tagGay MaleSummer’s End at Spirit Lake

Summer’s End at Spirit Lake

bysr71plt©

The next-to-the-last weekend had now descended for the gang at Spirit Lake before summer ended and we scattered again to our respective colleges and "whatever" activities. Giddiness was high, which is saying something for the group of friends from the affluent Atlanta uptown district of Buckhead, but we'd been on the other edge of giddy every weekend we'd come down to the lake.

Somehow I think we all knew this would be the last summer we'd gather at my parents' big old Victorian "cottage" on the Woodland side of the lake. It just wasn't the same without David Alexander, our erstwhile leader. The titular role had devolved on me—it was my family's vacation house we came to for our partying and debauching—but I just couldn't live up to David's role in the group—nor did I want to.

It was Saturday afternoon and, having mostly recovered from the party the night before, the six of us had piled into Danny Alexander's '55 fire-engine-red Cadillac Series 62 convertible for a "who knows where?" boredom-fighting road cruise, which Danny decided would be a slum run around the lake. The white-black class line, still strong in the Georgia of the mid fifties, ran down the middle of the lake from north to south. On the western side of the lake, on the outskirts of the town of Woodland, the manicured shoreline was lined with piles of Victorian-style wood monstrosities on verdant lawns owned by rich families like mine, the Maddoxes. The other side of the lake, with the small town for coloreds—the folks who served us on our side of the lake—that we called Coon Town, was where the "others" lived. The shore on their side of the lake was swampy and mostly undeveloped, just waiting for the vacation resort developers of the sixties to "gentrify" that side of the lake and push the coloreds out.

Although this was the second summer for the Alexander family's Cadillac convertible to be strutting around the lake—last year with Georgia University tennis star David Alexander in the driver's seat—it hadn't had quite the same impact this year on the Woodland side. A year-old bright red Cadillac convertible was still a head turner, but not so much with tall, gangling, trying-to-get-on-the-Georgia-basketball-team little brother Danny behind the wheel. This Saturday afternoon Danny's attempt to live up to his brother's aura had apparently caused him to decide to try to wow them with the car on the Coon Town side of the water.

As the current supposed leader of the "Wild Ones," I should probably have been doing the driving, but the Alexander senior's dictum had been "No one but Alexanders at the helm of the Cadillac," and the six of us wouldn't have fit in my jet-black '54 Ford Thunderbird convertible.

The six of us—once seven, with a leader, and now a loosely and mournfully bonded six—the tight little group from Buckhead, known as the Wild Ones. There certainly were more than those at the summer weekend parties at my family's lakeside cottage whatever night the Wild Ones were in residence—some added partiers coming by land and others by boats on the lake—but by day we reverted to the core group. Everything revolved around the six of us in this Cadillac rounding the northern head of the lake and nosing our way toward Coon Town.

The three young men in the car all were jocks—or, in Danny's case, a jock wannabe—at the University of Georgia in Athens, having been a "group" under the tutelage of athletic standout David Alexander since our high school days in Buckhead. The young women in the car also were from the Buckhead neighborhood, but, as they'd been jock groupies since high school, try as they might, the group just didn't revolve around them—certainly not in Georgia in 1956.

The group had always revolved around David Alexander, state tennis champion in his senior year at Georgia the previous year. As I've noted, a loose version of leadership had devolved this summer to me, now a college sophomore—my sports at Georgia were rowing and swimming—mainly because I, Lee Maddox, had the summer house at the lake and David was irrevocably gone. The "honor" had been dumped in my lap when David, out of college and newly in the Air Force, had nosed his P-80 Shooting Star training jet fighter into the ground at Moody Air Base near Valdosta the previous fall. Danny was trying to fill in his big brother's shoes in the group, but until he actually made the Georgia basketball team, he wouldn't be fully believable. He also hadn't achieved the maturity even of the college freshman that he was.

The third young man, Thad Price, an upcoming junior at Georgia, had age seniority in the group now, but, despite being a star All-State fullback on the Georgia football team, he'd had his head rattled on the field a few too many times to be making decisions about nearly anything.

