“When the minister of tourism interviewed me, he said that no one ever gets attacked by a shark in the Galapagos Islands. He asked me if it couldn’t have been a giant turtle. And I told him I knew a fuckin’ turtle from a shark. He wasn’t pleased with my attitude, but then he was sitting there, dripping blood on a departure lounge floor while waiting to get on a delayed flight out of a fuckin’ substandard third world country that had sharks that weren’t supposed to bite but that did.”
“But you didn’t get a good look at the shark, you said,” Cousin Kenneth, Uncle Phil’s son said. “You don’t know what kind of shark it was?”
“It was a big-toothed shark,” Cousin Paul Swift, Uncle Pete and Aunt Dorothy’s son, retorted. “I took a bite out of my arm, just here. See? It was a fuckin’ big-toothed shark with a chunk of my arm in its maw.”
“Oo, gross,” Cindy, Kenneth’s sixteen-year-old daughter said. It was her younger, angelic-looking fourteen-year-old brother, Randy, Cousin Paul was talking directly to. It was only this branch of the Swifts, from Phil and his son, Kenneth, down, who still lived here in Celina, Ohio. That Paul was attracted to Randy didn’t surprise me a bit—I found the boy easy on the eyes myself—but Cindy didn’t seem to mind. Paul had been paying a lot of attention to Randy today, the first day, Friday, of the family reunion. I guess Cindy’s grandfather, Phil, hadn’t told her about Paul. But then, Paul had been off in Los Angeles working as a talent agent for so long that those left behind in Ohio probably had forgotten all about his early life.
I certainly hadn’t. But then, I had better reason than any of the others not to forget about Paul’s early life. I certainly didn’t forget those two summers we’d spent here at the Swift family home on the shores of Grand Lake a dozen years ago when Paul was twenty-three and I was eighteen. A five-year age gap at the age made my worship of him and complete trust and acquiescence to his interests and guidance easy.
I tried not to look at Paul while we were all sitting around in a semicircle of multicolored Adirondack chairs above the dock behind the family home and Paul was telling us about his harrowing encounter with a shark while snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands the previous fall. The initial ordeal had been three days in being transported back to the States while being shuttled from one primitive medical clinic to the next a little-less-primitive Ecuadoran hospital until his office could get him airlifted back to California for a professional surgeon and plastic surgeon to start their work.
I wasn’t the only one who was not pleased that Paul was talking directly to Cindy’s younger brother. Patrick, probably nearly the age, eighteen, I had been the last time I saw Paul, was looking a little irritated at Paul’s behavior—that’s when Patrick wasn’t looking at me and smiling. He was a gorgeous young man. I think I’d heard in the confusing round of rolling introductions at the Swift family reunion at the old family home on Grand Lake, on the edge of Celina, Ohio, that Patrick was a male model in LA. I admit that I was surprised as hell that Paul would have a son—that he must have been a father when he was teaching me in sexual relations between men. But I wasn’t surprised that he had a beautiful young son. Paul had always been a hunk himself. I did understand there had been a few wives—Paul worked in Hollywood, after all—but I couldn’t imagine that the marriages had been for more than show.
I know I had been smitten by Paul those two summers we were both here a dozen years previously—the summers that I grew up sexually; the summers I pined for Paul until long after I realized that we both wanted the same thing. Of course, there was still a lot we could do, being attracted to each other, even if not in a yin-yang way that would have completely fulfilled satisfaction.
“We decided that the shark must have mistaken me for a sea lion. I’d seen one that was wounded, a gaping hole in its side, just before I felt a nudge on my arm. It didn’t even hurt initially—not until the initial confusion and surprise wore off.”
