Ball-Boys

by Jolyon Lewes

I've loved lawn tennis for as long as I can remember. My mother is an excellent player; she represented Hertfordshire County when she was younger. As a tiny boy, I used to go to watch her and when I was old enough to play properly, I found I was quite good too. I played a lot of tennis and spent many hours at our local club. When I was fifteen, I was selected to be one of the ball-boys at Wimbledon. The training was very hard but it was fantastic to be close to the tennis stars and even to speak to them sometimes. I picked up lots of tips that helped me improve my technique. I felt very proud to be in the public eye and my greatest moment was when I was chosen as a ball-boy for one of the Men's Semi-finals in 1969.

In February 1972, I was playing against my mother on the all-weather court at our club and afterwards we had a drink in the clubhouse. A committee member from another club was there too; Mum had known him for years and we got talking. His club, near Watford, had spent loads of money improving its facilities. It was holding a prestigious tournament at Easter and I suspected it wanted to be a sort of North London rival to Wimbledon. It had engaged an ex-Navy physical training instructor to form a corps of ball-boys for the tournament. He insisted on very strict discipline and there'd been difficulty retaining enough volunteers to make a full corps so it was decided to pay the boys for their services. Mum reminded the committee member I'd been a Wimbledon ball-boy and his eyes lit up.

"Well, David, I know you've got your A Level exams to concentrate on but I wonder whether you could add a touch of class to our team of boys? I know you're really a bit old to be a ball-boy but suppose we made you Captain of Ball-Boys? It would only be for Easter week and a few training sessions beforehand. You remember the ropes, don't you? What d'you say?"

The upshot of that encounter was that I was to be employed at the club near Watford for four weekends up to Easter, then every day of the week-long tournament. I'd still have enough time for school work and even some tennis. I had a problem though and it deeply embarrassed me. In my early teens I'd had downy hairs on my arms, legs and upper lip but by age seventeen they'd mostly vanished, leaving my legs in particular completely hairless, all over. Nor was there the tiniest hint of anything on my face for me to shave. In February 1972 I was almost eighteen and yearned to look more masculine. I was getting increasingly self-conscious about my problem and didn't like to have my girlish legs bared in public. I could hardly play tennis in long trousers though, so my ploy was to keep on the move in the hope that people wouldn't notice my lack of what the biology teacher called visible secondary sexual characteristics.

I turned up for my first session of ball-boy training the next Saturday. As leader of a bunch of boys three years younger than me the last thing I needed was to feel self-conscious so I decided to hide my legs by wearing my tracksuit. The session was to start at 8.30 am and finish at 3 pm. Dad drove me to the Club but we were delayed en-route so I didn't arrive till nearly nine but as I was an ex-Wimbledon ball-boy just lending a hand and offering advice, I thought I could more or less come and go as I wished. They were lucky to have me, after all. It was a freezing morning and I was glad of the warmth my tracksuit provided. I also had my tennis kit with me in case the chance arose for a quick knock up. When we arrived at the club, I saw in the car park a squad of boys in the skimpiest of PE kit and being drilled, army-fashion, by a fierce looking man in immaculate white singlet and dark blue trousers. Dad wound down his window and said in a jovial manner:

"I say, my man, is this the ball-boy training squad? If so, I've brought your new captain."

Dear old Dad, he'd been out of the Army too long. The man in charge glared at him then fixed his eyes on me as I got out of the car. I was now feeling distinctly uneasy.

"Come over here, Captain!" roared the man, putting much sarcasm into that last word. "Goodbye, sir," he roared at my Dad, "your son will be free to leave here at fifteen hundred."

In my haste to get out of the car and Dad's haste to drive off after he'd been so roundly admonished, I forgot my sports bag, which spent the rest of the day in the back of the car. I sauntered over to the group, trying – but failing – to look nonchalant.

"So, this is your new captain, boys," said the man, in the high-pitched monotone common to so many PE teachers when addressing their class. "Like all leaders, he's first going to have to prove himself a man you would wish to follow. And what is your name, Captain?"

