Have you ever noticed how some things that happen just stick in our minds forever?
Then without our even knowing it, those same events begin to shape our lives and our destiny. They pull us this way or that, tearing at our very being, or pummeling us into submission, like the endless waves that crash upon our shores only to then be sucked back out to sea, creating those dangerous and unseen rips that sweep the unwary and the underprepared to a certain death.
I know that not everyone may look at it that way, but that is what it feels like, to me at least.
And have you ever noticed that it is mostly the sad things that we remember first? And even when we may not want them to be there, lodged inside our minds, they stay there all the same. Never leaving us. Never letting us forget.
But then there are those few moments that we get to cherish forever. We remember joy and laughter, or something that we were applauded for, and the echoes of the happiness we felt right at that moment rings forever in our ears.
I have one such moment that stands out above all the others; it was the day that I saved somebody from the clutches of the sea, and while the memories of that day may not all be rosy, the fact that I did what I did still fills me with pride. No matter what else I have, or haven't, done with my own life since, I know that just once I made a difference. I managed to give somebody the chance to live a life of his own.
I think of him occasionally, as I sit in that same shady spot by the water, and wonder what became of him. I guess he must be eighteen or nineteen now.
* * *
I remember that the four of us had enjoyed our lunch then we had lazed away part of the afternoon, before heading to the ocean for a surf.
Chris and Robert were the experts amongst us (Chris would actually later try his hand with the pros), but Billy and I kept getting wiped out, so after a while we dragged our sorry arses from the ocean and headed back over the dunes and Main Street, toward the hill and the shade of our favourite Moreton Bay Fig tree, carrying our boards under our arms and quietly cursing ourselves.
'Man, I ain't never gonna get any good at that,' Billy said to me.
'Don't worry about it mate. You ain't the only one,' I replied, while grinning at him.
For some reason that day I had found myself looking at Billy in a different light. I think that it was the first time I had studied him closely when we had been together. He was wearing his favourite multi-coloured board shorts, the ones with the orange and mauve and yellow bands, and looking at these set against his olive skin and his sun-bleached hair all matted and wet, I felt a tingling sensation within my stomach that started to unnerve me.
It wasn't the first time that I had felt it, and I had always tried to push aside what I thought it meant, but now I had come to a realisation that I couldn't escape from, and that both scared and excited me.
'Hey, Scottie, I think I might head into the showers before I do too much else,' he said to me as we trudged up the hill toward 'our' tree. 'I want to wash the sand and the salt off me.'
'Good thinking,' I replied, suddenly feeling that tingling sensation move lower. I found myself wanting desperately to see more of my friend.
We dumped our boards in the bushes near the picnic table and strolled down towards the toilets and showers, which were all within the same building, which was situated down by the creek that flowed from the lake, although set back well away from the water's edge.
I kept looking sideways at Billy, unable to take my eyes off the body that he had developed over the past twelve months, but had somehow, almost always, managed to keep hidden from me.
'What's your problem?' he asked me, with a grin, as we crossed the last stretch of grass before we reached the red brick building.
'N-n-nothing,' I managed to stutter, then quickly looked away toward the boats sailing around on the lake.
When I glanced back at him moments later, I saw him smiling to himself.
I followed him inside and we found the showers, which were basically just three nozzles along one wall of a fairly large room, with taps on the wall below them. Along the opposite wall there was a low bench, with hooks on the wall above them for hanging your clothes. It was dark inside, but it didn't take long for our eyes to become accustomed to the light.
Without taking his shorts off, Billy walked over to one of the showers and turned it on, which made my heart sink. Trying not to let any of my feelings show, however, I joined him, turning on the shower beside his and standing under the stream of cold water, letting it run down through my hair, washing the salt water from me.
I remember that we glanced at each other a few times, before turning away, and I wondered if he may have been having the same thoughts I was.
After a couple of minutes I then heard him say, 'Oh man, my shorts are all full of sand.'
