Chapter 02

a home run ... just like the story itself :-)

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Summer Boys, Summer Dreams: Chapter 02

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SUMMARY: Two boys growing up together in an idyllic beachfront community share a passion for baseball. One excels at the game and plays it with reckless abandon; the other, less talented, studies the game and those who play it, hoping someday to share what he learns with others. Best friends since childhood, the two have seen how baseball can bring them closer together. Now, having just graduated from high school, it’s about to show them a crueler side of the game. Baseball is about to separate them even though neither wants that to happen. You can find a longer synopsis of the entire story here. Please note that italics are typically used to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.

WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs portrayed or mentioned in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.

NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams, clubs, or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.

NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there is something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so. As mentioned last week, Chapter 2 is told from Hunter’s point of view.

SUMMER BOYS, SUMMER DREAMS

Part I – Spring

Chapter 2

“Damn,” I recall thinking as Ethan disappeared up the stairs, naked.

“I wish I had a butt like that.”

“That has to be the most fantastic butt in the world.”

Not that it surprised me Ethan’s butt was fantastic. He had the best body of any guy in our school by far. He was so defined, so ripped. He was perfect. Growing up in a beach town like ours, you get to see lots of bodies every summer. To me, Ethan’s was the best, at least for someone our age.

You could argue which feature made it the best and people did. For the girls, it was usually his face. They were always talking about his dreamy brown eyes or that shy, angelic, smile he flashed whenever they talked to him. He had perfect skin and his face was so freaking cute. Half the time every girl in school wanted to mother the little angel. The rest of the time they wanted to sleep with him.

Guys tended to be in awe of the rest of his body, especially his arms, abs, and waist. When he wasn’t swimming, playing ball, or engaged in some other sport, you could usually find him down in the gym working out. He was the star of our high school gymnastics team and I had even joined so I could try to build a body like his.

But it never worked out that way for me. No matter how hard I tried, nothing I did ever came close to producing the same results.

Not that I was jealous; Ethan was my very best friend and liked me a lot. I could never be jealous of him. I just wished I could have a body like his; and while everything about his body was awesome, his butt was definitely its finest feature, at least as far as I was concerned. Seeing it again today only reaffirmed that.

It wasn’t the first time I had ever seen it, of course. Whether swimming down at the beach, showering together after gymnastics class, or spending time in the locker room, I had seen it a lot over the years. I had never given it very much thought when we were younger.

Lately, however, I had been spending way too much time focused on Ethan’s butt. There was something about it that mesmerized me. I don’t know what exactly. I mean, it wasn’t like I was gay or anything. Not that there was something wrong with being gay. As with most things, I agreed with Ethan about that.

But how could I be gay after all? Everybody at school knew I was a ladies man. I spent tons of time talking to them, squiring them around town, taking them to dances or movies, and doing stuff with them; and unlike Ethan, I had already had sex with a girl.

I had fucked Mary Ellen Meehan, which is more than Ethan could say.

I mean, yeah, sure, he was too nice a guy to take advantage of a girl, even Mary Ellen. Add it to the list of things I admired about the dude.

The truth is he was the best looking guy in our class. Everyone knew that. He could have had any girl he wanted and Mary Ellen would have been the first in line. All of them thought he was hot and they were right. He was the hottest dude in our school.

But he hadn’t fucked Mary Ellen. I was sure of that. I was the one who had fucked her and just knowing that made me feel better. It was good to know there was something I was more accomplished at than Ethan.

I was sorry about dropping the F word on him today. He was right. Faggot was a terrible word and the fact he didn’t go along with the rest of the guys in using it all the time was one of the reasons I admired him so much. He had told me not to use it once before; years ago when he pretended to be gay to get his point across.

I never used the word again after that, at least until today; and I was sorry I had used it today.

You know how much Ethan hates it when you use words like that. Why can’t you be more like him, Hunter; special, not average?

It bothered Ethan when anybody used that word, not just me. The guy didn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body. He liked everyone. It didn’t matter whether you were gay or straight, black, brown, yellow or white, tall or short, whatever. Ethan judged everyone pretty much the same and he wasn’t shy about letting others know what he thought if they used some nasty word to label someone else.

I had seen him come to the rescue of more than one kid being picked on, usually because they were small or shy or someone thought they might be a sissy. He didn’t put up with that kind of nonsense; and because he was Ethan and everyone liked him and wanted to be his friend, people listened when he spoke up and told them to cut the shit.