"Er, David Sanderson, sir." I stuttered in reply.

"Well, Mr Sanderson, my name is Petty Officer McIlroy but the boys, you included, call me P.O. Understood? We'll spend today on physical exercises, co-ordination work and posture training. Tomorrow, we'll be handling tennis balls. Next weekend we'll progress to the courts. In three weeks you will all be perfect ball-boys. No failures from now on. How many boys have failed so far, Rudd?"

"Sixteen, P.O!" answered a tall, slim, fair-haired boy, presumably called Rudd. He was slightly taller than me, with a strong chin, shining eyes, clear complexion and an air of authority. Just the sort of boy I'd very much need on my side.

"Sixteen, precisely," said McIlroy, "and there will be no more failures, will there, boys?"

"No, P.O!" yelled the entire squad, "no more failures!"

"And what happens to a boy who displeases me?"

"He gets the tawse!"

This was shouted in unison by thirty or so white-clad boys, some adding a few mock shrieks of pain for added effect. They were jumping about to get warm.

"Exactly, boys. And now, Mr Sanderson and I will have a little chat. Rudd, you're in charge!"

McIlroy escorted me to the basement of the clubhouse, where all the paraphernalia of a tennis club is kept and into a little storeroom he was using as his office. He was a large, muscular man, with short, crinkly, sandy hair and a red face. He always looked as if he'd just stepped out of a very hot shower. He said I was to be treated as one of the younger boys until I'd shown I knew something about being a ball-boy. Then, and only then, would he give me authority over the others. In the meantime, I was to remember that a start at 8.30 am meant exactly that. He'd decided that my late arrival warranted a meeting with the tawse and said he'd already tawsed two boys that morning for late arrival.

My throat went dry, my stomach tightened and I began to sweat. Surely he wouldn't actually beat me? I wasn't here as a schoolboy – I was here to help! I'd never seen a tawse. Was it as bad as the cane? I never wanted another caning as long as I lived. I couldn't take pain. Still can't. Oh no, please, I didn't want a beating!

"Mr Sanderson, I use the tawse on the boys when they displease me. I'd every intention of giving you a few strokes today to remind the boys that you are just as liable to get it as they are. That is very important. You cannot be an effective leader unless you can show your men you can take anything they have to face and more, much more. Obviously, that means you have to be tougher and fitter than them and able to take harsher punishments. That way you will earn their respect. Now then, what exactly are you wearing?"

"I thought I'd wear my tracksuit for training, P.O. and my tennis kit when we're on court." I felt terrified but I managed to get the words out relatively coherently.

"Take it off, Mr Sanderson. Ball-boys do not wear tracksuits. In my book, nobody should wear a tracksuit! Tracksuits are for wimps!"

I'd got my school PE kit on underneath, but I wished I'd worn my tennis shorts instead. They were somewhat fuller than my little cotton running shorts. Underneath was my jockstrap, this being before running shorts had fitted inner-briefs. I fumbled about and removed my tracksuit, beginning to shiver with fear. What was this tawse? How many strokes would I get? I thought of packing the whole thing in and going home but what could I do? I had no money – it was in my sports bag in Dad's car. I saw McIlroy looking very closely at my bare legs.

"You look very young, Mr Sanderson but I gather you're nearly eighteen. As you'd expect, I give the tawse to boys in front of all the others. Otherwise what purpose would it serve? Most of the boys out there have had a taste of it. I don't lay it on hard, just hard enough to leave some marks and to act as a frightener. But you've got to set a good example from now on so I've decided to give it you as hard as I'd give an adult. I'm sure you'll give a good account of yourself."

