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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. January 13: If you haven’t looked at my introductory note to this chapter already, you should probably do so now.
By now Labor Day had come and gone. While a lot of days were still warm and humid, you could feel the end of summer approaching.
The race to win the Eastern Division championship was still tight. Every game was important and I was reasonably content with how I was doing. Defensively, I was still playing well and by now I was beginning to hit better as I adjusted to major league pitching. Getting on base brought my speed into play and I was stealing a lot of bases, which added still another dimension to our offense.
Best of all, the guys on the team had accepted me and made me feel welcome. They were hungry to get to the playoffs and realized their chances of doing so were better now with me as their teammate. Being accepted like that as one of the guys was important.
A lot had happened and quickly; the trade, the call up, the new contract, even the new car and digs. I should have been happy; or if not completely happy, at least satisfied. But I wasn’t. Some folks would say I was being ungrateful, but they hadn’t gone through what I had for the last four years. They thought I was leading some kind of fantastic life, but I really didn’t have much of a life at all.
What I had was baseball, a game I had been playing all of my life and one I still enjoyed playing. I liked the challenges it provided; the one on one test every time I stepped into the batting box and faced off against a pitcher, the challenge of guarding my assigned territory in the field. But what I didn’t have away from baseball was much of a life, at least as far as I was concerned.
Years of playing professional ball had exacted a price. Thinking back on it, the fun part of baseball had always been playing the game with friends, but now I didn’t have friends anymore. I had teammates and business associates, lawyers and accountants, an agent; even maids to help keep my place clean.
Most of my teammates were older than me. Many were already married and had kids. They had been young once like me and enjoyed socializing with their teammates, but now they didn’t have very much time for that, especially with someone new and younger like me. Between playing the game and managing their money, the demands of the job, and the wife and the kids, they were preoccupied with other things and I understood that.
But understanding the reasons didn’t make it any easier for me to deal with. This was the first time I had ever lived in a big city like Washington and I thought maybe just living there would change everything for me. Knowing I had a three year deal in place, I was anxious to make some friends. I had asked one of my younger teammates, Dale Miller, what was available in Washington for guys like us who were single. He mentioned a couple of places.
“Renaissance is the biggest dance club in town, the place where most of Washington’s beautiful people hang out; and then there’s Buzz, of course. That’s probably the trendiest.”
“It’s also more of an acquired taste,” he added, grinning. “Nice place, big crowds on the weekends, and diverse; you’ll see a little of everything there: girls who want to be guys, guys who want to be girls, black, brown, white, and everything in between. It can get pretty loud though and the cover is steep on the weekends.”
And then he pointed me to a site on the internet that explained the Washington social scene in more detail. I had visited that site a couple of times already trying to figure out what to do next. Everything else had been happening quickly lately. It seemed to me having a little fun should happen quickly as well. I just wasn’t certain how to go about it exactly.
So there I was, home alone in my darkened townhouse late Friday evening after a game in early September. Looking out the window at the lights reflecting from the Washington skyline, a thought occurred to me. While I had never been entirely happy, happiness seemed to be further away than ever that evening.
Back in Rehoboth Beach, being around Hunter had made me happy. Yeah, sure, there had come a point in my life when I realized I would have been even happier if Hunter and I had been able to deepen our friendship. But I was so afraid of losing Hunter I had never been able to tell him the truth, to tell him I loved him. Not that it would have made a difference, of course; Hunter was straight.
In Shoreham there had been Mark. Mark had allowed me to do something I had wanted to do for a long time. But looking back on it now, I realized I was never in love with Mark the way I was with Hunter. I liked Mark. I admired him as a ball player and a human being. I wanted to be like him in many ways. He was quiet and strong and masculine, a good friend to all of his friends. I wanted to be like that as well; and he had provided an outlet.
In some ways I think Mark had diverted my attention from D.W. and Brady. I was attracted to each of them, but for different reasons. D.W. was my best bud on the team, kind of like Hunter in some ways, the guy who had my back; and I think I would have liked becoming best friends with him if he had been gay like me.
I knew there was something different about him, something buried deep within that he was keeping secret from me and everyone else. Mostly I thought it had to do with that religious wacko father of his, but there had been times when I wondered whether he might be gay.
