CHAPTER 1 | SUMMER 2003 (PART I)
My mom and dad had an arrangement. Every year, each of them got to spend a long weekend away with their friends, while the other one stayed at home to take care of the house and kids. It'd become a tradition in their friend circles and they took it pretty seriously.
Sometimes they'd stay at hotels, other times they rented beach houses. Once, Dad rented a boat for him and his buddies. Mom usually organized her reunions in the spring, and Dad normally did his in the summer.
The year I turned 16 my dad turned 40, and he'd planned a special get-together with his buddies. He was always enthusiastic about planning their trips, but this year he seemed extra excited, giddy even. He'd rented a cabin close to where we lived in Minnesota, right by a small secluded lake, and was looking forward to it for weeks.
"Can I come with?" I asked out of nowhere at the breakfast table one day, taking Mom and Dad by surprise.
"Owen, you know our trips are for us and our friends only," Mom said. "No one brings their spouses or kids."
"Why would you wanna go anyway?" Dad asked. "There's not gonna be anyone your age."
I stayed silent for a second before answering his question.
"Well, it's just that I've seen how excited about this trip you are. Honestly, I don't remember the last time I saw you that way about anything. So I thought, anything that makes my dad so happy... I'd like to check it out."
Mom and Dad looked at each other in the eyes, and I knew right then the answer would be yes.
"Okay, there are some rules concerning our trips," Dad said from behind the wheel, with me in the passenger seat, on our way to the woods. "Most importantly: whatever we talk about there stays confidential, it doesn't get back to anyone."
"What happens at the cabin, stays in the cabin," I said. "Got it."
"Precisely. Especially with this being your first time. You might hear a lot of stories, my buddies and I go all the way back to college. Second rule: no email or cell phones, unless there's an emergency, which hasn't happened. We're there to bond."
"Okay." I already knew that one. Neither Mom nor Dad ever called home when they were away at their reunions.
"Three: we go in as best buds and we leave as best buds. There's no fighting or judging allowed."
"Number four, and this applies just to you. There's lots of drinking, and smoking, and general debauchery happening there. Now, have you ever had a drink?"
I contemplated whether to lie for a couple of seconds.
"Yes, Sir," I told the truth. "I've had beer with my friends."
"Okay. There'll be a lot more of that. For these three days only, you're allowed to drink, or smoke, or swear as much as you want. Anything goes in the cabin."
"Awesome," I said with a huge smile on my face.
"I let you come cuz you're 16, which is about the time I started doing all that stuff. But I don't want you picking up any habits you can't control. If I find out you've been causing shit when we get back home, I'll whoop your ass."
"Yes, Sir," I said, still smiling.
"Now, have you ever had sex with a girl?" he asked out of the blue.
"No." My smile faded and I looked out the window on my right.
"I ask that cuz there might be a lot of talk about sex. We're all grown men there, as are you, almost. So there's no need to blush."
"Dad, I'm in high school. There's no way you can possibly talk about sex more than my friends."
Dad laughed and ruffled my hair while holding the wheel with one hand.
It's funny how you develop a routine with someone and then you start looking at them one way and one way only. To me, Dad was never someone I "hung out" with. Both he and Mom didn't come from a lot, and they worked hard to provide for my sisters and me. It was probably why they took their annual reunions with their friends so seriously; it was their one chance to decompress.
My dad was strict, but not like some of my friends' fathers who were just assholes. He was always fair, so I couldn't argue with that. We would goof around and play together when I was a kid, but as I got older and the concept of college tuition got realer, he started picking up more shifts at work and he was now only home for dinner and a couple of hours of TV before sleep.
"Just do the right thing, Owen," he would often tell me. "Just do the right thing." Guess that's what he was trying to do.
We had to drive up a dirt road to reach the cabin. When we arrived early that afternoon, we were the first ones there. I watched the owner shake hands with Dad and give him the keys before driving off.
It was just us two now. Us and the birds. I could hear them chirping louder than I ever have before.