White with fear, and trembling with more than the cold, I followed McIlroy outside. He was carrying this leather strap, about two feet long, with two sort of flails. It looked fearsome. Rudd had the boys doing press-ups, star-jumps and all manner of earnest-looking gymnastics to keep them warm. He called them to attention as McIlroy approached, followed by me. I'd stopped trying to look nonchalant and was staring down miserably at the ground. I hoped there'd be no boys from my school in the group. They'd have loved to watch an Upper Sixth-former being flogged! I kept my face averted, desperately hoping not to be recognised and not daring to look anyone in the eye. I stood shivering in the biting wind in my singlet and those wickedly skimpy shorts. I'd never felt so humiliated.

A mechanical roller stood on the grass by the car park and I was ordered to stand on tip-toe and bend over the three-foot diameter front roller so that my fingers reached towards the ground on the other side. I knew my tiny shorts would ride up to expose an inch or more of my bottom, precisely the area I was sure McIlroy would be aiming at with his terrifying tawse. The boys gathered round to watch.

"Mr Sanderson is about to pay the penalty for turning up late this morning," shouted McIlroy. "How many strokes of the tawse do you get for being late, boys?"

"Four, P.O!" yelled the boys in unison and now sounding distinctly threatening.

"Yes, indeed. Mr Sanderson will be getting four but as your leader-to-be he has to earn your respect so they will be four very hard ones!"

As McIlroy pronounced my sentence I could hear a sharp intake of breath from some of the boys.

"Rudd, come here and be ready to help Mr Sanderson to his feet afterwards."

My God! What was to happen to me? Would I be unable to get myself upright afterwards? If I wanted any credibility I must try not to shed tears. The steel roller over which I was draped was ice cold and the chill penetrated throughout my quaking body. The shivering became severe; how much was due to cold and how much to fear I don't know. I was terrified of the pain to come. How long was I going to have to wait like this, my bottom pointing at the grey sky, my face pointing down at the frosty grass? I couldn't see the boys but heard them move yet closer; they said nothing but even in the icy wind I could hear them breathing deeply, after their exertions.

McIlroy yelled "Prepare for punishment!" and a second later I was shaken to the core by a massive impact on my bottom, which sent a spasm of pain through my whole body. I gasped with the shock. I was amazed by the degree of pain – how could that leather thing cause so much agony? Before I knew it the second blow came. No, it wasn't my imagination – the agony was real and I yelled out. Tears formed in my eyes and the grass went out of focus. Two more to come – at this rate I'd black out before he'd finished with me! I no longer felt cold. I hung limply over the roller and wondered why the hell I'd agreed to be a ball-boy again. I wanted to pack it in and go home. The third stroke stopped me from thinking about anything. I couldn't help screeching and now the tears started to fall in earnest. My hands scrabbled for purchase on the wet underside of the roller and failed to find any. I was helpless. My legs were jelly, my bottom in agony, my brain fuddled. Was there really to be one more? I wanted to black out!

I was on the verge of sobbing but what little self-respect I still possessed told me I must not sob in front of these boys. Yelling was OK and a few tears unavoidable but sobbing like a baby – oh no! The fourth stroke was the worst: I heard a grinding creak as the huge roller jolted forward with the impact of the tawse on my bottom. I was severely winded and made a strangled cry of pain. Weak and exhausted, my tears falling onto the grass, I hung helplessly over the roller, no longer in control of my body, I couldn't feel my feet, my hands were uselessly scrabbling about, I was just dead weight on that roller. I couldn't feel the biting cold. But at least I wasn't sobbing.

"Right, boys!" yelled McIlroy. "Would you say that was as hard as normal?"

"Much harder, P.O!" came a chorus of adolescent voices.

"Yes, it was very much harder. Mr Sanderson has taken it well. Is he the sort of man you want as your leader?"

"Yes, yes, P.O!" A very loud chorus this time.

"Right then, Rudd. Kindly perform your duties."

