Title: Just Like Other Boys
This story is part of the Glimpses of Ben Series.
The sound of the wind rustling through the tops of the trees filled the air like the sounds of tinkling wind chimes. The warm afternoon sun was at its highest warm level of the year, which is to say it was warm but not actually balmy. Yellow rays of light twinkled on the waters surface casting a myriad of reds and blues on the water as four small, naked boys bounced and played and splashed in the shallow depths of the creek. Their laughter rang through the woods and echoed back from the small cliffs above them.
Up in the tree line, 15 feet from the splashing, laughing whirl of little human flesh sat a boy of similar age. He had found a large, flat rock to sit on. His knees were pulled up to his chest and his head rested gently there as his eyes took in the frivolity with envy. His heavy boots and sturdy clothing weighed his thoughts down. His dark, curly hair lay in profusion along his brow, his blue eyes following every move of the revelers in the water. Beside him on the rough surface of the rock sat a new hat, a Stetson like the one his father wore as a Mountie. The cherished hat was a gift from his father on the occasion of their last meeting. The boy eased back and ran a small finger over the felt brim. He leaned back and pulled his compass from his pocket and frowned. He was only inches from the new imaginary border his grandfather had decreed he should not cross. He wondered idly if his Granpa knew about this creek.
Young Tom Sloan noticed his new friend Benton Fraser watching all the fun from the rock where he sat. Tom waded out of the water and without a single blush walked right up to stand in front of Benton.
"Hi Ben. Aren't you coming in?" He wiggled a wet and muddy toe in the dirt before Ben.
"I don't have a swimming suit." Ben ventured hoping that would stop Tom's questions.
Tom laughed and squatted down to face Ben. "We don't use suits, never have. Don't own one, do you?"
"Yes. I do."
Blue eyes met brown and neither looked away. Honor was at stake here. Neither gave in first.
"Well take off your boots, and get your feet wet."
"Gram wouldn't like it." Ben barely whispered.
"Why wouldn't your Gram like it? Mine don't care."
"She says civilized humans keep their clothes on."
"You always do what your Gram says Ben?"
Ben smiled back at Tom, "Not always." He looked at the toes of his boots, "Granpa says if I follow the rules and learn the area, then I can explore farther from the house soon."
"And you just gotta do what your Grandpa says right?"
Ben nodded solemnly and wished he were more like Tom. He was studying his shadow on the rock and didn't hear the other boys join them. His face told his whole sorrowful story. He wanted in that water bad, but he wasn't going to risk another spanking from his grandfather.
Tom's eyes roved over the faces of his friends. They shook their heads in agreement as if a silent message had been sent from Tom to each of them. Tom nodded and the attack began. The four boys tackled Ben and held him down on the rock. Tom tickled Ben ruthlessly with the others quickly removed shoes, socks, jeans and the light shirt Ben was wearing. Tears ran down his eyes and he couldn't keep from laughing as he tried to fight the boys off. Two of the boys kept tickling him until the other two removed the remainder of Ben's clothing, his unmentionables as Gram called them.
The boy hauled Ben to his feet and pushed and shoved him down to the creeks edge. Ben stood self-consciously covering himself with his hands for several seconds before he realized no one was looking at him. He relaxed. As soon as Tom noted that Ben had relaxed he shoved the boy from behind. Ben collapsed into the cold water with a shout and an oath on his lips that if his Grandparents heard would earn him a night without supper.
The boys splashed Ben and pushed him and laughed and dared him to splash them back. In minutes there were five little boys shrieking with laughter and dancing in the water in the late afternoon sun. Ben whooped and hollered with the rest of the boys. His cheeks turned red with exertion and his body flexed and danced in the mud. He didn't even mind when he fell backwards in the water and his hair fell back soaked. The boys raced and splashed and simply had a merry time. Ben shrieked as the cold water ran down his back. He raised his hands in the air and jumped and splashed some more.
George Fraser walked through the woods in search of his grandson. He followed the compass headings Ben had left written for them on the table. His strides were long and sure as he moved effortlessly through the wooded area. He stopped when he heard the raucous laughter of young boys. Following the sound he finally arrived at the edge of the woods along the creek bank and found himself some distance from the group of boys. He smiled as he watched them prance and splash and fall in the water. He saw something glinting on the rocks away from the creek and spotted Ben's discarded clothing. He turned back to the revelers and smiled for he couldn't spot which boy was his Ben. Each and every boy was covered in muddy water and dripping the slushy stuff. George hid behind some trees and waited and watched a huge smile on his face.
It was Tom and Ben who first noticed the sun disappearing. The boys frowned, then called to their cohorts. George couldn't hear what they were saying, but he smiled with pride as Ben and Tom began cleaning themselves off and made sure there were no traces of their debauchery left on their persons. He watched as Ben trod slowly to his clothing and checked each and every piece before donning them. His shirt had a stain on it and George watched as the boy gently rinsed the stain out in the cold water. George's heart swelled with pride when Ben stood tall and redressed in clean looking clothing and replaced his Stetson on his head.
"Hey Tom." Ben yelled across the creek at his friends retreating back. "Thanks."
"You're welcome Ben. See you soon." And with a wave of his hand Tom disappeared into his side of the woods.
Ben looked around at the creek and grinned. He turned around and headed home. George followed the boy for a bit, then dashed on around Ben to be at the house before Ben arrived.
Entering the clearing near the front of their house, Ben squared his shoulders, took off his hat and straightened his almost dry hair. He marched up to the porch and on into the house. His Grandfather was sitting at the kitchen table, a glass of water in his hands.
"Hello Ben. Have a nice time today? George smiled and winked at his grandson.
Ben halted in his tracks and swallowed. "Hi Grandfather. I had a really nice time in the woods today."
"Meet the Sloan boy Ben?"
"Yes Sir." Ben's eyes grew huge and he understood the meaning behind his elder's word.
"Then you must have had a good time." George put his glass down. "Might be a good idea to change before dinner Ben."
Realization hit Ben full in the chest and he grinned broadly. "Thanks Grandfather, I think I'll do just that."
Ben turned and ran up the stairs to his room sure his Grandfather knew just where he'd spent the afternoon.
Martha entered the kitchen with a fresh set of towels in her hands. "Well, did he say anything?"
"We talked." George gave hand a squeeze as she set the towels down. "I think we understand each other, dear."
She eyed him sharply and then laughed. "Completely naked?"
"Yep, just like the other boys."