I turned around just in time to see his shorts hit the floor and Billy stepping out of them, then bending over in front of me and picking them up.
'You should be careful who you do that in front of,' I said to him, half joking.
He turned around and grinned at me.
'Oh, I think I know what I'm doing,' was all he said, before then holding his shorts up under the stream of water to wash the sand from them.
I watched him out of the corner of my eye, glancing furtively in his direction every so often and seeing him standing side-on to me. His tanned body was smooth and far more muscular than I could recall him being last summer, and the semi-hard cock that was sticking out from the thick bush of brown pubes was something I had desired to see for quite a long time but had never had the opportunity to do so, until now.
He turned and caught me staring at him with my mouth open.
'Haven't you ever seen one of these before?' he laughed.
'Errr, not in that state, I haven't.'
In one motion he threw his shorts across the room onto the bench and turned to faced me fully, with his cock now pointing straight at me, and growing harder with every minute.
'Don't you have sand in your shorts as well? I can see you have something in there.'
I glanced down and saw my own hardening member, now struggling to break free of my two-toned blue Billabong shorts. I couldn't believe that after having known each other for so long we were now talking like this.
'I . . . errr . . .' I began to say, but he walked over to me and placed a finger on my lips.
'Ssssh,' he said. 'Let me help you.'
I was frozen to the spot. Part of me wanted to run. Part of me wanted to drop to my knees. Part of me wanted the ground to open up and swallow me.
We could hear the sounds of the seaside coming to us from outside the building. Seagulls, children playing and the usual sound of the surf crashing on the nearby beach, but from inside the showers the only sounds being made were the sound of the water falling on concrete, and the sound of our own heavy breathing.
I was still frozen to the same spot when Billy's hand touched the zipper on my shorts, brushing gently over my own erection. He unzipped me, then fumbled with the button, and before long my shorts were down around my ankles and Billy's hand was wrapped around my shaft.
His was the first hand besides my own to ever touch me while my cock was in this state of excitement. And it felt wonderful.
Tentatively I reached across and touched him also, feeling his firmness, feeling his length, running my hand backwards and forwards, with each motion revealing the throbbing head of his penis from the folds of loose foreskin.
'That feels so good,' he whispered to me, while stroking my cut cock in much the same way.
'I've never felt another guy before,' I whispered back.
'Well, you're a pretty quick learner then,' he said, grinning. I wasn't sure I should say anything, so I stayed silent.
We stayed as we were for a few minutes, each just enjoying the touch of the other, sharing something that we had both obviously dreamed about and desired, but each of us apparently unsure of what the next step was, or even if we wanted to take that next step.
I reached up and placed my hand on Billy's chest, feeling the beating of his heart beneath my fingers and gazing into the deep dark pools that were his eyes.
'What are you thinking?' he whispered softly to me.
'How I never knew you were into this. And how I wish I'd known a long time ago. And how I reckon this would have to be the strangest birthday present I've ever given to you.'
'I've sometimes seen you watching me and I've often wondered about you,' he said. 'There's no one else around here that I've ever thought might be keen, so I reckoned this was going to be the best opportunity I was ever going to have to find out.'
'I'm glad you did,' I replied, then leaned forward and kissed him gently on the lips, before saying, 'Happy Birthday, Billy.'
'Holy cow!' someone suddenly said, and we both spun around and looked toward the doorway, where a young boy, no more than nine or ten years old, was standing, staring at us.
Before we could say or do anything however, he turned and ran from the building, leaving us standing there in the shower, still holding onto each other, with water still cascading down over us.
* * *
'Fuck. What do we do now?' I asked Billy in a shaky voice. I looked at him and noticed that his face had become totally drained of all colour.
He didn't answer me. He just started shaking.
I turned off the water and pulled my shorts back on, then touched him on the shoulder. He flinched and stepped backwards, looking at me with nothing but fear in his eyes.
'Come on mate, we've got to get out of here,' I said to him.
Still he said nothing.
