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The Seventeenth Summer (Ch 11)

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

By Mark 'Ponyboy' PetersPublished about a year ago 20 min read
Original image by Janan Lagerwall on Unsplash.com https://unsplash.com/photos/8NuDsZegIpQ

Chapter Eleven

The boys were lucky. When they finally made it to the small movie theatre, the doors were just being opened for the late afternoon show with the first movie being a cowboy movie that had played here before. They bought their tickets for the double feature, then a drink, a packet of Jaffa lollies and a choc-top ice cream each. They then decided to wait out most of the first movie in the foyer, at least until it was almost over; then they would go in, find a seat, and while everyone else was outside during intermission, they would settle in.

One thing they could never understand was why they always had double feature shows, where you always had to sit through one movie – which was almost always a rerun of some ‘B’ grade flick – then have an intermission, before finally getting to enjoy the main show.

It wouldn’t be until many years later when the picture theatres would figure out they could make more money by showing the feature movie twice in the same amount of time it took to show a double feature and so they eventually started to change their programming.

From where Nate and Danny sat in the foyer they could easily see outside. At once they noticed the lake and beginnings of the sunset that was being reflected from it as the sun readied itself to dip behind the mountains. They could also see boats and water-trikes skimming the surface of the lake, with people taking advantage of the warm summer afternoon. Danny wondered what a painting of this scene at sunset might look like.

Leaving the foyer behind, with about ten minutes left to run on the first show, they headed inside the theatre itself, which on this particular afternoon seemed to be packed. The reputation for this movie had spread quickly. They looked around and found a couple of empty seats in one of the back rows, which were located right behind a bunch of teenagers they didn’t recognise in the darkness.

Up on the screen there was a shootout going on, with the good guy wearing the white hat shooting twice as many bad guys as anyone else, so the boys knew the end wasn’t too far away now. Somewhere there was a damsel in distress who was about to be rescued, and once that happened she and the hero would be riding off into the sunset. They had seen it before.

As he watched the story unfold, Danny wondered what it would be like to drive off into the sunset in a Sandman panel van, rather than ride off on horseback, and he couldn’t help but smile to himself as he pictured that scenario in his head.

Before they both knew it, it was time for intermission and no sooner had the lights had come on that people were streaming out past them to go to the cafeteria, or to use the rest rooms. Nate and Danny stayed right where they were, still sipping on their drinks as they watched everyone file past them.

They saw a few people whom they knew, but there were also quite a few people they didn’t know, who they thought must have been tourists; not that the town was one that could be considered a tourist mecca in those years. That would come later. Much later.

‘Hey, you still got that stuff for Jake?’ Nate asked in a whisper, when they were all but alone.

‘Yeah. All safe and sound,’ Danny replied, in an equally quiet tone, while patting a spot just near his left hip. ‘I was thinking I might take it around to him after the movies.’

‘I still can’t fucking believe Lachie gave it to you . . . or even had it in the first place, for that matter,’ Nate whispered. They were leaning in close to each other, trying to make sure no one else could hear them.

‘Hey, what are you homos whispering about?’ said a voice coming from behind them. They knew in an instant who it was. Thomas. Apparently they hadn’t seen each other as Thomas had left for intermission.

‘Trying to figure out a way to make sure we didn’t get spotted by you!’ Nate replied.

‘Looks like you failed on that front!’ Thomas laughed. ‘Anyhow, where have you been? Me and Pat were beginning to think you were avoiding us.’

‘Nah, just been busy,’ Danny replied.

‘What? Together? That sounds a bit suss! People might start to talk if you’re not careful,’ Thomas giggled. ‘Maybe you should go and visit that Jake guy . . . hey, did you hear he got bashed up?’

‘Where the fuck did you hear that?’ Danny demanded, with his anger quick to rise, although he was also quick to make sure it didn’t show.

‘Heard Frank Thompson’s brother talking about it up the street today. He was sayin’ that Jake caught someone trying to break into his van, then whoever it was turned on Jake and bashed him good.’

‘Is that what they’re saying? Sounds like a tall tale to me,’ Danny remarked.

Thomas shrugged. ‘I’m only sayin’ what I heard.’

‘Yeah well, I . . . don’t think that’s right,’ Nate ventured. ‘We were talking to him today, weren’t we Danny?’

‘Yeah, and he told us a different story when we saw him. Maybe them Thompson boys are just making things up as they go along . . .again?’

