The Jock and the Bookworm

by Backwoods Boy

This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. A big thank-you to my editor, Michael, who finds the errors I miss, ensures clarity, and keeps me from straying too far from reality. Any remaining errors are my responsibility.

The kid was waiting alone on the bench in the school-bus-stop shelter, his backpack on one side and band instrument case on the other. He was reading a book. Cody recognized him as the boy who'd recently moved into one of the houses across the country road from his parents' dairy farm.

Originally intended as a forty-acre subdivision, the development had failed many years earlier when neither the urbanites fifty miles away nor the residents of the nearby town showed interest in moving there. Beyond four unkempt homes, now low-income housing, and the broken asphalt road leading to the deteriorating driveways, little evidence remained of the original dream.

Pulling out of the farm road onto the paved rural road in an aging pickup truck, Cody pulled to a stop in front of the kid and lowered the passenger side window.

"The bus already went by, buddy. Can I give you a ride? We're probably going to the same place."

The kid took a couple of seconds to respond, replaying his mom's injunction not to ride with strangers. Hell, he wasn't in grade school any more, and this wasn't the evil city he'd been living in.

"Thanks, I'll take you up on that."

The kid grabbed his pack and stuffed the book inside. Picking up the band instrument, he climbed into the front seat. After stashing his belongings between his legs, he closed the door.

"Thanks for the ride. I don't know how I missed the bus."

"It went by about fifteen minutes ago. You're apparently the only student for this stop this year. The driver should have a list, and usually he'd honk his horn and wait a minute or two, but it's the first day of school and he probably overlooked you."

"Thanks for the information, and thanks again for the ride."

Cody smiled at the kid. "Not a problem. This is my first time driving to school. I rode that bus for many years. This year I get to be independent. By the way, I'm Cody."

"I'm Matt. We just moved in a week ago."

"Nice to meet you, Matt. Are you an eighth grader?"

Matt bristled slightly. This was an ongoing misconception. Being one of those kids whose birthday fell in late August, barely meeting the first-grade deadline, he'd been the youngest in his class from day one. Being small for his age didn't help either, and the combination was a continuous irritation.

"No, I'm a freshman this year. I'll be fourteen next week."

Cody caught the defensiveness and hid the surprise that would have compounded the problem.

"August thirty-first?"

"No, August twenty-eighth. But still too close for comfort."

Cody laughed. "Me too. We share a birthday. But I made the cut too, and I'm a senior this year. The end is in sight."

"What will you do then?"

"Probably go to the community college and get an agriculture degree. I plan to stay on the farm."

They rode in silence for a few minutes before Cody asked a question.

"So, you play the clarinet?"

"No, it's an oboe."

"I've never heard of an oboe."

"It's similar in size to the clarinet, except the reed is different, and the sound is completely different. Do a search on YouTube if you'd like to hear the difference."

Cody smiled. "I'll do that. I'm not much of a musician, but now I'm curious."

Matt looked over at Cody. "Do you play an instrument?"

"I play the guitar, but just for fun. I'm not very good, but I like to play western songs, mostly for my own enjoyment."

Matt looked down at his oboe, almost lovingly. "Your own enjoyment comes first. Someday, I'd like to hear you play your guitar."

Cody grinned at Matt. "We'll do that sometime, but you'll probably be disappointed."

During the rest of the ride, Cody learned that Matt was an only child living with a single mother, and that in addition to his interest in music, he liked to read a wide variety of books. Matt learned that the dairy farm had been started by Cody's grandparents, and was now owned by his father. Cody hoped to be the third generation to operate it.

When they arrived at the school complex, Cody pulled into the student parking lot and turned to Matt.

"I'd give you a ride home too, but you'll have to find the bus because I have football practice."

Matt smiled shyly. "No problem. Thanks again for the ride."

"No problem, Matt. Would you like to ride in with me again tomorrow?"

Matt smiled, more broadly this time. "Sure. That would be super."

Cody returned the smile. "Great. I'll see you at the bus stop at seven thirty."

