Homesick
Part 2
 
Fabian was woken up by the daylight that fell through the small window beside the door and by some motion in the bunkbeds. Patrick was awake, too, and seemed to get up though everything around was still quiet. From Dan's bed came the sound of deep regular breathing that was almost close to snoring. Julio and Mike sounded still asleep too.
Patrick's head came up at the edge of Fabian's bed and somehow instinctively Fabian closed his eyes and pretended to sleep.
Patrick watched this for quite a while, maybe because he had noticed a slight movement just before and didn't really believe that Fabian was still sleeping. But then he seemed to be convinced and he snuck to the chair where he had hung up his clothes and where his backpack lay on the floor. There he hesitated and looked once more at Fabian, who kept his eyes narrowed to two tiny slits and imitated the typical slow breathing of sleep.
Then Patrick took off his undershirt and underpants and his socks and stuffed the worn clothes into his backpack. And this way Fabian could see him for a few fleeting moments in his whole bright pink paleness, from head to toe. Patrick took fresh underwear and socks from his backpack and pattered on bare feet back to his bed. Fabian had to close his eyes for this moment, otherwise his deception would be busted, so he couldn't see Patrick's whole beauty from the front.
Pity, thought Fabian and kept playing the sleeper.
Patrick put on the underwear and the socks and lay down in his bed again.
Fabian suddenly realized; his sandy-haired, freckled neighbor had been told by his mother to change his underwear every day, but he was ashamed to do this when the others could see him.
There was absolutely no reason for him to be ashamed, thought Fabian.

Later on - but still way too early - Brian burst in and called: "Good morning! It's a fine, bright day - time to get up! Remember, you're beavers, not groundhogs!" He stayed at the door and waited to see if there was any movement in the beds. Then he clapped his hands to help the whole thing along a little. "Get up you lazy bunch! Get to the wash room and get yourselves clean, then we'll see you for breakfast!" Only when the first boys sat up grumbling in their beds, was Brian satisfied and moved on to the next cabin.
Promptly, the boys let themselves fall back onto their pillows to doze a little more.
After a while chubby, girlish Julio was the first to leap up from his bed, put on shorts and shoes, and go outside to the wash room with a towel and a piece of soap. He was followed by Mike, who didn't seem to want to go alone.
Finally the two "big ones", Dan and Fabian, started to move. With the comment: "Man, I gotta pee!" Dan shuffled towards the toilets.
Fabian looked down into Patrick's bed. "Mornin' Paddy!" he said and smiled.
Patrick stayed lying there, blinking a little and murmured: "Mornin'!"
Fabian knelt down to his backpack that lay on the floor at the head end of the bed. He opened its zipper and said: "Oh my! Just look, my mom packed up eight pairs of boxers for me! One for each day, and even one too many. Would you think, she'll notice if I don't use them?"

"Oh my! Just look!"

Patrick lifted his head and looked apparently uninterested at the pile of boxers. Then he said: "I'd say, she'll notice. Probably."
"But if I crumple them up, somehow..."
"Nope, she'll notice."
Fabian looked as if he was ashamed. "Ugh, I guess I have to, hmm?"
Patrick shrugged his shoulders as if he didn't care.
Fabian took off his undies and put on fresh ones quite close to Patrick's face. Then he pulled a pair of denim shorts over them and took his sneakers. "Wanna come with me to the washing room?"
Patrick looked like he was trapped. For a while he seemed not willing to reply anything or even to move out of his bed. Did he even want to get through the whole week unwashed? That little scaredy cat! For the sake of his mom he changed his underwear, but he didn't dare to go to the washing room.
"Okay, forget it", said Fabian, shaking his head, and put his towel around his neck.
Neither the washing room nor the toilets were pleasant places. Both were filled up with noisy commotion. In the washing room you got sprayed with water even before you could find an unoccupied faucet. Fabian finally found some spare room next to Ryan, the blond guy with braces. "Hi!" they welcomed each other.
"It was great fun, last night, wasn't it?" shouted Ryan to be understandable over the noise.
"Really? What happened?" asked Fabian.
"Ah, we tried to throw water balloons into the girl’s beds." Ryan grinned and lathered his arms.
"And? Did it work?" Fabian remembered the noise at night.
"Sure! At least two hit the bulls-eye, I tell you!" Ryan rinsed his bare torso with cold water, spraying around a little ruthlessly. "But then Hank came and even that director-dude and made loads of trouble."
On his way back to the cabin Fabian saw somebody sweeping the dusty yard at the front of the center building with a broom. And unless he was completely mistaken, it was Angelo.

After breakfast Brian explained to his beavers that they were going to cross the lake in two big canoes today. For their safety they'd all get tucked into life jackets, even the boys who think they're good swimmers. "But don't be afraid, nobody has ever gone overboard, here."
Fabian noticed a slight expression of horror in Patrick's face.
Brian continued: "Now please get changed: Swimming trunks and T-shirt, nothing more. No shoes, we paddle bare foot." Brian smiled weakly. "And if you got a watch, leave it here, it’ll only get wet and maybe broken."
The beaver-boys set off for their cabins. Just Patrick stayed there as though glued to the spot.
"So, what's up with you?" asked Brian.
"I... I can't...", stuttered Patrick.
"You can't what?"
"I can't row." Hardly noticeable Patrick was trembling.
"We paddle, not row. Canoes got to be paddled. Besides, you can learn that today. It's really no trouble."
Patrick shook his head a bit tensed up. "N... no!"
"You see", said Brian, thinking Patrick meant it was no trouble to learn it.
"I can't!"
Brian was just about to turn away but now he bent down to Patrick, a little wearily. "What's your problem?"
"I can't go canoeing."
"But why, for heaven's sake? You'll get a life jacket, so nothing can ever happen to you!"
"My... my skin. The sun is so hot. I always get a sun burn. And fever." Patrick's turquoise eyes showed real fear.
Brian sighed. "My goodness, what do we do with you, now?" He chewed his lower lip. "I guess you gotta stay here, in the shadow."
Fabian had changed. Like all others he wore the green beaver-shirt and his swim trunks. But where was Patrick? He hadn't come with the others to the cabin and even after changing he didn't turn up. Fabian went to the center building and peered into the dining hall. But nobody was there.
In the corridor he met Brian, who had his bedroom in the center building like each of the group leaders. He had put on giant black swimming trunks and he allowed his feet the comfort of slippers.
"I can't find Patrick Finn", said Fabian, "he belongs in our cabin and..."
"That little red-headed kid?" replied Brian. "That's okay. He'll stay here, he’s got a sun allergy or something... I gave him a couple of books."
"Oh", was all Fabian could say, and remained standing in the corridor, looking dejected.
"You could help me by getting the life jackets out of the boathouse", said Brian and dragged Fabian along with one of his chubby hands.

