Shell Game

By Hypnothrill published February 3, 2019

Shell necklaces are the hot new trend at the beach this year. Soon everyone will be wearing one…

{Here’s the first installment of a new story. I got inspired by this photo set:, and the story idea pretty quickly sprang to mind. Expect one or two more installments after this one. And please, let me know in the comments section what you’re enjoying about this story.}

Shell Game

I’d never been very close to my younger brother Ryan. I suppose that partly it was the age gap; he was over four years younger than me. And then there was the fact that he was really only my half-brother. My parents split up when I was about 3, and Dad wasted no time in remarrying. We’d never talked about it, but I figure that he hadn’t intended to marry Ryan’s mom quite so fast; they had a quickie wedding, and 4 months later, Ryan was born.

Still, for a shotgun wedding, they were together for a pretty long time: nearly 18 years. They only got divorced a few months ago, though they’d been having trouble for a lot longer. I remember staying over at their house one weekend, back when I was still in High School, and hearing Ryan’s mom yell at my dad, accusing him of banging some girl in his office. Knowing my dad’s track record, she was probably right.

But like I said, I was only over at their house on the weekends—that was part of the custody agreement, every other weekend—so I never got much of a chance to bond with my little brother. Not that I had much in common with Ryan anyway. I was always an introvert, the quiet type of kid who liked to read a lot; I took after my mother that way. And it had served me well; I just graduated Summa Cum Laude from Wesleyan last month, and I planned to apply to grad schools, right after I took a gap year to do some soul searching.

Ryan, on the other hand, was more like our dad: the kind of guy who just wants to be liked, who goes along with the crowd. He’d just graduated high school, and from what I could tell, he’d been part of the popular jock clique. He’d even made the soccer team, even though he wasn’t any kind of star athlete.

So when Dad booked this two-week time share at the beach, I was reluctant to go along, even when he kept telling me it would be the perfect opportunity to spend time with my brother.

“Listen, you guys have never really gotten the chance to just hang out like brothers. And Ryan’s going off to college in a couple of months, and you don’t have anything else on your plate right now. It’s really the perfect chance to get to know your brother, get to know what kind of man Ryan’s become. He really looks up to you, you know. It would mean a lot to him.”

And so dad managed to guilt me into coming to stay at the beach house for a couple of weeks. For the first few days, it would be just me and Ryan, and then dad would drive down on the weekend to be with us. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, I figured. People tend to change a lot once they get out of high school, so maybe Ryan would have a newfound maturity. Maybe we’d get a chance to have some of those deep brother-to-brother conversations I’d always wanted.

I was wrong. We quickly exhausted all available topics of conversation on the drive over to the beach house. Mostly, Ryan just wanted to brag about himself and his friends and their ability to score good-looking girls, though there was an equally painful little 10 minute interlude where he talked about his tanning plans and described the umpteen pairs of sunglasses he’d packed for the trip. Frankly, it was a relief when the conversation tapered off and Ryan went back to texting his friends.

Once we got to the house, Ryan wasted no time in changing into his board shorts and then running out to hit the beach. As he was heading out the door, I asked him if he’d be back in time for dinner, and he just gave a little grunt and said, “Probably.”

Later that afternoon, as I walked back from the grocery store, I spotted him on the beach, playing a game of volleyball with a group of other young guys while a bunch of girls in bikinis looked on admiringly. I waved to Ryan, but he didn’t notice me. Needless to say, I ended up making dinner for one that night.

This morning, Ryan was out the door so early I didn’t even get a chance to ask him about what he’d been doing all day. I did some journaling, then watched a couple of episodes of Black Mirror on Netflix, before I decided I might as well hit the beach myself.

I was lying on my beach towel, halfway into the new George Saunders novel, when I heard a familiar voice calling out, “Hey bro, how’s it hanging?!”

I looked up to see Ryan, flanked by two blond “beach bro” types who looked like they could be Hollister models: tanned, toned swimmers builds, six-pack abs, short spiky hair, shell necklaces that they wore tight around their necks like a choker, expensive sunglasses. And Ryan looked like he fit into their group perfectly. In fact, aside from his slightly darker hair color and his bare, choker-free neck, he was almost indistinguishable from them.

“Bro, this is Carter,” he pointed to the blond on his left, “And this is Andy,” he pointed to the slightly taller blond on his right. “These dudes are the coolest! We’ve been hanging out all day. Guys, this is my big brother Alex.”

I shook their hands, a bit awkwardly. I wondered what they thought of me, but their trendy sunglasses masked their expressions.

“Carter and Andy were just taking me to the far side of the beach to look at some cool shells. Want to come with?”

“Nah,” I told him, “I just want to sit here and finish my book. But listen, let’s have dinner together tonight, just the two of us. I was thinking about cooking your favorite.”

“Dad’s spaghetti?”

“Yep, Dad’s spaghetti. That is, if you’ll be there.”

“Well, I can’t turn down a dish of Dad’s spaghetti,” Ryan grinned. “I’ll be there.”

“Great, dinner will be on the table at 7:00. Don’t be late!” I called after him as he headed down the beach with his new friends.

It’s 7:45 now, and I’ve finished my plate of spaghetti. Ryan’s is sitting on the other side of the table, getting cold. He hasn’t come back, and he isn’t answering my texts. I’m trying to control my temper, but it isn’t working. I mean, I know he’s still young, but there’s no way I was this much of an irresponsible, spoiled little fuck when I was 18.

I hear the front door open and check the time on my phone: 9:18. Trying to keep the anger out of my voice, I walk out into the living room to confront Ryan.

“Where the hell were you, bro? I texted you like maybe twenty times and you never got back to me. Not cool!” I can’t tell if Ryan’s really hearing what I’m saying. He’s just standing there shirtless, his sunglasses perched atop his spiky hair, a dazed look in his eyes.

