Discovering Love

Written by Rick Beck

Chapter 11

Horizons

I sat in the bowling alley where I guess I'd sat about a million times. Doug and Timmy joked and laughed about things him and Doug had seen and done. I couldn't forget the things I'd seen them doing. Out of the house they were just guys like me, a bit younger, but they didn't seem any different from me. Doug was easy, warm, and friendly. He knew a lot of people. A lot of people knew him. When he talked to me it was as though I was important to him. It was like he was happy to be with me.

I wasn't sure I was happy to be with Doug because I liked him in a way that I wasn't sure he liked me. Sitting across from Timmy made it doubly difficult because I liked him in the same way I liked Doug. Just the night before I hadn't liked Timmy, not that I gave a great deal of thought to it. At the time it seemed to me like he was weird but he wasn't weird at all. I knew what he had been doing with Herbie even when I couldn't see them doing it, and that's what I didn't like, and yet, I was thinking about doing it all the time. I was only waiting for my chance.

After I'd seen Herbie on top of him, I was sure Timmy wasn't a nice boy, but what the hell is a nice boy. Who was I to judge someone for doing what I wanted to be doing? When we'd met him out on the highway, Timmy was totally cool. We talked about school, other kids over more food and more sodas. Timmy had immediately gone and ordered fries for all of us as well as Cokes.

"You shouldn't be spending your money on me," I said. "We don't know each other all that well."

"Why not. I got money. I don't mind buying. Y'all buy when you got money, right? It's no big deal. It'll be gone by tomorrow and I won't remember what I spent it on."

"Yeah," I said, not knowing if he was right. I never had much money and I rarely spent it on others. I didn't like people giving me things because it made me feel like I owed them something and I didn't like owing anyone anything. I smiled and nibbled at the fries and wondered why he bought them.

"He's always doing that," Doug said. "I don't think much about it any more. I don't know no one else who's always buying me stuff."

"I feel funny eating in front of you. No reason not to all have something. It's no big deal, okay! It's not like I don't always pig out over your house."

"It's not like I buy it," Doug said.

"Cool," I said, as Timmy slumped down in his chair and ate one French fry at a time, carefully dunking each one in the cup full of ketchup he'd brought back for us. Doug shook his head and laughed at him, tossing a handful in his mouth and washing them down with big gulps of soda. I followed his lead and we all sat for awhile eating and drinking.

"You coming back tonight? My parents won't be back until tomorrow," Doug said.

"Not for the game. You know I don't like that. I forget I can trust guys that want you to be messin' with them."

"We can hang out in the television room. They don't come up in there. We got money for pizza. I'm keeping it hide away from The King so we don't end up with more beer."

"Kewl," Timmy said. "Who'll be there? Herbie?"

"They have dates," Doug advised.

"Herbie?" Timmy asked, sounding surprised.

"That's what he says. They're going to the drive-in with a guy who has a station wagon. The girls have to be home at midnight from what I hear."

"You going to be there too, Martin?"

"Sure. Greg told me to get out for the weekend. I didn't know why but I told my parents I'd be back Sunday. You guys are stuck with me until then."

"That's cool," Timmy said, swinging his legs back and forth under his chair as he sipped more Coke.

We all tossed our change on the table and came up with enough to bowl at the early bird rate. Most people were away in the lazy days of the late summer. The short-haired military types dotted the lanes. Mostly they bowled alone but a few bowled with other short-haired guys and two bowled with girls. There were a few other kids and a couple of families at the furthest end of the bowling alley.

As I expected Timmy was a spastic bowler. His arms and legs all went in different directions when he released the ball. He looked younger to me than he had the night before. He seemed younger. He was fairly quiet but he always smiled when our eyes got on each other. Doug was smooth and efficient, each release perfectly timed as his form was flawless, but I could easily be fooled. I thought that Doug likely did everything well.

