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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. August 12: I’m back from the beach for a few days and decided to post this chapter. Like most things, it could have benefited from more editing, but I decided to go ahead and post it nonetheless just to keep us moving forward.
There comes a point during every long bus trip when guys can’t take being confined to their seats anymore and start wandering around aimlessly, looking for someone to talk to or something to do; anything to relieve the tedium and boredom. So it didn’t come as a surprise when Nick Galifinakis eventually made his way to the back of the bus. Nick was our first baseman and one of the more popular guys on the team.
Like Mark, he was a tall guy and bulked up as well. Some of the guys called him Greek, but most just called him Nicky. He had big eyes, nice teeth, curly black hair, an olive complexion, and a mole that gave his chin a distinctive look; and all of that framed an expression that seemed unusually contemplative, at least until you actually got to know the dude. In reality, he was a party animal with a lot of pop to his bat, at least when he connected.
He wore a diamond stud in his earlobe, favored Hooters t-shirts, and was widely considered the team’s number one ladies man. I had seen a lot of teenage girls at Lloyd H. Fisher stadium flashing him a glimpse and usually more than just one. He would smile and flirt with them endlessly, but was known to like playing the field. By all accounts, he had broken more than one heart.
As he approached, it was apparent he was concealing something behind his back, but I didn’t have a clue what.
“Nicky,” D.W. shouted as he got closer. “What have you got for me, Nicky?”
“Have you been good, D.W.?” Nick responded, grinning. “Have you done what you told me you would?”
“I’ve been extremely good,” D.W. said. “I’ve been so freaking good it would disgust you, Nicky. I need something bad to look at before I go stark, raving, crazy on this trip; and, yeah, definitely, it’s a go. She said yes so you have yourself a date for the evening.”
The first part of D.W.’s remarks had made Nicky laugh, but the second part brought a leer to his face.
“Well then I guess I’ve got just what the doctor ordered.”
“Here,” he said, handing a magazine to D.W. and grinning.
“It’s the latest edition, hot off the press, and it’s bad, D.W., very bad; just what you need.”
“Oh, jeez, thanks, Nicky,” D.W. said, and by now he was grinning as well. “You know how much I like your porn magazines.”
“Yeah, I do,” Nick responded. “And I don’t mind sharing either. But you got to stop being so cheap and buy some yourself, D.W. I’m tired of being the one that keeps you in porn.”
“I understand,” D.W. said.
“But I don’t make the big bucks like you, Nicky,” he added. “I mean, you’re the man and everyone knows it. You have absolutely the best taste in porn of anyone on the team. This team couldn’t function without you, dude; both of us know that. And I did come through for you like I promised after all. That should count for something.”
Nick grinned, nodded his agreement and walked back toward the front of the bus.
D.W. leafed through the magazine quickly, at one point pulling out the centerfold and staring at her momentarily.
“Nicky loves girls with big racks,” he said and then started giggling.
“And this broad has an incredibly big rack, don’t you think?” he added, showing it to me.
I looked at it and tried to pretend I was interested.
“Um, well, she’s definitely well endowed,” I said. “She’s lifting more weight there than I was when Mark started me out at the gym.”
D.W. laughed at my effort to be humorous and then tossed the magazine aside.
“It’s kind of funny, actually, me and Nicky being such good friends. He’s really into the porn. Me? It doesn’t do that much for me to be honest. But Nicky likes to have a buddy he can share with. I don’t know why he picked me, but he did and now he considers me the biggest stud on the team after himself.”
“I told him I would call a girl I knew in Asheville and see if she would go to the movies with him tonight. Don’t ever tell him I said it but, from what I’ve heard, he’s really just a big pussycat when he’s out on a date with a girl. Treats them real nice; always ready for a roll in the hay, but doesn’t force himself on anyone. Like I said, it’s funny given the reputation.”
“And speaking of reputations, that reminds me. We still need to get a story together for you; perhaps something involving some tragic love affair with a dame that’s left you totally shattered and incapable of looking at another woman.”
“Is it that transparent?” I asked, trying to turn it into a joke even as I wondered whether D.W. or anyone else on the team suspected the truth; that I really wasn’t interested in women.
“A little,” he replied, laughing. “I’ve noticed you’ve got a big following among the teenage girls over on our side of the field when you play, even bigger than mine to be honest. Those girls are definitely hot for you, dude. And while I realize you’re still trying to get settled in, you should probably pay a little more attention to them so no one takes Dylan seriously; if you care what people think, that is. You don’t have to, at least not with me.”