Paul was back to describing his snorkeling ordeal. He was looking directly at Randy, who looked back, mesmerized. I doubted that Randy had every been out of Ohio, let alone to the Galapagos Islands. And he seemed to be going under the spell of Paul, which I well knew was easy to do. Cindy seemed to be a level-headed young woman, though. I hoped she’d be able to hold Randy back from the brink. We were a pretty well-educated crew here at the Swift family reunion. Randy was out of his element here. For the little I’d engaged with him in conversation, he didn’t seem to live up to the Swift family name. Very impressionable was Randy. If Cindy weren’t here—and maybe Paul’s parents, Pete and Dorothy, who I hoped knew what was what and were ever vigilant, I’d despair of Randy avoiding crossing the divide sometime this weekend.
But then, who was I to talk. I had been just as mesmerized by Paul and I’d fallen for him hard.
“That was what satisfied the minister of tourism when he was at me before we flew out of Quito—that there was an accident involved, maybe. That maybe the shark didn’t know he was attacking a human in a black wetsuit, easily mistaken for a sea lion. But there I was in pain, holding my arm up to ease the blood flow from a big bite, and trying to make the Ecuadoran minister of tourism feel good about the safety of tourists to his country so he’d stop talking and let me get on the fuckin’ plane.”
Paul was holding court. The rest of us—thirteen of us other than Paul—were listening to his story with a wide range of interest from Randy, who was leaning forward in his orange Adirondack chair, almost with his tongue hanging out, to the family matriarch, who was still living in this huge Victorian manse on the shore of Grand Lake. Grandmother Rachel Swift was sitting in a purple Adirondack chair, glassy eyed, in her own world, with a slight smile on her face. She was with it enough to know we’d all come home to visit her in a rare family reunion, probably the last one she’d be alive for. I don’t know what would then happen to the family home and whether that meant there would be no more extended family reunions because there would be no family-associated location for us to return to. But then, maybe Phil and Beth, Kenneth’s parents, Cindy’s and Randy’s grandparents, would move into the house. That was the branch that had never left Celina. Phil was the one who had taken over the family Ford auto dealership in Celina.
There had been three brothers and two sisters in the generation ahead of me. The oldest of the siblings was Patty, but she died young. She drowned here in Grand Lake. I always wondered why the family stayed here after that, but they did—Granddad Pete and Grandmother Rachel clung to the lake and this big house, with its Victorian tower and gingerbread trim, ever after.
Pete, Junior, husband of Dorothy and father of Paul, was the oldest son. Paul, who was sixty-two, was an architect in Boston still. Dorothy was an English professor at Boston University. They were remote from the rest of the family and always seemed to have been too busy to interact with the rest of us. Paul had left Celina as soon as he could and had never come back for longer than a few days at a time. I was surprised they’d come back now, but Paul was being extra solicit of his mother, Rachel, today, so I assumed his being here was some sort of guilt trip for not paying much attention to her before this end-of-life phase.
I was even more surprise that Paul had come. I understood that he wasn’t coming, which is why I did, but he changed his mind at the last possible moment. Somehow, as the first day of the reunion wore on, I got the impression that Dorothy, at least, had come to the reunion to keep a check on Paul, as if she was afraid her son was going to disrupt the weekend and the equilibrium in the extended family.
That Paul lived on the West Coast and his parents were on the East Coast was no accident. Paul had been quite a disappointment and trial to his parents, who hadn’t really had time for their son and didn’t approval of what little they knew of Paul’s interests and preferences. I didn’t think they were aware of what Paul and I had done those two summers. They barely remembered who I was, and asked no questions about me or the rare book shop I owned in the quaint Chesapeake Bay are village of Easton, in Maryland. They didn’t ask whether I had family when we were introduced yesterday—and I don’t. There’s Ted, but I didn’t bring him up at this reunion. He’s a vet in Easton. He probably would be very interested in Paul’s shark story and Paul probably would be intuitive enough to have as much interest in Ted—and more success with Ted—than in and with Randy. Ted would not have to be seduced.
The third child, and second son, Phil, had been the one to stay here in Celina and, of course, his branch was represented by the most attendees at the reunion. His wife, Beth, who was the de facto mover and shaker in the family now that Rachel’s mental facilities and health were failing her, had made all of the arrangements for the reunion. She was the one who stepped in to take the sting out of relatives clashing from years of having happily avoided each other. Their son, Kenneth, forty-two, was the assistant manager at the Ford dealership and would move up when Phil decided to retire. Kenneth’s wife, Catherine, was a school teacher in Celina.
