Time to Think by Rigby Taylor - HTML preview

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and carry on as though there’s time to do everything. But there isn’t, and when it’s too late to do anything except continue along the path laid down in heedless youth, all that remains is the sour remembrance of squandered opportunities.

Of course most men have some regrets and wonder what would have happened if…

Unfortunately, we have only the one life and every choice we make eliminates an infinity of other choices, so we mustn’t pick at old scabs; that way lies madness. I know now that I over-reacted to the name-calling. Everything would probably have been forgotten over the holidays, but a chilling, nameless dread of my peers left no room for rational decisions. Mum knew I was suffering, but all she could say was, ‘I’m sure you know best, dear.’

I still don’t know what’s best, but I’m certainly not going to tell my self-satisfied nephew I sandpapered my own name off that beautiful cup.

**********

A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body

Three local businesses were competing to get the new French electrical goods franchise, so after bending the agent’s ear on Thursday afternoon Francis invited him home for dinner, figuring it could only help the fellow make the right decision. Mum was annoyed at having such short notice to prepare a gourmet meal, but after shaking hands with the charming young god who introduced himself as Loic, she was all smiles. We were expecting someone middle-aged, not a slim, perfectly proportioned twenty-four year-old with olive complexion, heavy five-o’clock shadow, black eyes, close-cropped black hair, wearing an elegant cream linen suit.

It was hot and Mum always needs peace to cook, so she suggested we went for a swim. Loic was keen but had no togs. Francis explained that the pool was private and we always skinny dipped, so if he didn’t mind… He didn’t and within a minute there was a heap of clothes on the patio and we were padding bare arsed down the sandy path through the trees to a stream that flows through a deep pool at the bottom of our property. There are loads of birds, the forest is fairly dense and Loic kept raving about how perfect it was. The sight of the pool excited him so much he danced onto a rock like a mythological faun shouting he was in Arcadia with the gods. He grabbed Francis and me and we danced in a circle, holding hands and laughing like crazies. It would have been embarrassing if an Australian had done it, but with his French accent and cute face, not to mention his body, it was poetic and beautiful.

Loic looked even better naked than dressed; lean but attractively muscled with short black hairs on his chest and legs. He's well tanned, all over so he was obviously used to skinny-dipping, and his hair looks like a shiny black skullcap when it’s wet. Francis is thirty-four but looks younger than Loic. No wrinkles or frowns and apart from dead straight blond hair that hangs over his eyes, he’s hairless; hardly has to shave, has no armpit hair to speak of and smooth strong legs. We share the bathroom between our bedrooms so I see him in the shower every day. All it takes is a couple of strokes with a safety razor over his chin, under each armpit, and half dozen strokes over his pubes to render his body so smooth and sleek you'd think he was prepubescent—if you didn’t look into his pale blue eyes that seem to know your secrets.

People often make the mistake of thinking Francis is a pushover, but he’s a savage at heart and takes no crap from anyone. We jog together now and again and take self-defence classes—the sort that teaches you to maim your attacker leaving no one able or willing to seek revenge. A couple of months ago some louts called him baby face and shoved him aside as we were walking back to the car from the gym. He politely suggested they show some respect. They told him to make them. So he did—smashed their kneecaps with the steel-capped shoes he had specially made to look like casual loafers, knuckled them in the side of the head as they went down, then stomped on their fingers and asked if they wanted more.

It’s odd. I’m the tall tough guy with broad shoulders, narrow waist and a mean look—Mum says I'm the classic male type—but my instinct is to placate, or run away if that doesn’t work. In this instance I was useless; just stood there watching while Francis put them out of commission.

I guess I should mention that Francis is my father. He married young and was eighteen when I was born. I’ve never called him Dad or Daddy; he’s always been Francis. When he enrolled me at school he was so sick of people saying he looked far too young to have a kid that he told them he was my brother. Since then everyone, teachers and friends, continue to think he is. As a five year-old I assumed that brother and father were the same thing.

My difficult birth gave Mum a nervous breakdown. The day she brought me home she handed me to Francis and moved into the guest flat at the front of the house so she could shut herself away, prepare her own meals, and wouldn’t have to share the bathroom. Francis looked after me and the house for a couple of years as well as run his business. Mum’s sole contribution to my survival was to express milk into a bottle so Francis could feed me. I slept in his bed till I was two, so he didn’t have to get up to feed me, change nappies or calm my crying. I grew into a neurotic little prick and although my bedroom was only a few metres from his and the doors were kept open, nightmares had me spending more nights in Francis’s bed than my own until I went to high school.

He never made me feel I was a nuisance or complained that he’d fed me, changed my nappies, toilet trained, entertained, looked after me, picked me up when I crashed, took me to school, explained sex, taught me to shave, cleaned up my diarrhoea and vomit and taught me to clean under my foreskin. I was so scared of losing him I became a goody two shoes, always ready to help out, do my chores, be on time… seeking approval I suppose; but mainly because I loved him. I was shy; insanely shy, didn’t talk much, avoided all adults except for Manu, Francis’s accountant and best friend who spends most of his spare time at our place and goes on all our outings with us. It’s always been a toss up, who I prefer—Francis or Manu. Luckily I don’t have to choose.

Manu’s a bit reserved, like me, but Francis is the opposite—I got so used to him wanking every night that I slept through it and assumed it was natural; that all men did it and so would I. A correct assumption and from the age of eleven I often joined in. It probably sounds kinky, but isn’t. We’re mates and share everything.

I used to worry that our family was abnormal, but from what I hear about other families we’re no weirder than most. All the kids in my class are convinced they’re normal and everyone who’s different is either queer or loopy. It seems other families argue and fight most of the time. The kids hate or despise their parents and siblings. Freddy screws his sister. Andrew’s father brings his mates home and forces his wife to sleep with them. Marty’s sister is on the game and works from home.

