Chance Encounters


This is a bit of a deviation for me. Rather than a longer, slower developing story, this is a series of three short(er) stories. They involve three different men at three different stages of the narrator’s life: at 18, at 36, and at 54. As always, I enjoy receiving feedback and suggestions from readers, so please post comments or email me your thoughts on how to improve and/or your reactions to these chance encounters.


Chance Encounter 1: Billy Hurley

I have never been cool. No matter how or what I tried, I just could not pull it off.

I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve just never been able to be.

I always look like I’m trying a little too hard to do whatever it is I’m doing. I don’t appear natural at anything. Even when I’m lounging in sweats and listening to the next big thing, I look like I’m trying to lounge in sweats and listen to the next big thing. When I’m comfortable, it looks like I’m trying to appear comfortable, not like I actually am comfortable. No matter how languid I am, I appear pensive. At my most relaxed, I still come across like a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

My pensiveness translated into dorkiness, and my dorkiness translated into studiousness. In our school, everyone got slotted into a clique. I was not a big man on campus, was not an athlete, was not a clown, and was not a freak. So, I was a brain. It was the only slot left.

And, once I started getting positive feedback in school, I became addicted to it. I wanted, no, I needed, to be at the smartest, and to be told I was the smartest. It didn’t matter that I set the curve; I was disappointed if I didn’t get a perfect score.

By the time I was a Senior, I was ranked second in my class of 300, I sat in the front row of desks in almost every subject, and I spent my weekend nights reading ahead or studying, not drinking creme de menthe or Strawberry Hill with the “in” kids. I had a small group of National Honor Society friends who were similarly erudite, but we were not the kind of friends who did social things together. Outside our tiny circle of shared classes, we were barely known.

In light of all that, I was shocked to be invited to Jimmy Hanson’s graduation party. Jimmy was our Class President and the undisputed BMOC. He had quarterbacked our state runner-up football team, had point-guarded our woeful basketball team, and had pitched our baseball team to a Regional title. I didn’t even know he knew I existed. We had no classes together. We didn’t say hello to each other in the hallways. As we passed, we didn’t even subject each other to the slight head nod or raised eyebrows that signaled a hint of recognition.

Will Hurley – Billy to me – certainly knew who I was. Billy was currently Jimmy’s best friend, but he had been mine until the summer before high school started. At that point, our paths diverged. Billy was a decidedly average student, so we didn’t share any classes. He was an athlete, so we didn’t share any interests.

In fact, I heard through the grapevine that Billy had been the hero of the Regional title game. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, our team trailed 1-0 and was hitless. Our rival’s starting pitcher was likely to be drafted while still in high school.

Other than the pitcher, the other team’s star player was its shortstop, also likely to be drafted while still in high school, but, unlike the pitcher, an extreme hot dog. When he fielded a ground ball, he stared down the runner before unleashing a canon throw to first. Jimmy batted third, and he was our team’s last chance. He grounded weakly to short. The shortstop fielded the ball cleanly. The other team started to celebrate. The shortstop hot dogged too long. His hurried throw pulled the first baseman off the bag.

Billy followed Jimmy in the lineup. With an accidental chance, hit the first pitch he saw halfway up the light pole beyond the fence in left center. The left fielder didn’t even turn around. It was like that homerun Pujols hit off Brad Lidge in 2005.

The next morning, I left Billy a note in his locker. “Billy, I heard about your heroics. Before you get the big head, remember . . . I’ve wiped your ass. Danny.”

The summer after sixth grade, Billy and I had built a tree house. We were not craftsman, and it was a time when parents didn’t micro-manage such things. The first time we sought refuge in it, it collapsed. In the fall, Billy broke both of his wrists. While casted, he couldn’t shit by himself, and he was too embarrassed to let anyone but his brother or me help him. So, I’d wait until he embarrassingly called out “I’m done,” then go in and clean him while he reached for his toes.

The next day, I found a note in my locker. “You liked it. You know it.”

We hadn’t stop being friends when high school started. We had just stopped being the kind of friends that little boys are.

It was probably for the best. In middle school, Billy had become a bit of an obsession for me. He had always been decent looking, but puberty had transformed him. While his voice deepened casino oyna and his curly blond hair darkened, his baby fat disappeared, his cheeks chiseled, and he grew to a lean 6 feet. As his waist slimmed, his shoulders broadened. His face remained boyish, but his body rippled. Years later when I saw “Closet Monster,” Connor Jessup reminded me of post-pubescent Billy. He was a combination of innocence and violence. He appeared both harmless and lethal.

