View of a canal and towpath

Walking Along the Canal

by John S. Lloyd

I zipped up my coat up for protection against the brisk, cold wind. I pulled my wool cap down over my ears and dug my warm leather gloves out of my pocket. Unfriendly, grey clouds filled the December sky as I walked along the canal towpath.  I was cold but I had to get out of my grandfather’s house. The cramped space was filled with relatives and friends celebrating Grandfather’s life. He died last week. He lived in that house my whole life and my father’s life as well. My father told me that grandfather returned from the war and built the house himself.

After the house was completed about 1948 he got married to his girlfriend, Grace. They stayed married for a couple of years according to my father. They had no children so divorce was quick. According to my father Grandfather didn’t stay unmarried long. My father was born less than nine months later to Granny Ginger. She died in the mid-1960’s from cancer long before I was born. That left dad and his younger brother to be raised by their father who never married again. Grandfather’s white stone house and small farm sat close to the C & O Canal. Grandfather began as a carpenter working for the state park that had responsibility for the canal. Later he became foreman for a crew that maintained the canal and its historic structures. The waterway was designated a National Historic Site in the 1970’s. Grandfather never ventured far from his place so it is appropriate to bury him tomorrow near his favorite hickory tree on the slope behind his house.

The wind was icy but neither rain nor snow was falling as I walked toward the wooden bridge that Jamie and I helped build one summer in the 1990’s. I don’t remember exactly but I was either fourteen or fifteen. Jamie and I were sent to Grandfather’s by our parents for different reasons which I don’t remember. I knew about Jamie but had met him only one time. He and his family had followed their father, my father’s younger brother, who was in the Air Force. Jamie was a year older than me.

I pulled my coat collar up around my neck. I knew I should turn around but didn’t and continued walking. I remember arriving at Grandfather’s in late June. My father drove about an hour from our home near Baltimore. My mother stayed home with my sisters. I had been to Grandfather’s farm regularly since I was little. I was happy to be spending time with him away from my annoying sisters. Father said he needed to talk to Grandfather about some business matters. He didn’t say what they were but I overheard words like “will and deeds” in their conversation. I presumed father wanted to make sure everything was in order if Grandfather passed away.

Father stayed overnight. When he was leaving he told me he would be back in two months to pick me up before school started. I didn’t react because I had protested at home to no effect. I didn’t know what I would do without my friends for that long.  Grandfather and I continued sitting at breakfast table. He said, “Jack, I guess it’s you and I, at least, until next week when your cousin, James, arrives from Texas. You boys are going to work with me on several projects on the canal this summer.”

I thought that would keep me busy. I said, “Grandfather, I have met James only once before. Do you know him?”

“Jack, only slightly. I visited his family twice – once in Hawaii and more recently in Texas. That was last year. James is a little older than you, I think.”

“Is his family banishing him like my father banished me?” Grandfather laughed.

“No, Jack, your father and his brother thought it would be a good opportunity for you guys to get some work experience and get to know each other. You know I’m going to pay you for your work.”

“Grandfather, I was told nothing. Father told me to pack my duffel and get ready to go.”

Grandfather laughed again, “Jack, we’ll have a great time. In addition to working I plan to take you boys to historic places nearby so you can know where your people lived from the earliest times of our country. Speley’s and Jacob’s have lived in this area since the 1700’s.”

“Is that the reason you have lived here your whole life?”

Grandfather smiled, “Jack, I like it here. It is peaceful and I have a job I really like.”

The summer with Grandfather and James was in the late 1990’s. I had been back to the farm only a couple of times before Grandfather’s burial. My life changed shortly after that summer. Our family moved to Georgia where I finished high school and entered Georgia State.  My father bought an ACE Hardware store in Dalton which meant when I wasn’t going to school I was working in the store. What I had learned working with Grandfather made me a valuable resource for customers needing advice with household repairs. I really liked the business and father told me he hoped I would take it over when he retired. I didn’t tell him I would do it, for sure, but I did like working with him. I don’t think Grandfather ever came to visit us in Georgia.

It seemed to be getting colder as I walked along. I came to the bend in the ancient horse path next to the canal where Grandfather, James and I swam. Fragments of our rope swing were visible high in the tree. In those days it was rare that hikers or bikers came by so we could swim naked which Grandfather preferred. Both James and I were reluctant at first but as the summer progressed swimming naked seemed natural. Only a couple of times hikers walked past.  They smiled or waved. One time Grandfather’s friend, Ralph, and his son joined us for an afternoon of skinny dipping and a barbeque.