Lizzie’s mother is usually drunk by lunchtime and has no idea who her daughter’s father is. Albert, who’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, misses school a lot because of ‘accidents’. Broken bones, scars, bruises. Abused by his father according to rumours. Only two kids are living with both parents, all the rest have either single parents or they’re divorced and living with someone else. All the guys reckon they have regular sex and the girls seem to do nothing but gossip, giggle and bitch at each other.

What beats me is that despite their weird personal lives they’re violently intolerant of others.

Four of the guys in my class reckon they go gay bashing on weekends. And they’re all racist, making life hell for the half dozen Aborigine kids. If Francis was in my situation he’d confront them with their prejudices and get himself beaten up—after doing them as much damage as possible; whereas up till now I’ve pretended I like them, have had girlfriends I don’t want, don’t seem to try too hard in class, pretend I’m as tough as I look and do whatever it takes so they leave me alone. But I always feel I’m walking on a tightrope—one false step and I’m dead.

At least there are no arguments in our house. Mum eventually got her act together, sort of, and makes the evening meal that we usually eat together, then Francis and I clean up and she goes back to her flat. She’s like a polite neighbour who comes in and cooks and cleans the place occasionally, but takes no interest in us. She has a good job in an office and a best friend, Judith, who visits regularly. Sometimes Mum goes to stay with her for a few days. Life’s always been predictable and boring but safe, and I worry about ending up in a dead end job, alone, because I’m too introverted to make friends. At least I was until Loic arrived.

From the start I felt completely at ease with Loic, perhaps because he was a foreigner and we always imagine they can’t see through us like our compatriots. I taught him to do honey pots off the rock and we mucked around in the pool till we felt chilly, then lay on a large smooth rock that caught the afternoon sun. Francis had to go back up to the house as he was expecting a phone call and there's no mobile coverage at our place. Loic and I chattered away like old mates for a bit then he leaned over to look at the gold chain round my neck.

His fingers brushed my chest and he told me I was handsome and had a great body. That surprised me because I've always compared myself to Francis and thought my slightly hairy chest and legs, and having to shave every day, made me coarse like Mum’s brother. I should have said I wasn’t as handsome as him or something, but being praised by people I like makes me tongue-tied.

I don’t know if it was his touch or the compliments, but my cock began to spring to attention so I quickly dived into the water before he saw it and thought I was queer.

Dinner was a success, Mum’s an excellent cook, probably because she thinks she isn’t, and afterwards instead of returning to her flat she joined us for coffee on the verandah.

Loic congratulated Mum, praised the house and grounds, and reckoned it was the best afternoon he'd had in a long time.

Francis asked him if he’d decided who was going to get the franchise.

Loic stretched back dreamily. ‘Tomorrow I’ve a video conference with head office and then I’ll review the applications. Tomorrow evening at the earliest, I’d say.’ He yawned attractively. ‘You know, this area’s so interesting I’d love to stay the weekend and explore—if I could find a guide.’

He turned to me with a grin. ‘If you're not busy, Asa, how about spending the weekend with me and you can show me the sights? I’ll let you do the driving.’

Before I could shout, ‘Yes! Anything if I can drive your Porsche Sports!’ Mum asked what he meant when he said I would spend the weekend with him.

Unfazed, Loic said, ‘There are so many things to see and do, Sarah, I thought it’d be most efficient for me to pick Asa up after school tomorrow, we’ll have a meal, take in a show, then sleep at my motel so on Saturday we can set off very early to get in as much sightseeing as possible. On Sunday we’ll do the same and visit what we missed, then on Monday morning I’ll drop him at school in plenty of time for his first class.’ He smiled sweetly.

‘If you pick him up from school he will be in his school uniform.’

‘We’re the same size and I've plenty of clothes, so he can borrow mine.’

‘Even pyjamas?’

‘I don’t wear them.’

‘Neither do I,’ I said with a laugh. ‘I knew we had something in common.’

Silence. Then…

‘Where are you staying?’ Mum’s voice was disarmingly soft.

‘Honeymoon Chalets.’

‘My brother and his wife stayed there last year,’ Mum observed sweetly. ‘The chalets are all identical, I think; a bed sitting room with cooking facilities and a bathroom?’

That’s right.’

‘And one double bed.’

‘That’s right.’ Loic looked at his watch. ‘Heavens, look at the time. My beauty sleep awaits.’

He leaped to his feet, shook Francis’s hand, kissed Mum’s cheek, grabbed my hand and squeezed it with a grin, walked briskly to the front door, then turned and said, still grinning cheekily, ‘I realise my proposition may at first seem presumptuous, but think about it, discuss it with Asa, and ring me when you’ve decided.’

Francis walked him out to his car while Mum and I stood like dummies listening to the Porsche power off up the drive.

‘Cheeky monkey!’ Francis fumed when he returned.

‘But very handsome,’ Mum said with a laugh. ‘Asa thinks so, don’t you?' She gave me one of her irritatingly knowing looks. 'You couldn’t take your eyes off him.’

‘He’s OK. I just like the way he speaks—that cute accent.’

‘Handsome is as handsome does.' Francis muttered. 'He knows I desperately need the franchise and the competition is rat-shit, but despite our hospitality and your magnificent dinner he refused to commit himself. Wouldn’t even answer when I walked out to the car with him just now. Just laughed and said I should get Asa to seriously consider his offer. He’s either a pleasant nutcase or very nasty!’

‘He’s not nasty, he’s a smart young man,’ Mum said softly. 'Twenty-four year-olds don’t get to be international representative for a large company unless they’re very sharp.’

‘Well, he sure gave me the run-around. Why's he stalling?’

Mum laughed. ‘None so blind as those who do not wish to see! He obviously fancies Asa and wants to spend the weekend with him—that’s his condition for signing.’

‘You’re joking.’ He turned to me. ‘Is Sarah right?’

