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by Kiwi

(Something different. They say that the way to beat 'writer's block' is to just write. Write anything, even just a shopping list. So, here's mine. This is true - every word of it).

When I was very young, the local radio station had a regular, Saturday morning, programme playing listeners' requests for 3 hours. It was so popular that, on a hot day when all the doors and windows were open, you could walk around town and still hear every word.

This song was played every week, without fail, for years on end. Other songs were often heard but this one was never missed - the Kini Quartet, a group of young Maori, sung 'Under the Sun'.

"It has been written in the book, Old Man, That all men are equal under the sun.
There is no war, and so, no pain. All are as one, under the sun.
When stripped of all material gain, All men are equal, equal, under the sun.

In the Land of the Free, In our own country, Where our babies are taught as one.
Where they learn to be men, To lift up their faces and then,
Walk hand in hand, Under the Sun.

There is no war, and so, no pain. All are as one, under the sun.
When stripped of all material gain, All men are equal, equal under the sun.

It has been written in the book, Old Man, To follow God's command.
To follow God's command."

(Yes, it was idealistic, but we liked it). It's not on Youtube, dammit.

I was a lonely and abused little boy. My drunken father and bitterly twisted and unhappy mother were too young and way out of their depth. They were only 18 when I was born, 6 months after the wedding. I spent a lot of time in my own world, reading books. I was the only kid in town allowed more than one book at a time from the Library - Mrs. Braidwood was sick of the sight of me and she let me take as many as I liked.

Also, I spent a lot of time, alone, down at the river, building dams, digging canals and often singing that song and dreaming of a better life.

My life was not exceptional. In our small, red-neck, working-class town, most of us were in the same boat. The lucky ones were those who didn't have fathers, or had fathers who weren't drunks. There were a few and we scorned them. "Little Princes & Princesses." (Jealousy takes many forms).

In the school holidays, if lucky, I got to escape to a better world - to Westport, (Westpoint), the town over the rainbow. I adored Westport, still do. Also, as a teenager, I sometimes got to go to Kaikoura, (Kaimoana). It wasn't as good as Westport but was still way better than home.

So, that's a little of where I came from and what motivates the stories. I remember telling myself stories at 5 years old - of course, at that age, they usually involved my discovering that I was the lost & loved son of a millionaire or a king or something. Hey, I was a kid!

Never imagined that I'd ever get to share stories with anyone else, so, thanks.

When I was 13, my grandfather died, which was no great surprise, he was an old man. Actually, he wasn't really that old, he was 61, but that's ancient when you're 13. Hell, 21 was old then. Besides he really was old. He died of 'the miner's disease' - ephysema, which is basically buggered lungs from breathing in too much dust in the mines. Of course, the excessive drinking and smoking didn't help either.

Anyway, he was old. He'd been sitting in a chair by the fire ever since I could remember, just waiting to die.

So, he did and my grandmother, who'd been nursing him for years, and her own mother before that, took on a whole new lease of life. Widowed at 60 and free for the first time, she started going out, playing cards, playing bowls and generally socialising a lot.

She stayed on, living in the big old family home, on her own. The family, all adults now, decided that it was not good that she was there on her own, so I, as the oldest grandson living in town, had to go up and sleep with her every night - in separate rooms, of course! (She was my grandmother - minds above belts here).

That arrangement suited me fine. I loved my grandmother and it meant that I was away from my parents' house every night and safe from my father's drunken, physical, abuse. Unfortunately, it didn't last long. Six months after the funeral, Grandmother got married again.

She'd always been a bit of a character. She was a legend in her own family. One of the many stories told about her was how she'd been engaged to be married 10 times before finally settling down and marrying my grandfather 2 weeks after their first child, a daughter, was born. They went on to have 4 sons as well.

