am•phib•i•an:n. A class of animals that spend part of their time on land and part in the water; not quite fish and not quite reptiles. In adulthood they usually live on land, using their lungs to breath air. This double life is also at the root of their name, amphibian, derives from Greek. The Greek prefix amphi- means "both," or "double," and the Greek word bios means "life."
It was the end of the Summer of Love and he was still a virgin. It was also his senior year of High School in a small coastal town, San Antonio, California, 1967. The following year would prove to be a remarkable year for the world and for him, but at the end of that summer, he had no idea what lay ahead. His frustrations and fears were all that consumed him.
He had a girlfriend, Sandy. They fooled around, but had not done the deed. They were a close knit group of kids who hung together as a pack. Alone, they didn’t seem to matter much, but when they were together, they forged their identity as one of the more popular groups in High School. They were outside the Soshes and the Jocks, forming an alliance of Surfers, Hippies and Stoners. Some were all three. On the outside, it appeared that they were cool and carefree, but underneath the façade, they were all as neurotic and confused as every teenager. In some cases even more.
His plan was to graduate and go to the local City College until he figured out what he wanted to do with his life. He was getting a lot of pressure from his parents to get good grades so he could qualify for scholarships when he went on to the University. Art and English were the only classes he got excited about.
“What kind of a future is there in art?” His dad and mom were in the kitchen arguing with one another as usual.
“Maybe he’s got talent, maybe he could be another, I don’t know, Picasso?” His mother encouraged his art somewhat, but only because she thought he could sell his paintings and get rich.
It was the Saturday before the first day of school and they had all piled into their Volkswagens and stations wagons, strapping their boards to the racks on the top of their cars or hanging them out the back of the wagons, heading for the beach. The weather was great. Sunny and warm after the morning fog burned off. They got to the beach a little before noon.
“Hey Beadsly, did you ball Sandy last night?” Jim Masters yelled. He was the self appointed leader of the group and the resident expert in all things sexual. He also enjoyed rubbing anyone’s virginity in their face.
“Fuck you, Masters.”
“No, Beadsly, fuck Sandy, not me.”
“It’s none of your fucking business.”
“What do mean, Doug, fucking is my business.” The guys were all gathered around sitting on their boards waiting for the next big set to roll in. “I guess that means he didn’t. That also means you’re still a virgin, huh?”
“Leave him alone.” Randy Robinson was one of the few guys he was somewhat close to and would defend him.
“We know you are, Robinson, you big queer.” Masters said.
“Fuck off, Masters.” Randy paddled off to catch the next wave.
“Hey, Randy, will you give me a blow job later?” Mark Anderson was Jim’s closest ally in the group. Mark and Jim laughed, paddling like crazy to catch the same wave.
Doug sat there watching them take off as Jim cut Randy off and Randy fell from his board. Jim and Mark rode the wave in and carried their boards up to the beach, throwing them in the sand next to the girls, who sat on their towels sunning themselves.
Doug watched Randy paddle back out and ride another wave in before Randy joined the others on the beach. Not too far away from the group, some guy he didn’t recognize threw his board down and waxed it up. He saw the girls all watching the new guy as he picked up his board and paddled out towards him.
The new guy had dark curly hair and an amazing tan. His trunks were dark blue with a Hawaiian floral print of white hibiscus. A fairly large set rolled in and they both took off right next to each other. Beadsly was goofy foot, which meant he favored left breaking waves and as he cut to the left, he almost collided with the new guy in the blue trunks. Doug pulled out and paddled back out to catch the next wave. The curly headed guy paddled out next to him.
“Hey, sorry, man,” he said.
“My name’s Jeff.”
“Hey, I’m Doug.”
Doug caught the next wave in and walked his board up to the beach. He lay down in the sand next to Sandy.
“You see that asshole cut me off?”
“Yeah.” Sandy turned and watched Jeff take off on the next wave. “He’s cute.”
“I saw him here yesterday.” Jill was Jim’s girlfriend and probably the smartest in the group.
“He’s gorgeous,” Debby was Jill’s best friend and the only other virgin. “Dibs.”
“He’s all right.” Laurie said. Laurie and Doug had dated for a while and hadn’t got much further than some heavy make-out sessions and him feeling up her small breasts.