My heart was thundering. Suddenly I realised why he’d touched me down at the pool; he was checking my availability! He must have seen my hard-on. The thought of spending the weekend with him set my pulses pounding, but there was no way I’d tell Mum and Francis that. They’d think I was gay! But surely I wasn’t? I had a girlfriend. At least I had until she dumped me. To avoid their suspicions I shrugged and said I thought Loic was a great guy and Mum had completely misunderstood him—he just wanted to be friendly.

‘Trust me, Asa. He may want to explore the depths of your mind, but he also desires to immerse himself in your body.’

Fortunately, loose shorts hid my erection and I hoped my face hid the fact that I wasn’t put off by the idea.

‘Well, he can whistle in the wind! Francis snapped. ‘There’s no way my son is going to prostitute himself for me!’

‘It’s not like that, Francis!’ I said more calmly than I felt. ‘He doesn't…’

‘What's the franchise worth to the company?' Mum interrupted.

‘We might fold without it.’

‘Then it’s far too important to lose. However, it’s entirely up to Asa to decide whether or not he wants to act as a guide/companion/sex object for Loic. Personally, I can’t see there's any harm in it.’

‘What? The creep obviously wants to get into your son’s pants. And you say there’s no harm!’

‘What harm could that slim young man do to our much tougher and equally manly sixteen year-old son?’

‘What all healthy young gays do—kissing, petting, jerking and sucking each other off, fucking…’

‘I asked what harm, dear, not what actions.’

‘Are you mad, woman? Asa shouldn’t have to have sex with someone just so they'll sign a contract!’

‘If sex was all he wanted he'd have quietly asked Asa back to his hotel for an hour or so after school tomorrow.’ She turned to me. ‘Did Loic make any advances to you down at the pool?’

I could honestly say ‘No’, at the same time wondering why I felt a little disappointed that I hadn’t encouraged him.

‘You see, Francis? Loic has behaved in an exemplary manner. He asked us, the parents, if he could have Asa's company all weekend. And anyway, no one can have sex for an entire three nights and two days. They’ll go swimming, sightseeing, to a restaurant, the movies… And from what I can remember, if Loic’s anything like you the sex won’t take more than a few minutes. I think it would be very good for Asa.

‘Good for him? Woman you’re round the bend!’

Mum turned to me coolly. ‘Asa, you’ve got a girlfriend, haven’t you?’

‘Yes,’ I lied. Sandra had dumped me after the last party.

‘And you’ve kissed her, let her fondle your genitals, wanted her to perform fellatio? Hoped she’d let you have intercourse with her?’

My head nearly exploded. Mothers should not talk about these things with their sons! ‘Mum!’ I howled. ‘You can’t ask me these things! Ever heard of privacy?’

‘Rubbish. This is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth. Everyone talks about such natural things. Well, have you?’

I had kissed Sandra for what seemed like interminable hours in the back of Arthur’s car after the last party. Then, without invitation, she’d played with my cock and tried to suck me off, but it was pointless as I couldn’t get an erection so I told her to stop slobbering over me. That pissed her off no end. I certainly hadn’t hoped to fuck her! But I could hardly tell Mum that, so I pretended to be annoyed she’d asked.

‘I’ve always thought,’ my mother continued calmly, taking my silence for agreement, ‘that men would be more considerate of their girlfriends if they knew exactly what it is they are asking them to do. Surely, if a man wants a young lady to kiss him, he should know what it’s like to kiss raspy stubble and wake up with a rash around his lips. Then in future he might be more gentle.’

I grunted something indeterminate, wondering where the mad woman was heading.

‘Have you ever played with another man’s penis and had it in your mouth?’ she asked in the same way other people ask if you collect stamps.

‘No!’ I almost shouted.

‘Exactly! So you’ve no idea of the feelings and sensations girls undergo when they are asked to do it.’

‘I never thought of it like that,’ Francis mumbled thoughtfully.

‘Of course not!’ Mum snapped. ‘You're a man.’ She redirected her attention to me and asked with all the finesse of a prosecuting lawyer, ‘Tell me the truth, Asa, have you ever had an erect penis inserted into your anus?’

‘Mum! Stop it! Francis! Tell her to stop. She’s insane!’

But Francis was nodding sagely. ‘Actually, I’m beginning to think your mother’s right. Men can be a bit thoughtless sometimes and it wouldn’t hurt them to experience what they expect their girlfriends and wives to do to and for them for their pleasure.’

‘Francis! I’m not gay!’

‘No one said you were!’ my mother almost growled. ‘And no one here would give a flying fuck if you were. But where’s your sense of adventure? You disappoint me.’

‘I disappoint you? You’re the one who…’

She dismissed me with an irritated wave of the hand. ‘I read the other day that anal intercourse is now the preferred method of avoiding unwanted pregnancy among teenagers. Girls are willing to suffer that to satisfy their boyfriends because then they remain virgins. But it can be somewhat traumatic the first time, so I think it’s only fair that you should experience sodomy yourself before inflicting it on your girlfriend.’

‘I’m not bloody going to inflict anything on Sandra or any other girl! We've split up!’ I shouted.

‘Good, when you introduced her to me I thought she was a common little trollop.’ Mum’s self-satisfied smile made me want to hit her.

‘I never liked her either,’ Francis chimed in.

I was beginning to smell a plot.

‘You may not have had much sexual experience with girls, Asa,’ Mum continued severely, ‘but surely you had sexual experiences with other boys when puberty arrived?’ She turned to Francis.

‘According to the books, all kids experiment. I suppose you did, Francis, despite the odds.’

Francis grinned and nodded. ‘Despite the odds indeed. A couple of us used to jerk off in the sand dunes.’

‘Well, I’ve never had the pleasure!’ I snapped, unwilling to admit I was jealous because there was no one at school I’d want to do it with, although I fantasised regularly over my Maths teacher.