As I gazed across the glazed, icy surface memories flooded into my mind. I remembered the day that James arrived. Grandfather and I got into his rusty, black pickup truck for a trip to town to wait for the Greyhound. Grandfather told me James had flown to Baltimore from Texas but had to take a bus to Frederick where we met him. When the bus arrived a skinny kid with long brown hair, who looked a lot like me, got off the bus. He looked around, recognized Grandfather who went up to him and without a hand shake took James’ bag. Grandfather said, “Jack, this is your cousin, James.”

James said, “Everyone calls me Jamie,” as he put his hand out for a handshake. I extended my hand to him. I had seen pictures of him but only when he was younger. He had longish brown, wavy hair I thought needed to be cut. He had the biggest, brown eyes I had ever seen.

Grandfather said, “I bet you’re hungry. Let’s stop at a diner on the way to my place.” I remember feeling awkward because I didn’t know what to say to my cousin who I didn’t know. Jamie seemed equally uncomfortable.  After we ordered Grandfather began, “Boys, let me tell you my plan. As Jack knows my house has only two bedrooms so you boys will take my room because the bed is bigger. I will move into the room where Jack’s been sleeping.” I remember feeling annoyed that I would have to sleep in the same bed with a guy I didn’t know. Grandfather continued, “We are going to set up a routine so each of us has different chores. I suggest that we trade off nights when either I or you boys fix dinner. My garden has plenty of vegetables and the freezer is stocked with beef and chicken.”

Jamie said, “Gramps, I don’t know how to cook.” I remember thinking the same thing.

“You will by the end of the summer. I will give you suggestions. I do have a grill for cooking the meat.” By this time our burgers and fries arrived so conversation was suspended until we were almost finished. Grandfather started again, “You guys will be working with my crew to repair one of the historic bridges and lock attendant’s house that’s next to the canal. Our work site is about a mile from my house. Tomorrow we will drive out at seven to meet Jasper and Perry who are the other members of my regular crew.”

When we got back to Grandfather’s house Jamie and I moved our things into Grandfather’s bedroom. We pulled off his soiled sheets and put on clean sheets. His bed was a regular double bed which meant it was impossible not to touch each other in the night. I remember not sleeping much that first night because Jamie kept rolling into me. In the dim light of morning I got out of bed to pee and walked through the open bathroom door and saw Grandfather was sitting on the toilet. He smiled and said, “I’ll be done in a couple of minutes. Would you put the tea kettle on the stove to heat the water?”

As I walked into the kitchen I thought that I had never seen my dad sitting on the toilet. Grandfather seemed comfortable with me being in the bathroom with him. When he came into the kitchen he said, “Where’s Jamie?”

“In bed, should I wake him?”

“I’ll get his ass out of bed. We’ve got to get going to meet the other guys. Get yourself some cereal. Milk’s in the refrigerator and sugar in that cabinet.” He turned as I headed toward the bathroom. I decided if he was comfortable with the door open I would follow his lead. Before I finished Jamie came in and stood beside me. When I finished and turned to wash my hands Jamie pulled his boxers down and sat on the toilet. I remember thinking that I wasn’t sure I liked the familiarity. I grew to like it.

View of a bridge and a shed

Canal Bridge and Shed

Finally, in the dim light of the winter evening I reached the bridge. Rather than seeing it in the cold dark evening light I chose to remember it as I first saw it.  Jasper, Perry and Grandfather instructed us on the various jobs required to dismantle the old bridge, save the old boards, reroof the shed, measure and cut the new lumber to exactly match the appearance of the old bridge and install hidden steel supports to insure the bridge lasted a long time. Shivering I looked at the bridge and smiled as I thought about the fun we had working with the guys. They taught me so much about historic reconstruction and carpentry. The bridge project was not the only project but it’s the one I remember the best.

Portrait of an elderly man


We usually quit work about four. Twice a week Grandfather, Jasper and Perry would go to a roadside tavern down the road for a beer. Grandfather would bring back a six pack and give us one beer. As summer went along we finished a six pack before dinner. Usually Jamie and I fixed dinner on the nights when Grandfather went out with his crew. Grandfather’s garden produced lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, egg plant and a myriad of herbs. Jamie was in charge of grilling the meat and I fixed whatever else we were having. Grandfather complimented our improving culinary efforts.

On evenings when we weren’t too tired we talked in bed. I found out that Jamie had lived not only in Hawaii but also Alaska and Nebraska. He told me he hoped they would stay in Texas so he could graduate from high school. He planned to go to Texas Tech when he graduated. He told me he planned to buy a car and that’s why he agreed to come to work with Grandfather. He thought he could save enough money to buy a good used car when he turned seventeen. When I asked him if he had a girlfriend he snapped, “Never stayed long enough to get into a girl’s panties.” He asked me the same thing. I admitted I didn’t have enough time or I hadn’t met the right girl.

