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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.
Having put D.W. to bed and talked to Brady, I sat down on the couch and tried to make sense of everything that had happened to me over the years. I thought about D.W. first.
He was one of the nicest human beings in the world, but his mind had been poisoned early by the ravings of a religious fanatic, someone who deserved to burn in hell if there was a just God. D.W. was so concerned about leading Brady down the wrong path he was prepared to ignore what his heart told him and walk away from someone he loved very much.
How do you make sense of something like that?
I thought about Brady and how he had waited patiently for so many years hoping D.W. would eventually realize just how much the two of them loved one another. How much discipline had something like that required? It was incredible just thinking about it.
I thought about Donnie and Tyler and the rest of the boys in Phoenix and what they had to do to survive; about how Dennis had persevered in the face of so much hatred and courageously tried to make things better for people like us.
You didn’t even have the courage to tell him you were leaving Columbia, Ethan.
I thought about Riley and how he had helped me experience what it was like to feel sexually fulfilled, only to be backed into a corner because I selfishly insisted on putting my needs above everything else.
Thinking about all of this was hard and I tried to put it out of mind by letting my thoughts drift back to Rehoboth Beach, the community I loved more than anywhere else and the place where my journey had begun so many years earlier.
But that only reminded me of Zachary.
Zachary knew I was gay and why I had remained in the closet all these years. He had never rebuked me or called me out or told my mother what he knew about me when he told her what he wanted her to know about him.
What kind of a role model had I been for Zachary? At a much younger age, he had shown far more courage and been true to himself even knowing there would be a price to pay for being courageous. I had failed all of the people I loved one way or another when just being honest might have made all the difference.
And finally I thought about my biggest failure of all. I thought about Hunter, the person I loved and considered my very best friend in the world. There was a lot I could say about the two of us; and yet the most important thing, the most damning thing, was the simplest. I had failed him as a friend by not being honest with him.
It was hard to know exactly what could have been salvaged from our friendship if I had been honest. But what had my dishonesty accomplished? I had tossed something that was good, beautiful and true aside for nothing; nothing at all.
By the time I finished thinking about all of this I knew what I needed to do. I had been a coward ever since figuring out I was gay and that needed to change. I needed to stop hiding. I needed to come out of the shadows and let people know who I was and what I believed and how I was going to live my life openly and without fear or shame.
And yet if coming out was a settled issue for me, there were other things I needed to consider. I needed to stop being selfish. It wasn’t just about me.
My teammates had been working their asses off since February and now here they were within sight of the prize all of us were playing for. Coming out right now wouldn’t be fair to them. It would be a distraction. They would be hounded by reporters who wanted to know what they thought of me, what they knew about me; and by the way did they have any juicy details about me and wasn’t I being a distraction by putting myself first like that?
There were other reasons that led me to conclude I should only come out once our season ended, hopefully after a long run in the playoffs. I wanted to tell the people I loved the most before I told the world. My mother deserved to hear it from me in person. Zachary already knew, but I wanted to apologize to him for not being as strong as he was all these years. And I wanted Hunter to hear it from me before the story appeared in the press.
Like I said, the decision itself was settled, at least I was pretty certain it was. But I needed to think about a lot of things before making the announcement; and once made I wasn’t just going to slink into the background either. I was going to try to be a positive role model for boys and young men; not just gay boys, but all boys . . . and girls too for that matter.
Picking up my phone, I dialed another familiar number. It went directly to voice mail like I knew it would.
“Avery, it’s me, Ethan. Listen, there’s something you need to know. I’m gay. Sorry about telling you that over the phone, but I need you to start thinking about this. I’ve decided to come out once the playoffs are over, but I need you to help me figure out exactly the best way to do it.”
“I’m doing this partly for me, but also for lots of others, especially all those young boys who like playing sports and happen to be gay as well. They need to know that it’s okay to be gay. Don’t call me until the season is over, but let’s get together before the playoffs begin and talk about how we can do this while having the biggest and best effect. Thanks.”
