October, 1969

                  Matty bowed from the waist, his eyes fixed on his sparring partner and his fists clenched in front of him, as was the tradition in this Asian art of self- defense called kokondo. Tiny beads of sweat clung to his furrowed forehead and his hair was drenched with perspiration, but he hardly noticed. He straightened his back and went into his stance, a kind of relaxed crouch, but more upright, his bare feet shifting on the hardwood floor as he kept his center of gravity directly over his slightly skewed legs.

               He kept his eyes locked on the opponent in front of him, reading his face for any clue that would give the tall boy an advantage. The only sound he heard was his own breathing as he prepared for the impending attack.

               It happened suddenly, in the flash of a white gi held closed with a green belt. It came as a sudden, calculated lunge to his right, a spin move that morphed into a round- house kick, which he deftly blocked using  a circular motion of his left arm, side- stepping the kick at the same time. He pulled  the agile boy towards him, using his captured leg and countered with a vicious punch to the now- exposed ribcage, gauging his strike carefully and exhaling sharply as the blow drove the breath from the startled adversary. He had pulled his punch, but it was still dealt with the lightening speed he had practiced so diligently to achieve, on the heavy burlap bag that hung from the old apple tree in the back yard of the little red cape cod house. It would have broken ribs, had he not, but it still had a devastating effect, as the 16- year -old boy crumpled to the maple floor, gasping for breath.

                The swarthy teacher briskly motioned towards the prone opponent and then turned towards the victor and with a quick motion of his open hand, ended the match.  Matty reached down, and helped the white- faced boy to his feet. Both boys turned towards the older man and bowed, as he nodded his approval and returned the bow, but in a lesser way. He was, after all, the sensei. The master. A 7th degree black belt, deserved of their respect. They walked to the gap in the circle of students and sat down, side by side, crossing their legs in front of them, like all of the others. Whispered congratulations came Matty’s way and he smiled briefly and then listened to the observations of the seasoned fighter. Matty’s sparring partner sat to the lean teenager’s right, looking a little distressed, so Matty leaned closer and whispered in the boy’s ear, “You OK, Danny?”

                  The boy smiled half- heartedly and nodded, but continued to hold his side. Matty turned away and listened to the sensei for a while, but couldn’t get the boy off his mind. He felt a little bad about the blow he had connected with, because it was harder than he had intended. The sensei was finished and now all of his students stood ceremoniously and bowed to the older man holding their clenched hands in front of them, in a gesture of deep respect and determination. Then, they were dismissed and the solemn silence morphed into an uneven hum as the tired fighters chatted and made their way to the changing areas. In this place, there was no formal lockerroom. Just the shadowy backstage of the auditorium, where the boys gathered to retrieve their street clothes and make the transition back to the ordinary wear of the day. Jeans and corduroys on some, bellbottoms on others… Matty had been dressed in Bobby’s standard favorite- corduroys. Of course, because the boy tried NOT to imitate, Matty had purchased gray pants, while Bobby almost never wore anything but white. White was his color, and he looked… well…sensational in them!

               With Danny grimacing by his side, Matty removed the white gi and carefully rolled up the canvas belt and tucked it and the uniform into the brown gym bag that he used to carry his athletic shoes and the uniforms from the various sports he had played, over the years. The bag had been gifted to him by an older cousin who had outgrown it, and had purchased a much nicer one with white stripes down the sides and a famous maker’s logo embossed in gold letters for all to see. But, the tall boy, ever conscious of his role in a large family, had graciously accepted… It was one last thing to have to purchase. After all, most of his hard- earned money was being saved for the day he might head off to college.

             So, he stood there near Danny in his BVD’s and glanced at the boy. He was still groaning a little as he bent over to tuck his uniform into the shopping bag he had brought it in. Matty noticed the redness on the boy’s left side…

             “Sorry hit you so hard, Danny” the 15 -year- old boy said. “I tried to pull back, but you were moving into me and I kind of missed.. Sorry.”

