by Rigby Taylor

Chapter 13


By the time everyone had swum and dived and Melvin and Sasha had proved themselves the equal of Jarek and Zeno by easily hauling themselves up the rope; it was time for lunch. When, after walking fifty metres they realised how close they were to the cabin and how they'd been fooled, the larger boys laughingly hurled themselves on their two leaders and wrestled them to the ground, forcing a return to the swimming hole to wash off the debris.

Lunch was cold savoury rice that Zeno had cooked that morning, tinned corned beef, sweet raw capsicums, olives and tomatoes. Desert consisted of bananas, dates and handfuls of nuts. Everyone took a plate and helped themselves from pots, bowls and dishes. Those who wanted could make themselves tea, otherwise it was reconstituted milk or water. Everyone washed their own plates and a roster was posted for washing communal dishes and keeping the kitchen area spotless.

When all food and utensils were securely back in the well-sealed larder to keep out marauding possums, birds and monitor lizards, Zeno explained that everyone in future would have to prepare their own meals from the ingredients available. They were free to help themselves to all food at any time and use the wood-burning stove, provided their partner was with them, they observed the strictest hygiene, and never left the larder unlocked afterwards. It was a trust system. They were shown the entire food stock, agreed it should be enough to last them easily until Friday lunchtime, but if anyone took too much they'd all have to starve as there was no way to get any more.

A rest period was declared in which they would choose their sleeping arrangements, make their beds and rest for twenty minutes. Predictably, Arthur and his three religious mates took the nearest room; Melvin and Sasha raced for the end room and barred the door, and Simon, Anton, Robert and dark mysterious Leon, who had not uttered a word as far as Zeno knew, happily took the middle room, relieved at not having to share with Melvin.

When all were rested, Jarek gave them maps and compasses and, after instruction, set them off exploring the rest of the property belonging to the cabin while he remained accessible in a clearing, and Zeno caught up on his studies in their room.

To conserve precious drinking water they were each given a bucket before the evening meal, to fill at the swimming hole and use instead of showering.

'Will we take our towels?'

'No need. We'll be dry by the time we get back. There's nothing worse than wet towels in this heat, they soon stink.'

'Where'll we change?'

'Here, unless you want to leave your towels and clothes on the ground; there are no hooks out there and they'll attract ants.'

'You mean we have to be naked?'

'Of course not, nothing is compulsory. It's entirely up to you.'

'You and Jarek too?'

'As long as you don't tell on us.'

They all laughed.

'We've already seen everything you've got. When your pouches get wet they're transparent and cling like skin.'

'Yeah, we won't grass on you,' murmured several of the quieter lads.

Laughing excitedly, eight naked young men accompanied by four demurely wrapped in towels, ran down to the pool and dived and swam in the darkening evening. Unlike the stream, the fields didn't mind a little soap residue so they carried buckets over a low rise to a slope that looked towards distant mountains and a reddening evening sky. After soaping loins and everything else, they poured water over their partners to rinse off, then wandered through the enchanted balmy night back to the cabin, fully expecting to see a centaur, nymph or satyr.

Jarek stayed to check that nothing had been left behind, then wandered slowly back, enjoying the solitude. A hand stroked his elbow.

'Jarek, Sir, I want to say sorry, and thanks.'

'Sorry for what, Melvin?'

'For pretending I was scared up the tree and grabbing hold of your… bits.'

'Was it for fun, or were you setting me up so you could laugh about it with your mates later?'

'Oh no Sir Jarek! Nothing like that.'

'Like what? By the way, I'm not Sir Jarek; one name's enough, I don't care which.'

'I'd never set you up, Jarek. It was for fun. I sort of dared myself to do it because I… I just sort of wanted to… to touch you and…'

'Melvin, when I said we're equals, what did you think that meant?

'Dunno, just the usual teacher crap, I suppose. Creepy. Trying to be mates with the kids, but feeling all superior.'

'Do you still think that?'

'No way! It really feels as if you are one of us, as if you respect us, you don't treat us as if we're imbeciles.'

'That's because you aren't. So next time you feel like shoving your groin against my bum and grabbing my goolies, ask first.'

