The Seventeenth Summer (Ch 9)
A time for sun, surf and self-discovery . . .
Jake didn’t know what time it was when he awoke, or should that be, when he regained consciousness? He knew that something had happened last night, but as he lay face down in the sandy patch of dirt just near his shelter, looking at his disheveled campsite and the back of his van, he couldn’t remember what it had been.
All he knew now was that he was cold, his face was throbbing, his head was spinning and his body was aching all over. He wasn’t sure, but judging by the distorted view of the world he currently had, he suspected that one of his eyes was barely open.
‘Fuck! What happened?’ he wondered.
Slowly he tried to move. Just a fraction at first . . . like the end of his index finger.
Okay. So far so good. That bit worked.
Now for something more.
Gradually he worked through his limbs, trying to see what was going to work, and what was not. There were howls of protest everywhere, but eventually all of his parts complied.
It was around then that he became aware of another pain . . . one that was coming from deep down inside him. It was a pain he had felt before, and he suspected that he knew what it meant.
It was at this thought that tears began to form.
His final thought before succumbing to the pain and the heartache was, ‘Oh, God no. Not again!’
Even from a distance Danny could tell that something was wrong. He and Nate had seen the tyre marks which had cut up the carpark just as soon as they had ridden in, but when they spotted Jake’s cooler and chair and some other items lying scattered outside his shelter they both knew immediately that something had happened.
The question now, was just what had happened, and where was Jake?
After worried glances at each other they both started pedaling as hard and as fast as they could, coming to a stop outside the shelter a few moments later, dropping their bikes in the dirt, leaving the wheels spinning, and rushing inside.
‘Jake!’ Danny called out. ‘Are you here?’
This was quickly echoed by Nate, but there were no answers forthcoming to either of their calls.
Looking around them they could see the place had been turned over. The bedroll had been flung open and the pillow and blankets were strewn everywhere. The food and drinks from his cooler, which was now upturned outside, were scattered everywhere, with very little being salvageable, and the table and chair were both broken. Oddly enough, just about the only thing that didn’t appear to be damaged was Jake’s wash basin.
Danny looked around the campsite, then his eyes settled on the back of the van. There were two piles of broken plastic on the ground, directly below where the tail-lights used to be. The license plate was swinging off just one screw, and there appeared to be some damage around the rear door handle, although when Danny tried it he found that it was, thankfully, still locked, and all of Jake’s equipment and work was still safely locked inside.
While Danny was doing this he noticed Nate start to look around outside the campsite, and it was only moments later when he heard Nate call out to him.
‘Over here,’ Nate called out, but it didn’t seem like it was an urgent call. It was one that seemed to be filled more with dread than anything else.
Dashing directly through the sheltered campsite Danny emerged out the other side, where he found Nate a few yards away, and down on his knees. It was only as he got closer that he realised Nate was looking down on Jake, who was out to it, lying on his side amongst long and dry clumps of summer grass, and naked. What was worse, though, was the state of his face, which was sporting a huge, swollen black eye and was covered with blood. There was also blood on Jake’s legs.
‘Oh, my God! Jake!’ exclaimed Danny as he sunk down to his knees beside his friend. ‘What the fuck has happened?’
Jake couldn’t answer him, not that he even tried.
‘Is he . . . is he dead?’ Nate asked.
Carefully Danny leaned forward and touched Jake’s forehead, brushing some hair away out of Jake’s eyes.
‘No!’ a thankful Danny replied, having just seen the flicker of an eyelid, and the slight movement of Jake’s chest as he took a breath. ‘See, he’s breathing,’ Danny added, in a voice that was trembling with emotion.
‘So, what do we do?’
They had no idea just how seriously Jake might be injured, but they could see he needed help, and quickly.
‘He needs help,’ Danny said. ‘One of us needs to go back to town and tell the Sarge. He’ll know what to do. Can you do that?’
‘I . . . I . . .’
‘Nate!’ Danny said forcefully. ‘Jake needs our help . . . and fast. Just ride to the first farmhouse . . . they’ll have a phone, they’re bound to! Quick . . . we’ve got to move!’
Slowly Nate looked up into the eyes of his friend, who he could see was silently pleading with him.
‘Please?’ whispered Danny.