The canoe trip was great, the sun was burning hot but on the surface of the lake the air remained rather cool. They stopped for a break on a small island close to the other shore, and Brian could show the boys some real beaver lodges. On their way back they paddled pretty close along a low rock face, where a thin waterfall came tumbling down, wetting them a little…
But most of the time Fabian seemed to be miles away, because he thought of Patrick and that he was missing all this. On one occasion he asked Brian about the remaining program for the beavers and whether there would be more activities that might exclude Patrick.
"Oh", said Brian calmly, "we have the nocturnal ramble, the lantern party and the game park, and maybe we'll make a paper chase in the woods and stuff like that. There's still plenty of opportunity for your little friend to join in."
Fabian sighed. This didn't sound too bad, and he was relieved that Brian had obviously thought about the same problem too. Besides, he started to like the chubby beaver-chief more and more. Brian was simply okay. Almost automatically Fabian laid his hand on that chubby shoulder. He was just about to draw it back and mumble an excuse, when Brian patted on Fabian's much skinnier shoulder and nodded encouraging.

Back at camp, Fabian hurried to look for Patrick. He was quite easy to find, sat in their cabin at the small table. A couple of large illustrated books about animals lay in front of him, but it didn't look too much like he had actually read them.
Fabian wanted to say something, that he was sorry about Patrick and stuff like that. But at the same moment Dan came tramping into the cabin and called: "Wooaah there, you really missed something, Pat! It was great!" And he let himself fall down on his bed so that it creaked.
Patrick lowered his eyes and looked at the book in his hands. "Rodents In The Woods". Julio and Mike came pattering into the cabin too, and Julio asked casually: "Why did you stay here, Pat?"
Fabian was still standing there and couldn't say anything.
Patrick's face screwed up. He bowed his head. And Fabian felt pretty much the same, like he could cry. A pitiful weak squeaking came from Patrick and then tears rolled over his freckles.
Fabian sat down on another chair and said carefully: "We'll do a nocturnal ramble and a paper chase in the woods and we'll go to a game park and feed the animals there, and you'll be with us again. From now on, I'll only do things that you can do, too!"
Hardly noticeable Patrick shook his head and then he squeezed a few quiet words through his tears: "I wanna go home!"
Julio came standing behind Fabian and looked at crying Patrick. "What's up with you, Pat?"
Fabian said: "Okay, all right, the camp started off pretty bad, somehow. The food is shitty, the beds are shitty, and some of the dudes here in the camp are... are real dorks." He didn't want to say that Angelo and his pals were shitty, too, they were actually just stupid and inconsiderate.
"I wanna go home!", wept Patrick and let his tears flow.
Fabian didn’t know what else to say. Since the journey had started there had been hardly any moment when Patrick felt good. The way he had been sitting on the bus clinging to a handle and staring through the window, he apparently felt awful right from the beginning. And all the small things that had happened ever since had been more or less to Patrick's disadvantage. However, Fabian really thought it wasn't the best idea to ask Brian to call Patrick's parents.
"I'm sorry", whispered Fabian.
"I want... my mom... and my dad", sobbed Patrick.
"We couldn't practise swimming then", said Fabian. "I was really looking forward to that!"
"I...", Patrick got some kind of hiccups from weeping, "I can't swim. I don't wanna swim. And I can't... any dirty jokes!"
Julio lowered his eyes, embarrassed. He probably had never thought that saying dirty words could intimidate a sensitive boy like Patrick. "But I only said that single joke."
"You just don't wanna practise anything with me!""And you...", Patrick gave Fabian a tear stained look, "you go swimming... with that dork... anyways! You just don't wanna... practise anything with me!"
"But... nooo!" said Fabian. "I really want it! I promised you I’d practise swimming with you and I meant it."
Patrick sniffed heavily… he could hardly breathe between words.
"We'll tell no dirty things anymore, okay?" said Julio.
Outside the other kids passed the cabin heading for lunch. A breath of wind wafted across the smell of something fried, like ham and onions.
Dan put on his shoes. "Looks like we'll have something real substantial today!"
Julio looked undecided if he should go for lunch right now, while Patrick sat here in floods of tears. Finally he said: "You don't have to be sad, Pat. We're still here for you."
One after another the other boys left Fabian and Patrick alone in the cabin and went for lunch.
"Should we really call your parents?"Fabian asked: "Should we really ask Brian to call your parents?"
Patrick was still sobbing but at least his tears had stopped running. He said nothing.
"Think about it, the camp will be over for you and you'll really miss everything. Even that ramble at night and when we feed the deer."
Patrick sniffed and considered.
Then Fabian remembered something. He went to his backpack and pulled something out. It was the small stuffed penguin that Jeremy gave him once. "This is Jarvis, the butler. He's my lucky charm." He put the penguin on the table between the spread out books. "I got him from my little brother. Since our parents live apart from each other now, my brother is no longer with me and my mother. He's about your age." He pushed the figure a little closer to Patrick. "I'll lend you Jarvis, if you like him. He'll take care of you."
Patrick looked at Jarvis, the butler. Then he asked in thin voice: "You have stuffed animals?"
"I got lots of stuffed animals. But this one is special, it's my lucky charm, cause my little brother gave it to me."
Suddenly Patrick came into motion. He took his own backpack and sat down with it on his bed. And then he pulled out of the depths of his backpack a stuffed animal, too. It was bigger than Jarvis, the butler, and made of white plush with brown flecks and looked like a pig. "I got one here, too."
Fabian sat down next to him on the bed.
"This is Snoozie", said Patrick introducing his stuffed pig.
"Why do you hide Snoozie in your backpack? His place is in your bed."
Patrick blushed a little and chewed his lower lip. "I thought nobody here got a stuffed animal."
"So, it's you and me now who’ve got one", said Fabian.
"Okay", said Patrick and held his stuffed pig in his arms. He was leaning quite close to Fabian's side, and Fabian felt that Patrick was seeking his company. He didn't spend any more time thinking about it but wrapped his arms around Patrick's tummy and squeezed him a little. Patrick breathed out once in relief and leaned back until his head touched Fabian's cheek.
They remained like this for quite a while, sitting on the bed in silence.
And then even a little longer.
"You don't have to practise swimming with me if you don't want it", said Fabian quietly, "but I'd like to, anyway. Angelo, Ryan and the other guys can get lost."
Patrick said nothing, he just embraced his stuffed pig.
Fabian said: "From all the guys here in the camp I like you best. And I'd be sad if you go home right away." He tightened his embrace around Patrick's tummy a little, while Patrick began to stroke his cuddly toy. "Could you consider it one more time? Until tomorrow? You stay with us until tomorrow after breakfast and then you can decide if we call your parents, okay?"
Patrick stroked his stuffed pig a little longer, then he said: "Okay."
"Shall we go to lunch, now?" asked Fabian carefully.
Patrick sighed. "Okay."