I didn’t know why (I was only thirteen), but I found myself lower than low when he was not around and higher than high when he was. I was thrilled when my mother announced “Danny? It’s Billy” after answering the telephone. I was just as dejected when his message was “The ‘rents said I can’t come over” or “I’m grounded.”

I also found myself getting tingly when we wrestled and unable to sleep during our sleepovers. I’d just lie there, watching his bare chest falling and rising in the light that filtered into my room or his. I wanted to touch him, to run the tip of my finger down his side to find out if he was as soft as he appeared. But, I didn’t dare. I was not a risk taker, and that would have been a huge risk in that day and time.

Labor Day weekend of our eighth grade year, we pitched a tent in Billy’s forested backyard and “camped out” in the way urban kids camp out. We spent the day eating and watching television in the house and then the night in the tent. The first night, we did what fourteen year old boys do, farting, making fart jokes, and talking through the night about things about which only teenaged boys can talk through the night.

The second night, it was unseasonably chilly. I awoke with my teeth chattering, and so did Billy. I climbed into his sleeping bag and pulled mine over us. As fourteen year olds are wont to do, we immediately turned our backs to each other. I heard Billy’s breathing change, signaling to me he was back asleep.

I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t think of anything other than the warmth of his back against mine. As cold as we were, I still can’t figure out why we didn’t put shirts on.

At some point, I dozed off. When I awoke, I was behind Billy, my chest pressed to his back and my right arm under his. When I tried to pull my arm away, he trapped it with his.

“Can you do me a favor?” he asked.


“Will you tickle me? Not hard. Soft like.”

“Of course.”

I stayed behind him and tickled his chest, stomach, and side. Every once in awhile, he quivered.

“My older brother and I used to trade this,” he said. “I love being tickled.”

“Why’d you guys stop?” I asked.

“He said we were too old.”

“I didn’t know you could get too old to be tickled.”

“Me, either.”

I kept tickling him. When he raised his arm, I went up and down his side and into his armpit. He was starting to get hair there. I was not.

Tickling became our new normal. Whenever I stayed with him or he stayed with me, we tickled each other’s backs and stomachs, both before going to sleep and after waking up. Billy was developmentally ahead of me. When he arched his back as I tickled his stomach, I could see the soft blond hair trailing from his navel into his briefs. I remained a little boy, bald in all the places little boys are bald but maturing boys are not.

The summer after eighth grade, Billy visited his father, a dentist in Seattle. When he returned home, he was a totally different person. We did not pick up where we left off. He stayed with me the Friday before high school started, but he slept on the floor beside my bed, not in my bed like he always had before. I was sleeplessly sad that he did. There was no tickling. It had been replaced by a formality that was alien to me. As I tossed and turned, I knew we were no longer best friends.

The following Monday, high school started, our paths diverged, and our friendship evanesced, as I described. I was sure I missed him more than he missed me.

By Senior year, Billy was a man. He had grown taller and leaner. His shoulders had widened more, and his torso was now a triangle.

Billy had also blossomed as an athlete. But for Jimmy Hanson, he’d have been our BMOC. Instead, he took Jimmy’s handoffs, grabbed Jimmy’s rebounds, and caught Jimmy’s pitches. They were a constant one-two punch. They were inseparable the way Billy and I had once been.

They also dated competing girls. In a historic upset, Billy had the Prom Queen, and Jimmy had the only other blond in the Court.

Rumors of Will/Debbie and Jimmy/Katie ran rampant. They were rumored to be doing sexual things before anyone else was. They were also rumored to have engaged in swapping and quads, two rumors that sensationalized our small school in our small town. Eighteen year olds were not supposed to be as fast as they were rumored to be.

Billy and Jimmy did not confirm the rumors. But, they also did nothing to tamp them down. I think they liked the wonder that filled the school about them.

I knew Billy would be at the graduation party. In fact, I suspected he slot oyna had forced Jimmy to invite me. Even though our friendship had evanesced, Billy and I still acknowledged each other in the hallways. Every once in a while, we had brief telephone conversations to check up on the other. I always felt tinges of hope and regret when those calls occurred. Hope that things were retreating to how they were. Regret that we had let them fall so far.