Hell, Ethan even spoke up for Mary Ellen and everyone knew she was a nympho.

I knew that myself from personal experience.

“If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all,” he told me once when I was making fun of Mary Ellen for being a nympho.

And he was right, of course. She was a very nice girl, just a little oversexed; okay, maybe a lot oversexed if we’re being totally honest about it.

The point is, Ethan was different.

I had known him all my life and I knew he was different from the first day we met. He wasn’t concerned about fitting in or being popular like everyone else, including me. He wasn’t insecure or jealous when someone else was being praised. He was always himself. He did what he thought was right and he would tell you when he thought what you were doing was wrong.

To me Ethan was pretty much perfect, the guy every girl in Rehoboth Beach wanted to marry, the guy every dude in town wanted to be. And having him as my very best friend could be kind of overwhelming at times because I was nothing like him.

I could never understand why he had chosen me to be his best friend. I had even asked him about it once.

“Why, Ethan? Why me? I’m just average, not special like you.”

“You’re not just average, Hunter,” he replied. “You’re way above average, dude. You’re off the charts. And you know why? Because you’re a good person, Hunter, and just hanging around with you makes me a better person.”

“That’s crazy talk, dude,” I responded. “You’re the one who’s always sticking up for kids that are picked on. You’re the one that always does the right thing no matter what. You’re the one everyone admires.”

“Well, they’re wrong about that, Hunter,” he responded. “You’re the one they should admire. I have to work at being good. You’re a natural at it and being my friend is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

I remember just shaking my head at the time. He seemed to see something in me no one else did, least of all my parents. Like I said, it was crazy, but I wasn’t about to argue the point. I liked Ethan.

I liked him a lot.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I was a dork or something. I was fine. I liked who I was most of the time. Maybe I wasn’t the biggest, the strongest or the handsomest dude. Maybe I wasn’t the best student in school or the most popular either.

Unlike Ethan, I was pretty average when it came to playing sports and just about everything else. I knew that. My mother had been telling me I was average for years and I was fine with that. There’s nothing wrong with being average I used to tell her. Somebody has to be.

But that’s what made being Ethan’s best friend so special. He wasn’t average and he liked me better than anyone else and it didn’t make any sense. But he was always telling me how glad he was that I was his very best friend; and even though I didn’t understand why, I knew he was telling the truth and that made me like him even more.

Sometimes I even wondered whether I liked him too much.

Seeing him resting there on his bed this afternoon before the big game, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. I had just stood there staring at him for the longest time before waking him up. He was so good looking. He had such an amazing body, so much nicer than mine. And yet he was always telling me what a terrific body I had and how I shouldn’t worry about it.

It wasn’t true, of course, but he wasn’t trying to flatter me either. He actually believed it; and the fact he believed it made me feel good about myself. Maybe that’s why I liked him so much. He made me feel good about myself.

I don’t know. I guess it’s hard to explain exactly how I felt about Ethan. The whole thing was complicated. Sometimes it was even confusing.

Seeing him race up those stairs naked had been kind of a turn on for me. Maybe that’s why I had used the F word; so he wouldn’t be suspicious of me. Not that he had any reason to be. Like I said, I wasn’t gay; everyone knew I was a ladies man.

And, yeah, so what if I did have kind of a crush on him and had fantasized what it would be like messing around with him a couple of times; maybe more than a couple of times, to be honest.

He was my best bud and guys our age who were best buds like that sometimes did stuff together.

I mean, we were teenage boys and we were horny and sometimes best buds helped each other out that way. It didn’t have anything to do with being gay. It was just helping out your best bud when he needed some relief and there wasn’t a girl around. You know what I mean?

We had never actually done anything like that together and I never said anything to him about it either. Hell, Ethan was the most masculine dude I knew; and even though he didn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body, it would have made everything more complicated if I ever told him something like that.

Like I said, the whole thing was pretty confusing. I don’t know when it had gotten confusing exactly, but it was.

Better not to think about it, I recall telling myself.

It’s not like it would make any difference.

Ethan isn’t like that; and, besides, the two of us are getting too old for that kind of stuff.

****

“I guess we should be going,” Ethan said, walking into the room and breaking my train of thought.

