Where Do I Fit In?
by Andrew Foote
Throughout this story real organisations and real people are mentioned by name. Their place in the tale is in the author's imagination. No thoughts, words or deeds attributed to those people or organisations are real, nor have they ever happened. This is a story! It's fiction. The people and organisations, even when they interact with the characters, are presented in an entirely imagined and fictitious manner, and no discourtesy is intended to them by the author nor by the web site.
Even by the time we'd finished lunch I was still none the wiser concerning what the bit of business was that Lucas needed to do. All he would tell me was that if possible, he would appreciate it if we could all be with him when the time came. None of us had anything on that couldn't wait so we all met in reception and waited for a bus that would take us into town.
Lucas didn't seem to be his usual bouncy self somehow. Not miserable but sort of serious.
"You okay? There's something on your mind isn't there."
"Well, sorta yes and no really. I'm sorry Andy? We promised each other not to have secrets between us but please allow it just this once? You see ever since we heard that we were coming here, I've been planning this umm, exercise. When you see what I must do, you of all people will understand, I promise you. Trust me on this huh?"
"Yes of course I will but you said must do."
"Yeah, not like to do or want to do, definitely a must do but no more questions or like as not I'll give the game away!"
We all got off the bus at the same place as the day before and with Lucas leading the way we walked across town right to the outskirts. He pulled a map out of his backpack and studied it for a few minutes.
"Okay. Now I know where we are. Not far now!"
We walked on for about another half a mile then coming to a crossroads Lucas pointed to a large wooden building across the street. There was a sign above the door which read 'St. Martin's Gun Club.' Dan turned to him.
"What's this then? You going to buy a gun?"
"No. I'd never get it through customs! I just wanna use one."
We entered the building and were met by a man whose arms were covered with tattoos. Lucas introduced himself.
"Hi there. My name is Lucas Carmichael. Is Sam around please?"
"I'll just go find him for ya. Is he expecting y'all?"
"Yup. I emailed him last month and called him yesterday afternoon just to confirm."
"Okay son. Just you wait here while I find him."
Shortly after, another man appeared. A small man, almost what you might call a midget.
"Hi there! You must be Lucas. Good to meet you son. You've brought ya entire gang with ya I see!"
"Well yeah. Is that okay?"
"Oh sure, no problem! Come on, I'll lead you through."
We were taken through into a very long hall which was divided off into lanes almost like a bowling alley except much longer and rather than having skittles at the far end, there were targets. Lucas and Sam were deep in conversation some distance from us so we were unable to hear what passed between them. I could feel that Lucas was distressed over something but then Sam put his arm over his shoulder as if to comfort him and I could sense him calming down. Next he reached into his backpack and took out a rolled up tube of paper and handed it over. Sam looked at it and nodded his head. Lor came over to me.
"What on earth is going on Andy?"
"Honestly, I haven't got a clue but I think we're about to find out."
A man and a woman approached us and handed us ear defenders with instructions to put them on once told to do so, meantime Sam had walked to the far end of the lane and had fixed Lucas' piece of paper over the target,. Then the penny dropped but I said nothing to the others.
Sam returned and speaking to Lucas said "What'll be your weapon of choice son?"
"A forty-five calibre six chamber hand gun please."
"Well if you say so. Are you sure you can handle a beast like that?"
"Only one way to find out I guess!"
"You're the boss! Tell ya what I'll do. Cuz I know the reason why y'all are here, I'll give ya two free shots so y'all can get a feel for it then once ya through, show time! Sound fair?"
"Very. Thanks Sam!"
"Okay, listen carefully to what I'm about to tell ya. This baby has a kick like a mule. She kicks upwards so what ya do is take your aim at the target then lower the weapon by around eighteen inches all the time keeping your arms outstretched and both hands on the gun. Understood?"
"Fine. Now let's go over to the next lane so ya can take ya practice shots. Y'all put on those ear defenders okay?"
We moved over and stood behind him as Sam loaded two bullets into the chamber and lined it up then turning to Lucas, pointed out the safety catch and again Lucas nodded his understanding.
