Sam pulls an arrow out of his quiver effortlessly and hooks it on the string.
“First,” he says, “You hook the notch on the arrow just above this little bead.” He tilts the bow and holds it up towards us so Carter and I can see it more closely.
“Index and middle fingers - one on each side of the arrow.”
We crane our necks to get a good view. One finger on each side just like he said, with the arrow nocked just above a little bead on the bow string. Got it.
It’s the first week of October and a spectacularly gorgeous autumn day. The first color is starting to creep into the leaves and the air is crisp and cool. A day like this might be cold if it wasn’t for the afternoon sunshine covering everything in a nice, warm glow. In other words, a perfect day to hang out and shoot some stuff.
Pretty much as soon as we met, Sam promised to bring me over to his house to shoot his bows. We’ve only waited this long because Sam’s mom didn’t want any house guests until everything was moved in. Sam tried to explain that we’re all a bunch of high school boys and that decor, feng shui, and tidiness mean very little to us, but she wouldn’t have it.
And so our plans for target practice got postponed for a few weeks. It’s a good thing, too. Just a few days ago Sam got the idea to invite Carter along. He’s picked up on my feelings - or ‘obsession,’ as he sometimes calls it - with Carter, and while he couldn’t fully condone crushing on straight boys, he agreed to wingman for me as much as possible. Hence his extension of the additional invite.
With Sam’s blessing, I offhandedly mentioned the upcoming archery seminar to Carter during our chemistry lab on Friday, and he bit. He really bit. He practically begged me to ask Sam if he could tag along. Which, of course, I already had. I played it cool and toyed with him a little, partially because I was enjoying my brief moment of having the upper hand with Carter, and partially because he’s so cute when he’s frustrated.
Fast forward a few days, and now we’re here.
Sam turns back toward the target and assumes a shooting stance. “Put the shaft against the top of the arrow rest - that’s the little flat part here,” he says, indicating a small shelf above the grip with his left index finger, “And then you’re ready to shoot.”
Carter and I each take a step back and await with great anticipation the coming shot.
“Pull back until your right hand is against your cheek.” I watch Sam draw the bow, and I can see his whole body relax under the familiar motion. He looks so comfortable with the weapon.
“To shoot, I’ll just let the string roll out of my fingers. I’m not flicking it out or letting go, just slow and steady.” Sam looks over at us to make sure we’re following along and we nod visibly to reassure him. Sam smiles and looks back at the target, once again all business.
“Aim…” Sam takes a deep breath and then lets it out slowly while he closes one eye. With his last bit of air, he barely whispers, “Fire.”
The arrow soars across the back yard and buries itself right in the middle of the bullseye with a resounding thunk. Carter and I can’t help but applaud at the perfect shot. Sam takes a dramatic, sweeping bow, and then holds the bow out to me.
“Your turn, gents.”
I grab the bow tentatively and test the feel of it in my hands. It’s lighter than I thought, but still feels solid. Sam hands me an arrow and nods encouragingly towards the target. Putting my left foot forward, I do my best to imitate Sam’s stance.
I’m nervous to go first, especially after watching Sam shoot a bullseye so effortlessly. I notch the arrow, hold up the bow, pull back, and…
At least I hit the target. My shot sticks out about 2 feet from Sam’s, but I guess it’s not that bad for my first try. I turn back towards Sam and he seems pleased with my initial effort. Carter looks pleased, too, but for different reasons.
“It’s not looking good, Jackson,” he says with a smile as I hand him the bow. “You’re going to be up all night writing that lab report. What a shame.”
We had an especially lengthy lab yesterday, and while we were able to complete the experiment during class, we haven’t written any of the report yet. Thus, Carter and I are having a shootoff. Loser writes the lab report.
Carter’s talking shit, trying to get inside my head. He can be as cocky as he wants until he fires a shot, then we’ll see who’s stuck writing the lab report. At least that’s what I tell myself, hoping that it really is as hard as it seems from my first try.
I can’t imagine he knows what he’s doing, but he sure looks confident as he draws the bow and takes aim. He mimics Sam’s breathing and takes a long, slow breath before he lets go.
