Authors: Chris O'Guinn
by Chris O’Guinn
Copyright ©2013 by Chris W. O’Guinn
Originally released June 2013
Cover Art by
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All characters herein are fictional. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
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For Kelly. You changed
Table of Contents
ABSOLUTELY LOVE TO SWIM.
I can’t even say how much because no one’s ever invented a word to describe how good being in the water makes me feel. Saying it’s awesome just makes me sound like every other fifteen-year-old ever who thinks energy drinks and rocks bands are “awesome.” I mean, I am and I do, but I’ve had enough teachers sigh like I’d murdered their first-born when I used “awesome” to describe something that wasn’t like a miracle or whatever. I’m trying to not use it as much these days—yes, I am that weird.
But anyway, swimming for me is happiness and freedom and a vacation from being me. I used to spend every day of every summer in the pool, back when I had a house with one in the backyard.
You see, in the water, I’m no longer the skinny kid with the glasses who can’t seem to make it to English class without tripping over his own feet. I don’t know why walking is such a difficult thing for me. I know that’s a skill that most people master before they learn to not poop in their pants. And I was pretty good at it until I turned twelve and, in addition to all the other weird things my body started doing and growing and smelling, I grew a whole foot. No, not an extra appendage. I mean I grew from five feet to six feet in a few short and very painful months.
It was like my brain had suddenly been put behind the wheel of a whole new body and had no idea how the controls worked. I tripped. I fell. I smacked my head into things. It was a riot—to everyone but me. Every day I hoped that things would get better, that I could be suave and cool and all those awesome—I mean,
great—things instead of being a total loser. And every day brought a fresh batch of disappointments from the “Sucky High School Moments Oven” steaming like a pile of crap.
Naturally, P.E. was basically torture—state-mandated, unavoidable cruel and unusual punishment. I couldn’t hit a baseball to save my life—though I nearly concussed the catcher once, which didn’t win me any friends. Soccer was sort of my own personal hell, since in addition to my own feet I had to worry about everyone else’s.
Then there was basketball. Since I towered over everyone in my class, it was naturally assumed that I should be a future NBA All Star. The guy who picked me for his team, Stuart, very soon regretted his decision. I felt bad, since it was the first time I hadn’t been picked last for a team and I wanted to do a good job for him. But it turns out, being tall isn’t all you need to be good at basketball—you need some hand-eye coordination, a lot of dexterity and of course speed. I didn’t have any of those things.
Plus, the game is more complicated than trigonometry. Seriously, whoever invented the rules for basketball had to be on drugs. At least baseball is simple—you get up to the plate, you try to hit the ball, you fail, you go back and die of shame. I like to keep the reasons for my failures straightforward.
Anyway, swimming isn’t like that. For one, it didn’t require teams. That meant there was no one to be pissed at me for making them lose. There were no rules to memorize and no one to compete with. It was like track, except without all the sweating, panting and wishing I could lie down and die.
The laps in the pool were nothing like the laps on the field. I could just lose myself in the pleasant coolness of the water and the way it parted around me. My stupid, clumsy legs were able to manage the scissoring motion that I asked of them without embarrassing me. They propelled me along much faster than anyone in the opposing lanes, but I didn’t really care. It wasn’t a race. We weren’t being tested. I just liked being able to go as fast as I could because it was nice to experience a form of motion that didn’t end up with me face down on the concrete with scraped hands and knees.
No, in the water I was…. Well, I was going to say graceful, but that sounds kind of arrogant, so I’ll just go with
And in my life, believe me, that’s a precious gift. My feeling is that most people start out at normal and then some strive for exceptional. You know the sort—the football quarterback, the head cheerleader, the valedictorian, those kinds of people. Me, I’d take “normal” any day.
Seriously, normal is fantastic. Take it from Western Valley High’s resident freak.
I climbed out of the pool only when the coach blew his whistle and then I checked to see if there would be any lanes empty when the next and last group had their turn. Unfortunately, there weren’t, so I grabbed my towel (which hadn’t been thrown on the wet ground, so it was a great morning) and sat on the bleachers.
And I shivered. Swimming at eight in the morning when it was sixty-five degrees out had to violate some part of the Geneva Conventions. No one was allowed to leave, though, until the whole class had finished their laps. So I just sat there and dripped and shivered and wished I was back in the water.
Lucas, a guy I used to hang with, was talking to his friends Jojo and Kris and Luis about the new
3D movie and how “sick” it was. I thought about chiming in about how I’d loved the chase scene in the beginning, but then I remembered that life was better when no one knew I existed. So I kept my mouth shut.