Melvin subsided in a fit of giggles. 'You're not serious?'

'Why not?'

'I'm not queer!' Defensive.

'Nobody is. We all do what seems natural to us, so nothing is queer. It's only narrow-minded people who think everybody should be like them, who label others as queer, idiotic, stupid, weird. You were doing what seemed a normal fun thing, and it was…now I know you weren't setting me up. However, like most people I'm choosy about who touches me and where.'

'Yeah, but if I'd asked, you'd have told me to fuck off, wouldn't you?'

'You'll never know, and we're going to be late if we don't get a move on.'

'Can I touch you now? It'll be better without that silly pouch.'


'Because… because… I don't know, but I'm getting a hard on thinking about it. Look.'

Jarek looked and nodded sagely. 'Very impressive. How many people have you touched in that way?'

'None! Have you looked at most guys and those cretins up there! Fat, skinny, pale and pimpled, the idea of touching them make me feel sick. But you're...'

'Sasha's nicely made and as tough as you, even though he's short.'

'Yeah, but he's too much of a brain-box for me.'

'Rubbish! You're just as smart. You should ask if you can touch him—you might be surprised. Meanwhile, I suggest you slip behind the cabin and jerk off, unless of course you'd like to impress everyone with your flagpole.'

'I wouldn't mind. Would you be shocked if I did?'

'Of course not, although Arthur and his mates would be. Wait till after I've gone in before making your grand entrance, I don't want anyone thinking I was the cause of it.'

'You're a champ, Jarek.'

Jarek stood in the shadows watching the open area in front of the kitchen. Two boys were pumping the pressure lamps bright; Zeno and two others were placing bread, biscuits, fruit, jam and nuts on the tables, while four overweight boys in T-shirts and shorts were struggling to light the fire to boil eggs. Two others were wandering round, reluctant to go and change.

'Skinny dipping's great. Can we do it every day, Zeno?'

'Of course, Sasha. We're the only people here, we can do as we like.'

'Do we have to get dressed?'

'No, only if you want to' Zeno said. 'I reckon it's too hot for clothes.'

A chorus of agreement from five lads. The four in their shorts looked disapproving, but said nothing.

'What're we going to do after supper?'

'We've two things to discuss, remember? Whether Jarek and I can continue wearing our pouches, and...'

'You're not wearing anything at all now.'

'That's because, like you, I'm still drying out after the shower.' They grinned complicity.

Jarek wandered in and helped get the fire going, the proximity of his naked loins causing some consternation among the four puritans. He suggested scrambling the eggs as it was quicker. When all was ready, Jarek and Zeno put on their pouches, took their plates and one for Melvin, then joined the others who'd taken their food and the lamps into the recreation room to escape from moths and huge beetles that were buzzing everywhere, attracted by the lights. When Melvin arrived a few seconds later, having nervously waited to make his entrance, a cheer erupted and Jarek could scarcely stop himself from laughing.

The laughing chorus of stiffy, fatcock, horn, rod, boner, was silenced by Arthur, the natural leader of the disapproving boys who shouted angrily, 'Melvin you're disgusting!'

Remembering Jarek's response to his own jibe that morning, Melvin spread his arms in surprise and stared down at his erection in bewilderment, frowned and said innocently, 'What's disgusting?' Turning to Zeno he asked in wide-eyed astonishment, apparently on the verge of tears. 'Zeno! What's disgusting about me?'

Zeno pulled a sympathetic face, pretended to peer closely then said, 'Nothing, Melvin, please don't cry. Arthur's mistaken, everything looks perfectly normal and obviously in excellent working order.'

More hoots of laughter as Melvin made a display of being cheered up.

'Jarek! Tell him!' Arthur insisted.

'Tell him what?'

'That it's disgusting and he'll go to hell for wandering around like that.'