THUNK. Wide right and straight into the hay bales that make up the backstop.
“Damn,” Carter says, grinning sheepishly at me, “it looked a lot easier when Sam did it.”
He holds the bow back out to Sam, but Sam shakes his head. “Take a few more shots and get comfortable, then I’ll give you some pointers.”
For the next twenty minutes or so, Carter and I take turns sending volley after volley of arrows into the target, against the backstop, and although I hate to admit it, once or twice clear over the target and into the wooden fence at the end of Sam’s yard. I’m glad his mom’s not home to witness it.
Sam does a great job of coaching us. He starts with our feet, then makes sure our hips line up, then into our torsos and then finally our arms and head. Once our bodies are doing the right thing, he teaches us how to breath, aim, and release in perfect coordination. By the time he’s done with us, we’re nailing the target every time and getting a good amount of bullseyes.
“Ok, guys,” says Sam when we reach a good stopping point, “let’s take a few minutes break before we kick off the final showdown.”
Carter and I agree. It’s not exactly warm, but we’ve both worked up a pretty decent sweat over the last half hour. Who knew it would be so much work just to shoot a bow and arrow? Sam even gave us his lightest, easiest bow to shoot.
Sam runs into the house to get some snacks and water while while Carter and I gather up our last barrage of arrows from the target. A minute later we’re all at the table on Sam’s back porch munching on chips and salsa.
“Do you really think you can get an archery club started at school?” Carter asks in between chips.
Sam thinks for a second before answering. “I don’t see why not. You don’t have to have a lot of people, because you can always compete individually at the competitions. I think we’d just need a place to practice and a coach, right?”
“What about the weapons thing?” I counter. It seems like the last thing the school administration would want.
Sam laughs. “What sports aren’t dangerous?” He shrugs, but looks hopeful. “I don’t expect to get anything going this year, but if I start now then maybe there’s still my junior and senior year.”
Carter and I both nod and then all three of us lapse into quiet, munching on our snacks and sipping water in the waning autumn light. What a nice day. Gorgeous weather, my new friend, the hottest kid in school, and some backyard target practice. That’s not bad for a Wednesday evening.
The idyllic silence is suddenly broken with a surprise question from Carter. “Did you really get kicked out of Segman?”
I raise my eyebrows and stare at Carter. I’m as curious as anyone, but to drop that bombshell out of nowhere? Damn.
Sam looks as surprised as I do, but he doesn’t hesitate, and his response doesn’t betray any sense of shame.
“Yeah,” he says simply, “I did.”
After a few seconds of silence Sam sighs. It’s clear that he’s expected to elaborate.
“I didn’t get expelled or anything,” he says, “and I didn’t even get in trouble. But it was the end of the school year and they basically told me not to come back.”
“Was your mom pissed?” I ask. That’s my first thought because my mom would be absolutely livid, regardless of whether it was an official expulsion or not.
Sam shrugs. “She wasn’t happy about the… situation. But she already had this new job and we would be moving anyway, so switching schools wasn’t a big deal.”
The ‘situation?’ I’m about to follow up, but Carter beats me to it.
“So what happened?”
Sam’s eyes narrow and he looks at Carter. “You’re on the football team, so why don’t you tell me?”
Carter blushes, which confirms Sam’s suspicion that he must already know something. When Troy had his little standoff with Sam in the locker room I got the distinct impression he knew something, and if it was anything weird or embarrassing I’m sure he wasted no time sharing it with the rest of the team.
“I heard that you…” Carter’s face turns an even deeper shade of crimson. He looks back and forth between me and Sam as though looking for a way out of the situation. As nothing presents itself, the words all spill out at once. “You got caught giving someone a blowjob in the bathroom.”
What? It’s all I can do not to spit take my water. Sam told me he was gay, but this is crazy.
Sam, to my surprise, just laughs.
“That’s gross,” he says. “Who wants to kneel down on a bathroom floor?”
Carter doesn’t know what to make of that, and I’m sure I look just as confused as he does.
“It was the locker room showers,” he continues. Our jaws drops simultaneously, and he barely gives us time to collect ourselves before he goes on. “Plus it was more than just someone, and that was just the time I got caught.”