I wasn't a big bowler. I wasn't even a small bowler. I had seen it a lot on television. I took careful aim and proceeded to bounce my first ball off that little knot at the side of my ankle. It then hit the floor with a thud, taking one hop into the "gutter". It then rolled slowly down, down, down, beside the lane until it got within about four feet of the pinsetter. There it took a break.

"Shit!" I said, rubbing my ankle and feeling a lot like a dope.

"You'll have to show me that one. It'd be a good move when you want to delay the game for awhile," Doug giggled, staring at the lame ball.

"I'll get it," Timmy said, tightrope-walking down the gutter cap as a dozen balls all hit the lanes around us.

"Hey! Hey!" someone screamed from the snake bar. "Get off the lane!"

Timmy pointed at the stranded ball and continued the rescue. The fat guy who had forgotten to shave for a few days waved his arm as if to tell him to go ahead. Timmy wasn't paying any attention but ended up following his instructions anyway. He gave the ball a push and it disappeared with a thump back behind the pinsetter. Timmy turned triumphantly and wiggled back up the gutter cap.

"See why we keep him around," Doug said, "he's good at stuff like that."

"Funny," Timmy said.

I turned redder yet after Timmy got back to his seat. Both Doug and Timmy stared at me expectantly as I slumped further down into my seat feeling really inadequate. Why didn't one of them just get up and bowl and quite looking at me, I wondered.

"I never do this," I said apologetically after a moment of silence.

"You get another ball," Doug said. "You can see how you might need two."

They both smiled and I had to walk back up on the alley and I was a lot more careful the second time. The ball rolled, and rolled, and rolled, and at the very last instant - plop, into the gutter it went, just barely missing the 10 pin.

"You need to line your shot up and if you follow through with your arm, watching the first and second pin to the right, you'll keep it in the lane," Doug said. "It takes practice."

"Do what?" I said.

"Here," Timmy said, jumping up and grabbing a ball that was too big for his hand and wrist.

He walked back a few steps and went toward the line with his arms and legs going every which way. He released the ball and it knocked down five pins when it got to the other end of the lane.

"Just follow through and keep your eye on the pins," Doug said calmly. "If you do it like he does you might need an ambulance."

"Shut up," Timmy said, waiting for his second shot.

"I think I broke my foot," I said still rubbing that bump on my ankle.

"Yeah, sixteen pound bowling balls can do that," he said as Timmy took his second shot and knocked down another pin.

"Seven," Timmy shouted triumphantly to Doug.

"Six," Doug said, marking the score sheet.

Doug jumped up for his turn as Timmy came back to his seat. Doug was no larger than Timmy or me, but he somehow handled the ball easier. He just grabbed it up and walked thoughtfully back toward us before turning to face the pins. It was then I saw Greg. The self-assured in-command bowler was like his brother. He was in charge and he wasn't going to let a ball and a bunch of pins get him down. I wondered if I'd ever feel like I was in charge of something.

Doug hesitated for an instant, staring down the pins, and then he flowed forward toward the foul line, setting the ball down so delicately you could hardly hear it except for the sound it made while it steamed toward the other end of the alley. There it smashed into the head pin and cleared the lane of all the wood - a strike!

"Like that," he said, "Follow through. Keep your eyes on the pin."

"Right!" I said. "Get real."

"Ten," Timmy said, coyly batting his eyes up at Doug as he marked something on the scorer's sheet.

"Strike," Doug corrected, and he checked to make sure Timmy had marked the score correctly.

"You're making it harder than it is. You just need some practice."

Doug sounded nonchalant as he dropped down right next to me.

"Where do you get your practice?" I asked. "You're pretty good."

"My dad, Greg, and I go all the time", Doug said. "Greg's incredible. The last time we bowled, in one game he rolled a spare in the first frame, and then strung strikes all the way until the twelfth frame when he only got eight pins - a 288! He bowled a 288!

My highest came was only 224. He murdered us," Doug lamented.

"Why am I not surprised," I said.

"The King is," Timmy said, smiling at me and sounding reverent.

"What does 'is' mean?" Doug asked.

