate. He had his suspicions as to just what these meant . . . he just found it difficult to accept them; at least for now.

An elbow in the ribs brought Danny back to the present, and when he glanced at Nate he could see an expression on his face that he couldn’t quite fathom.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘I said he should go and try the caravan park,’ Nate said.

‘Yeah, of course. Best place around here to stay,’ Danny replied.

‘Errr . . . how about free camp sites?’ the stranger asked.

‘You could try Hidden Beach,’ Pat suggested.

‘Yeah, it’s on the other side of the lighthouse,’ Thomas offered, while pointing to the big white tower on the headland to the north of the town.

The stranger looked in that direction and nodded, before turning back to face the boys. ‘Is it easy to get to?’ he asked.

‘Yeah, just head back out of town, then take Beachside Lane, it’s the first to your right after you leave town. A couple of miles along there you’ll find a picnic area that fronts the beach. You can’t miss it,’ Danny said, suddenly emboldened by the fact that they were actually talking to this young god-like creature.

‘Sounds cool,’ the stranger said. ‘Anyhow, my name’s Jake. I’m going to hang around and check the place out for a few days. Maybe I’ll see you guys around?’

‘Yeah, maybe,’ Nate answered for all of them.

With a nod, and then one last glance at Danny, Jake turned and walked back to his van.

The boys watched as he climbed in and started it up, before backing out of the parking space. He dropped his sunglasses back in place, the with a wave for the boys he dropped the clutch and spun the wheels, sending a spray of gravel flying, then headed back out the way he came.

They watched as he drove away, disappearing around the bend in the road, then they listened as they tracked the deep throbbing sound of the engine as it sped along the road, before slowing, then the change of gear, a squeal of rubber on bitumen, then the distant sound of gravel flying.

‘Man, that dude is pretty wild!’ Nate said with a laugh.

‘Yeah. I wonder what he’s here for?’ Danny wondered out loud.

‘The sun and the surf,’ Pat said.

‘And the sex,’ added Thomas. ‘I bet he’s going to root every chick in town.’

‘I bet he’s doing the whole Sandman thing,’ Nate said.

‘Huh?’ said Pat and Thomas.

‘It’s like Danny said earlier . . . it’s all about that Sandman sign on the back of the van . . . livin’ free, surfin’ the waves, picking up chicks, camping on the beach, smokin’ a bit of weed . . . fuck, the dude has it made!’

‘Yeah,’ Danny said. ‘I reckon he just might.’

In the days that followed, the boys saw Jake around town often, and he always made a point of giving them a wave or stopping and saying hello and having a chat. There was a certain mystery about the guy that drew them to him, especially Danny, and when they did stop and chat it seemed to be Danny that Jake focused on, not that he thought any of the others seemed to have picked up on that, thankfully.

Judging by the expressions of some of the older folks in town the boys could see that they didn’t exactly approve of this young stranger, as they looked him up and down or turned their noses up at him altogether. This only piqued the boys’ own interest in Jake, knowing that there was something about him that everyone else disliked, or were at least wary of.

This was really brought home to Danny one night at dinner when his own mother made mention of ‘that new stranger in town with the fancy car looking like trouble’.

‘What do you mean?’ Danny asked her. ‘He seems okay. He talks to me and the other guys.’

‘Yes, so I’ve heard,’ his mother replied, in a tone that in itself reeked of disapproval. ‘But, all the same, I think you should stay away from him.’

‘I don’t understand. Why? Just because some of the old fuddy-duddys in town look down at him . . .’

‘But he’s one of those, Danny!’ she almost whispered, while leaning over closer to him, as if she was afraid to say it too loud, lest Danny’s younger brother and sister might hear.

‘One of what?’

‘A homosexual, dear. You do know what that means, don’t you?’

‘Of course I do, mum. Geez, I’m sixteen. But why would you think that? Have you even met him, or talked to him?’

‘Oh, no dear . . . I’m just going on what people are saying in town.’

‘Then how could you know? How could they know?’ he spat back, suddenly feeling a rage building up inside him that he had never felt before and not understanding where it came from.

‘I beg your pardon, young man!’

‘His name is Jake, mum. And he seems nice. He talks to us all the time and never once has he said anything or done anything that would make us think that about him! And even if he was like that, what does it matter?’

‘Well . . . it’s . . . just not right! And I don’t think you . . .’

‘You don’t think I should what? Talk to him?’ he almost yelled at her. ‘Why? He’s done nothing to us . . . it’s just all those old gossips in town who have nothing better to talk about, just stirring up trouble for someone they don’t even know!’

‘Daniel James Anderson! I won’t have you talking to me like that at this table!’ his mother snapped.

‘Good then . . . I’m going to my room,’ he shot back as he pushed away from the table and got to his feet, leaving his much younger siblings cowering in their seats as he stormed out of the room. He was just grateful that his step-father was away working at the moment, otherwise things would have almost certainly been a whole lot worse. He had no doubt, however, that he would eventually be paying for his little tantrum.

Later that night there was a knock at his bedroom door.

‘Go away,’ he said, but that didn’t stop the door from being opened and his mother entering his room, looking around her at the clothes and belongings strewn everywhere and grimacing slightly at the sight and smell of her teenage son’s den. Danny looked at her, then rolled over onto his side, facing the wall.