After lunch the beavers had to be "chivalrous", as Brian liked to call it. Because the racoon-girls were rehearsing a dance - something like a polka with ring-a-ring-o'-roses - they urgently needed some boys who had to line the route and form archways with their arms. "You don't have to dance at all", said Brian trying to calm down his beavers.
The girls used the lawn where they had the barbecue party to practise on, and since this was in the shadow of the surrounding trees Patrick couldn't talk his way out of it. Some of the girls had put flowers in their hair to look like "real" polka dancers.
Christine, the curly-haired group leader, played on an accordion and gave instructions: "Now, everybody in a circle, put your hands on your hips --- and turn around-and-round!"
First, the beavers just had to stand in the middle of the circle and watch the dance. Then they had to take one another by the hands in pairs and hold them up, so that they formed a line of archways. Of course, Fabian and Patrick were such an archway couple. When the girls came along dancing they had to "catch" them and to release again, everything matching to the rhythm of the music. Patrick played his part unexpectedly eager. The captured girls first looked just surprised, then distraught and finally they even moaned that it hurt.
Patrick just giggled and tightened his grip on Fabian's hands as if he could slip away.
Patrick looked so occupied by the polka that Fabian was surprised. He had been afraid that it could darken Patrick's mood again to be assigned for such girl stuff. But he seemed to like the dance with the girls.
Again and again the racoon-girls whispered and looked across at Fabian and Patrick. Were they annoyed by those two oafs?

The eagles would have their nocturnal ramble after dusk and so the black shirted group got the afternoon off. You could see Angelo and his gang in swimming trunks running down to the beach, yelling.
Perfect, thought Fabian, the beach would be free later in the evening.
After supper, while the eagles gathered loudly around Hank, Brian just said that the beavers deserved to have a lazy evening after being busy the whole day. Everybody who was interested would have the chance to watch the basketball play-offs on TV in the dining hall, and promptly Dan the walrus put his hand up to "enrol" himself. Besides, there were board games and cards, too, and Brian announced he’d open the kiosk and sell drinks, candy and postcards.
Fabian didn't want to push Patrick, so he simply pretended to go swimming. "Wanna come with me? I mean, the beach is free, the sun isn't burning any more - just the best conditions." He already had his swimming trunks on and put his hands on his skinny hips.
Patrick hesitated a little. But when even Julio and Mike went over to the camp center and he was alone with Fabian in the cabin, he agreed. "But you have to wait outside when I'm changing!"
Fabian grinned. "Okay." He went out of the cabin and took a deep breath of the summery evening air. It was still really warm and calm. The sun stood low and yellow in the sky. Fabian sat down on the wooden steps in front of the cabin and poked with his bare toes in the sand. He felt some kind of nervous anticipation.
When Patrick finally came out he wore tight-fitting blue speedos and a white T-shirt and his sneakers. "Ready", he said.
"Will you take all that stuff into the water?" asked Fabian.
"Nooope, just for the walk."
"Alright, let's go!" And they ran across the barbecue lawn and down a beaten path to the beach. The "coast" was completely deserted, they had the landing stage and the small beach just for their own. Fabian didn't wait but immediately took a run-up across the landing stage and made a long jump into the water. The first contact with the water and the sudden chill was almost a little shocking, but it soon let up because the water wasn't actually that cold. Close to the surface it was even fairly warm. Fabian remembered Patrick, made a few swimming strokes towards the beach and then entered the shallower water.
In the meantime Patrick had stripped to his blue speedos and stood with just his feet in the water. He acted as if he found the water rather cold.
"You have to come deeper in, at least then we can try a few swimming strokes, so maybe till it’s up to your belly button", said Fabian, dripping wet.
"Okay, okay", said Patrick and went step by step, shivering a little exaggerated, deeper into the water. In the warm light of the sinking sun he even didn't look pale anymore. Just a few freckles and two small russet nipples stood out against his bright skin.
"The water feels cold only as long as you don't move", said Fabian and was tempted to spray Patrick wet, but he knew too well how he hated that himself.
Patrick was now to the point where just his legs got wet and his butt was almost touching the water surface. To get past this point was really hard because from there on the very delicate parts got wet. Arms wrapped around himself as if he was almost freezing, Patrick slightly crouched down a few times so that the blue speedos on his butt just touched the water.

Patrick just dipped his butt.