Sam looks at me, and then at Carter, and then back at me. I don’t know the facial expression for this, and even if I did, I’m not sure I could will my face into anything but my current mix of shock and amazement. I think Sam is waiting for one of us to say something, but we’re both struck dumb. Even knowing Sam was openly gay, it’s totally different to hear that he got kicked out of school for blowing a bunch of guys in the locker room.
Sam chuckles at us before shrugging it off.
“You asked,” he says. “Sorry I’m not sorry if that bothers you,” he adds for good measure.
“Don’t be sorry,” I say, finally able to gather myself to the point I can speak. “I just had no idea.”
“I don’t exactly go around telling everyone about it,” says Sam. He turns to and addresses Carter, “I thought you might already know, and I wanted to set the record straight.”
We both wait for Carter to react, but he doesn’t say anything for a long while. When I confirmed with him that Sam was gay, he seemed cool with it, but I’m worried this might have taken it too far.
When I hear about Sam giving head in school, I think it’s risky at worst, and at best, really hot. But Carter might not see it that way. I guess it’s one thing to hear that someone is theoretically gay, but quite another to hear about dicks in mouths and all that.
“I wouldn’t exactly say,” begins Carter, snapping me back to reality, “that your story sets anything straight.”
It takes us both a minute to see what he did there, but once we catch on to the way he emphasized the word ‘straight’ and see the nervous grin on Carter’s face, Sam and I both start laughing.
“Oh man,” I say through the chuckles, “you had me a little bit worried there.”
“Nah,” says Carter waving his hand dismissively, “it doesn’t bother me.” He thinks for a second and then continues. “You know, I don’t think it bothers most of the guys on the team. They act tough and macho when they’re all together, but most of them don’t actually have a problem with, anybody, really. Gay, nerd, band geek, whatever.”
Sam nods in agreement. “Only a couple people have ever given me shit personally. It’s mostly for show.”
“Like Troy’s crap on the first day of school,” I chime in.
This is great. The one thing I was worried about bringing Sam and Carter together was the gay issue. It’s not something I’ve ever talked to Carter about in depth, and even though he’s never struck me as being homophobic, you never know until you stir the pot a bit.
“So, the school found out and they kicked you out?” I ask. Now that I know we’re all cool, I’m hungry for more details.
“Not exactly,” Sam replies.
“Right, they ‘asked you to leave’ or whatever,” Carter says.
“True,” continues Sam, “but it’s the same thing. And at that point most of the school was in an uproar. It’s stupid,” he muses, “straight kids are out there all the time having sex, blowing each other, getting pregnant. But a gay kid tries to do it, and all of a sudden everyone’s ‘being corrupted’ and ‘out of control.’ That’s the only thing that really pissed me off was the parents who freaked out about it.”
“I mean, you did do it in the locker room with two dudes at once,” I point out.
Sam smiles, maybe because I have a good point or maybe he’s just remembering what it was like to service two guys at the same time. It sounds like an intriguing possibility to me, and I suddenly wonder if Sam would be down to try. But how do you bring something like that up?
“I can’t argue with that,” he concedes, “and it wasn’t the first time I’d fooled around with someone at school, so that might have made things worse.”
“There’s that many gay dudes at Segmen?” Carter asks.
“No,” Sam answers, quite simply. From Carter’s raised eyebrows, I can tell Sam is the only one of us who doesn’t think this is a contradiction.
“But you just said-”
Sam cuts me off with a wave of his hand.
“They weren’t gay,” he clarifies, “at least not openly.”
“So why’d they let you suck them off?” asks Carter.
“It’s really funny, you know?” says Sam. “These guys don’t like gay people. They would be the first ones to push me against a locker or call me a fag in the hallway after class. But when it came down to it... When you had to put your money where your mouth is? These guys wanted me to suck their dicks.”
I know a lot of guys at our school just like the ones Sam is talking about, and I can’t imagine any of them would let another guy so much as look at their packages.
Sam shrugs. “I was at a party my freshman year and I blew a guy. It wasn’t a big deal or anything, but I guess word got around. I was never in the closet, but after that party? Things were different.