It was over! I seemed to have passed the test. I sniffed a few times and managed to stem the flow of tears. I felt strong young hands around my chest and the excellent Simon Rudd pulled me gently to my feet and held me upright. My hands went at once to my poor bottom which was hurting like crazy. Then I wiped my face dry and turned towards the boys, all thirty of them. Rudd continued to support me. McIlroy was beaming, the boys were looking awestruck. Rudd looked sympathetically into my eyes, gave my shoulder a friendly squeeze and then joined the rest of the boys. My breathing was gradually returning to normal. Catching sight of some of the nearly naked boys shivering violently I suddenly felt the cold again.

"We will now adjourn for a ten-minute break, and cocoa," said McIlroy. "Mr Sanderson and I will talk about the training schedule and we'll all be out here again at nine-thirty."

I staggered into the clubhouse basement, the boys all around me. Clutching and kneading my poor bottom, I was the centre of attention. The boys were staring at my rear.

Simon Rudd drew close, put an arm round my shoulder and whispered "That was one amazing tawsing. He doesn't do that to us. Your bum looks terrible! Are you OK?"

I felt Simon's other hand tugging gently on the hems at the rear of my shorts, presumably in an effort to afford me a little modesty by covering at least some of my wounds. I thanked him for helping me and he flashed me a wonderful smile. He was the tallest of the boys and very slim and athletic. His voice had broken but his limbs, like mine, were smooth and hairless. Some of the other boys had quite hairy legs, even though they were only fourteen or fifteen. I didn't want any of them to know I was nearly eighteen.

McIlroy beckoned me into his inner sanctum, which now felt very warm and I had a chance to thaw out. We each had a steaming mug of cocoa and he shook my hand. I remained standing and continued to rub my bottom.

"Well, Mr Sanderson, you did me a big favour arriving late. When I heard you were joining us today, I knew I'd have to put you through the mill to make the other boys respect you and I'd have to find some excuse to give you the tawse. You kindly provided that excuse by arriving late. If you can now prove your physical fitness, I think we can get on and progress the training. I've seen your testimonials and I take it you can remember everything you learnt at Wimbledon. I want you to give the boys demonstrations of postures on court and tell them how to behave there. I want these boys to be as good as any at Wimbledon, even though we'll have trained for a fraction of the time they do down in SW19. I'm relying on you for some good leadership. Are you willing?"

Suddenly, from being a limp rag, being beaten half to death out in the freezing cold, I was supping a mug of cocoa in the warm and my tormentor was telling me I was his new best friend. My bottom was throbbing madly and I wasn't at all sure I wanted to stay. Then I recalled Simon Rudd's shining face and all the other boys saying they wanted me to lead them. I couldn't let them down.

"Yes, P.O, I'll help all I can. Are all these boys going to make the final squad?"

"Oh yes, Mr Sanderson, they'll make it. By the way, I meant it about tracksuits. I suggest you come tomorrow in longer shorts if you have any. White ones, of course. I'm afraid those little things are showing off my handiwork rather too plainly. For the actual tournament, the Club has acquired thirty-six sets of matching shorts and shirts but you'll all stay in PE kit until the big day. The boys don't know how old you are and it might be better if they think you're only about a year older than them."

The rest of the day went quickly and I doubt if any of us had time to feel cold again. I tried to get to know the boys' names and was mightily relieved that none was from my school. One of the smaller boys caught my attention because he was wearing spectacularly short shorts and looked hardly older than ten. He frequently seemed close to tears and I noticed some thin, red weals on the exposed part of his bottom. I hadn't seen anybody else get the tawse, so I assumed he was one of the morning's late arrivals. I soon discovered Roly was actually fifteen and had been late that morning because his bike had had a puncture, for which he was given the tawse. Roly was an engaging little chap, with a sweet little face and a nervous habit of plucking at the hems of his miniature shorts as if trying to make them appear longer. I wanted to protect him.