But then I would catch him and Nicky ogling the teenage girls, exchanging some pretty detailed reviews about their racks and the rest of their assets. That was enough to put that to rest. Like I said, D.W. was like Hunter, into girls; although not nearly as successful as Nicky in bedding them from what I could tell.
Brady was incredibly sexy in his own way and just thinking about that made me ashamed of myself because he was really a kid after all, at least he was back then when I knew him. Sure, his body was beginning to mature and there were times when I fantasized about him. But I tried really hard to avoid doing that because I was drawn to him for another reason.
Much like D.W., who had a real little brother and considered Brady one as well, I felt like Brady was the little brother I had never had and wanted to protect him from all of the world’s nastiness. Protecting him from that helped protect me as well. It protected me from doing something that would have been wrong. I wanted D.W. and Brady to be part of my family; but like everything else, baseball had taken them away from me.
And then there was Dennis, a small, beautiful, boy in Columbia but an encounter that had gone terribly wrong, leaving me ashamed of myself in the process.
It was late August. Only a week remained in my second minor league season, this one playing in Columbia after my reassignment from the Heat earlier that year. It had been a long, frustrating, summer, partly because it had taken a while to adjust to playing AA ball, but mostly because I had taken Grady’s advice and hadn’t allowed myself to make any close friends.
I hadn’t even been able to get back home to Rehoboth Beach that summer to spend time with Mom, Zachary and Hunter. That only compounded my frustration. I was looking forward to the end of the season.
We had just gotten back from a road trip that afternoon and everyone was tired and wanted to go home, but there we were playing a pre-season exhibition game with the local high school team that Friday evening. From what they told me, it was a long-standing tradition, one of those things minor league teams did to build grassroots support in the local community.
It wasn’t really much of a contest. They had a couple of pretty good players, one or two of whom were apparently thinking about entering the draft the following year. But they weren’t much of a matchup for us and our coach had told us to take it easy on them in any event; make them feel competitive, he said, so they can go away feeling good about themselves. That was fine with me.
We won 5 to 2; and then after the game a few of us had volunteered to follow the high school boys down to the local pizza place and share our own experiences with them, no coaches allowed. They wanted to know what the draft was all about and how it worked exactly; what it was like to play in the minor leagues; the usual stuff that high school boys who played baseball were interested in learning more about.
We had arrived and been ushered to a group of tables at the back of the place. I had just taken a seat at one of the tables and was settling down when one of the boys from their team let out a shout.
“Homo alert! Homo alert!”
That brought forth a wave of laughter from the rest of the boys. Curious, I turned to the kid sitting next to me.
“What’s that all about?” I asked.
He pointed to a boy in an apron approaching our tables from the other side of the restaurant.
“That dude’s a fag and a real effeminate one. He works here and it’s a fucking shame he’s the one that’s going to be waiting on us. None of us like him.”
“Why not?” I asked.
The kid looked at me strangely for a moment, as if I was the densest person in the world.
“Because he’s a fag; why would we like him?”
The kid he was talking about was thin and small, a couple inches shorter than me. He didn’t look like Hunter that much, but he had a body that was similar in some ways; not skinny exactly, but it hadn’t really begun to fill in and develop. He was cute; and while it was hard to tell for sure, it seemed liked he was about my age.
“I see,” I said, responding to the boy who had pointed the kid out to me. “I suppose it’s none of my business, but I’m not a big fan of racial, sexual or other epithets myself. I’m a big fan of live and let live.”
“Whatever,” the kid replied, shrugging his shoulders. “Jason, that’s the dude who just shouted out that homo alert, hates fags more than most; but get a few guys together on a Friday night, especially a group like us who play sports, and you can pretty much count on that bringing out the testosterone in us. They’re going to torture that kid. Just watch. It’ll be funny and I don’t see the harm in it. He’s a fairy for crying out loud.”
By now the waiter was standing in the middle of the tables where we were sitting. He was trying not to display any emotion, but you could tell he didn’t really want to be there.
“My name is Dennis and I’ll be your server tonight,” he announced. “Do you know what you want yet?”
“I know what I want, Dennis,” one of the boys responded, loudly.
Then, in an exaggerated manner, he rubbed his thigh and his groin.
“Do you think you can take care of that for me, Dennis?” the boy asked, producing a cascade of laughs.