Phil and Catherine’s daughter, Cindy, was already studying to be a dental hygienist after she graduated high school, but would, no doubt move into place at the Ford dealership when it was her generation’s turn there. Her brother, Randy, very likely was fully engaged in not failing his school work, doing so as much because of his angelic looks and charm as his intellectual capabilities. Having watched him watching Paul, Patrick, another fourteen-year-old cousin, Thad Egber, and me, though, I wondered just what his interests were. But with Paul, who most knew about, whether or not they had the knowledge in the front of their minds, and me, which I hoped only Paul knew about, the family had enough of such alternate preferences. Paul’s history certainly had been there bubbling just under the surface for more than a dozen years.
My father, Perry, who had been in publishing in Baltimore, was the third, youngest brother. He had died young but not before inspiring me to go into researching, collecting, and selling rare books. My mother, Faith, an art critic, was still alive, but she had stayed in Philadelphia, where she’d moved from Baltimore, for the weekend. She had never attuned herself to the Swift family. When Paul’s issues bubbled up from the surface after he couldn’t keep his hands off one of the family’s landscapers, the family had withdrawn into itself to the point of treating the in-laws as “other.” My mother was never catty about Paul, though. She knew where my interests had gone and didn’t fight them. I don’t think she ever realized that Paul and I had had a relationship of sorts, though. But that was just for two summers. I had just gone on from there.
The youngest of the siblings was Phyllis Egber, who lived not far from here, in Columbus, Ohio. According to the day’s introductions, Phyllis was working on moving her medical practice to Celina, because, as the youngest and a woman, she was being fingered to move in and take care of Grandmother so that she could live out her life in the home she’d lived in for over seventy years in the town where she had been town clerk for several decades.
Celina had been Rachel’s hometown. She’d brought Granddad Pete here after they’d married. They met at Ohio State University in Columbus, where their youngest child now lived. Phyllis, a widow, had brought her fourteen-year-old son, Thad, to the reunion with her. Her daughter, Helen, had had not a smidgen of interest in attending the reunion and was rebelling at the notion that Phyllis was obligated to move to Celina to care for her mother. Phyllis was a general practitioner in Columbus. Her son, Thad was an agreeable, quiet boy, but he had taken after his father in looks rather than the very photogenic Swift’s and was a little pudgy. At least, I thought, that with Randy here this weekend, Thad should be safe from Paul.
Paul had moved to the medical issues of his encounter with the shark—the long time and varied transportation modes required to get him from a rubber dingy to a tourist boat to a larger research vessel with a helipad, but, unfortunately, no functioning helicopter in the region, and, eventually, to a small airport and a plane ride to Quito.
“You can see the incision here and the lost of muscle mass,” he was saying. Phyllis and Thad were very attentive to this part of the story. Thad wanted to study to follow his mother in the medical field. Randy was still hooked. Patrick, obviously having heard this hundreds of times before, was looking at me with a little smile on his face. Grandmother Rachel was snoring in her purple Adirondack chair. The others were talking recipes from the lunch Beth had served two hours earlier.
“The first doctor didn’t even know how to put in an IV,” Paul was saying. “Gail, who’d worked in vet office before coming to me had to scrounge around in his office for one and put it in herself. And I had to keep my arm pointed up. There had been on tourniquet and the sea guide had used his belt.”
“Gail?” Dorothy suddenly boomed out between what had become two different discussion groups. I could feel the tension rise in the air between Paul and his mother. It was like she had been on guard from something from the moment that Paul and Patrick had arrived.
Patrick smiled and said, “Gail is Paul’s assistant. He was doing some business in Ecuador and took her with him. I think everything would have fallen apart there if she hadn’t been along.”