During the various training sessions, either McIlroy was calling the shots or I was demonstrating the various postures unique to ball-boys, including the special crouch when stationed beside the net. It's important to know which is your stronger leg (a bit like being right or left handed) and you adopt a position that keeps you out of the way and yet able instantly to hurtle into the playing area to retrieve a ball. One knee is on the ground and the other is up near your chin, so that the foot on that side (left, in my case) is ready to spring you forward into action. When demonstrating the crouch I knew my PE shorts exposed some of my left buttock and I had no doubt the boys were observing the marks of the tawse. As the day wore on, and the pain began slowly to subside, I began to think of these marks as a sort of badge of office. Just so long as nobody else outside our group saw them. Luckily, it was such a cold day there were very few members about and when Dad came for me at 3 pm, I was safely in my tracksuit again.

As soon as I was in my bedroom I stripped off and inspected my bottom in the mirror. Most of the damage was to the lower part of my bottom and the very top of my legs, the area so embarrassingly exposed by my PE shorts when I was over that roller. Now I could see what the boys had been able to view all day. The pain had subsided considerably and I had a hot shower and dressed in my jeans and sweater for the evening at home. I gradually realised how clever McIlroy had been. In just a few minutes, he'd stripped me of any superior feelings I might have come with, reducing me to a snivelling wreck, at the same time showing the boys I could survive a brutal flogging. He then steadily built me up so by the end of the day I was effectively running the session myself. The boys seemed to like me because I took the punishment without breaking down completely and was then able to share my knowledge of ball-boying.

Most of the boys had shown pity after my beating but I think that changed gradually to respect for what I knew and was able to demonstrate, even though I was in pain and my whipped bottom was regularly on display. There were times when, for effect and possibly a little sympathy, I winced pointedly and rubbed my bottom before commencing a demonstration. In later training sessions, this was turned into a joke which we all thought was funny: a boy invited to get into the crouching position would put on a pained expression and rub his bottom before crouching down. I think I laughed loudest at it and that helped make our bond stronger.

Needless to say, I turned up fifteen minutes early for every subsequent session and never again in my tracksuit. I felt slightly more dignified in my Fred Perry tennis shorts which, although extremely brief, in the fashion of the day, just managed to hide the tawse marks. By Good Friday all the boys were still there and we'd become a well-knit team. Little Roly hadn't had any more punctures and had become everyone's favourite. He looked impossibly cute, especially in the crouch position. We'd had lots of practice on the tennis courts with people actually playing the game and the boys were split into groups of six. I thought the best ball-boys, like Simon Rudd, were equal to anyone I'd seen operating at Wimbledon. Throughout, we were well motivated by McIlroy's methods. Once he'd got everyone to understand and conform to his strict discipline he lightened the atmosphere by telling funny stories of his days in the Navy. I saw him tawse a few boys but it was done in a friendly way, the tawse sort of flopping onto the waiting bottom rather than impacting it with any force. Simon told me that at first the tawsings had been much harder but nothing like what I'd had on my first morning. He said the boys still talked about that. I hadn't exactly forgotten about it either!

As I'd hoped, Simon became my faithful lieutenant. He knew the other boys well and although only fifteen he had a sort of natural authority. He never tried to upstage me, always showing respect for my experience, which I found admirable. He was two inches taller than me but because he was so slim, looked taller than that. I liked his face, which was always bright, alert and cheerful. I liked the way he always looked right into my eyes when talking to me. In short, he was a boy you could put your trust in. He was also the first boy I'd ever wanted to lie with and maybe have a cuddle woth. I found myself thinking about him when I was in bed at night.

On Easter Sunday we were ready for the first matches of the tournament to begin next day. It was time to be issued with the Club uniform kit. McIlroy produced a large cardboard box as we sat having our morning cocoa in the sunshine. In the town, church bells were ringing for Easter. We were all eager to see what the Club had designed for us. It was striking, to say the least. Dark blue in colour it comprised short-sleeved Aertex shirts with the Club badge and ultra-brief cotton shorts. I suppose it was reasonable to assume that athletic boys of fourteen and fifteen would be of similar size, so the shorts came in just two waist sizes, 28 or 30 inches. They had an inside leg of barely an inch and a two-inch slit up the outside of each leg. Most boys looked thrilled with their new kit and each collected a package to take home. Next day we'd all be wearing our splendid new kit.