“I’ll be sure to do that,” I said, reminding myself I needed to take D.W. up on that suggestion. “Thanks for the advice.”
It was just about then that Brady wandered back our way again. His dad had been trying to keep him entertained upfront but, like everyone else, he was bored. I remember being surprised when D.W. handed him the magazine.
“Here you go, Brady,” he said, giggling. “But don’t let the Skipper catch you looking at this stuff or I’ll be in a heap of trouble.”
“Ugh, she’s gross,” Brady said, staring at the picture of the centerfold. “How the hell does she stand up straight carrying those things around? I would go crazy if I had tits like that.”
‘“Well, that’s the point, Brady,” D.W. responded. “You don’t have tits like that. But you’re supposed to have sympathy and appreciate the girls because they do.”
“Forget about it,” Brady said. “I’ve told you a million times I like boys.”
“I know,” D.W. said. “You have told me that once or twice and that’s fine with me because I’m a boy and I like you, Brady. In fact, you’re my very favorite tickling machine.”
And with that he pulled Brady down on to the seat and started tickling him again. You didn’t have to be a genius to tell Brady liked that a lot more than Nicky’s latest magazine. And yet the whole thing made me wonder whether D.W. was trying so hard to be nice to Brady because he felt guilty about his own little brother.
Whatever the case, it didn’t really matter, at least not for me. There was something special between those two and I remember hoping I could be as good a friend to Zachary as D.W. was to Brady.
Later that afternoon it was Mark who came wandering back in our direction and I was glad to see him.
“It’s nice of you to sit back here with the rookie, D.W.,” he said.
“Well, you know me, Mark,” D.W. responded. “I may not be much of a third baseman, but I’m a hell of a nice guy.”
“You put yourself down too much,” Mark replied. “You’re a terrific third baseman, one of the best I’ve played with and I’ve played with some of the best. Truth is, you may be the best one of them all, at least when you’re out in the field. You just need to work harder on hitting the curve ball, that’s all.”
“Well, there you go,” D.W. responded. “I’ve been working on that for more than a year now, Mark. Grady tries. The batting coach tries. Hell, you’ve even tried. I just can’t seem to get the hang of the damn thing.”
“You know how this game is, D.W.,” Mark responded. “Some of it is physical for sure, but a lot of it is mental. You’ve gotten yourself into a rut thinking you can’t hit the curve ball and now you’re pressing too hard. You just need to relax. If you could learn how to do that, you might even make it all the way up to the big dance; and I’m not just saying that to make you feel good. I’m saying it because it’s true.”
“Thanks, Mark,” D.W. replied. “I’ll keep trying; but unlike Ethan here, there ain’t no way in hell I’ll ever be playing major league ball.”
Mark looked over and smiled at me and my heart just about exploded when he did that. Then he turned around and headed back to the front of the bus.
“I don’t get it,” I said. “What’s a guy with Mark’s talent doing playing down here in the Middle Atlantic League?”
“Yeah, that’s hard to believe, isn’t it?” D.W. said. “But the thing is, Mark is just so erratic. When he’s on his game, there isn’t a pitcher in this league that wants to face him. I mean, the guy literally destroys every pitcher he faces down here when he’s feeling good. That’s why he gets so many walks. The pitchers down here are scared shitless of him and none of them want to face him when he’s on his game.”
“But then, when he’s not feeling well, when the headaches and the double vision kick in, it’s bad. He just has so much trouble seeing straight. I mean, don’t get me wrong. Even when the dude is half blind, he’s a better hitter than 90% of the guys on this team. But the pitchers catch on pretty damn quick when he’s not feeling well. They know they have a lot better chance of getting him out and that emboldens them.”
“It’s so sad. I’ve never seen anyone with more natural talent than Mark. He’s seen a million doctors, but none of them can seem to fix the problem. Honestly, I don’t think he’s even trying to make it back to the big dance at this point. He plays because he loves playing; and I think maybe he wants to manage down the road when his career is over. Hell, Grady already treats him like he’s one of the coaches.”
“Like I said, it’s sad. He just loves baseball so much.”
I guess we slept for another couple of hours and then the whole ordeal was finally over. We were on the outskirts of Asheville and pulling into the parking lot of the Motel 7 we were staying at. A couple of the guys let out a weak cheer and I was never so glad to get off a bus in my life. My ass was throbbing. It had been almost ten hours.
I waited patiently while the bus was unloaded, grabbed my duffel bag and headed toward the entrance.
“I’ll see you at the buffet they’ve going to set up down in the lobby, D.W.,” I said.
