The surfer sat perfectly still on his board, his legs dangling in the water, while letting the ocean gently rise and fall beneath him as the sky began to lighten and the waves rolled in to the beach before of him. He was quite content letting some of the other guys who were out on the water, most of whom were much younger than he was these days, catch them and easily ride them into shore.
He was sitting about one hundred metres offshore on a calm summer morning, enjoying the start to his day in much the same way he had been doing for years; at least since he had returned to the town in which he had grown up, following a stint in the army. He hadn’t really been much of a surfer as a younger kid, it had really only been after his best friend, Danny, had left town that he had gotten serious about it. And that in itself had been after a summer that he would never forget.
It’s funny how things sometimes work out, he had often thought in the twenty years since.
He had often thought too, about Danny and Jake, and what they might be up to now. It had been years since he had seen either of them. The last he had heard was that they were living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. He hoped that life was still being good to them, even if he was still slightly pissed with them for not being in contact for so long now, despite Nate’s attempts to contact them over the years.
He didn’t know how long he had been sitting there for, just letting his thoughts go back to those happy times, but eventually he realized that the morning was marching on and that he would need to get back to shore and face the day ahead.
As he felt a swell rise up beneath him Nate knew it was finally time to move. He lay down flat on his board and began paddling, trying to keep up with the gently rolling ocean, even though he already knew that he had left his run too late to catch that wave. There would be others to follow, though, and so he kept up his rythym, while maintaining a straight line toward the beach.
Another swell lifted him up and Nate soon found that he could see the rows of waves forming ahead of him. It wouldn’t be long now before he would find that special one which would carry him into shore. He smiled at the thought of it and paddled that little bit harder, edging closer to that magical point where the swell began rolling over, the top of it breaking and a wave finally began its short-lived journey to the beach.
On the next lift he knew this was the one. The ocean picked him up and pushed his board forward ahead of it. Frantically he paddled, trying to make sure he was in just the right position to be able to jump to his feet and set himself for the ride in and when finally he knew it was time, he did just that, while the crest of the wave came gurgling and nipping at his feet.
For a few metres he was a little unsteady, but he soon found his balance and quickly felt at home. It wasn’t a large wave, nor was it that challenging, but right at this moment all Nate wanted was to find his groove and ride it to the finish line, and perhaps throw in a few cut-backs and pirouettes for good measure, just to let anyone know, who might be watching from the shore, that even at thirty-six years of age he still had the goods.
The longer he stayed upright, the faster he could feel himself going and he knew that provided he didn’t do anything stupid and face-plant into the water this was going to be a near perfect ride. But no sooner had that thought crossed his mind when a flash of yellow and blue came from his right, accompanied by a loud, ‘Hey, man, watch out!’
Instinctively Nate swerved to his left, as a blonde haired kid wearing blue shorts and riding a yellow board swept past him, only narrowly missing him. But the damage was already done, as Nate’s balance had been upset and any dreams of that perfect ride were quickly carried away in the gurgling surf.
It happened almost in slow motion, as first he felt himself go past the vertical, while at the same time the board also started to shift beneath his feet. Or was it the other way around? It wouldn’t make any difference, though, as he could feel the board slipping across the surface of the wave, propelled at least in part by the sudden shift in his own body position, but no doubt also helped by the water beneath him as it pushed and pulled and rose and fell and did everything it could to unseat him. The water was winning the battle, of course, and just moments later Nate felt the board slip right out from beneath him, shooting upwards into the morning air. He felt his leg rope snap taut, which threw him off balance just that little bit more, and before he knew it he was sideways in mid-air, and staring at the face of the wave.
The last thing he saw before he hit the water was the face of the kid who had taken his right of way, looking back over his shoulder, grinning at him and laughing.
‘Fuckin’ little punk!’ Nate thought. Then that was it.
The dreaded face plant!
