The Church Camp Lifeguard
CHAPTER ONE: MY PRE-ADOLESCENT AFFAIR OF THE HEART
by Sean Reid Scott
Posted: 2022 :: Approx. 3,200 words
KNEW I LIKED MEN when I was five years old. Truth. Yes: at the ripe young age of five. No joke. That’s when I first realized. That’s when it all started.
By the time I was eight or nine, I had firmly established my “type”: Muscle Men: big, masculine, powerful, bodybuilder-types. I was obsessed.
So, the summer before fourth grade, when my siblings and I made the annual trip to spend a week at Church Camp, you can imagine my pleasure when I first saw our camp lifeguard for that year.
His name was Alexander.
His hair was light blond—the color that’s called towhead on kids; I was a towhead back then too. But that’s where my similarities with Alex ended. He was buff, big, and beautiful: muscles that had no business being there—other than to torment me.
I’d always kind of remember him looking a lot like the old muscle heartthrob Dave Draper back in the ‘60s (only a lot more ripped and lean; yeah, that comparison might be a bit anemic. Alex was ten times better than Dave Draper.). Alex was huge—and all muscle: rippling, fat-free muscle. Even though he was in high school—probably his senior year—he seemed a lot bigger and a lot more buff than any high schooler I’d ever seen. And to me, a nine-year-old kid obsessed with muscular men, he was Mr. Universe incarnate. Alex was obviously into weights and bodybuilding. He was big. Really big. And he was always really, really lean.
Even all these years later, I can remember that first moment I saw him. I can see it like it was yesterday. His physique was astounding. He was a bodybuilder. He kept his nearly-platinum blond hair a short, and he was the epitome of gorgeous.
Anyway, on that July Sunday afternoon our bus took off from our church parking lot and arrived at Camp Canyon an hour-and-a-half later. We’d stay the week, and go home on Saturday.
I hated Church Camp. No. Scratch that. I loathed Church Camp. Many of my fellow gay guys will identify with my plight back then: I felt alone, and isolated. I truly believed I was immoral for liking guys and not girls. I knew I was an enormous disappointment to God—basically a pariah.
If anyone ever found out my “secret” I’d have dug a hole to China and never turned back.
So yeah, Church Camp, where you’re crowded into cabins with all sorts of confident, jocky, “normal” kids: it was hell. Ironic, huh? Hell to me was Church Camp. Go figure.
There were two things at camp that horrified me the most (other than being discovered):
1) Bee’s nests. It seemed that every building (especially the cabin I was assigned to) had at least one very active beehive in its eaves. Usually near the front door—or near the cabin’s sole window (which was likely near my bunk). I was horrified that they’d swarm me, and my entire body would be literally covered with bees. I’d die a torturous death… as slow and painful as a person could possibly experience. I hated bees.
2) Sleeping on the bottom bunk under the fattest kid in camp. Only a thin piece of particleboard separated me from, like, 300 pounds of impending death. And every time the kid rolled over on the bunk above me, I could see the thin plywood bend and bow, signaling my demise if not immediately, then certainly while I slept. It didn’t help that he was a loud nose-breather either.
Most nights I would silently cry myself to sleep in my sleeping bag (if, like I said, I could sleep at all).
That was how it was… until I saw Alex. Then, although camp was still horrible, at least I had our lifeguard to pine after. And Alex was so freakin’ pine-worthy. I looked for him at every bend in the path, around every camp building, at every meal in the big cafeteria hall, at every campfire—and especially in the afternoon when we had swim time at the lake. Of course, he was always there, lifeguarding everyone. The only disappointment was that he almost always wore a tank top, even while lifeguarding at the lake. Don’t get me wrong, there was no way to hide his big muscles. And he was so flippin’ gorgeous and friendly. But I really wanted him to take that tank top off. So bad.
The girls always surrounded his lifeguard station; I watched from afar. Whether I was just sitting on my towel, or actually swimming in the water, my eyes were never off Alex for more than a few seconds at a time. His smile was absolutely perfect. I was a wreck. Smitten. My fourth grade self was totally consumed with him.
During “crafts,” when we had to make those stupid square picture frames out of those wooden sticks they use as handles for ice cream bars… I thought of Alex. And when we had to make hanging strings for the stupid frames out of yarn… I thought of Alex. I thought of Alex during lunch too. And during Bible lessons. Campfire too (where my cabin mates made fun of the idea of throwing “faggots” into the fire; not that I even knew what that meant… I was only nine.). When Reveille sounded first thing in the morning, and we all gathered at the big field to raise the flag… until lights out, and Doak (the fat kid in the upper bunk) threatened my very life just by being above me… all I ever thought about was Alex. All I ever did was keep an eye out for him.
ONE DAY, WHEN I WAS WALKING BACK to my cabin after lunch in the big hall, Alex was on the path, coming toward me. He was alone. It was a beautiful, sunny day; I will never forget it. The sunshine made his blond hair shimmer, and his skin was a contrasting tan. In his tank top and shorts, his wide, rounded shoulders and muscular arms were amazing. And his chest… his tank was cut low at the neck, so you could actually see the cleavage between his pecs. I remember the striations! The man had no fat anywhere. He wore raggedy denim cut-offs, and his legs were really big and muscular! He wore flip-flops. I don’t have a foot fetish, but even his feet were perfect.
