Farnham Beach

Chapter Two

Daylight was just a dull glow on the horizon when Eric shoved his bags in the trunk of the Volvo. He always liked an early start on his beach trips, and yet this morning was different. It had been a long night and sleep had been elusive, he was just too excited.

Dinner had been the usual fare, heavy on the calories and starch. Eric's mother was of second generation German ancestry and they all ate meat and potatoes. Why couldn't they have been Italian? Fortunately, there were salads and the cook knew of Eric's sensitivity when it came to the food he liked.

But the discussion at the table had been about his trip and as usual his father still bristled at the idea of his son in a menial job. His sisters thought Playland was an ideal heaven and seemed envious that Eric would be working there. His mother sat quietly through it all with a subtle smile that would only aggravate her husband if he paid any attention.

She was supportive of his summer plans and had been since they first discussed it last Christmas. Eric had always felt the burden of being the only son while his mother found joy in his being her favorite child. But after dinner his father had slid away to the home office to bury himself in paperwork, the usual evening fare.

His mother had crooked her finger at him and Eric followed her out to the patio garden where she began to water her pampered plants.

"I know you'll be leaving at dawn," His mother began. "I imagine we'll be down to the condo in a few weeks, but I'll try to hold your father back until you've settled in."

"Thank you for that," Eric said.

"You know he's concerned…"

"But is he concerned about me or the image of his son working a low wage job?" Eric asked.

"Your father only has your best interests at heart, Eric. Perhaps he just doesn't know how to show it. You know he had a difficult time when he was growing up. He worries about you."

"I'm fine, Mom. My advisor at school thinks this will be a learning experience for me."

"I'm sure he's right."

It was one of the expected facts about any conversation with his mother. She would back his father and Eric would counter with what others thought. At least his mother had great respect for his teachers. Despite those things, she always wanted to make sure Eric succeeded in life and so it came as no surprise when he found a plain white envelope sitting on the seat of his car.

"Have a good time and know I love you," His mother had written in the note, which was wrapped around the stack of hundred dollar bills.

Eric had a bank account which had accumulated a good deal over the years, but he was always grateful for her thoughtfulness. The gas tank was full and Eric pulled out of the driveway as the sun peeked above the horizon. By ten o'clock he would be in Farnham and stop at the Daisy Chain on Atlantic for breakfast. This was one of his personal traditions and so he set off across town heading for Annapolis and the Bay Bridge to begin his summer of freedom.

The Memorial Day weekend loomed and would fill the highways to the beach with traffic, but this was the Thursday before all that and he had beaten the rush. Playland would be packed this weekend and Eric would have little time to learn the ropes of his new job, but how hard could it be?

For years he had seen the employees hustle about the building watching the customers…always watching. Some of them carried dustpans and little brooms as the Connors had a reputation for the cleanest outfit in town. Then there were the money changers who had one of those little coin dispensers on their belts filled with quarters for the machines.

Perhaps he would be assigned as a ticket taker at one of the kiddy rides. Eventually he would be shown how to do everything except count the money. The Connors adults sold the tickets and made change from little booths set by the four corners of the building. It was from those secure little kiosks that all the money flowed in the form of quarters.

Eric had spent some time talking to Bobby Connors when he was fourteen since they were much the same age. Each trip to the beach had renewed that acquaintance and it was Bobby who had encouraged Eric to apply for the job. The friendship had given Eric an insider's look at the business and the town since they were mutually dependent upon one another.

Grandpa Connors had been the mayor of Farnham for some years, but when he retired from the business he quit that job as well. His son ran the family business now, but he didn't want to get involved in the politics. The town had a volunteer fire station on Atlantic Avenue with two trucks. That was right across the avenue from the full time six man police force which occupied half of city hall.

The State Police barracks was on the highway leading to town so there was always a police presence around, especially in the summer months. Crime was usually in the nature of drunk driving or fist fights, but the town made a fortune on illegal parking. The streets were lined with parking meters, at least in the first block or two away from the ocean.

Residents were required to have driveways and the wisdom of that ordinance came from the fact that the tourists gobbled up all the on-street parking. But Eric was fortunate, Playland had its own employee parking lot, otherwise his car would have to sit two miles away in a lot on the edge of town and he would have to ride the shuttle.