“One day after soccer one of the seniors on the team cornered me and started grilling me about it. At first I thought he was going to straighten me out, so to speak. He was a lot bigger than me, so if he wanted to fight, I was going to have to just take it. But it never happened. He was intense about the whole thing, but he never punched me or told me off. He just kept asking me a bunch of questions.
“I noticed he kept looking at the door, like he was waiting for someone to bust in, which should have tipped me off that something was weird. But I didn’t get the idea until he told me to sit down on one of the benches and asked if I knew what it meant to be discrete. I told him I did and he pulled out his dick.”
Sam looks at his audience and decides, correctly, that we’re eager to hear more. He continues.
“He seemed nervous at first, but once I started he really got into it. By the end he was humping the shit out of my face and begging me to finish him off. He came hard, and I think even he was surprised at how much he loved it. He left without saying anything, and the next day he acted like nothing happened.”
“That’s only one guy though; he’s probably gay,” I rebut.
I can’t get over the fact that straight guys would be into this. Wishful thinking, I guess.
“That’s exactly what I thought when it happened,” Sam continues. “I thought that would be the end of it, or at the most we’d have a thing happening on the down low. I was wrong.
“It turns out a few guys on the team had heard what I did at the party and wanted to test the waters. They had sent Patrick in to see what would happen, while the other two kept a watch outside the door. I don’t think they expected things to go that far. Patrick told them about his blowjob and it wasn’t long before the other two guys came knocking. One in an empty classroom after school and the other one in his car a week after that.”
This story is getting my blood pumping, so to speak, and I have to reach down to adjust my package a bit. Luckily we’re all sitting around the table, so I don’t think anyone notices. Hopefully we can sit here a few more minutes before we get up, otherwise I might be sporting a tent in my shorts.
“You guys have gotten head before, right?”
Carter gives a little shrug and a nod. “Yeah.” He and Sam turn to me to verify my experience.
Carter has a girlfriend, and I’m sure she’s gone down on him. I would, in her position, daily if possible. And god only knows what’s Sam’s gotten himself into. As much as I hate to admit it, I have to be honest.
Sam is clearly surprised by my answer and starts to retort, but I silence him with a look before he can inquire further. I see the recognition in his eyes. Carter doesn’t know I’m gay, so now isn’t the best time to question how any self respecting, gay high school junior hasn’t gotten a blowjob yet.
“It doesn’t matter,” Sam continues, diverting attention from my confession. “I can assure you that however you feel about boys, you’d like a blowjob from one.”
“And why’s that?” asks Carter, raising one of his eyebrows.
“Because,” he says smugly, “we know what we’re doing.”
I feel a single bead of sweat running down my forehead. I start my final exhalation and close my left eye, leaving my right to stare through the sight of the bow and at the target. The amount of sweat gathered in my brow must have reached a critical mass, because a new drop has formed and is working its way straight into my eye.
I blink a couple of times to clear my sight. I take a deep breath in…
“Eight to tie, nine to win,” says Carter.
As though I needed a reminder.
We’ve fired round after round of volleys, with Sam keeping score. And now, with the sun setting we are almost tied up. I have one more shot, and Carter has an eight point lead. Nine or bullseye wins, less than seven loses. I’ve been shooting sevens or better consistently, but now I have to do it under pressure.
I line up the sight with the target and begin to exhale. I focus in on the target, then the bullseye, then the center of the bullseye, then the middle of the center of the bullseye. I reach the bottom of my breath and slowly straighten my fingers.
The arrow flies from the string and and shoots towards the target. I watch it sail 90% of the way there, then close my eyes at the last second.
I hear a sigh from Carter and a whoop from Sam, and it tells me everything I need to know.
“Yes!” I open my eyes to a perfect bullseye.
“Nice shot!” Sam exclaims as he claps me on the back.
I bask in the praise of the master for only a second before turning to Carter, who’s sulking melodramatically a few feet away. Sam and I both look at him expectantly.
“What?” asks Carter defiantly.
I keep my expression neutral, but Sam frowns and crosses his arms in disapproval. He’s proctoring the competition, and he wants a good sport.
