This may, or may not, be my last from my novel. It will depend on the reactions I get, and so far the reactions are zilch. That's fine. I can always come up with other things.
So, without further delay, here is Chapter 1, SPECIAL TIMES, SPECIAL SUMMERS
Let the Game Begin
The fishing opener had come and gone, and Memorial Day, too. It was July 4th. And I was up very early, 5 A.M. to be precise, scurrying about within the cabin. This was always a big day at the lake. I knew that if I were to get any fishing done at all, I would have to do it early, because by 11 o’clock, the lake would be filled with boats. There would be a pontoon parade, and a fleet of speedboats pulling water skiers. The lake wouldn’t be the same for good fishing for at least a week. And it was why I was up early.
I thought again about the area, and how fortunate we were. Just 150 feet from the lake itself. There were hills and lots of woods with lots of wildlife. (I detected a skunk nearby, and heard a few loons on the lake). A small store was just a mile away, reachable by walking or by boat. It was known as Nellie’s Store. Just a little place, a bit of a dump . . . but it was the place to hang out for the younger crowd, and a place for the older set to meet.
I took my fishing pole and tackle box, and walked 100 yards to the dock I had chosen for my fishing. There was a little wind, but it was enough to interfere with my casts, so I chose a heavier lure. First cast, something hit the lure. What it was, I’ll never know. It broke my line. It was big, that I know. Since my line was a 12-pound test line, and the fish snapped it with such ease, it must have been big. Unfortunately, it left me without my lure, and I struggled to make a new Fisherman’s knot, which is something I was never able to do well.
A bell ringing caught my attention. Breakfast. Mom had either gotten up early, or . . . . My watch showed 8AM. Incredible. Where had the time gone?
Although I finished breakfast quickly, a quick glance out the window confirmed my suspicions. Already people in speedboats, making waves, pulling water skiers. So much for fishing, I thought. I sat for a while, reading. Then I decided a game of miniature golf on our backyard course might be more my speed. It was now 9:30 A.M. I had barely reached our tee when I saw a large car pull into the driveway of the cabin next door. Interesting! When had that cabin been sold? I hadn’t noticed. I hit the ball, and continued to note what was going on.
The back seat doors opened quickly, but nobody emerged right away. The front doors opened, and a short, bald man got out of the driver’s seat. A woman got out of the other side. Not much to note, really. As soon as the trunk was opened, a couple of others exited, now from the back seat. A boy got out. He was a few inches shorter than I was. Maybe a year younger, too. He shouted “Hurry up, Diane. You have to help us unload, and I want to go swimming!”
A girl, maybe two years younger than he was, got out of the car. She was a little shorter than I was. Maybe 2 inches shorter. She was taller than the boy. Her hair was what I termed a two tone blonde. It was mostly blonde, but there was a hint of brunette in her hair. I always liked that mix of color, and somehow, it fit her perfectly. “Shut up, Karl,” she said. “I do my share around here, and I probably do more than you’ll ever do.”
Oh, that was great. It was a brother and sister act. It certainly wasn’t likely that they were not. The girl looked in my direction for a moment, then began to unload the car. I blinked . . . was she looking at me or just in my direction? I certainly didn’t know.
I played a few holes on the course, and then I heard a voice. “Hi! Can I join the game? I’m not very good, but I need some practice.”
“Sure, Karl. Join right up! Par 3, of course. Don’t go in the ditch, or it costs you a stroke!”
He looked at me curiously. “How do you know my name?”
“I heard –is that your sister?– say it when both of you were jawing at each other!”
“Oh. Yes, she’s my sister. She’s a pain in the butt. But then, aren’t all sisters a pain?”
“I wouldn’t know. I’m an only child. But I would guess that sisters would be a pain. Oh. . . sorry. I’m Mike Blandest. Do you spell your name with a C, or a K?“
“K. I’m Karl Lester,” Karl replied. “I’m from the cities. I live in Ellers.”
“ Are you saying that you live near Day Park? If so, we’re practically neighbors!”
After a few minutes, I had learned he was a year and a half younger than I, and that Diane was not his only sister. But she was the only one left at home, so the others didn’t really matter. Diane was a year younger than he was. My guesses hadn’t been too far off.
Karl picked up a golf club, and I gave him the go ahead. He hit the ball and it rolled 50 yards right down to the hole. It hit a stick shortly before the hole, and it rolled about 4 inches to the right. I looked at him.
“Not very good?” I asked, incredulously. “You almost sunk it!”
“Almost. But I didn’t,” he said with a bit of a grin. “Just luck, I tell you.”
Luck, my foot. I found out that his father was the pro golfer at the Striker Golf Course. But when we played the next hole he was so far off that I simply couldn’t doubt his word. He wasn’t that great.
A slam of the door at the cabin next door caught our attention. Diane yelled at Karl, “I thought you were going swimming!”