* * *
When Nate reached the beach there was no sign of the young guy who caused his wipe-out. He knew who he was, however, so he also knew that sooner or later he would be able to catch up with him. His name was Beau Thompson, a kid of about twenty, with something of a reputation as being a fun loving party animal, but a nice guy with it, unlike most of the other Thompsons he had known over the years.
Nate sometimes serviced the kid’s car in his workshop, so yeah, he’d definitely give him a good talking to the next time he ran into him.
Despite his early morning face plant it and the feelings of mild resentment that had come with it, it was still with a smile that Nate headed for the showers along the creek at the southern end of the beach, where he would complete the rest of his morning ritual by washing the salt water from his body, before heading to the motor garage he ran with his brother, Lachie. That was the one good thing that he could say he got from his time in the army . . . a mechanics ticket, which gave him a future, just like his mate, Danny, had said it would. It was a good thing that Danny always came up with good plans.
When he entered the building which contained the showers he noted that it was empty, just like it was on most mornings, so he quickly propped his surfboard inside the doorway, then hung his towel on one of the empty hooks along one wall, before also dropping his shorts and setting them on a shoulder. Crossing the cold, dark room to the row of shower heads along the opposite wall he turned on a tap. For a few moments the water ran cold, but it didn’t take long for the gas to kick in and pretty soon there was hot water surging through the pipes and the room began to fill with steam.
Quickly he rinsed the sand from his shorts and then tossed them back across the room, watching with some satisfaction as they landed on a hook just near his towel. Even happier now, he turned back toward the stream of hot water and stepped under it once more, this time letting the water work its magic as its hot needles of spray massaged his body and washed away not only those niggling little aches and pains that come with taking a head first dive into a wave and then being dragged along the rough sea bed below, but also those feelings of embarrassment or shame or even anger at letting it happen in the first place.
It wasn’t the first time it had happened, and he was pretty sure it wasn’t going to be the last, but either way he knew that it was all a part of the game, and if you dwell on these things for too long, or you let it eat at you, it only serves to spoil all the good moments . . . and one little incident sure as hell wasn’t worth that.
No, this stream of hot water was all that he ever needed to wash away the memories of this morning’s events, or those of any other morning. It was just like pressing a button and wiping it all clean, before stepping outside and starting the rest of the day with a clean slate.
Moments later, as he began to think about the day ahead, he was startled when he heard someone say, ‘Damn, it sure is dark in here.’
He hadn’t heard the sound of anyone else come into the room and when he opened his eyes he was surprised to find himself staring into the same face that he had seen grinning at him earlier.
‘Jesus, Beau! You sure know how to scare the crap out of a guy!’
‘Sorry, man. I thought I made enough noise. You must have been off in fairy land or someplace. Must have been a good root you were dreaming of too, judging by the look of things,’ the kid replied, as he looked Nate up and down, before letting his eyes settle on Nate’s manhood.
Without even looking, Nate knew he was way beyond being just a little chubbed. He suddenly realized he was hard. And he couldn’t quite understand why.
‘Thinking of me, were you?’ Beau suggested, as he pulled off his shorts and hung them on a hook, before crossing the room and turning on the tap next to the one Nate already had running.
‘Don’t flatter yourself, kid,’ Nate answered, as he watched Beau cross the room.
Glancing up and down the kid’s body he couldn’t help being slightly envious. Despite the gloom inside the room they were in, where the only light seemed to be coming from a row of decorative brickwork close to the ceiling, he knew the kid was built, and in all the right places. And with that familiar blonde surfer’s mane and those piercing blue eyes, both of which he had seen often enough in his own workshop, he knew there would be plenty of folks, of both sexes, who would sell their souls to bed him; not that he’d ever had any inkling of which side of the fence the kid preferred.
