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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.
That afternoon I took extra batting practice, so much extra practice that Coach Gilmore finally gave up.
“Hey,” he shouted in the direction of the pitching staff, most of whom were standing around down the left field line tossing the ball back and forth. “If I have to throw any more balls to Ethan here, my arm’s going to fall off. Which one of your guys wants to throw him some pitches?”
“I can do it,” Jerry responded.
I guess I should have been suspicious the moment he volunteered. Jerry was probably Dylan’s very best friend on the team, but I felt like I needed the extra practice to get my timing down and beggars can’t be choosers. He began with a couple of lazy curve balls and I laced them pretty good. It didn’t surprise me when he came with a fastball next. What surprised me was where he located it.
He aimed it directly at my head.
It was like the whole thing was happening in slow motion and I remember ducking away at the very last moment. But it had been close, too close, and it had been deliberate, not an accident; I could feel the anger rising inside me. I don’t know exactly what happened next, but later D.W. told me I headed toward the mound clutching my bat.
What I recall was a pair of arms wrapping themselves around me and pulling me back from the mound, from which Jerry was slowly retreating backward. The arms belonged to Mark.
“Let me go,” I shouted. “That bastard tried to bean me.”
“I know,” Mark replied, “and I’ll take care of that.”
With that he passed me off to D.W. and walked the few remaining steps up and over the mound. Everyone was staring at Mark, wondering what was going to happen next. Looking over to the dugout, I could see Grady taking everything in but he didn’t make a move to put a stop to any of it.
“I know something about being hit in the head, Jerry,” Mark said, pushing the dude several feet further back from the mound with his hands.
“Been there, done that, know what it feels like. If you ever throw at one of the guys on this team again, I’ll personally take a bat and shatter that no account arm of yours into a thousand pieces so you’ll never be able to pick up a baseball again, let alone throw one.”
“Don’t listen to that washed up loser,” Dylan shouted, approaching the mound.
I was stunned when Mark reached out, grabbed him by his shirt and lifted him off the ground, all in one single swift motion.
“As for you, you fucking asshole, mind your own fucking business.”
And with that he tossed Dylan back three or four feet, almost causing him to fall to the ground.
By that time Grady was approaching the mound.
“Jerry, go take a shower and go home. I don’t want to see that sorry ass of yours around here for the rest of the day. You won’t be getting paid for the day either. Dylan, you got enough to worry about without butting your nose into what isn’t your business. Go back to your position and get in your reps.”
That was pretty much the end of the whole thing. I remember walking around the outfield with D.W. for a long time, sharing all my frustrations with him. Eventually he succeeded in calming me down. I went back to the locker room, borrowed Mark’s cell phone, and called my Mom to let her know I would finally be moving into a more permanent place.
She promised to bring some of my things up as soon as she could. I was looking forward to being in touch with Hunter again, at least via e-mail. I didn’t like the way the two of us seemed to be drifting apart. It was only later I learned Mark didn’t have wi-fi and I had to tell her not to bother bringing along my laptop.
We won again that night, our fourth win in a row, and I had a monster game. I must have had a lot of pent-up energy because I took it out on the ball, going four for four with two doubles. In the field, D.W. and I were in total synch by now and were anticipating each other really well. Nothing got by the two of us that evening and we even ended up turning a couple of double plays. For the first time since I had gotten there, the Heat had actually won in a blowout.
I was wound pretty tight that evening and even playing nine innings of ball hadn’t gotten it out of my system entirely. As I was walking toward the right field fence to take my place at the end of the autograph line, I heard a familiar voice.
“Hey you, number 34, you played real good tonight.”
I peeled off and walk over toward him.
“Thanks,” I said. “That’s pretty high praise coming from the best shortstop in Shoreham.”
He smiled when I said it.
“And don’t you forget it either, Ethan,” he responded. “But, hey, what can I say? Sometimes the other shortstops in town have a good night like you did this evening. I’m big enough to admit when somebody else has a good night.”