Standing there in his uniform, he looked good. I stood up and exchanged a high five with him; and then, being hungry, I asked him whether it would be okay to bring along a piece of his Mom’s apple pie. That pie was so good; it was the best.

We had bantered back and forth about that and then headed off to the game together.

This was going to be the most important game Ethan had ever played. I had been there a couple of years ago the first time Coach Lodge ever mentioned someone would be scouting him.

“He says he’s down here at the beach on vacation,” Coach had explained. “But baseball scouts are never really on vacation. They can’t help themselves. They’re addicts. If there’s a game being played within fifty miles, any major league baseball scout worth his salt will be there.”

“This is a great chance for you, Ethan. You’re the best player on this team by far and this is your chance to get noticed. Once you graduate from high school, you’ll be eligible to declare for the draft. If you do, I’m pretty certain more than one major league team will be interested in choosing you and you might even get a nice signing bonus as well if they do.

“Assuming you ever get noticed, of course; and tonight’s your chance to get noticed.”

I think it had come as a shock to both of us, more so to Ethan than me. I mean, I knew he was very good, the best I had ever played with by far. It wasn’t even close.

“Are you nervous?” I had asked after hearing Coach Lodge telling him that.

“Not really,” Ethan replied. “I mean, not even Coach can be certain that scout will be here tonight. He just said he might stop by if he had the time. If you were on vacation at the beach, would you stop by to watch some stupid game?”

“If you were you playing in it, I would,” I responded.

“That’s because you’re my best friend, Hunter,” he responded. “The point is, I’ve never even thought about playing baseball professionally, at least not before Coach just mentioned it. I’ve always played because I enjoy the game so much. If you start thinking about playing major league ball, you’ll just drive yourself crazy.”

“It’s like tonight. If I start playing the game because I think someone might be in the bleachers scouting me, it’ll make me self-conscious and I won’t play loose, which is the key to my game; then, when the game is over, I’ll find out the guy never even showed up.”

“That’s crazy,” he added. “Better just to assume the guy won’t even be here. Then I can go out and just have some fun.”

It was another thing I admired about Ethan. He was always laid back, never took things too seriously. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He worked hard at whatever he did, whether it was swimming, baseball, or school. He was always pushing himself to be the best he could be. But the motivation came from within, not outside.

If he won a trophy swimming, he was fine with it. But knowing he had done his best, he would have been equally fine if he didn’t win the trophy.

I never really understood it, but I admired it; and I was certain he would be nervous tonight.

Tonight there would be more than one scout in the stands, a lot more; and tonight was the night before the major league baseball draft.

“So exactly how many scouts did Coach say were going to be here tonight?” I asked.

“He didn’t really say,” Ethan responded. “He just said Avery Jennings told him there would probably be a bunch because the draft is tomorrow and a lot of guys who’ve declared for it shut down their games weeks ago. I guess I’m one of the last they can get a look at.”

“Maybe you should have done the same thing,” I responded; “I mean, maybe you should have stopped playing a couple of weeks ago. You’re taking a chance by playing tonight after all. What if you have a bad game? Are you nervous about that, Ethan? I sure would be if I was in your shoes.”

“Damn,” I remember thinking. “Why did you just say that, Hunter? Why are you putting extra pressure on him like that? Stop it!”

“Not really,” he responded. “I mean, what’s the worst that could happen? I could have a terrible game in front of those scouts and no one would draft me tomorrow and then I would get to go to college with you, Hunter, just like we’ve talked about. We could go back to our original plan. What would be so bad about that?”

“What would be bad about it is you wouldn’t get drafted and make a bazillion dollars playing big league baseball,” I responded. “That’s what would be bad about that, you doofus; you’d be blowing your chance to make big bucks playing major league ball.”

“Big deal,” he responded. “I mean, yeah, I guess it would bother me some because I want my Mom to have whatever signing bonus they offer me. That’s the only reason I declared for the draft you know. That signing bonus could help her retire a lot sooner and I want it for her. But if I had my druthers, I’d rather be going to college with you.”

“But I’ll kill you if you ever tell her I said that, Hunter,” he continued. “I swear. I’ll kill you.”

“I won’t tell her, Ethan,” I said. “What kind of best friend would I be if I did something like that?”

“Thanks,” he replied; “besides, I’m not as great as you seem to think. Even if I get drafted tomorrow, there’s no guarantee I’ll ever make it to the major leagues. Most guys who play minor league ball never do. You know that as well as me.”