And even if there was I wouldn’t dare suggest it; they’d tell everyone I was queer.

Mum sighed. ‘Oh, Asa, what has made you so insecure? Why are you so worried we’ll think you’re gay? Don’t you realise there’s no such thing? Humans are merely sexual animals and there are as many ways to achieve sexual satisfaction as there are people. Stop pigeonholing yourself and others and liberate your body as well as your intellect! I may not be a great mother, but I know you’re sexually interested in Loic, as you should be—he’s a most attractive young man and obviously attracted to you, so what’s the problem?’

‘I’ve got nothing against him, and he is attractive, it’s just that…’

‘So why not be a devil for once in your life—take a risk; enjoy yourself instead of always doing the usual boring same old thing.’ She sighed in resignation. ‘But it is your life and it would be reprehensible of me to try to force you to act like a young man instead of a middle-aged puritan.’

‘I totally agree,’ Francis said with a grin. ‘The worst thing for Asa to do would be to act against his nature.’ He turned to me. ‘Well done for sticking to your principles, even if they do make you seem like a boring old fart.’

‘Yes,’ Mum said softly. ‘I apologise for arguing so forcefully. You must believe there's no way either of us would want you to spend the weekend with Loic just so he will sign the franchise agreement—we were merely arguing hypothetically, so let’s forget about it.’

‘OK!’ I snarled. ‘You win. I’ll be Loic’s guide for the weekend! Satisfied?’

‘No, no!' Francis said firmly. 'Whatever you do you must want to do for yourself, because you value new experiences. The last thing we want is for you to do anything you don’t honestly want to because you think we want you to. Isn’t that right Sarah?’

‘Absolutely. I’d never forgive myself if that were the case. Just because I advanced strong arguments in favour of young men escaping their pathetic comfort zone to learn about how the other half experience things, doesn’t mean I want to force you to do it. Let’s change the subject.’

My brain refused to unravel the logic, if there was any, in what they were saying. ‘No!’ I sighed. ‘I really want to do it. I agree it will be good experience.’

Francis put on his patient-and-understanding-of-my-stupidity face. ‘Or we can leave a decision till the morning so you can sleep on it.’

That did it. ‘No!’ I shouted. ‘It’s my choice and my responsibility, nothing to do with the fact that we’ll be bankrupt if he doesn’t sign the contract. Ring him now and tell him!’

‘Sure?’

‘Yes!’ I yelled.

I was prevented from pouring a bucket of water over Mum’s self-satisfied smile by the sound of a car powering down the drive.

‘That sounded like Loic.’

We went out, the car door slammed and Loic bounded onto the front porch.

‘Lucky you’re still up,’ he laughed. ‘I was just getting into bed when I realised I may have given the wrong impression regarding the contract and Asa spending the weekend with me. So to make sure there’s no misunderstanding I decided to get this thing signed tonight.’ He held out a yellow envelope. ‘I was just being pedantic; the competition is not up to your standard and I didn’t have to sleep on the decision.’

‘You beaut!’ Francis said, dragging Loic inside.

When all was settled Loic refused a drink, said he was tired, and we walked him to his car.

Francis dug me in the ribs. ‘Go on!’ he whispered. ‘Tell him.’

‘School finishes at half past three, Loic, I’ll be waiting at the front gates at a quarter to four. Is it OK if I tell the guys you’re my cousin?’

Loic’s grin nearly split his face. ‘Excellent, and you can drive; that should impress them.’

I'm off to bed,’ Mum said brusquely as if we’d done something to annoy her. I never get used to her mood changes; one moment she’s chatty and clever, the next cool and dismissive. I used to think I’d done something wrong, but Francis says there’s a mental ‘switch’ in her head that flips on and off and she has no idea it happens. It’s all to do with her upbringing. It still hurts though.

After my shower I went in to Francis’s room. It was a hot night so he was lying on his back on top, hands behind his head. In the dim light he looked so smooth and young I had to remind myself he was my father. I sat on the end of his bed. ‘I’m nervous.’

‘Changed your mind?’

‘No way! I’m looking forward to it, but scared I’ll make a fool of myself in bed.’

Francis patted the bed beside him. It had been a couple of years since I’d got into bed with him and it was an unexpected relief to return to a place where I felt comfortable and safe. As if I was still a kid I snuggled against him with my arm across his chest.

‘Just do what comes naturally.’

‘But suppose doing ‘things’ with Loic feels as disgusting as it did with Sandra? I’ve read that heterosexual guys who’re approached by gays experience uncontrollable urges to exterminate them.’

‘That’s their excuse for gay bashing and murder. It’s never been true, although some judges believed them. You’re not like that.’

‘You mean I’m not heterosexual?’

‘I mean you’re not going to become a psychopath. But Sarah and I think you’re probably mainly gay.’

‘Why?’

‘Because you’re ambivalent about sex and girls. Heterosexual young men have no doubts, they just do unquestioningly what society projects as usual behaviour.’

‘Yeah, I’ve been thinking I’m probably a bit gay, but what do gays do?’

‘Whatever they enjoy, and not what they don’t. There are no rules. If Loic proposes something you don’t fancy, just say no thanks and do what you like. Easy.’

‘I don’t suppose you’d show me?’ I was half serious—imagining he’d take it for a joke.

‘You want to be careful making suggestions like that, I might succumb to a pathological urge to strangle you.’

‘No, no, I was just…’

‘And Manu would be jealous.’

That shook me? What was he on about? Surely not? ‘Manu? Manu your best friend?’

‘The same.’

‘He’s your lover?’

‘Exclusive for the last fifteen years.’

‘But… how? When? Does Mum know? Why haven’t you ever told me?’

‘Your mother has her own lover—Judith.’

‘Judith? The woman who comes and stays with her… the one she visits?’

‘The same.’

‘You mean Mum’s a lesbian?’

‘Yes.’

‘So that’s why she's a bit down on men… but how did…?’