'Murder is disgusting, Arthur. Bashing people is disgusting. Swearing and cursing people who annoy you is disgusting. Dropping rubbish and polluting the air, land and waterways is seriously disgusting. Forcing people to do what you want instead of what makes them happy is disgusting. Telling people they're going to hell is disgusting! A healthy erection, on the other hand, is a magnificent sight. It proves Melvin is a man able to father a child and ensure the continuation of the human race. Throughout history the male erection has been worshipped. You've heard of Aphrodite the goddess of Love? Well Hermes is the male equivalent and Ancient Greek households had a statue of him in their front garden. Not the whole man, only a carved stone image of an erection because they believed proper respect for what it represented would bring fertility, prosperity and a long and healthy life to the inhabitants.'

'Yeah, when my uncle came back from Europe he showed us a photo of a Danish church with a phallus out the front, only a few hundred years old, so it wasn't only the Greeks.'

'Very interesting, Joseph, thanks. Meanwhile, let's eat and think about Arthur's objections so we can discuss them rationally afterwards on full stomachs.

Seated on their towels on the floor, appetites gratified, muscles satisfied after an active day, they leaned back in silence.

'Arthur, just because you don't want to do something yourself, does that give you the right to tell the person who does want to that he's disgusting?'

'Yes! And I don't want to look at it either.'

'Then why did you?'


'Look at it. You could have turned away. In my opinion, telling someone they're disgusting is trying to force your values on him. Does anyone think we have the right to force our opinions on others?'

A chorus of noes.

'Four against eight. Do you accept that, Arthur?'

'You started it! You said we had to go naked like savages for a shower! Then Melvin and Sasha called us wimps and other names because we wouldn't!'

'Be careful with the facts, Arthur, or your lies will return to haunt you. I said there were no hooks for clothes down there and it was entirely up to you! There could be no misunderstanding about that. As I said very clearly when you first arrived here, you're free to do as you want as long as you grant others the same freedom. I also said that if anyone transgressed, I was to be told. Why didn't you tell me about the taunts from Melvin and Sasha?'

Sullenly. 'You wouldn't have done anything.'

'Don't you trust me? Do you think because I don't bother much with clothes I'm an uncivilised savage?'

'Close to tears, Arthur whispered, 'Sorry.'

Jarek's smile would have melted steel. 'Forgiven, Arthur. However, I said you all had only one warning. You, Melvin and Sasha have now been warned and the next time you deliberately make someone feel uncomfortable about themselves, then you're out of here, understood?'

The shock on their faces sent a chill through the room.


'We have only four days left. I want them to be the best days of our lives. That will only happen if every one of us feels accepted for ourselves, no matter the differences physically, mentally and in outlook and behaviour. Every one has a part to play, and no one, including Zeno and me is more important, valuable or better than anyone else. Who's enjoyed themselves so far?'

Every hand shot up.

'So have Zeno and I. I feel as if I'm in paradise where we are free of all the stupid constraints of society. This will probably be the only time in your lives that you experience total freedom to be yourselves—the sole proviso being you allow others the same freedom! Because it won't stay like that if we make others feel inadequate. That's the poison that starts wars and misery.'

'I don't want Melvin and Sasha to be punished,' Arthur said tearfully. 'They were only kidding us, it wasn't serious and we didn't really feel silly wearing our towels.'

'How about you, Melvin? Do you want Arthur to be put on warning because he said you were disgusting and would go to hell?'

Melvin was strangely quiet, astonished at Arthur's generosity. 'No, it didn't hurt me either, especially as I don't believe in heaven and hell.'

'Does everyone agree they be let off?'

A resounding, 'Yes.'

'Very well. You've all just proved what fine young men you are, so let's never mention it again. Now, back to this morning when Melvin objected to our pouches. Care to tell us why?' Jarek asked.

'I was stupid. Showing off. It was a hell of a surprise for everyone to see you practically naked and old Noble treating you like his favourite sons. I was expecting you to be all neat in your white shorts and T-shirt like at school, and Zeno the same. I'd imagined this was going to be the same boring old school, but out in the paddocks with no TV, Videos, computers and stuff. So I seriously didn't want to come. It was my father who forced me and I wasn't going to surrender without a fight.'

'And now?'

'Today's been the best day of my life, honestly! Thanks to you two. You both look great in your pouches, like a superhero and his sidekick, and its been nothing at all like school, it's… it's real!