Of the women in the car, Chas—who, for obvious reasons we had named thusly to avoid her given name of Chastity—was the floater, also known as the group punch. Anybody and everybody who had tooled around with the Wild Ones from Buckhead's North Atlanta High School on had had her, with no one claiming her as a steady. Everyone had had her but me, that is, with that missing dangler on her charm bracelet driving her nearly crazy. I'd already had to remove her hand from my crotch twice on our Saturday afternoon ride around the lake. I was wedged in the middle of the backseat of the Caddie with her to my right.

To my left was Maggie Campbell, who was still half drunk from the previous night—her usual condition in her grief. Maggie had hung on David Alexander from early days in North Atlanta High and had followed him to Georgia U. He'd been everything to her, and she hadn't been fully sober since his death. She was trying to substitute Danny for him, apparently thinking that clinging to him and keeping him between her thighs was the answer to her grief. Danny was taking advantage of that. While Chastity was trying to paw me in the backseat, Maggie was leaning forward in her seat, pressed against the back of the driver's seat, running her fingers through Danny's hair and nibbling on his ear. There was a frenetic, surrealistic aspect of Maggie's hanging on Danny, as if it disgusted even her that she clung so tightly to him.

The other two in the front seat were plastered against each other, giving Danny plenty of lateral room in the land boat to try to see the road through Maggie's waving fingers. Thad Price and June Milton had also been a couple from North Atlanta High days, when he was a standout on the football team and June was a cheerleader. June, like Chas, wasn't going to college. Chas was majoring in adding men to her charm bracelet and June was majoring in leading Thad down the aisle as soon as he graduated from college. None of us were hurting for money—all were attached to lucrative family businesses—so jobs didn't need to be a large part of our future planning or present concern.

We were strutting through Coon Town—I couldn't put the low speed Danny was taking on this stretch of the road any better than that—when he swung the Caddie into a rundown Texaco service station that I wasn't even sure was open.

"What are you doing, Danny?" I asked from the backseat. "We don't need gas. You filled it when we hit Woodland on Thursday."

"I want to help the local economy," he said, with a sneery laugh that told me this was the least of his motivations.

Then, as we pulled up to a rusting gas pump, I saw that the place was open. A massively built, the emphasis on built, black guy came sauntering out of the ramshackled service bay and headed toward us.

"Say, isn't that the guy who sometimes plays the banjo to LeRoy Brown's piano back in Woodland?" Chas asked, suddenly all attention to the guy with big chest and bicep muscles, trim waist, and bulging crotch.

Maggie confirmed that we had, indeed, seen him on the banjo at the honky-tonk called just that, the Honky-Tonk, on the edge of Woodland, where we went when we wanted to slum on the white side of the lake. I knew that his name was Sam Jackson. He was about our age and could have flattened Thad in a football game or any other sport I could name. A big, strapping, handsome black. Wearing just coveralls and barefooted, showing bulging biceps and the promise of the same from his pectorals along the edges of the coverall bib.

"Can I do for you?" he said, as he walked up to the car.

"Yes, indeedy, you can do for me," Chas muttered under her breath, although possibly—and purposely—not low enough for Jackson not to hear her.

"You sell gas here, don't you?" Danny asked. His voice was condescending. He'd stopped here for everyone within sight along the dreary street lined with leaning shacks to admire the shiny red Cadillac.

Sam nodded, not showing any belligerence, but not showing any subservience either.

"Well, then, fill 'er up, check the oil, clean the windshield, and you might shine up the white walls while you're at it."

I was feeling embarrassed at Danny's behavior, but I dared not get involved or show even that I knew Jackson from anywhere. Maggie still was hanging around Danny's neck from the backseat, and Thad and June didn't seem to know there was anyone around but each other.

Chas made no bones about being impressed by the big black, though. She was humming and flashing him her glamour eyes, and had unbuttoned the top two buttons of her blouse.

Sam did the full requested servicing that had been asked, with Danny badgering him about how he was doing it—and how fast he was getting it done. Just egging Sam along to see how far he could get. I was doing what I could to pretend I wasn't here. I'd probably say something to Danny later about demeaning a person of color needlessly, especially on their own turf and regardless of their relative size, but anything I did now would be like lighting a match to a bonfire. Chas, shaking out her long, blonde, curly hair and sticking out her chest, was following everything Sam did with her eyes. She was virtually begging for eye contact, which the big black wasn't giving her.