He approached me, and my heart raced. What should I do? I couldn’t actually turn and run the other way—which was exactly what I wanted to do. I couldn’t just dive into the bushes, or duck behind a tree. He’d obviously already seen me.
I was doomed. (Nowadays, I’d say I was fucked.) I had to make like everything was fine—like I wasn’t about to turn into a heap of blubber at passing him on the path.
The gap between us closed, and when he got a few feet in front of me, he stopped on the path. “Hey, Bryan, how’s it going?”
He knew my name? What the heck? I stopped too. I was gobsmacked. Dumbfounded. I wanted to cry. What should I say?
When I didn’t answer, he asked, “Are you enjoying camp?” Holy heck the guy wanted to engage me in conversation!
I finally found the wherewithal to nod. Barely nod.
Buddy? Holy heck. I was going to spontaneously combust right there on the dirt path. I couldn’t meet his eyes. I’m sure that would have resulted in instant and eternal death.
“Hey, if you ever want to talk about anything, I’m always available when I’m not lifeguarding. Just in case you want to talk. About anything.”
I just looked at my feet.
“To tell the truth, I remember when I was a kid. It was hard to figure out some of my feelings and stuff. I kinda felt like a weirdo.”
I frowned at the dirt. Him? Alex? He felt weird when he was a kid? How was that even possible? He was everything! The consummate stud!
“So anyway, just an offer. I know when you start approaching middle school it can be a rough path to follow.”
All I could do was scuff the dirt with my tennis shoes. He must have known that my paralyzing shyness was because of my insecurities; wasn’t that hard to tell.
“And hey, you’ve been coming to the lake every afternoon, right? I think I’ve seen you.”
I wanted to die.
I figured out where my neck muscles were connected and I nodded again—very faintly. When I did so, lifting my head just a bit, my eyes landed on his ball-shaped calves, bulging on the back side of his lower legs. Above them, his upper legs were just mind-boggling. There was no hair on his tan, shaved legs; I remember noticing how the frayed bottoms of his cut-offs hung down on his enormous, veiny quads.
I was trembling; I’m sure of it.
“Yeah, I thought so,” he said.
Had I answered?
“Hey, why don’t you come and see me at my lifeguard station some time. It’d be fun to get to know you better. What do you think?”
I barely nodded again, and squeaked out, “Okay.” It was at that moment I somehow maneuvered my head upward… over the massiveness of his ripped physique, over arms, chest, and broad, defined shoulders, to look up into his face. His aquamarine eyes tended toward sea-blue. They were deep, yet powerfully bright. Like no set of eyes I’d ever seen. And the instant our eyes met I felt a kind of nausea nearly overcome me. But in a good way. I’m serious. I was struck by how gorgeous he was; even setting aside his Herculean build, Alex was so stunning that he made my stomach knot.
I averted my gaze and tried to focus. Oh yeah, his invitation to visit his lifeguard station. There was no way in heck I was going to do that. I needed to get out of there—fast. I was on the verge of breaking down and crying, right in front of him. I was scared spitless. Yeah, he was all nice and friendly—but he was that way to everyone. And of course if he knew about my secret, he’d never talk to me again. He’d report me to the Camp Director, for sure. Yeah, I wanted to just crawl into a cave and die. Please let me die.
Keep in mind, though, that at nine years old, my “secret” hadn’t actually developed into anything sexual. It was an emotional attraction to men. I was just on the cusp of starting puberty, so sexual feelings weren’t even a thing to me yet. Still, I knew I had an attraction to men, and I also “knew” that no other boys had these feelings. So I was already aware of being odd and weird at best… deviant and perverse at worst.
“Cool,” he smiled. “I’ll keep my eye out for you, buddy.” And with that he ruffled my hair and walked off.
He ruffled my hair! He touched me. And he ruffled. My. Hair!
I stood there, in shock for a few minutes, and then ran to my cabin—full-out ran. I threw myself on my bunk and held still. Had anyone seen me? Talking to him? I was petrified that someone had. Because if they had, they obviously would have been able to tell that I liked him.
I was doomed.
OF COURSE, I WAS TOO SCARED TO GO to the lake during swimming time. Anyone who saw me there—after Alex had talked to me on the path—they’d know for sure.
I knew, of course that the normal guys talked to him all the time. But they were normal! The only reason someone like me would ever get close to Alex was because of the infatuation. I was enamored with him—and his muscles. There was no way I could admit that. Showing up to ogle him would be a dead giveaway. I could not be found out.
But deep inside, I knew I couldn’t stay away. I had to go. In fact, there was no way I could stay away.
So I went. But I knew I’d stay away from him. No way was I going to walk up to him like he’d mentioned. I did my best to remain invisible: Lie on my towel, slip into the water where I could watch him discreetly, from amongst the other bobbing heads in the lake… always making sure that no one saw me look.