‘Emanuel, Manu’s real name, Sarah, Judith and I had the misfortune to be born into Exclusive Brethren families and were not allowed to socialise with people outside the sect. Not allowed much of anything in fact, except make money for the church. As the only fundamentalist religious kids at high school, and because we knew each other from church, we did everything and went everywhere together. It was a very convenient way of hiding the fact that Manu and were an item and so were your mother and Judith.

We were not good Brethren kids, kept breaking the rules, especially the ones prohibiting everything to do with sex, and had enjoyed several foursomes before deciding where our true interests lay. You were the result of one such day of lust and laughter. Abortion was, of course, out of the question so pressure from our parents forced the guilty pair to marry. Not knowing who the father was, Manu and I tossed a coin and I won.

‘After the birth we had a meeting, all four of us accepted responsibility for you and that’s how your luxurious lifestyle has been financed. We also rejected entirely the crap pumped into our heads by the church and vowed no child of ours would ever be subjected to the brainwashing and cruelty of religion. Therefore, in secrecy and with the minimum of planning we all moved north.

‘Your maternal grandparents risked eternal damnation, found us and tried to force us home and back into the church. We threatened to tell everyone we were queer, so they repudiated us and the church declared us to be irredeemable sinners and forbad every member to have any contact with us whatever. Suited us perfectly. If we never see them again it will be too soon.’

I was too shocked to speak. This meant I had four parents, two of whom had kept out of the way to maintain a sense of normality for me. The magnitude of their sacrifice nearly unmanned me and I burst into tears.

‘Hey, it’s not that bad is it? We all love you; even Judith. She sometimes seems cold and unfeeling, but she isn’t. She was very badly abused by her god-fearing parents and still finds it almost impossible to show the real affection she feels for us all.’

‘So… you and Mum gave up living with Manu and Judith, for me?’

‘We see each other every day and on the nights when you think I’m at the gymnasium. As it turned out we needed the time to adjust our brains to accept the hands we’ve been dealt. You, with your upbringing, found it difficult to accept you might be gay, so you can imagine what it’s been like for us who were threatened with eternal damnation and torture in hell for even thinking about it. It’s not possible to totally erase the shit that priests and parents put into your head as a kid. Manu and I haven’t suffered by not living together; it’s been a perfect camouflage. None of us, Judith, Manu, Sarah or I would have been emotionally strong enough until now to take on the world and live our loves openly. We’d probably have split up. You’ve been an excellent excuse for us to put off commitment until we were ready—so we owe you.’ He grinned and kissed me on the forehead as he used to when I was a kid.

‘It explains why I’ve an olive skin, a wrestler’s body and a heavy beard, while you’re slim, pale, blond and hairless. That’s why you never wanted me to call you Dad, isn’t it?’

‘Partially.‘

‘So we’re not related?‘

‘Only by love.’

‘And Manu’s my father? No wonder I love him as much as you.’ I was surprised at how little the news affected me. I guess subconsciously I’d known things were not as they seemed. ‘So, what happens now?’ I asked, worried I was about to be discarded now I was no longer essential. Parents forget how irrational their kids can be.

‘Very soon, Manu will be moving in here with us—we’ll take over your mother’s rooms to give us some privacy, and Sarah is going to live permanently with Judith. The farce is over at last. And next week all four of us will have dinner together and answer all your questions. OK?’ ’

‘Like what happens to me?’

‘That’s not changing. You stay here in your old room as always until you’re sick of us. Like me, Manu hopes you’ll stay forever, but we accept that one day you’ll find a lover to share your life and set up on your own. However, it won’t be with Loic.’

I couldn’t help laughing. ‘I know that, Francis, I’m not in love with the guy, just curious, and flattered that he’s interested in me.’

‘Ha! It’s him who should be flattered.’

While we’d been talking I’d unconsciously been stroking Francis’s chest and noticed his nipples had erected into tiny hard points. One thing I’d learned is that adults never hesitate to tell kids to stop if they don’t like what they’re doing, so as Francis hadn’t told me to stop he obviously didn’t mind and I wondered how far he’d let me go. As we continued talking softly I let my hand wander further south till I felt the bristles of his pubes, then on impulse I leaned over and kissed him lightly on the lips. It was incredibly exciting for me but he didn’t stop talking, even though I’d stopped listening. Buoyed by my daring I slid my hand under his balls and fondled them, then wrapped it round his erection, lightly sliding it up and down as I do to myself when masturbating.

He gave a light sigh, stopped talking and closed his eyes. I kissed his lips again then licked lightly at his nipples and ran a line of kisses down his belly before licking his knob and taking his erection into my mouth.

It was my first real-time sexual experience with a man and much more exciting than the hundreds of fantasies inspired by all those porn flicks that had fuelled five years of wanking. I looked up into a pair of amused eyes.

‘So, how was it?’ he asked. ‘Disgusting?’

‘The opposite! Thanks for letting me experiment.’

‘The pleasure was all mine, but it’s a one off. I’ve no desire to destroy our relationship by letting sex rear it’s beautiful head.’

‘How would it do that?’

‘If you want casual sex, find a healthy, attractive stranger so you don’t feel obliged to do it again if you don’t want to. With friends, one is always keener than the other and if one says he doesn’t feel like doing it any more the other feels insulted, and everything deteriorates from there.

Loving relationships are the place for serious sex.’

‘Yeah, I can see the logic. You know, I can’t believe how sexy it feels with a man!’

‘So it isn’t like that with your girlfriend?’

‘I hate it with Sandra. And she’s no longer my girlfriend, she dumped me.’

‘Why?’

‘Probably because when she did to me what I’ve been doing to you, my cock shrank so far into its foreskin it almost disappeared and I told her to stop slobbering over me.’

‘Not a diplomatic turn of phrase. And kissing? ‘Perhaps you should have gone down on her?’