“You’re not most guys, Ethan,” I responded. “You’re in a class by yourself and you’re definitely going all the way to the top. No doubt about it. You’re the best baseball player the Delmarva Peninsula ever produced. You’ve got all the tools needed to play big league ball. Everyone knows that.”

“Yeah, right,” he responded. “Just like everyone knows Mary Ellen Meehan is a virgin.”

In spite of myself, I burst out laughing. Coming from Ethan, it surprised me.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” he quickly added. “That wasn’t nice. I like Mary Ellen. She’s a very nice girl.”

“You’re a hoot, Ethan,” I responded. “Here you say something funny and you can’t even take any joy in it. It’s okay to be honest every once in a while, dude. Even Mary Ellen knows what her reputation around town is.”

“She’s such a pretty girl,” he responded. “I feel a little sorry for her. It’s tough living with a reputation like that in a small town; and she really is a very nice girl.”

“She doesn’t care,” I replied. “She told me once she doesn’t care what people think about her. She’s kind of like you that way, Ethan, totally comfortable with who she is. You should try being more like her. You could begin by losing your virginity.”

“You don’t have a clue whether I’m a virgin or not,” he responded, and just by the tone of his voice I could tell I had struck a nerve.

“Just because I don’t brag about stuff like you and the rest of the guys doesn’t make me a virgin.”

“No, of course not,” I said. “What makes you a virgin is never having had sex with a girl. How can you stand it?”

“That’s none of your business, is it?” he replied.

“I still think you shouldn’t be playing tonight,” I responded, deciding to change the subject.

“You’ve played baseball, Hunter,” he said. “You know what it’s like. It’s a team sport. Our team has a chance of winning the championship if we make the playoffs tonight by winning this game; and we have a better chance of winning if I play than if I sit. I would never let the rest of the guys down by sitting out a game as important as this. What kind of teammate would I be if I did something like that?”

“Besides, I play baseball for the fun of it. If I start thinking about how this, that or the other thing might affect my chances in the draft tomorrow, I may as well pack it up and go home right now. That isn’t me.”

To me his answer said just about everything you needed to know about Ethan. He would rather risk his own chances in the draft than let his teammates down. None of them would have blamed him if he sat out the game. Everyone knew how much was at stake for him.

And that’s why everyone liked Ethan. He put other people before himself and they knew it.

By that time we had reached the field; like I had done all my life, I gave him a pat on the rump although this time I wondered whether I had let my hand linger a little too long. Ethan didn’t say anything, just smiled. Then he disappeared on to the field while I took my place up in the stands.

****

There was an hour to kill before the game and not much to do. I spent it eating my pie and chatting with some of the guys who had stopped by to root for Ethan that evening. Gradually the place began to fill up. Looking around, I could see a couple of strangers up in the stands. They were older and looked like they could be scouts and suddenly it dawned on me how important this game really was.

Maybe he isn’t nervous, I said to myself as Ethan and his teammates took to the field.

But I sure as hell am.

I could feel the butterflies churning in my stomach.

Baseball is a game of varying rhythms and the top of the first inning proved uneventful. Ethan handled one ball hit to his side of the field flawlessly. The other two batters flied out routinely. The bottom of the first began much the same way, with the first batter we sent to the plate striking out.

The next batter reached first when he was hit by a wild pitch and I remember being nervous about that.

That’s the last thing we need tonight, a pitcher who doesn’t have command of his stuff. I’ll kill the bastard if he hits Ethan.

Ethan stepped to the plate and dug in. Being a switch hitter and facing a pitcher who threw from the right, he was batting left handed now. Waiting for the pitch to be delivered, he was wiggling his ass like he always did at the plate; and just watching him do that made me go hard.

Thank god I’m wearing a jock!

Ethan was being patient at the plate. He was waiting for his pitch and slowly he worked the count to 3 and 2 before fouling off two more balls. All of the time he was doing that he was wiggling that ass of his and I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Ethan may have had a fantastic body, but that ass was definitely the crown jewels as far as I was concerned.

Frustrated by the two balls Ethan had fouled off, the opposing pitcher decided to get cute by tossing a change up to him and that turned out to be a big mistake. It fooled me completely, but it didn’t fool Ethan. Timing it perfectly, he lined the ball down the left field line. The outfield had been shifted over toward right and Ethan was off in a flash.