Arthur's sidekick, similar of shape and appearance but with more pimples, stood and said nervously, 'You said you wore those little things because if you were naked we might tell our parents and you'd get sacked. But you were naked when we showered and in the kitchen.'

'True, Adrian, but surely your parents don't wear clothes to shower and wouldn't expect us to? We didn't dress until we were dry. Were you offended? Have you any rational objections to what we're wearing now?

The lad frowned and conferred with his three mates. 'No. Well, at first we were, but you've made us realise that the only way we can be sure we're free to wear and be what we like, is if everyone else has the same freedom. I hadn't thought of that before.'

'Noah's son was punished because he saw his father naked,' Arthur explained. 'That's why it's wrong to be naked.'

'Hang on, Arthur. Noah wasn't punished for being naked, his son was punished for not respecting his father. As I'm not your father, you have no need to worry that god's going to smite you,' Jarek said with a friendly smile.

'How about you, Sasha?' Jarek asked. 'Don't you think a scientist should always be open to difference; new and odd ideas and behaviours… an observer, not a dictator of behaviour?'

'Yes, I'll never again try to force people to conform, or poke fun at them for being different from me. Sorry guys. Friends?' He and Melvin stood and offered the hand of friendship. Zeno could barely suppress a smile watching two totally naked, fit young men standing in front of the four Christians, genitals at their eye level, hands extended. Fortunately, the thick skins that unattractive kids develop to cope with bullying, preserved them from understanding that their two new friends were forcing a comparison between their sexy fitness and their classmates' puny bodies. The four lads shook hands without a blush, clearly delighted to at last be included as one of the 'gang.' Zeno wondered how long it would last once they returned to the prison camp that is school for so many pupils.

'OK, then. We can wear our pouches, is that agreed?'

'I don't know why you bother. You look much better without them,' Anton remarked with a frown. 'With them on it looks as if you're drawing attention to your genitals, and that makes us wonder what's underneath and why you're doing it. Is it something we should be afraid of that you keep it hidden? But when you're naked we can see you're no different from us. Simon's cock's bigger than yours. You look friendlier, easier, more natural when you're naked.'

'Yeah,' Henry agreed, leaning forward to ease the pressure on his buttocks. 'My aunt and uncle are nudists and took me to their club once. They were all friendly and pleasant but it was horrible! Fat old men with miniature dicks, fat women with huge tits flopping, a few young kids, no one my age, I thought if this is nudism I'm glad everyone has to wear clothes! Until today. It was great swimming and horsing around in the pool; the water feels excellent flowing round your balls. And I loved making supper and just sitting around here like this, seems so natural and cool. If I was dressed I'd be sweating like a pig. That's all.' He sat down and everyone clapped.

'So the nudist club wasn't sexy?' Melvin asked, clearly disappointed.

'Fuck no! Check out the internet. They're all old with fat guts and sagging tits and bums.'

'If people don't wash their bums it could get pretty gross.'

'A very good point, Robert,' Jarek said. 'As you're discovering, it's liberating and feels great to be naked, but whereas hygiene wasn't a major issue in the past when hunter-gatherers lived by a river and could just hop in and wash their bums after shitting, today we're not so lucky and most people use paper, which doesn't do a very good job. That's why it's essential you use the water jet in the composting toilet properly. While you're still squatting, direct the beam onto your ring and use your finger to ensure it's clean.'

Howls of gross, argh, sick…

'And directly afterwards,' Jarek continued as if unaware of the reaction, 'wash your hands thoroughly with the soap and water in the basin outside. You obviously think it's odd, but bear in mind that your anus is simply the other end of the tube that starts with your lips, and unless you're diseased, shit is not infected with anything dangerous. Apparently, there are many more bacteria, and dangerous ones too, around the female vagina that many men are desperate to lick, [chorus of arch, gross, fuck, yuck…] and therefore on toilet seats that you all sit on without thinking. Squat toilets like ours, and water washing—in Europe they use a bidet, are the most hygienic methods for maintaining cleanliness of your nether regions. So, if you want to run around naked, then I insist you take great care with that.'

'Do you do all that?'

'Yes, Anton, of course I do.'

'Yeah, we all saw your ring when you were digging out the yabby, no dags on you.'