Within ninety minutes of leaving home, Eric was dropping coins in the toll booth and taking that long high ride over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It was still too early for the sailboats to be out but he could see the fishing boats leaving the shore and heading towards the base of the bridge to catch rock fish, the local name for sea bass.

He lowered all the windows at the touch of a few buttons and inhaled the fresh, slightly salty air. It was always a thrill to mount the bridge and look at the vast stretch of water that was the Bay. But it was easier to appreciate when he wasn't behind the wheel so instead of gawking Eric focused on the lane in front of him.

Arriving on the Eastern Shore was something he associated with smell. The brackish marshy odor which pervaded the lowlands on this side of the Bay was often an assault on the senses. In this part of Maryland, the land was flat, so flat that the small inlets off the Bay ran for miles inland and the rivers and streams flowed ever so slowly. The Tidelands were a paradise to sport fishermen and those watermen who made a living on their small commercial boats.

Businesses lined Highway 50 in hopes of attracting tourists on their way to the beach but few stopped this close to the bridge. Signs decked the sides of the road advertising all sorts of food and beverages, but those places were soon behind him as Eric turned left on the 404. This was always a moment of supreme happiness. He was finally pointed at the beaches along the Atlantic Ocean even though they were still almost two hours away.

The back roads took him through Hillsboro and Denton where he picked up Route 16 and in minutes crossed the state line into Delaware. To skirt the traffic around Milford he would stay on this two lane road all the way east. For some reason he didn't see a single speed trap along the way, perhaps the cops were getting more devious or resting up for the busy holiday weekend.

The roadside was dotted with small communities and farms. The latter sent the smell of chicken sheds wafting across the highway in the bright morning air. That was enough to make anyone lose their appetite. But Eric was hungry and it was nearly nine-thirty. Just a few more miles and he would sit down to a hearty breakfast in Farnham.

The flat sandy fields held a few cows and small homesteads, and then he saw the first sign. Farnham was twenty miles away. The breeze must have been offshore this morning because it wasn't until he hit Route One and turned north that the smell of the ocean blew in through the windows of his car. Eric inhaled deeply and smiled, this was like coming home.

Mr. Travers had given them a lecture in biology class last year and said most of the world's population lived within a few hundred miles of the sea. The scientific reasoning was that man was essentially tied to the ocean since there was salt water in our veins. It was more reasonable to think that the ocean supplied a vast source of food than to envision mankind crawling out of the water on fins at some point in the past, but who knows?

The ocean had always had an attraction for Eric ever since he was toddler standing in the sand and feeling the water rush across his toes. The streets of Farnham had always felt like a second home and in many ways he preferred it to the overtly wealthy neighborhood back in Bethesda. Finally, his eyes beheld that singular signpost on the side of the road which defined his swelling emotions. 'Farnham' it said, and he felt the joy in that word.

As he expected the town was already crowded, but as yet there were still some open parking meter slots along Atlantic and he dived into one. He opened the center console and ripped open the roll of quarters he'd tossed in there, six of them would buy him two hours of parking. He was starved as he walked the block up towards the ocean and the Daisy Chain restaurant.

The cashier by the door pointed him down the far wall to an empty table. "Enjoy your breakfast," She admonished. He would more than enjoy it; he would revel in the food and the feelings.

The local newspaper sat trapped between the napkin dispenser and the large salt and pepper shakers on the table. The Farnham Bulletin was a sad little rag of about eight pages but it carried all the local news and provided a space for businesses to advertise. Eric slid it out on the table to read as the nearby waitress seemed busy.

"What'll it be, dear," She finally asked.

"Short stack, two eggs over easy and the bacon," Eric replied.

"You want the home fries with that?"

"Please, and orange juice, a large one."

"Coming right up," She replied.

The newspaper revealed the facets of small town life such as the Memorial Day gathering by the VFW Post, a bake sale at the First Baptist Church and a list of the events at the Municipal Swimming Pool. These things were aimed at the full time residents and were rarely something that the tourists found enticing.