Anyway, 3 months after the funeral, there was a school reunion in the town. One of the people attending was one of my grandmother's old fiances. He was then living in Christchurch and was widowed after raising a family of his own. Accomodation was stretched in our small town, so he stayed in my grandmother's house. That meant that I had to go home for a week, which I was not happy about. I didn't see why I couldn't stay where I was. She had 5 bedrooms, for fuck's sake!

But, I couldn't and had to go home, and was beaten several times. Finally, the week passed, the old boyfriend went home and life went back to normal, for a while.

Suddenly, my grandmother, 'the Merry Widow', was getting mail everyday and sometimes little gifts and things. She went to Christchurch, on her own, and 6 months after my grandfather's funeral, she got married again, to her old boyfriend. The family were delighted and highly amused, all except one of them. I was horrified. She was sending me back to hell!

They went off on a honeymoon and the family decided to welcome them home by trashing the house. They made a stork, with a baby in a nappy hanging from its beak, and mounted it on the highest chimney, and then they wanted to get inside the house. She knew her sons and she'd locked the house up securely, but that didn't stop them. They broke, and removed the glass from, one of the smallest windows - 240 x 300 millimeters, (9 1/2 x 12 inches).

Two of my uncles picked me up and pushed me, sideways, through the window. Damm, I was a skinny kid at 13! I opened a door from the inside, and they all got in. They apple-pied, (half-sheeted), all of the beds, put sugar in the sheets and hung tin-cans under the mattresses, etc, etc. They even put some chemical in the fireplaces so that the fires would smoke and stink when they were lit. I never did find out what that stuff was.

The honeymooners came home and I had a new grandfather. He was an okay sort of guy, maybe a bit boring, but I never did like him much because his being there meant that I was stuck back in my parents' house. There were some advantages though. As well as the new grandfather, I had some new uncles and aunties and a crowd of new cousins. One new cousin, Brian, I really liked. He was a bit nerdy, but he was gorgeous! Yes, I already knew that I was gay. I wasn't stupid, I'd figured that out ages ago.

Christmas and the Summer holidays rolled around. Various relations came to stay and, when they went home to Blenheim, my new uncle and aunty took me with them, for a holiday, with Brian! I was delighted.

I had a wonderful time there for a couple of weeks. Uncle was a lawyer, so money was no object and we did something new and exciting nearly every day. The Gorgeous Brian was straight, unfortunately, and he didn't want to play those games. He was only 12 anyway, he was just a kid. His sister, Gail, was not. She was 14 and she did want to play, but I didn't, not with her. Eww!

It was still a great holiday though and I shared lots of my superior 14 year-old wisdom with Brian and his younger brother, John - like the proper way to wear their hair, the proper way to fucking talk and never, ever! to leave the house with shirts tucked into their trousers.

The day before I was due to go home, I realised that, because of uncle's generosity, I hadn't spent any of my pocket money. So I did the decent thing - I bought myself a present. (Hey, I was 14!) I bought a Lilo, an inflatable air-mattress. I'd never had one of my own before and it'd be great because I was not a strong swimmer.

I went home. Back to hell, dammit! But, at least I'd get to see Billy. I'd been missing him.

I wasn't sure when I fell in love, but I knew that I loved him. It was never planned and I wasn't looking for it. According to some, it should never have happened at all, but it did. Right or wrong, I loved him. Gay? S'pose it was, if it had to have a label. It was just Billy and I loved him.

I'd known him all of his life. Billy was the younger brother of my best friends and they lived just a few doors away. He was one of 8 kids. He had 2 older sisters, a younger sister and four little brothers. The big sisters had straight, dark-brown, hair like their mum. Billy and the younger ones all had dark-red hair, the colour of flames, all except for Ross who was blond.

Sometimes, not always but sometimes, red-heads can be good-looking. Billy certainly was, he was stunning, especially when he smiled. That smile of his lit-up the dullest day.

Maybe he'd never make a pin-up poster. There was actually a tooth missing from his smile. He lost it in an accident when he was just a kid, and there was no money to replace it. But it didn't spoil his smile, it gave him personality, like Alfred E. Neumann, from Mad magazine, he was a red-head too. My bedroom walls were always covered in pictures of Alfred E. Neumann, not because I was a big fan, but because they reminded me of Billy. No-one knew that, except me.