“Well, um, thanks,” I said. “That means a lot coming from you.”
“So I hear you’re moving in with Mark,” he continued. “Maybe I’ll see you around some time. I live pretty close by.”
I remember being surprised he knew I was moving, let alone where.
“Is there anything you don’t know about me?” I asked.
“I know everything about you, Ethan,” he responded, grinning.
I knew at some level he couldn’t possibly know everything. But by now his grin had turned into a smirk and something about the way he just stood there staring at me made me nervous nonetheless.
“Oh really, you do, huh; so what else do you know?” I replied.
“Just the important stuff,” he said, winking at me. “You know what I mean.”
That only made me more nervous.
“I see,” I responded.
“Now you got me worried, Zachary,” I added, uncertain what more to say.
In the distance I noticed a few people heading down the right field line toward where I would soon be standing. They seemed to be waiting for me and that gave me the escape I was looking for.
“Um well, look, I have to run,” I said. “It looks like I may have to sign some autographs tonight for a change and Coach won’t be happy if I keep people waiting. I’ll see you around, Zachary.”
“Oh, for sure,” he responded. “You will, Ethan. You’ll definitely see me around.”
Why does this kid make me so jumpy? I remember thinking. He seems nice enough, but for some reason I feel nervous just being around him.
I was sorry I had to put Zachary off like that, but he seemed to understand. The last time I looked he was leaving the stadium and I was sorry I couldn’t spend more time with him.
I had to sign quite a few autographs that evening, but eventually people drifted away. By the time I finished showering, the evening’s crowd had long since dispersed.
Later, after we got back to Grady’s place, I started packing my stuff.
“I’m sorry to see you going,” Brady said. “I like you. I wish you were staying here. It would be nice to have someone to talk to at night.”
“Thanks, Brady,” I responded. “I like you too. But it’s not like I’m going very far. We’ll still see each other every day and we’ll still be friends.”
Later, after we had climbed into bed, I heard him tossing and turning. I didn’t say anything, but eventually his voice broke the silence.
“Can I ask you something?” he said.
“Sure, I replied; “what’s on your mind?”
“Could you explain to me what a faggot is?”
I remember being surprised by the question. It was the last thing in the world I was expecting.
“What makes you ask that?” I responded.
“Well, um, it’s just that I’ve heard Dylan call you that a couple of times now; and I used to hear guys using that word all the time in high school before I graduated. In fact, there was a mean boy in school who used to call me that all the time. But I don’t really know what it means.”
“It doesn’t mean anything,” I responded, uncertain what I should say. “It’s just kind of an all-purpose insult people use sometimes to put someone else down and make them feel bad.”
“I get that,” Brady replied. “I’m not stupid. But it must mean something and something bad too. Otherwise, why would anyone feel bad about being called a faggot?”
I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond to Brady. I had come to like him a lot, but there were still times when he seemed a little strange to me. In some ways he was almost a grown up, but in others still just a sweet little kid; someone a little different perhaps but nice. Somehow he seemed to have managed to avoid most of the nastiness the world can serve up and I didn’t want to do anything to change that.
The thought of filling him in on just how cruel people could be wasn’t very appealing to me; and yet it was apparent he didn’t know what the word meant and didn’t like being clueless that way. He hated it when people treated him as if he was retarded, which he wasn’t. But those of us who liked Brady wanted to protect him as well.
“Well, like I said, it’s an insult and not a very nice one either,” I finally replied. “Sometimes guys use it as a name for boys who like other boys.”
“I like other boys,” Brady responded, earnestly. “I like D.W. the most, but I like Mark and you and some of the other guys on the team. Does that mean I’m a faggot?”
“No, not at all, Brady,” I responded, and I could see just how hard this was going to be.
“It’s about boys who like boys in a special way; like them sexually, not just being everyday friends like you and I are.”