I had called Avery because I needed his help, but also because I needed to prove to myself I could actually tell someone I was gay; and I wanted to be sure there would be no going back. Telling Avery I had changed my mind about coming out would be embarrassing. He would know how much of a coward I was and I was too much of a coward to risk that.
The phone rang within five minutes. It was Avery.
“Did you seriously think I was going to wait until the season was over before calling you back? I want you to know I’m on it, Ethan. But more than being on it, I’m proud of you. The agent in me says this isn’t a great idea financially, but to hell with it.”
“Baseball needs to come into the twenty first century and I can’t think of anyone better than you to lead it there. Like I said, I’m proud of you and I’m happy for you and I wasn’t about to wait until the season is over to tell you that.”
“Thanks, Avery,” I replied. “You’ve always been there for me. Let’s get together sometime next week and see what you’ve come up with.”
“And, uh, one other thing, Avery,” I continued. “I don’t want this to be one of those one and done kind of deals. You know what I mean; a couple of television appearances, a couple of articles in Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and People magazine and that’s the end of it.”
“I want you to book a lot of speaking engagements for me over the winter at those father/son sport night banquets held all over the country, especially down south and in the Bible belt where gay kids never get the chance to see someone gay in real life.”
“Set those up before I come out. That way if anyone cancels after I do I’ll still be able to visit the town and it’ll draw even more attention to the problem. Understood?”
“Are you sure you want to do that, Ethan?” he asked. “There’s still a lot of hate out there in the country.”
“That’s why we need to do it, Avery. I can come out and hide myself away in a big city, but there are boys out there who have to deal with that hate every day. I want to show them somebody cares.”
“I hear you, Ethan,” he said. “We’ll do it the right way.”
I checked in on D.W. a couple of times that morning while I was mulling all of this over. He was sleeping like a baby and I was glad about that. The lack of sleep had left him an emotional wreck and clouded his thinking. I was counting on some rest and the presence of Brady to make the difference when he finally woke up.
Brady called a little before 2 p.m. from the bus station downtown. I drove over and picked him up, then took him back to my place. When we got there, we talked.
“First off, I want you to know how happy I am for you, Brady,” I said. “You got great taste when it comes to picking a boyfriend. I’m jealous. I really am.”
“I hope you’re right, Ethan,” he said. “When I woke up this morning and D.W. wasn’t there in bed with me and then read the note he left, I was devastated. I thought I had lost him for sure. I count on D.W. for so much. He does all the driving. He does all the thinking for us. I didn’t know what to do.”
“But then I read his note again and he said he was going back to Asheville. I’ve never purchased a bus ticket before in my life, but I decided right then to walk down to the bus station and do that.”
“There was no way D.W. was going to be rid of me that easy. I was going to follow him to Asheville and make him come back. I didn’t know how exactly, but I was going to do it. And I did it, Ethan. I did. I was able to buy a bus ticket to Asheville on my own. Isn’t that great?”
“It is, Brady,” I said, smiling at him. “But it looks like you didn’t bring your travel bag with a change of clothes along. What were you planning to do if you had to stay in Asheville for a couple of days?”
Brady started blushing when I mentioned it and I was sorry I had.
“Oh gosh, you’re right, Ethan,” he finally replied. “I don’t know what I would have done. But the important thing is that I would have been there in Asheville with D.W.”
“I was just teasing you, Brady,” I said. “I apologize. Buying that bus ticket by yourself shows you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it. And you’re right; the important thing is you would have been in Asheville with D.W.”
“Thanks, Ethan,” he responded. “Um, well, how’s D.W.? Is he still mad at me for what we did last night? I didn’t mean to do anything wrong. I just love him so much, Ethan; I really do. And I’ve been about to explode for a long time now. I want us to be more than just best friends so much. But if we’re doing something wrong, I can stop.”