‘Why would they do that?’

‘You figure it out,’ Danny flatly replied, just as the lights in the theatre started to dim.

Thomas left them after that, quickly returning to the seats where his family were sitting, but not before he cast one long curious look back at his friends.

‘He’ll believe anything,’ Nate leaned over and whispered to Danny. ‘They could all be in for a bit of a surprise after Lachie gets through with Frank.’

‘Just so long as Lachie doesn’t do anything stupid and get himself in trouble . . . I don’t want the Sarge visiting him as well!’

‘You don’t have to worry about him . . . Lachie knows how to look after himself.’

‘I fuckin’ hope so!’

For the next two hours the boys sat back and watched a movie about a shark terrorizing a seaside holiday town, with their mouths agape most of the time; either in amazement or surprise, or simply being scared witless. Occasionally they got to laugh as well, but for the most part they were simply spellbound, and when they eventually left the theatre their heads were spinning.

‘Oh, man. I’m gonna have to see that again! How awesome was that shark? Do you think it was a real one?’ Nate asked as they found their bikes and climbed on. ‘You don’t think they could train a shark to do all that, do you . . . you know, like they do with Flipper on TV?’

‘Nah . . . too dangerous. I think it would have to be fake. Maybe rubber or something.’

‘Well, it still looked pretty real, didn’t it?’

‘Fuck yeah!’

‘And what about that leg that got bitten off . . .’

‘Yeah, didn’t something like that happen in the lake here one time . . . years and years ago . . . before they built the weir . . .’

‘I think I remember something about that.’

‘And what about the shark rammin’ the boat . . .’

‘I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat!’ Nate laughed into the warm summer night.

Someone walking along the footpath in the shadows laughed at him as well, but he didn’t care.

They rode away from the theatre without a worry in the world, their minds replaying the movie over and over again. It was only when they stopped at the intersection to the road to Nate’s place that they were brought back to earth, with Danny quickly remembering the package he had safely stowed away in his jocks for Jake.

‘You gonna take it to him tonight?’ Nate asked his friend once they came to a stop on the side of the road.

‘Yeah, I think I should. You want to come too?’

‘Nah, I better not. The folks will have a fit if I’m home too late . . . you know what they’re like.’

‘Yeah, I do,’ Danny chuckled.

‘What about your folks? Won’t you cop it from them if you’re late?’

‘It’s school holidays, the Brad is still away, and mum thinks I’ll be with you, so it won’t matter too much what I do. I might just see how Jake is, then I’ll work something out after that . . .’

‘Come around home if you want. Just knock on my window if the lights are out.’

‘You sure?’

‘Yeah, why not,’ Nate replied.

‘Okay, thanks. I’ll see what happens.’

‘It’s all good, mate. I’ll catch you in a while then, eh? Tell Jake I said hello.’

They bumped fists in farewell and once Nate had disappeared into the night Danny set off for the caravan park, pedaling as fast as he could.

The lights at the park entrance were on when he rode through the gateway, but there didn’t appear to be anyone around, so he sped down along the roadway and pulled up in front of the cabin that Jake’s Sandman was parked beside.

He could see a light on inside, so after leaning his bike against the wall he knocked gently on the door. No one came, so he knocked again . . . this time a little louder, and waited.

‘Maybe he’s still asleep,’ he whispered to himself.

After there being still no response he decided to try the door handle. It proved to be unlocked, so he pushed the door open and cautiously stepped into the doorway.

‘Are you there, Jake? It’s me, Danny,’ he said.

The television was on, with the volume turned down quite low, but the small living room was empty. Worrying slightly, he decided to step inside and check out the bedroom, to see if Jake might be in there asleep, but the bed proved to be empty. There was no sign of him.

Just then he heard a noise, which sounded quite close. He wasn’t sure what it was, but then it was followed by the familiar sound of a toilet being flushed.

‘Fuck! I forgot about that,’ Danny chuckled to himself, just as a door opened and Jake stepped out into the small hallway that led to the bedroom.

‘Oh, Jesus! You scared the crap out of me!’ Jake exclaimed when he spotted Danny standing in the shadows of the bedroom doorway. ‘How long have you been here?’

‘Only just got here. I’m sorry . . . I knocked, and I called out, but there was no answer . . .’ Danny replied, suddenly worried he was intruding. ‘Are you okay?’

‘Yeah, mate . . . I just needed a piss.’

