AwesomeDude 10th Anniversary
On 23 April 2014 we celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth.
Deep inside a spreading bush not far from the Avon, Will crouched in expectation. He and his friend Hamnet had found it the year before. It had a hollow centre where they could lurk unseen, and the entrance was difficult for the uninitiated to find. Only a couple of yards away was another bush which also had a hollow centre but, with its more obvious way in, was the natural choice for couples who were looking for somewhere to do what could not be done in public. Several times last year the boys had spied on such encounters. But that had been in the summer, when the foliage was too thick to allow more than the occasional tantalising glimpse. Now it was spring, the afternoon of Easter Day, when everyone, freed from the sham piety of the morning service, was at leisure; and by good chance the sun was shining strong.
This meadow by the river was where the youth of the town would, by time-honoured tradition, strip naked in fine weather and swim, or simply lark and have fun on the grassy bank. But only the male youth, for no girl with any name to uphold would venture here at such a time; and today it was not all of the male youth, for some parents, while happy to allow their sons to play at other times, forbade them to profane the Sabbath. One such parent was Will’s father, who had long warned of dire punishment should Will’s misdeeds ever damage the reputation of an alderman of high standing in the community. For once, therefore, Will was not among his friends in the river or on the bank. Nor was he naked, for on this occasion clothes were safer.
Will was prone to misdeeds, and knew it. But, although he hardly recognized the fact, he was also a level-headed boy, thoughtful, and sometimes quite precocious in his insights. He was ten. In a few weeks’ time he would be eleven. Ten – or eleven – is an age of insatiable curiosity, and he was more inquisitive than most, ever eager to learn anything except what his teachers wanted him to learn. And it was about people and their curious behaviour that his curiosity was strongest. Why, for example, did Master Tyler and Mistress Honeydew live together when they were not married? He knew better than to ask, but he did speculate. Or why exactly did a baby result if a man lay with a girl at certain times of the month but not at others? And above all – because he was a boy and looking forward to his own future – he wondered what precisely it was that boys got up to when a few years older than he was now. An answer to that question was what he was in search of today. He knew that older boys sometimes desired to have fun together. He knew where they sometimes went to enjoy that fun in reasonable privacy. And now, in April, with the leaves barely half-grown, the privacy of that bush was not what it had been in August. Will was hopeful of enlightenment, and Hamnet, whose curiosity almost matched his own, had promised to join him.
Laughter and shouts and splashes wafted up from the bank. Will in his hide-out waited patiently in the hope that two boys – any two boys – would detach themselves from the throng and make for their not-so-private haven. He did not have long to wait. The church clock struck three, and a naked figure began to walk the two hundred yards towards him. It was Ben Fletcher, he saw – he knew every youngster in Stratford – who was a baker’s son, and attractive. Will’s interest quickened. But Ben was alone. Perhaps he was heading for the bush for nothing more than a modest out-of-sight piss, or even a shit.
At the same time, however, Will noticed that someone else had already reached the bush, unseen and presumably from the landward side. Not a boy, this, but a girl. A woman, almost. Susanna Smith, appropriately the blacksmith’s eldest, who must be twenty. From between his branches Will watched, intrigued. Was young Ben – and at fourteen he was young, his voice still in the throes of changing – already having an affair with a girl six years the older? Many boys would have disapproved, but not Will. He already appreciated, in the right place, the value of experience.
Susanna, judiciously keeping behind the bush to remain out of the sight of the naked throng, could not see Ben as he approached. She was dithering uncertainly and making as if to leave. Will sent her a silent message that begged her not to go away. And clear in his mind’s ear he heard a voice: not a present voice, or a voice from the past, but, as he somehow understood without understanding, a voice from the future.
O mistress mine! where are you roaming?
O! stay and hear; your true love's coming,
That can sing both high and low.
She stayed, and a moment later her true love came to her. A long hug and a kiss, at which Ben became very visibly aroused, and they crept inside the bush. Aroused himself as he had never been before, Will kept close watch through handy gaps in the branches. They could equally have seen him, but they were too absorbed. Susanna, with Ben’s help, took off her bodice and skirt and drawers. Will’s eyes opened wide at the strange sight of the thick dark triangle at her groin and the secret place beneath it. He watched them stroke one another, she concentrating on his still-immature pintle in its sparse bed of fluff, he on her firm young breasts. He watched them lie down together, and not a detail of their kisses escaped his notice. He watched Ben enter her and start to thrust. At length, with squeals and grunts of delight, they climaxed, and for a while they lay in each other’s arms, quietly kissing, before Ben helped Susanna back into her clothes. She left unobtrusively the way she had come, and Ben, flaccid again by now, returned in apparent innocence to the river.
Will sat back, thinking over everything he had witnessed. Hamnet would be furious when he heard what he had missed. Like any youngster in Stratford who was more than six or seven, Will knew perfectly well what you did in bed, whether with girl or boy. Perfectly well? He knew the theory, and now, from only a few feet away, he had seen the practice. But he had not seen exactly what happened at that magical moment of climax, for in the nature of things it had been hidden from view. For a year now he had been pleasuring himself, which culminated in a glow of good feeling but not, for him, in anything more. He had asked friends of his own age about it, but they could give no help. He had asked older boys too, only to be brushed off with a disdainful “You’re too young to understand. You’ll have to wait till you’re old enough to come.” And that was no help either.