              The blond- haired boy shifted his weight nervously and looked at Matty, not making eye contact at first. “No… It’s OK… You did what you were s’posed to. I just got caught off guard because it happened so quick and was late tightening my muscles… Caught me pretty good, but it was MY fault…” He looked Matty in the eyes and reddened, and then fumbled nervously with his jeans and started to put them on. But his balance must have been affected by his painful side and as he stepped into the second leg of the tight jeans, his foot slid off the corner of the padded tumbling mat that was being stored in that area and he suddenly fell headlong into the underwear clad teenager, nearly knocking them both to the floor. He released the pants but grabbed frantically at Matty for balance, and in the process, his right hand ended up in a delicate area of the tall boy’s anatomy, half on his hip and partially touching his private parts. Matty stumbled backwards but kept his balance and caught the hunched over boy by the shoulders. It happened very quickly and Matty was surprised but unflustered. Danny was anything but…

              His face went from red to white and back to crimson in only a few moments. “Shit.” he exclaimed. “Sorry… I guess I’m hopeless tonight.”

              Both boys separated and Matty chuckled, shaking his head. “No big deal! But those freakin’ pants are so small for you, no wonder you have trouble getting into them!” He looked at the red- faced boy and giggled again, trying to defeat the nervousness in his eyes. “You oughta get some bellbottoms! They’re easier to get into, only the hip huggers they’re selling  now are kind of weird if you know what I mean… I tried some on the last time I shopped for clothes and I felt like I needed to pull them up, only they already were… up, I mean…” He was rambling, and starting to feel nervous himself. Matty started to slip into his t- shirt and the other boy sat down on the blue mat to pull his jeans on the rest of the way. As his head poked thru the opening, Matty looked down at Danny and the boy looked away quickly. Matty was almost sure that he had been studying his cotton -covered backside…

             It was unexpected but once he realized, the 15 year old boy felt… strangely excited. And yet, it was a lot to understand, at that moment. After all, he and Bobby had decided that they were some sort of anomaly. Unique in their love and the relationship that had developed over the years. Danny was a very attractive young guy, but Matty had treated him the same way as any casual friend. This was new territory. He slowly started to feel guilty for the thoughts that were now careening thru his brain… Both boys dressed in silence after that, altho Matty took his time to finish, hoping to camouflage his realizations with a carefree manner. He tried to whistle a song, but his lips were too dry…

November, 1975

            Matty stood his ground, facing the stranger who now blocked the exit from the oceanside changing room. He blotted at his soaked hair and face with a wad of paper towels from the wall hung dispenser and then threw them disgustedly into the platinum colored trash can near the sinks.

            The older guy studied him and then flinched, as he assessed the look on the 21 -year- old’s face. Whether he expected weakness or resignation, was unclear, but there was neither. He had miscalculated, and the look on his face made that clear. He lowered his gaze, and seeing the clenched fists, raised his hands with his palms facing outwards and stepped meekly to the side.

            Matty shook his head and walked briskly thru the cinderblock opening, keeping his guard up and glaring at the bold stranger whose smirk now looked a little more like a nervous twitch. He opened the steel door and reached the sunlight and the sand covered macadam of the ramp area. The boy glanced behind him but he was not being followed, so he took a deep breath and headed back to his waiting car. The day had started well, but the good feelings were quickly deteriorating, and that was exactly not what the tall youth had wanted, so he hesitated as he reached the sleek Firebird, and then stood for a moment, reassessing his options. He had never backed down from bullies and he wasn’t about to start. So, he got into the low- riding car and turned the key. The throaty rumble greeted him and reassured the tall youth in a strange way. He felt more powerful, in a sense. Less vulnerable in this strange land. So, he shifted the steel- armored monster and slowly released the clutch, until the machine lifted him past the bad feelings and onto the flat expanse of the Daytona shores. There were a scattering of cars and the experience felt quite odd, because he had never actually driven to the water’s edge on any beach before.

           

          He turned to the south and started to drive, with the morning breeze wafting through his open windows. It felt surreal to be skimming the hard packed sand in his cockpit, and for a moment, he closed his eyes and tasted the salt air and basked in the sunny fantasy that he had once just imagined.