Fabian stood beside him and waited patiently until Patrick got used to the temperature. But finally he said: "If you don't really dip in at least once you'll never get used to it!"
"I know", said Patrick shivering and just dipped his bum once again, then held it facing into the evening sun.
Fabian couldn’t wait and simply took the next chance to push the smaller boy into the water. Patrick kicked and wiggled and then came back to the surface, snorting from water. "I'm so sorry", said Fabian, "but I couldn't watch that any longer."
Patrick didn't complain, he just wiped the water from his freckled face.
"What's best to start with? Can you float on your back?" asked Fabian and went a few steps into deeper water until it reached to his tummy. Then he let himself sink back, dipped his back in the water and finally lifted his feet until he floated stretched out on the surface.
"Yeah, I think I can do that", said Patrick and tried to copy it. But he held his breath and somehow his head dipped and he began to splash about until he got on his feet again.
"Don't move when you try to float."
"I know", said Patrick and tried it once more, but again he sank down and struggled back to the open.
"You don't trust the fact that the air in your lungs will keep you up", stated Fabian. "Maybe it works better when I hold you." He made some moves to get on his feet again and stood behind Patrick's back. "Now look, I'll hold your head so that you can't sink and nothing can happen. Try it again, just lean back and relax."
Patrick crouched down until the water reached his neck. Carefully, Fabian put his hands on the bright pink shoulders and bowed down a little. Reluctantly, Patrick leaned back until the rest of his body got a lift in the water. At last, he lay with spread out arms flat in the water and looked up, into Fabian's face. His sandy-colored shock of hair was floating on the surface and his head bumped slightly to Fabian's tummy. His red lips smiled.
"All right, you see that it works?" said Fabian. "You feel that the water is carrying you?"
Patrick nodded carefully.
"I'm gonna release you now, okay?" Slowly, Fabian withdrew his hands. "You simply have to keep still. The water can't harm you now, you’re already wet all over."
For a while Patrick was floating on the quiet water, just watching the sky.
"When somebody can't swim he usually believes that he'll sink in the water, immediately. But that's not true. Actually, very few things need to be done to keep yourself up. And when you start learning to swim, you'll surely believe that you'll swallow water when you try to breathe and you'll probably hold your breath. But that's also wrong."
"Okay, but how do I do it right then?" asked Patrick and he promptly lost his balance and had to kick and wave again until he got on his feet, snorting.
"Well, it's pretty simple when you do the crawl, because more or less you swim lying on your side and you turn your head to one side when you breathe in", explained Fabian. "Wait, I'll show you!" He made a few strokes of crawl, almost in slow motion. "Look here! I'm just sliding quietly over the water and I can breathe to the side at each stroke."
"Okay", said Patrick. But he seemed to be rather unbelieving.
"Wanna try this? I can hold you up if you like", suggested Fabian.
Patrick couldn't quite imagine this.
"Float on your back once more, and I'll hold you again and you'll see", said Fabian. And one more time Patrick leaned back into the water until he looked up along Fabian's slender tummy. But this time Fabian dragged the floating body a little further where the water was deeper, so that he could easily hold him in his arms like he was swaying a baby. "All right, now turn on your side! Don't panic, I'll hold you up."
Patrick looked confused around him for a way to manage this. But when he realized that Fabian was actually holding him up, he turned around carefully until he lay on his side in Fabian's arms.
Then Fabian changed his grip so that he embraced Patrick above his tummy. "Keep your head like that, so that it stays up!" Slowly, he turned the boy's body in his arms a little further until Patrick was almost floating on his tummy. "Now, try a stroke with that arm that's completely under water!"
Patrick made a frail stroke.
"Almost like rowing a boat", explained Fabian, "you just have to dip your arm deeper in. And for the stroke with the other arm you have to turn on the other side, and you can breathe to that side, too."
They practised these moves while Fabian held little Patrick on top of the water. Then Patrick tried some swimming strokes on his own but he held his breath and went rather tense and inevitably he sank down. His next attempts didn't go any better, he always disappeared under water after three or four strokes.
"Damn!" swore Patrick and wiped the water off his face.
"Hey, it's not too bad for a start. You're kicking your feet too much. You should rather stretch out on the water and trust in the fact that it will carry you, like it does when you're floating on your back. And then you should move your arms."
Patrick tried it a few times with more patience and even though he sank down again so that he had to come up snorting and coughing, some of his attempts looked almost like swimming.
Then for a change the two boys spent some time jumping wildly from the landing stage, fooling around and making faces, and they laughed a lot. Finally, Patrick seemed to have lost his timidity regarding swimming. As time went by, the sun went behind the treetops and slowly the sky turned violet.
"I guess it's time for us to go soon", noticed Fabian.
They could hear some well known, excited boy voices in the camp, and there were the beams of flashlights shining around. It was the eagles, who were going on their nocturnal ramble.
Patrick and Fabian stood quiet and motionless in the water as if they were afraid the eagles could discover them. Only when that chain of lights had disappeared in the woods, they moved again.
Fabian asked: "Wanna give it one last try? I can take you on my back while I'm swimming, like a dolphin does. You just hold on to my shoulders."
Patrick looked amazed at his bigger friend.
And Fabian added: "That's how my... dad did, when he showed me how to swim." And again he meant Walter, who once taught him swimming. Fabian made some steps into deeper water and bowed down until only his head and shoulders looked out.
"Come on!"
Patrick giggled and clinged with both hands to Fabian.
The bigger boy made some careful strokes, always trying not to collide with Patrick's dangling legs in the water behind him. A few times the weight of the boy on his shoulders dragged him slightly under water, but he could handle this by doing the breaststroke. But suddenly he stopped, waving his arms under water.
He panted. "It's really deep here, I can't stand on my feet."
Patrick sounded anxious: "Please, Fabian, let's go back!"
Fabian spit. "You have to swim on your own, I can't make it with your weight on my back!" For a moment he went down to the tip of his nose.
"Eeek, I can't do that!"
"You must! Quick! I can't make it any longer!" Fabian went half down. Finally the dragging fingers released his shoulders.
Patrick kicked and waved for his life so that water splashed all around him.
"Quiet!" called Fabian who could hold his head up again. "Make quiet strokes!"
Patrick spit water and turned his head in panic, but soon he calmed down and really swam a little.
Fabian giggled. "Ah, I knew you could do it!" And he stood on the ground on tiptoe.
Patrick only stopped when his hands touched the sandy ground of the lake. He was way closer to the shore than he thought. And when he heard Fabian laughing he finally understood. Patrick stood up and swore. "You really scared me!"
"So did my dad, but it's the best way to learn it real quick."
"But that's a shit way!" shouted Patrick angrily and set on Fabian. He grabbed the wrists of the bigger, skinny boy and tried to shove him into the water.
