We walked quietly towards the kitchen but before we got there Mr. Somners called, “Boys! Come on in here, please.” He came around the corner from the kitchen and began walking down the hall towards us and saw us. “Oh, good. Come and sit down with us.” Then he glanced down and raised his eyebrows, hiding a smile before turning and walking back to the kitchen.
I looked down at where he had been looking and realized I was holding Scott's hand. Scott just held onto mine tighter as we marched into the kitchen. I looked at him. He just whispered, “I just got you back. No way in hell I'm going to let you go.”
A few minutes after sitting down in the kitchen and listening to the adults and Scott talk about me I realized my transformation back into a human hadn't gone completely unnoticed. Unfortunately, I wasn't all the way there yet. I realized that when I found everyone's eyes on me waiting for an answer to a question. I didn't have the foggiest idea what it was though, I'd been too busy living in my head and not really paying attention to what was going on. I realized Scott was about to rescue me by saying something, but I didn't let him. Before he could begin talking I said, “Sorry. I have no idea what you said. I was thinking about how weird this is, being a part of something again.”
To their credit, nobody reacted much, Jake just answered, “We were just saying how you've got more allies than you may realize. And we want you to take advantage of them. Liz and Al want you to spend a lot more time over here.” He glanced at my hand, still holding Scott's between our chairs, though everyone had been pretending not to notice, “and I suspect Scott might like that idea as well.” I blushed and tried to let go of Scott's hand, but he didn't let me.
Scott put a fake casual look on his face and said to everyone, in the most neutral voice he could muster, “No, I guess I wouldn't mind.” He tightened his grip on my hand, making it really obvious.
Everyone chuckled, which had obviously been Scott's goal all along. I did, however, see him looking carefully at his mom out of the corner of his eye. I looked over at Mrs. Somners. She was just smiling at Scott, looking a bit like something had been confirmed in her mind.
I guess we were out. Kind of.
“What do you mean he's weird?” Scott was asking as we walked to the hockey rink in the park a couple of days later, carrying our sticks and gloves, as well as a couple of street hockey balls we had picked up at Canadian Tire on the way.
“Just weird. You'll see.” I answered. We were heading to the outdoor rink, concrete instead of ice this time of year, so Scott could meet Brenton and so we could practice. I was nervous. I felt almost certain that Scott and Brenton wouldn't like each other. They were so different.
A few minutes later, I found that my fears were unfounded. In fact, it seemed I now had almost the opposite fear. Right after I introduced them, I watched Scott's eyes spend much too long looking over Brenton's curly black hair, his slim arms in his muscle shirt, his legs in his blue shorts. Even more surprisingly, I found Brenton's eyes do precisely the same thing to Scott. Brenton was practically salivating. Wasn't he too young for that?
So, as it turned out, they were both pissed off at me about twenty minutes later. Brenton seemed uncomfortable and was just sitting with his back against the boards catching his breath, looking at me strangely. I could tell he wanted to say something, but didn't feel confident enough to do so.
Scott didn't seem to share the same reluctance. “Dammit Randy! Stop doing that!”
I pretended to not understand what he was talking about. “Do what?”
Scott just shook his head. “If you spend all of your time trying to get between me and Brenton and none of it on actually playing, then we're not going to get anywhere!”
I hadn't realized I was that obvious. I looked over at Brenton, who was looking back and me now and grinning. He seemed to share Scott's assessment.
“Sorry,” I said, feeling a bit stupid.
Scott should've reached for his calm. He continued without thinking, as he always used to do when he was younger and feeling real stressed or emotional or something, “It's you that I love, doofus, not Brenton! Even if he is kinda hot.”
I have no idea which of the three of use were more surprised.
“Well fuck me,” Scott said, and dropped his gloves and stick on the concrete and walked out of the rink. He so rarely swore that I knew he was really pissed at himself. I knew he was just going to walk around for a few minutes and then he'd be back.
I looked over at Brenton, who was watching Scott's retreat. I had no idea what to say.
Brenton did. “He thinks I'm kinda hot?”
I tried to save something of the situation. “No, uh, I think he means it's warm out here and we're getting all sweaty. Or something.” I knew it was stupid as soon as I said it.
So did Brenton. He surprised me yet again though, “No, it's okay, I think he's kinda hot too.”
My eyes snapped back up to Brenton.
“But I can tell he loves you. It's obvious. It's okay, he seems nice, but that's all. It's not him I'm attracted to.”
Well, that's good, I thought to myself.
'What?!' I thought to myself. “What?!” I exclaimed.
