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The Seventeenth Summer (Ch 8)

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

By Mark 'Ponyboy' PetersPublished about a year ago 8 min read
Original image by Janan Lagerwall on Chapter 7

Chapter 8

One of the good things about Hidden Beach, especially in nineteen seventy-five, was that for the most part very few people went there, providing Jake with a secluded place to work and swim and surf.

With Thompsonville being a small town, and with the main beach being just across the road from the shopping centre, there was little need for the townsfolk to travel to any other beaches in the area, unless they specifically wanted somewhere quiet for activities they didn’t want anyone else interfering with. There was a secluded beach on the south side of town where people often swam nude, which the authorities mostly turned a blind eye toward, but as Hidden beach was close to town and could be viewed from Lighthouse Point no-one risked it, for the most part.

As a result, Jake had seen very few people during the daylight hours while he had been camped there, and even at night there had only been a handful of visitors; about half of whom had left when they found another vehicle parked there amongst the trees, while the other half stayed as far away from Jake’s side of the grounds as they could, which all suited Jake just fine.

Of course there was always going to be someone wanting to test the boundaries and want to check out the guy camping at Hidden Beach, he figured, and later that afternoon, long after the boys had left, fully clothed and now flushed with cash, Jake noticed a red Valiant pull in on the far side of the car park. It had black stripes up the side and the rear door windows were tinted, he noted.

He had been working on sketching an outline of Danny onto a canvas, in preparation for painting it, and was in a good mood as it seemed to be coming together beautifully. For some reason his hand felt more alive than it ever had before as the raw beauty of the boy began to emerge from the white blankness. It wouldn’t be until he began to paint the image that he would know if the finished work would match his initial vision, but so far he was quite pleased.

Afterwards, once the sketch had been completed and an initial wash applied for the backgrounds and the sections where depth of colour was required, Jake sorted through some of his paintings, selecting some that he thought he might try and sell at the markets over the weekend. It was just as he had finished packing everything away and locking his artworks, supplies and equipment back into the various compartments in his van when he heard the vehicle and looked up.

While so far he hadn’t had any really bad experiences while being out on his own, Jake was always wary about being caught alone and in circumstances where he might find himself in trouble. He had been told first-hand stories of what sometimes happened when lone gay guys can find themselves caught up in situations they couldn’t get out of, and he had no desire to become another statistic. He had also been given some survival tips from some of those same people who had given him warnings, and always preferred to err on the side of caution.

When he finished what he was doing and had closed and locked the back doors of the van, Jake looked across at the car once more. He could see that there were two people in the front of it, but with its tinted rear windows it was impossible to tell if there were more. They were just sitting there and looked as if they were drinking and smoking . . . which he knew, depending on what they had their hands on, could sometimes be a deadly combination.

Glancing around his campsite he checked to see if there was anything else of value that he needed to lock away, but found nothing he needed to worry about. There was only his bedroll, his cooler, which was only plastic, his wash basin, his folding card table and the folding chair he used. Those things could always be easily replaced; he was quietly grateful that everything else had been locked away, and he was glad that this was a habit he had gotten into at the end of every day.

All that was left to worry about now, assuming that his visitors did in fact have hostile motives, was hiding the keys to his van, lest they might think there could be something in there that could be of value to them.

Moving around to the driver’s side of his van, which was the side that couldn’t be seen from the other car, Jake leaned in and turned the key in the ignition, quickly silencing the sound of the radio, which he had been listening to. It was a shame, he thought, as he had been enjoying the current song by that new Swedish pop band that everyone seemed to be raving about: ABBA. He knew he was going to miss the Bay City Rollers, who he had been fixated on in recent years and who had seemed to disappear from the radio all together just lately, but this new group was going to keep him pretty happy for a while, he thought.

It was then that he wondered what kind of music Danny listened to, which brought a smile to his face. Being normal Aussie kids, he figured Danny and Nate were probably Sherbert fans. As soon as he shut and locked the driver’s side door, having first thrown his wallet into the glovebox as well, he then knelt down near the back tyre, safely out of sight of the people in the other car, where he quickly scratched at the loose sand and grass behind the rear tyre, and as close as he could to the tyre, even digging beneath it a little, creating a hole that was just big enough to hide the keys in. He tossed them in and then covered them back over, being careful to try and make it look as undisturbed as possible by also placing some dry grass back over the top of the hole.