Finally it seemed that Nate understood, and with just a nod he stood.
‘And Nate . . . just don’t say anything about him being . . .’
‘Naked?’ Nate asked.
‘Yeah. Just say he’s been bashed up, or something.’
‘Okay. Got it. Maybe you should try and find his clothes or something . . .’ Nate replied, before leaving them, running quickly back through the campsite to his bike, picking it up and jumping on, then pedaling off as fast as he could go.
‘It’s going to be okay, Jake. It’s going to be okay,’ Danny whispered, as he ran his fingers back through Jake’s hair.
He wondered if he shouldn’t be doing something while he waited. Maybe he could try and make him more comfortable, or even just try and clean some of the blood and dirt from around Jake’s face.
Looking around him at the remnants of the camp site Danny could see the wash basin, along with Jake’s bedding. He knew that there was a tap across the car park, near to where the toilets and showers were, but were there any others that were closer, he wondered.
He needed to try and do something, but first things first. He decided that he needed to cover Jake over, while also making him as comfortable as possible, and so after getting to his feet he quickly gathered up some of the bedding, bringing the pillow over first, which he gently placed under Jake’s head. Jake moaned as he did so, which he took as being a good sign.
He then found a blanket and carefully placed it over Jake, but not before taking a closer look at the blood on Jake’s legs. When he realised where it had come from he gasped.
‘Oh, shit,’ he whispered. ‘Oh, shit.’
Despite his shock, however, he knew that he needed to look closer, and so carefully he leaned in, placing a hand on Jake’s buttocks and gently pulling them apart, trying to open up the view of his most intimate area.
He didn’t know what it was that he had expected to see, and yes, things were a bit messy down there, but there didn’t appear to be too much damage, as far as he could tell. It was the first time he had ever seen that part of another human being up close . . . hell, he’d never even seen his own . . . but he took it as being just another lesson in his awakening sexuality, even if it was at the expense of someone he was beginning to care about deeply.
But right now he had other issues to worry about. He needed some water to try and clean Jake up a little before the cavalry arrived, so he left Jake for the moment and grabbing the wash basin went in search of a tap. The only one he could find was the one across the car park near the showers, so as quickly as he could he half-filled the basin with water, which thankfully was almost warm, then hurried back toward where Jake was lying.
When he arrived there he found that Jake hadn’t moved, so he placed the basin down beside him, then retrieved what he initially thought was a rag lying on the ground, but proved to be a sheet from Jake’s bedroll.
Quickly he dipped one corner in the water and then roughly squeezed out the excess, before steeling himself for what he knew he must do. He needed to clean up Jake’s legs first, so that if anyone came they wouldn’t see that he was hurt down there. After that he would clean up his face.
Pulling back the blanket he began wiping at the inside of Jake’s leg. There was no initial reaction from Jake as he began his work, and the blood cleaned away easily. Dipping the sheet back into the water again turned the liquid a murky reddish-brown. Danny persisted and gently pulled Jake’s buttocks apart again. There was a noticeable, sharp intake of breath from Jake as Danny ran the cloth along the hollow, no doubt as he touched the most private and tender areas.
‘I’m sorry, Jake, but I have to do this,’ Danny said quietly.
Jake seemed to mumble something, but he continued his work, finishing a few moments later, satisfied with what he had done.
Jake’s nakedness still bothered Danny . . . not so much the fact that he was naked, but more so because he was worried what others who might come out here could think. He decided that Nate’s suggestion was a good one, so he started to take a look around for Jake’s shorts. At first he was to be disappointed, but just as he was about to give up on that idea he found them in some grass not too far away from the camp.
With some difficulty, and some groans from Jake, he managed to pull them back up Jake’s legs and get them into place, so at least now he was covered.
Next came cleaning up Jake’s face, and so after selecting another corner of the sheet he soaked that in the water and then carefully started to wipe the blood from Jake’s eyes and nose and mouth.
Jake made a number of noises as he did so, even rolling his head from side to side a couple of times, but Danny persisted, until once again he was satisfied with the results.
With the superficial blood all gone, he could see that Jake had cuts to his lip and nose, and above his eyes.
‘Those fucking bastards!’ Danny said as the damage began to become apparent. ‘We’re going to find out who did this to you,’ he promised.