“Oh,” Dorothy said and returned to the recipe discussion, apparently content that there hadn’t been yet another wife for Paul she hadn’t heard about—not that she was that interested. Basically, she’d said at lunch in an aside to him that she didn’t know why he bothered with them at all.
“No relevant equipment for shark bites in that first clinic,” Paul said. “They had to hang the IV cord on a curtain ring. And the place was filthy. It’s no wonder the wound got infected.”
“Infected?” Phyllis said. “Oh my. What did they do to clean it out?”
I’d had enough at that point, as Paul set off describing the gory details of war on infection. I stood and said, to no one in particular, “As long as the lake is right here, I’m going for a swim.”
Somehow Grandmother Rachel heard that and came out of her reverie long enough to say, “We don’t ... not anymore, Danny. If you must, please be careful.” I could see from the panicked look in her face that she was still thinking of Patty drowning in the lake after all these years.
“It’s fine, Grandmother,” I said, wanting to shot myself for causing her to remember. “I’m a strong swimmer. I’m just going out to the island. It’s not far.” I didn’t bother to correct her not knowing my name. My name isn’t Danny. It’s Dennis. Danny was her husband’s brother who hadn’t returned from Vietnam. But I guess she was close enough for her eighty-four years and her condition. What was important was that she was worried about me. We were family. I wouldn’t do anything that would upset her at this time of her life that I could avoid being part of.
Reaching where the dock met the yard, I stripped off my T-shirt, shorts, and sandals. I had a Speedo on under them. Paul wasn’t so unaware of me that he didn’t give me a wolf whistle. I’m happy to say that, at thirty-two, I had kept in tip-top shape. Of course, at thirty-seven, so had Paul. If nothing else, the Swifts all had very good genes and a sense of keeping themselves in shape. Even Grandmother was still movie-actress gorgeous—well, for an eighty-four-year-old.
I strode down the dock; executed a beautiful dive into the water, even if I do say so myself; and started stroking toward the island a third of the way into the lake in a strong Australian crawl. Looking back, I could see that most eyes were on me, which suited me just fine. In particular, I was pleased for Paul to admire how well I had aged.
As I swam, my mind went back to those summers at the grandparents when I was eighteen—and Paul was twenty-three. Both of us had come out to help with the auto dealership while Phil was doing summer reserve duty and Granddad Pete was busy unsuccessfully trying not to die from cancer.
It had started out there, out on the island where I was now headed. The night before, Paul and I had gone out on the town to a tavern, where we’d picked up a couple of local girls. They’d both wanted it. We were men of the world to them. We were Swift family handsome and were connected to one of the most profitable businesses in town. The kind of tavern we went to featured girls who would lay down and open their legs easily for men like Paul and me.
We drove down to the lake—Paul was driving a brand-new Lincoln Town Car from the showroom—and we parked in the lot of picnic area, where the locals came to fuck and where this was deemed the place to be allowed to do it. Paul fucked his girl in the front seat and I fucked mine in the back. The girls both declared that they’d had a ball being balled. In the debrief at home afterward, Paul and I, still half looped from the tavern visit, had revealed that neither of us had been as enthusiastic about the coupling as the girls had been. In a moment of drunken candor, we both acknowledged that we were more interested in men than in women. Paul had revealed first. Paul was always the one who took the initiative.
The next day, after a half day of work at the dealership, we came back to the house and, all keyed up, we swam out to the small island, where privacy was at a premium, where there were a few trees to hide behind, and where you could see anyone else coming out to the island from a great enough distance to readjust any position you happened to be in.
At the island, with Paul showing the way, we kissed and fondled and stroked each other erect. Paul was gorgeous and totally confident in his ability to seduce. He’d had no trouble with me at least in establishing my willingness. At the strategic moment, Paul moved to roll on top of me as I was contemplating how and when I was going to go on top of him, and, in a flash of realization, we both rolled away from each other and gave the circumstance a hearty laugh. We were both horny but we were both interested in the same thing. We were both exclusively tops. Neither wanted to bottom for the other or for anyone else. But we both were in high heat, so we stroked each other off with our hands and came at nearly the same time, me before Paul, of course. He was the experienced one—the teacher.