‘So, do you want to tell me what that was all about?’ his mother asked quietly, as she perched herself on the edge of his bed.

‘No,’ Danny replied, because he didn’t even know himself why he reacted that way.

‘I’m only trying to look out for you,’ she softly said. ‘That’s what mothers are supposed to do, you know.’

For what seemed like a long time nothing was said.

‘It’s just . . . it’s just that I worry about you,’ his mother said. ‘Your step-father and I don’t want to see you get hurt, or get in trouble, and . . . well . . . when a stranger comes into town and starts talking to our kids, it’s only proper that their parents should look out for them.’

Danny rolled over and looked at his mother.

‘But how can you even know what he’s like?’ he asked. ‘He’s been nothing but friendly to me and Nate and the guys . . .’

‘But that’s just it . . . sometimes that’s enough of a warning sign in itself, isn’t it?’

‘We all like him. And he’s done nothing wrong . . . so people shouldn’t judge him. All the old farts in this town are just the same, jumping to conclusions when they haven’t even taken the time to talk to him, so what right do they have to do that? You can’t just go around believing everything that they say.’

‘All right then. I guess that’s fair enough. So, what if we give this . . .’

‘Jake, mum. His name is Jake.’

‘Okay, Jake then. You think we should give him the benefit of the doubt?’

‘Yes. I mean, I'm almost seventeen, aren’t I old enough to be able to make up my own mind about things now?’

‘Well, yes, I guess you are. But what if he does . . . something? What then?’

‘Well . . . I suppose then he should get in trouble . . . and I’m sure old Sarge Bailey will enjoy slapping the cuffs on him if he does, but people just can’t go around saying things about him when he hasn’t done anything wrong. That’s just not . . .’

‘Yes, Dan, I get your point. It’s just not right, is it?’

‘No. It isn’t.’

‘Okay then. I promise I won’t say anything bad about Jake to anyone . . . unless he deserves it. But I want you to promise me that you and your friends will be careful, okay? I don’t think I could stop you from talking to him even if I did want to, because I know that you would just do it anyway,’ she said, with just a hint of a smile. ‘So just be careful, and if anything, errrrr. . . strange happens . . . or if he does anything that makes you feel, I don’t know, uncomfortable . . . just promise me you’ll tell us about it, okay?’

‘I promise.’

‘Okay then, I guess that’s all I can ask for,’ she replied, before leaning forward and kissing him on the forehead. ‘Now, there’s still some cheesecake left if you want some, but you better be quick, otherwise your brother and sister might get to it!’

‘Thanks mum,’ Danny replied.

With a nod, apparently satisfied that things were as they should be, Danny’s mother left the room. He thought about the offer of the cheesecake but didn’t think that he wanted to endure the stares, or the scrutiny, from his brother and sister, so decided he would rather stay just where he was. Besides, he had stuff he needed to think about.

For a while he just stretched out on his bed, his hands folded behind his head as he stared at the blank ceiling, turning things over in his mind. For a while now he’d been having feelings that he was finding difficult to understand. Thoughts had been racing through his head lately about things he had always been taught were wicked, and dirty, and were sins, yet, with his best friend being the object of his attraction each time he found it more and more difficult to reconcile any feelings of guilt with the friendship he shared with Nate.

But now, with a head filled with fresh images and desires, and with someone else being front and centre in his mind, he was feeling differently. He had finally recognised that having an attraction to someone of the same sex couldn’t possibly be so wrong if it happened so often, and to so many people. In his mind the old argument about loving someone like Nate, or even Jake – if anything as far-fetched as that were to ever eventuate – being wrong in the eyes of God just didn’t hold water, especially when God was supposed to have made us in his own image anyhow!

So, if He made us like this, Danny reasoned, then He must have known what he was doing!

The more he thought about this, the more convinced he became that what he was feeling wasn’t some sick perversion, like society had tried to brainwash us all with from an early age. He knew now just what it was that he wanted out of life, and was determined, one way or another, to explore, experiment, and eventually reach that goal.

With a new sense of purpose, and a smile on his face, Danny sat up and reached for the table beside his bed, picking up one of his sketch pads and a pencil.

Drawing, painting and photography were some of his passions, and he was quite good at each of them, so he indulged in these pastimes at every opportunity. Without even giving it much thought Danny started to draw, trying to remember the exact shape of what it was he wanted the finished product to be.

Within a few minutes he had the outline complete. It was the outline of a Holden Sandman panel van, beside which could be seen a young man holding a surfboard.

Yes, the shape was pretty good, he thought. Now for some detail.

.

.

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This story will be updated with a new chapter each week, but if you don't want to wait that long you can always purchase the completed novel as an e-book, here . . . https://books2read.com/u/mg1dyv

Thank you for your support! :)

Young Adult
2

About the Creator

Mark 'Ponyboy' Peters

Aussie, Queer & Country

LGBT themed fiction with an Aussie flavour, reviews, observations and real life LGBT histories.

W: https://ponyboysplace.wordpress.com/vocal-media-index/

E: [email protected]

https://www.facebook.com/mark.p.peters/

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  • Les Reed3 months ago

    Thanks again, Mark - for entertaining us with stories that gel with many of us. Best wishes, Les. London.

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