Nate had never thought of himself as being gay, despite the fact that he had no hang-ups at all about those who were, yet there were times when he felt he could relate to them, which also caused him to occasionally doubt his own orientation. For a time he had even been married, and had the alimony bills to prove it, yet it was things like being so comfortable with having friends that were gay, or having received an occasional blow job from fellow lonely soldiers while in the army, which sometimes had him doubting himself. But if there was one thing he was sure of it was the fact that he’d seen enough naked guys in showers to be able to tell a fine specimen of a man when he saw one, and he knew that was just what he was looking at right now.
‘Anyhow,’ Nate continued, casually turning away from Beau and continuing to wash himself down, while not wanting to appear freaked out, even though inside his head there seemed to be something weird happening right now. ‘What do you want? I think you’ve already caused me enough grief for one day, don’t you?’
‘I saw you come in here, so I just thought I’d apologise . . . you know, for what happened out on the water. Maybe even offer to make it up to you,’ Beau answered.
‘Make it up to me? And how do you think you’re going to be able to that?’ Nate asked over his shoulder.
‘Oh, I have my ways,’ Beau replied, while at the same time placing a hand on Nate’s bare shoulder, before letting it slide down to rest against Nate’s hip. ‘For an older guy you’re actually still pretty hot.’
For a moment Nate was stunned. He had just been propositioned by someone he had never thought of as being gay. He didn’t know what to say, or think, or do, but as he turned off the taps and faced his young companion he eventually managed to stutter, ‘Jesus! You’re not backwards in coming forward, are you?’
‘My dad always told me to go and get whatever I want . . . although I don’t think he would have counted on me asking first, he’d just say take it.’
‘Well, I’m pleased that your mother at least taught you some manners then.’
‘Yeah, well, I’m not my father, I can promise you that.’
For a moment Nate tried to think of which one of the Thompson boys was the kid’s father, but he couldn’t be sure.
‘So, I’m an older guy, huh? Just how old do you think I am?’
‘What does it matter? I said you were hot, didn’t I?’
‘Yeah, well, I’m flattered, but sorry, kid. Despite that, I’m just not the guy you’re hoping for me to be,’ Nate replied.
‘You sure? You looked pretty happy to see me when I came in here . . . or at least a part of you did.’
‘You’re barking up the wrong tree here, mate. But I’m sure there’ll be plenty of other guys around willing to jump at your offer . . .’ Nate remarked, while he began drying himself off, before pulling his shorts back on.
‘That may be so. But I wasn’t offering it to them, was I?’
* * *
For the rest of the morning Nate settled back into his usual routine in the workshop, going straight there after leaving the showers, where he then changed into his overalls and checked the appointment book for what was booked in. It proved to be a quiet day, which was a blessing in some respects, but a curse in others, for while he might not have been too busy it also seemed to give him far too much time to think, and the problem with that was, every time things slowed down, it had him thinking about his earlier encounter with young Beau.
The reputation of the Thompson men around town was, of course, legendary . . . and not in a good way . . . yet for some reason he had never thought of Beau as being like the rest of them. He certainly didn’t appear to have the same arrogance or sense of entitlement about him that the rest of his family seemed to have, and as for his sexuality, well, Nate had always thought that the kid was about as straight as they come.
‘I guess it’s always the quiet ones you’ve got to watch out for,’ he chuckled to himself at one point, while his head was stuck below the bonnet of Mrs Weston’s old Ford.
‘Did you say something?’ Lachie asked, having heard his brother say something but not quite catching it.
‘What? Oh, nothing. I was just mumbling to myself again,’ Nate answered, while receiving an odd look in return.
‘First sign of madness, don’t you know!’
‘I’ll remember that for the next time I hear you mumbling about something under your breath.’
‘Not me!’ Lachie said with a laugh.
The brothers had always had a good relationship and so it was only natural that when Nate returned from his stint in the army as a qualified mechanic, and said he wanted to open up a garage, that Lachie – by far the biggest petrol-head in the family – would be the first to put his hand up to help out. The business, and the qualifications to run that business, may have belonged to Nate, but having someone like Lachie as the grease-monkey certainly wasn’t a drawback, and together they had made the business work, setting up in an old building in the main street right beside the one and only local petrol station.