Fabian still had to laugh, partly about his trick, and partly about little Patrick's busy efforts to push him down. He joined in the game, but directed this kind of wrestling into the shallow water close to the beach. Patrick changed his tactics now and tried to get Fabian by his neck and trip him. Fabian on his part held the freckled boy around the chest and waited, what else he'd try to do. Finally, he decided to lose his balance and splash down into the water stretched out together with Patrick.
There they kept lying for a while in what looked like a wrestling hold. It was nearly dark and they could hardly recognize the expression of each other's face. Wet and loud they panted, out of breath, across the water surface. Fabian didn't really hold Patrick's shoulder anymore, rather he stroked that wet cool skin. And Patrick didn't move, he swallowed and panted in the gloomy semi-darkness. Their chests slightly touched and the water between them made a funny sound. Fabian wished that this beautiful moment could last a little longer but then he thought that he might scare Patrick somehow. The sandy-haired boy didn't move and didn't say anything. At last Fabian felt that they'd better get up and leave the water before it got too cold. Uncertain, he waded to the shore and looked back at Patrick.
Patrick just said: "Wow, it's really dark!" But the last gleam of fading daylight was still enough to find his shoes and his shirt on the beach. Then the two dripping wet boys ran back to their cabin.
"But this time I'll not waiting until you get changed", said Fabian and shivered a little. "We can leave the light out, instead."
"Okay", said Patrick who was also shivering a little and entered the dark cabin.
The other occupants were still in the camp center, the cabin stood still and empty. There was only a glimpse of light falling through the window beside the door. Everything else was dark. Fabian and Patrick could hear each other but couldn’t see anything. Patrick remained motionless and listened, you could just hear his breathing. Then he giggled because of the funny situation. "I can't see anything", he said.
"Me neither, but I think that's exactly what you want." Fabian groped in the darkness. Of course, he "accidently" felt a wet, cool boy shoulder at first. "There's you."
Patrick slightly jerked but kept standing there and laughed quietly.
Then Fabian groped to his side and after one or two steps he hit the bunkbeds that belonged to him and Patrick. "Here are our beds." He slapped them slightly with his hand so that Patrick could detect them in the darkness. Fabian felt his way to the head end of his bed where he had hung up his towel to dry. Relieved about finding the towel he began to dry himself.
Meanwhile, Patrick had found his backpack and there was the sound of fumbling with nylon straps and the sound of a zipper. After he rummaged around a little he dragged something out and rubbed himself down with it.
Fabian stripped his wet, cold swim trunks and left them lying on the floor. Then he wrapped the towel around his hips and picked up the swim trunks. With them crumpled and dripping in his hand he pattered to the door. "Hey!", he quickly warned and opened it. A faint breeze of cool night air came in and a beam of pale moonlight fell through the door, flitting across Patrick who was just pulling down his wet speedos. "I need to wring these out", said Fabian and stepped outside on to the wooden steps in front of the cabin. There he squeezed the cold water out of the swimming trunks, sprinkling the sandy ground.
He heard a few tapping steps of naked feet, and then Patrick came standing beside him. He wore a pink towel around his hips and held a dark wet lump in his hand. "Me too", he just said and wrung out his trunks. As he did so, he slightly bumped against Fabian's side several times, and the feeling of those gentle touches of soft cool skin each time let a slight shiver run through Fabian's body.
Suddenly the pink towel around Patrick's hips loosened and slipped down. "Oops", said Patrick and bent down quickly for the towel and wrapped it around his waist. The towel wasn't too big and it hardly fitted.
Fabian bit back any comment and went back inside.
Patrick followed him and closed the door behind them. Then they stood once again in the pitch-dark cabin.
"I can hang up my swimming trunks to dry over the bedpost", said Fabian and felt carefully for the end of the bed and finally pulled the damp, cold trunks in his hands over it.
"Good idea", agreed Patrick and felt his way along the bed, too, but collided with Fabian before he reached the bedpost.
"Already occupied here", murmured Fabian and giggled.
"Oops!" said Patrick and then once again: "Oops! I lost my towel!"
Fabian felt the damp towel lying on his feet and for a moment he considered if he should really bend down to pick it up. Because he had an idea that Patrick had lost it deliberately. He wanted to stand stark naked in the dark by "accident", just half a step away from Fabian. But almost automatically he bent down for the towel and promptly banged his forehead with a damp boy head.
"Ouch!" said both boys at the same time and lost their balance a little. Without really wanting it, Fabian suddenly held Patrick's shoulders in his hands, probably to keep a little distance between them. And Patrick hesitated, he didn't move. You couldn't even hear him breathing.
Instead Fabian's heart beat with a heavy pulse. This situation was so exciting and so confusing that he didn't even know what he was doing. Almost like being under remote control his hands slid down Patrick's upper arms and then slowly upwards again. And since Patrick still didn't move at all, he let his hands slip even a little bit lower until he clasped the narrow waist in his hands. There he remained and gasped for air. The blood was pumping so heavily through his veins that his fingertips pulsed. The boys were so close that he could smell Patrick's wet hair.
With a deep gasp Fabian drove the stale air out of his lungs and then breathed shallow and irregularly. What if somebody came in now, switched on the light and saw the two like that, flashed through his mind. What if Patrick didn't want the stuff that Fabian was doing?
Suddenly, Patrick had to giggle. "What are you doing there?" he asked but didn't move as though he wanted to get rid of Fabian's hands.
For a few seconds Fabian felt unable to do anything. Then he had to giggle, too. "I don't know", he whispered.
And still Patrick stood there in the darkness without moving and let Fabian's hands lying on his hips. Then Fabian felt some fingertips slowly moving up his left arm, and then even more fingertips on the other arm. Eventually, Patrick's warm hands remained on his shoulders - they might have looked as if they were going to dance in the dark cabin.
"I can feel where you are", said Patrick and remained in that manner.
Inevitably, Fabian's hands began to move around in circles on the skin of Patrick's hips. And this way he'd have touched probably even other body parts, if the boys didn't hear something, suddenly.
Outside at the camp center a door slammed, and steps came up the sandy path.
At the moment the boys were unable to move.
Then Fabian said: "Hurry, get your undies!" And the two shapes in the darkness set in motion. Rather accurately, Fabian managed to grab his backpack that lay on the floor at the head end of their bunkbeds. But Patrick pattered around totally disoriented, bumped against a chair and swore quietly.
The steps came closer to their cabin, thumped quickly up the stairs, and then suddenly the door flung open and the light went on.
The sudden brightness hurt Fabian's eyes. Blinded by the light, he blinked and tried to recognize who was standing there in the door.
It was Julio, the little dark-haired podgy one. He briefly flinched as he saw that there was somebody in the cabin. "Huh, what are you doing here?