Thus began a year-long pattern, during which the senior jock and the freshman bookworm developed a strong and unusual friendship. They often talked at lunch and between classes, and student awareness of their friendship helped prevent another common problem for Matt - being picked on because of his size and introverted nature. In addition, Matt became acquainted with a cross-section of the student body and began to develop a few social skills.

Matt shared everything with his mom, so she was fully aware of the friendship. She spoke with Cody once or twice, and early on met his parents. She wasn't neglectful, but was definitely hands-off with parenting. With her waitress job, she had enough to do just keeping the roof over their heads and food on the table. Her own social life was sporadic, and carried out at the local night spots. Since it was not unusual for her to spend the night with her boyfriend of the moment, Matt had learned to be self-reliant at an early age.

Noting Matt's lack of transportation and the long and unusual hours his mother was absent, Cody often gave him rides to football games, providing another opportunity for socialization. When wrestling season began, Cody convinced him to turn out.

The coach was delighted to have a wrestler in the 113-pound class. Fortunately, he was still delighted when Matt found himself in the 120-pound class. Matt was growing vertically and putting on muscle. He was enjoying everything about the sport.

Sometimes, wrestling gave him wood, and he hadn't quite figured out why. He noticed it had the same effect on some of his team members, Cody and Skyler in particular, especially when they wrestled each other. Once in a while, Skyler rode home with Cody and Matt, and spent the night with Cody.

When spring came around, Matt wanted to take lifeguard training with Skyler, but he was too young. So he joined Cody on the track team. Cody concentrated on things like shot put, discus, and javelin. Matt did very well with the short-distance running events, well enough that he got as far as the regional meet.

Matt continued to mature. Now he was developing hair in places where the others already had it, and was pleased because it made him less conspicuous. And Cody gently cued him in on the need for deodorant.

The friendship was not without benefit to Cody too. The two would often discuss the books Cody was required to read for his English class - books that Matt invariably had read. Matt would then read Cody's book reports and make suggestions for improvements. In the final analysis, Matt helped Cody pass senior English and therefore graduate with his class, a fact that was not lost on the older boy.

Matt's participation in the school concert band continued in the background. There was the winter concert in December, a community tradition. This year, the band took on the challenging task of performing the full Nutcracker Suite . This was Matt's first performance with the band, and only his mother and the most serious musicians in the audience paid attention to his outstanding performance of the oboe solos.

The young band director, straight out of college and new to the school, took note though. After presenting the challenge to Matt, he added Robert Smith's In a Gentle Rain to the spring program.

The concert was held on a perfect April Saturday evening. This time, in addition to Matt's mom, Cody and his parents showed up to support him.

The first half of the concert consisted of the traditional march music along with band renditions of show tunes. As she stood for the intermission, Matt's mom blew him a kiss and gave him a thumbs-up. He smiled at her and returned the thumbs-up.

As the intermission ended, as if on cue, the sound of raindrops could be heard pattering against the high windows of the gymnasium. The band director smiled and turned to the audience.

"I put in a special order for the accompaniment. It arrived exactly on time."

The audience laughed in appreciation. The band director turned to the musicians and raised his baton. As the music began and the piano intro transitioned to the melancholy instrumental solo, the audience grew completely still, amazed at what they were hearing. The young kid with the oboe drew emotion from his double-reed instrument like nothing ever heard in that room.

As the short four-minute piece came to an end, one could have heard the proverbial pin drop. The band director paused briefly before acknowledging Matt with his extended arm. As Matt got to his feet, the stunned silence ended in applause, and then a standing ovation. Matt shyly tipped his head in acknowledgement, and sat down. As the applause continued, he stood again, as the director gestured to include the pianist and the rest of the band.

In keeping with the spring theme, the concert continued with Copland's Appalachian Spring , a challenge for other young soloists and the whole band, and then ended with another traditional march. As the local paper stated the next week, the high school concert band had never produced a performance like that one, and the editor hoped for several more years of the same as both the director and musicians matured.

The band exited backstage, returning the music and instruments to the band room. Matt quietly slipped out the back door and into the car where his mother waited.