"Just is, Dougie. Greg just is. He's the King."

There was a story there but I didn't want to get into it. I was just starting to like Timmy and any thought of him getting together with Greg wasn't what I wanted to know about.

Doug kept score because Timmy couldn't figure out how to mark strikes and spares properly. I watched and it made no sense to me. We all agreed Doug knew what he was doing but it didn't help our scores much. I ended up with a 65 and a limp while Timmy scored a hefty 111 and Doug shot a 185, making the two of us look bad. He never mentioned he out scored both of us put together. In my defense it was the worse game I ever bowled.

I sat and watched while Timmy and Doug rolled another game. Doug was so smooth and precise that it was almost laughable seeing the lack of coordination from Timmy. He flailed more when he released the ball but the style became more effective as the game went on. The second game ended up with Timmy shooting a 125 and Doug shooting 163. I was the assigned scorekeeper, but Doug corrected my mistakes each time he finished bowling. By the final frames I just let him mark it down. I wasn't real good at math either.


We walked back along the highway as we went back toward Doug's house.

"Putt-Putt," Timmy said as we passed El Rancho.

"I'm still broke," I said. "I didn't even have enough for the bowling".

"Me too, Timmy. Let's don't. Save some cash for next weekend. We'll go into town and get some snacks before we hit the high country. There aren't any stores up there."

"We can do that and Putt-Putt too," Timmy said, pulling a tangle of dollar bills out of one of his pockets. "I got enough for us to all play. Come on, what else is there to do? Then you can come over and let my old man know I'm hanging with you tonight. That'll smooth things out for me."

"Kewl," Doug said. "We'll do it your way."

Timmy played golf a lot like he bowled. His club speed was always the opposite from what was required. The long shots he struck too softly and the short shots he hit too firm. We spent a lot of time chasing his errant balls.

Doug on the other hand played miniature golf similarly to the way he bowled. He studied each shot and rarely took more than two strokes to get it into the cup. The more I watched him the more poised he seemed. I kept finding my way to his lips and eyes and that fine blond hair that blew gently across his forehead in the late afternoon breeze. He was way too handsome to be a kid. The more I was with him the more I liked him and he didn't seem to mind spending time with me.

Timmy was just there and didn't add much to the experience except an occasional laugh when he was scampering after his ball, weaving his way through unsuspecting golfers on adjoining holes as he chased after it. He always smiled and never got down on himself for being such a maladjusted athlete. For most of the time at the Putt-Putt course it was like Doug and I were there alone.


By the time we were walking into Dorchester Estates we had run out of things to say. We made the first right turn and then the first left turn and the first house on the right was Timmy's.

"Looks like you've got company," Doug said.

"Yeah, it does," Timmy said. "I might need to dump you guys if he wants to uh... talk."

"Hey, Tommy," Doug said.

"Hey, Doug," Tommy didn't sound thrilled to see us.

"What's up, dude?" Timmy asked, and he beamed as he looked at his friend.

"The old man's on my back again. Can I hang out until he cools off? We need to talk anyway."

"Sure. Go around back and I'll let you in," Timmy instructed.

"He can't go in the front door?" Doug asked as Tommy rounded the corner of the building.

"My father thinks he spends too much time here. What he don't know won't hurt him."

"Why do you put up with it. He cuts you down in school, makes fun of you in front of your friends, calls you names. He's an asshole, Timmy. You don't need him."

"Shut up. He's my friend."

"Friends don't call their friends names," Doug answered.

"You don't understand, Doug. He's afraid and that's how he deals with it. It's not his fault. I started it and he just doesn't want anyone to think he's... like me."

"What's he afraid of? Didn't look too afraid last night with Alfred whacking him off," I said. "He looked down right anxious to get on with it."

"It's not what you think," Timmy said. "It's not any of your business who he does what with. It don't bother me, why should it bother you?"

"It's exactly what I think," Doug said. "I know what's going on. You can pretend he cares about you, but he don't. He's got an itch you scratch for him. That's all. He isn't about to care one way or another about you."