I walked out the back and walked just a few yards to get to the lake. I looked around, taking a deep breath. I have to admit I'm not a nature person, but sometimes even I see a view so beautiful that it takes my breath away. Standing here in the middle of a woods almost untouched by civilization, next to a gorgeous small lake surrounded by pristine nature... I gotta admit it was stunning.
Dad came out with a cooler filled with beer and soda.
"What're you having?" he asked me, taking his shirt off and sitting down on the grass in his jeans.
"I'll have a beer," I said. I took my T-shirt off as well and sat next to him. The sun was shining bright, but there was shade from the tall trees to protect us.
"Here we go," Dad opened a bottle with his keychain and handed it to me. "Cheers."
"Cheers," I said. "To our first beer together."
Dad smiled, looking at me in the eyes, and patted my back, which by now was a bit sweaty.
"You're right. Cheers to that, son."
We clinked beer bottles and took a swig. It tasted nasty, but I forced myself to swallow, determined not to let down my old man.
"This place is nice," I said, looking around. "You did a good job."
"Thank you. Glad you think so."
We sat in silence for a few moments.
"See, the point of these get-togethers is to relax. When you get to be my age you'll see... there's just so much shit life throws your way. You and your sisters are the best thing that's ever happened to me, but for one weekend it's good to act like a college kid again." He took a swig, looking ahead at the lake. "When you have a wife and kids of your own you'll understand."
I looked down at the bottle, and started peeling off the label.
We continued to sit and drink in silence. Just as I was starting to get used to the tranquil vibe of the forest, two roaring voices startled me out of my reverie. All of a sudden, two naked men came charging from behind us, yelling and cheering. They ran past us and sprinted to the lake, up the short dock, and dived, cannonball-style, into the water.
I took me several moments to realize what had happened. "Those fuckers!" Dad said, laughing. In the water, two of his best buddies, Scott and Jeffrey, were waving at us and wiping water off of their faces.
Dad jumped up and started to walk to the lake, pulling his shoes off. "You coming?" he looked back at me smiling, his spirits visibly lifted by what just happened.
I'd packed several pairs of swim trunks for the weekend, but before I had a chance to ask if I should go and change, Dad had taken off his shoes, socks, and jeans, leaving a trail of clothes behind him as he walked. When he got to the lake, he pulled off his boxers and left them lying abandoned on the grass before jumping in the water.
So much had happened in just a few seconds: Jeffrey and Scott scaring the shit out of me, everyone jumping in the water, me seeing my dad's ass for the very first time... It was a bit weird for me to see my dad standing naked in front of me, even if it only was for a second. We never walked around the house naked or in our underwear, we weren't that kinda people, everyone was always "properly dressed." But now, I'd been invited in the lake, and I wasn't gonna chicken out. If everyone's skinny dipping, so am I!
I pulled all my clothes off and ran to the lake in my boxer briefs. When I got to the water, I took them off and quickly threw them right next to Dad's underwear, before jumping in.
By this point, the three men were splashing and pushing each other like overly hyper children. Judging by how loud they were, you would think there were 30 of them in the lake, not three.
"Oweeen!" Dad's best friend Scott spotted me and waddled toward me like a bear looking for hug.
I guess I'm being hugged by a naked man then, I thought, as our chests and bellies touched and I felt his penis graze my leg under the water.
"You're a man now, joining us here," he said. "Welcome to the club."
Their other friend, Jeffrey, came in for a more gentle hug. "Nice to see you, Owen," he said, patting my shoulder.
"When're C.J. and Mark getting here?" Dad asked. It felt weird to stand next to him, knowing we're both naked. The water was clear enough to just about make out people's bodies.
"In a couple of hours," Scott replied. "They're renting a car and carpooling from the airport as well."
Dad had four buddies that he did this with every year, but out of all of them he was probably closest with Scott. They'd gotten married and started having kids around the same time, so they always had a lot in common.