“Oh, I see,” Brady responded, although I wondered whether he really did.
He was silent for a few moments and I thought perhaps he had fallen asleep. But then he piped up again.
“I wish I understood sex better,” he finally continued. “I mean, I asked my Dad once and he gave me a long talk, but it was very confusing and I didn’t really understand what he was talking about. So later I asked D.W. what sex was and he just said that it was what boys and girls did to have babies.”
“I don’t think I could ever have a baby, at least not anytime soon, because I have a hard time taking care of myself. Trying to take care of a baby would be hard I think.”
“It would be, Brady,” I responded, softly.
For all my own sexual anxiety and confusion over the years, I remember wondering how hard everything must seem to someone like Brady.
“I mean, I guess I’m confused again by what you told me, that boys could like other boys sexually. Can two boys have a baby too? D.W. didn’t tell me that.”
“He didn’t tell you that because two boys can’t have a baby, Brady. You need a boy and a girl to make a baby; although two boys could raise a baby together, just like two girls could, or a boy and a girl.”
“That’s pretty confusing, Ethan,” he responded and I was glad when he lapsed into silence again because I wasn’t sure it was any of my business to be trying to answer his questions in any event.
A couple of minutes passed and again I thought Brady had fallen asleep. Then he suddenly posed still another question out of the blue.
“So are you?” he asked.
I had been on the verge of falling asleep when he piped up and didn’t have a clue what he was asking.
“Am I what?” I responded, startled back to consciousness.
“Are you a faggot?” he asked.
He had asked without a hint of maliciousness in his voice and there was something about the way he asked that almost made me laugh. But I knew he was being serious so I tried to give him a serious answer.
“Well, first of all, Brady, I’ve already told you that faggot is mostly used as an insult so it really isn’t a term we should be using at all. It isn’t nice and it tells a lot about someone who uses that word. It’s a good sign you’re dealing with someone who’s mean and bigoted.”
“A better word to use for a boy who likes boys is gay,” I continued. “But it’s never polite to ask someone whether they’re gay or not.”
“Why not?” Brady responded. “Is there something wrong with being gay?”
“Well, no, I don’t think so,” I replied, wondering how I had gotten myself into this situation.
“But some people think there is. You might want to ask your Dad what he thinks; or D.W. or Mark or some of the rest of the people you know you can trust. They might have a different opinion than me. But the point is that sex is something that’s supposed to be kind of private, between two people. It’s not something you go around discussing a lot.”
“Does it bother you that Dylan calls you a faggot?” Brady asked, frustrating my efforts to bring an end the conversation we were having.
“Yes,” I said, “it does. Partly because it shows he doesn’t like me and I don’t know what I ever did to make him dislike me. And partly because of what other people like you might think when he calls me that.”
“Well, I just think Dylan is mean,” Brady continued. “That’s what I think. I’ve always thought that about him from the day he arrived. And it wouldn’t bother me even if you did like boys. Like I said, I like boys too. So it would just mean we were the same that way.”
It was clear Brady had gotten part of what I had been trying to tell him, but not everything; and yet somehow it didn’t seem important to try explaining it to him again. He had gotten the main point, that calling someone a faggot was an insult and that Dylan was just being nasty, which he already knew. And I had managed to get through the conversation without letting him know I was gay. I don’t know why, but it didn’t seem like it was important for him to know that.
But it did make me wonder whether someone like Brady would ever be able to have a meaningful sex life; at least until I recalled that the two of us were the same age and I didn’t have a meaningful sex life myself. For all I knew, he might have a better sex life than me because I didn’t really have any sex life at all, which was frustrating.
That was the end of our conversation that evening; and the next morning Brady helped me carry my things to the car. It was funny. I had been anxious to get out of that place from the very first night. But now that I was finally about to move out, I remember thinking I was going to miss living with Grady, his wife and Brady.
I liked them. They were good people.
Later that day I ran into D.W. at lunch.