He was well aware that around the age of fourteen or fifteen your pintle grew, hair appeared, your voice changed, and you could come. But just what did this coming involve? The production of seed, yes, he did know that. But there was evidently more to it, something more extreme and more pleasurable than the mere glow which was the best he could achieve himself. Will wished with all his heart that he were old enough. Educated and uplifted by the way that things had gone but frustrated at his own inadequacy, he was contemplating making do with his own feeble glow when events took another turn.
Up from the river came two boys together, holding towels in front of their nakedness as if they had something unusual to hide. Francis Pargeter and Harry Johnson, Will saw, both fifteen. Once behind the bush, they lowered their towels and revealed what had been hidden: generous endowments, highly aroused. They too crept inside. Will, glued once more to his look-out and back at full arousal himself, watched as they did very much as Ben and Susanna had done. As they stroked and kissed and giggled, Will wished that Hamnet was here to share the sight.
There was a rustle close at hand, and he swung round in alarm. Think of the devil! It was none other than Hamnet, and grinning as widely as any devil. Will, finger to lips, nodded at the next bush. Hamnet, grinning more evilly still, nodded back; he must have seen the other boys arrive. He joined Will at the look-out. Harry was now lying on his back. Francis was kneeling beside him, luckily on the side away from the watchers, and was vigorously rubbing Harry’s pintle and fondling his bollocks. For five minutes Harry’s breathing became ever more audible and ragged, until at last he arched his back, uttered a great aaargh! and, with wholly unexpected force and in what seemed prodigious quantity, came.
Will and Hamnet gaped at each other in astonished enlightenment. Will now had his answer, or part of it. The older boys had been right. He had not understood. He could bring himself nowhere near to arching his back and crying aaargh!. He still could not fully understand. But he did now understand that the reality was very clearly an experience out of this world, a delirium of ecstasy far beyond his own paltry efforts.
Harry mopped himself dry with his towel, and Francis lay down in his place. Was he to receive the same attention? No, not quite. Harry knelt between his legs and closed his mouth over Francis’s rigidity. Will had heard of this too, but again had never witnessed it. But he doubted he would be able, in the circumstances, to see Francis come, and the best of the show seemed to be over. Will glanced at Hamnet, who was still goggling. From the bush next door came slurps and sighs, and between the scant branches Harry’s head was visible bobbing up and down.
Will took the plunge. If he were caught, bang would go his father’s reputation. But he did not care. He pointed at the bulge distending Hamnet’s hose and the bulge distending his own, thrust with his hips at the empty air, and raised his eyebrows in mute query. Hamnet, who seemed happy to follow his lead, nodded emphatically back. Both wriggled out of their shirts. Both tugged off their hose. Both lay down on the rustling carpet of last year’s leaves. Not for them, Will decided, what Francis and Harry were doing; at least not yet. Now he wanted togetherness. Rolling on top of Hamnet, roughly pulling him tight, thrusting with all his energy, skin to skin, face to face, pintle to pintle, Will set out on his journey – his first journey with lad or with lass – a first journey of discovery, as exciting as any to the far Americas – the first, surely, of countless journeys to come.
The voice was speaking to him again.
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.
Yet this, Will thought as they squirmed, was not that deciding journey. Hamnet was no long-term lover-to-be. Or was that being too – what was the word? dusty? severe? too much like the boring parsing of Latin that he was burdened with at school? After all, Hamnet was a very good friend. In the past they had shared much fun. Now they could share more fun of a quite different kind. Already Will felt a great surge of pleasure coursing through him, body and mind, vastly better than any that resulted from solitary activity.
But the voice had not finished.
What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter.
True, how very true. Will laughed in Hamnet’s ear, and Hamnet smiled delightedly back.
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty.
True again. Now was better than later. Very much better.
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty.
He must have muttered those last words, for Hamnet, who could not know about the voice and the verse, pulled his head away to look a question at him. “Sweet and ten, then,” Will amended, hoping the question concerned the age and not the kiss. He brought his lips to Hamnet’s, and tentatively followed them with his tongue, just as Ben had done with Susanna. At once it became delightfully apparent why Ben had done it, so Will did it again, and Hamnet responded with gusto. Mouth locked to mouth, thrusting body to thrusting body, they moaned out loud. The other bush paid no attention. Moans were issuing from there too.
A few minutes passed before all the moans turned into outright groans. Francis was evidently coming. Will and Hamnet were not, but they were reaching their own lower plateau. Their writhing ceased. Will rolled off. Fulfilled, or part-fulfilled, they lay still. A few minutes more, and a rustle announced the neighbours’ departure. Will looked out. With nothing outrageous now to hide, Harry and Francis were sauntering naked to rejoin the naked crowd by the river.
I wish I were their age, Will thought as he watched their shapely backsides retreat. I wish I could meet them on equal terms. I wish I could match the fruit their bodies produce. I wish it was not three or four years before the full pleasure comes my way. But, until then, time is too precious to be squandered. I have now been initiated into the mysteries of the flesh, and in no way am I going to neglect them. Hamnet is a good friend – he threw him a grateful smile, which Hamnet threw back – and for the time being we can serve each other very well. If not Hamnet, a winsome lass. Or both. Or almost anyone. The future holds unbounded promise.
The clock struck four. But not the immediate future, he added gloomily. Now I have to get home, and change, and put on my pious face, and plod behind my family to evening service, and endure yet another tedious sermon. So too on indefinite Sundays to come.
What does beckon is the more distant future. I am ten. Soon I will be eleven. Three more years and I will be fourteen and with luck – he ran wistful fingers over his smooth crotch – I will be fledged. The world is at my feet. Or rather – he closed his fingers on what lay beneath them, and giggled – the world is in my hand.
Above all, I must not forget the last line of that verse:
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.