With both hands gripping the gun, he took aim then lowered it, flipped off the safety and squeezed the trigger. The gun flipped up as it fired but then Lucas reset the safety and opened the chamber.
Sam studied the target through a set of binoculars.
"High by a couple of inches but not all bad considerin'. Try again son but this time go lower to compensate."
Lucas took up his position and fired the second of his free shots, opened the cylinder, emptied the spent cartridge cases onto the table then set the gun down and removed his defenders.
"Any better Sam?"
"Oh ya! Not a bull's-eye but pretty darn close! Ready for the main event?"
"Yeah. Let's do it!"
We moved back to the original lane where Sam reloaded the weapon and handed it back to Lucas. I could see him take a few deep breaths, the look of concentration on his face was epic as he took up his position and fired. Boom. – Boom. – Boom. – Boom. – Boom. – Boom. He emptied the shell cases from the chamber and turned to Sam. Sam's face was a picture!
"Well son? He's dead alright! Every shot on target, no wounding or nick-shots. Every dang one of them a kill!"
Lucas turned to me, tears cascading down his face then he ran over and hugged me fit to break my neck.
"I've finally done it Andy! I'll be just fine now!"
The others still looked confused so Lucas turned to them.
"Andy already knows and I promised Dan and Gary I'd tell them as well. I'm done here so let's go grab something to drink and I'll tell it to all of you but just to say, I've laid a ghost to rest this afternoon."
Sam called him over and out of our line of sight, showed him the result. Lucas punched the air!
"Thank you Sam. You're a saviour!"
"It's been my pleasure son. You go and enjoy the rest of your stay. Oh and no charge. That was an excellent piece of shooting. You might like to think about taking it up?"
"We're not allowed handguns back in England and anyway, I don't think I could do it again! I was on a mission here you see."
"Yeah and you chose the heaviest, most difficult handgun possible. Why did you do that?"
"The way I saw it was that there could be no half measures. I've handled two-two's, three-o-three's even a nine millimetre back in Texas and I was pretty sure I could hit the target with any of them but I had something to prove. I had to hit the bastard with everything I could and short of a heavy machine gun, the forty-five seemed to me to be the best option."
"Yeah well ya sure did nail the asshole! Maybe see ya before y'all go home. Bye for now son."
Back at the hotel we sat at the bar by the pool. Lucas pulled the piece of paper from his backpack and unrolled it placing it on the table. What we saw was a life size photo of a man's head and shoulders, the head and face peppered with bullet holes.
"What you see here is a photo of our pastor back in Constance Texas. Now I'll tell you why I had to shoot him.
When I realised I was gay, I think, like Dan and Gary probably do right now, I felt guilty and especially as our Christian teaching made me believe I was sinning even just thinking about other boys the way I did. I wanted to tell someone I could trust and who might help me so I chose to talk to that asshole. Oh sure, he listened all right but then went on to repeatedly rape me both orally and anally all the time telling me it was God's way of punishing me for being a faggot. Of course he got no pleasure from it? He was just doing God's work, the fuck he was! I eventually told my folks who reported it to the police but the authorities refused to bring charges saying it was probably my own fault but you've got to remember, we were living in small town Texas where bigotry against queers, blacks, Jews or anyone who doesn't like tow the party line is rife. Might just as well bang your head up against a wall. We moved first to San Antonio then to New York City but I was too fucked up so we came home to England where I met and fell in love with Andy.
I thought and my folks thought I was over it. I'd met Andy and for all the world we lived together only being apart one night a week but then, and Andy will remember this, I had a nightmare. In my dream I was back in Texas and this bastard you're looking at right now was taunting me, telling me to get my kit off and submit myself to him. In my dream I had a gun. I shot him three times but then, as he lay dead, I looked down to see Andy laying on the ground with blood seeping from a head wound. He too was dead. I woke up screaming my lungs out! Shortly after that, we learnt about this trip so I went on line and found Sam's place so I emailed him to see if I was old enough to shoot there. Well as you know, Guam is very relaxed, we can buy alcohol if we like, we can shoot if we like but my only worry was if he'd allow a real photo as a target so yesterday I called him. I told him what I wanted to do and at first he wasn't too happy but then, this afternoon, I told him why I needed to do what I've done and he was so nice about it. It's done now. I killed the memory of those times today so now, with Andy by my side, I can move on."