The canal

Dusk on the Canal

Gradually a bright orange light appeared at the horizon. I watched as the light disappeared and thought back on the time Jamie and I became more than cousins working together. It happened one unusually hot afternoon when Grandfather was at the tavern. Jamie was dirty and sweaty wearing overalls and a soiled undershirt. He raised his arm and smelled his pit. He said, “I need a shower.” I know I was staring because he said, “Jack, have a smell.” The thought was repulsive but he grabbed my head and pushed my nose into his pit before I knew what happened. I couldn’t move because the smell of a boy becoming a man was intoxicating. I gagged but didn’t move away quickly enough. Jamie said, “Jack get undressed and let’s shower…together.”

I didn’t ask any questions and dropped my blue jeans, boxers, socks and work boots. He unsnapped his overall straps and let them drop. He wasn’t wearing underwear except for his undershirt. In the bathroom he turned on the water, stepped in and motioned for me to join him. His dick was hanging down between his legs while mine was extended. I couldn’t hide. I stepped into the tiny space with him. He held my dick and squeezed it. After he washed me and I washed him we dried and went to our bed. The room was hot so he turned on the little fan on the chest.

Two young men lying down and kissing

Jamie and Jack

He kissed my neck, ears and lips. I was frozen by the sensations. I instinctively wrapped my arms around him and he did the same. We stayed that way as my dick lay beside his thin, long manhood. I remember he suggested we change positions so each of us could reach the other’s dicks. I was so sensitive that in no more than three minutes I flooded his mouth. He did the same to me about two minutes later. He lay beside me and we kissed. I remember the salty taste left from the cum that each of us had released. That was the beginning of many intimacies we experienced together over the next six weeks.

The winter moon prevented total darkness as I turned from the bridge to return to the house. I could see someone walking my direction and couldn’t tell who it was. I assumed it was my father but soon could tell the person was taller and slimmer than my father. The person was waving and began to run toward me. It had to be Jamie. He slowed as he approached me. When he reached me without a word we hugged each other as he planted a wet kiss on my lips. I melted into his arms secure that no one could see us. Once our embrace was broken he said, “I figured you’d be here. Dad and I just got here. Are your mom and sisters here?”

“No, mom made up some excuse and the girls had school so it’s only dad and me. What about you?”

“Same thing. Just Bert and me.”

“Whose Bert?”

“That’s my dad, I call him Bert. He’s OK with it because he says it makes him feel younger.”

Holding hands we walked slowly toward Grandfather’s house. I could see that every window was lit. Several people were on the front porch smoking. Jamie said as we approached the house, “Jack, I have an idea. My dad reserved a motel room at that dumpy motel next to the bar.  Gramps only has one, useable bedroom because the other bedroom is set up for the funeral. Gramps body is in the living room. I’ll suggest to my dad that we will stay in the house with Gramps like the Catholics do. You do the same to your father. The brothers can take the motel room.”

“And you think that I want to sleep with you after you dumped me twenty years ago,” I said looking into his dark, sparkling brown eyes.

“Yes, and I’m going to fuck the hell out of you like I did all summer twenty years ago. You are gay, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and have a loving, wonderful partner who would not approve.”

“Why tell him? Our time together will be for old times’ sake.”

“So you finally decided you’re gay?”

“I don’t know what I am after two failed relationships – one with a woman and one with a man.”

I smiled. I was not about to deny myself reliving the fun that Jamie and I had at Grandfather’s. Our fathers agreed to our plan and shortly the house was ours. Both Jamie and I commented that it felt weird knowing Grandfather was lying in the other room. Jamie said, “Don’t you think he knew what we were doing when he was sleeping in the other room.”

Two young men lounging naked on a dock

The Photo

“I guess he did but I didn’t think about it.” We got a beer from the refrigerator and sat with Grandfather’s body and talked about what we’d been doing since we left the canal. I felt like Grandfather was listening to our conversation and said as much. Jamie smiled, “I bet he is.” Beside his favorite chair was our picture in a small black frame. He must have taken it without us seeing him do it. I handed it to Jamie who smiled and handed it back to me. “I guess he wanted to remember us as we were that summer.”

About midnight Jamie pulled me into Grandfather’s tiny shower before we got into bed naked as we did during our summer together. We hugged and kissed passionately like we had twenty years before. The lovemaking was sensual and gentle. I knew Grandfather was watching because I could feel his presence in the room. I was sure he enjoyed seeing the lovemaking between his two grandsons and remembering the wonderful summer we spent with him living by the canal.

Author’s note

The story is completely fictional and the author reserves all rights to it. Sharing is encouraged.  I want to thank Nick Clements from Silver Spring, MD who gave the author permission to use his winter C & O Canal pictures and proofed the story. The other photos were found on the internet without photographer’s credits. I would be happy to credit the photographer if they contact me. If you have comments about the story please email them to I am always happy to hear from readers.