The kid just stood there impassively.
“I can come back later if you’re not ready to order,” he said.
“That apron looks perfect on you, Dennis, real sexy,” another one of the boys chimed in. “Doesn’t it guys?”
That brought forth still another round of laughter and a couple of whistles.
“Personally, I think a skirt would show off your legs better, Dennis,” he continued, “but, yeah, we know what we want, sweetie. We want four large cheese pizzas, two with pepperoni, one with onions and mushrooms, and one plain.”
“Can we get one of those with sausage too?” still another boy piped up.
“The toppings are a dollar extra for each,” the waiter responded, trying to ignore all the comments and laughter being directed at him.
“Well, forget about it, then, Dennis,” still another boy commented. “I hear the sausages here are pretty small.”
“Yeah, tiny” another chimed in. “You probably would need a microscope to see how small they are.”
The whole thing was brutal. They were ragging on that kid really bad while he walked around the tables collecting drink orders, but he never reacted at all. When he got to our table, he went around it, finally stopping and looking at me at the very end.
“Drink?” he asked, impassively.
“Just water, thank you,” I replied.
I had been the only one at our table to say thank you and I wondered whether he would notice that not everyone was interested in tormenting him.
“You’re welcome,” he responded before turning and walking away.
It was hard to tell whether he had noticed or was just being polite.
That was pretty much the end of it for the time being. The conversation quickly turned to other things; first to the game we had just finished playing and how, with a couple of breaks, they could have taken us down; then to the draft and all of the rest of the questions they were curious about; and finally to how greasy the pizzas were, how the owner was cheap with the toppings, how Dennis was such a girl and wasn’t that gross and how could any guy do shit like that, suck another dude’s cock, take it up his ass, whatever.
I thought about saying something a couple of times when it got really bad, but realized it was hopeless in this group. I was a stranger after all and even some of the guys from our team were laughing along with them. I didn’t join in the laughing and tried to keep them focused on their baseball questions as best I could, but at one point I remember glancing over at the waiter as he began clearing some of the dishes away from one of the tables directly across from me.
He didn’t do anything to call attention to the fact we were staring at one another, but he looked deeply into my eyes and for some reason I remember thinking he was sad. I didn’t know for sure whether he was acknowledging me in some way by holding my glance like that.
But soon enough I remember feeling ashamed of myself for some reason I didn’t understand or perhaps just didn’t want to acknowledge. I turned away, embarrassed at having invaded his privacy like that.
And yet I had seen enough on a second glance to know he was even better looking than I had originally given him credit for. He wasn’t physically imposing at all and in some ways he was almost feminine; his hands were small and beautiful like a woman’s, for example. Yet, for all his physical slightness, there was something that attracted you to him.
To me he had a beautiful face, soft and almost girlish in some ways. He had killer eyes and a gaze that was piercing and unrelenting when he chose to bestow it on you. He had blond hair that was cut short and a nice tan on his arms, legs and face. His cheekbones were high, his teeth even and white, his mouth small; and if he was like most of the guys I was attracted to, I suspected he had a killer smile as well even though he never smiled at all that evening.
An hour passed and then a second; by now most of the guys from our team had quietly left. I was the last one still there; and being the last, the attention of the high school players who remained was focused on me. But at some point I noticed the waiter had disappeared, only to reemerge in his dress clothes and walk toward the door.
I guess his shift must have been over and he had decided not to wait around for the tip, which struck me as odd because we were such a large group; and then I realized what he already knew, that these boys weren’t planning on leaving a tip for him. I remember feeling bad about that because he had worked hard and done his best to serve us. It seemed unfair.
There was a part of me that wanted to look over and acknowledge his departure, but too many guys were talking to me. They would have noticed if I had done something like that so he left without receiving any acknowledgement from me for the time and effort he had put in waiting on us.
I stayed a little while longer; and then looking up at the clock, I remarked how it was getting late and I needed to leave. There were still about four or five guys there and they thanked me for spending so much time with them.
“You’re almost like us,” one of them said. “You’re about the same age, the same size. You could still pass for being in high school. Maybe we can sneak you on to our team for a couple of games and finally win a championship once and for all.”
“Um, well, I’m not really like you at all,” I responded. “Better to win it without me so you don’t have to share it with a stranger, especially one you don’t know anything about.”