Farnham Beach was a place for family vacations. There were no bars within the city limits, but quite a few clustered along Route One which was the Coastal Highway. People who wanted nightlife usually drove south to Rehoboth Beach or even further down to Ocean City, Maryland. Eric had been to OC several times during his adolescent years, but was disappointed in discovering that the city was a mass of concrete and asphalt.

Farnham was a family town with quiet streets, backyard barbeques, and dozens of homes turned into bed and breakfast lodging. The locals loved it just the way it was and did their best to avert development, at least in the township. The condos along the Costal Highway were small clusters of high-rise buildings that had been named Farnham by the Sea, but they provided summer homes for thousands of people.

The waitress brought Eric his juice, and the food arrived shortly thereafter. Pushing the paper back in the rack, he began to eat and looked at the people around him in the restaurant. Bits of conversation drifted his way, most of it about the weather forecasts for the summer.

The beaches here, and up and down the coast, were subject to afternoon thunderstorms for most of the summer. Eric had always enjoyed lying on the beach and watching the clouds build up into towering apparitions that looked so menacing. And then like most people he would desert the beach as the winds rose and run for the shelter of the boardwalk businesses before the rains came crashing down.

Playland was always packed during these stormy sessions that rarely lasted more than an hour. Eric finished his breakfast, left a two-dollar tip under his plate, and paid the cashier on his way out. Breakfast had cost him six dollars, filled him up, and put a smile on his face. He still had an hour on the meter, it was time to go look at the ocean.

Most of the businesses along the boardwalk opened at ten in the morning during the season. Eric could see that some of them were already prepared for that early influx of tourists. Fresh coats of paint on storefronts and signs, new planks of treated lumber in the walkway, and a stack of new waste barrels lined up along the railing denoted the town's preparedness. Eric walked to the rail and looked out at the waves curling into the shore about seventy yards away.

The sand looked clean and inviting, an essential ingredient for a summer of fun. He knew that the town maintenance crews were up at dawn to rake the sand above the tide line and remove any debris cast up by the waves. Trash barrels would soon be distributed, and heaven help the tourist who littered, the fines were astronomical.

'Rules of the Beach,' read the sign posted at the top of each staircase leading down from the boardwalk to the sand. They were pretty simple and yet people disobeyed them. No glass containers, no swimming in marked areas, and definitely no littering of any kind. The lifeguard stands had already been hoisted, the umbrella and chair rental sheds in place. Everything was ready for the crush of people on Memorial Day weekend.

Eric looked up two blocks and saw the huge colored neon sign that would define his life this summer. 'Playland,' it said in bright colors, but the lights were turned off at the moment. The huge white building had six entrances onto the boardwalk with large roll up doors that were shuttered every night at closing.

He looked at his watch and saw there was still half an hour on the meter. Playland would be his new home so Eric turned north and walked towards the movie theater. The locals in town were clustered in homes on the south side of town, leaving the tourists most of the north side. The early birds were already out with their beach blankets and towels set up just above the tide line. There were even a few hardy souls in the water.

The Atlantic Ocean currents were relatively warm here along the coast, but warm was a matter of opinion. Until mid-June the water was cool in Eric's estimation which was just fine when the sun started to heat up the sand. By July and August, the water temperature was perfect for the average tourist, and warm enough to attract the swimmer's scourge, the sea nettles.

Jellyfish were a constant battle for beach resorts up and down the coast. They would begin to appear in small numbers during early summer and become an infestation right at the height of tourist season. Most swimmers were cautious enough to avoid them, but smart parents carried a small bottle of ammonia to mitigate the stings when they happened.

The poison in that sting burned the skin and the application of ammonia neutralized the pain. Eric had heard you could pee on the sting, but he wasn't keen to try that. It was one of the risks of swimming in the ocean. It wasn't deadly, just uncomfortable, but deadly was out there too.

Several times a season a school of sharks would head down the coast and the lifeguards would call people out of the water. Farnham had no fishing piers like some of the southern beaches, and it was to those piers that the sharks flocked. But just the transit of some sharks, fins above the water defining their presence, was enough to close the beach for several hours.