I knew it was a double for sure the moment I heard his bat connect, but Ethan didn’t stop at second. He decided to try for third base and now the ball was being relayed in even as he slid into third head first.

I remember holding my breath, less for the call than for the chance he was taking by sliding like that. He was risking an injury, but I knew he would never look at it that way. He liked playing the game recklessly.

“Safe!” the umpire shouted, his arms spreading wide.

Like the rest of our fans, I was on my feet cheering while Ethan just stood there smiling, brushing the dirt off his uniform and talking to the third baseman for the other team.

Two batters later he was left stranded on a routine fly to center field, but thanks to his triple our team had taken a one to nothing lead.

As Ethan trotted out to his position at shortstop, my eyes drifted down to his butt again.

Why? I remember asking myself. Why the fuck do you always focus on Ethan’s ass whenever his back’s to you?

You’re not gay, dude, I reminded myself again.

You can’t be.

I mean, jeez, you’ve had sex with a girl, Hunter; you’ve had sex with Mary Ellen. She sucked your dick, dude, and she swallowed. She even spread her legs and let you fuck her that one time.

Thinking back to the time we had done it four years ago, I remember grimacing.

God, that was nasty.

I was fourteen when it happened.

Jim Bob; that’s what Mary Ellen used to call me back then. One time I asked her why.

“Because you look just like that boy who plays Jim Bob Walton on the re-runs of that program on TV.”

She loved that program. She would even make me watch it with her before the two of us messed around.

I remember just shaking my head when she said it. I didn’t look like that boy at all, at least as far as I was concerned. I was thinner and my hair was black and shorter and I didn’t have big ears like he did; and I was definitely sexier, that was for sure. But that’s what she called me, Jim Bob.

All of the boys at school knew Mary Ellen. She liked boys and the boys liked her because she would suck your dick, at least that’s what everyone said. I had been hearing that forever and didn’t know whether it was true, but I was having some doubts right about then and I wanted to put them to rest. So one day I approached Mary Ellen and said hi; and later that afternoon we ended up back at her house and she sucked my dick.

Nervous as I was, I remember having a little trouble getting it up at first; but then I thought about how surprised Ethan would be when I told him about the whole thing. Seeing that grin on his face, I didn’t have any problems after that. Mary Ellen gave it a nice little workout and then I came in her mouth and she swallowed. And that put all of the doubts to rest.

After that I would go by her place every few weeks and she would suck my dick. It didn’t take long before it got boring and finally I decided I would raise it with her.

“Um, Mary Ellen, have you ever thought of doing more with a boy.”

“Of course,” she responded. “And I would definitely do more with you, Jim Bob, if you could persuade that friend of yours, Ethan, to invite me to the movies. I would do a lot more,” she said, coyly.

I asked Ethan to do it, but he wouldn’t.

I was really annoyed with him at the time. I didn’t understand why he wouldn’t do it. I explained how I would get to fuck Mary Ellen if he just took her to the movies. Hell, I even offered to pay for the damn movie. But he wouldn’t do it no matter how hard I pleaded.

I told her I tried my best and that trying my best ought to count for something. And she said she appreciated it, but was tired of being on the giving end all the time and if I licked her pussy she would let me fuck her. I wasn’t really too keen on doing that so I passed the first time she raised it.

But I was still having some doubts; and the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the only real way of proving I wasn’t gay to myself was to fuck her. I mean, that would prove it for sure.

Finally I went back to see her one day after school and the two of us got totally naked. That was the first time we had ever done that. She said it would be more romantic and help her get in the mood if we did. And then she kissed me and toyed with me for a while until I finally worked up the courage and licked her pussy.

Gross!

I mean, I really did not like the way that thing smelled! I remember wondering whether it smelled like that all the time or whether it was something she was eating, but it was definitely gross. I gave it a couple of licks and wanted to fuck her but she said I hadn’t done it enough, that I had to do it for at least five or ten minutes.

That had to the longest five or ten minutes of my life and pretty much a complete waste of time. I mean, yeah, sure, I got to fuck her, but it wasn’t really that great; in fact, the only thing that made it any fun at all was pretending Ethan was there watching me do it to her.