"Yeah, well that's my problem now isn't it? I'll come by later if you still want me," Timmy said, looking down at his feet like he'd done something wrong and got caught at it. "I mean he'll only be here an hour or so."

"You're my friend. You're always welcome at my house. Besides, it's going to be boring tonight. Don't let him fuck with your head."

"Thanks, Doug. You're a real friend. Martin, sorry. I had a good time with you. You're nice. I thought you were weird at first, but you're okay. You need a little work on your bowling though. I'm available after school if you want me to teach you."

I wondering what he meant by weird.

"I'd be scared I'd end up looking like you when I bowled," I said, smiling at his dazzling eyes. "It's not pretty, Timmy. I'd rather bowl like Doug if he'll teach me."

"Well, you're cool anyway. My technique is really a secret I've sworn not to expose."

"Good thing," I said. "You're cool too, Timmy. It was fun getting to know you."

He ran up to the front door and disappeared into the house.


"So you want lessons. I didn't think you liked bowling. You only bowled one game."

"My foot was sore."

"Yeah, those balls hurt. We can bowl after school if you like."

"I'd like that."

"You've got to do it regular to learn anything."

"Yeah, cool."

"Okay," Doug said.


"You hungry?" Doug asked as we went into the kitchen.

"Yeah, all that exercise."

"You see the way he shoots golf. Boy's a walking disaster."

"How can you be so casual with all you know about him? Doesn't it ever cross your mind?"

"Timmy, he's a good guy. You know how many really good guys there are? What I know don't have nothin' to do with him being my friend. He's just trying to figure it all out, Martin. I figure we're all tryin' to figure it all out. I got enough trouble keeping my own life under control. Not much time to worry about if Timmy is doing it right or not."

"Tommy?"

"There you go again. He's got a thing for Tommy. They're friends. What, I should tell them they can't be friends?"

"Herbie?"

Doug looked up at my face from his perch in front of the fridge. There was an entire book in the look he gave me. He seemed to be thinking about something beyond what had been said.

"You talk too much. You really don't want to know what you're asking about. You might think you do, but you don't."

"Yeah, I suppose. I just don't know what's going on. I mean I get to thinking I'm starting to understand, and then Timmy takes off on us to be with a guy that goes out of his way to cut him down. And everybody seems to love Herbie. What's with that?"

"I can see how you could get confused. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Anything we talk about has got to stay inside this house, Martin. Guys can't be running their mouths about what they know about other guys."

"Tell me about it," I said. "I just want to know enough not to feel like a fool all the time. I mean I don't care who's doing what with which, but it seems to get more complicated as it goes along."

"Okay, Timmy loves Tommy, or at least he thinks he does. Tommy just gets what he wants off Timmy because Timmy gives it up in a minute. Herbie, well, Herbie is hard to explain, Martin. He's kewl, you know. There's no one like him. He can make you feel great when you're down and he's always glad to see you. He knows everything and he still doesn't let it bother him. He's just glad to be with you when he's with you. If it weren't for Herbie I'd be nuts by now."

"How so?"

"My freakin' brother's a pervert if you haven't noticed. I've been dealing with that fact since I was nine. Mostly I've had to deal with the friends he keeps bringing around. They get the idea they can take what they want off me because I'm Greg's brother. I've had my share of difficulties because of it."

"Herbie?"

"Is that the only word you know? Herbie rescues me. He cares about me. I care about him. I guess of everyone I know, I like Herbie most. He's never let me down and he's always picking me up, protecting me from the assholes following my brother around."

"Assholes! You dare to suggest that my fans are assholes. Little brother of mine, you be treading on the thin ice here," Greg bellowed as he came into the kitchen, pushing me to one side and bumping Doug out of the refrigerator door.

"You jerk," Doug said, leaning back against the sink.

It was obvious there was no match between the two boys. Greg was half again the size of Doug with his squared off shoulders and puffed out chest and arms.