“I mean, it was fun and I liked it, but I don’t need to do any of that stuff we did if D.W. thinks it’s wrong. I can live without any of that, but I don’t think I can live without D.W., Ethan. I don’t think I would want to live without him either.”
“I know, Brady,” I said. “That’s how it is when you love someone and I know you love D.W. a lot and I’m happy for you. And I know D.W. loves you too. The thing is, he’s loved you for a very long time without really knowing that’s what he was doing; and then you surprised him last night, caught him off guard. He told me he liked what you did and that you did as well. But, like I said, the whole thing caught him off guard.”
“He hadn’t really worked it through in his head. And after you fell asleep he got to worrying that maybe he did something bad to you. That’s how much he loves you, Brady. He doesn’t want to do anything that will hurt you in any way. That’s why he left. He was afraid he had.”
“But he didn’t, Ethan,” Brady responded. “It was so beautiful what we did. And I tried to be so gentle, so careful, and he said I had done really good. And I felt good too. But then I read his note. I don’t want him to think he did anything wrong. If anyone did something wrong, it was me. You have to help me persuade him to come back, Ethan. I lost my Dad. I don’t think I could stand losing D.W.”
“I know you couldn’t,” I replied. “And neither one of you did anything wrong. What you did was the right thing for both of you. And it was something beautiful, something the two of you will remember for the rest of your life. And I think D.W. will recognize that now that you’re here. I think he was missing you already and that’s why he stopped in Washington; not to see me play a game but because he was missing you already.”
“Can I see him now, Ethan?” he asked. “Can I go wake him up?”
“Um, well, you can do whatever you want, Brady,” I said. “But if it was me, I would go upstairs and lay down next to him on the bed and just wait for him to wake up on his own so that the first thing he sees is your face smiling at him. That’s what I would do, Brady. But do whatever you think is right for you.”
“Thanks, Ethan,” he said. “You and D.W. always know exactly the right thing to do. Thanks for telling me that. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do exactly what you suggested.”
I took Brady upstairs and watched while he climbed on to the bed and lay down facing D.W. He didn’t do anything to wake him up. He just lay there facing him, waiting for D.W. to wake up on his own. I remember thinking how beautiful it was to see two people like that, two people who were genuinely in love; not because the sex was right but because everything was right.
Later, as I was resting in the guest bedroom, I knew D.W. had awakened.
“Brady, what are you doing here?” he shouted excitedly; then there was silence and I remember being certain the two of them were embracing and I was happy about that.
I heard Brady giggle a couple of times after that and figured it was time for me to head back downstairs.
About thirty or forty minutes later the two of them finally made an appearance in the living room. I looked at Brady and he immediately started blushing. And then I looked at D.W. and he grinned and then tried to suppress that grin and put on a serious face; but he couldn’t pull it off and the next thing I knew he was laughing and Brady was laughing and seeing the two of them laughing made me laugh as well.
I couldn’t recall being that happy for a very long time.
“You guys sure were up there by yourselves a long time,” I said; “and you were awfully darn quiet too. I hope you didn’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“I can’t speak for Brady,” D.W. replied, “but based on what you told me this morning, I sure didn’t.”
And then he burst out laughing again and I could feel my own face going red.
“What does that mean, D.W.?” Brady asked. “What did he tell you this morning?”
That just caused D.W. to start laughing again.
“I’ll tell you later,” he said.
“You better not,” I replied, sternly.
But I couldn’t pull it off and found myself bursting into laughter as well.
“Okay,” I finally said. “You can tell him. Just later; like when you’re back in Shoreham. For now, let’s go get something to eat. I’m starving and definitely need something before the game tonight.”
“You are still planning to come to the game tonight?” I asked, anxiously. “I called in a ticket for Brady as well before he got here.”
“Yeah, we’re going,” D.W. said. “But you better make it worth our effort by hitting four home runs tonight.”