Just as he said that Jake seemed to groan slightly, once more rolling his head from side to side. Danny thought he was trying to say something and leaned in closer.
He thought Jake mumbled something, but Danny couldn’t quite make it out.
After gathering up the few surviving items he could, Danny sat beside Jake, holding his hand as they waited. By the time Danny heard the sound of a car coming at speed along Beachside Lane, Jake’s eyes were finally open.
‘See, I told you they would come,’ Danny said to him, as he brushed a hand back through Jake’s hair.
‘Yes,’ Jake croaked. It was the first thing he had said. The second thing he said was, ‘Water?’
Danny grinned at him seeing as there was little else he could do, then jumped to his feet. There had been a bottle of water in the cooler which hadn’t been lost, so he grabbed that, along with a plastic mug which had a crack in the side of it, but would still function okay.
Jake watched as Danny poured the water into the mug, before then holding it up to Jake’s lips with one hand while supporting Jake with the other hand, helping him to sit up.
For Jake, nothing had ever tasted sweeter, as he let the cool water trickle down his throat. When he had finished Danny then poured another.
‘Is that better?’ Danny asked.
‘Yes. Thank you,’ Jake replied, sounding extremely croaky.
By this time the car was almost at the picnic area, and when Danny looked up he could see glimpses of the town’s one and only police wagon as it flashed amongst the trees, a pale blue Ford pick-up with a closed in section on the back where the prisoner would usually get thrown.
‘Car keys,’ Jake managed to say, while nodding toward his vehicle. ‘Dig under the back tyre.’
For a moment Danny didn’t understand, but when Jake repeated himself and managed to point out the location he sprang into action, scrambling over to the car and digging in the loose sand behind the rear tyre and soon coming up with the keys.
‘What did you do that for?’ Danny asked as he sat back down beside Jake and handed him the keys.
‘So they couldn’t find them,’ Jake answered, his voice still sounding shaky, but improving.
‘And who were they? Did you see who did it?’
‘And are you going to tell the police about them?’
‘I . . . I don’t know . . .’
Danny frowned slightly at his friend.
‘Just let me do the talking . . . and I promise I’ll explain it all to you later,’ Jake assured Danny.
Before Danny had the chance to say anything the paddy-wagon came to a halt right in front of Jake’s van, stirring up a cloud of dust as it did so.
Despite his obvious discomfort, Jake threw back the blanket that covered him and sat up, which took Danny by surprise.
‘Just help me up, will you?’ he quietly asked, as the lone police officer approached them, with Nate hurrying along behind. Jake would learn later that there was only one officer stationed in the town and that he usually liked to avoid anything that required copious amounts of paperwork, so he was counting on the fact that the chances of Inspector Plod wanting to get too involved in the bashing of some blow-through who was careless enough to get himself worked over by some local yahoos would be slim, at best. He had been down this road before.
Danny obliged and helped Jake to his feet, and a rather unsteady looking Jake was soon trying to adjust his shorts slightly as he stood there. He was at least grateful that he had worn a more casual pair of footy shorts on his trip to town yesterday, rather than the ultra-tight cut-offs that he could most often be found in; it never served any purpose to give the police any excuse to think badly of you, especially when you were a queer guy in a small country town. The chances of being believed were slim to non-existent to start with, so stirring things up by flaunting your sexuality would only be like waving a red flag in front of a bull; something only the foolhardy or completely idiotic would do.
‘So, they tell me you got yourself in a bit of trouble last night,’ Sergeant Bailey said as he came to a stop in front of Jake and Danny.
‘I’m afraid so, officer,’ Jake replied. ‘Just a couple of locals out for some fun I think. No real harm done though.’
‘Wh . . .’ Nate started to say, but a quick elbow in the ribs from Danny soon silenced him, while also earning him a reproachful stare from his best friend.
‘Hmmm . . . doesn’t much look like harmless fun to me,’ the sergeant responded, as he surveyed the damage to Jake’s face, then looked around him at the damage to the car and the campsite. ‘Did you see who did this to you?’
‘It was dark,’ Jake shrugged. ‘But there were two of them, though.’
‘How about a car?’
‘Like I said, it was dark. I saw a car pull in over on the far side, but I couldn’t make out any details. I didn’t actually take too much notice of them at first. It was only later on, after they had been there for quite some time that I started to become concerned.’