"Great job, Matt!"

Matt smiled at her. "Thanks, Mom. And thanks for making me start this in middle school and for pushing me to practice." He smiled. "I think you won't have to push so much in the future."

She leaned over and gave him a kiss. "It's all been worth it, and will continue to be. You should also send your grandfather an email thanking him again for the instrument. If he hadn't played it and given it to you, there would have been no opportunity in the first place." She laughed. "I know you won't tell him how good you are, so I'll take care of that part."

Cody had something to say on Monday morning.

"Holy shit, Matt! You are a fucking stud with that oboe. I've never heard anything like it. I swear there wasn't a dry eye in the audience."

Matt grinned. "Thanks. Tell that to my mom in exactly those words. She'll love it."

Cody laughed. "I'll do that, but I'll omit the f-word. But you gave me an idea. I'm going to work up something for guitar and oboe. What do you think?"

Matt's eyes lit up. "I think it's a great idea. What do you have in mind?"

Cody smiled slyly. "Let me surprise you."

As summer approached, Cody and Matt began to talk about their plans. Cody would be working for his parents. Eight miles from town, with his bicycle as his only transportation, Matt would be doing a lot of reading, practicing his oboe, and otherwise be at loose ends.

The last day of school, Cody gave Matt a ride home, as was usual now. Matt was sad to see the year end. The rides to and from school, the sharing of sports interests, and the conversations during the day had become an important part of his life. He was trying to figure out how to express that sadness, but he didn't have to. Cody detected it, and put out a plan he'd already developed with his parents.

"How would you like to work with me on the farm this summer?"

The excitement showed in Matt's eyes, but practicality took hold. "Am I old enough?"

"You're fourteen, and that's old enough for non-hazardous farm work." Cody smiled. "In fact, you're old enough to work without your mom's permission."

He paused to see what Matt would say. He didn't have to wait long.

"I'd rather have her permission, though."

Cody grinned. "That was a test, and you passed. Will your mom be home this evening?"

"As far as I know."

"Then how about if I come over at about seven o'clock and we can talk about it."

Matt grinned from ear to ear. "That sounds perfect. Thanks so much for the offer."

Cody gave him a wry smile. "You may not thank me later. It'll be hard work."

Matt's mom had reservations. Cody's dad was waiting at home to help sell the idea, but it didn't come to that. Cody's presentation was sufficiently convincing.

"Matt can only work nine hours a day, six days a week, and rarely will he work that much. It will mostly be helping with milking the cows, keeping the barn clean, and helping me move the irrigation pipe in the hay fields. Only during the hay harvest are we likely to push the limits. He can't do any dangerous work. I may teach him to drive a tractor, but other than that, there will be no work with machinery."

Matt nearly had a spontaneous orgasm at the suggestion he might learn to drive a tractor. If he hadn't been sold on the plan already, that would have been the clincher.

Matt's mom thought for a moment. "Okay, I'm good with it. It'll give Matt some exercise and a new experience." She smiled at Matt. "And keep him from completely exhausting the book supply at the library."

Cody and Matt grinned at each other. Cody stood to leave and addressed Matt's mom. "Thanks for letting Matt do this." He put his hand on Matt's shoulder and squeezed it gently. "See you at five o'clock Monday morning."

If the hour was a surprise, Matt didn't show it.

"Awesome! I'll be there. Thanks!"

The hand on the shoulder was a surprise. More than the backslapping and joking around with the wrestling and track teams, it was a gesture of personal friendship, and it sent confusing chills up and down Matt's spine.

The post-milking cleanup tasks fell largely to Matt as the new guy. He wasn't all that fond of those tasks, preferring the outside tasks that came later in the day. That was when he and Cody moved the hand-line irrigation, fixed fences, and did various maintenance activities.

Cody worked shirtless, and Matt followed his mentor's example. Matt quickly developed an interest in Cody's muscles and the way they moved smoothly and effortlessly while he worked. He noticed Cody's blond hair and blue eyes, wondering why he'd never focused on those things before. He lived for the moments when Cody would put a hand on his shoulder and tell him what a good job he was doing.