“Very funny,” I replied. “I’ll probably screw everything up knowing the two of you are up in the stands hooting at me.”
But I was wrong about that.
I had a great game that evening, 2 for 3 at the plate plus two walks, a couple of runs batted in, and even a stolen base. In the field, I initiated one double-play and was part of another. Even I was kind of impressed with how well I played that night and I could tell I had done well because Doc Howard grunted at me. It was one of his positive grunts.
Most importantly, we won and went back up two games in the standings.
Later, I met D.W. and Brady and drove them back to my place. I pulled together a late snack for the three of us, but Brady didn’t eat very much. From what I gathered, he had gorged himself on hot dogs that night in between cheering for me. Later we watched a little television together and eventually went to bed.
I tried to get to sleep, but tossed and turned for a long time thinking about things. Mostly I thought about the contrast between what Brady and D.W. had likely been doing in the other bedroom and my life.
I remember thinking how beautiful their relationship was.
How did it turn out that way for them, Ethan, and this way for you?
How did it ever get to this point?
That brought back a bunch of memories; memories of a time long ago when I finally realized I was gay; memories of a boy I had spied on the boardwalk and longed for so much and how he had somehow known I was gay and tossed me Mr. Bare Ass to help get me through the difficult times.
And then I thought about Hunter again; how I had known him even longer than D.W. had known Brady and how there had always been something special about our friendship.
I mean, yeah, sure, maybe we were different in some ways, but we were more than best friends back then. We were everything for one another; and even though we were different, Hunter had loved me as much as I loved him. I realized that now.
Why did that have to change just because we were different, I wondered? Why had I let such an unimportant difference drive us apart?
I had been afraid to tell Hunter I was different because I didn’t want to put our friendship at risk; and yet what had I achieved by trying to keep everything secret? I had allowed our friendship to drift away; I had let fear choke to death the most important thing in my life.
No more, Ethan; all of the secrets and fears, all the lies and rationalizations have to end somewhere.
You need to follow through, Ethan. It’s time to come out of the closet; maybe not tomorrow or the next day, but as soon as the playoffs are over you need to tell Mom and Hunter. And then you need to tell everyone else.
The next morning the three of us were up early. We had a leisurely breakfast and then I drove them to the stadium. It was still kind of early and I didn’t want to see them leave right away.
“Let’s go in and get some souvenirs for the two of you,” I said, leading them through the gate toward the store.
I knew D.W. wasn’t that big on souvenirs, but Brady was.
“Wow, this place is amazing,” he said. “It’s got a ton of stuff and I like all of it.”
“Get whatever you want, Brady,” I said. “It’s going to be on me so don’t hold back.”
“Really?” he said.
“Really,” I replied.
“And take your time looking around, too,” I added. “D.W. and I are going to talk while you’re looking around.”
With that I led D.W. out the door and we started to circle the stadium.
“Um, well, I just wanted to see whether everything was okay between you and Brady,” I said. “I’m not going to be getting a call tomorrow morning from you or Brady telling me you’re on your way to Asheville, am I?”
“No, you won’t,” he responded. “Everything’s cool. I mean, after I got some sleep, I thought about things a lot. I think I just panicked at the reality of the whole thing. I think I’ve probably always loved Brady, but was content to keep it at a platonic level.”
“He’s different from us in some ways, Ethan. You know that. But he’s the same in some ways too.”
“I guess I just thought that sex was one of the ways he was different and I was okay with that. Sex was never going to be a deal breaker for me with Brady. In fact, I was probably more comfortable not having sex in some ways. It meant I didn’t have to acknowledge what I already knew about myself at some level.”
“That’s probably one of the reasons I played baseball to be honest. You know how much homophobia there is in this game, Ethan. That probably helped me keep things in check, first to keep peace with my father and then later just to avoid the whole thing.”