I think everyone other than Lucas were crying including me and I'd heard about it before but then Paul stood up and wiping away his tears made an announcement.
"I said earlier that we're all about supporting each other and to that end, tonight after supper, a party in our room which is 4010 two doors up from Andy and Lucas. Everyone organise what they'd like to drink and I'll see what I can do to scrounge some nibbles off the barman. I'll also see if we can arrange a late start for tomorrow's training. Is everybody up for it?"
What a fantastic evening! Everyone brought their own drinks, mainly wine except Benny who never has touched alcohol and Lor who had developed a taste for bubbly. Paul had done a sterling job on the barman and had managed to get us a huge supply of little cheesy biscuits and four bowls to put them in. Jess, one of Benny's girls had an i-pod which we managed to hook up to the telly so we were set. With all of us paired off except Benny who was umm, tripled off meant that we could all relax with our partners in an atmosphere of total understanding of everyone else's position. I know, cos they told me later, Dan and Gary found it especially liberating. Holding hands with each other, arms around each other's shoulders without anyone taking the slightest bit of notice was something they'd never experienced before so it was us who at 1.30am were the first to leave. Lucas, despite his attempts at being convivial, was knackered. Obviously the events of the previous afternoon had taken more out of him than he'd realised.
We climbed into bed and facing each other I asked "Well done. I'm just so happy for you. How do you feel, like inside?"
"Andy? You have no idea! It's like I've been born all over again!"
"I know you're tired but are you too tired to accept a little present from me?"
"If it's what I hope it is, it isn't so small! Please yes Andy? Please yes!!"
Paul hadn't remembered to say anything about a late start but has it worked out, it didn't much matter as we were all in reception at the appointed hour despite missing breakfast. Gary came over and had a quick word with us.
"We were so late back last night even our coaches had hit the sack so we shared the same room. Oh God, it was so good even though we were too blitzed to do anything but just to be able to cuddle up was fantastic! What we do about the future is something we've yet to discuss but we feel stronger thanks to you and everything that happened yesterday."
"Was everything okay this morning? You didn't get caught leaving the room or anything?"
"We weren't too bothered about that. We were dressed and sometimes we do meet up before training but now you mention it, we haven't seen Mr Saunders this morning which is unusual."
"You call him Mr Saunders? We're on first name terms with all out team including one who is also head of sports at our school. We obviously don't call him Tony at school but otherwise we do."
"Yes well I told you he was strict! I wonder where he's got to."
Just as Gary finished speaking we saw Peter walking towards us and calling for our attention, Gary had the answer to his question.
"Good morning everyone. Today there's going to be a change of plan. Unfortunately, last night Alf Saunders was rushed into hospital. Nothing life threatening, he's suffering from a perforated ulcer but it does mean he'll remain in hospital for the duration which means I have a lot of things to organise when it comes to our contingent from Worcester. Alf was going to retire this summer anyway but now this has been brought forward and so as of today, he'll be unable to continue as a gymnastics instructor, hence my problem. Today we will all be pursuing our individual disciplines so if you need to collect any kit like swimming gear, ski's or whatever then please go and get them in just a minute. The bus will drop you off at different locations together with your specialist coaches then collect you later this morning. I'm sure we all wish Alf a speedy recovery and if any of you wish to visit him once he's on the mend, I know he'd appreciate it. Please go and collect any kit you'll need for this morning as the bus should be here shortly. Thanks everyone."
Gary didn't seem exactly heart-broken on hearing this news.
"Solves one problem I suppose. He was the one who stalked the corridors at night and with him out of the picture maybe we'll get a bit more freedom. Feel sorry for him though, none of us would wish that on him. I wonder who'll replace him."
"Have a word with Peter when we get back but we've got to nip off and get our stuff. See you in a bit."
"Oh my God Andy? Just look at this pool! It's unbelievable!"
"Bloody hell! Look at that top table! How high do you reckon it is?"