The fear of having been caught had paralysed him, while the fear of someone coming and catching us still in there was what was driving me.
I walked across the room and picked up his shorts and threw them at him, hitting him squarely in the chest. He caught them before they dropped to the floor, then looked at me with an expression that could only be described as anger, before quickly returning to that of fear and confusion, which he had worn only moments beforehand.
'Put them on,' I said to him. 'We've got to get out of here before someone comes in.'
Reluctantly he did as he was told, then folded his arms across his body, clasping his sides, shivering.
'C'mon, let's get going,' I urged and slowly he followed.
We got to the main doorway into the men's side of the building and I cautiously peered around the edge, with Billy standing behind me. There was no one to be seen anywhere.
'I think the coast is clear,' I whispered to him.
I felt his cold hand touch my back and I looked at him, relieved to see the colour returning to his features and a wan smile on his lips.
'Man, I've never been so scared in all my life,' he whispered.
'Yeah mate, I know,' I replied. 'Look, there's no one outside that I can see. Let's just get back up to the tree on the hill.'
'Okay,' he replied.
I looked outside again and could see no one close by, so I stuck my head out a little further. There were people down by the lake's edge, paddling about in the shallow water, and there were a few other people scattered here and there, but I couldn't see the boy who had busted us anywhere.
'Come on,' I said. 'Let's go.'
Together we stepped out into the sunlight and after turning at the edge of the building we headed back across the grass that we had earlier crossed, with our hearts in our mouths, half expecting to be chased.
No one called out. No one yelled at us.
We climbed the hill and headed for our safe place, feeling extremely lucky, but then we heard some distant laughter and looked toward the marina where we saw a group of people sitting around a picnic table and looking our way.
Amongst them was a young boy of about nine or ten, with dirty blonde hair, wearing only his red Speedos.
We climbed the hill as quickly as we could, trying to get out of sight of the group of people, and shortly afterward found ourselves sitting once more on our favourite picnic table, breathing deeply and feeling quite lucky.
* * *
After we had caught our breath and we felt like things had returned to normal I said to Billy, 'That was a close call, mate.'
'You're not wrong there,' he answered.
'I'm glad that we did what we did though,' I said.
He grinned at me and said, 'Yeah. So am I.'
I looked toward the main beach and could see Robert and Chris still riding the waves.
'They seem to be enjoying themselves,' Billy said to me, when he noticed where I was staring.
'Yeah, they do. We were too, until we got interrupted, as I recall.'
Billy grinned. 'Yeah, I think we were.'
'Do you want to come home to my place and finish what we started?' I asked.
'Umm. . . not just now. Let me get over today first, will you?'
I just laughed at him.
As it was now well into the afternoon and the sun was moving westwards across the sky, our shaded picnic table, which had been a blessing in the middle of the day, was now emerging into the afternoon sunlight, which warmed us through and through.
We sat with our backs to the table, leaning against its edge, while looking down towards the lake toward where the creek flowed out of it.
There were people still paddling around in the shallows, and kids building sand castles on the beach, and further out there were others swimming and even a few small sail boats skimming back and forth across the water.
I noticed that the creek seemed to be running a bit faster than usual today, which was quite normal when there had been storms on the mountains to the west of the town. It had rained the night before, quite heavily actually, so it wasn't entirely unexpected that the river flowing into the lake would having something of a fresh in it.
If you were swimming in the lake and stayed close to shore you would usually be all right. However, if you strayed too far out, into where the current was flowing, you were liable to be trapped in the fast flowing water and could possibly end up being swept out to sea. It had happened before.
As I looked at the scene below us, I noticed a small head bobbing up and down in the water and an arm waving towards someone on the shore.
Whoever it was that the person was waving to however, wasn't seeing them, and as I watched for a few seconds more I saw that the head and arm was being swept towards the entrance to the creek.
'Shit,' I said, as I jumped to my feet. 'There's someone stuck in the current.'
'What?' Billy asked, having been looking the other way.