'Thank you Sasha for raising the tone,' Jarek laughed, completely at ease with the revelation. 'OK, has anyone else something to say or ask? Anything at all? All opinions and comments are welcome.'

Leon stood nervously. Everyone turned, astonished. Leon never spoke. Never joined in games and debates. He was the silent shadow that everyone forgot. Tall, lean, fit. Almost black skin.

'Leon, the wisest men are those who speak the least, so as you're obviously the wisest man in the room, we welcome your thoughts.'

His nerves were obvious. Hands shook, lips quivered, but he stood straight, took a deep breath and, as if the words had been fermenting inside him for centuries, said in a deep voice loaded with passion, 'Today is the first time in my life I feel part of anything. I know I don't talk much, but that's because I feel hated because I'm black, skinny and hairy. All you guys,' he indicated the other students, 'are pale and hairless, but when I was ten I got pubic hairs and when I was twelve I started to get hairs on my legs, and I hate it! But I'm not as hairy as Jarek and he looks fantastic, like superman. So…so…I guess I'm not the monster I thought I was.' Courage ran out and he turned away, face hot with embarrassment.

'You're an early maturer, Leon, and you're not especially hairy. By the end of next year most of the guys here will have hairy legs too, just as they all got pubic hair a year or two after you. So stop worrying.' This was dangerous territory; such heartfelt confessions could easily backfire arousing contempt instead of comfort. Leon needed instant support before insecurity returned and he regretted his honesty.

'Where are your parents from, Leon?' Jarek asked.

'Mum's from near Townsville and Dad was from south of Darwin. He's dead—died when I was five.'

'That's very sad. So that's how you got your permanent tan.' He turned to the others. 'As we're being honest tonight, who thinks Leon's skin colour is unpleasant?'

'I'm jealous! Sasha announced. 'I lie in the sun and go red and then peel. I'd love to be able to not care about sunburn and go dark brown like you, Leon.'

'You wouldn't like it.' Leon replied with a wry grin. 'You'd soon get sick of hearing, "Fuckin Abbo trash" as you walk out of a shop, or from passers by on the street.'

'You're joking!' Robert was totally shocked.

'Unfortunately, no.' Leon said softly.

'Sasha and Leon, would you be so kind as to join me?' Jarek asked cheerfully.


Jarek's smile was irresistible and, albeit suspiciously, they stood on each side of him—one tall lean and dark, the other short stocky and pinkly pale.

'OK everyone, time for a quiz. The first question's about height. If you had to choose to be the same height as one of these men, who would it be, raise your hand for Sasha? Leon? That's eight zero for Leon. Next question; the body. Which type would you choose to be, Leon—lean, agile and elegant? Sasha—stocky, well muscled and tough? Four votes each; a draw. Next question; suppose you need a head transplant, ignoring skin colour, which head would you choose, Leon's wiry black hair, strong nose and jaw, prominent cheekbones, black eyebrows, sexy come-to-bed eyes, (genuine laughter) and kissable lips. (Even more laughter), or the thick, curly, light brown hair, blue eyes, smiling mouth, small fine ears chubby cheeks and noble brow of Sasha? Another draw. Next question: you need a hand transplant. Would you choose Sasha's square, powerful hands with short strong fingers, nails bitten to the quick, or Leon's long, expressive, perfectly manicured fingers? Four votes each, another draw. Last question. You wake up one morning with your own head but the body of one of these handsome young men. Would you choose Sasha's smooth strong arms, hairless muscled chest, flat hard belly and smooth powerful legs? Or Leon's slightly hairy, well-formed arms, smooth lean chest, and powerful hairy legs?'

By now his audience were laughing continuously. The whole thing was too absurd, and both Leon and Sasha were obviously enjoying the attention, playing up to the results with glum or happy faces.

'Before we vote, there are two things you should know. Until the nineteen seventies, handsome, strong men in films and stories usually had hairy chests and legs, like Leon and me. The fashion for hairlessness is recent, coinciding with women's liberation and their efforts to turn men into women by demanding they become sensitive new age guys who love to do housework, tell their wives all their problems, and look less masculine by shaving their faces and bodies to look like women. Now, as I want a free and fair ballot, I suggest you remember that I am stronger than you and have hairy arms, chest, legs and bum! OK, hands up.'