Matt thought about Cody most of his waking hours, including at night when he relieved certain pressures that had built up during the day. He wanted to be with Cody all the time, and was sad when he had to go home at the end of his work day.

It came to him suddenly one day in a flash of insight. He was in love with Cody. But what to do about it. Cody couldn't possibly feel the same way. If he admitted it, would it ruin their relationship? What would his mother think? What would Cody's parents think? It loomed as a huge problem. Maybe he should simply try to forget it.

Two of Matt's fringe benefits were breakfast with Cody and his parents after the milking was finished, and a sack lunch that went with him for later in the day. Matt and Cody nearly always had lunch together, wherever they were working, sitting on the tailgate of the pickup.

The lunch conversation topics were diverse, ranging from running a farm to their shared experiences with sports to the books they'd read. One day, Cody had a suggestion.

"Do you remember me talking about working on some oboe and guitar music?"

Matt's eyes lit up in anticipation. "I guess you have something to try."

"Yeah, I do. How about if you bring your oboe along tomorrow and I'll bring my guitar. We'll have lunch up in the meadow by the creek and allow a little time for some music."

Matt smiled from ear to ear. "That sounds perfect. I'm anxious to find out what you developed. Did you write out parts on music paper?"

Cody grimaced. "I don't read music, so I don't write it either, other than guitar chord notations. But I've been listening to some things and playing chords along with it. I think you'll like what I have in mind."

"That piece you played for the last band concert, In A Gentle Rain . I suspect you can play your solo without music. Right?"

Lunch was finished, and Cody and Matt were sitting on the tailgate of the pickup, instruments in hand.


"Okay, I found your band version on YouTube and developed a guitar adaptation of the piano and band accompaniment. I think you'll recognize the piano intro. Come in when you should, and we'll see what happens."

The experiment went very well. The two parts went together perfectly. When they finished, Matt turned to Cody with a smile.

"The part you developed is awesome. And you play the guitar very well."

Cody grinned. "I've been taking lessons and practicing. And my instructor helped me with some of the chords."

"It took a lot of effort to do that. You must be more interested in music than you said you were."

Cody paused. "Let's just say you've inspired me to become more interested."

Matt was silent for a few moments. It was as good a time as any.

"How do you know when you're in love?"

Cody thought for a moment. "Well, you start to notice little things about the person - how they look, the sound of their laughter, the things they like to do. And you discover you like all of those things, even if you didn't used to. You want to be around them all the time." He paused, and then grinned. "And you think about them when you jack off."

Matt turned beet red. Cody pretended not to notice.

"Are you in love?"


"Anyone I know?"


There was a long pause while Matt gathered his courage. They'd known each other nearly a year. He needed to trust that bond.


Cody grinned. "I wondered when you'd figure that out."

Matt's jaw dropped. "You knew?"

Cody reached over and ran his fingers through Matt's hair. "It's been obvious to me for weeks, probably since the middle of track season when you suddenly took a greater interest in watching the field events. It became even more obvious this summer because you watch me a lot and pay attention to what I do. But now, think about all of those things I told you, but as if you were me."

Matt thought for a few moments. "You came to my concert. You wanted me to work with you this summer. And you took guitar lessons so we could play music together." He smiled. "Maybe you've been thinking about me when you jack off too."

Cody laughed out loud. "You've got the idea."

Matt was silent for a moment. "How long have I been more than a friend?"

"About four months."

Matt looked at Cody with surprise. "Why didn't you say something?"

"I didn't want to frighten you with something you didn't understand yet. You needed to figure it out for yourself."

Matt thought about that. Cody may not have been book-smart but he was definitely people-smart. And gentle, and sensitive, and all of those things Matt loved about him.

"So what do we do now?"

Cody leaned over and kissed him on the temple. "We take it one day at a time."

"What will your parents think?"

"They already know, and they're good with whatever makes us happy."