Nicola's Pizza had its doors rolled up, although there were no pies in the oven. The smell of pizza and French fries defined the hot days of a summer afternoon in Eric's mind. He saw a young couple sitting on a bench along the boardwalk railing, both of them completely involved in their Blackberry devices. It made him smile, and wonder if they were texting one another. He had left behind all his personal electronics, phone, laptop…everything.

This was a different world and he wasn't going to be tied to the old habits. Connie would have called him three times by now, upset that his calls were sliding into voicemail. Within days that mailbox would be full and he would go home in September and dump it all. No, if anyone wanted to speak to him they could come here and talk.

Two guys walked down the boardwalk towards him. Clean cut, muscular, shirtless…they looked military. There was a Naval Station along the coast, perhaps they were sailors. But then again they might be gay.

Eric knew little about gay men, and he wasn't even sure how to spot one. Ever since Connie had suggested he was gay the thought had surfaced, what the hell did he know about being gay? The internet had been his only source of knowledge on the subject, and what a quagmire of information that was.

His first attempt had been to Google the words 'gay men.' He perused the list and was shocked at the millions of hits he got. He randomly picked a site and clicked on the name. What he got was more than he ever thought he would encounter. They were gay men all right, and what they were shown doing was so explicit he shut down the link and cleared his history.

His parents were computer literate and had insisted on installing parental controls on his and his sister's laptops. It took Eric about twenty minutes to defeat the program and it was smooth sailing from then on. He didn't want to look at gay porn, but it had been there and after thinking about it for a while he went back.

It wasn't like he didn't know what guys could do to one another. He'd had years to think about it. Even so, the sexual scenes he looked at online seemed contrived. The actors were faking their emotions. Still, it was fascinating to watch some of the activity and wonder if he could ever do something like that…and then he discovered the amateur sites.

These were just ordinary guys, nothing faked, but a whole lot of sex. Eric saw lots of masturbation to the point that it was boring and he wouldn't learn anything there that he didn't already know. The anal scenes looked exciting but he didn't see himself doing any of that, so he looked at oral sex and thought, I can do that.

There was a place for comments beneath one of the videos and to respond Eric setup an account with a dummy name.

"Awesome," Eric typed in the comment box. "But how do you breathe with that thing shoved down your throat?"

The next day he was back on the site and saw he had a response.

"Breathing is easy through the nose. It's swallowing all that juice that gets to me."

Okay, the guy had a point. If you performed oral on someone there had to be results. If his own orgasms were any indication, that would mean a good mouthful of stuff. Like most boys he had tasted his own ejaculate years before. It wasn't exactly the food of the gods, but it wasn't that bad. If he ever had the chance, could he swallow? Fortunately, he wouldn't have to make that decision any time soon.

Farnham wasn't exactly a gay friendly town. There were four churches and two of them were Baptist. Gay people might be there amidst the crowd, but there was nothing special for them in this town. Like most people his age he had heard there was a gay beach in Rehoboth, but he wasn't likely to go looking for it.

Eric pulled himself together and walked back to the car. It was time to find out what it meant to be an employee at Playland. He backed out of the parking space, drove around the traffic circle and headed two blocks over to the rear of the arcade.

'Playland Employees Only,' the sign read. 'All others will be towed, no exceptions.'

That was pretty clear and Eric looked at the corner of his windshield to make sure the red and white sticker was still there. That had come in the mail along with his contract, and a suggested list of things to bring for the season. He had the clothes, toiletries and shower shoes…it was like going to summer camp.

The boy's dorm had a gang shower that held six guys, and a community bathroom with toilet stalls that had no doors. It was just like the locker room at school. No one would be given the opportunity, or the privacy to stroke one off when necessary.

But dorm life was laden with testosterone and not even the most rigid Baptist could control something like that. Masturbation wasn't in the rule book, but the Connors made sure it would be inconvenient to even attempt such an act. Eric knew there were always the dunes at the end of the boardwalk, he'd done that before.

It was the summer of his fifteenth year and the family trips to Farnham usually ended up with everyone going their separate ways. His mom and sisters always gift shopped on Atlantic Avenue, his father usually met with business cronies up at some tavern on the coastal highway. Eric was the prowler and could always catch the last shuttle back to the condo.