Looking at Scott now, he was just as hairy as I'd expected him to be. I'd never seen him shirtless before, but even with a shirt on there was no missing the hair that always peeked out around the neck and on his arms. His chest was covered in thick fur, drops of water glistening on it.
Next to him, Jeffrey looked absolutely hairless, even though he wasn't. He was a sparsely hairy man, but out of all my dad's buddies he was the only one to have a full beard. He was also the only one who was single and had never been married.
We didn't stay in the water long, even though it felt amazing. The temperature was perfect, and the sun shined directly on us. Next to me, Scott floated on his back, his belly, dick, and bushy pubes over the surface of the water. This is fucking crazy, I thought for a second. None of us were "here's my dick and I don't care who sees it" kinda people. At least not up to this point.
The desire to catch up and start drinking was stronger than that to enjoy the water, so we got out to head to the kitchen soon. I waited for everyone else to come out before me. On my way out, I covered my dick and balls with my hands for privacy, but I realized none of the three men in front of me was doing that. They walked to the cabin chatting, dirt and grass and leaves sticking to the soles of their wet bare feet.
In the middle was my dad. If this were a best-ass contest between the three, he'd take home the gold. ("Why are you fucking looking at your dad's ass?!" a voice said inside my head.) The rest of Dad's body wasn't extraordinarily fit, he had a belly and a chest that had started to sag a little. But his thighs and his glutes were on point! He had a very fine coat of hair on his asscheeks and I wondered if I would some day grow the same.
The owner of the cabin had left everything in excellent condition for us. The kitchen was tidy and the cabinets were clearly labeled. He must rent this place out a lot. Dad came back downstairs carrying half a dozen white fluffy towels, and handed them out to me and the other men standing naked in the kitchen. I listened to my dad and his buddies talk while drying off, trying again not to stare but finding it hard to resist the temptation.
We dried off, wrapped the towels around our waists, grabbed a beer, and went to sit in the living room.
"Permission to spoil the mood by starting off with some bad news?" Scott said, sitting down next to Jeffrey on the couch. Dad and I sat on two armchairs. In the dark living room (most of the blinds were closed) I was starting to get chilly, but no one made an effort to go get dressed so neither did I.
"Go right ahead," Dad said, taking a swig of his beer.
"I just don't wanna have it hanging over my head," Scott said. "Mary and I are getting a divorce."
"What?" Dad and Jeffrey said in unison.
"We've talked about it for a while and decided it's for the best."
"How long of a while?" Dad leaned forward.
"For about six months now."
"Why the fuck didn't you say anything?!" Dad said, sounding more concerned than angry. He got up, walked the few feet to the couch, left his beer of the floor and sat down next to Scott. Next thing, he gave him a tight hug.
"C'mere, buddy," Jeffrey said and went to hug Scott next as soon as he and Dad were done hugging.
I felt weird, sitting on the armchair by myself. I've never seen Dad or his buddies act like this. Should I get up and give Scott a hug as well? What's an appropriate thing to do at times like this? I decided to let his friends take care of him, and I'll just be a fly on the wall.
"I never said anything cuz I wasn't sure where this whole thing was going. You know we hadn't fucked in three years. Sorry," he said after swearing, looking at me.
"Because of me? No fucking need to be," I said, and got a little smile out of Scott.
"We hadn't fucked in years, and there was a whole bunch of other shit. But it's best to do it now. The kids aren't too young and we're not too old to start again."
As Scott talked, Dad rested his hand on Scott's knee, and Jeffrey rubbed his back. I've never seen them so affectionate.
"But hey, on the bright side," Scott said louder and slapped Jeffrey's leg, "we're both single now, we can go out to meet women together."
"Yes. Sure, buddy," Jeffrey replied with a hesitant smile. He looked up and he and I made eye contact for a second.
A couple of hours later, C.J. and Mark made it to the cabin. By this point, everyone had put on shorts but was still walking around shirtless and barefoot. The TV in the living room was on as background noise, and the pile of empty beer bottles was quickly expanding.