The swimming complex was divided into three separate pools. One Olympic size swimming pool with ten lanes, a Water Polo pool with a constant depth of ten feet and a diving pool but the high table was away up in the Gods.
Liam joined us.
"Impressive don't you think? One of the most advanced facilities in the world."
"Awesome! Just how high is that damn table Liam?"
"Seventy-five foot give or take. A few years back there was talk of increasing the height for competition and because this place was still under construction, the Americans took the lead and redesigned this pool to incorporate that table. They also had to rethink the depth of water so unlike any pool you've used which are all of a standard twenty-five foot depth, this one is thirty-five. It is a fantastic facility albeit a complete waste of money."
"Think about it Lucas. If the rules were changed, every pool across the world would have to undergo significant modification. It's easy enough to install the table but if you dived off it, you'd probably hit bottom and injure yourself pretty badly so all the pools would have to be dug out to suit. Way too expensive so all the sport's governing body's kicked up a stink and the plans were dropped."
"Makes a lot of sense I guess. Does anybody ever use it?"
"A few. Those who have the necessary balls to try but not exactly my idea of a fun day out!"
"Could we have a go do you think?"
"Do you really want to?"
"We can hardly fly half way across the world only to look at it can we! We've got to be able to say we've done it if only once in our lifetime!"
"You two are crazy, do you know that? I wouldn't be seen dead up there but if you really want to, just take it one step at a time. Jump off it first and do your counting then think about doing something simple. After which, if you feel confident enough then expand on it."
We began with the low springboards then gradually worked our way up practicing various routines and dives until we had covered all but this high table. One of the beauties of this place was we didn't have to climb endless steps, there was an elevator to take us to the top. Once we were up there we walked to the edge and looked down.
"It's a bit high isn't it Andy!"
"Yes but just imagine the possibilities! That has to be what, an eight or nine second drop? Let's find out!"
We jumped and once we surfaced we looked at each other and both said "Eight!"
We swam to the edge where Liam was waiting for us.
"No. It's too deep but we might when we dive as we'll be more aero-dynamic."
"You're really going to dive?"
"Oh yes! We've got eight seconds in the air. Time enough to work something a bit special."
"Just remember what I said. Take it one step at a time boys."
"We will. We don't want to share a hospital ward with Mr Saunders!"
We did take things slowly, the first couple of dives were very straight forward like a pike and a swallow to get a feel of the increased height and timing. The third dive we included two somersaults, the fourth much the same but together with two twists then our fifth and final dive of the morning, something a bit special that we'd promised Liam.
Facing the back of the table and just balancing on our toes, we silently counted then bent our knees and launched ourselves backwards off the table, executed two backward somersaults, one and a half twists to bring us back facing the other way, two forward somersaults followed by a barrel roll and into the water.
We broke surface to see Liam scribbling on his clipboard and two very powerful young guys standing on the side both wearing American team colour Speedo's. We swam to the side and they bent down and helped us out of the pool.
"What the hell? You kids trying to kill yourselves?"
"No? We thought it went okay? What's the problem?"
"No problem, the dive was awesome but a fraction of a second out and you'd be hospital cases is all."
Lucas wasn't a happy bunny!
"Yeah well, that could be said of any damn dive couldn't it? Timing, timing, timing. Know where your partner is at all times and everything's peachy."
"Okay, okay already but where did you learn a dive like that? This is the only table of its kind and you've only been here a couple of days."
Liam walked over to where we were standing.
"They didn't learn it. They just do these things in an attempt to usher me into an early grave and anyway, this is their first visit to this pool."
"Are you their coach?"
"That's my job title although sometimes I feel like I'm just here for the ride!"
"Well you'll not see us trying a stunt like that ever. That damn table freaks me out!"
This comment made me smile.
"Are you two a formation partnership?"
"Yes. Been together these last two years. How long have you guys been together?"
"Seven months or there abouts. Still beginners really."
"Yeah okay. If you say so. We'd better get some practice in. See you at the Olympics."
"I doubt it. We're not that good."
They both looked at Liam who just smiled and nodded his head as we went through to get changed.