He'd seen couples walking down the boardwalk towards the distant sand dunes at the southern end. He had a pretty good idea of what went on out there in the darkness and one evening he decided to go investigate. He never saw anything, but the night was warm and he jerked off in the sand.

Those adolescent moments never really told him anything useful, it was all about the feelings he could bring to his body. The jocks at school held circle jerks, Eric knew that but never participated. Some guys on the baseball team talked about basting their gloves, but that was a ritual thing and thus another tradition.

Even now, at seventeen, Eric was not sure what he wanted sex to mean, but something told him that this summer would be decisive. He had come to the beach to reach a decision, explore the possibilities, and embrace the answers. There was someone for everyone and he just hadn't met his yet.

Eric parked his car along the fence and checked to make sure the floor vents were open. A sealed car would get mighty hot without some air circulation. He spread the aluminized sun shield across the front window and popped the lid on the trunk. He would take one bag now and come back for the rest. It was time to go check in.

Mrs. Connors was sitting in the office inside the door at the top of the stairs and she greeted him with a smile. "Eric…so good to see you," She said. "So you finally come to work for us, are you excited?"

Eric smiled. "Yes, ma'am, looking forward to it."

He'd seen her every summer for the past three years when he came to visit Bobby. The Connors didn't know every detail about his life, just that his parents owned a condo out off the highway. The past summer Eric had spent weeks at the beach while his parents drove back and forth to home.

It had been a test of his ability to manage himself alone, but Eric wasn't fooled. If he had caused any trouble or failed to keep the condo clean then he wouldn't have this summer of freedom. But he had avoided taking Bobby back to the condo for one good reason: he didn't want the boy to be overwhelmed by the apparent wealth.

Farnham wasn't a backwoods village, but it was true that the locals found fault with the way people lived in Farnham by the Sea. 'Those rich folks' was said in bitter terms across the lunch counters around town, and Eric heard the talk. It wasn't that he was ashamed of his parent's success…he just didn't want it to become the focus of his life.

Bobby Connors was a nice boy who went to church on Sunday morning and snuck a few beers with his friends out in the dunes south of town. Like other teenagers around town he knew all the cops, they were friends, and as such looked the other way when a local boy got caught being a little tipsy.

But although Eric could pretend to be one of the locals he never would be anything but one of the 'rich folk' if he lorded his money over the rest of the boys. The best part of being friends was that Bobby saw beyond the image and seemed to understand Eric's need to play down the moneyed background.

"We have your bed all picked out," Mrs. Connors said. "But I hope you won't be disappointed…Bobby is off to Crisfield for the summer with his uncle."

"Crisfield…on the Bay?" Eric asked.

"You know he always wanted to be a waterman, don't ask me why," She laughed. "But he had the chance to go crabbing for his uncle this summer and he took it. I hope you aren't going to be lonely."

"No ma'am, Bobby is off doing what he likes. Besides, this is Playland and everyone in town comes here at one time or another. I'll make new friends."

Mrs. Connors smiled. "That's the spirit, you'll do just fine. Between you and me I bet Bobby is back before the summer is over. He's gonna find out that working a boat is no picnic. My brother will work his fingers to the bone."

"Bobby is tough, he'll get the job done," Eric said.

He was disappointed, but perhaps it would be better if Bobby wasn't around. Eric would meet new people, he would make new friends, and perhaps one of them would be gay. If Bobby was there they would hang out with the same old crowd. It would have been fun, but nothing new would develop. This was a summer for something new, and it would start right now.

Mrs. Connors took him down the hall into the north wing and showed Eric to his room. There were only two beds in the space and he was surprised.

"This was Bobby's room and he was going to share it with you, but I thought you might like a little more privacy so I kept you out of the dorm. I will have to assign someone else to sleep in here, but you're one of the first to arrive today so you go on and get settled in."

"This is great, thank you," Eric said.

"Staff meeting at two o'clock downstairs, dinner is at six. We open the doors for business tomorrow at noon just like it was a Sunday. That's your locker over there, did you bring a lock?"