‘Ugh! Francis! Stop it! The idea makes me want to puke! It felt obscene enough touching her tits and cunt with my fingers. With my mouth? Yuk big time! But with you it felt absolutely right, normal… as if this is what I was meant to do.’

‘Excellent. OK, off you go to bed for a wank and a good sleep so you’ll be fit and ready for whatever Loic has planned.’

The weekend with Loic was brilliant. He let me drive everywhere, we visited loads of places I didn’t even know existed, picnicked on a beach, swam in a river, climbed a mountain, went to a show, to a restaurant and had fun. My fears about sex were groundless; he’s a ’vanilla’ guy—at least that’s what he calls it. Only likes touching, kissing and mutual wanking. Nothing gross or dirty or crude. I reckon I’m the same. We parted the best of friends. He’s off back to France in a couple of months and didn’t give me his address so I’ll never see him again… but I don’t really want to. As Mum says, only fools try to live the same experience twice.

Two days later Manu moved in and Mum moved out. Excellent. I love my mother, but both she and Judith seem so unimaginative, lacking in humour—so unlike men in every way that in their presence I was never totally at ease. Now, Manu and Francis are so happy together and the three of us talk about anything and everything and do things together or alone without argument, without having to explain or justify ourselves. Women are so curious and nosy. At last I feel totally at home, at peace with the world and contented—well, I would have been contented if I had a lover. Loic made me realise what I was missing and what all the other guys were getting because they wanted girls.

Being with Loic was like the switching on of a generator in my guts. Suddenly I knew who and what I was, and felt a huge burst of self-confidence that fuelled my determination to get a lover.

Wanking’s fun, but sharing sex with someone you like and admire is a million times better. I still didn’t know any one my own age at school or elsewhere that I wanted to leap into bed with, but my lust for my Maths teacher was undiminished so I set out to seduce him.

Mr. Andros is tall, about one metre ninety, lean, energetic, a strong jaw, dark eyes and lips that always seem to smile. His voice is low and sexy; his fingers long and slim. All the girls have the hots for him, but he drifts through the school as if pupils don’t exist outside the classroom. I’ve walked towards him in the street when we were the only two people on the footpath, and he passed by without the slightest acknowledgement.

It was Wednesday before he agreed to help with my Maths after school. I didn’t need it but imagined we’d be sitting side by side at his desk, rubbing thighs and that would be the start of a glorious romance. Unfortunately, he stood at the blackboard and I had to sit at a desk in the middle of the classroom with the corridor door wide open and pretend to be grateful. The following lunchtime I joined him in the playground when he was on duty and chatted in an effort to discover his interests. It turned out to be no effort at all. With almost no prompting he gave me the benefit of his ideas for a perfect world.

‘A healthy mind in a healthy body,’ he declaimed as if he’d invented the phrase, ‘is the first requirement for a sane society. It is every human’s duty to keep his body as physically and mentally fit as possible.’

Having established the need for fitness he then denounced competitive sport because activities should be indulged in for their intrinsic pleasure and worth as a means for developing skills and fitness, not for gaining worthless prestige and fame. Jogging, he declared when I invited him to join me sometime, is a waste of energy that could be spent on useful activities such as gardening. Team sports foster dangerous pack mentality in young men. Social dancing with girls led to promiscuous sexuality. TV is not only the source of foolish propaganda against good moral values, but is also anti-intellectual as it requires no imaginative effort from the brain-dead voyeurs who spend too much of their precious lives staring at it. Actors spend their lives pretending to be what they aren’t and became less than human. Music should be listened to and never used as background noise, because that devalues it. Gambling is a retreat from reality and thus destroys sanity. Parties are pointless because no one can have a worthwhile conversation with more than one person at a time.

Alcohol destroys not only brain cells but also self-control and relationships. We should eat to live, not live to eat. Fiction is better than non-fiction because the author creates ideal situations in which to teach valuable lessons in life, whereas non-fiction presents itself as truth when it is nothing but carefully selected facts and wishful thinking that support the writer’s ego.

Naturally, I was awed by this philosophic deluge from such a relatively young man; he was only twenty-two and this was his first year of teaching, which he liked, but was saddened by the impertinence, laziness and lack of moral fibre of most students. Equally naturally, being in lust I dismissed any of my ideas that conflicted with his and made further plans for his seduction.

After school on Friday I jammed my school uniform in my locker and changed into a pair of low-slung running shorts. Not the sort with the crotch hanging halfway to the knees that makes the wearer look deformed, but the latest style in which the top is severely cut down so there’s only about fifteen centimetres from crotch to drawstring. They’re made of thin, soft material; not baggy, just loose enough to slip on and off easily. Even pulled up the maximum there’s always a sexy bum cleavage. It was a hot afternoon so I stuffed my tank top with my Speedos in the army surplus knapsack I use as a schoolbag. On my feet a pair of leather thong sandals almost the same colour as my skin. They’re so soft and light it feels and looks as if I’ve got bare feet. I work out a lot on the horizontal and parallel bars every day so my chest and the so-called ‘Greek muscle’ that goes from over the hips down to the crotch are well developed. I look best naked, but very low-slung shorts are fine because they draw attention to my good points. Yes, I’m a bit vain, but blame Loic and my mirror—both told me I look irresistible.

Careful planning ensured I ‘accidentally’ ran into Mr. Andros in the street near his lodgings as he was returning home from school. I gave him a huge grin, I have excellent teeth, and he seemed pleased to see me, but nervously suggested I didn’t let my shorts slip any lower because passers by were turning to stare.

‘Do they look shocked?’ I asked.

‘No, no! Not at all… but…’

‘Are you shocked?’

‘No, no… it’s just…I can see your… and the shape of your…’ He coughed to hide his embarrassment. ‘You're not wearing underpants!’ he blurted.

‘Of course not. I’m a free spirit.’