         But, it was short- lived, as he reached some embedded pilings and was forced to weave his purring machine to the right and back to the left. At that moment, he wondered about the intelligence of exposing his car to the salty environment of the Florida beach, so he  slowly came to a stop, facing the gentle waves that lapped the early morning shores. He shut off the rumbling engine and embraced the rare moment as a gathering of sand terns flitted about, dodging the incoming waves and pecking at the glistening sand. Off shore, he spotted his very first pelican as it dove into the quiet surf, disappearing beneath the turquoise water until the boy sat up in his seat, imagining that something bad had befallen the sturdy hunter. But in a few more seconds, it popped up from the depths, gulping it’s catch in a move that resembled a Jai Alai maneuver. It was amazing to watch this spectacle before him. The young man sat there until the sun had cleared the visor that shielded his eyes. By that time, he had witnessed no less than a dozen successful birds, as they hunted nearby, oblivious to his presence.

         There was another rumble now… More of a growl, really. He had not eaten since consuming the Coke and Mars bar from his back seat cooler, and that was more than eight hours ago! So, he started the restless machine and turned it towards the ramp where he had entered this exotic place… He had seen enough for now, and wanted something substantial in his stomach to satiate the growing pains. He felt absolutely hollow suddenly…

          By the time Matty reached the sand- washed ramp, the early morning beach-goers had become a steady stream of local and out- of -state cars of all types. It was exciting at first, but then a sense of disenchantment started to seep into the boy’s consciousness. The once tranquil setting had morphed into something ugly and stifling and he yearned for the freedom of the open road. If only he could get out of this town!

           So he impatiently followed the blue convertible in front of him as it crawled up the clogged ramp and towards the bottleneck created by bathing suited pedestrians and a police car that seemed to be serving no purpose, parked at an odd angle near the curb. Matty swore softly under his breath at the stupidity of the situation that was forcing the outgoing traffic to navigate the narrowed area because of that one patrol car.

               As he approached the cruiser, he noticed the activity around the car as passers by gawked at a handcuffed man who appeared to be pleading his case to two cops who shook their heads and smiled at each other as if they were sharing a private joke. It all would have been of just passing interest and one of those mysterious outcomes one wonders about years hence, but as he slowly passed the cruiser, Matty noticed the unmarked grey car in front of it… He was startled  as he made eye contact with the young man leaning into the passenger compartment. It was the dark- haired stranger who had accosted him in the shower room!  For a split second, Matty could not understand what was going on, but then, in a flash of realization, it all became clear.

                The stranger was sharing a moment with the sheriff in the passenger seat and bumming a cigarette, but there was more to it than that! They obviously knew each other and were involved in the unfolding scene…

                  Matty felt a chill run up his spine as the apparent undercover cop motioned to his friends and all three turned to watch the sleek Firebird slowly leave the area. He averted his eyes, and felt a wave of nausea pass over him.  He pushed it aside just as quickly and clenched his jaw. Anger replaced the queasiness as the auburn- haired youth left the beach access checking in his rear- view mirror…

                  He would never return to Daytona Beach.

November, 1974

                Matty awakened to the filtered sunlight streaming through the steel blinds in the little apartment. He had felt the king- sized waterbed react as Bobby carefully crawled off after kissing him softly on the back of his neck. It was nearly impossible to get on or off the strange contraption without disturbing the slumber of one’s partner unless he slept like a log, as was Bobby’s reputation. Matty, on the other hand, had been a light sleeper since the age of 10, when he came to realize that monsters do indeed exist, if mostly in the nightmares of a child. He would never outgrow that, as the decades rolled by and this morning was no exception. But here, in the presence of his mate, he felt safe, and that allowed him to luxuriate in the feeling of safety, and surrender to the extra sleep he was allowed on saturday mornings.

                 It was to be a short reprieve as the sound of Bobby relieving himself in the nearby bathroom echoed off the tiled walls and reached a crescendo that could be easily heard in the dimly lit bedroom. Matty smiled gently as Bobby heaved a sigh of relief. He turned onto his back and giggled softly, rubbing at his closed eyes. Bobby was paying the price for the three cups of coffee he had insisted on drinking at midnight after betting Matty that they would be of no consequence… It was all in the definition, Matty thought, as the only perceivable consequence until now, had been a hyperactive love- making session replete with cotton rope and blindfolds. Something that the muscular boy had dreamed up. Where he got those ideas, Matty would never completely understand, but he had to admit that they were almost always intriguing and erotic, and often involved props that the auburn haired youth never envisioned, from dripping candles to the infamous fur glove that could be used in so many ways, it was almost banal in its appearance at some point… Well, unless Bobby was feeling a bit more aggressive that night!  Then, he had to be careful to guard against any impulsive agreement, unless he was feeling totally adventuress!