“What the heck did you and Brady talk about last night?” he asked, grinning at me like crazy.
“What do you mean?” I responded.
“What I mean is that Brady came by this morning and asked me whether there was anything wrong with being gay. He said you told him to ask me.”
“It’s a long story, D.W.,” I responded, returning his grin.
“I mean, last night I was laying there in bed minding my own business when Brady asked me out of the blue what a faggot was; and then one thing led to another and before you know it I guess I furthered his understanding of sex, at least a little. Though I wasn’t the first one to do that it seems; from what he told me, you were the one who told him that sex was what boys and girls did to make babies when he asked you about it.”
“I did tell him that,” D.W. replied, sighing. “I mean, Brady is just such a nice innocent boy. He looks like he’s fourteen years old to me, but the truth is he’s about the same age as you and me. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s experienced some of the same, um, well, some of the same urges as you and me. I don’t know that he has for sure, but trying to explain sex to him? I just don’t know how to do that. I mean, I’m not his father or his mother after all.”
“I understand,” I replied, sympathizing with him. “From what Brady told me last night, Grady did try to explain sex to him once, but without much apparent success, I guess.”
“Why am I not surprised?” D.W. responded, smiling. “I have a hard time imaging Grady and his wife having sex at all, but apparently they did, at least once. I guess Brady is living proof of that.”
Hearing D.W. say that made me laugh.
“Well, um, yeah, I guess I know what you mean. I felt the same way last night. Do you think we should talk to Grady about it?”
“What we, white man?” D.W. asked. “There is no way in hell I’m going to tell Grady he needs to do a better job explaining sex to Brady. I mean, ordinarily, if it was some other kid, I would go buy him a book that explains all of that stuff. But you know Brady. He doesn’t read very well. That’s just not how he learns.”
“I know,” I responded.
“Maybe you should get him a picture book” I added, grinning. “Either that or show him in person.”
“Jeez, Ethan, don’t even say something like that,” D.W. responded, flustered. “Someone might overhear and think you were serious. There is no way I could ever do something like that. I mean, it would be like trying to teach sex to my twelve year old brother. It would be so embarrassing.”
“Maybe Nicky could find him a girl to teach him about that stuff,” D.W. added; and for a moment I thought he was seriously considering the proposition.
“Or maybe we should talk to Mark,” he continued. “He might have a better idea what to do.”
“That’s a good idea,” I responded. “I’m actually moving in with Mark after the game tonight. Grady arranged it and I’m looking forward to it.”
“In any event, I don’t think I did any permanent damage last night, at least I hope not,” I added. “Brady seems to understand that gay is the word to use for boys who like other boys, not faggot. And I guess he’s heard pretty much the same thing from both of us, that there’s nothing wrong with that. The fact that Dylan doesn’t share that view probably only reinforces it for him given how much he dislikes Dylan.”
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t think you traumatized the kid either,” D.W. said. “You may even have done him some good. He’s not stupid, Ethan, and, like I said, he may even have some of the same urges. I just hope he doesn’t go out and do something crazy. Do you think he knows how to jack off?”
“Oh, God, I don’t even want to think about that,” I replied; “although now that you mention it, his father did say something about him going back to his bad old ways after I move out. I was wondering if that’s what he meant.”
“In any event, I don’t think Brady will do anything crazy,” I added. “He spends most of his time here with the team after all; and the rest of the time he seems to be with his Mom and Dad. I think he’ll probably be fine.”
That evening’s game was close, but we won again. I was glad for the team that we won, but at a personal level it seemed to me Dylan had more than kept pace in our little competition. He had an especially strong hitting game, getting three hits in four trips to the plate, including a double. But now I could also understand what D.W. had meant.
As I watched closely, I could see he had to cover more territory between short and third because Dylan lacked range in getting to balls hit to that side of the infield. That meant D.W. had to play further back; and because he did, one of the hitters on the opposing team was able to beat out an infield hit I didn’t think would have happened if I had been starting and D.W. could have played in closer.