Eric nodded. "I did, but I just need room to hang my clothes."

"We have all the uniforms downstairs and will pass them out after the meeting," She said. "Stop by the office after you get settled in, I have some coupons for Nicola's so you can get yourself a free lunch today."

"Thank you again," Eric said.

"You have a blessed day," Mrs. Connors said, and left the room.

Blessed day, a reminder that this was a Christian outfit. Eric didn't go to church, his parents didn't either, and it had never been a part of his family life. But here Mr. Connors prayed every morning before opening the doors for business at ten o'clock. On Sunday they didn't open until noon after the Connors family returned from church.

Eric unpacked his bag and hung his shirts in the locker. He was already wearing his board shorts and a BPS Polo shirt. Outside of the uniforms and a pair of Nike sneakers he would live in shorts all summer with sandals on his feet. There was a commotion out in the hall followed by laughter so he went to investigate.

He was lucky to share a room with only one other person, the other dorm rooms each held four beds. Two of the college boys had arrived to take up residence and one of them Eric remembered from the previous year. They were unpacking when Eric showed up at the door.

What was the guy's name? Terry, yeah, that was it. "Hi, Terry," Eric said.

"Hello to you…Eric, isn't it?"

"That's me."

Terry smiled. "So you finally made it into the club. Oh, this is Neil. We go to Hopkins together."

"Nice to meet you," Eric said, shaking hands with the new guy. "Hopkins? You studying to be a doctor?"

Terry laughed. "Oh hell no, neither of us has such lofty ambitions. I'm in chemistry and Neil studies biology, we're going to be famous scientists."

"Yeah, right," Neil chuckled. "We're taking the summer to study anatomy…female anatomy."

"Babes on the beach. This is certainly the right place for that," Eric replied.

"That's what Terry told me so I'm here," Neil laughed.

"Just no fraternizing with the customers on company time," Terry said. "But Playland is like a huge dating service. Every bikini on the beach comes through here. Just make sure they have footwear and a shirt to cover those obvious assets."

Neil rubbed his hands together and Eric could see that he was a horn dog. But he was also an attractive guy in a quiet sort of way. Terry was the bigger man with blond hair and the beach look. Eric might notice these things but he didn't find himself attracted to either guy.

He often wondered…if he was gay, then what type would he find attractive? In his choice of friends over the years looks had never been as important as personality. He valued intelligence and honesty, good character traits. It was one of the reasons he'd stayed best friends with Connie. She always told him what was on her mind, and sometimes that was disturbing.

"So, Eric…you still in high school?" Neil asked.

"Senior year coming up," Eric replied.

"Good deal, what school?"

"I go to Bethesda Prep."

Neil's eyebrows went up. "Oh wow, that's a tough place, you must have brains."

"Working on it," Eric replied.

"I met a girl at Hopkins who graduated there, she said it was a bitch," Terry said. "But they must have some nice girls there. Did you leave one behind to play here all summer?"

"Um, not exactly…well maybe Connie," Eric replied.

"Let's hope she doesn't ditch you for leaving."

"That won't happen. I've known her since sixth grade."

"There you go. I was telling Neil that the best girlfriends are long term friends. They get involved in your life and they don't want to leave."

There was more noise out in the hallway and a basketball rolled down the linoleum tiles and bumped into the door frame. Terry smiled. "The jocks are here." And he went to investigate.

Eric decided it was time to move on since he would have plenty of time to chat this afternoon. Terry had been through this indoctrination process before and that would make him an asset for the summer. Playland didn't have employee team leaders or captains as there were plenty of Connors to keep an eye on things during the operation.

Eric went back to the office and Mrs. Connors handed him some coupons, again telling him to have a blessed day. He would be hearing enough of that throughout the days ahead, it was best just to smile and nod when it was said.

He went back to the boardwalk which was a little livelier; in just two hours the change was noticeable. There were lots of people to look at and so Eric set off towards the north end. If he met someone, the guy had better have his own place if anything overt was going to happen. Yeah, fat chance, but he certainly couldn't bring anyone back to the dorm.