“But I guess Brady wasn’t so different after all. He has the same feelings we do. And I think he probably knew all along how I felt about him. I think he was just waiting for me to catch up to him on this one. And, well, I think he figured out at some point that I was real comfortable just letting things be and that’s why he decided to be the one to take the initiative on the whole thing.”
“It caught me by surprise. It really did. At some level I probably wanted it to happen, but I was afraid to let it happen and then Brady just went ahead and made it happen. And that scared me, Ethan. I love him so much and it scared me because I want it to be perfect for him and, well, it’s like my baseball game. I’m not perfect.”
“None of us are,” I interjected.
“So I panicked. But then when I got to Washington I began wondering whether I had made a mistake. I didn’t know what to do so I called you. I really do like and admire you, Ethan. I always have. You always seem to have just the right words, whether we’re playing a game, just sitting around talking or whatever.”
“Whatever the situation, you always had the right words. So I called and you proved me right, Ethan. You still have the touch. You still have the right words. Thanks for what you did. It means a lot to me, buddy.”
“You’re making too much of it, D.W.,” I said. “You would have gotten there on your own. You love him. He loves you. It’s simple, really, and you would have gotten there with or without me.”
“I hope,” he said.
D.W. was wrong in some ways. Yeah, maybe I had the right words for him. But a quick look at my own life made clear what a total mess it was.
But that’s going to change. I’m going to be honest about who I am; and maybe that won’t solve all my problems, maybe it won’t help me find the person I’m looking for. But it’s a start. You have to start somewhere and what better place to start than being honest with yourself and the world.
By that time we had circled the stadium and were back at the souvenir store. Brady had a bunch of stuff in front of him.
“Which one of these things should I get, D.W.?” he asked.
“Get all of them,” I said. “I’m paying for it after all.”
“Oh, no, Ethan, that would be taking advantage of you,” he said. “I couldn’t do that. My Dad always told me never to take advantage of anyone. He said what goes around comes around.”
“Look, Brady, if your Dad was here right now, he would buy all of this stuff for you,” I said. “Both of us know that. I’m not your Dad, but I love you almost as much as he did. It would make me feel good if you took all of this stuff. At least that way you would remember me whenever you’re using it.”
“I want you to remember me, Brady. I want you to remember I’m your friend.”
“I know you are, Ethan,” he said; “and you’re the best friend in the world, too. I mean, if it hadn’t been for you, D.W. would be back in Asheville and I would be there; but I don’t know if everything would have worked out so well.”
“You have the magic touch, Ethan. That’s what my Dad used to say. He would take me aside and tell me to keep an eye on you because you had the magic touch and would be making it to the big dance one day; and he was right about that.”
I wanted to cry. How could Grady and his son and D.W. see so much in me when all I saw when I looked in the mirror was a coward, someone who managed to screw everything up?
But I was going to try to make it up to them. I was going to do my best to show them you could be out and proud. And more importantly still, you could be a real friend; not someone you saw every few years but someone who was there whenever you needed them to be and as much of the rest of the time as possible.
“Well, there you go,” I said. “I have the magic touch. Grady told you that and your Dad was never wrong. Both of us know that. I’m telling you to get all of it so you have to listen to me, right?”
“I dunno,” he said, turning to D.W. “What do you think I should do?”
“I think you should listen to the man, Brady,” he said. “I never made a mistake listening to Ethan or taking his advice either, that’s for sure.”
“Okay,” Brady shouted, gleefully.
“Ring it up,” he said to the guy behind the register and that made me feel special.
When I had finished paying, I walked the two of them across the street to their car.
“Listen, guys, I’ve been thinking about stuff the last two days and I know I’ve been a pretty lousy friend. But when this season is over, let’s get together. I want to spend some serious time with the two of you. I always feel better when I do and I have some things I want to talk to you about before I go public with them.”
D.W. arched an eyebrow and I was pretty certain he had gotten my drift. Brady hadn’t, but it was obvious he liked the idea of getting together again.