Julio came bursting in.

Fabian had managed to pull on his denim shorts in the darkness, which pinched his privates a little without his undies. He was holding two damp towels in his hands - his own and Patrick's pink one.
Patrick himself stood stark naked behind the table and the chairs and bashfully covered his crotch with his hands.
"We're changing", said Fabian and blinked. "We've been swimming until it got too dark outside." He hung up the towels to dry over the headboard of the bunkbeds. "And for changing we just left the light out."
Julio's face brightened. "Oh, I see!" Straight out he looked at the bashfully naked Patrick and giggled. "I'm sorry! Just wait, I’ll put it out again!" His hand darted to the light switch, and the cabin fell dark again. You could just see Julio's head as a dark shape in front of the window. He still had to giggle.
The other two waited a while to see if Julio would take off again. But none of the three boys made a move.
Then Julio said: "Um, I just thought, you were probably... doing..." He chuckled in the darkness.
"Doing... what?" asked Fabian.
Julio giggled. "Ehehehe, nope, I won't say that!"
Fabian sighed. "Oh, Julio, those dirty jokes really went to your head!"

Later on, when even Patrick had found his clothes and got dressed again, the boys played cards together. Dan and Mike came clumping into the cabin.
"Hey guys, wanna know the hottest news?" heavy Dan called out. "Some of the eagles got lost on their nocturnal ramble!" He held the door open as if to run outside again right away. "Hank freaked out completely, you should have seen that! Now the group leaders set off to search for those dudes. Oh man, if they don't find them, they have to call the police for tracker dogs and helicopters and stuff." He leant out of the open door and looked at what was going on outside.
There were agitated voices sounding through the camp, especially the loud, booming voice of William, the director.
Dan ran outside again not wanting to miss anything.
The other boys just sighed and drank another lemonade from Brian's kiosk.
"Always those eagles!" said Julio rather superciliously and shook his head.
Later they lay in bed and talked a little to each other - this time without any dirty jokes. When the noise out in the camp slowly let up, Dan came back again.
"Hank and that swan-woman found them, and those runaways said they were just kidding", reported Dan and took off his shoes. A cheese-like aroma spread over the cabin. Dan sighed relieved.
"My goodness, Dan!" squeaked Julio and held his nose.
"Did you change your socks already this year?" asked Fabian.
Dan leaned back. "I have no idea what you mean….this is just pure nature!"

It took some time until Fabian could sleep that night, though he had got somewhat used to the lousy bed with its tiny pillow. Of course he was still busy thinking about that moment, when he was alone in the dark with Patrick. Would he ever get such an opportunity once again? Or would it have ended in a disaster had he continued to fondle Patrick? The longer this moment was past, the less he was sure that Patrick enjoyed it. In the middle of the night he woke up. All that fizzy stuff he had drunk while playing cards had made him desperate. As quiet as he could, he got up and pulled on his shoes and a shirt, then snuck out to the toilets.
The lights were on in the boys' toilets. Fabian was not alone here, though he couldn't see anybody at first. Then he heard some quiet sobbing resounding off the bare walls.
The door to most the toilet stalls stood open, just one door was nearly closed. Carefully, Fabian peered through the crack.
There was somebody sitting on a closed toilet seat, his head bowed and weeping. Somebody with dark, slightly curly hair and a black T-shirt. And when that somebody looked up because he had noticed Fabian, it proved to be Angelo, his cheeks wet with tears.
"Get lost, leave me alone!" wailed Angelo.
Fabian could imagine that Angelo was among those jokers who vanished during their nocturnal ramble, and probably had got into a lot of trouble once again.
"But I gotta pee", said Fabian.
"Pee somewhere else!" called Angelo and held the door closed.
A little undecided Fabian went into the next cubicle and stood in front of the bowl. But as long as Angelo was sobbing next door, Fabian just couldn't.
"Don't hang about there, stupid!" moaned Angelo. "Just piss and fuck off to your faggot-friends!"
Fabian started with surprise. Did anybody notice something? Did anybody see how much he liked Patrick? Did Julio say something? But he had been all night with the others playing cards!
"This is a real faggot-camp, I tell you!" swore Angelo in tears. "Just stupid bitches and old faggots all around. And such a mean ass-hole like Hank!" He wailed louder and sobbed.
Fabian just stood there and couldn't pee though he was desperate, and he didn't know what to say.
"Hank is a real mean ass-hole!" said Angelo again and burst into tears, even more than before.
Fabian put his head around the corner and pushed the neighboring door carefully open. Angelo's face looked at him, twisted with pain and soaked in tears.
"This is my vacation!" howled Angelo. "This is my damned vacation! And this ass-hole lets me clean up and put away the trash all the time! All the time!!! Do you call that vacation? And last night the others did me in, after we had to clean up the barbecue. They threw a water balloon into my bed. And another one in my face. And Hank knew it! He knew it all before, the mean ass-hole!"
Fabian stood there and looked embarrassed. He thought that Angelo was the most popular boy of the camp. And that a little punishment couldn't hurt him at all. He always appeared as the handsome guy with the fantastic sun tan and the sporty long-legged physique. But here, on a shabby toilet seat, sat just a tanned weeping child.
Fabian said quietly: "I thought they were your friends."
Angelo wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand. "But one thing is sure: I'll pay him back for it all, this ass-hole! He'll get to know my dad, I tell you! And he'll be in for a shock."
Fabian hesitated a little but then he lay his hand on Angelo's shoulder to comfort him. He was afraid that the beautiful dark-haired boy could take this wrong, but Angelo just looked up at Fabian and in spite of all his tears a slight, painful smile flitted across his face. And Fabian gave the shoulder dressed in the black fabric of the eagle-shirt a comforting rub.
Angelo nodded and swallowed a few tears. "He won't know what's hit him!"