But whether Grady would notice something small like that was hard to say. After the game he just mentioned I would be starting the next day.
Later we piled my stuff into Mark’s car and headed off for his place. It was on the outskirts of Shoreham, about a twenty minute drive from the stadium. The place stood on a hill pretty much by itself, one of those old two story colonials with more room that anyone could ever possibly need.
I was surprised at just how nice it was when we walked in. After I climbed the stairs and tossed my stuff into the spare bedroom that Mark pointed me to, he showed me around the place. It was big and had a lot of good features. But what I liked the most was that it had this really neat little loft that sat above the living room and the second floor. It had its own set of stairs to reach it; and once you had, you could sit and read a book there in privacy while still being able to keep an eye on everything going on down below.
“This is a really nice place,” I said. “I hope I’ll be able to afford something like this when I get older and better established.”
“And it isn’t even that expensive,” Mark replied. “My agent found it for me. Apparently the owner is a big fan of the Heat. When my agent told him who I was, he was willing to cut me a really great deal. So I’m not really paying as much as you might think.”
“But I’m glad you’ll be living here with me to be honest,” he continued. “This place is kind of big. I took it at the time because I was hoping I would be able to persuade Jen to move in here with me full time. She likes big old colonials like this.”
I didn’t say anything in response to that. I knew just from listening to the guys shoot the breeze that Jen was Mark’s girlfriend and that their relationship was an unusually tempestuous one to say the least.
“But she won’t,” he added, sighing; “won’t move in with me, that is. I guess city living agrees with her and she really likes her place up in Baltimore. Every once in a while she’ll come down here and spend a couple of days with me. But usually I’m the one trying to find the time to get up to Baltimore to see her.”
“And you’re in luck that way, actually,” he continued. “We have an afternoon game tomorrow and then the day after that we have off before we start another road trip. So I’m going to take off after the game tomorrow and head up to Baltimore. I’ll be spending the next two nights up there before coming back here early Friday morning.”
“The bottom line is you’ll have this place to yourself,” he continued. “Just don’t go throwing some wild party while I’m away, Ethan. I don’t want to come back to find this place wrecked. Understood?”
“I would never do something like that,” I responded, trying to reassure him. “I won’t be a problem living here with you, Mark. I promise; and if your girlfriend comes down for a visit, don’t hesitate to ask me to butt out for a couple of days. I’m sure I can find someone to put me up so the two of you can have more privacy.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Mark responded. “It’s not like either one of us is the shy type. This place has plenty of room so it won’t be a problem having you here. As long as you can put up with all the moaning and groaning,” he added, smiling at me.
“By the way, there’s a bus that goes by down at the bottom of the hill every thirty minutes or so. It’ll drop you off directly in front of the stadium and you can also catch it there for the ride back out to this place if need be. So it’s not like you have to depend on me to get back and forth.”
By that time it was getting late so we retired to our respective bedrooms. The place was out in the middle of nowhere and the only sound came from the crickets chirping. I must have been tired because I fell asleep quickly.
After finishing up my usual routines at the stadium the next morning, I joined D.W. and Brady for an early lunch before we headed out on to the field before the game.
By now the three of us were pretty much having lunch together every day; and although some of the other guys would join us from time to time and were always welcome, the three of us were the core of the group and we seemed to enjoy shooting the breeze together.
“So I hear we have a day off tomorrow,” I said at one point.
“What are you going to do tonight and tomorrow, D.W.?” I asked. “Something exciting I hope.”
“Oh, man, tell me about it,” he responded. “Usually I just end up doing pretty much nothing. I have to live the most boring life in the world, but I just never know what to do with myself when we don’t have a game.”
“There’s that new movie playing in town. Maybe I’ll take that in tonight. Do you want to tag along, Ethan?”
“Are you talking about the new Harry Potter movie?” Brady interjected.