The hope was always dashed. The regret remained, at least for me.

I was happy to arrive to a teeming party. I could hide more easily in a crowded house. It’s hard to hide in plain sight. I preferred the anonymity of a large crowd.

I knew this was not an NHS party. I was the only brain Jimmy had plucked from the dork bucket.

For the first hour I was there, I was nonplussed by the scene. My classmates were both inside and outside the house, but I was too diffident to inject myself into a circle of conversation and too me to incite one of which I could be part. I orbited around, like a moon circling the Earth.

I strolled around outside. I strolled around inside. Every ten minutes, I decided to use the bathroom, even though I didn’t need to. The fifth time, I ran into Billy on the stairs. He was clearly well on his way to a drunk.

“Danny Boy!” he exclaimed, wrapping me into what would later become known as a bro hug, but then was just a drunken wrap around.

“Hey, Billy,” I said into his armpit. He was that much taller than I.

When he let me go, he started wailing “Danny Boy,” as he used to do when we were younger. He had learned the words just for me.

“Oh Danny boy the pipes the pipes are calling from glen to glen and down the mountain side the summer’s gone and all the flowers dying . . . .”

He stopped. I looked up at him, smiled, and said “Bad lyrics. The summer’s not gone. It’s just starting.”

“Have a beer with me,” he answered.

“I don’t really drink,” I answered.

“Having a beer is not really drinking,” he said, rejecting my answer before grabbing me by the shoulders, turning me down the stairs, and pushing me toward the keg. “Having a beer is to drinking like getting a hand job is to sex. It counts, but just barely.”

I wouldn’t know. I had never gotten a hand job, at least not from someone else.

After grabbing two solo cups of beer apiece, we found ourselves poolside on two lounge chairs. The stars were out. I was feeling nostalgic and romantic. Billy interrupted my feelings.

“Danny Boy, tell me, where do you go from here?”


“Of course. The brain’s going to a brainiac school.”

“Where are you going?”

“Southeast. It’s the only place I got in.”

“Kind of funny, isn’t it?”

“What, that I screwed around in high school and almost missed out on college?”

“No. The directions. Me to Northwest and you to Southeast. Polar opposites.”

“That is kind of funny. But it fits. We are opposites. Your best days are ahead of you. I think mine are behind me.”

“They’re not. High school’s a blip. Our best days are ahead of all of us. You just have to make them happen.”

“I don’t know, Danny Boy. I think I’ve peaked. I’ll never command the audience I’ve commanded the past four years.”

“You should have more belief in yourself. You’re great. I’ve always thought so.”

“I know. Sometimes too much so.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He deflected. “It means. . . . You. . . . I. . . . It means I need another beer.”

He left to get them, his fraught comments trailing behind him. He returned with four more cups, two for him and two for me. I was a lightweight, and I could feel the buzz of drunkenness starting between my ears.

We drank our first beers in silence. We were on the edge of the party, not able to make out either the various conversations or the lyrics that accompanied the beat.

We were also on the edge of something else. Billy’s unexplained comment hinted there was something in the air. I just didn’t know what.

“Hey, Billy,” I said, turning my head toward him.


“Will you do me a favor?”

“It depends.”

“Take advantage of the opportunity at Southeast. You’re smarter than you think.”

He sighed heavily and got introspective. “I’m not a good student. I have a hard time putting work into anything I’m not really good at.”

“I know. You’ve always been that way.”

“This is getting too heavy. Want to get high?”

“I don’t smoke.”

“Talk with me while I do,” he said, standing and nodding his head to the wooded yard and answering my unasked question with a “it’s too public here . . . weed smells strong.”

I followed him into the yard. We sat down behind a tree, our shoulders touching. I had never smelled weed before. He was right, it was strong.

“When did you start smoking?” I asked.

“A couple of years ago. My brother and I used to get high in the shed. When he went to college, I kept at it.”

“What’s it feel like?”

“Carelessness. canlı casino siteleri . . . You sure you don’t want to try?” He asked, offering the joint to me. I was tempted. I wanted to appear cooler than he thought I was.

“I’m sure,” I finally said.