Eric walked up towards Atlantic and took a seat on the bench across from the traffic circle. Men with families, college boys with girlfriends, there were lots of guys to look at and there would be tons more starting tomorrow. So if it was to be a guy, what was he looking for?

He'd read the term 'gaydar' on one of the websites, but how did that work? Could you really tell by looking what a guy's preferences were? No one here would be draped in rainbow flags, not in Farnham. But if he was looking for a guy, what were they looking for?

Eric had always thought he was pretty average looking, although Connie said different. He always laughed off her compliments about how the color of his hair matched the color of his eyes, brown on brown. Well his eyes were hazel his mother always said and his hair was auburn, something he got from her side of the family.

But he stayed well groomed, kept his body toned with lacrosse, and usually ran a few miles every morning on the school track before classes. Perhaps he should jog on the beach in the mornings before breakfast. He'd seen lots of people doing that and knew that running in sand was good for the leg muscles. Most of the gay men he'd seen in the videos had muscular bodies so perhaps that was what they looked at.

There was a small commotion out on the beach and Eric turned around to see a dozen people gathered at the tide line. The lifeguard squad was out running a drill. He counted eight guys and four girls, all in that twenty something age group. They wore red swimming trunks and white t-shirts with 'Lifeguard' stenciled across the back.

The group was examining lifesaving equipment that had been pulled out of a low shed built beneath the boardwalk. They were some of the best looking men on the beach every year and yet Eric had never paid much attention until one of them ran into the water to save someone. But he was sure they were all pretty straight since the girls always crowded around them.

This whole business about being gay, which he wasn't sure about, but if he was…he had no idea how to make contact with another boy. He was sure any relationship would have to be with a peer or someone close to his age. Someone older would have experience, but Eric knew he had nothing to offer in return.

The waves crashing to shore were hypnotizing and allowed his thoughts to drift.

"Do you play Putt-Putt golf?" A voice said behind him.

Eric turned and raised his eyebrows at the man standing there. "Golf?" Eric replied.

"Yes, golf. We're having the Memorial Day tournament starting tomorrow and there's a teen event, are you interested?"

"I don't know, haven't played since last year, Mr.…"

"I'm Jack," The man said, holding out his hand for a shake. "Somehow I got roped into being the chairman this year. It really can be fun and I have some free coupons here if you want to go practice."

"Eric," he said as he shook the proffered hand. Jack seemed to be a nice enough guy, perhaps in his early thirties. He looked like a local with sun bleached hair and pale blue eyes. "Not sure I have the time…I work at Playland."

"I'm sure that's fun," Jack said. He sat down on the bench with a sigh. "I've only managed to come up with six people so far which won't make up a very competitive field. I told the guys at Putt-Putt it might be too early in the season to garner any interest."

"So they sponsor this for advertising purposes?" Eric asked.

"Isn't that what businesses do? I'm just a seasonal employee like you and I don't have any financial stake in all of this. At least they let me play for free. You down for the summer?"

"I am, and this will be my first year at Playland."

"All those kids and that noise…don't think I could do your job," Jack said. "You ought to come look me up when you get settled in, play some free games, hang out during your free time. It's nice and quiet up there."

Eric smiled. "I will if they give me the time off."

Jack smiled back and then stood up. "Got to go, I need to find more people. I work almost every evening…come find me."

"Thanks," Eric said, and he watched Jack walk away.

He seemed nice, Eric thought. Jack had those smiling eyes his mother would have said, and they had been filled with…something. Oh shit, had the man been checking him out? It felt strange to realize that perhaps Jack had been looking at him in a sexual way.

The guy was attractive, but was he gay? The eyes had been warm and friendly, but what had Jack been thinking? Thirty something, that was almost twice his age. But if Jack was gay that would also mean he had considerable experience…at what, picking up teenage boys on the beach?

Guys like that were considered perverts. But Eric thought perhaps he could pass as a college student, he would be soon enough. The offer to come see him had been a test, which seemed almost certain. Maybe he made that offer to lots of boys.

Farnham Beach was filled with families, and that would mean a lot of teenage boys hanging around. It was really too soon to pass judgment on Jack as a gay man who liked younger guys, but there was only one way to find out.