Excerpt for Grappling by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Volume 1

CJ Prince

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Nobody warned me about how cold it would be back here. I mean, I knew I’d be barefoot. And shirtless. Well, clothes-less altogether save for the towel wrapped around my waist. But I wasn’t expecting it to be so damn cold.


Glancing around at the room — a dim and empty space beyond the two backless wooden benches set against opposite walls that each held a half-dozen boys sitting in identical towels — no one else seemed to mind the chill in the air.


It might have to do with the fact that almost everyone else on these benches had about twenty pounds in muscle mass on me. I’d been “bulking” all summer, but I was thin-framed to begin with so everyone was always surprised when I told them I’d planned on joining the wrestling team.


More accurately, I’d been eating-whatever-I-want all summer. I’d certainly gotten heavier, but any muscle gains were… dubious.


Either way, I hoped I’d make minimum weight for my class today. I needed 7 pounds to move up from the lightest class eligible to compete. It would be a small victory, but one that came with a slightly larger grain of respect from collegiate wrestlers, and I was in short supply of that.


A middle-aged woman with a black bob cut poked her head into the room and read off of a clipboard, “Anderson, Greg. Please come to the stage.”


A short, wide boy with red hair and pale skin dotted with freckles stood up and walked towards the opening leading out of our waiting area and onto the weighing stage. When he was a few feet from the door, he paused and looked back over his shoulder at the boys that had been sitting next to him. He opened his towel to flash his white, bare ass to the room, and made an exaggerated farting noise with his tongue. A few of the boys hollered after him while others snickered like it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen.


Wrestling guys were dumb like that. Maybe I was one of them, too. I’d had to stifle a laugh myself, as juvenile as the scene was.


Greg looked satisfied with himself as he wrapped the towel back around his waist and continued out onto the stage, beyond which family, friends, and a few local sports reporters sat to watch the tournament weigh-ins.


It was such a bizarre affair. To strip us all down, parade us out under spotlights, and have us step onto a scale that would spit out a number to be jotted down by officials and reported in a tiny corner on the 3rd page of the university paper.


Our towels folded in the back so that we could open them outward on stage and block the audience from seeing us immodestly. Of course, the two towel bearers that held your towel up had no choice but to take in the full view. And all of us offstage had a perfect shot of every competitor’s backside, though most boys were careful not to stare for risk of being teased.


I glanced over, as casually as I could muster, to get another glimpse of Greg. For a posterior that was probably used primarily to accompany flatulence comedy, it wasn’t bad. In fact, I had to tear my eyes away and try to stifle something very different from laughter stirring in my body. I folded my hands in my lap, trying to apply pressure to the stiffening that was building just under my towel.


Luckily, no one was paying much attention to me. I really hoped I would make that new weight class, because I needed to gain the respect of my team. It was hard enough being small – I couldn't imagine what things would be like if they were to find out that I’m gay.


Black bob cut poked her head into the room again, "Gretzky, Adam. Please come to the stage."


That was me. In an already chilly room, I could feel my hands get cold.


It was a good thing that the woman wasn't looking up from her clipboard, and that no one else had bothered to look up at my name, because I had to shift my towel uncomfortably as I stood. The tightness of it was keeping things contained for the moment, but I was about to walk out on stage and open my towel to the bearers, the admins, my teammates and competitors offstage, and if things really went south – friends, family, and the local news.


I took a deep breath of freezing air, walked across the room, and stepped out onto the stage.

Deus ex machina

A warm, rough hand clasped down on my shoulder. It held me back just at the edge of the stage’s shadows. One more step and I’d have been in the full light of the stage, and full view of the audience.


“Robin,” a masculine voice called out from behind me.


That must be the name of the woman with the black bob and the clipboard.


“I think you might have skipped me?” the voice was calm, and deep, and full of rich, warm tones. His hand still held my shoulder firmly.


I glanced behind me, trying to seem cool and unfazed by the fact that he’d abruptly stopped me. And that he’d touched me — was still touching me — and that I could almost feel a tingling in the space where our skin was touching.


The first thing I noticed about him was how tall he stood. A square jaw under a short blonde buzz, he towered a full head and shoulders above me. And those shoulders were thick and broad, with muscles like coils of rope wrapped around a sea mast.


He was looking out on stage, towards Robin, who I could hear clicking her heels back in our direction with frustration in each step.


“Greydon, Michael” he called out, “I think you skipped it. It should have come before Gretzky, no?”


Robin stopped a couple feet from us, and furiously flipped through the pages in her clipboard.


“Greydon? I have that with an ‘e’ – Is that a spelling error?” She asked confused.


“No, that’s right,” he replied calmly.


I had meant to only glance at him for a moment, but I had trouble pulling my gaze away now. He didn’t meet my eyes, but I think I spotted something like acknowledgement flicker in the corner of his mouth. That warm tingling feeling spread from his hand and rushed down my spine. I could feel my face getting flush. I wonder if he felt this same sensation.


“Well, Mr. Greydon,” Robin cut back with venom in her voice, “‘-et’ does come before ‘-ey’, or can’t you spell your own name?”


He let out a sigh of realization, and released my shoulder.


“I must have suffered one too many sleeper-holds last season. Thank you, Robin.”


He turned on his heels and walked back to the waiting area. His back was as strong and defined as his shoulders, tapering down just slightly to a square waist that was supporting — I had to blink a few times to double check — the roundest bubble of a butt I’d ever seen. The folds of his towel were nearly pulling apart in the back, as if his cheeks were getting ready to part curtains and step into a spotlight.


I heard a loud snap a few inches from my head. I turned to find Robin tapping her wrist vehemently. She wasn’t wearing a watch, but I got the picture.


As soon as she turned around, I shot a hand down to my groin to check on 'the situation'.


Somehow, despite the warmth of Michael’s hand, and seeing the absurd shape of his backside, any stiffening had disappeared.


Could he have noticed? Had he stopped me on purpose?


Robin stomped a foot down on the ground out in center stage. It was loud enough to snap me out of my thoughts, and I hurried over to her.


“Gretzky, Adam,” she called out to the audience and the administrators by the scale. It was a tall, simple machine with an LED screen at about my height.


Robin moved away and I stepped in front of the scale. The two towel bearers — both lithe, balding older men — looked at me expectantly.


Thank you for not being half-naked Adonises, I thought to myself.


I opened my towel into their hands, letting them hold it up like a banner in front of me. They kept their eyes modestly pointed past my head towards the back of the stage.


Nothing for them to see, nothing for me to fear.


I stepped onto the scale. It beeped on, and a digital display started counting up rapidly.


Well, nothing beyond the shame of not making weight.


The scale paused, and then blinked once to indicate it had finalized my weight.


I stared at the number.


Well, shit.


One-forty-nine, an admin reads off the scale.


One hundred and forty nine pounds.


That’s… that’s a full twenty three pounds from where I started. That’s not just one weight class up, it’s three.


I did not prepare for this.


I must have not properly zeroed out my scale at home. I was expecting some fluctuation, I mean, making the minimum weight for the class two below this was still up in the air.


But this?


The guys in this weight class are going to murder me. They might have up to twenty five more pounds of muscle than I was planning for! That opens up a whole new book of slams and submissions, most of which I’ve never been put through before.


Standing on this scale and staring at that number, buck naked and freezing my cheeks off, is the first moment that I understand what people mean when they describe time slowing down before a car crash.

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