When he was done, Sam said, "That'll be $2.50 for the gas." He said nothing about the other services.

"Pay the boy," Danny said gruffly to Maggie, barely containing his irritation that he hadn't gotten a rise out of the black giant. As Maggie dug the money out of her purse, Danny reached into his own pocket, extracted a quarter, and flipped it toward the attendant, who caught it deftly in his hand. "Here's something for you, boy," Danny said.

Still no rise, but there might have been if the black guy hadn't just turned around and sauntered back to the station office.

Danny moved to start up the engine, but, standing up from her seat in the back, Chas declared, "Wait for me, I gotta visit the ladies."

Danny fumed a, "Christ Almighty, why didn't you do it while the black boy was pumping the gas?" but, ignoring him, Chas just maneuvered around the spooning couple in the front seat, got the door open, and was sashaying her butt in an exaggerated dueling-cats-in-a-burlap bag roll toward the service station office in the wake of the big black guy.

A few minutes later she returned, a scowl on her face. "Let's get outta this dump," she said as she climbed over Thad and June and landed in the backseat.

"What's with you?" Danny said over his shoulder as he started the Caddie up. "You're all unenthused all of a sudden."

"The ladies back there wasn't worth peeing in," she answered, taking a long look at the condition of her manicured and purple-glossed nails and turning her face toward the side of the car.

Somehow I didn't think that the condition of the ladies room was her problem—she certainly didn't ask us to stop for a pee on our continued journey around the southern end of the lake and back to my house. She didn't even try to paw me anymore—just sat there and stewed, looking at the scenery with no indication of actually seeing it. Maggie continued trying to be a scarf around Danny's neck. Most of the way home, however, Danny was taking looks to his right in the front seat. I figured I knew why. June's panties had been tossed into my lap and she was on Thad's lap, facing him. Her blouse was open and Thad's face was buried in June's very nice rack. She was bobbing up and down on his lap, and I decided there was no reason for me to sail her panties back to the front seat for a while.

* * * *

I was wandering around the living areas of the cottage on the shore of Spirit Lake that night, hearing discussions on all sides of me, above LeRoy Brown pounding out Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" on the piano, of how much everyone missed David Alexander and wasn't it a shame that David wasn't here and how much livelier the parties were when Alexander was sitting on the piano and thumping on its side as LeRoy punished the keys. And these weren't even members of the Wild Ones. These were summer-only friends who had the huge houses we all called cottages at the lake too who had descended by car or boat and half of whose names I didn't even know—or had bothered to remember. Most of the owners from the lake came from the Macon area, not Atlanta, and most of them were going to out-of-state colleges.

Thad and June and Maggie and Danny were off humping each other somewhere. Chas was making the rounds and pulling guys out of the melee for quickies in her room upstairs. She had tried me twice, to no avail, but she wasn't having much trouble with the local guys. Everyone was frenetic, panicking that this was the next-to-last weekend of the summer and they hadn't been laid enough, hadn't gathered enough memories of the good life at Spirit Lake in the summer.

Well, I missed David too. In ways these shallow, socially safe young people would never realize.

I walked through the open French doors at the water side of the living room and down to the dock. I stumbled onto the pier and to the water end of it, plopping down in one of the scruffy-white wooden Adirondack chairs pointed at the lake. I looked over to the other one, half expecting to see David sitting there. But of course he wasn't. He had been, though, last summer, on the next-to-last Saturday night of the summer season on the lake, coming out to where I was sitting in one of the chairs, smoking a cigarette, and seeking a muffling of LeRoy Brown back in the house, pounding away on Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer."

"You need to give up those smokes if you're going to take the state swimming crown," he said, as he reached me at the end of the dock and settled in the other chair. He was a magnificent specimen of a man just out of college. Dark complexioned, in a half-surly, bad boy look that was transformed the moment he gave you a smile. His hair was dark too, and he never seemed to be able to shave close, but on him it looked good. The women at college opened their legs instantly for a man who looked this good. He was shirtless, having stripped his off while walking to the dock. It was a hot night. I'd taken my shirt off too. I felt young and immature, not yet fully developed, in contrast to him. His was a mature man's body; my body was still working at it. I was a swimmer, blond and smooth chested, the chest muscled well enough, but not deeply—just enough development to serve the needs of a sleek line knifing through the water. He was hirsute, deeply tanned, broad- and deep-chested, already a muscular man. A god to those of us in the Buckland Wild Ones—to the whole community of youths on the western shore of the lake.