‘I see,’ the sergeant thoughtfully replied. ‘So, do you want to tell me what happened?’
‘There’s not much to tell really . . . a couple of locals decided they’d have a bit of fun at my expense. It’s not the first time it has happened . . .’
‘Is that right? And why do you think that is?’ the sergeant asked, as he looked Jake up and down, with a slight smirk appearing on his face as he did so.
Jake knew that the policeman already had him pegged for exactly what he was, so there was no use trying to bluff his way through this. The things that happen to gay guys in small country towns are the same the world over. Jake knew it. This police officer knew it. Even the boys knew it.
‘Why do you think, officer? Guys like me tend to be an easy mark, even if we are careful about where we go and what we do.’
‘Guys like me? And just what do you mean by that exactly?’
At that Jake simply shrugged, obviously unwilling to say out loud what was plain to everyone, even Danny and Nate. Sergeant Bailey’s response was just a wry grin, before he started to once again look around him at Jake’s campsite, then at his van, before finally settling his eyes on the two boys and then frowning.
‘And just what might you two lads be doing out here, anyhow?’ the police officer asked.
Danny and Nate looked at each other, neither quite sure at first what to say.
‘Well then?’ urged Sergeant Bailey.
‘We just come out for a swim,’ Nate finally answered. It didn’t take a genius to work out that the Sarge was fishing for something.
‘And I suppose you just found this poor fella here like this?’
‘That’s right,’ Danny offered. ‘We saw all his stuff lying across the car park and came over to check it out . . . that’s when we found him . . .’
‘Yeah, and then I set off up the road to the nearest house, fast as I could, to ring you,’ added Nate.
‘And had you seen him before today? You knew who he was?’
‘Yeah, of course!’ replied Danny. ‘We’ve seen him in town for a week or so now. He always seemed friendly the few times we’ve spoken with him.’
Jake was understandably nervous that the police officer was talking to the boys, but there wasn’t really anything he could do about it. Danny and Nate had already proven that they could think on their feet, so Jake knew they would be careful about what they said. It was just that having a police officer prying into his own affairs, even when he was the victim here and didn’t feel like he had done anything wrong, could be asking for trouble.
‘You’ve spoken with him, eh? What about?’
‘Just stuff . . .’ Nate replied with a shrug. ‘About his car . . . and surfing . . . and stuff. He’s been telling us about his travelling up the coast painting pictures and writing and taking photos for a magazine or something.’
‘Is that so?’ the sergeant asked Jake.
‘Yes, sir. I’m a freelance artist . . . and writer,’ Jake replied. ‘I’m working on some artworks and articles about holiday spots worth visiting up and down the coast.’
‘Well, I had actually heard something about that. . . it seems news sometimes travels faster than you think in some of these backwater places.’
‘I’m beginning to learn that, officer,’ Jake replied. It was all the boys could do to keep a straight face.
For a few moments he seemed to consider Jake, before then turning his attention to the van and starting to walk toward it. He stopped and took another look at the broken tail lights, before starting to walk right around the vehicle, making some notes in his pocket notebook as he went.
‘And what about registration and a driver’s license? I don’t suppose you’ve got either of those, young fella?’
‘Of course,’ Jake replied, before hobbling toward the passenger side of the vehicle, eventually opening the door after fumbling with his keys for a moment, and then gingerly sitting down on the front seat. He opened the glove compartment and after a quick search through it he came up with what he was looking for, which he then passed to the sergeant.
Danny wasn’t sure if the others noticed how carefully Jake was moving, but he could see that Jake was really hurting.
‘Hmmm . . . so you’re a Newcastle boy?’ the sergeant asked as he ran his eye over the paperwork, then started scribbling details down in his notebook.
‘Bit of a fancy machine for a young fella like you to own, isn’t it?’
‘My parents bought it for me,’ Jake patiently replied.
He knew what was coming next. That would be the smirk. Then a remark that would go something like, ‘I’ll just bet they did!’
Then after that the nosy old bastard would probably want to take a look inside, just to make sure there was nothing illegal . . . especially of the herbal variety. Jake was just grateful he’d used up his last bag of weed in the last week and thankfully hadn’t been able to find any more just yet.