‘Ah! A free spirit. Most of us have to work hard to attain that state.’

At that moment a shirtless young man on a skateboard zipped between us, so close we could feel the wind of his passage.

‘Yo Asa! Hi Mr. Andros!’ he shouted.

I just had time to note a slim brown body, short curly hair and perfectly formed legs before he hit the kerb and ended on his back. I raced forward and pulled him to his feet, holding onto his elbow with one hand and placing the other on his shoulder in case he needed support. He didn’t, but he also didn’t shrug me off; just looked into my eyes, grinned and thanked me.

‘You stupid boy, Zeccinelli! Mr. Andros fumed. ‘You might have hit us.’

‘But I didn’t, I crashed instead,’ he said unapologetically. With a practised flick of his toe he set his skateboard upright, winked at me and, waving cheekily, disappeared along the pavement.

‘Who was that?’ I asked.

‘Mario Zeccinelli,’ Mr. Andros said tersely. ‘He’s as annoying in class as on the street.’

‘What class?’ I demanded, amazed I hadn’t met this cute, sexy guy seeing we went to the same school. I also wondered how he knew my name, and felt proud that he did.

‘Year eleven, top stream,’ Mr. Andros replied shortly. ‘Too smart for his boots, that one. He’ll end up badly I predict. Skating round the city half naked.’

‘No more naked than me,’ I said with what I hoped was a winning smile.

‘Compared to you, he’s overdressed,’ he said with a tight smile, ‘he left something to the imagination. The fact that you are not impertinent, however, redeems you.’

‘Thank you, Sir,’ I smiled, delighted at my redemption.

‘But why do you expose yourself like this in public?’ he asked with a frown.

‘Because it exemplifies the Ancient Greek ideal.’

‘Greek ideal?’

‘They did sport naked to show their healthy bodies. But how can I show the world I've a healthy mind as well?’

‘I don’t know, you tell me,’ he said irritably.

‘That I dare to walk around like this indicates I'm blessed with a nonconformist mind, which I reckon equates to a healthy one. Don’t you agree?’

‘Mens sana in corpore sano.’ He barked a short laugh and looked at me critically for the first time. ‘You’ve a very fine body, Asa; a firm abdomen, fine skin—and a sharp mind; it’s just...’

‘Don’t worry,’ I laughed, ‘my shorts are well anchored, see?’ I gave them a tug downwards, pretending not to notice they slipped another centimetre. I’m not only a bit vain, but also a bit of an exhibitionist if I think the audience will appreciate it.

His eyes popped a little but an all too human desire to prove he was also liberated and nonconformist prevented him from telling me to pull them back up. Instead, he looked around nervously then led me quickly across the street to the park and a shaded seat where he said he often sat and read. Away from the gaze of strangers he relaxed and once more held forth on the virtuous life and the necessity of balancing mind and body. My attention wandered to the shouts of kids at the swimming pool at the far end of the park.

‘Do you like swimming?’ I asked when he paused for breath, He professed to adore it so I told him the public pool would be reserved for adults in half an hour, so we could go then. He agreed and we set off to get his togs. On the way he said it was silly for me to keep calling him Mr. Andros, his name was Melvyn. I suppressed a grin. Things were progressing very nicely on the seduction front, although I was no longer quite so desperate having decided to get to know sexy, skateboarding Mario on Monday at school.

Mrs. Spurdle, Melvyn’s ancient, wrinkled and diminutive landlady, was brewing herself a pot of tea in the kitchen. She gazed in cheeky appreciation at my crotch and chest and asked hopefully if we wanted tea and if I was staying to dinner. Melvyn seemed irritated and snapped, ‘No thanks!

Of course he isn’t!’ and went to change his clothes.

Mrs. Spurdle tilted her head like a curious parrot. ‘If you jump up and down will your shorts fall down?’

‘I don’t know… shall I do it and see?’

‘Yes, please.’ Her smile was wicked.

I have to admit I’m a sucker for admiration and I also like giving nice people pleasure, so as the old girl was saucy and perky and I liked her, I kicked off my sandals, secretly loosened the drawstring and jumped. They slithered to the floor. ‘Goodness,’ I said as if surprised. ‘It’s lucky I did that in front of a sensible person—imagine this had happened on the street—I’d be run in.’ To give her a decent look, I stepped out of them and pretended to check the waistband to see if the drawstring had given way.

‘You’d be mobbed by every woman nearby,’ she laughed. ‘Oh, Asa. You’re such a breath of fresh air! Everyone I meet seems to be so stuffy and straitlaced; ready to criticise anyone who has fun and doesn’t take life seriously. You’ve made my day. I haven’t seen one of those since Mr.

Spurdle fell off the roof and broke his neck thirty years ago. Thank you so much. You deserve a biscuit.’ She handed me a plate of home made shortbread and a cup of tea.

We sipped and munched and then she said thoughtfully, ‘I never imagined Melvyn would find a lively friend like you. In fact,’ she said with a sniff of disdain, ‘I was beginning to wonder if there was something wrong with him. He spends so much time in his room on his own, never goes out, seems to have no friends. Not even a girlfriend so I was beginning to suspect…’ She let the sentence hang in the air.

‘What?’ I asked feigning innocence.

‘Nothing, dear. Anyway, you’re so obviously a real man I was clearly wrong.’

By the time Melvyn returned wearing baggy beige shorts that did not look as if they were slipping off, and a grey T-shirt, my shorts were back on and I was laughing at one of Mrs. Spurdle’s irreverent tales about her eccentric husband.

‘You seemed to hit it off with old Ma Spurdle,’ he said waspishly on the way to the pool. ‘Did she talk about me?’

‘She’s pleased you brought a friend home,‘ I replied diplomatically.

‘Yes,’ he said reflectively. ‘I believe we are friends. We seem to have much in common.’

I wondered how he’d worked that out; so far he hadn’t asked me anything about myself.