As the summer wore on, we swam out to the island several more times, and we became fully comfortable with having sex with each other minus the penile penetration in the ass. We found we could satisfy each other with mutual masturbation and oral sex—blow jobs. And we shared our interest in topping boys who were young enough to have a boy’s sensitivities, innocence, and supple bodies, but old enough to be obsessed with their dicks, getting hard, and climaxing and beginning to develop a man’s musculature. We agreed that fourteen was an ideal age to fuck.
The second summer we progressed to threesomes. The grounds around the house were pretty extensive and required the attention of a father-son Hispanic gardener team. Miguel Gonzalez was a cute little trick. He was barely fourteen, but already he was interested in men. Paul seduced him, encouraging me to watch. Days later, after Paul had done him under the trees on the island and the brown lad was lying on his back, legs open, spread, and bent; hole gaping open and dribbling Paul’s cum; and Miguel sighing and whimpering, Paul pulled me over, settled me down on my knees between the Hispanic boy’s spread thighs as I hovered over the junior gardener, and guided me inside Miguel. I was longer and thicker than Paul was. Miguel cried out when I entered him, clutched my buttocks with his hands, and writhed under me as I fucked my first man. I was impressed that Miguel responded more passionately than he had to Paul, who I’d accepted as the master.
Two weeks later, both Paul and I were fucking Miguel together, and, with both of our cocks inside the boy simultaneously, Paul’s and my hard cocks rubbing together inside the brown lad’s channel, Paul and I were having anal sex with each other for the first time. My cum mingled with Paul’s inside Miguel’s channel. We never used rubbers in those days. Sex was never quite the same once we’d wised up to knowing they were needed.
Two weeks later than that, Miguel’s father was visiting Granddad Pete and letting him know that Miguel wouldn’t be coming back to work at the house. Miguel apparently only fingered Paul, because it was only Paul who got sent away. Granddad’s health went downhill from there. I wasn’t as embarrassed or riddled with guilt about it as I should have been. Neither was Miguel. I found out why he hadn’t said I was as involved with him as Paul was. He continued to find opportunities to meet up with me, he lay under me and cried out passionately while sheathing my cock, and by the end of that second summer I was an expert in topping willing males. I never lost my interest in fourteen-year-old boys, but I did become more circumspect in my activities from there.
For the next couple of years, Paul and I somehow avoided being in the same place together. Then I started up my business in Maryland and Paul went out to the West Coast, and that was that. Over the years, we just drifted apart in our correspondence into our own separate lives. If I’d known Paul was going to be here this weekend, I would not have come. I would have come to see Grandmother on some other weekend soon and told her I couldn’t get away for the family reunion and didn’t want to share her for a weekend with others anyway.
I reached the island and, somewhat winded to my surprise—I had managed the distance a lot easier a dozen years earlier—and flopped over onto my back in the small bowl of grass inside the copse of trees in the center of the island. I closed my eyes but opened them again with a jerk when I felt a wet hand on my upper thigh.
“What? I exclaimed,” focusing on the figure of the young man who had hauled himself out of the water. “Patrick? What—?”
“Shush,” he whispered, as his hand pushed under one of the leg openings in my Speedo and wrapped itself around my cock, which started to engorge immediately. “I’m sure you knew what I was interested in when we were exchanging looks back there while Paul was pontificating yet again with his shark story. I certainly was trying to convey to you what I wanted.”
“Patrick, no we shouldn’t. We’re related. I don’t want—”
“Yes, you do want,” the young man said, with a laugh. My hard, throbbing cock that he was stroking assured him of what I wanted. “And we’re not related as far as I know.”
“Oh, shit. Oh, fuck,” I whimpered, exhaling. He was rolling the Speedo down to my knees and had taken a firmer grip on my dick. “Paul, your father, is my cousin. That makes you and me—” I raised my torso up, propped on my elbows and looked down the line of my six pack to see that he had me fully erect and was steadily stroking me off.