He knew that if the sergeant searched thoroughly enough he might just find the photos of the boys, along with the sketches and paintings of naked guys in the back, which could just about be enough to get him in trouble if he was stopped by just the wrong policeman, on just the wrong day, and in just the wrong frame of mind.
He hoped to God that today wouldn’t be that day.
After finishing with the registration and license Sergeant Bailey handed them back to Jake, then snapped his notebook closed and dropped it back into his shirt pocket.
‘I’m tempted to take a look through your vehicle, you know,’ the sergeant said to Jake, as he looked down at him. ‘And I would be quite within my rights, I believe, but I think that on this occasion you’ve probably gone through enough for one day.’
Jake looked up at him as he tried to size the police officer up. ‘I can honestly say, officer, that you won’t find any drugs, if that’s what you’re wondering,’ Jake said.
‘Well then, that’s something at least,’ the sergeant chuckled. ‘Anyhow, I guess there’s not really a lot else that I can do for you, young fella, especially if you can’t give me a description of whoever it was that paid you a visit. I’ll write up a report, just in case you need it for insurance or something, and you can collect a copy of that from the station if you need it, but that’s about all I can do.’
‘You just see to it that you get the lights fixed on the car, pronto. I’d hate to have to give you a ticket for an unroadworthy vehicle if I see it around town. And I’d suggest that you probably should get yourself looked over by the doc at the hospital.’
‘If you can remember anything about who might have done this you come and see me, okay?’
With a nod, then one final glance at Danny and Nate, the sergeant seemed to dismiss them all and started toward his vehicle, but then he stopped and turned back to face the three boys.
‘You better get your bike from out of the back, Nate,’ he said. ‘And you young fellas best be careful riding around out here like this . . .you just don’t know who might be about, or what they might be up to!’
‘Yeah, thanks Sarge. We’ll be careful,’ Danny responded, knowing full well that they had been given a warning that was as much about Jake, and the type of person the sergeant saw him as being, as it was about the people who had done this to Jake.
As Nate scurried after the sergeant and disappeared around the back of the police paddy-wagon, Jake and Danny looked at each other. They had both picked up on the veiled warning and they were both silently seething, for Danny knew now that whatever might be said about Jake would now apply equally to him. He now knew in his own heart how difficult a road it would be for any queer guy to make his way in life, especially living in a place like this, and he could see not only the obstacles that Jake had recently been facing, but those which he himself would be facing in the very near future as well.
Not a word was said between them as they gazed into each other’s eyes. Nothing needed to be said. The understanding that was quickly developing between the two of them was quite remarkable.
The silent exchange was only broken by the sound of the police vehicle starting up and driving away, and then Nate rejoining them, pushing his bike.
‘Okay then,’ Nate said. ‘Does someone want to tell me what that was all about?’
Jake smiled at him. The kid’s naiveté was simply beautiful.
‘We were just warned to be careful of Jake,’ Danny said. ‘The sergeant must think he might want to get up to no good with us if we spend too much time hanging around out here close to him!’
‘He . . . he what?’ Nate spat. ‘How the hell do you work that one out?’
‘I’m a gay guy, and your Sarge knew it as soon as he laid eyes on me. You’re young and impressionable boys hanging around me . . . I guess he must be worried I might have my eye on you two and might want to do wicked things with you!’
Nate’s eyes damn near bugged out of their sockets when the realisation of what Jake had just said finally sunk in. ‘No way!’ he responded, before moments later asking, ‘Do you?’
Jake simply shrugged.
‘I think we’re safe,’ Danny added. ‘He’s been totally up front about everything so far, hasn’t he? And he hasn’t tried to kiss you, or grab hold of your dick yet, has he?’ he asked, while cocking an eyebrow toward Jake.
Jake smiled once more. Danny was like an open book, yet his best friend still couldn’t see it.
‘I . . . errr . . . no . . . I guess not,’ Nate spluttered.
‘So there you have it. Maybe he’s got his eye on someone else, then?’
‘Maybe I do,’ Jake replied.
About the Creator
Mark 'Ponyboy' Peters
Aussie, Queer & Country
LGBT themed fiction with an Aussie flavour, reviews, observations and real life LGBT histories.
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