Carter rolls his eyes, but his half smile gives away his good nature, even in defeat. “Fine,” he says, “congratulations.” He shakes my hand and then laughs. “I’m not upset about losing to you. I just don’t want to write that stupid lab report.”
“Well, I guess…” I pause just long enough to see a little bit of hope flicker across his face. “I guess it sucks to be you.”
I know it was mean, but I won fair and square, and I deserve a little bit of gloating, don’t I? Plus, I love seeing Carter play from behind. He’s so cute when he doesn’t have the upper hand.
We all walk into the house as dusk settles on the yard, smiling and laughing, happy to be here, together, and having fun.
“This was great,” I say with genuine gratitude. Today was awesome, and we both have Sam to thank. “Thanks for having us over to shoot.”
“Yeah, it was awesome,” agrees Carter. It’s cool to see Carter this happy, and to know that I made it happen.
“No problem!” Sam says, smiling. “I’m glad you could both make it.”
We hear a honk outside and Carter turns to go. “That’s my ride, I better get out there.”
With one last gorgeous grin, he’s out the door. I’m biking home, so I’m not on so tight of a schedule, although it will be getting dark soon.
“Well?” Sam says knowingly.
“Well, what?” I ask, already feeling some color come into my cheeks. I know exactly what Sam is ‘welling’ about.
“He’s cute,” Same says matter of factly. I can’t argue with that. “Super cute.”
“Yeah,” I sigh, “he sure is.”
Sam sighs in solidarity and we both stand there for a minute smiling at each other. It’s good to have a new friend, and I thank the forces of fate that had whatever administrator at our school decide that I should walk Sam to soccer on his first day of school.
“I guess I’m heading out. Thanks again!” I give Sam a quick hug and turn to the front door.
What a fun day! I check my pockets one more time before I head out to make sure I have everything: wallet, keys, and phone… I’m good to go. I open the door and am about to step out, but stop at the sound of Sam’s voice.
“Jackson, hang on.”
I turn back to Sam to see what he needs, and I’m struck at once by his expression. It’s different. One I’ve never seen before. I wonder what’s up.
“Jackson,” he repeats, “You’re my friend, so I need you to be honest with me, ok?”
I’m not sure where this is going, but I’m glad that Sam considers me a friend. I nod my head as Sam comes a step closer to me. He looks pretty serious.
“I respect you, Jackson,” he continues, “so you need to tell me if you aren’t ok with this.”
“Yeah,” I respond, confused, “I’ll let you know.” He’s already told me he’s gay, so I rack my brain for what else he might need to tell me about right now. It’s something that I might not be ok with, but I’m still drawing a blank.
He must be serious about this.
“Yeah, I promise.”
It hits me just as the words leave my mouth: Does he like Carter, too?
That must be it. He’s interested in Carter but he doesn’t want me to be upset. All his talk about being gay and blowing guys and all that was testing the waters, and Carter didn’t freak out. I think he was even getting a little hot and bothered by some of Sam’s talking, and I’m sure Sam picked up on it too.
Carter took to him, that’s for sure. I’m weirdly optimistic if Sam thinks Carter might be gay or bi, but I do not feel good about the new competition, especially from someone who’s supposed to be my new friend. And someone so much more open and experienced than me. If Carter does swing for this team or is even curious, he knows exactly who to go to. And it’s not me.
Sam takes another step towards me while I’m processing all this, and now he’s about about a foot away from my face. I have to respect him for bringing this up, and I need to meet his honesty with my own. I need to be supportive of him, but he needs to know how I feel.
He cuts me off with a finger held against my lips. The surprise contact startles me into silence, but it’s nothing compared to my surprise at what happens next.
Sam doesn’t admit that he has a crush on Carter. He doesn’t tell me to give up on the boy and move on so he has a clear shot. In fact, he doesn’t say anything about Carter at all.
Instead, with his finger still pressed against my lips, he leans in even closer, until he’s just two inches away. He’s staring hard into my eyes, making sure I’m with him, and I feel his breath on my face as he speaks.
“If you tell me to stop, I’ll stop.”
The words still haven’t sunk in when he pulls his finger away from my face and drops to his knees.Next Chapter Previous Chapter