Us. That meant him and Cody. Silent tears of happiness ran down Matt's cheeks. Cody moved closer and put his arm around Matt's shoulders.

"You're a thinker, Matt. Think about it for a while - as long as you need to. The doing will come when you're ready for it."

Matt's reading had been sufficiently diversified that he knew the various things that doing might include. He was silent for a moment.

"You're ready now, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am." He paused. "And there's one thing you should know. You won't be my first." He smiled slightly. "Or even my second."

Matt smiled back. "You're three years older than me. I'd expect you to have experience... Like with Skyler, maybe?"

Cody laughed. "When did you figure that out?"

"About five seconds ago."

Matt paused and frowned, now concerned about Cody's relationship with Skyler. Cody read his mind.

"Skyler and I aren't boyfriends, Matt." He smiled. "It's called friends with benefits . In fact, Skyler has his own boyfriend now. You may not be my first in bed, but you are my first real boyfriend."

They were silent for a few moments before Matt spoke again.

"Okay, I've thought about it long enough, but you've talked with your parents, and I need to talk with Mom. And then we need to take it slow at first."

Cody kissed him again, on the cheek this time. "We'll take it just as fast or slow as you want to."

Matt's euphoria was tempered by one problem. What would his mother think? He'd never kept secrets from her. This was like the issue of asking permission to work, but different. It wasn't a matter of permission. You didn't get permission to fall in love with someone. But it was a matter of acceptance. He decided to take the direct approach.

He had a little help. His silence at dinner prompted his mother to ask questions.

"How was your day?"

Matt smiled. "It was great, as always. Next week Cody is going to teach me how to drive the tractor."

His mom smiled at him. "You really like Cody, don't you?"

Matt paused for a moment. "Yes, I do. And I know he likes me too. We had a talk about that today." He paused again. "Mom, what if I turned out to be gay?"

There was no hesitation. "I've thought about that, Matt. I wondered if you might be. You talk a lot about the boys you've made friends with playing sports and nothing about the girls. That doesn't mean anything in itself at your age, but it made me consider the possibility. Do you think you are?"

"Yes, I do."

She put her hand on his. "It wouldn't make any difference to me. You need to be yourself, whatever that is. Is there someone special?"

Matt breathed a quick sigh of relief. "Yes... Cody."

"And how does he feel?"

Matt smiled, recalling the conversation. "The same way I do. He was just waiting for me to get there."

His mom paused briefly. "All I ask is that you use your mind as well as your emotions, which for you won't be much of a problem. Give yourself time to make sure you're gay, and that you and Cody love each other." She smiled. "But at the same time, don't overthink it. Following your heart is going to be new to you, but that's what it's about in the end. And if you have any questions, be sure to talk with me. I'm sorry you don't have a dad here to do that. I'll try to be a good substitute."

Tears ran down Matt's cheeks. His mom jumped up and put her arms around him.

"Oh, honey! I know it's all a bit confusing. I just want you to be happy. Okay?"

Matt stood up and hugged his mom. "Okay. I love you, Mom."

She held him out at arms length and smiled. "I just realized you're as tall as I am. You're growing up in a lot of ways right now, and I'm proud of the way you're going about it. Now, we're done with dinner, and I think we should drive into town for dessert to celebrate love and growing up."

Slowly, the friendship transitioned to intimacy. The casual touches lasted longer. Hand-holding and goodbye kisses became a habit. And lunch breaks sometimes took place on a blanket, where kissing and caressing advanced to heavy petting.

Then, a few weeks later, Cody once again drove to the meadow for their lunch break. Stripping off their clothing, the two boys waded into the creek for a quick swim. Then Cody spread out the blanket, and the two of them lay down side by side, hand in hand. Cody turned on his side, his hands drifting over Matt's chest.

"Are you ready now?"


"Are you nervous?"

"No. I trust you."

The water rushed endlessly over the rocks in the creek. The breeze blew gently through the nodding flowers in the meadow. The cicadas surrounded the boys with their mating song, and on the blanket, Matt surrendered himself to his friend and first love.

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