For a few moments they simply stood there looking at each other, until Jake broke out into a smile, which was soon copied by Danny.

‘So, what are you doing back here? I mean, I’m glad you’re here, but I just didn’t expect to see you so . . .’

‘I . . . I brought you something,’ Danny quickly replied, while at the same time putting his hand inside his shorts.

‘Don’t you think we better close the door first?’ Jake asked, with his mouth twisted up in a strange grin.

‘What? Oh, no, it’s not what you’re thinking,’ Danny giggled. ‘It’s this,’ he said, as he pulled out the crumpled plastic bag and held it up for Jake to see.

This time Jake did move quickly to close the door, before turning back and facing Danny.

‘What the fuck? Where did you get that from?’ Jake asked.

‘Just a friend,’ Danny replied. ‘Is there enough? He said it was all he had left . . . but I think he can get you some more if you need it.’

Jake walked over closer and closed his hand around Danny’s and the plastic bag.

‘There’s enough,’ he replied. ‘And I’m grateful, but you shouldn’t have risked carrying it around like that. What if you’d been caught by that copper?’

‘I wasn’t worried about that,’ Danny replied. ‘I was just worried about helping you.’

‘And does Nate know you have it?’

‘Yeah . . . it was his brother who we got it from.’

‘Oh, Danny. You boys just keep continuing to surprise me,’ Jake laughed, before pulling Danny to him and hugging him.

‘In a good way, I hope?’

‘Yes, mate. Definitely in a good way.’

For the first time since he had arrived Danny took a look at Jake’s face. The swelling around his eye was still there and the bruising was really starting to come out now, while the cuts looked like they were beginning to scab over. He knew that it was probably going to look even worse in the morning. He gently touched Jake’s face, who winced but still managed a smile.

‘So, have you had anything to eat today?’ Danny asked.

‘I cannot tell a lie . . . no, I haven’t,’ Jake replied.

‘Why the hell not?’ Danny exclaimed.

‘I guess I was asleep for just about all of it.’

‘Well, I’m going to go uptown and get you something . . .’

‘Don’t be silly. There’s some packet soup and some biscuits and stuff packed away in the van . . . I’ll go and get that.’

‘I’ll go. You just put the kettle on and boil some water. Is it all in that silver box you had your food stored in at the campsite?’

‘Yeah,’ Jake answered, before tossing Danny the car keys. ‘It’s stowed away in the back. And take a look in the glove box too, will you. I think you’ll find a packet of cigarette papers and some matches in there.’

‘Got it,’ Danny said, with a shit-eating grin on his face.

As Jake watched Danny head back out into the night he couldn’t help but think of how thankful he was that the two boys had shown up that morning. If he’d been left there without care he was pretty sure that the outcome wouldn’t have been good. It was then that another thought struck him . . . just how easily the two of them had begun working together, first with Jake helping out with Danny’s paintings, then with how they seemed to understand each other, almost like they knew what the other was thinking, or needed. It was the same feeling he had felt this morning while they were staring at each other, as they waited for Nate to get his bike out of the paddy-wagon and for the sarge to drive off.

He didn’t know whether he should be excited or scared by that, but he knew it made him feel alive . . . and that was a feeling he loved.

While Danny was outside, making what seemed like a hell of a lot of noise as he searched through the back of the van, Jake sought out the basic appliances which his new landlord had told him were in the cabin, such as the electric kettle and some mugs and plates. These were all soon located in a cupboard beneath the sink in the kitchen and by the time Danny came back inside, carrying Jake’s prized food locker, he had the kettle filled and switched on, and with some plates also lined up on the benchtop.

The first thing Danny did was drop the cigarette papers and matches onto the kitchen counter, before turning his attention to the food locker.

‘So, what have we got in here?’ Danny asked, as he flipped the lid of the box open and began taking stuff out and placing it on the counter.

‘Have you had anything to eat yourself tonight?’ Jake asked Danny.

‘Only a snack at the movie theatre.’

‘Oh, really? And what did you go and see?’

‘Jaws!’ Danny replied. ‘And it was amazing!’

‘Did you go with Nate?’

‘Yeah, who else?’

‘You should have brought him around here with you . . . especially seeing as he kind of supplied this,’ Jake said, as he held up the plastic bag with the green stuff in it.

‘I asked him, but he thought he better get home.’

‘And what about you? Do you need to get home?’