Behind me, I heard Tommy and Jordan bantering about some online video game tournament that Jordan had won. Tommy thought Jordan had gotten lucky, but he sounded jealous too.
Everyone, it seemed, had their own little group to belong to. My group, the Social Misfits and Outcasts clique, had a pretty exclusive membership of one. When you have as many odd quirks as I’ve got, you tend to go through friends pretty fast. There’s the first meeting, where I’m weird and different and therefore interesting. There’s the early stage, where I’m still interesting because I talk funny and have a lot of video games (well, used to, but that’s another story). And then there’s the distancing, the unanswered calls and the eventual forgetting of who I am.
High school, I had decided, would be different. I wouldn’t bother making friends at all. You can’t lose what you don’t have, right?
The whistle blew and class was over. It was just in time, too, to avoid my impending hypothermia. I didn’t scramble to the locker room, because that would have been a mistake. And I still slipped in a puddle and went sprawling. Fortunately, since I was trailing behind the class, there was no one to laugh at me.
Locker rooms—not my favorite place. I have nightmares about getting boned up around my classmates. Like, full-on, surround-sound, 3D nightmares that wake me up in a cold sweat. I think maybe it’s only that terror which keeps my dick from humiliating me.
Of course, when you’re freezing your nuts off, it’s easier to avoid that problem. It’s actually more of the reverse situation—I don’t need to spell that out, do I? But since everyone was suffering from the same condition, no one was eager to make a joke about it. So I was mostly safe.
A guy named Liam had the locker next to mine. Liam scared me. He wasn’t a bully. He just hung out with a really bad crowd—the ones who did drugs and listened to heavy metal and looked like they were looking forward to their careers as criminals. His shaved head made Liam look tough, like the sort of guy who might jump you and beat you to death for your ATM card. Under the bulk of his hoody and baggie jeans, though, he was even skinnier than me.
This was the closest I’d ever been to him. He rarely showed up to class, which I figured was why he was a year behind in school. I was surprised he had come to P.E., but then I thought maybe it was a condition of his parole. And then I was very glad I didn’t say that aloud.
My self-preservation instincts weren’t connected to my eyes, though, since they slid entirely of their own will in his direction when he shucked his swim trunks.
Yes, I’m a terrible person. It’s just one of those quirks I mentioned. I like the way guys look and I like looking at naked guys. Sure, there’s plenty of that online (as my bookmarks will prove) but there’s a big difference between a picture on the screen and a real person. And since I was never going to get naked with a guy in the fun gay way, this was my one guilty pleasure.
The interesting thing about Liam was that he was the least shy guy I had ever seen in real life. It’s not like “Penises on Parade” in my locker room. I’ve read it’s different with other people, but the guys at my school are really, really shy. We all do this little dance where we wrap a towel around our waist and then get our shorts and whatever off. Then we scurry to the showers, shower very fast while staying as close to the wall as possible and then quickly towel up and dress again.
Liam was just standing next to me, confounding me with his nakedness. I’m betting you’re expecting my next statement to start with, “Of course, if I looked like him, I’d run around naked too” or something, because that would be what normally comes next—I’ve read the stories too.
But no, it wasn’t that. I mean, he wasn’t ugly or anything, or covered in tattoos. In spite of how dangerous even looking was, I took in that he seemed average in just about every way. He was just a scrawny kid like me, though he was somehow even paler than I am. Strangely, he had almost no hair anywhere on his body. That’s weird for a sixteen-year-old, right?
Liam gave me a sidelong look and a smile and reached up and into his locker, stretching up on the balls of his feet as he did so.
My heart stopped. Thus far, I’d always succeeded in keeping my peeking covert. And the one time my gaze lingered a bit too long to be innocent, it had to be with Liam. Here I’d always been worried that it would be my dick that would get me into trouble. Instead, it was my eyes. Is that irony?
I quickly looked away, as if that might possibly avoid the very bad things that were about to happen to me. I waited for the dreaded “fag” to be hissed at me. That would be awful, but maybe that would be enough to get me out of trouble. He could mock me and forget about me. If he held onto his resentment of my lingering gaze, he might get his friends to help him teach me a lesson.
He wiggled as he tried to reach into the back of the top shelf of the locker, and I tried so hard to not notice how that made certain parts of him bounce. Really, I tried. My life is pathetic and everything, but I’m not suicidal. But he kept
it, like he was daring me to look.