About this time a year ago, I'd walk home from school alone. That's the way I preferred it. And now? It seemed as though I'd become another person as I walked home with Kyle and Wingnut. Three buds in their school uniforms, laughing and joking, and enjoying each other's company. If some fortune teller had gazed into her crystal ball and told me about this, I'd have asked for my fucking money back.
Wingnut wasn't too happy, though. He was having trouble with his swimming stroke despite all attempts by himself and the coach to improve it, and he was worried that he wouldn't make the team selection for the tour, which was due in about a month.
When we arrived at my place, I asked Kyle if it would be OK to rock around after supper to do my homework at his house. Shitforbrains was gonna visit my mom, and I needed to be like outa there. Later, when mom came home, she told me that there'd been a change of plans, and that Shitforbrains would be coming to dinner. I punched in my bud's number.
"What's the matter? You sound like you've been running or something?"
"I was out back. Steve's here."
Well, that kinda fucked my plans, I thought, but I went ahead and asked, anyway. "Just wanted to check if it's OK to come around earlier… like about six?"
"That should be cool. You can have supper with us."
"Nah… don't worry about it. It'll be OK."
"It won't be OK with my mom. She'll shovel food down your throat whether you want it or not. Anyway, she thinks you're sexy, and it'll give her time at the table to check you out."
"She said that? Yeah, right."
"See ya later."
Whoa! Kyle's mom thought I was sexy? I asked myself as I replaced the phone. She was one helluva good-looking woman, but it had never occurred to me that she… nah, Kyle had to be joking. On the other hand, he thought I was sexy, and so did Steph and Carol. And, there was that time when I overheard his mom say that I'd be a real head-turner one day. Maybe that 'one day' had arrived already.
I decided to fill in the time by doing pushups, situps and skipping, then I checked my bod in the mirror. My prob was that I couldn't see it from another person's point of view. Sure, I was satisfied with my definition and muscle tone, it was pretty damn rad, but I saw it from a kinda clinical or technical aspect, and not a sexy aspect. Then I remembered the story of that dude who was obsessed by his reflection in the pool… Narcissus or whoever. Maybe we weren't meant to see ourselves as others did.
When I arrived at Kyle's place, I followed him to his room, then dumped my schoolbag on his bed. "I hope Steve didn't leave on account of me."
"Nope. We just goofed off in the pool for a while. He apologized for spiking my drink… said that he got into a whole lotta crap with everyone at the club, and that he thought you were gonna fuck him up good and solid 'cause you were so mad at him."
"I was more worried about you. You were fucking totalled."
During supper, I couldn't resist glancing at Kyle's mom, and thinking about what my bud had told me over the phone. If she'd been gawking at me, she was being pretty discreet about it, 'cause I didn't notice. Besides, Kyle's dad was keeping me pretty busy talking about boxing... when the season was starting, and what training I was doing. I couldn't imagine having a dad like him. He was everything a dad should be, I thought. And Kyle was one lucky dude to have him.
When we got back to Kyle's room, I laid my books out on his table and began to get seriously into my homework, which wasn't all that easy with my bud looking over my shoulder.
"I do that, too… but only with math."
"You mean the little right-hand column with the notes? Yeah, I do that with everything. Helps me remember stuff I had a prob with."
"I noticed you glancing at my mom during supper."
"Did she really say that stuff?"
"About you being sexy? Yep."
"That's one helluva compliment coming from her."
"Doesn't Carol tell you that kinda stuff?"
"Sorta, but she's like a teen. That's different. Your mom's mature and sophisticated. And your dad's helluva handsome, too."
"Sounds like you don't know your own qualities."
"Do you? Do you think you're sexy?"
"People tell me that I am."
"Yeah, but do you think so?"
"I've never really thought of myself as a hunk, if that's what you mean."
"I checked up on that Narcissus dude in Greek mythology. Some Echo chick pissed him off big time, so he gave her the flick 'cause he figured he was better looking… and he became obsessed with his own reflection in a pool of water. He was in love with himself."
"Sounds kinda dumb. What happened to him?"
"He turned into a flower."
"At least he still had a stalk."
Next day, at school, Kyle had already spent a lotta time helping Wingnut in the pool, but they weren't making much progress. It was then that Kyle asked for my help.
"Trying to help Wingnut get through the team selection."
"That's gonna take you every spare minute you've got!"