Jarek made a great show of counting, then shaking his head announced, 'Sorry, Sasha, but they prefer hairy men.' He held up Leon's hand and said, 'A round of applause, please, for the sexiest man in the room.'

For the first time since entering high school, Leon laughed. His generous mouth, filled with improbably perfect white teeth, opened to emit a low, barking guffaw of pure delight. 'You guys really take the cake. I know you would all prefer to be like Sasha, and so did I until a few minutes ago. No offence, Sasha, but I've suddenly decided I prefer to be me.'

'No offence taken, Leon, I too prefer to be me, although I wouldn't mind having your all-over tan, but I don't think I'd be as brave as you when it comes to racism.'

'Ah. You get used to it,' Leon smiled, returning to his place against the wall, the smile lingering.

'Thanks, Sasha,' Jarek said softly, 'you're a hero.'

Sasha winked, 'I know.'

Zeno was close to tears. How on earth had Jarek done that? In a few minutes, a boy he'd thought was irretrievably engulfed in insecurity and self-hatred, had become a charming, engaging, and attractive person. Jarek was a genius, a true hero.

Robert, a quiet, blond boy who looked slightly younger and was markedly better looking than Arthur and the other two Christians, whispered to his friends then stood and in a high voice that was on the verge of breaking, said, 'Doesn't god condemn nudity in the story of Adam and Eve?'

'On the contrary, Robert. He was proud to see them running around naked and having fun when they were innocent and without sin in paradise. He didn't expel them because they were naked, but because they listened to lies and started to steal and do bad things. God didn't tell them to cover their sexual organs, they decided to do it because they were frightened out in the wide wicked world. Our most vulnerable parts need protection when there's danger.'

The four young men conferred briefly while everyone else wondered what all the fuss was about, then pimpled Adrian stood and announced solemnly, 'We think you and Zeno should have the same freedoms as us to wear what you want, and we promise we won't go round telling anyone that you were naked and rude or anything like that.' He sat down abruptly, face crimson with embarrassment.

'Yeah, me too' chorused the rest of the boys.

'Thanks Adrian and the rest of you. You're all so much smarter than most people I know. Tonight you've proved you're just as capable of thinking about problems and issues as any adult, as well as being sensitive and compassionate. I'm proud to know you. Your next assignment is not to grow into bigoted and prejudiced adults.

A confident chorus of 'We won't, Jarek.' But Jarek knew it would take more than five days to change what had been instilled in them since birth.

'Good on you. Now, we've a long walk tomorrow to the National Park Ranger's house where we'll have lunch, so I'm ready for bed. First, though, let's go outside for a minute to look at the sky and empty our bladders.

Light cloud obscured the stars, but the still, warm air caressed like sensual fingers while night sounds of frogs and a lone curlew lent a little magic.

Afterwards they stood on the verandah, reluctant to go into their rooms while Zeno showed them how to operate the fluorescent lamps.

'Do we have to wear pyjamas, Jarek?'

'If you do you'll sweat. Just lie on top of the sheet and leave the window open, the screen will keep bugs out. There is one last, but very important thing I want to say. You'll have noticed that the mattresses are clean and fresh, even though they're many years old. I insist they remain that way. So when you wank, please have your towel handy to catch it all and rub it off your bellies or wherever it sprays before it seeps through the sheets. There is nothing more sordid than cum-stained mattresses and I'll send the bill to your parents if you're careless.'

Silence, then loud hoots of laughter. No adult had ever spoken to them about wanking before. All had secretly thought they were sinning when they jerked off and the sense of relief was almost too much to bear.

'How d'you know we wank?'

'Every male does.'

'Even you?'

'Even me. So, do you promise to keep the mattresses clean?'

'Yes Jarek!'

'I'll come past in ten minutes or so to check that you're OK and don't need anything. And remember, don't just piss over the edge of the balcony if you have to go during the night. Take care you don't bump into anything, there'll be plenty of starlight, and you won't get attacked between here and the trees.'

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