"You should be careful what you talk about, little brother. I wouldn't want Martin to get the wrong idea."

"How could he. He's seen you in action. He knows you're an asshole. We try to dress you up, but people can see for themselves."

Greg slammed the door and his back tensed as he started to turn.

"Where's that fucking sandwich. I got to make it myself or what?" Herbie said as he bounced into the room to put his arm over Doug's shoulder and lean back against the sink with him as Greg turned around.

It was a somewhat comic scene, this too long, too skinny kid, protecting Doug from Greg's wraith. He stood there hugging Doug as Greg did an obvious slow burn. He could have taken Herbie out with one punch, half a punch, but he didn't. He seemed to calm quickly.

"Get your own sandwich, asshole. I ain't no maid," Greg said, storming out but casting a harsh glance at me as he went.

"Tell me more about my ability to protect you, Douglas", Herbie mewed. "I never get to hear enough of that kind of thing. I don't think I'm appreciated nearly enough, do you? Tell me I'm your hero."

"No," Doug said, smiling from ear to ear, placing his face in the middle of Herbie's chest and hugging him firmly.

"Don't be telling all my business to Martin, Dougie, I still haven't given up the idea he might be powerless under my spell," Herbie said, looking over his shoulder at me. "So, is he a nice guy or not?"

"Yeah, he's kewl. Just not too sure about us yet, and everyone's powerless under your spell, Stretch. Your only problem is you're too horny for your own good. Other than that you're perfect for such an old fart."

"Moi? Moi? How thy doth cut me too deep, Douglas. You want to fool around? It's still two hours before my date. That would give me time for Martin when we're done."

"No, I've got company and he hasn't been initiated yet. He still thinks I'm fairly normal," Doug said. "Let's don't let him know the truth just yet. Maybe I can keep him as a friend."

"As you wish my handsome young prince. I'll get back to you two later if the girl doesn't put out for me."

"Herbie!"

"He does seem a bit innocent for this crew. How'd you hook up with him?"

"Greg brought him around for pool. I interrupted them before Greg got him all the way around the world."

"Too bad! I mean, that's good. He don't know what he missed."

"Herbie!"

"Well, he doesn't. Boy's got a gift."

"Herbie!"

"He can't be all that innocent if he came back after last night. Innocent still, perhaps, but me thinks he is looking for something he ain't going to be a findin' in no Sunday School. Are you looking for something they don't offer you at church, Martin."

"Yes, I am. What's the meaning of life," I said, feeling suddenly drawn into the drama Herbie brought with him to the kitchen.

I found his lazy blue eyes on me as he carefully checked the way I hung loose and partially aroused in my pants. The smile told me what he was thinking about when he went from down there to my face, checking to see if I was aware of what it was he was looking for.

"Come, my son. Let me explain it to you."

Herbie reached out one arm to collect me into this embracing cocoon. The three of us stood there hugging for several minutes. Speech seemed needless. The feel of it was good. Herbie's hand collected my backside and pulled me into him so that my now erect penis was rubbing his thigh. He kissed my neck and held me firmly like that.

"Give me a fucking break. You can't fuck everyone, Herbie. There are too many of them," Greg growled from the door as he watched Herbie's hand on my ass.

"Yes, yes, one must start somewhere, however. This sure is a nice place to begin. Maybe I'll just stay in tonight, Gregor. The ladies can live without my contribution for one evening, and these boys need me, as you can plainly see."

"Come on, Herb, time to split. You can play with them later."

"Sorry, children, I must be going. Don't eat all the bologna and leave me some of that orange sherbet. Don't wait up for us, kids. I am anticipating an evening of uninhibited bliss - hers of course."

"Right, it's Ben's sister and we're in his wagon. I don't think you're going to get to first base if you want to be riding home," Greg said.

"That's what they all say. I am irresistible to the female of the species."

"Right!" Greg said, "Get you're ass in gear will you."