‘N-not for a while,’ Danny quietly replied, as he placed a packet of chocolate biscuits that he had been holding on the counter.

‘I’m glad,’ Jake replied.

Their first dinner together proved to be packet tomato soup, for appetizer and mains all rolled into one, followed by chocolate coated biscuits and a shared packet of sugar coated jube lollies for dessert, all washed down with sweet instant coffee.

Jake always tried to keep a few treats on hand for himself, seeing as he had a sweet tooth that was always crying out to be fed, and he was glad that he’d had them there tonight.

Sharing something like this with Danny, even something as simple as some soup and biscuits, felt, for Jake at least, as if it could be the beginning of something more, something that would carry them both well into a wondrous future. Just how Danny might feel about that he couldn’t be sure, but it was a question that was now beginning to play on his mind. Was he getting ahead of himself, he wondered?

‘So, what are we going to do now?’ Danny asked, now that they had finished eating and were sitting opposite each other at the small table in the kitchen.

Jake simply smiled and reached for the plastic bag, before holding it up between them.

‘You won’t mind, will you?’ he asked Danny.

‘No, of course not.’

‘Do you want to give it a try?’ Jake asked, as he pulled a couple of cigarette papers from the packet Danny had brought in from the car, then opened the plastic bag.

Danny was in two minds as he watched Jake roll a very thin joint, followed by another, using up all of the meagre amount of grass that he had given him.

‘I . . . I’m not really sure.’

‘No pressure, mate. I guess there are a lot of things I get up to that are new to you.’

‘Yeah, hanging around with you has certainly been . . . what’s the word . . . educational!’ Danny replied, with a slight grin on his face.

‘I would have thought it more . . . enlightening! Have you been shocked?’

For a moment Danny thought about it, while Jake watched him from across the table.

‘No . . . not shocked. Surprised, maybe, but I am sixteen, it’s not like I’m a little kid any more . . . so I do know some of what goes on in the world. I guess I just didn’t expect to meet someone so soon who would show me some of those things . . . and especially not in a town like this.’

‘And?’ Jake prompted.

‘And . . . I think that I like what I’ve seen so far . . . and I want to see and do more of it.’

‘I think that can be arranged,’ Jake replied, as he reached across the table and placed a hand over Danny’s.

Danny smiled and rolled his hand over beneath Jake’s, allowing their fingers to become intertwined.

‘You know,’ Jake said after a lengthy silence, during which all they could do was grin at each other, ‘I’m really grateful that you and Nate showed up this morning. I don’t think I will ever be able to repay you for what you guys did for me today. I owe you both, big time.’

‘No you don’t. It’s not about anyone owing anyone else anything at all. You are our friend and you were in trouble. You needed help and we just happened to be the right people there, and at the right time . . . and I’m just so glad we were.’

‘Yeah, me too.’

‘So, are you really okay after what happened? I mean, are you hurt or anything . . . you know, where they . . .’

‘I’ll be okay,’ Danny replied. ‘There’s nothing too badly damaged, if that’s what you mean. When I go home I’ll go and see the family doctor and get checked out.’

‘You said it . . . it happened before . . .’

‘Did I? Well . . . yeah, it did. I’m not going to lie to you . . .’

‘Do you want to tell me about it?’

Jake’s expression seemed to glaze over, as the unpleasant memories came flooding back.

‘There’s not much to tell, really. It happened when I was at school . . . after a football game, when I was in the showers . . . as you go through life, you’ll find that bullies exist everywhere.’

‘I’m sorry . . .’

‘What do you have to be sorry for? It wasn’t your fault.’

‘I’m just sorry it happened to you . . .’

‘Thank you, Danny. You’re a sweet guy . . . have I told you that before?’

‘I . . . I’m not sure,’ Danny replied.

‘Well, you are,’ Jake said, as he gently squeezed Danny’s hand. ‘Now, how about we make ourselves a little more comfortable? I want to try my medicine,’ he added as he let go of Danny’s hand and stood up, holding the two joints out in front of him on the palm of his hand for Danny to see, before also picking up the matches.

‘Is that what they call it these days?’ Danny chuckled.

‘It’ll do for me,’ Jake replied, before holding his other hand out for Danny and then dragging him to his feet.

As they walked through to the bedroom Jake reached out and flicked off the switch for the lights in the living area and kitchen, plunging the whole cabin into darkness, at least until their eyes adjusted to the light from the street lamp outside, which was now coming in through the windows.