Next morning after breakfast Angelo was taken away by his mother. Some of the children stood at the entrance of the camp center and watched this. His mother had come in a fancy sports car that stood now in front of the big archway with the wooden stakes. Angelo stood, his backpack casually on his shoulder, as if it was a saddle and he were John Wayne, and he strolled to the sports car. Among the spectators some youngsters roared and whistled after him, and Fabian didn't have to look behind him to know that this was Ryan with the braces and the other pals.
Angelo showed his middle finger and called: "Fucking faggot-camp!"
Suddenly his mother appeared and slapped him in his face so hard that his backpack slipped out of his hand.
"Get into the car! And don't say another word!" she yelled at him.
Even the children at the camp center fell silent.
And so, without a word, Angelo got into the car. And the car drove away.

Fabian remembered that Patrick had to decide this morning after breakfast if he'd stay or go home. But after Angelo's painful departure Fabian was fairly depressed, and so he rather put it off a little. And since Patrick was so busy and happy during the paper chase that the beavers did this day, Fabian simply forgot it at last.
The days at the summer camp were great and somehow they passed by faster and faster. During the beaver's nocturnal ramble Fabian and Patrick always kept in touch so that they couldn't get lost in the dark. And occasionally Julio joined those two and only stopped pestering them after Fabian lay his arm around his shoulders for a while.
For the feeding at the game park the game warden gave the beaver-boys buckets and boxes full of salad and vegetables and told them to distribute it to the animals.
Patrick was totally into a wild boar that he immediately named "Snoozie". He fed it with potatoes and stroked its dirty nose. "Snoozie" thanked him by sniffing at Patrick's pink calves and knees, and finally even pushing him down so he landed in the mud. Patrick laughed, and could hardly stop laughing even though he had to spend the rest of the day plastered with mud.
There was no chance for the two to go swimming undisturbed. Even after supper the small beach and the landing stage were occupied either by the ex-pals of Angelo or a couple of girls, and in both cases Patrick didn't like to swim.