But at one point, while I was lying on my too-small towel, letting the sun dry me off, I sensed a shadow move over me, blocking the sunlight. I opened my eyes, and…
Alex was standing above me. Smiling. His huge body filled my vision. “Hey Bryan, how you doing?”
I didn’t know what to do. I needed to act like a normal kid, but… how was I supposed to do that?! Well, one way to be normal was to answer the question he’d just posed. So I did: “Okay,” I said, looking at anything other than his beautiful face and enormous, rippling muscles.
“Nice. You having a good time, bud?” I looked around; no one was with him. It was just him and me.
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Good. Well hey, I was hoping you’d come over and spend some time at the lifeguard stand. With me, you know? That is, if you want. It gets pretty boring just standing there alone, you know?” His smile could melt steel. And all of his muscles were like steel.
The idea that he was bored, and “alone” at his lifeguard stand was ridiculous. People surrounded him, all the time. But I didn’t have the mental capacity to work through all that.
“Oh. Yeah, I guess.”
He smiled more. “Well come on, then. Grab your towel. There’s plenty of sunshine over there too.” He extended his hand to me.
What the heck was going on here?
He was teasing me, wasn’t he. Testing me. He was going to make fun of me. He knew my secret didn’t he, and he was going to make some kind of example of me, exposing my weird, not-natural, sinful thoughts. He was going to make me admit my infatuation with muscle men in front of the entire camp. I could feel it.
But I was too afraid to just sit there. He’d given me a lawful order; well, a legitimate, polite request anyway. So I moved. He bent down and helped me to my feet.
I was touching him. Our hands. He was so… so… solid! Those muscles were strong! Just from our hands touching I could tell. Once I was standing up, he helped grab my towel and shake it out, then turned and motioned for me to follow.
I obeyed, walking behind him—which gave me a front-row seat to the widest back and narrowest waist ever. I stared at his wide, “V”-shaped lats (I didn’t know the names of the muscles yet, but that’s what I was looking at). Under his tank top, I could see the insane development of his back. It was like no back I’d ever seen on a man. I didn’t have access to much muscle stuff—magazines or TV stuff, and this was before the Internet—so I had never been exposed to anything like this: his back, and his wide shoulders… his deltoids were really rounded. He wasn’t wearing cut-offs anymore; he wore glute-hugging shorts that hugged his ass and accentuated his legs. His giant legs—upper and lower—were like nothing I’d ever imagined!
We arrived at his stand. I looked around. The place was buzzing—full of kids—but no one was really paying us any mind. Some kids—especially girls—hung around, but for the moment, they mostly kept their distance.
He ruffled my hair again. “Sweet, buddy. I’m glad you moved. Like I said, it can get lonely, and I like to talk with people.” Then he launched right into conversation with me! “Have you been coming here to Camp Canyon for many years?”
I still wasn’t sure what was going on. I was definitely leery. Petrified, really. What was… why was this hunk, this jock, this muscle man talking to me?! I forced myself to nod. “This is my first year.”
“Cool. You have some brothers here too, right?” How did he know so much about me?
For the next few minutes he asked me questions, and I answered—mostly with one-word answers.
He had to blow his whistle a few times to stop kids from horseplay… and a few times some girls came up to him all coy and flirty, and although he was nice, he didn’t engage them.
I just couldn’t figure it out. Why did he want to talk to me? Although I wasn’t fully convinced that he wasn’t trying to entrap me and reveal my feelings (about him), he was starting to not make me as scared as I’d been before. I didn’t think I’d ever not be scared of him, but… maybe less scared. And of course, infatuated.
I spent most of the time sitting on my towel, listening to him, and answering his questions. I guess this was what conversation was like. I mean, I was used to conversation, but I was definitely not used to conversation with God Himself—and Alex was that for me. Which obviously only made me feel worse about myself because obviously God would not approve. And at Church Camp of all places.
WHEN SWIM TIME WAS OVER AND EVERYONE was going back to their cabins, Alex said to me, “Hey, can you hold up for a sec?” I had just finished shaking out my towel. I draped it over my shoulders and waited while he closed up his lifeguard stand. I was trembling, and not because I was cold. Nope. I was scared again.
What did he want?
“I’ll walk you back to your cabin, okay?” he said.
He wanted to walk with me? He wanted to be with me? You could have blown me over with a soap bubble. This was not reality! Couldn’t be!
As we walked on the path, Alex continued talking. He was so flippin’ friendly! His manner was soft and unthreatening. “I remember when I was in fourth grade, I really felt like an outcast,” he said.
I scuffed the ground as we walked.
“And well, I just want you to know that you’re not alone, you know?”
He was trying to trap me—I just knew it. There was no way he felt like I did. I was this close to bolting—running to my cabin and burying myself in the depths of my sleeping bag.
But I kept to the path.
He left me at my cabin, and I joined my cabin-mates for an afternoon quiet time in our bunks. I was so ready for Doak to fall through and kill me. And Alex had talked to me. About weird things. I just wanted to go home. Run as far and as fast as I could. Away from here. Away from prying eyes and ears. Away from falling fat kids. Away from Mr. Perfect Muscles. Mr. Camp Canyon himself.
And yet, there was no place on Earth that I’d rather be: with Alex the lifeguard.
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