“Sure thing, Ethan,” he said, pulling an imaginary sword out of his belt, pointing it at me, and then doing a little dance. “It’s time for the Three Musketeers to get together again.”
Then he climbed into the car after giving me a big hug and thanking me for the millionth time for all the stuff I had bought him.
D.W. opened the door and started to get in, then stepped back out.
“Listen, Ethan, I know it’s none of my business, but do you ever hear from Hunter?”
“Not very much these days,” I replied. “It just seems like the years have caused us to drift apart.”
“The reason I ask is because he called me one night right before you got traded in August,” he continued.
“It was real late and he called out of the blue and we chatted for a while and I remember wondering why he was calling. And then finally he asked me whether I thought you were going to make it to the big dance. I told him I thought you would, that you had all the tools and it was just a matter of time.”
“And then, being curious, I asked why he was asking my opinion. He just said that he had always thought you were good enough to play in the big leagues and that he had encouraged you to sign with the Blues when you were still thinking of maybe going to college with him. And that now he was wondering whether the advice he had given you was any good because you hadn’t made it all the way to the top yet.”
“So I told him that I thought the advice he had given was probably the right advice, at least as far as whether you could make it to the big dance goes. And then he thanked me and hung up after I said that. It was just kind of strange, but I think maybe he misses you.”
“Like I said, it’s not my business or anything, but I was thinking maybe it would be good if you got in touch with him too, at least after the season is over, if not sooner. It’s just a thought.”
“Well, thanks, D.W.,” I responded. “I’m glad you told me that. It’s probably been more than a year since me and Hunter talked. I figured he was probably engaged by now and wrapped up in his new career teaching high school; at least that’s what Zachary told me he was going to be doing a couple of months ago.”
“Maybe,” D.W. said. “Why don’t you ask him though; maybe after the season is over and you have more time to think about things?”
“I will,” I said. “It’s a good idea and I’m definitely going to do it after the season is over and we win the World Series.”
D.W. leaned over and embraced me tightly and I was glad he was holding me because I think I might have started crying if he hadn’t.
“Thanks again for everything, Ethan,” he said. “You saved me from making a terrible mistake. I’ll never forget it. Whatever else happens, I want us to renew our friendship this offseason.”
“Yeah, me too,” I said.
With that D.W. climbed into the car and he and Brady started their journey back to Shoreham.
As I watched their car disappear across the bridge, I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. Walking back across South Capitol Street, I sat down on one of the benches outside the stadium.
I was alone again at the place where I worked, but it wasn’t really the place I wanted to be.
“It’s just a thought,” D.W. had said, but the thought had dredged up so many memories.
I missed Hunter. I missed him a lot. I wondered whether D.W. was right. Was it possible Hunter missed me as well?
Don’t go there, Ethan, I told myself.
There’s nothing for you there except more pain. Hunter’s straight. You can wish he was gay all you want, but you can’t make him gay.
Don’t go there.
Yeah, you’re right. He’s straight, but he’s my friend and I promised myself I would tell him the truth if I ever made it to the big leagues and I’m going to deliver on that. It’s important he know the truth. Maybe we can still be friends and I could use a friend like Hunter.
I stood up and walked into the stadium. The game wouldn’t be starting until 7:05 p.m., nine hours away. I walked down to the locker room and changed into my workout shorts and t-shirt. Then I headed over to the weight room.
“Oh, Lord, I haven’t seen you in weeks, Ethan,” the room attendant said. “You told me you were going to be working out at a private club with a friend of yours. What brings you here so early this morning, son?”
“I was in the neighborhood,” I replied. “I don’t have anything better to do. And we still have a championship to win after all; that’s the only thing that matters, isn’t it?”
“I don’t know about that, Ethan,” he said. “But it’s getting exciting, no doubt about it.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” I replied. “Maybe it isn’t the only thing that matters, but it’s definitely exciting, at least for now; and who knows? Maybe the off season will be even more exciting in some ways; at least I hope it will be for me.”