It wasn’t the first time I had ever thought about him to get myself aroused and excited. Whenever I wanked, I used to pretend he was there wanking with me. It just made everything a lot more fun; and it didn’t mean I was gay either. I mean, I did fuck Mary Ellen after all. What more proof could you ask for?

As for thinking about Ethan when I wanked, we were best friends after all and we did lots of stuff together. I mean, maybe I was bisexual. I was willing to consider that possibility; but gay? No; Ethan wasn’t gay and I definitely wasn’t gay either.

Not that it would make all that much difference, of course, even if I was gay or bisexual. Ethan was the most masculine guy I knew in the world. There was no way he would have been interested in me like that; and because he was my very best friend, there was no way I was going to raise it with him either.

I didn’t want to put our friendship at risk.

****

By now it was the top of the sixth inning and the game was tied three to three. In the field, Ethan hadn’t had very many opportunities to display his fielding skills. Most of the balls hit in his direction were easy plays and he had made them flawlessly, but nothing had been especially challenging.

In the fourth inning, after being walked deliberately, he had stolen second base and then scored on a single to center field. But now the other team was threatening. It had runners on first and third with one out and our team had brought in a relief pitcher. It was definitely getting nerve-wracking by then.

Having finished his warm-ups, our relief pitcher worked the count to two balls, two strikes; and then, on the next pitch, the opposing hitter slammed the ball hard up the middle for what seemed like a sure hit. And yet somehow Ethan had been running with the crack of the bat and speared the ball just before crossing second base.

Leaping into the air and twisting his body violently, he threw to first to end the inning on a double-play.

It was a play no one else on our team would have made; to me, it was play no one else on any team could have made. And yet Ethan had made it and there he was being congratulated by his teammates as he approached the dugout.

In the bottom of the sixth, the opposing team chose to walk Ethan again rather than pitch to him. I remember being pissed off.

“Pitch to him, you freaking wimps,” I shouted, which drew a couple of stares from people sitting nearby in the stands.

But they didn’t pitch to him. They walked him deliberately again, and on the very next pitch he was cut down in a double-play.

The whole thing was discouraging. Ethan wasn’t getting the chance to show what a great hitter he was. If there were scouts present, I wondered what they were thinking.

I don’t know why exactly, but for some reason I wanted this chance for Ethan to play professional ball more than anything I had ever wanted in my life. I wanted him to have the opportunity to show the rest of the world what I already knew, just how good a player he was, just how special a person he was.

He would laugh when I told him that, tell me I wanted him to be drafted more than he wanted to be drafted himself; and maybe he was even right about that.

To me he was just too modest and unassuming. Talent like his needed a bigger stage; a lot bigger stage than Rehoboth Beach could offer, that was for sure.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked living in Rehoboth Beach. It was fun and there was a lot to like about it.

If asked, most people usually talked about the sun, the sand and the surf and I like all of that; but there was a lot more to Rehoboth Beach as well. There was the boardwalk crowded with people coming and going in an endless procession, most of them strangers whose lives I used to wonder about.

There was Funland with its rides and arcades; and there were the downtown shops and a bazillion food joints, places like Thrasher’s Fries, Candy Kitchen, and Louie’s Pizza, all of them packed within a single square mile and easily accessible whenever I was hungry. And back then I was hungry a lot even though I could never seem to gain a pound.

For nine months of the year we lived in a small town, a place where everyone knew one another and friendships were enduring, not something that changed with the passing season. Your friends were the same friends you had the day before and the day before that. They were the same friends you would have the next day and the day after that.

It was a small town that cherished small town values and there were times when that could be boring, even suffocating.

But what made enduring those nine months possible was Memorial Day. Come Memorial Day, you knew everything would change.

Memorial Day marked the unofficial beginning of summer, the time of year when our town was overrun with people trying to escape wherever they lived. Summer meant all of the shops in town were open late at night and the streets were alive with people looking for something to do away from the beach.

What I loved most about Rehoboth Beach was the people; and the person I liked most of all was Ethan. He had been my very best friend from our first day together in kindergarten. We studied together. We played together. And, during the summer, tanned and half naked, we spent hours exploring the town together, making up stories about those mysterious strangers who visited us every summer and laughing at the fanciful tales we conjured up.