As for the remainder of the main street of Thompsonville, it was much like that of many small country towns, containing a variety of small shops and businesses, all eager to provide locals and tourists alike with whatever it was they needed, and all crammed into as short a distance as possible. In this case that distance was around three blocks, although here and there you could also still find a few other businesses scattered around the township, all hawking their wares from mostly old buildings of varying descriptions.
Yet despite the relatively small size of the main shopping centre, you could still find most of the basic necessities of life somewhere along that road. From the small supermarket, to the bakery, to the newsagent and the old pub, all the important things were covered, and if something more specific was required, well, Macquarie Harbour was only about half an hour away.
‘So, how was the surf this morning?’ Lachie asked a short while later, as the two of them went about their business. ‘Anything exciting happen?’
‘Nah, not really . . . unless you count Beau Thompson cutting me off and sending me face first into this great wave I was riding.’
‘Beau? The kid with the blue Holden one-tonner?’
‘The very same.’
‘I hope you chewed him out when you got back to the beach?’
‘Ha! Not exactly. He came and found me and apologised though.’
‘And that makes it all right?’
‘Well, it was a bit hard being mad a him when he did that. Anyhow, the time will come when I’ll get him back for it.’
‘I hope you do. If you ask me that kid’s just a bit too big for his britches.’
Nate could only smile at his brother. Lachie was much closer to the mark than he could know, although Nate would never say anything about that, or about what was said between the two of them that morning. If Beau ever wanted to tell anyone his secret, well, that was up to him. Nate sure wasn’t going to be the one to out him to his family or anyone else in the town.
As they continued on with their work Nate seemed to let his thoughts wander back to that morning. He was certainly flattered by what the kid had said, after all, it wasn’t every day that a straight guy heading for forty was told he looked hot. It was just too bad that it hadn’t been by Beau’s sister, he thought, before kicking over the motor of the car he had been working on.
A short while later, with the tune-up on Mrs Weston’s car completed and as he was heading for the office to fill out the invoice for her, Nate heard a sound which immediately had his attention, bringing with it memories of those other friends he had been thinking about earlier today.
It was the sweetest sound in the world to Nate, that of a deep and throaty v-8 engine coming into town, with the sound bouncing off every building and surface available, starting out low and slowly building as the vehicle came closer and closer to the centre of town. Once again he felt like he was sixteen years old and sitting with his mates by the car park near the lake, waiting for the mysterious beast to make its first appearance.
He had heard the rumble of plenty of v-8 motors over the years, but there was always one which, to him at least, was just that little bit sweeter than the rest. So now, with his curiosity piqued he couldn’t resist. He just had to take a look outside to find out what was making this sweetest of sounds and gazed expectantly in the direction of the road leading into town, before eventually just closing his eyes and listening. His reverie was soon interrupted, however, by the sound of the telephone ringing in the office beside their main door.
‘Main Street Motor Repairs,’ he said, rather too tersely, as he reached inside the office and picked up the phone. ‘Oh, yes, Mrs Weston. It’s ready to go. . . No, I haven’t worked out the account just yet, but I’ll have it ready for you for when you get here . . . Thank you. I’ll see you soon.’
After disconnecting he tried listening again for the sound of the vehicle coming into town, but it was gone.
‘Dammit!’ he quietly cursed, as he went to the front door of the workshop and stared up and down the street once more, this time wondering where the vehicle might have gone.
Moments later he was joined there by his brother.
‘Reckon it turned off someplace. Either into one of the streets near our place, or maybe gone to the caravan park,’ Lachie said.
‘You heard it too, huh? Sounded pretty sweet, didn’t it?’
‘Hell yeah. I wonder what it was.’
To be continued . . .