Greg's hand slid across my ass as he passed me. He didn't look at me to see what my reaction was. The backdoor slammed and I could hear the crunch of the gravel under their feet as they moved down the horseshoe drive toward the old highway.


Doug and I played some pool and left the basement to a couple of Greg's friends who showed up around dark. They'd brought beer and a cooler that they put under the stairs on the stacks of papers. I had been waiting for George to show up for obvious reasons, but he never did. We retreated out of the basement and took refuge in that little television room at the end of the hall. Doug pulled the bed out and we watched television after eating the pizza he'd promised to order.

Timmy showed up with a long face about nine o'clock. He pulled off his shoes and socks and climbed onto the bed with us as we watched a movie. He didn't have much to say even when we went into the kitchen at eleven to raid what was left of the good stuff before Greg and Herbie returned from their evening out.

We could hear guys in the basement but we didn't venture down to see who was there. No one had come near the television room and we figured we were better off not interacting with the partygoers. After fixing several sandwiches a piece we retreated back to our hideaway with icy cups of soda and the final bag of Greg's Ruffles.

"What happened?" Doug asked between bites of his crunchy sandwich.

"He can't come over any more. He's got a new girlfriend and he doesn't think it would be right. He just wanted me to know why he wasn't coming around."

"Where was she last night?" I asked. "Probably has a girlfriend, huh?"

"Who cares?" Timmy said. "Why are you making a big deal about it. It doesn't bother me."

"He does this about once a month," Doug said. "He couldn't like call you and tell you he's doesn't need you for awhile, or was there a parting gift somewhere in the conversation?"

"It's not what you think. We only did it because I made him feel guilty and pushed him to do it," Timmy said, certain of the event in his own mind.

"You pushed him? Like you said, if you don't screw me I'm going to beat you up."

"Shut up! I got him going. You know how he is once you get him hard. Then he's right after it until he cums. I just rubbed it for awhile and we ended up in my bed after that. That's why I'm late."

"He couldn't break away before you got him going? I mean, didn't he have to get over to his girlfriends so she could save him from you?" Doug asked.

"He said he was going to go there after he left me. I just made sure he didn't have anything left to give her tonight."

"You overpowered him," I suggested. "Forced yourself on him?"

"No, he could kick my ass easy. I've been knowin' him since we were ten. It's not like I don't know how to get my way. He's toast when he comes over if I want it."

"So you got what you wanted and in a couple weeks he'll be tired of this new one or she'll be tired of him," Doug said.

"Yeah, I know. I worry about him," Timmy said.

"Why?" I asked.

"He's my friend. He's confused. I hope he finds a girl to fall in love with. I wish that he could be happy. He's so damn mad at himself every time we finish. He always swears he won't let it happen again, then he comes over and I can't leave him alone, and we start all over again. I wish I were stronger. I wish I didn't love him. He really doesn't like doing that."

"You do?" Doug said, sounding surprised.

"No!" Timmy confessed. "I'm too selfish to leave him alone."

"Takes two to play hide the sausage," I said, repeating something I'd heard straight guys say at school.

Timmy's glare was not a pleasant thing. He didn't say anything else and occupied himself with more of his sandwich and some stupid show that was now on the television. I hoped for another Outer Limits marathon and watched the other two boys eat.

I fell asleep some time before midnight and woke up when Greg and Herbie and some other guys were in the kitchen raiding the fridge. They all sounded drunk and they stayed clear of us. It sounded like they went down to the basement once they'd gotten all the food they wanted.

One time I woke up and Timmy was hugging up against me and this made me feel good. I fell back to sleep with the most comforting feeling running through me. Later on I woke up and both Doug and Timmy were cuddled up to me, one on each side. It was pretty neat. I just drank it in and enjoyed the feel of having two friends so close to me.

When I dreamed, I saw us bowling and having a good time together. I remembered the way Timmy's arms and legs could go in all different directions simultaneously when he let loose of the bowling ball. I also remember the lack of touch he had with his golf ball. It had been a wonderful day for me.

The dreams made me smile and I felt really good about my life.

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