‘I promised that I would continue your education,’ Jake said, as he sat down on the edge of the double bed, with Danny also joining him there. ‘But I think I’m going to need to take it easy for a few days I’m afraid.’

‘You don’t . . .’

‘Shhh . . . it’s okay,’ Jake said, as he reached up and placed a finger over Danny’s lips to silence him. ‘I said that there is so much I want to teach you and show you . . . and I will . . . but all in good time, my beautiful boy.’

With light flooding into the bedroom from outside, Danny could easily make out the shape of Jake silhouetted against the pale rectangle of the window. He watched as Jake placed one of the joints in his mouth, before fumbling with the packet of Redhead matches. Eventually he managed to strike a match, the light from which flared up bathing everything in an intense brightness, before settling back down. It was then that Jake brought the flame closer to his face and lit the end of the joint, drawing in deeply as he did so and savouring the intense flavour of the smoke.

Almost immediately Danny was struck by the sweet, nauseous and heady scent, which he knew from his high school in Macquarie Harbour, where students would often hide out in the dilapidated toilet block on the far side of the sports oval and partake, while others would take turn standing guard. The teachers knew what went on in there, of course, but usually chose to turn a blind eye, knowing that while the few students who did indulge had that place in which to do so, they were keeping the stuff away from the rest of the school, as illogical as that may sound.

Danny had always been amazed that even when there was no one there the place still reeked of what, to him at least, was a stale and sickly smell. But now, in close proximity to the stuff, in a room which was rapidly filling with smoke, he soon found himself beginning to think differently once the first waves of nausea had come and gone.

Now, he found himself willingly breathing in the smoke that filled the room. He was surprised by the strange peacefulness that seemed to be washing over him, accompanied by a little lightheadedness, and for some reason that he couldn’t explain, he was beginning to like it.

‘How are you going?’ he heard Jake ask him, but it was starting to sound like he was talking down a tunnel or something. It sounded totally weird. ‘You want to give it a try?’

When he turned his head he could see Jake holding the joint out for him. There wasn’t much left, but he figured he didn’t have much to lose, so he took it from him. Tentatively he started to bring it up to his lips.

‘Just draw back as deep as you can, and try and hold it there,’ Jake suggested.

For some reason that Danny couldn’t understand, he just wanted to start giggling, but somehow he managed to keep it together just long enough to bring the butt to his lips and close them around the end of it.

For a few moments nothing happened, but then he remembered he was supposed to suck on it, to draw the smoke back into his lungs. Once more the giggles started to come, but then he was drawing back, sucking the smoke into his lungs like he was supposed to . . . or at least like he thought he was supposed to! That lasted for about two seconds before he started coughing and spluttering, spewing smoke back out, then gasping for air, before finally giving in to his giggle fit.

Jake took the butt from him before he dropped it, taking one last draw on it himself before it was all gone, while at the same time slapping Danny on the back.

‘You did good, kiddo,’ Jake said to him. ‘You’ll get better with practice!’

‘I . . . ( . . . cough . . . cough . . . ) . . . I’m not sure I want to!’ Danny managed to splutter, but even to him it didn’t sound convincing. He fell back onto the double bed, before crawling up onto it a little more, then he rolled over, drawing his knees up close to his chest. ‘I think I want to puke!’

‘You’ll be fine, mate. It’ll pass,’ Jake reassured him, having climbed onto the bed and now leaning over Danny, one hand running through the younger boy’s hair, while the other was gently running up and down his arm.

After a minute or so Danny rolled over and faced Jake. ‘You must think I’m a real pussy, huh?’

‘No. Not at all,’ Jake replied, before leaning forward and kissing Danny on the forehead.

‘What was that for?’ Danny giggled.

‘For being here,’ Jake replied.

‘So, did it work? Did it take the edge off?’

‘Oh, it did more than that, my friend.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘It means that it brought you to me . . . and right when I needed a pick-me-up . . .’

‘So, that’s a good thing, right?’

‘Absolutely.’

For a few moments Danny looked up into the face that was hovering above him in shadow. ‘Will you hold me?’ he asked.

‘Only if you hold me.’

Even in the near darkness, Danny could see Jake smiling.

Young Adult

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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Comments (1)

  • Nobodyabout a year ago

    Amazing, as always

Mark 'Ponyboy' PetersWritten by Mark 'Ponyboy' Peters

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