Scott filled in the newcomers on his divorce, and there were more hugs and promises that everyone was there for him if he needed them. After that, the mood lightened up.
"Did you bring the stuff?" Dad asked C.J. enigmatically.
"Sure did," C.J. winked.
C.J. was the hippie of the group. He had dreads down to his ass, and both his ears and a nipple pierced. He was probably the fittest of the bunch as well. He was on the skinny side, but had a visibly defined six-pack.
It was weird seeing Mark in nothing but a pair of cargo shorts, he was usually a very snappy dresser. He was the most successful of the group (made less impressive by the fact his dad had given him a leg up). He usually looked like he owned whatever room he was in, in his nice shirts and expensive watches, but standing here on the back porch shirtless with all his buddies this evening, he just looked like one of the man-crew.
"You smoke?" C.J. asked me after he pulled out a small bag of what I assumed was weed.
"No," I shook my head.
"Wanna try some?" my dad asked, taking some of the weed and helping C.J. roll the joints.
"Holy shit!" the voice in my head screamed. Dad smokes weed and is offering to share it with me?! It was at that moment I realized that the distinction between "a parent" and "a regular person" I'd been making my whole life was all just in my head.
"Remember, this doesn't get back home," Dad said.
"Lisa doesn't smoke?" Mark asked about my mom.
"I think she does when she's out with her friends as well," Dad answered, "we just don't talk about it round the house."
I felt honored to be entrusted with this secret. When the joints were rolled, Dad asked if I was sure I wanted to do this and I nodded my head determinedly. He came up to me and lit the joint while it was in my mouth, and taught me how to inhale properly.
"Attaboy," he said, patting my back as I started coughing.
A a high school student, I saw my friends every day. I didn't know yet that the meaning of a true friend is someone who, no matter how often you see them, you can always pick back up with and never run out of things to talk about.
That was the case with my dad and his buds. After going to college together, they'd all scattered across the country: Scott settling down in Chicago, C.J. back in New Orleans where he was from, and Mark and Jeffrey in New York. Sitting on the back porch of the cabin, drinking and smoking as the sounds of birds were replaced by sounds of nocturnal insects around us, Dad and his buddies never ran out of things to talk about.
"Three years, huh? And you never fucked anyone else?" Mark pivoted back to Scott's divorce and lack of a sex life. This was the second or third time Mark was mentioning sex. Apparently I was wrong thinking of him as just a boring, prudish businessman.
"Nope," Scott answered. "Might as well wait until the divorce's finalized, now that I made it this far."
"How do you not go crazy?" C.J. asked, to which Scott answered making a jerk-off motion, making everyone laugh and nod in agreement.
"Susan and I did it last week," Mark filled us in. "It's been happening less and less lately, but we've never gone for that long. How bout you?" he took a puff and turned to C.J.
"Does eating pussy count? I ate Kiki out in a fitting room at Walmart yesterday."
Everyone laughed, then looked at Jeffrey.
"I get laid as often as being single allows. Kevin?" Jeffrey asked my dad, seeming eager to deflect the question.
Dad and I made eye contact. It was as if he was asking for permission to answer the question in front of me.
"Lisa and I fucked three days ago," he said, still looking at me, then smiled.
That night, C.J. was the only one sober enough to make dinner for everyone. We chomped down the burgers, then before I knew it I was upstairs hearing Dad say "It's a three-bedroom house, so we're sharing the master bedroom. The other two rooms have separate beds, but I thought I'd be sleeping alone so there's just one. We'll have to share."
I got down to my underwear, and looked at my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth. I wasn't terribly wasted but I definitely had a strong buzz going on. When I came out to the bedroom, I saw Dad lying in bed, stark naked.
"You coming to bed?" he said.
It took me a second to register what he was asking.
"This is gonna be a wild weekend," the voice in my head said.
Little did I know back then, that before the weekend was over I would be fucked by one of the five men in the cabin.