It was my little way of telling them I was different, more like the boy who had waited on us than like them. But it was indirect and obscure enough that they didn’t pick up on it; and so, after one final round of good-byes, one refused offer from one of the boys to drive me back to the building where a lot of my teammates and I shared apartments, I stood up and walked out the door.
It was actually a pretty nice evening for that time of year. Usually August in Columbia overpowered you with its heat and humidity, but it was comfortable that evening. All that remained was some leftover warmth from the day and that made the walking pleasant enough.
I had taken a shortcut through one of the parks that would get me to the apartment building where I lived all the quicker. I was perhaps two of three blocks away from the building and approaching the other side of the park when I spotted the waiter from the pizza restaurant.
He was just sitting there on a bench staring into the basin of a little fountain; and since it would have been out of my way to try detouring around him, I looked down at the sidewalk and decided to try walking past him without saying anything. I told myself I didn’t want to invade his privacy, but I guess I was still embarrassed about how shabbily our group had treated him.
I was already a couple of feet past him and thought I had succeeded in going unnoticed when I heard the words.
“I’m not contagious, you know. You won’t contract AIDS just by looking at me; just by acknowledging I exist.”
The tone wasn’t harsh or bitter; he wasn’t condemning me. Instead, the words seemed to convey a sense of disappointment in me. There was something about them that made me feel ashamed of myself.
“Excuse me,” I said, turning around and looking him. “Were you talking to me?”
“I don’t see anyone else around here,” he replied. “Do you?”
“No,” I said, acknowledging we were alone.
“Um, well, look; I’m sorry. I thought you wanted to be alone and didn’t want to intrude on your space; and, um, I apologize for what happened back at the restaurant. Could I give you something for waiting on us?”
I realized the moment I said it I was offering him guilt money, money to make up for the lack of courage I had shown back at the restaurant. But he didn’t call me on it by responding to that. Instead he focused on something else I had said.
“I’m alone most of the time,” he responded. “In fact, I’m alone all the time. I understand some guys feel threatened by me, but I don’t know why. I don’t think I look very threatening. Do you? I mean, I’m not as tall as you, as ripped as you, or muscular like you. I’m kind of effeminate. I know that; a wimp. That’s what everyone says when they’re being nice. Why are guys threatened by me?”
It made me feel even worse.
“Um, well, I don’t feel threatened by you,” I responded. “Why would I be? I don’t know you at all.”
“Would you like to?” he asked.
“Like to what?” I responded.
“Would like to know me better,” he replied, “biblically or just as a human being; your choice?”
“Why would I want to know you biblically?” I said, taken aback by his strange choice of words.
“Because you’re gay, like me; but don’t worry. I won’t let anyone in on your secret.”
“How could you possibly know something like that?” I asked.
“Because I saw it in your eyes when you looked at me earlier tonight,” he said. “There was loneliness there, the kind I see in my own eyes when I look in the mirror; and there was a hunger there as well, something that isn’t there when I look at straight dudes.”
It was unsettling to hear him say that. I wondered whether others could see the same thing. Whatever might be the case, I tried to avoid conceding the point.
“Um, well, maybe you just saw something you wanted to see.”
“No, I don’t think so,” he replied. “But it doesn’t matter. I’m not trying to pick you up. I’m not even trying to make you tell me. I’m just trying to get you to acknowledge me at some human level. My name is Dennis. What’s yours?”
“Ethan,” I said.
“Nice to meet you, Ethan; you’re a very good looking guy.”
“Um, well, thank you,” I said. “You are too, Dennis.”
“I’m okay,” he said. “Not as good looking as you and definitely not in as good shape; I don’t play sports like you. I should exercise more and get myself in better shape. I know that. If I had a friend, someone who liked me, I might do that. But I don’t have a friend.”
“Well, you know what, Dennis?” I replied. “I don’t either.
I was surprised to hear myself telling him that. And then, for reasons I don’t understand, I found myself opening up to him.
“I used to have a friend when I was growing up. He wasn’t gay, but he was my very best friend in the world. But then I moved away to play baseball and it’s hard to make friends playing ball. The guys I play with are always coming and going; nothing ever stays the same very long. It can be kind of lonely at times. But, then again, I suppose you can be lonely just about anywhere, can’t you?”