Simon told me he thought the shorts might be a bit small for us taller chaps and said perhaps we'd better try on our kit to make sure it fitted. We took our packages into the store room and changed out of our white PE kit. Simon was so slim he had no difficulty donning his new kit but the shorts really were ludicrously brief on him, even shorter than the PE shorts he'd been wearing up to then. They couldn't quite cover his bottom. He looked magnificent, a real feast for the eyes. As for me, the shirt was a very tight fit but showed off my pectoral muscles rather well. I had a really hard job getting the shorts over my broad hips and I couldn't have done it had the side slits not been there. Those slits were now wide open. I hoped my jockstrap wasn't showing. The shorts were even briefer than my PE shorts and with no mirror I couldn't see what I looked like but Simon looked at me admiringly and said I looked 'bloody fantastic.'

I was in a quandary. We had to wear the Club kit, of that there was no doubt but whether it would be advisable in my case I seriously doubted. My fingers told me the shorts had no hope of reaching the crease where my bottom met my legs. I went outside with Simon to express my concern to McIlroy. A chorus of wolf-whistles from the other boys greeted us. McIlroy couldn't see the problem – he said we both looked very smart. Just then the committee member I knew came round the corner with a man laden with important looking cameras.

"Ah, David," he said, "just what we're after. We're making a poster to publicise the tournament. We want lots of spectators for the last two days. What we're after is a few action shots on court but I want to include a ball-boy or two in shot, wearing our new kit. You two look absolutely perfect! Very dashing indeed! Absolutely terrific! Come on!"

Before we knew what was happening, Simon and I were whisked over to the Number 1 Court where two players were practising, immaculate in their whites. The photographer fussed about, putting us in different positions, crouching, standing, retrieving balls and so on. We must have spent forty minutes being prodded, poked, pleaded with, shouted at and generally verbally abused by the wretched man. He spent a long time concentrating on close-ups of me. I didn't like the way he lay on the ground a few feet away and took photos looking up at me. When it was over, I rejoined the rest of our team and sat down with them for last minute briefings by McIlroy. I looked at Simon sitting cross-legged on the grass. His shorts were positively indecent. He was looking intently at me, probably thinking similar thoughts.

Afterwards he said "It's a good job those tawse marks have disappeared, David, or you'd be showing them to the world tomorrow!"

Before I had time to reply, McIlroy called me over for a private chat. He said he'd decided that rather than have me in one of the teams of ball-boys, it might be better if I acted as a non-playing captain, roving around and making sure standards were maintained. I could do that in my own clothes, so long as I looked sporty and smart.

"After all, Mr Sanderson, you're not a little boy of fourteen, are you? The Club kit wasn't designed with young men your size in mind."

The lovely man had just got me out of a tricky situation and actually, it did make more sense if I helped him to supervise the other boys, rather than be tied up for hours at a time on court.

On Easter Monday all the ball- boys, apart from me, paraded in their smart blue shirts and shorts, with white socks and plimsolls. They all looked stunning, especially little Roly and, of course, Simon, who persevered bravely with shorts that couldn't quite cover his bottom. The tournament went ahead, in glorious weather – for April – and I supervised the ball-boys, wearing my immaculate cricket kit with school blazer on top. Much to my relief, my long trousers would keep my hairless legs hidden from view. Petty Officer McIlroy (I never learnt his Christian name) kept a beady eye on events but essentially left the organisation to me, so I was busy watching the boys in action and arranging substitutes at short notice for ball-boys suffering injuries or fatigue. All the while, Simon Judd led his team of six brilliantly and whenever I had the chance, I'd watch him at work. Those little blue shorts seemed to shrink as time went by and at home in the evenings, I couldn't get out of my mind the image of him in the crouch: his long, smooth legs glinting in the sun, his ever-shining face catching the sunlight, his eyes ever watchful, that vast expanse of bare left buttock .... Oh! how I thought of him as I lay in bed at night!