He at least had the grace to blush and look down at the concrete. But he still said, “You heard me.”
The tournament was taking place on a closed off downtown street. The organizers, of which Jake was one of the main ones of course, had set up bleachers on both sides all up and down the closed off street for spectators, and a dozen separate play areas were marked off with chalk lines. They were all separated from each other by temporary barriers to keep errant balls from interfering with other games. Behind the bleachers on the wide sidewalks in front of the buildings were concessions, donation booths, and the usual assortment of such things for events like this. Rows of porta-potties were set up well away from all this at either end of the street.
For the first several rounds all twelve areas were being used simultaneously for the round robin portion of the tournament, with age groups moving up as one moved north down the street and the little kids occupying the southernmost play area. Since most teams entered were in the eighteen and up category, this took up six of the twelve play areas, that pushed us closer to the south end of the street.
I expected that spectators would be roughly even all up and down the street, with people maybe concentrated more at the north end with the older, and better, players. Especially since a few Medicine Hat Tigers were participating in the event as the club was one of the biggest sponsors. I thought maybe a fair number also would be at the south end with parents and families watching the little kids play. I was more or less right about this, but there was one aberration.
The area where Brenton, Scott and I played our first round robin game seemed to have far more than the expected share of spectators. I guess word had gotten around. We had collected more sponsor pledges than any other team in the tournament. By far. I know that was my doing, and I almost felt bad for how I kept pushing Scott and Brenton to get more and more. I also knew, because Jake told me, that after folks found out about our much higher than average sponsorship word had leaked out about me and my family's tragedy. There was even a sports reporter and a cameraman from the small local TV station setting up at our area.
I was nervous as hell, and feeling some pressure from all this.
“Scott, what if we suck?” I asked him as we were getting ready. The three kids we were playing against were getting ready on their side of the play area and were eyeing us curiously.
“Then we suck,” was Scott's matter of fact answer. “It doesn't matter, it's just for fun and to help a good cause.”
“Yeah, but look at all this. They're expecting more than that.”
Brenton paused from taping the grip on his stick, and looked at me. “No. It's you that's doing that.” He looked down and kept taping.
I realized he was right and shook my head a bit, donned my gloves and stood up.
The loudspeakers announced the commencement of the first games all up and down the street, and a local celebrity sang the national anthem.
Then the games started.
There are a million different sets of rules for tournaments like this one. Ours was set up like this. Three-on-three with no substitutions except for injury. We only had three players, so if one of us got hurt we'd have to play three on two or concede the game. No goalies, so all goals must be shot from within the chalked-in shooting line about fifteen feet from each net to prevent teams from just shooting the puck back and forth from across the play area. The nets were about three-quarter sized, about three feet high and four wide. No contact, obviously, and incidental contact was expected to be minimized. After a change in possession a minimum of at least one pass was mandatory before a shot to prevent a really skilled player from simply hogging the ball the whole game on a given team. Two ten minute periods with no stoppages except for goals, penalties, or injuries. No off sides and no icing. The organizers wanted to keep it fun and casual and wanted to keep the games flowing. All penalties were penalty shots, with one defender allowed as a kind of goalie within the fifteen foot area.
My worries proved to be prophetic. I mean, I was just average in skills, and so was Scott. Brenton was proving to be something considerably more than that, he had more experience that he had let on, but my nerves were in the way. I was tense, and not thinking and therefore was clumsy and playing stupid. By the end of the first ten minute period we were down 6-0.
After the short break for water we began the second period. I was getting a bit frustrated, and at one point shoved an opposing player hard to get him off the ball. The whistle went and the penalty was called for body contact. The other kid was just looking at me, not even mad like I expected, just confused.
Scott came up to me before I could do or say anything stupid. “Randy, it's just a friendly game. For charity. What are you doing?” I looked at Scott, and he continued, “Calm down.” Our code phrase for what Scott taught me a long time ago.
I closed my eyes and pulled the blanket of calm over myself. I then opened my eyes and looked at the other player who was still looking back at me oddly. “Sorry, that was stupid, I got carried away.” I held out my hand.
The kid stared at it for a second, but then shook it briefly before going to centre for his penalty shot. Brenton tried to defend the shot, but the kid scored easily, which I was almost happy about given my unsportsmanlike play. 7-0.
We lost 9-2. It was all my fault, and I felt awful. We had half an hour before our next game, so I told Scott and Brenton I was going to the bathroom and walked off to a quiet spot behind the porta-potties, ignoring the looks from the bleachers that Mr and Mrs. Somners were giving me. I sat down on a bench in the small park across the street and brooded for five minutes or so until Scott and Brenton came to find me.