“Yes; that’s true,” he said. “And I’m sorry to hear that; that you don’t have a friend. It surprises me because you’re very good looking. I would have thought you would have lots of friends.”
“No one should have to be lonely,” he continued. “Everyone should have a friend. Would you like to be friends tonight, Ethan?”
It was clear enough what he was asking and it surprised me although I was pretty certain he was expecting me to say no and I thought I would; but instead I surprised myself by saying something else, something that acknowledged he had been right in his assessment of me.
“It just wouldn’t work, Dennis” I said. “I don’t have my own place.”
“I share an apartment at that building over there with three other guys,” I added, pointing to the apartment building.
“I live over there too,” he said. “I have a one bedroom and live by myself; Apartment 224. So that really isn’t a problem. I’m headed over there now, Ethan. You’re welcome to come along if you want.”
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at that point. There was a part of me that was tired of being alone, that wanted to take him up on his offer. But something about it seemed wrong. Unsure what to do, I didn’t say anything. I just stood there staring at him.
“Or you can think about it,” he finally added. “If you decide you’d like to have a friend tonight, feel free to come by in five or ten minutes. I’ll leave the door unlocked; like I said, Apartment 224. I would like to be your friend if you need one tonight.”
“Do you need one, Dennis?” I asked. “Do you need a friend?”
“Um, well, I’ll think about it,” I said.
After he left I sat down on the bench and watched as he walked off toward the apartment building we shared.
This is Phoenix all over again, I said to myself. The only difference is that his place has got to be nicer and more private than that restroom; and he lives alone so there won’t be a Tyler there.
From there the debate raged within me.
You don’t know anything about this kid, Ethan, one voice whispered. He could be a psycho for all you know. It’s too dangerous to go into someone else’s apartment you don’t even know; and what if one of the guys saw you do that? Maybe he’s got a reputation that everyone in the building knows about. I mean, the high school boys know about him. Why wouldn’t everyone else?
Go home and take a cold shower for crying out loud.
He doesn’t seem like a psycho, another voice responded. He seems nice enough, just kind of lonely like you, Ethan. Being lonely isn’t a crime and it’s not like you need to do anything except try to get to know him a little better. No one’s forcing you to have sex with the dude. Wouldn’t it be nice to just know someone else who’s gay like you; not biblically, just as a human being?
Yeah, right; go ahead and delude yourself, Ethan, the first voice responded. You know why you’re thinking about going up to his place; if you decide to go up there, at least try to be honest with yourself about it, dude. You’re horny, Ethan. Both of us know it. That’s the only reason you’re thinking of going back to his place. And what would your mother think?
I’m not sure how long the debate raged back and forth like that. Finally I realized it wasn’t going to be settled here in the park. At some point I was going to have to go back to the apartment building.
Why not delay the decision until you get there, Ethan? That’s what you always do, isn’t it?
Standing up, I walked toward the building. There was no one in the lobby when I finally entered. I walked over to the elevator and stared at the button that would summon it for me. My apartment was in the other wing of the building, away from where Dennis lived. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Finally, unable to come to any conclusion, I decided to check my mailbox instead.
I was pretty certain there wouldn’t be anything waiting for me except some junk mail and I was right about that. I deposited it into the trash bin the building’s management had conveniently left there for us. Then I walked back out to the lobby and sat down on one of the couches.
It was a nice enough lobby, well-furnished, similar that way to a lot of apartment buildings that try to fool you with a nicely appointed lobby that doesn’t really reflect the sameness and dreariness of the apartments located above.
Why is this so hard to decide? I remember asking myself.
Because I don’t really know what I want, the answer came back. I wish there was someone I could talk to about all of this stuff, but Dennis? He’s just so different from me.
Are you sure about that Ethan? Is he really so different?
I was restless now, edgy. I stood up, walked outside, and looked up at the building. It was dark, but the darkness was broken by lights shining from all the different apartments. There had been many evenings in Columbia when I had taken a long walk alone after a game. When I finally returned to the apartment building after those walks, I would look up and wonder what the lives of the people in those apartments were like.
Were they as lonely as me; as friendless?
If so, how did they cope with it?
Was anything ever going to change?
And why did anyone have to be lonely after all?