And then, it was suddenly Saturday evening - the last evening at the camp and time for the lantern party. The swan-girls had made colorful lanterns and had decorated the barbecue area with them. The racoon-girls showed their polka dance with the help of the beavers, and finally it became a "disco" party. Marion and Hank had set up a small stereo that filled the night with some what overstrained chart music from the past years. At first, there were just a few girls who started to dance to the music.
Brian took care of the campfire and later made baked potatoes and spare ribs. This time the eagles served the drinks, which meant that the beavers had to clean up when the party was over.
One by one the girls managed to get the boys to dance, particularly the older ones. Even Fabian joined in for a few songs after two girls asked him at the same time and he didn't want to disappoint them. But he found the music awful. Anyway, tonight Fabian noticed for the first time that a few couples had got together during the summer camp - mostly among the swans and the eagles, and that he had missed this, completely.
He sat down on one of the tree trunks that lay on the lawn and served as seats, and watched the couples for a while hanging around the "disco". Didn’t he stand a chance with the girls, too? Hadn’t the girls all given him those yearning looks time after time and then giggled? But he had kept around his beavers all the time, around the small, the chubby and the shy, and this way he had hardly ever talked to any girl the whole seven days. And now he had the weird feeling that he had missed something.
Patrick and Julio came and sat down beside him. "Hi!" they said, both holding a baked potato wrapped in a paper napkin and hollowing them out with a plastic fork.
Fabian looked at his acquaintances. Julio had put ketchup on his baked potato, and some of this ketchup now stuck to his upper lip like some kind of red puberty down. Patrick had chosen tsatsiki for his potato and had stained his green beaver-shirt with it. Just because of these little losers Fabian had ignored the girls for a whole week! He sighed.
"Are you sad?" asked Julio promptly.
Fabian shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, it's nothing."
"And what about you?" asked Julio looking at Patrick. "Are you happy that you gonna go home tomorrow?"
Patrick looked quickly from one to the other, the fork between his lips, and then he shrugged too. "Not really."
"Just a few days ago I had a totally different impression of you", Julio pertly remarked.
Patrick shrugged his shoulders once again. "Just been in a bad mood."
"Ha ha, 'bad mood'?! You been howling and crying for your mom and dad."
"So what?" replied Patrick. "Do you never get homesick?"
"No problem, it's all right", said Julio and grinned with his red moustache. He squashed up the remains of his baked potato. "Phew, I need a drink now. Come with me?"
"No", said Patrick curtly. "I'll stay here with Fabian."
"All right", said Julio and stood up. "I'll be right back, okay?"
"Oh-kay", said Patrick. But as soon as Julio had disappeared behind a couple of girls, Patrick leaped up and said: "Come on, let's get lost!" And he dragged Fabian to the edge of the barbecue area, and since they could still be seen in the light of the lanterns there, they ran a little further towards the beach. They stopped behind the corner of a cabin, looked back and saw how Julio came back with a paper cup in his hand and looked around astonished. Finally, he turned away, disappointed.
"This was pretty mean, you know", said Fabian quietly. "Do you have anything against Julio?"
"No", said Patrick, "not really." He said down in the grass. "Come, sit down here, too!"
A little curious Fabian sat down beside Patrick. They sat in a real dark corner of the camp, where neither the light of the lanterns nor the pale shine of the moon fell on them. But they could clearly see the figures sitting out there on the beach and on the landing stage. There sat dark silhouettes, hand in hand, arm in arm.
"It's full of lovers, here", whispered Fabian.
And Patrick giggled quietly.
The sound of the "disco" changed now to a soul-moving love song. Some of the boys on the lawn quickly ran away, but the others let themselves get carried away and danced real close to the girls.
"This was once my favorite song", said Patrick and looked at Fabian; he could only see the gleam of his eyes in the darkness.
"Oh", said Fabian a little surprised, because he found that it was typically a song for girls. "Cool."
Patrick listened to the melody for a while, then suddenly he said: "Do you know the names of the stars? The constellations?" And he pointed up at the night sky, jet black and clear, spangled with countless stars.
"Hmm, just a few", murmured Fabian. "One of my friends knows a lot about that. I can't remember too many of them."
"Can you show me some?" asked Patrick and looked again uncertainly in the direction where he thought Fabian's face was.
"Uhh, hum, let's see...", said Fabian and searched the sky for known stars. "I think I can see Cassiopeia. That thing that looks more like a 'W', written in the sky. Up there, can you see?" Fabian pointed up to the sky.
"Huh, where?" asked Patrick and tried to follow his pointing finger.
Fabian leant over until he was practically leaning against Patrick's back and he held his pointing arm beside Patrick's head. "There're five bright stars, you see?"
Patrick moved up closer to Fabian, until he sat between his legs, leaning back against Fabian's chest and tummy. "Yeah, there it is, like a 'W'!" He peered for a while. "Can you see another?"
"Hmm, Orion has to be quite close to Cassiopeia. Looks a bit like a cotton reel... with three
stars in a row in the middle..."
Both boys looked into the sky. While their heads moved, searching for Orion, Fabian's nose tip stroked through Patrick's hair - first it happened accidentally, but after the second touch, Fabian bowed his head a little so that his nose tip wandered along Patrick's ear down to his neck. Patrick's head stopped moving. Fabian's arms came around the younger boy's chest to hold him in a close embrace. His cheek slid across the warm skin of Patrick's neck, feeling its blonde downy hair. There was always a part of Patrick's vest sticking out of his oversized green T-shirt, and Fabian's lips began to kiss the skin between the sandy-colored hair and the vest.
Patrick was breathing deeply and holding tightly on to Fabian's hands.
Fabian kissed Patrick's neck.Fabian kissed the bright pink neck, he kissed the sandy-blonde hairline above the neck, he kissed that part below the ear with the two tiny moles, he kissed the cheek with the bright freckles. And his hands felt how Patrick's chest rose and fell in the rhythm of his excited breathing.
Firmly cuddled up they sank down into the grass, stretched out and more or less lay upon each other. Fabian's lips couldn't stop kissing the warm, pink skin.
The lovers on the landing stage kissed each other, too, and so nobody noticed the boys who lay just a little bit away in the grass…
The "disco" in the camp now played a terrible old, slushy song, and Fabian thought: "Now, I'll always think of this stupid song when I remember this wonderful night!"

It was loud in the bus when it drove down the highway. The boys couldn't stay on their seats and started wrestling on the central aisle. The girls chatted all at the same time, somehow trying to drown out each other.
Patrick and Fabian sat silently next to one another and listened to the music of Fabian's little CD-player, each with one of its earphones. Fabian played his favorite CD, the one with the battered cover. It was probably not Patrick's taste of music but bravely he let the powerful E-guitar-rock wash over him. His view wandered out of the window across the yellow fields of this late summer.
They had changed their addresses. And when they were sure that no-one was looking they had even changed their souvenir-shirts, the dark green beaver-shirts. Patrick had blushed when Fabian asked for the shirt, but he liked the idea. He just didn't understand why Fabian insisted to get the one shirt spilled with tsatsiki.
Patrick would hardly write to Fabian's address. And surely he won't call him on the phone. Just like Jeremy. Fabian had no false hopes about this. But he was sure that he'd write or call. He just didn't know if Patrick wouldn't suddenly feel ashamed of what he and Fabian had done.
One of the best songs on Fabian's favorite CD told of forgotten love, and about the regret that the singer felt when he realized that he had forgotten the special feeling of this love. Fabian suddenly knew what the lyrics meant.

Soon the houses and gardens of his small town appeared. And way too soon the bus stopped on the parking lot in front of the church. Fabian stood up and looked down once again at the sandy-haired, freckled boy. He almost lay in his seat, limp and listless. Turquoise green eyes looked up at Fabian with a sad glance.
"Take care", said Fabian quietly.
Patrick just nodded slowly.
Fabian got out of the bus and fetched his backpack from the luggage compartment. The other children getting out here were welcomed by their mothers with hugs and kisses. Just his mother didn't show up.
"Who cares?" thought Fabian. "I'll walk home."
The bus’s engine started up again, the doors closed, hissing, and that shining block of tin and glass moved around the church, heading for the big city.
Fabian waved reluctantly.Fabian looked after it until it disappeared in the narrow streets. Then he waved reluctantly.
"Hi, back from the wilderness?" asked a voice behind him.
Fabian turned around.
Niklas was there, leaning on his bike and grinning.
"Oh, Niklas!" said Fabian and all at once the feelings rose up inside him that he had swallowed during the drive home. He took his blond friend in his arms and squeezed him and after he made sure by a quick look around that the other children and parents had entered their cars and weren’t paying attention, he kissed Niklas on the cheek. And a tear drop rolled down Fabian's face.
"Oh, good heavens!" said Niklas, rather taken by surprise. "That camp must have been HORRIBLE!"

End of this story
© 2003 by Niklas Edlund

Grammar Checked with Love… AJC

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