After a couple of days the poster was distributed. It went everywhere – shops, lamp-posts, pubs, libraries and into the local press. We were all given a couple each. When I first saw it, I was absolutely mortified. The poster was basically a large, colour photograph, taken at about a foot above ground level and looking along the net, at a tennis player blatting the ball over the net with a dramatic-looking backhand. The entire right hand border was taken up by my left leg, in the crouch position. My knee is near the top of the picture, my thigh extends all the way down the right border until the curve of my bottom comes into view. My left buttock then describes an arc of about fifty degrees before it meets the hem of the shorts, actually the wide open slit. It was a very striking picture. I suddenly felt faint, my neck tingled and I knew I was blushing. Simon came up, pointing at the picture.

"That's a great photo, David but I did think those shorts looked totally indecent on you! But don't worry; nobody else will know it's you."

Dear Simon – of course nobody would know it was me, apart from the photographer, the committee member and all the ball-boys.

"Bloody hell, Simon, I thought that photographer was getting a bit intimate. Thank God those tawse marks had disappeared!"

We sat down together on a bench, our knees touching. He was in his blue ball-boy costume and I gazed in awe at his long, bare legs. I wondered if he'd realised how indecent his shorts looked. He shifted closer. As he leaned over to read the script on my poster, I realised I'd never actually tried to touch him before. Now, he had an elbow on my lap and his face was level with mine and our cheeks were almost touching. I felt what I'd been experiencing in bed whenever I thought about him.

"Look David, I'll show you where your tawse marks were." He reached to touch the poster and slowly traced a fingernail over the image of my left buttock. "Here, here and a great big one right up here. And more on the other side. I'll never forget the sight of poor you over that roller. You looked so young and helpless." He nudged even closer, as if he wanted to kiss me. "We all thought you were marvellous to stay on after that flogging. You're a real hero to some of the boys. And...." he swallowed hard, "and specially to me."

At this, he turned to look me right in the eyes and smiled. Our faces were so close: I'm convinced he wanted to kiss me. I shivered with excitement and my erection matured into a raging hard-on. I hoped my cricket flannels could contain it. Simon crossed his legs. I said I'd enjoyed being part of such an excellent team and thanked him for all the support he'd given me. He said he hoped we could meet after the tournament and play tennis together and maybe do other things. I said I hoped so, too. We then had to return to our duties and when Simon stood up he somehow brushed his hand across my left thigh, making me tingle all over. He quickly turned away from me but not quickly enough for me to fail to see he was struggling to get his fully-erect penis back inside his tiny little blue shorts. Oh God! Did he fancy me? The feeling would certainly be mutual - by now I fancied him rotten!

When I got home that night, I smuggled my posters into my bedroom to hide them but not before I'd studied the picture again. It was an astonishingly clear photograph and I looked for any tiny hairs on my leg that I might not have noticed in the flesh. No luck. Then I thought about those tawse marks; if Simon was being truthful, I must have looked a real mess on that first day. When we were looking at the poster, did he really mean what he'd said about me being his hero? No - I was deluding myself. He was yet another weirdo who got a kick looking at my bare legs; there were plenty of boys at my school like that. But that's not how I thought of him in bed that night. In fact, it was another night of orgasms and dreams. When my alarm clock went off at 6 am I felt absolutely knackered.

Lots of spectators turned up for the last two days of the tournament but if any of them had hoped to get a sight of that scrumptious thigh on the poster they were disappointed because I remained in my cricket flannels. Not that Simon's thighs wouldn't have compensated amply, of course. He was on court a lot and made such a spectacular sight I almost forgot to watch the tennis! After the finals and before the prize-giving, I had to squeeze into that dark blue kit once more, for there was a special presentation to the corps of ball-boys. The Club President made a nice speech and we all received medallions, a certificate, our pay packets and a round of applause. More photographs were taken.