He smoked the entire joint and then flicked the butt deeper into the yard. We continued drinking in silence, our shoulders still touching. I took a risk and leaned my head into his. Rather than pull away, he leaned his into mine. I felt thirteen again, happily one on one with my friend Billy, the object of my affection.

“I need to piss,” he finally said, disrupting my bliss.

“Me, too,” I added. I didn’t need to, but I knew I could, and I wanted to stay with him.

For some reason, he headed deeper into the darkness of the expansive Hanson yard. I followed until he stopped and set himself free. I stopped right beside him, not touching him, but only barely.

As Billy’s stream flowed, he threw his head back and sighed with relief. I took the opportunity to check him out, for the first time since I wiped his ass.

“Dude, why are you staring at my dork?”

“I wasn’t staring.”

“You were looking.”

“Looking’s not the same as staring,” I corrected.

“Fine. Dude, why are you looking at my dork? Honest Injun,” he added, echoing a game we had played for years as kids. When either of us said “Honest Injun,” the other had to answer honestly, without shading.

“Because I’ve wondered for a long time what it looked like.”

He turned to face me. He was a bit wobbly. “Do you like what you see? Honest Injun’.”

My mouth was arid. “Yes, but I don’t really have anything to compare it to. I haven’t seen many other than my own.”

“Debbie has. She says mine’s awesome. She can’t get enough of it.”

“She’s a lucky girl.”

“You think so?”

“Yes,” I answered, sheepishly. “I do,” I added, quietly.

“Danny Boy,” he whispered, leaning forward and winking, “are you hitting on me? Honest Injun.”

“I don’t know.”

“You have to play by the rules.”

‘”Okay. Yes, I guess so, unless I can’t, then I’m not. I’ve enjoyed the night. It feels like old times.”

He took a step toward me. I feared he was going to punch or push me. He did neither.

“Do you want to touch it?” he asked via whisper in my ear.

I did. More than anything. I had ever since I could remember. But, I couldn’t say yes. I was frozen between titillation and trepidation.

“It’s okay,” he added. “You can if you want. I won’t tell anyone.”

I tremulously reached my hand toward him. When I touched him, I was surprised by how soft and warm he was. I let him rest in the palm of my hand and slowly moved my thumb back and forth across the top of him as he grew and grew.

I looked up. He was looking down, watching what I was doing.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Shhh,” he answered. “No talking. But follow me.”

He shoved himself back in his jeans, turned, and walked even deeper into the darkness.

When I caught up to him, he unbuttoned his jeans, pulled himself back out, and asked “Now, where were we?”

I moved in front of him and took him back in my hand. He was quickly at full attention, his thickness curving up toward the stars. After moving my thumb over him for a bit, I started moving my hand back and forth on him. Shorter than Billy, I felt his hand on my shoulder pushing me down toward his erection.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“I want you to put your mouth on it.”

“I don’t know about that,” I said, feigning protest.

“Just the tip, please,” he begged, using more force on my shoulder until I was yoga squatting in front of him. “It feels so good. Debbie hates doing it. I love having it done.”

Things seemed to be spiraling. Whatever was happening couldn’t be real. Once upon a time, I had longed for Billy’s erection through his briefs as I tickled his stomach. But, I never thought it’d happen.

I looked up. He was looking down. “Please,” he pleaded, smiling. I was helpless against his smile.

I lowered my chin and looked at him in assent. He pulled his jeans down a little farther and splayed them open. The smell of sweat filled my nostrils.

I licked my lips and opened my mouth. I was shocked by how silky his head was and how sweaty he tasted. Once my lips crested over the edge of his glans, I stopped. Billy’s hand was now on the back of my head, and he was trying to force me farther down.

“Come on, Danny Boy,” he pleaded. “Take a little more . . . please.”

I couldn’t have resisted him in that moment even if a spotlight had illuminated us. I relented and let him pull me as far as he could. “Yeah,” he said, “just like that.”

I was as far down as I could go. I wanted to gag. But, I was also floating. I couldn’t believe what was happening. Dreams rarely come true.

“Suck it, please,” he begged.

I wasn’t sure how to. I had never been sucked. Ignorant, I took his request literally. I sucked in. Hard.

“Ouch,” he said.

I pulled off. “Sorry, but I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I’ve never done this.”

“Watch this,” he said, sliding his finger into his mouth and then slowing moving his head to and fro, showing me what he wanted me to do.

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