“Probably not,” he responded. “I have some things I need to take care of so you’re on your own this evening.”
I walked over to the table to pick up a key to the room. Since I was one of the last off the bus, I was also one of the last to get a key. Once I did, I lugged my bag up to the second floor, then down a long hall and around a corner.
The room to which Mark and I had been assigned was in the back of the building, away from the highway and all of the noise the buses, trucks and cars were generating. Except for our team, it seemed like everyone was just passing through on their way to somewhere else.
I used the key to open the door and walked in. Mark was already there, but I could see he was getting ready to leave.
“Um, well, I took this bed over here,” he said, pointing, “but you can have it if you want, Ethan.”
“No, that’s fine,” I responded. “They look equally shitty and uncomfortable.”
“I’m heading down to the buffet,” Mark added. “We can talk later on if you want.”
“Yeah,” I replied. “I would like to talk.”
After Mark left, I tossed my duffel bag on to the bed and opened it. I thought about hanging my clothes up in the closet, but noticed Mark hadn’t done so. He had just left his bag half opened on the floor and it looked like he was planning to live out of it. I wasn’t sure what to do so I stripped down and headed to the bathroom to take a quick shower.
After I finished freshening up, I returned to the room, retrieved a change of clothing and dressed.
“You’re not some freaking gypsy, Ethan,” I said to myself. “If you start behaving like one now just because it’s easy, you’ll regret it.”
With that I pulled the rest of the clothes out of my duffel bag. The shirts and pants I hung on the hangers in the closet. The underwear, socks and the rest of it went into the chest on the other side of the room. When I was done, I remember being proud of myself. I closed the bag, pushed it into the closet, and headed to the door. Then I walked down to a small room off of the lobby where the buffet had been laid out for the team.
To be honest, I wasn’t that hungry but I filled a plate anyway because I knew Grady would be on my case if he caught me not eating. Grabbing a bottle of water, I walked back to the lobby, then outside where a lot of the guys were eating.
Wanting to think about the conversation Mark and I would be having later that evening, I considered finding a place off by myself. But I was still new to the team; and being a rookie, I knew guys would be insulted if I was standoffish like that so I stopped at the nearest table with an empty seat and asked whether I could join them.
“We’re the low rent district,” Anthony Carridi said, looking up and smiling at me.
Anthony was our right fielder, a quiet dude without the kind of big arm or big bat you needed to play that position; but cute, very cute actually.
“You’re the hot prospect,” he continued. “You should be eating with the important people on this team, not us peons.”
“Are you smoking crack again, Anthony?” I asked, smiling at him while the other guys let out a laugh at what I had said.
“Me? Hot prospect; hell, if you haven’t noticed, I’m not even starting.”
“You will be soon enough,” he responded. “The old man doesn’t play favorites. He always starts the best player. You just have to show him you are.”
Having eased myself into the conversation, I pulled back and let the other guys carry it while I nibbled at my food. None of the guys at the table were what you would call my closest friends on the team, but they were pretty nice guys and I wanted them to like me.
Later, after I had finished, I excused myself and decided to take a walk. The sun was rapidly disappearing in the west; and while the evening was still warm, the western mountains in which we were nestled seem to dispel the humidity and made the walking pleasant and easy.
What I wanted to think about was how to handle my conversation with Mark when I got back to the motel. I tried to put myself in his shoes, to think how he would react; and the more I did, the more discouraged I became. As I thought about it, it seemed to me Mark could go one of several different ways, none of them good.
He could turn on me and be angry, call me names like faggot or queer. He could tell me I had taken advantage of him in his drunken stupor; that he would never have done something like that if he was sober, that he wasn’t a fairy like me. Unlike me, he could say, he had a girlfriend and what I had done disgusted him.
Maybe he wouldn’t threaten to out me if he didn’t want others to know what happened. But he could if he wanted to, just like he could make it clear we were never going to be friends; that he wanted me to keep my distance and move out of his place once we got back from the trip.
And yet that didn’t seem like the Mark I had come to know up until then.
So it was possible he could go a number of other ways, maybe even begin by apologizing. He could tell me it wasn’t anyone’s fault or maybe it was his fault for being drunk and stupid and then finishing up with a promise to never do something like that again. Or tell me how totally wasted he had been and how he thought it was Jen doing it to him.
Neither of those were what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear how much he had liked what had happened the previous evening, how totally hot I had been and how much he wanted the two of us to become better friends. And then I wanted him to sweep me into his arms and to renew the passion we had shared less than twenty-four hours ago; only better this time.