'Down there,' I said, pointing towards the head, which was by now quite some distance from where I had first noticed it.
Billy looked to where I was pointing, then we looked again at the other people on the shore. Nobody had noticed.
We looked back at the head. It bobbed under the water momentarily, then thankfully resurfaced.
'Come on. We've got to do something,' I almost yelled at my friend, and we both set off at a run down the hill, towards a point where we thought we may be able to intercept whoever it was.
'What are we going to do?' Billy asked me as we ran towards a small jetty.
'We need to find some rope or something. Can you do that? Try the place that hires the floating trikes,' I said. 'I'll dive in and try and grab them. You head toward the bridge and we'll try and grab onto whatever you can throw us.'
There were two bridges which crossed the creek that flowed from Thompson Lake. One was a two lane bridge for traffic, while the other was a simple footbridge.
It sounded like a simple plan, so I hoped that he grasped it. There was no more time for talking now, though, I ran as fast as I could and dived straight into the water, just in front of the bobbing head that was coming towards me.
Somehow, I managed to position myself so I could see him, or her, as they were being swept closer to me, and it was then that I realised that it was a small child, a boy, and he was struggling and gasping for breath.
I reached out and managed to grab a hold of his arm and pulled him toward me, then wrapped an arm around his limp body. I kicked and tried steering some sort of course in toward the bank, but I wasn't sure if I was succeeding or not.
'I hope you're there, Billy,' I remember thinking, hoping and praying that he had found a rope and would be waiting near the footbridge just ahead of where we now were.
The current had us in its grasp, tearing relentlessly at us both, but I managed to look briefly along the shore and at the two bridges, and saw Billy running, carrying a rope and what looked like a flotation ring, and with a crowd of people now following him.
I knew the bridges were getting closer, but how close I wasn't sure, until we passed beneath the traffic bridge. That meant the footbridge was only seconds away.
Then in one moment I heard something splash in the water beside me. From the corner of my vision I could see something orange and instinctively I reached out grabbed for it. I missed the first time, then after giving a hard kick I was able to grab hold of the flotation ring, then in the next moment I saw the bridge pass over us.
We were now travelling quite fast but just then we just stopped, dead in the water, and with the current washing forcefully over us. We had come to the end of the rope.
I managed to look back toward the bridge and saw the taut line, which stretched from us to the bridge and up into the hands of about three people, one of whom was Billy.
'Pull them in,' I heard someone yell, and gradually we were pulled closer and closer toward them.
As the rope had passed under the bridge it was difficult for our rescuers to pull us all the way in to them. I saw someone reach over the side that we were on and stretch down with a large grappling hook in their hands and hook it onto the rope, then a couple of more people starting tugging on the rope and inched us slowly in toward the bank, where welcome hands soon plucked us both from the water.
'Oh, Justin,' I heard a woman crying as the child, a small boy of about nine or ten years was taken from me.
It was the boy that had seen us in the showers. I looked up at Billy, whose face was once again drained of all colour.
'That was well done Scott,' someone said to me as they wrapped a blanket around my shoulders.
I looked around and saw that it was one of my teachers from school, Mr Harris.
I managed a half a smile, but then started coughing.
There were people everywhere. Justin's mother was still crying. People came over and slapped me on the back and kept congratulating me, but all I wanted to do was go over and hug Billy.
Eventually a man pushed through the crowd and thrust his hand out toward me, which I reluctantly shook.
'I want to thank you,' he said to me. 'For saving my son.'
I looked up into his eyes and saw tears streaming down his face. I just couldn't help it, I started crying too.
Billy came over and put his arm around my shoulder and helped guide me toward a bench, where we both sat down.
The last thing I remember before I blacked out was Justin walking away with his parents and a few other people. He too had a blanket draped over his shoulders and I remember him turning around as he walked away and mouthing the words, 'Thank You.'
I think I managed to smile at him.
At about the same time a boy of about thirteen or fourteen, who was clearly with Justin's family said, 'Hey, aren't they the two poofters?'