Any woman cavorting back there in the house would go with him in a flash. I think that's why he usually kept Maggie Campbell close—to ward off women throwing themselves at him. She had been safe, malleable, and uncomplaining since high school. Maggie wasn't with him now. He hadn't brought Maggie down to the dock with him. My body tensed up. It was always dangerous when he dropped Maggie before searching me out.

I pointed to the large crystal tennis trophy he'd brought out—his prize for winning the state title early in the summer. He wasn't carrying it around so much to brag as because of how much beer it would hold. It was at least half full now.

"You're ragging on me about fags . . . and training for sports," I said, "and yet you're walking around with a gallon of beer sloshing in that trophy?"

I had stopped after speaking the word "fags" and looked away, as he had done. I regretted the use of the word. There had been moments throughout the previous year at college, where we had reached a point where I knew what he wanted—what he wanted to ask of me, demand of me, take from me—but when I couldn't bring myself to give him the answer he wanted. It wasn't that I didn't want to give him that answer. It was because I was scared. It would change everything, completely reorder my life. In the summer of 1955 that wasn't something you decided to take on lightly—if at all. You were expected to hide it—to not have such thoughts and desires at all.

"Well, I didn't bring the beer out here to share with you," he said with a laugh, even as he handed me the trophy and I took a deep draw off it. "My sports training days are over anyway."

"But you have to be able to fit in the cockpit of that fighter jet you've volunteered to learn to drive," I said. I couldn't help making my voice sound a bit bitter.

"I've told you not to worry about that."

"Anything that takes you way from Atlanta . . . from Athens . . . from here, at the lake, makes me sad," I answered.

"And away from you?"

I didn't answer that. I just looked away from him, toward the dark shoreline across the lake, not wanting him to see how close to home it hit with that question.

"Maybe if you'd—"

"Please, David, don't put this on me."

"This is it, bub," He whispered, pulling his chair close to mine and reaching over the arm of my chair to place his hand on my crotch. "Who knows if there will ever be another summer like this?" he murmured. "You know what I feel, what I want."

He was unzipping my shorts. I didn't stop him. I was trembling.

"I know you want it too. You've said as much. Your body is telling me as much. One kiss. That's all I ask for and I'll zoom up in the air—in my jet and beyond."

My face was turned toward his. I'm sure he could see the tears on my cheek. He came in with his lips for a kiss and I didn't deny him. He was fishing my cock out of my fly and fisting it. I couldn't hide from him that I was hard for him. And I didn't deny him this either.

"Oh, Lee," he muttered and was out of his chair, kneeling in front of me, taking my cock in his mouth. "This is it, isn't it? This is the time for this."

"David, no. No . . . not here," I managed in a strangled voice. "Anyone can come out here and see us. There's a houseful of people in there." The Joplin rags had ended, and LeRoy had moved into Cole Porter and Hoagie Carmichael mood songs. They would be slow dancing in there now, dancing close together, building up for "laters." But some couples' "laters" could come sooner, and they might drift out here to fuck on the sloping lawn between house and water.

"But you'll go with me? You'll let me take you?" he raised his face to mine, pleading. It wasn't in David's nature to plead. He was giving me a great honor—which reminded me.

"But I've never—"

"Then it would be my honor. I'd be gentle. I'm off to Valdosta in two weeks, Lee. Don't deny me this. Listen to what LeRoy is playing inside: Cole Porter's 'Anything Goes.' He's playing that for us. Here, come with me."

He fucked me in the voluminous backseat of the Alexander '55 fire-engine-red Cadillac Series 62 convertible that his family had just bought and he'd driven so proudly to the lake, bringing his younger, rising college freshman brother, Danny to the lake with him. Danny, who even now, while David was popping my male cherry in the back of the family car, was upstairs in Chas' bedroom losing his virginity to her.

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