Scott sat down beside me, “Quit it. You're taking this way too seriously. It's just a game.”
I looked at him. “I know. You're right, but it's just…”
Scott finished for me, “You feel you owe it to your family and yourself to do well. And you're mad that you aren't.”
I realized that was it exactly. “Yeah.”
“So you need to get your mind off all that, and just play and have fun, like we used to after school.”
“How? My head is just…spinning. All those people and that reporter are just making it worse.”
Scott hesitated, but then answered, “Me and Brenton thought of something.” He frowned a bit at Brenton, but then continued, “Well, it was Brenton's idea, but I agreed. I guess.”
I looked at them. Brenton looked at Scott and raised his eyebrows in question. Scott nodded. A bit reluctantly it seemed. Brenton suppressed a little smile and sat down on the other side of me
I looked over at him in question. He quickly put his arms around me and suddenly kissed me full on the lips, his tongue even trying to push its way past them.
I spluttered in surprise and confusion. “What the hell was that all about…?” But Brenton and Scott were already walking back to the game area, Brenton grinning and Scott shoving him and saying something about not agreeing to any tongue.
Their plan worked. I was so busy trying to figure out what the hell that was all about that it was seven minutes into the next game before I realized I forgot to be nervous. I was even having fun. Something that still felt new to me after the last few months. And the score was tied 3-3.
We won our next two round robin games, then made it all the way to the quarter finals for our age group before getting eliminated by a much better team. But I realized I hadn't had so much fun in, well, I honestly don't remember how long. I had forgotten completely what it felt like to feel like this. What was really weird was the handshake with the other team after the game ended. They were way better than us. But when we shook hands, their best player looked at me seriously and obviously having heard some of the trumped up stuff that was being said about my presence at the tournament, said, “Good game. I wish I could be more like you.”
Oh, if he only knew. Sure I was doing far better than I had been for most of the past few months, but I was still just slightly above being a complete wreck. I would be going along having what I thought was a reasonable day, then suddenly I would remember my family, and the fire, and I would freeze up and practically become catatonic for minutes at a time. I wasn't sure why entering a street hockey tournament somehow elevated me above him. After all, he entered the same tournament. I found the whole thing a bit odd.
The reporter tried to get permission to interview me after the game, which almost set off all my nervousness again, but Jake, wearing one of the organizer's t-shirts, appeared out of nowhere just in time and shooed him away. He'd have to do his story without a sound bite from me. I smiled my thanks to Jake, and he just patted my shoulder and smiled back, then walked away to continue his duties.
We had to stick around until the end, so they could do all the presentations and thank yous and whatnot. Our team got a trophy for most money raised, which drew a huge cheer. Finally it was over and I realized I was far more tired than I thought I'd be. Both physically and mentally. The physically I could understand, I was still way out of shape, but the other surprised me. Brenton and Scott were chattering away about the big steak dinner Scott's parents and Brenton's Aunt and Uncle had planned to take us all to, but I just wanted a quiet, dark bedroom.
“Guys, I think I'll just skip dinner. I just want to go to bed,” I said.
“Oh good, I've been waiting for you to ask. Let's go, your room or mine?” Brenton said. I was getting used to his constant fake flirting the last few days, so I ignored both that as well as Scott's inevitable shove at Brenton.
Scott looked at me, seeing my eyes and realizing it was more emotional than physical tiredness. “Tell you what, we've still got a couple of hours. Mom and Dad volunteered to help with the clean-up. Let's go back to my place and sit in the hot tub until they get back. Then you can see how you feel, and we'll drop you off at home if you still don't want to go.”
I looked at Scott and reluctantly agreed, remembering the last time I had been in his hot tub and what it had led to. We still hadn't really talked any more about that despite our confessions about our feelings. I know Scott wanted to. Talk about it that is. Well, probably more than just talk, but talk first. I did too, but I didn't know how to broach the subject, and besides Brenton always seemed to be around the last few days when we were together.
An hour later the three of us were sitting in Scott's hot tub. There's something about hot tubs. They have a way of making you talk about things. Things that maybe you were a bit reluctant to talk about before. Maybe it's the hot water getting you all relaxed. Maybe because there's not much else to do but talk while you're sitting there in swirling water.
Brenton was being very quiet. He kept looking back and forth between Scott and me, sitting beside each other. He seemed almost moody, and I had never seen him like that before.
“What's up?” I asked him.
“Nothing,” he said.