Caught up in thinking about all of this, it was only now I realized it was the bottom of the ninth inning, our last chance and we were behind because the other team had taken a 4 to 3 lead in the top of the ninth. Our side had managed to load the bases, but their relief pitcher had an incredible fast ball and had struck out the next two hitters without much effort.

That brought Ethan to the plate, batting left-handed again. This time they’d have to pitch to him; and although the game was on the line for both sides, all I could focus on was Ethan’s ass. He was waggling it again and I couldn’t take my eyes off of the thing.

He took a called strike, then fouled off the very next pitch. It was the worst possible count, 0 and 2; everything favored the pitcher, who promptly tossed a fastball outside. Ethan took it like I knew he would, then took a curve that looked to me like it was going to be a called third strike. But at the last moment it tailed off and now the count was 2 and 2.

Ethan stepped out of the batter’s box and turned his back to the mound. He was tightening his batting glove, something he rarely did.

“Come on, Ethan,” I screamed. “You can do it. This guy hasn’t got anything. Hit that freaking ball out of here.”

Surprising me, he looked up, smiled, and shook his head ever so slightly. Then he returned to the batting box.

Now the pitcher stepped off the mound, a classic move in the never ending cat-and-mouse game played between pitchers and hitters. He was soon joined by the catcher and his manager and the three of them just stood there chatting about how to pitch to Ethan. Finally, the umpire stepped toward the mound and shooed the manager back to the dugout.

The pitcher took the sign from his catcher and then let loose a hellacious fast ball. I didn’t think anyone could get around on that ball, but Ethan did and he got all of it. The ball soared into the sky toward dead away center field, 365 feet, but it cleared the wall with room to spare. It was a walk-off game winning grand slam home run.

All of his teammates had burst from the dugout at the crack of the bat and by now the fans were screaming like crazy as Ethan rounded the bases. And then he was finally there, crossing home plate, and the guys were piling on top of him and everyone was laughing like crazy, slapping one another, hugging one another, as if they had just won the seventh game of the World Series.

The whole thing was incredible. To me it was exactly the perfect ending to what had been a hard fought contest that evening; and I was happy for Ethan, incredibly happy. He had won that game single-handedly.

****

Scrambling down to the bottom of the bleachers, I looked over the fence that separated fans from the players. Ethan and his teammates were still celebrating and I knew exactly what they were feeling right about then.

There had been a time when the two of us shared moments like this together. We no longer did. But I remembered what it was like, how they would be kidding themselves about this, that or the other thing as they gradually talked themselves down from the high that came from winning, especially winning in such a dramatic fashion.

When it was finally over, they would agree to meet downtown some place and continue the celebration for what remained of the evening. Knowing I wasn’t a part of that anymore, I turned around and started to walk away. But I had only gotten a few feet when I heard his voice behind me.

“Hey, where are you going, Hunter?”

I turned around and he was standing there at the fence smiling at me.

“I was headed back home,” I said. “I don’t want to get in the way of the after game celebration.”

“Wait up for me, then,” he responded. “I already told the guys I need to get to bed early tonight because of the draft tomorrow. I’ll walk you back to town.”

He raced back to his dugout and grabbed his gear. Then he exchanged some words with Mr. Jennings, the sports agent who wasn’t his agent, and came jaunting back over to me.

“Why don’t you come back to my place?” he said. “I’ll take a quick shower and then we can walk up to Louie’s and get some pizza. I know you’ll be craving pizza.”

“Are you sure you want to do that?” I asked. “I mean, I’m up for it, but tomorrow is a big day for you.”

“Sure. It’ll help me relax and get to sleep.”

“Um, well, okay, but hold on a second. I’m hungry and I definitely want some pizza. But right now what I want is to get a hot dog before they close up the concession stand.”

When I finally returned eating the thing, Ethan just looked at me.

“How can you put something like that in your stomach?” he asked, frowning at me. “Those things are totally gross and they’re coffin nails too.”

“Oh, come on,” I responded. “Not all of us can have a perfect body like you, Ethan,” I responded. “Besides, I’m hungry and the dog is just a vehicle for getting the mustard into my system. You know how much I crave mustard.”

He shook his head one final time and then the two of us walked back to his house where I waited downstairs while he showered.

I told his Mom about the game and how Ethan had helped his cause big time that evening. She seemed kind of tense and nervous and I could understand why; but I think hearing how well he had done helped relax her and that made me happy.

When it came to Moms, Ethan’s Mom was the best.

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