But I was pretty certain that wasn’t going to happen either and the question was how I should respond if Mark chose one of the two more likely alternatives.
Should I try to make him feel bad, accuse him of raping me and stealing my virginity? Should I try to guilt trip him, either into repeating what had happened the night before or, if he wasn’t willing to do that, into not outing me to the other guys and totally ruining my life?
If he apologized, should I just accept it and try to protect myself, claim that somehow I had gone temporarily insane and was totally embarrassed about the whole thing just like him? By playing that game, we could sweep the whole thing under the rug and pretend like it had never happened at all. Yeah, sure, it would always be there, hidden somewhere below the surface, but Mark seemed like a decent guy and I was pretty certain he would never try to use what had happened against me.
By now I was pretty far away from the motel and it was becoming apparent to me the answer I was looking for wasn’t going to reveal itself in the cool evening breeze. I needed to go back to the motel and have the conversation I was thinking about with Mark; and I also realized I needed to try to be an adult about the whole thing no matter what Mark said. The last thing I needed in my life was more drama.
I turned around and headed back toward the motel. As I entered the lobby, I saw D.W. and Nicky standing there talking to some girl. It looked like D.W. was delivering on his end of the bargain by setting Nicky up with a date and that made me cringe just a little. D.W. had said Nicky was a pussycat when he actually had a date, but I didn’t know Nicky well enough to know what would happen between him and that girl.
D.W. looked over at me and I rolled my eyes. But who the hell was I to judge? I mean, if D.W. knew what had gone down between Mark and me the previous evening, he would have been disgusted. As much as he disliked Dylan, he would have felt even more disgusted with me and there was a part of me that wouldn’t blame him for feeling that way.
I mean, it wasn’t exactly the way I had planned the thing in my dreams all these years. If I was being honest about it, it wasn’t anything like what I was hoping for. It had actually been kind of tawdry although I wasn’t really sure why.
I walked through the lobby quickly, took the stairs up to the second floor, found my way to the room, and used the key card I had been given to let myself in. As I entered, I could see Mark laying on his bed watching a baseball game on television. But he turned it off the moment I walked in.
“Where did you disappear to?” he asked. “I was looking for you after dinner and someone said they had seen you leaving the motel.”
“I decided to take a walk,” I replied. “I wanted to clear my head and stretch my feet. I’ve never been on a bus that long before.”
“Yeah, I can understand that,” Mark replied. “You never really get use to bus trips like that.”
“But now you’re back,” he added, looking for a way to ease into the conversation both of us knew we needed to have.
“I am,” I said.
“Okay, so what the hell happened last night?” he said, staring at me. “And why the fuck did it happen?”
It looked like he was going to take the angry route, the straight dude who had somehow been taken advantage of while he was drunk.
“From the tone of your voice, I’m pretty sure you already know what happened last night, Mark,” I responded.
“As to why, I guess I can only speak for myself. I was lonely. I’ve been lonely a long time. And then you kissed me and, well, I wanted not to be lonely anymore.”
“What about you, Mark?” I continued. “Why do you think it happened?”
“I don’t know,” he responded, glancing away. “I was pretty loaded last night, that’s for sure.”
“Oh please, Mark, don’t do this. Don’t blame it on being drunk. Don’t tell me you thought I was Jen. Do you really think that’s why it happened?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe not; but I’m real sorry it happened. If I could take it all back, I would, but I realize I can’t and I’m sorry about that. It was probably my fault, not yours. I just get so tense at times and need to find ways to let off steam.”
“Jen and I had fought the whole time I was in Baltimore. I was trying to persuade her to move in with me again, but she won’t. And then I drank too much out of frustration because the headaches were killing me. She drove me back to Shoreham and it didn’t end all that badly; but then she left and that brought back all the frustration.”
“You said something about never having been kissed. I don’t know what came over me exactly; more frustration, I guess, because I was hoping Jen would at least spend the evening and she didn’t.”
“I remember thinking that wasn’t right; I mean, you never having been kissed and then I kissed you and one thing led to another and, well, um, stuff happened. I’m sorry. I really am. I’ll understand if you decide you don’t want to room with me on this trip and want to move in somewhere else once we get back. In any event, it won’t ever happen again. I promise it won’t.”
I remember thinking it was all going down too predictably. Mark wanted both of us to acknowledge it was a mistake so we could sweep the whole thing under the rug, pretend it had never happened. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t want to let him off the hook that easily.