As we waited for the bus, Lucas tackled Liam.
"So what was all that about? Olympics be damned!"
"Oh you'll be there alright. Just stick with what you're doing and you'll see but first we have to enter you in regionals and some European competitions, get you used to a competitive environment."
"Did you see those guys in action? Are they any good?"
"They're good but you're better. I think the reason for that bit of hostility was because they realised that and it got under their skin somewhat. That comment about them finding that table daunting should tell you a lot. One or maybe both of them aren't too keen on heights and this isn't a sport that they should be in if that's how they feel. I'm not criticising them, I'm not overly keen myself but if they are spending time trying to overcome a touch of vertigo, they're not concentrating on the job in hand like the ones you mentioned Lucas. Timing and sensory work and that leads to silly mistakes and dropped points."
"Yeah but Olympics. That's scary."
"Right now? Maybe but we'll get you ready for when that time comes. We have ways to prepare you both physically and mentally in order that you and your fellow team mates will be at the top of your game. Anyway, I got some great footage of your dives so something else to put up on your website."
"Website? What website."
"The website that the SCGB will be building for you. All you young and promising athletes will have one."
"To promote you of course. Come competition we'll want you to be recognisable, almost household names but that isn't the only reason. The general consensus of opinion is that despite us being a small nation, we currently have so many upcoming young talents that we have a good chance of bagging the biggest clutch of medals yet come the Rio Olympics and by putting you up for all to see might have the effect of putting the wind up the opposition just as happened this morning. You can bet your life that those two chaps will be having heated discussions with their coaching team before too long and all because you put the frighteners on them."
"Oh right. So you plan on getting them to add what we did today."
"Yep. Think about it for a moment. The rest of the world loves to take the piss out of us, Little Britain and so on. How good would it be both for domestic consumption and also to spike the guns of those who would belittle us to see two fine fourteen year-old British athletes putting on a fantastic display of formation diving off the highest table in the world! You two are, to the best of my knowledge, the only UK divers to have ever set foot on that table and even if there have been others, you are definitely the only UK formation couple to have done it. A real first and one that the world ought to know about."
We were the last to be picked up but Paul had chucked kitbags on the seat adjacent to him and Lor so as we had a seat. We sat with our kit between our knees as we weren't carrying much.
"How was your morning then Paul?"
"Fantastic. The facilities are every bit as good as we were told they would be and plus we were coached by an American guy who's been around the best of them. Eye-opening really as he took us through techniques we'd never heard about. You've done all that sensory stuff haven't you? Well now we have to practice the same sort of thing both as a team of players but also having regard to the net. He showed us some amazing moves that come from this like he netted the ball backwards so he was unable to see where the net actually was. It went in on the first attempt!"
"Have you caught up with this website caper?"
"Yeah. We were told about it a couple of weeks ago."
"We've only just found out about it but I'm not sure I want to be recognised in the street."
"It's going to happen anyway if you succeed so why not share with everyone all the hard work that goes into it. As I see it, there's no harm done and it might just encourage other kids to try out for something. It worked for Lor and I, Benny as well so collectively perhaps it sends a message bigger than we are."
"Yes I suppose so but it's a bit unnerving isn't it? Deep down we're just normal school kids but now we're being promoted to the level of, and I quote Liam here, household names."
"People have short memories. One minute you'll be famous, the next thing you know is a slide into obscurity. Your counterpart Tom Daley? Boy did good but the only thing that kept him newsworthy was because he came out as gay otherwise you probably wouldn't notice him in the street."
"Yeah well there's another problem. We came out on live TV already."
"And have your lives changed as a result? No. Didn't think so! There might be renewed interest as a result of success but again, there are positives. We talked about holding an Honesty Day, remember? If you hit the big time, might not that encourage young and frightened gay and lesbian kids to come out and declare themselves beings as they now have role models? I think we can all of us only be a force for good with this Andy."
"I can maybe see that but it's a lot of responsibility."
"Let them, our coaches and the SCGB handle that. Just concentrate on your diving for now and let the detail rest with those who are being paid good money to do so."
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