I didn't want to treat him like a little kid, since he hated that, so I just stared at him and raised my eyebrows until he squirmed.
“Okay,” he said, “it's just, the last time I was in a hot tub was back home with my parents in Newfoundland, before I was living here with my Aunt and Uncle, before everything changed.”
I just waited, but he didn't seem like he was going to say more. So I said, “I told you my story…”
He looked at me, then at Scott, then back to me. “Not much of a story. My dad's dead and my mom's in a psychiatric hospital. So I had to come and live here.”
Scott and I looked at each other, then back at Brenton. We waited, hot water gently swirling.
As usual, it worked it's magic, and Brenton continued, “Dad was a fisherman. Well, you know what's happened, it's all over the news, the collapse of the fisheries. Dad had bought a new boat, and lots of equipment two years ago. Owed lots of money. He couldn't pay it back. It didn't help that I kept asking for stuff I didn't need, bugging dad to get a different job since fishing sucked…” Brenton stopped talking and began playing with the water with his left hand, squirting a fountain through his fist. We waited.
“One day he went out to sea and didn't come back. They say it was an accident that he ran out of fuel. I know better. He would never do that by accident. Mom had some kind of breakdown. A week later she was in the hospital, and two days after that, well, here I am.”
Scott and I looked at each other. Scott nodded slightly at me. I moved over to the other side and pulled Brenton to me for a hug. He hugged back tightly.
Twenty minutes later we were in Scott's room getting changed. Scott and I still hadn't talked about, well, us, and my five months suppressed libido was really working hard to let me know it wasn't going to be ignored anymore, so maybe it was my fault a bit.
Or maybe it was Scott's. It was his idea that we all get changed in his room at the same time. To save time he said. Though the look on his face said something different.
Or maybe it was Brenton's. He got hard first.
We had just peeled off our bathing suits. Brenton was pretending to dry his hair. I say pretending because apparently Brenton's version of toweling his hair required considerable hip gyrations and thrusts. And giggles. I looked. Well of course I did. It was nice, and as hard as it could be, about what I would have expected for his age, with two tiny tufts of hair just beginning to show on either side. I boned up instantly. So did Scott, who I noticed didn't seem reluctant to enjoy the show either.
Brenton stopped pretending to dry his hair and moved the towel down from his face and looked at us, well, certain specific parts of us anyway, then grinned even more widely.
I leaned down and picked up my wet bathing suit from the floor. “Put that thing away you horndog,” I laughed and threw it towards him. Just my luck it gracefully arced through the air and landed hanging hilariously from his dick, which bent down from the weight not quite enough for it to fall. Brenton looked down and laughed, then flexed to make it bounce up and down.
He removed the bathing suit from its perch then scampered over towards me, said, “Now you do it,” and proceeded to carefully hang it from my own slightly larger but no less hard protuberance.
He certainly wasn't shy.
The bathing suit maybe wasn't perched quite the same, or maybe my two year older extra length had something to do with it, but my dick bent down and the bathing suit unceremoniously fell back to the floor while my dick bounced back up slapping my belly. Brenton seemed to find that hilarious, then, of course, had to try the same thing to Scott, who was standing beside me.
The same thing happened to Scott, so of course Brenton proclaimed himself the winner of a contest I wasn't aware we were having.
“Maybe you guys aren't hard enough,” proclaimed Brenton, and he reached out, one hand to each of us, apparently to attempt to rectify that situation. Though I don't think I've been harder in my life.
I was kind of uncomfortable, but not near uncomfortable enough to stop him. Scott was just laughing, but he too let Brenton take hold and start pumping.
Brenton suddenly stopped pumping both of us, though still holding on to our dicks, and, frowning, looked down at his own unheld organ. “Unfair,” he said, looking at both of us.
Scott and I looked at each other, shrugged and both reached for it at the same time.
A very few minutes later, after a few hands changed bodies and positions, I experienced another exothermic reaction of a very different kind. The first one I was awake for in five months.
It was amazing.
Jake somehow managed to get away from his tournament shut-down and clean-up duties and was able to join The Somners, Brenton's Aunt and Uncle, and us for dinner. This was a revelation of a different sort. It was a long since I could remember being in a situation like this. Talking, eating, joking, teasing, laughing.
I almost felt human again. Then I'd find myself wishing my brother and parents could be here too.
It was still touch and go, but against all odds maybe I'd figure out a way to get through this.
Scott reached for my hand. He must have noticed my mood change. I looked over at him. He looked in my eyes and smiled, squeezing his hand tighter. “I'm here,” is all he said.
Maybe life could be worth living after all.
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