Home from the holiday, on a sunny summer's day, I was alone, drifting down the river, floating on my Lilo. I sped down a stretch of almost-rapids, rocking in the splashing waves and getting wet. Around the corner at the bottom, I glided out into a wide, placid pool - the swimming-hole I was heading for, where Devil's Creek met the river.

A bunch of boys were scurrying out of the river and into the cover of the surrounding bush. It was hard to see because of the water in my eyes, but there were 4 of them - Jimi and Fred, the Fraser brothers, little 'Mousy' O'Hara and - Billy! I would've known that flaming red hair anywhere.

Also, I wasn't sure, but I thought that they were all naked. Wow. Well, it was a private place, kind-of, and skinny-dipping was always popular. But, damm! I wished that I was swimming naked with Billy. Lucky Sods!

I dug my arms into the water and more or less, stopped the mattress, slowly drifting around in the back-wash caused by the end of the rapids. The boys reappeared, Jimi and Mousy sat together on the warm stones by the water's edge, Billy and Fred were standing, looking down, from the small cliff at the back of the pool.

Billy was wearing his baggy, green shorts - they were dry and his hair was wet! His smiling face was freckle-dusted, as were his hands and forearms, but all the rest of his slender body, arms and legs were a pure, spotless, milky-white and gorgeous. Damm, he was a nice-looking kid!

Fred wasn't too bad either. He had sandy-blond hair, tanned skin and a cheeky grin. He was as small and skinny as Billy and his swimming togs were far too big on him. They hung loose around the tops of his legs and, from down on the water, I could see the pinky-white skin up inside them. Fred draped an arm around Billy's shoulder and said something into his ear. Was he kissing him too? Whether he was or not, I hated him.

Of course Billy had other friends. He was sporty, too small for rugby but he was a keen cricketer. Plus he was friendly and popular, he was a nice kid. Okay, I knew I had no right to be jealous, but I was. I hated Fred Fraser and his brother and anyone else who Billy was friends with.

With a grin and a nod, Billy answered whatever it was that Fred said to him. He put an arm around his back and they leapt together off the cliff and into the river, almost swamping the Lilo with the wave they kicked up. Oh no they didn't! I knew what they were scheming and they weren't getting the Lilo from me! I scooped water frantically and pulled away down the pool. I shot into the rapid water at the end and raced away downstream, laughing at their yells.

Hah! They weren't hijacking me!

I sped into the next pool downstream, pulled over at the side and stood up, lifting the Lilo out of the water. No-one was following. That was far enough, it was a long walk home. I sat on the 'beach' and deflated the mattress. At least I didn't have to struggle all of the way back up the river. I could cut across to the end of the golf-links road and walk up there, back to town.

I did think of sneaking back up to the pool to spy on the boys and see what they were doing, but no. They knew that I was around now, so they probably wouldn't be doing anything. Anyway, if they were, it was none of my business and I didn't want to see Billy having naked fun with other boys. Besides, that'd be wrong.

I rolled the Lilo up and started walking, I was going home. Walking along in the heat, I was already plotting what Billy would be doing in my fantasies that night. Damm, it was a hot day! The sun shone bright in a cloudless sky. I hoped I wasn't getting burnt; I had nothing but shorts on. I started out covered in sunscreen, but the splashing and the sweating had probably ruined it.

I hoped Billy wasn't getting sunburnt. It wouldn't take much with that milky-white skin of his. But, if he was, I hoped that he got his little white bum burnt, that'd teach him to go naked with other kids. It would stop him doing anything else too.

My Great-Aunty June was coming out from the golf course as I was passing there. She stopped and gave me a ride home, which was great. I couldn't have timed that better if I tried. Way to go, Aunt June!

That's it - just one sunny day I remember clearly. Not sure why.

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