Jeff rode a few more waves as they all watched him, talking about school starting on Monday and what classes they were all taking. Jeff rode a big wave in and came out of the surf with his board. He threw it on the beach, shaking his black curly locks like a dog. He saw them all watching him and smiled, showing them his perfect teeth. He walked over to them.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi, I’m Deb.”
“Like in debutante. I’m Jill.” Jill stood and shook his hand.
“Jeff, like in Jeffrey.” His trunks were dripping on the sand.
“You just move here?” Sandy asked.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“Where from?” Debby asked.
“My cousins live in L.A. Hermosa Beach. What part are you from?” Debby asked.
“Sherman Oaks, in the Valley.”
“You going to Santa Rita?” Sandy asked.
“What grade?” Doug was getting curious about this guy. He had an openness and friendliness that was refreshing.
“We’re all seniors.”
“It must be hard to move to a new town in your senior year.” Jill sat back down on her towel. She was also the most compassionate one in the group.
Doug looked at Jim and watched him get a serious look of concentration on his face. He was lying on his stomach in the sand. Doug got ready for what was coming. Jim reached under him, grabbing a handful of wet sand where he had just peed. He got up on his knees and threw it at Randy. The sand flew everywhere.
“Pissball!” he yelled and ran off to the water with Randy chasing him, throwing wet sand at his back.
“You pig, Jim!” Jill stood up and brushed the sand off her.
They all ran down to the water as Jeff walked over to his board and sat down. They played around in the water, splashing one another and rinsing the sand off their bodies. Doug swam over to Sandy, grabbing her from behind. He held her around the waist. He looked towards the beach and saw Jeff watching them. Jeff smiled.
Later that day they dug a deep pit in the sand and built a fire as the sun set on the western horizon over the Pacific Ocean. Jim rolled a joint, lit it up and passed it around. Doug watched Jeff take a hit off the joint, hold the smoke in for a moment and exhale slowly. Something stirred deep inside him as he watched him pass it to Jill.
“Gimme a match!” Mark grabbed the matches from Jim, lifted his legs in the air and lit the match. He held it up to his ass and farted. A flame exploded and shot up his crotch.
“Far out!” Jim laughed.
“Right on!” Randy was laughing and rolled in the sand.
“Oh my god.” Debby said with disgust.
Jill was laughing. “That was so gross!”
Doug looked up from the laughter, watching a lone figure walk towards them from around the point. His paranoia hit him deep in his gut. As the figure got closer he could see it was Mike and he relaxed. Mike was a year older than all of them and had graduated the year before. He appeared depressed and sad.
Jim took a hit off the joint. Holding his breath, he handed it to Mike. “Hey man, have a toke and sit down,” Jim said in that funny voice people speak when they talk holding marijuana smoke in their lungs. Mike took the joint from him and sat down. He took a big hit and passed it around. The mood had changed drastically.
“Where’s Janice?” Jill asked.
“Home, I guess.”
“This is Jeff, Mike. He just moved here from L.A.” Jill was also the most polite person of the group.
“Hey.” Mike said as he shook Jeff’s hand.
“Hey,” Jeff replied.
The joint made its way around the circle and finished with Mike. He flicked the roach into the fire.
“I got my draft notice.” Mike said, breaking the silence.
“Shit!” Jim said.
They sat there in stunned silence.
“You could go to Canada.” Jill said.
“What the fuck would I do in Canada?”
“Where the hell is Vietnam, anyway?” Randy asked.
“Somewhere in Southeast Asia,” Debby replied.
Mike lit a cigarette.
“Does Janice know?” Jill asked.
“Yeah.” He stood up. “Hey, thanks for the tokes.”
“See ya later, Mike,” they all chimed. “Take it easy.”
Mike walked away, down the beach. Jill stood up and ran after him.
“Hey, Mike,” she yelled. He stopped and turned around as she threw her arms around him and kissed him. They had gone out a few times before he met Janice. “Take care of yourself, OK.”
“Yeah,” Mike said as he turned away and continued walking down the beach. Jill stood watching him.
“You need a lift, Jeff?” Sandy asked as everyone started collecting their clothes and towels.
“I got my van, thanks.”
As the sun set, they all walked up to the beach reluctantly. None of them wanted this day or the summer to end. Sunday would probably be spent with family and Monday would be the beginning of their last year of High School.
Jeff was putting his surfboard in the back of his VW van thinking that nothing would ever be the same.