Perhaps he was psychic.

After the dreadful baggy beige shorts, Melvyn looked superb in his Speedos. Slim, tanned, perfectly proportioned, a light dusting of hairs on chest and legs, obviously fit and healthy with a reassuring bulge at the crotch. My lust was reignited. We swam a few lengths. I dived from the low board, he climbed the tower and with no discernible hesitation walked to the edge and leapt—

something I was too chicken to do. I always imagine I’ll turn over in the air and break my back on landing. Watching his lean and graceful form hurtling through space triggered an erection and when we dragged ourselves onto the warm tiles at the side of the pool to relax I didn’t bother to conceal it. Melvyn glanced down, then across the pool to where several young women in thongs and tiny tit-holders were laughing too loud and casting come-hither glances in our direction.

‘I see you are susceptible to lust, Asa,’ he said seriously. ‘I believe we can only achieve spiritual harmony if we learn to control and mould our minds in the same way as we do our bodies, do you agree?’

‘Of course,’ I replied, a little irritated by his patronising tone. ‘Those women aren’t the reason for my hard on—they do nothing for me. No females do.’ This was a first for me, practically admitting I was gay, and my heart hammered furiously from fear that he’d curse me for a pervert.

But he didn’t seem to have heard. Instead, he placed a long-fingered hand on my thigh and said placatingly, ‘I apologise, Asa. I’d forgotten what it was like to be sixteen. I now recall the raging hormones that kept me in a constant state of arousal in my teens. I guess I was slightly shocked that you don’t bother to conceal it, but on reflection I realise your attitude to such a natural phenomenon is very healthy and does you great credit. It further indicates a strong spirit and healthy mind. I wonder if we are soul-mates.’

I’ve never considered myself spiritual, and have always doubted the existence of souls, but being praised for having an erection certainly didn’t make it go down! Nor did the pleasant sensation of his hand on my thigh. I was obviously expected to say something, but what? On an impulse I placed my hand on top of his and, looking into his deep brown eyes said sincerely,

‘Melvyn, you are very handsome and have a beautiful spirit.’

Without even a hint of embarrassment at the outrageous compliment he nodded seriously. ‘I try my best,’ he said. ‘But we all need assistance from outside ourselves to reach our full potential and attain true beauty of spirit.’

Imagining I was to be his assistant in developing his full potential, I smiled in the delicious afternoon warmth and leaned back on my elbows to better display the evidence of my strong spirit and healthy mind. Melvyn remained sitting, his hand still resting on my thigh as we gazed with benign condescension at all the unhealthy bodies containing unhealthy minds. A grossly fat man waddling past was the trigger for Melvyn to leap abruptly to his feet and announce that we should celebrate the meeting of true minds with an ice-cream. Pulling our shorts over our togs we set off for an ice-cream parlour. Between licks Melvyn suggested that we couldn’t rely on accidental meetings after school; we should make an appointment to get to know each other better.

Breathlessly, I agreed.

‘Tomorrow afternoon, perhaps? Mrs. Spurdle plays Bridge on Saturdays until five o’clock, so we’ll have the place to ourselves.’

‘Excellent!’ I said. ‘What time?’

‘One o’clock?’

Manu and Francis congratulated me on my progress to date, but held their tongues when I told them about Melvyn's ideas and our spiritual bond.

‘If everything turns out as you hope, then you must invite him here for dinner,’ Manu said.

‘Indeed,’ Francis laughed, ‘I can’t wait to meet this soulful paragon of spiritual virtue.’

Such was my lust that not even their sly digs could diminish my excitement and on the dot of one, having shaved, showered and deodorised with care, I knocked at Melvyn’s door. He was dressed in grey slacks and a white shirt, which made me feel a tad underdressed in shorts and tank top. He led me into a large, dim, peaceful lounge with open French windows that gave onto a garden shaded by giant Moreton Bay figs. Unsure what to do, I stood and gazed at the tranquil scene. He stood behind me, placing his hands on my bare shoulders.

We stood thus for several seconds allowing our spirits to mingle, I suppose, but my impatience took over. Clearly, he was too shy to make the first move, so I turned, took him in my arms and crushed my lips against his.

Instantly I was thrust back, tripped over a low table and ended on the floor.

‘What are you doing?’ he shouted. ‘What madness has entered your brain?’

I struggled to my feet. ‘I thought that’s what you wanted.’

‘What?’

‘I thought you were gay and wanted to have sex with me?’

‘Are you totally insane? We agreed to assist each other to purify our spirits through communion with a higher sphere! To ensure the health and purity of our minds!’

‘I’m sorry,’ I stuttered, retreating before his outraged fury. ‘But what was I to think when you put your hand on my thigh at the pool and told me I was handsome and we were soul-mates?’

‘You’re nothing but a whore,’ he whispered venomously, ‘to impute such disgusting intentions from my innocent words and touch.’

Unprepared for such irrationality I could think of no defence, so fled.

Both Manu and Francis managed to contain their laughter. With twitching lips they assured me they thought I’d behaved exceedingly well in the circumstances. Francis said he’d have thumped the twerp, and Manu agreed.

At school the following Monday I spied Mario sitting alone on the ground under a tree. I went over and plonked myself down beside him.

‘Gidday, Mario.’

He turned and grinned. ‘Asa! Great to see you. Sorry about the other day.’

‘I’m not,’ I replied. ‘You rescued me from that bore, Andros.’

‘Don’t tell me you think I’m more interesting than him!’

‘More interesting, more handsome, sexier…’ I looked away and paused in panic. What the fuck had I just said? Any second now he’d be shouting ‘Asa’s a queer’ across the playground. The silence grew and I dared to look at him.

He giggled and smiled in exactly the right way, so I asked if he’d like to go to the flicks with me. He would, and now he spends most weekends at our place. I must say it’s very pleasant and relaxing to have a lover one’s own age.

**********