“Sorry bro…” he says, talking slowly and taking long pauses, like it’s an effort just to come out with the words, “Lost track of time there…Having too much fun with my buds… Look…” he says, pointing at his neck, “Look what they got me…”

Suddenly, I notice that Ryan’s wearing one of those shell choker necklaces, just like Carter and Andy were wearing.

“Look…” Ryan says, a dopey smile forming on his face as he fingers the shells of the necklace, “Isn’t it cool?”

“Ryan, are you… are you stoned?”

“Naw, man… I’m just… feelin’ good, you know…” he giggles, “Better than I’ve ever felt in my whole life.”

I’m not sure what’s gotten into him. I suspect he’s high on something, if not pot then maybe some other kind of drug. But maybe it’s just sunstroke.

“Well, I’m glad you had a good time and all, but I was worried about you. When you didn’t come back for dinner and didn’t answer my texts, I didn’t know WHAT had happened to you. For all I knew, those friends of yours might have tied you up and raped you!”

For some odd reason, that got a chuckle from Ryan. “Naw, man, Carter and Andy just wanted to help me. We’re tight now. Like brothers.”

“Like brothers? You’ve only known these dudes for less than 24 hours, and now they’re like your brothers? So what am I?”

“I mean, I know we’re related and all… But me and Carter and Andy… we’ve just like… got this special connection…” Ryan says, fingering his shell necklace.

Trying to suppress how hurt I feel, I tell him, “Your spaghetti’s still on the table. You want me to heat it up for you?”

“Naw, that’s okay. I’m not hungry. Carter and Andy already fed me loads. Actually, I just came back to shower and shave, and then I’m heading over to Carter’s house.”

“Well, don’t let me stop you then,” I respond, the bitterness creeping into my voice.

I cue up another Black Mirror episode, hoping to distract myself as Ryan takes his shower. I’m halfway through the episode before Ryan walks out of the shower, still dripping wet, stark naked except for that stupid shell choker around his neck.

“Hey bro, can I borrow a razor? I need to get a close shave, but mine is too dull.” As he points to his crotch, I look down and see that his pubic bush is half-shaved: completely bare on the left, a thick triangle of brown pubes on the right. I try to prevent myself from looking down further, from staring at my little brother’s big dick, from wondering how big that thing gets, how much bigger it is than my own.

“Um…here…” I say, fumbling through my travel bag until I find a disposable razor, “Keep it. I don’t want it back.”

“Thanks bro.”

I watch as he walks back into the shower, his big dick bobbing as he rubs the back of his neck.

So much for the vacation bonding with my younger brother. I haven’t seen him all day, ever since he left last night to sleep over at Carter’s house. Before he went out, Ryan said something about getting up early to go dive for shells, so maybe that’s what he’s been doing all day. (Who knew Ryan was so into shells?)

I guess it’s a good thing I brought along plenty of books to read. I pick a spot on the beach where there aren’t too many people around and set down my beach towel. This one guy—late 30s, hairy chest, neatly trimmed beard, pink speedo, obviously gay—comes up and starts talking to me, asking me what I’m reading, clearly trying to flirt a bit, but I politely shut him down and go back to my Thomas Pynchon novel.

I’m so engrossed in Inherent Vice that I don’t even notice the group of guys arriving on the beach, until I hear the gay guy saying “Well aren’t you boys looking fit?” and then a familiar voice responding “Thanks dude, you’re looking pretty good yourself.”

Wait….was that….?

I look up and see Ryan and his friends standing next to the gay guy’s beach towel, flirting with him. There are five of them—Ryan and Carter and Andy and two other young surfer jock types I don’t recognize, but who are wearing the same types of board shorts and sunglasses and choker shell necklaces. I’m close enough that I can hear nearly every word of their conversation, but they’re so engrossed in talking to the gay guy that they don’t even notice me.

“Hey, you like our necklaces?” Carter’s saying now. “They really look good against our tanned bodies, don’t you think? They really show off our toned muscles, don’t you think?”

“Um…yeah…” the gay guy’s getting flustered now, with all these hot young guys coming onto him, “They look…uh… really good on you”

“They’d look good on you too,” one of the others says, reaching into a plastic bag and pulling out another choker shell necklace, “We’re selling them for only 5 bucks. Try it on.”

“Well…I don’t know…” the gay guy hesitates, “It’s not really my style…”

“Okay, we like you, so for you it’s only 3 bucks,” Andy quickly interjects.

“Um…it’s not a question of the money…it’s just…”

“Come on,” Ryan urges him, reaching down to softly stroke the gay guy’s shoulder. “Just try it on. I think you’d look sexy in it.”

What the fuck? Was my younger brother gay? It was either that, or he was one hell of a ruthless salesman.

“Uh…okay…okay…” says the gay guy, blushing at my brother’s touch. “I’ll try it on.”

“Good choice!” says the boy holding the shell choker, kneeling down to fasten it around the older man’s throat. “You’ll love how it feels in you!”

In me?” the gay guy sounds confused, “Don’t you mean on….” His voice trails off as the surfer jock clasps the choker in place, then keeps his hand pressed against the back of the older man’s neck.

Carter kneels down and whispers in the gay guy’s ear, “There, doesn’t that feel good?”

The gay guy doesn’t say anything at first, just makes a weird gurgling sound. Finally, I can hear him respond with a soft, throaty “Yessss….”

“Good. Then why don’t we take this somewhere more private?” The five young men reach down and lift the gay guy to his feet. I can see a big bulge in his pink speedo as they guide him away, towards the secluded dunes on the far side of the beach. Then I look down and notice his beach bag and towel are still lying there, abandoned.

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