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that, Mark,” I said. “I mean, I’m sorry to hear it won’t ever happen again because I liked what happened last night, partly because it was the first time I ever did something like that. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. But mostly I’m disappointed because I got to do it with you, someone I really like and respect, and now you’re telling me you’re sorry it happened.”
“I’ll be honest with you, Mark. I would like to think it wasn’t the beer or the arguing with Jen either. I would like to think you kissed me because you like me. Knowing you like me would make me feel good. But I can’t tell you what to think or what to feel or what to do. Both of us are adults. You have to decide for yourself what you want out of life.”
“For me, it would be terrific if I could be part of your life. But if I can’t, if that’s too embarrassing or troubling or whatever, I can’t force myself into your life. I’ll have to accept whatever you decide.”
For all the different approaches I had thought about while walking, being totally honest with him was the last one I had expected to use. But what I had just told him was the truth and I wondered how he would react to that.
“Oh, jeez, don’t make me feel worse than I already do,” Mark replied. “Of course I want you to be part of my life, Ethan. You’re a great shortstop and a terrific dude on top of that. But, um, well, I mean, what I did to you was wrong.”
“You really didn’t do all that much, Mark,” I responded. “I mean, if you’ll recall, I was the one who went down on you. You didn’t go down on me and that’s fine. I mean, yeah, sure, I suppose you could have stopped me if you weren’t enjoying yourself. But I think you liked what we were doing, at least at the time, so it’s kind of disappointing to hear now that you think what we did was wrong.”
“What was wrong about it, Mark?”
“I’m older than you are, Ethan,” he responded. “I should have been the adult.”
“Oh, please, give me a break,” I responded. “Whatever else happens between us, let’s be honest with one another at least. You didn’t rape me, Mark. You didn’t seduce some innocent little boy in awe of the big league baseball player. Like I said, you may have initiated it with that kiss, but once you kissed me I was the one who made sure we took it as far as we did.”
“Okay, yeah, that’s fair,” Mark replied. “But it doesn’t make what happened right.”
“Nor does it make it wrong either, Mark,” I retorted. “I don’t think what we did was wrong. I think it was perfectly natural, at least for me; and that it was something good and beautiful and just about everything I was hoping my first experience with a guy would be like,” I added, lying for once to try to make it sound better than it had actually been.
“I don’t know, Ethan,” he responded. “I mean, I’m not . . . I’m not . . . .”
“You’re not what, Mark?” I replied.
“I’m not that way.”
“What way Mark?” I pressed. “You’re not gay? You’re not a faggot like me? Okay, maybe you’re not. Maybe you’re bisexual or something else entirely. Maybe you’re a lot of different things; all of these freaking labels we toss around to distinguish ourselves from one another end up blinding us to what we share in common. But, okay, I get it. You don’t want people to know. You don’t know exactly what you think about the whole thing. I don’t either.”
“But you’re not some kind of monster for having sex with me and you’re not clueless either. You enjoyed it; at least I think you did and I did as well because you’re a good person, Mark. I like you and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
“But look, like I said, if it’s something you can’t deal with psychologically, if it makes you question your masculinity or whatever, fine. We won’t do it again. But I know I’ll be sorry if we don’t and I’ll be disappointed if you don’t want to do it again.”
Mark looked away from me. I could tell he was having trouble figuring out what the right thing to say was. I wasn’t sure what to do. In the end, I walked over to the bed and stared down at him.
“I like you, Mark,” I said. “I like you a lot. You don’t have to do it to me. I’m not asking you to do that. But I would like to do it to you again right now and whenever you like because I know how tough it is not having Jen around and the headaches you have and all the rest of it. What’s the harm, Mark? I like it. You like it. Just think of it as a friend trying to help a friend relieve some of the pressures that build up.”
He was staring at me now, but I had no idea what he was thinking. I leaned over to kiss him and he turned his head away and I knew he was telling me that was something he couldn’t do. It was disappointing. But he didn’t resist when I started tugging on his shorts and soon enough I was down on my knees while he stood there in front of me, holding my head in place, feeding it into my mouth.
Then he got into it. Instead of just letting me do all of the work, he started those bucking motions that come naturally to guys. Having sex with Mark that evening was better; not everything I was hoping for, but at least neither one of us was pretending we didn’t like it or that it was some kind of accident or mistake.
It wasn’t love. I realized that; and I also realized at some level it might never be love.
But it was something; something both of us needed and when it was over we retired to our respective beds and I think both of slept a little easier that night for having done it.
It was something that made sharing a crummy motel room a little more tolerable.