If nothing happened, then he would be able to retrieve the keys easily enough, but in the event of him being jumped, at least they shouldn’t be able to get access to any of his stuff.

With that accomplished, Jake looked around him, trying to decide what to do next. He had no idea if this was all a case of him simply being too paranoid, but his instincts were telling him that he needed to be careful, and so he had no qualms about taking a few precautions.

Looking over at the red Valiant once more there still didn’t appear to be any sign of activity there, but to be on the safe side Jake decided to take a walk, heading for the beach, so that the strangers would know he had left his camp site. Later, when it was approaching dark, he figured he would double back to his campsite by walking down the beach and then back through the scrub, which would allow him to observe the camp site as he approached.

For the moment, though, he was happy just to get away from the camp site, where he could push aside any thoughts of being bushwhacked and concentrate instead on the many other things he wanted to be thinking about at this time, such as the talented young man who seemed to have captured his heart in recent days, and the direction where said heart was about to lead him.

Coming out onto an empty beach, late in the afternoon, Jake looked around him. There was not another living soul in sight. On top of the headland to the south of the beach he could see the lighthouse, standing tall and shining bright in the afternoon sun, while the mile long beach between where he now stood and where the headland began to rise was glowing in the afternoon light, even as the first hint of shadow began to creep across it from the west.

Setting off along the beach he found that he was quite quickly able to put his worries behind him, which let him think instead about where he was in his life and what it was that he wanted to do in the immediate future. And as crazy as it may have initially sounded, the more he thought about it, the more he wanted Danny to be a part of that future

From that very first day when he had met Danny and his friends he knew that this kid was different to the others. There was just something about him which stood him apart from his friends, yet at first it wasn’t something that Jake could readily put his finger on. The more he thought about it, however, the more things started to make sense. It was when they looked into each other’s eyes, he realised, that he saw the special something that he had recognised. It had been like looking into a mirror, and it was almost as if they shared the same soul, the same spirit, the same life force.

Jake knew then that he was falling for Danny. He also reasoned that they were meant to be together. The question was, what could he do to make that happen? And furthermore, what would Danny’s reaction be if he tried telling him that? Would it freak him out? Or would he understand, perhaps having picked up on those feelings himself already?

Jake barely understood the way the universe worked himself, but he felt that this was the work of some greater force bringing the two of them together, so he resolved then and there that he would talk to Danny about it. He would explain his feelings for Danny. He didn’t know if he would, or should, ask him to come with him; after all he was still just a lad, but he did know that their futures would be in the lap of the Gods . . . and if they were meant to be then it would be so.

It was growing dark by the time that Jake returned to his campsite, using a path back through the scrub that he had discovered during his wanderings in recent days. He hadn’t forgotten about the visitors on the far side of the car park and had approached his camp with some caution, spotting the dark hulking outline of the other car well beyond his own and wondering just what they, whomever they were, were up to.

There was no sign of any movement around his camp and so carefully he crept forward through the scrub. It was only as he drew closer that he had the first indication that there might be trouble, when he heard the sound of voices coming from straight ahead, which was right where his campsite was.

‘Fuck, issshh all locked up,’ he heard a guy say.

‘Where’d the bloody poof go den?’ another voice added.

Instantly Jake froze.

Moments later he saw two guys come from around the far side of his van. He felt sure that if they had looked up they would have seen him.

‘Heesh bound to be here shumplace,’ one of them said, before ducking beneath Jake’s canvas. The slurred words were a dead giveaway that they had been drinking, which Jake knew made them even more dangerous than they otherwise might have been.

Carefully, Jake took a step backwards, but he obviously wasn’t careful enough, as a twig snapped beneath his foot.

Once more he froze. But it was too late. He looked up and looked straight into the eyes of one of the strangers.

‘Hey, Thommo! The fag’s ‘ere,’ the guy said, suddenly sounding more sober. Even in this pale light Jake could see the evil grin that appeared across his face.

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.


E: [email protected]

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