Karl looked at me, shrugging, and said “I have to stay with her. That’s our deal for swimming.” He put the club down, and trotted back to his place, while I looked more closely at Diane. She was a tomboy, no doubt about that. Her hair was a medium length, and her eyes sparkled a bit in the sun. She was not wearing a swim suit, bikini or one-piece, but shorts, and a shirt. She was going swimming in that? Karl came out of the house in a swim suit, and they ran down to the dock, Karl slowing down just as they reached the dock. He then proceeded to push his sister into the water. I laughed to myself. This was going to prove an interesting summer, for sure!
New neighbors and new friends always brought excitement for me. And as this day progressed, a day that was always exciting anyway, I would begin to realize just how correct my belief was. I had met Karl in a matter of minutes. I guessed that it wouldn’t be long until I met his sister. But I never realized that meeting Diane officially was going to turn my life upside-down, throwing it into complete chaos.
Since my golf partner was now gone, I played two more holes then went inside. Reading was my favorite pastime, and I had a bunch of library books. My first love was a good dinosaur book, then astronomy. Mysteries took 3rd place. What I had was a mystery, and I was just getting into it. A knock at the door disturbed me, but I didn’t pay attention. I wasn’t alone; someone else would get the door. Well, that was what happened until a voice thundered “MIKE! Someone for you at the door.” Sighing, I marked my page. I went to the door and went out. I expected Karl. But it was Diane who was there, soaked and shivering slightly. There was a slight twinkle in her eye, and an air of mischief about her. I wondered what she wanted.
“Mike? I’m Diane. Karl and I have a small group on the raft and we’d like one more to join us for a game of Rag Tag.”
"I know who you are, Di.” I chuckled a bit. "The game sounds fun. Who’s out there? And why are you asking me, instead of Karl?”
“Karl pushed me in. He told me to come up and get you. Instead of fighting back, I thought it better to come on up. Well, we’ve just met Steve, who said he knows you. His brother, Adam is down there, as are Kelly and Linda,” she answered with a rather strange tone of voice. Annoyance? Resignation? A combination of both, maybe? I could not identify it.
“Sounds like you’ve got enough already. Why do you need me?” I asked.
“Oh, come on,” she pleaded. “You know the game is more fun with more in it!” There was a look on her face that I didn’t understand. . . I couldn’t define it. I never was able to resist a pleading voice. I sighed slightly, and nodded.
“OK. I need a few minutes, and I’ll be down. Tell the group that the Raft Master is a coming....”
She giggled a bit, and then she put her hand on my shoulder. She gave me another odd, indefinable look, then turned and ran back to the lake. Someone tossed a firecracker behind her and it exploded just as she jumped into the lake. I didn’t see who tossed the ‘cracker. The beach was already filling up; smoke bombs were going off, and firecrackers were sounding now and then.
I went in to change. Oddly, my heart was pounding–not just the normal beat, but hard. Strange. No game had ever got me so worked up. As I pulled off my shirt, I realized–Diane had touched me. Sure, I had been touched by other girls. There were games of tag in Gym class. There had been square dancing, too, but square dancing wasn’t my style. I dismissed the crazy thoughts that I was beginning to have, and finished changing.
I had not been swimming in a week. The whole week had been one continuous thunderstorm. Today, it was bright, already warm. And it was July 4th; crowds were showing up already. Cherry Bombs, Firecrackers, Smoke bombs, and other Independence Day “Necessities” were now starting to go off regularly, the sounds echoing around the lake. Tonight, there was the big fireworks display on the south side of the lake. I didn’t have any fireworks, but tomorrow morning, I’d search the beach. I was sure there would be leftovers. I grabbed my “Raft Master” goggles and fins, and went out the door. I hoped the lake was warm. And I hoped that fish weren’t biting. At least, I hoped that they weren’t biting on me. I would soon find that I wasn’t the hunter, but the hunted. Or, at least that is what it would appear to be.
The sand was surprisingly cool, but full of cockleburs. I had to watch my step, but glanced out at the raft. There was Steve, doing battle with his brother. Steve had the advantage. He was 3 years older than Adam, and 10 inches taller. Both had the same deep red hair, and the freckles to match. Kelly, neighbor to the east was there, assisting Adam. To no avail, however. Kelly, also a redhead, was handled as easily as Adam, both of them getting pushed into the water at once. Kelly was more boy-like than Adam was. Linda, Kelly’s sister, was just a year younger, and more voluptous than Kelly. A complete contrast to her sister, Linda was the girl of the family. Raven-black hair, certainly more feminine in appearance but a lot stronger than she appeared, Linda simply sat on the raft taking a break from the game.
Suddenly, I heard a voice. Just a whisper, but it caught my attention. “Let’s go for a walk, Mike. I’d like for you to get to know me better.” I looked around for the source of the voice. Nobody was even close to me. Nobody was looking at me, or anyone else. I concluded that my imagination was playing tricks on me.
Checking the water temperature with my toe, I found it warm. I dived in, and did a breast stroke out to the 10-foot deep water where the raft was anchored. But my speed was that of a baby who was just learning to crawl. I took it slow on the short swim out, just observing the bottom and the fish. As I took hold of the ladder, I thought Let the game begin. It did. And my life would never be the same.