McIlroy and I were intensely proud of 'our boys' and back in the basement, where we all changed into our own clothes, he gave us a terrific speech of thanks and said he hoped we could all meet again next year for the spring tournament. Roly and a couple of other boys began to cry with the emotion of the occasion. Then Simon – who else – stood up and made a little speech to thank McIlroy for being such an inspirational trainer, and then presented him with a bottle of whisky. Now it was McIlroy's turn to shed a tear. The boys had each contributed some money and Simon had got his father to choose a very special bottle of malt whisky. McIlroy shook us all by the hand and produced his tawse for us to pass round and admire. Roly took hold of it and started swishing it about. McIlroy then retrieved it and departed for the Clubhouse proper, clutching his bottle with obvious pride.

Dad had lent me his car for the day and I was in no hurry to depart; I didn't want to leave this lovely bunch of kids and had to make sure I could see Simon again, very soon. People were beginning to thin out and I gathered my stuff. I caught Simon's eye and we were about to swap addresses when dear little Roly darted over to say he loved us both to bits and then hurtled off to find his bike. I looked at Simon, with whom I was now completely infatuated and was surprised to see him blushing.

"What can little Roly know about love?" said Simon, turning his gaze to the floor.

I pretended I didn't know what he meant and knew I mustn't try to get intimate with a boy so much younger than me. And yet I couldn't bear to part from him. I came up with what I thought was a bright idea.

"You normally get the bus home, don't you? Why don't I give you a lift in Dad's car?"

"You've got a driving licence?" asked Simon.

"Yeah, but I haven't had it long - only about eight months."

"But that means you must be nearly eighteen! I thought you were sixteen, at most."

Now it was my turn to blush. "It's just that I look young for my age, Simon."

"You bet!" said Simon, grinning happily. "We both look younger than some of these boys, what with their hairy legs and everything. Where's the car? I'd love a lift home!"

As we walked to Dad's car I couldn't get out of my mind the image of Simon trying to control his erection when we'd been sitting so close together looking at that poster. I thought he was ravishingly beautiful. Did he harbour similar feelings for me? Once in the car he stopped talking and seemed strangely subdued. Was he dreading saying goodbye as much as I was? I drove him the five miles to his house. When I stopped the car he turned and looked at me with tears in his lovely eyes.

"I'm sorry, David, I've made a fool of myself. I honestly thought we were the same age but you're well over two years older than me and we shouldn't be friends. Well, not the sort of friends I was hoping we could be. Thanks for everything and good luck!"

In a trice he was out of the car and gone. I felt utterly deflated. For the rest of the Easter holidays I tried to concentrate on my school work but was constantly distracted by highly erotic thoughts about Simon. It was bloody difficult – every time I heard mention of tennis my mind flew back to the training sessions and the tournament. If I was watching TV, every time a character called Simon appeared I closed my eyes and thought of my Simon. Matters heightened when the Club sent me photographs of the presentation: in one shot Simon and I were standing together in those shockingly brief shorts and wow, what a handsome pair we made! Every night I studied the photos in bed and had pretend conversations with him, before giving in to my lustful imagination and enjoying yet more orgasms and some fantastic dreams.

The dreams involved Simon and me conducting all sorts of sexual games - often, for reasons unknown, in my nice little 2-man tent. Once there was a guest appearance by little Roly, squashed between us and wriggling about, brandishing the tawse! I'd wake up thinking the tent was in the middle of a tennis court with thousands of people clapping and cheering when Simon and I emerged, wearing just big smiles and those tiny blue shorts. For the first time in my life, I was completely and hopelessly in love. Then I received a letter.

Dear David,

I've heard you're 18 next Friday. I'm not yet 16 but I'm old enough to wish you Happy Birthday. We really had something going as ball-boys and I messed up stupidly when we said goodbye. I know you like camping. I love it and I'd love it even more if it was with you. Just the two of us, nobody else. Not even Roly.

Can we meet soon? Please say we can. I miss you more than I can say and I want to wish you Happy Birthday, in person.

Your very good friend,

Simon

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