                  The sound of the flushing toilet and the running sink water closed the deal for the snoozing boy. He kept his eyes partially closed as the creaking floor in the hallway gave away the stealthiness of his approaching lover. He peered through his squinted eyes, having never tired of seeing his friend come into the bedroom, trying mightily not to awaken him. He loved to watch the athletic boy creep carefully in the buff, to the side of the large bed, and lean over to see if he was feigning sleep. It was all part of the dance, and altho it’s hard to explain, something that the young man would carry with him forever, for it represented the caring and concern that Bobby held for him. Something that spoke to him in ways no words ever could.

                    This morning, it would not work, as the approaching boy giggled under his breath, giving away his excitement that he was not alone in this waking hour… Matty peered thru his eyelashes and realized that Bobby was grinning ear to ear, and holding his right hand behind his back. That was a little unsettling, this early in the morning, as Bobby was prone to impulsive desires, and that could mean just about anything! So, the feigning of sleep was a little too dangerous, and Matty quickly adjusted his tactics.

                   “OK, you maniac!  What’s behind your back!” the awakened boy shrieked.

                    “Huh? What’re you talkin’ about?” Bobby replied innocently. And then with a snicker, “I thought you were sleeping bad boy! Now, I think I’m gonna have to teach you a lesson…”

                        “Oh my God, you can’t possibly be horny after last night!” Matty countered. ” We never got to sleep until close to two o’clock! What the heck are you planning now? I’m wasted, and you’re starting all over?”

                         Bobby giggled and then reverted to form. “Just roll over onto your stomach and stop asking questions! That’s an order Cadet Reed!”

                         “Good Lord,” Matty sighed. “Listen…”

                           “ON YOUR STOMACH… NOW!!” followed by a muffled giggle. (Even Bobby cracked himself up at times…)

                          Matty grinned sheepishly, and then warily rolled over… No sense in wasting this intriguing opportunity, even if he was tired! Sleep could wait until he was an old man!

                           So, he complied, and the motion of the water bed doubled as his partner in crime climbed aboard and caught himself as he toppled foward, muttering, “Damned bed…” And then he righted himself as Matty glanced over his shoulder to see what was going on.

                           “Close your eyes, Cadet!” and then, the sting of a bare hand on his suddenly exposed backside…

                            Matty grunted in surprise and turned his head, still grinning, and closed his eyes. He was now in Bobby’s control, at least for the moment, and the myriad of possibilities blossomed in his mind as he felt the tingling in his spine move to his groin. It was only a moment before he felt the tender hand alight on his lower back and gently trace the indentation there with feather light fingertips. It was unexpected, and it contrasted so starkly with the assault on his buttocks, it took the breath out of the tall lad. He then felt a second hand on his upper back and the cool wetness of something being applied to his sinewy muscles. It was wonderful…

                          “Just relax, Cadet… We’ll get you into top form in no time. A little R&R never hurt anyone, and you deserve it after all the training you went thru last night… “

                            Matty felt the hands work the slippery substance into his tired muscles as the aroma of the special massage oil reached his nose. He closed his eyes and stretched out on the massive bed as Bobby worked his experienced hands up and down his back, always stopping just short of his backside. This went on for nearly ten minutes, until the tall youth whispered his request, “A little lower Bobby… lower. Why are you stopping?”

                              “Truth or dare?”  The hands had stopped their magical journey.

                              “Huh? Now? Whatta ya mean?”

                                “Truth or dare! Or, I’ll just stop! “

                                 Matty opened his eyes and glanced over his shoulder at the grinning boy. He was greeted by a resounding slap on his already reddened backside. Typical Bobby. Unpredictable… “Truth or dare, Cadet!”

                                   “OK, OK!! Cripes… Truth, I guess”

                                   ” What was the most embarrassing thing you remember in your life?”

                                   “Good Lord! How do I know…” Another slap, this time harder, as the interrogation continued.

                                    “What was the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?”

                                    “OK. I give up… Let me think…. ” Matty searched his mind and thought  back into the years, finally settling on his fifteenth year of life, and the fall semester of his sophomore year in high school… He sighed and shuddered, just remembering that unnerving saturday. “OK… Ready?”

                                      “YEP! Let ‘er rip, Bubba!”

Continued in part 15…

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