"He'd have to be if he's got you coaching him," I laughed. "Only joking. You wanna hand?"
"Sure… you wanna?"
"I told Carol I'd meet her later, but I'll have some time. Can I kick his ass?"
"He may need it if he gives any lip. But I don't wanna give him too much of a hard time."
"Like we get when Darren's coaching us? You know what's needed, Kyle. You can't let him hide behind you."
"OK, I'll give you a hand for a while after class."
Kicking Wingnut's ass was easier said than fucking done. The little grommet was one feisty dude for his size, and had probably learned his belligerence from Kyle. There were times when I thought we were gonna seriously climb into each other as I ordered him to swim lap after lap after lap. Eventually, I became frustrated with his lack of performance, and dove into the pool to swim beside him. "Watch what I'm doing, and follow your stroke through!" The grommet hadn't heard a word I'd shouted, so I grabbed the back of his Speedos to stop him.
"Listen up. If you want Kyle to help you, then you've gotta make a plan… and listen! OK?"
"I can't while I'm swimming."
"Then stop after each second lap, and check. If you wanna get into the team, then listen up. I’m gonna swim a few laps with you, and stay behind. And if you don't listen up, I'm gonna pull off your Speedos and burn them… 'cause you won't be needing them."
"Yeah? Well, you'll have to catch me first!"
Woohoo! That seemed to do the trick. All of a sudden, the kid's stroke came together. I stayed in the pool with the guys for about an hour and a half, then left it to Kyle to take over. "He's improved a helluva lot. Just keep him practicing his natural, full stroke."
Later, at Carol's, I was doing my homework when she wanted to know why I'd helped the grommet. "Was it because you wanted to help Wingnut or Kyle?"
"Both. Kyle thinks a helluva lot of that kid."
"And you think a helluva lot of Kyle."
"I'd better phone him to see how it went." I punched in his number, and recognized his voice when he answered. "Hey, Kyle… I'm at Carol's doing homework."
"Try, Kyle… I'm not telling. I'll leave that up to your fertile imagination."
Anyway, he told me that Wingnut's stroke had improved outasight, and that the kid looked like he might make the tour team selection after all. He was hoping like hell he would, 'cause it'd be totally wicked if the three of us could be on the tour together.
"You gonna watch the cricket on TV tonight?"
"Yep. Safrica against England… should be a good game. Gonna be another late night, though."
Next day, at the pool, I was in earshot of Wingnut and Kyle, when I heard my name mentioned. The cheeky grommet was giving lip, as usual.
"What's that?" I asked as I walked up to them. "You guys talking about me?"
"Yeah," Kyle grinned. "Wingnut was just saying that, now that he's learned how to swim, he can whip your ass in the water."
Wingnut's face suddenly became a picture of absolute innocence. "Liar! Kyle's lying!" It was too late for the grommet, though. I picked him up by his arm and Speedos, giving him a wedgy he'd never forget, and tossed him into the water. After a moment, the indignant grommet surfaced, spluttering and coughing. "Kyle! Tell Mark you're lying!"
"I wouldn't lie to a friend."
"Yes! You would!"
After classes, we all met for another swim for about an hour. I told Kyle that I was gonna meet up with Carol, and that we were going to the pizza restaurant for supper.
"I'll check with Steph… and Steve as well. I dunno about Steve, though. He's stressing big time, lately. Looks like an elastic band ready to snap."
Carol had told me the reason why Steve was so stressed out, but I figured it wasn't my place to say anything to Kyle. Maybe… hopefully… the whole thing would blow over before it could become an issue. "Hey, listen, you wanna leave Wingnut at home tonight?"
"What if he wants to come with us?"
"Fuck, Kyle… I know he likes you, but you and Steph never seem to get a chance to be on your own without him hanging around. And you've already given him a shitload of your time this week."
"Yeah, I guess," he shrugged, looking a little disappointed.
"Don't get me wrong, Kyle. I think he's the neatest lighty I've come across in fucking years. But he's getting to be like your little brother, and you need time out, bro… or things are gonna go sour. Tell him it's just the big guys hanging out, and that he can join us some other time."
"Yeah, maybe you're right. I dunno how he's gonna take the news, though. He really digs hanging with us guys."
I felt like a bit of an ogre at having given Kyle that advice, but I had my reasons for wanting Kyle to cement his relationship with Steph, which, unbeknown to him, had reached a critical stage.
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