Copyright © 2008 by db mcneill
Last year, Suzy and I walked home together every day after school. On the last day we walked across the street to the high school and waited for the buses to pull out. We watched the big kids throw their books and papers from the windows. We ran behind the buses and had a parade. Suzy sang, “Ta DA Ta DA!” I marched and played invisible trombone.
We stopped at the ice cream parlor before we went home. We lingered a long while over the glass counter, looking carefully into each tub. We had enough money between us for one scoop apiece. I got vanilla and Suzy got Rocky Road. The lady at the counter put our ice cream in sugar cones, even though she knew we couldn’t pay for them. “You girls be good this summer,” she said and smiled. Her eyes were sad when she said it. The ice cream lady always had the saddest eyes, even though she had a better job than anybody.
We ate our ice cream and wandered down to the lake, stopping at Deadman’s Cove where the high school kids go swimming. Some of them were already there, laughing and splashing one another. There is a pier that floats in the cove, far out from the shore. Sunlight danced on the water that afternoon but the pier remained dark and mysterious. Nevertheless, teenagers swam out to it. They were unimpressed by the riddle of the pier. They stood, balancing, then jumped off. Light flashed sharply on the splashing water. Droplets flew, arching through the air, forming temporary diamonds. After a while, a boy and two girls stretched out on the old smooth wood of the pier. Propped up on their elbows, they watched their friends. They looked on coolly as the pier bobbed in the water.
My stomach felt funny. I was missing something. “I’m going to swim out to that pier this summer,” I said.
Suzy’s eyes widened. “It’s a hundred miles out to that pier,” she said.
“Not a hundred, I don’t think,” I answered, “Maybe fifty.”
“Wow,” she said, “When do you think you will?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “This summer.”
That had been three full months ago. Now summer was almost over. I hadn’t been anywhere near that cove. Suzy hadn’t said another word about it, but I knew what she must be thinking. I’d never told a lie before. I didn’t want to start, especially not with my best and only friend. I sat up and pulled my toes away from the nibbling fish. I stood up and brushed myself off. I took a deep breath and walked down the path in the woods to Suzy’s house. Her door is enormous. I knocked.
Suzy grinned as she opened the door. “Let’s go,” I said solemnly.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“You’ll see,” I said. “I’m going to show you that summer isn’t over. Not yet.”
We took the old dirt road. We walked past my house. Big Ellen was sitting in a chair in her front yard, drinking a soda. She waved as we walked by. Suzy waved back. We walked past Ervine’s, where Big Ellen had most likely purchased her soda. We didn’t stop. Suzy grew solemn. Soon Deadman’s Cove and the pier were in sight. Suzy stopped and held out her hand. “Good luck, old friend,” she said. We shook hands. We’d seen that in a movie. I wiped my mouth on my arm. I said, “Well, here goes nothing.” That had been in the movie too.
I walked to the edge of the cove and stepped in. I waded out until the water was up to my chest. I took a deep breath. I started to swim.