“That’s the one,” D.W. responded. “They say it’s pretty good.”
“That sounds like a good possibility,” I said, “but what about tomorrow? I heard that there was a college in this town. I’ve been meaning to check that out. I mean, I keep thinking it might be a good idea to try to take some courses; you know, earn some credits toward a college degree for when I’m not playing ball anymore.”
“Shoreham College,” D.W. offered. “And, yeah, I know what you mean. I thought about doing that when I first got here. But it’s really hard. Most of the evening courses are out because of all the night games we play. Fitting courses into the afternoon is hard as well for the same reason. So you’re pretty much confined to the morning; and it’s tough to get psyched up for some course after you’ve played a game the night before.”
“I heard there’s also a zoo in this place,” I said.
“I’ve been there,” Brady volunteered. “It’s pretty neat. I would be happy to show you guys around if you want.”
D.W. and I looked at one another momentarily. Up until that point, it had been clear the two of us had been exchanging ideas about something we might do together during our time off. Brady hadn’t really figured into the equation and I wondered how D.W. would feel about that.
“Um, well, thanks Brady,” he replied. “That would be cool; you showing us around the zoo, I mean. But how would your Mom and Dad feel about that? Maybe they have some plans for the three of you.”
“I doubt it,” Brady responded. “My Dad usually spends a day off like that just watching ball games on television or doing whatever chores my Mom assigns him.”
“I swear, that man has no life at all away from baseball,” he continued, as if he was trying to impress D.W. and me with his sophistication.
“It’s so boring spending the day at home with the two of them. By the way, in case you were wondering, that’s a hint; but if you guys don’t want me around I’ll understand,” he added.
I remember being surprised. It was apparent Brady knew what both D.W. and I were thinking; and it was as if he understood that he didn’t fit in exactly and was prepared to live with that because he was used to not being part of the crowd.
“Um, well, the zoo is a good idea,” D.W. said, looking over at me. “I would like you to show me that some time.”
“But it probably wouldn’t be my first choice for tomorrow,” he continued. “If we’re going to do something together, it should be something all three of us want to do.”
“Isn’t that right, Ethan?”
He was giving me a chance to back out if I wanted, but I was fine with his decision to include Brady in our plans.
“Sure,” I responded.
“You’re from Rehoboth Beach, aren’t you?” he asked, looking at me. “I’ve never been there myself. We could head up there and spend some quality time at the beach. At least that’s another possibility I suppose. Have you ever been to the beach, Brady?”
“Just once, when I was little,” Brady replied.
“But doing something like that would be totally awesome,” he added, and you could tell he was happy that D.W. and I had silently agreed to make him part of our little band of brothers in search of something to do.
“I don’t know,” I responded, cautiously.
I mean, the thought of getting back home and seeing my Mom and Hunter was appealing, no doubt about it. But I didn’t want to get too excited about the possibility.
“That would be great for me, but the bus takes forever to get from here to there.”
“We wouldn’t have to take a bus,” D.W. replied. “We can drive. I have a car. Not much of a car, admittedly, but it runs and I expect it would get us there and back.”
“And I could pay for the gas,” I said, cautiously warming up to the idea; “and I’m sure my Mom would feed us a good home cooked meal and everything; and there’s room enough for the three of us at my house. In fact, we could leave after the game this afternoon if you want. That way we would have most of the day at the beach tomorrow before having to come back in the evening.”
“Then it’s settled,” D.W. chimed in; “although you’ll need to ask your Mom and Dad whether it’s okay for you to join us, Brady.”
“I’ll ask the Skipper after lunch,” he quickly said, and you could sense the excitement in his voice; “first thing after lunch. I would really like to go to the ocean and play in the sand and try surfing and all of the rest of it with you guys.”
“Well, let me know what he says as soon as you can, Brady,” I responded, winking at D.W.
“I’ll call my Mom once I hear to let her know we’re coming.”