We Have a Pact
I had just begun my trip up the ladder when I was hit in the chest with the rag. I grabbed it, and finished my trip up the ladder. Then, I stopped.
“Okay, folks; everyone knows the rules. No intentional face hits. Head hits are ok, but avoid the face. No whip-crack shots; let the rag go. Anyone who does not let go will remain 'It', but we will all hold the offender under water until he drowns.” I grinned. “Of course, that’s only for the worst offenders! And, of course, no tags-back!”
“Five seconds to clear off, or be whacked,” I shouted. “One...two...three,” and by the time I hit 4, everyone was off the raft except for me and Steve. I didn’t have Steve in mind for the tag since he had hit me when I came up the ladder. I looked out over the water, trying to see where everybody had gone. There! I saw some bubbles right near the raft. I dropped the rag right on the head of Karl, just as he surfaced. He sputtered a few incomprehensible words, grabbed the rag, and submerged. A moment later, he was on the ladder, coming up, without the rag. I could only guess at whom he tagged. Linda surfaced by the ladder and began to climb, only to get hit in the behind by Kelly. Linda grabbed the rag and whipped it at me just nicking me in the foot. The rag continued off the raft. Cursing my luck, I jumped, grabbed the rag and did a 180- degree turn, tossing the rag. It missed Steve, who pushed Kelly into the water. But then, Diane came up. She had the rag. Had I managed to hit her from that distance? I didn’t know, but I grabbed a breath and headed for the relative safety of the underside of the raft.
I heard a splash, and a moment later Steve surfaced next to me. Too late, I realized that he had the rag, and he got me in the chest for the second time. I snatched the rag and did a dive, heading for the ladder. I powered the rag into Karl’s behind, finished climbing the ladder, and paused to catch my breath. No such luck, however. I found myself in the water. As I surfaced, I was met by a human projectile I recognized as Steve. He had pushed me in, and somehow he apparently was suffering the same fate. Diane was the only one on the raft. Had she done it? I climbed the ladder, and I heard her say softly “That one is for you, honey.”
Honey?, I said to myself. Did I hear that right? Did she call me ‘honey’? Not able to make myself believe what I had heard, I stood for a second, until I saw Karl coming up the ladder. No rag. Linda had it but she tossed it on the raft and left the game. Apparently, she had been out on the raft too long. Diane grabbed the rag and went after Steve, who did an amazing back-flip into the water. He apparently came up under the raft, where it was somewhat safe. Diane stood holding the rag, looking at me. I waited to see what she would do, ready to dodge. But Diane surprised me. She walked over to me, placed the rag in my hand, and said “Go get them, Mikey.”
Mikey?, I wondered. Nobody has ever called me that before. Karl came up the ladder. I hit him in the belly, and went into the water. Steve followed Karl up the ladder. In seconds, Karl was in the water, but he still hadn’t gotten rid of the rag. I climbed the ladder and attempted to push Steve in, but the big guy was too strong for me. As I went into the water, I saw Diane coming up after him. She was in the water in a second or two, and we both dived for the underside of the raft. I came up first, grabbing a beam. She surfaced just barely after I did, and sputtered.
“It seems that they want to play ‘king of the raft’, Diane,” I said. "Let’s go get those idiots!” She took my hand as if to shake it. But she held it too long, and then she said, “Ok. We have a pact.” Now, what was that supposed to mean?
Diane and I teamed up. If I was hit, she would take the rag and hit the person who hit me. I did the same for her. If one of us was pushed in, the other one of us pushed the person who did the pushing. I found myself wondering why I was teaming with her. But I didn’t question the fact that I was teaming with her.
The ringing bell alerted me that Lunch was ready. I excused myself and left the game, and when I did the game broke up. I didn’t go in immediately, knowing that the lunch bell usually meant 10 minutes. I headed for the gym bars, and Diane went to the swings. Steve and Adam left the beach entirely, and Karl went in. The parades had started. That meant it was 2 in the afternoon! Had I been out there that long? Somebody tossed a firecracker behind me. It exploded and I jumped. I glanced around, finally glaring at the offender who was laughing at me. Big, burly guy...apparently he thought it was funny. I looked over at the swings. Diane was there, swinging a little, but looking directly at me. Then, she did something that struck me as a bit weird. She put two fingers to her lips, then lowered them, and blew across her fingers, toward me. Then she headed up to the cabin. Once again, a firecracker landed at my feet, and I got out of the way just in time. That one wasn’t an ordinary firecracker. That one was an M-80! It was the equivalent of a quarter stick of dynamite! Same fellow tossed it as before. Not wanting to put up with it, I went to the west side of the beach. And I thought about what Diane just did. Then it occurred to me. She had blown a kiss to me.
My eyes must have bugged out. I heard a voice near me say “That guy must be freaking out! He’s a doper, for sure. Just look at his eyes, man.” I ignored the comment. He had no idea what had just happened to me.
The Lunch bell rang again. I went in. My shoulders ached from the sunburn I was sure I had. I was hot and not feeling well. I ate a small lunch, then went to lie down. I would be sound asleep in just a couple of minutes. I began to think about what was going on. Diane had called me Honey and Mikey. She had taken my hand, and held it, saying “Ok, we have a pact.” Just what kind of pact? What did she mean?
I awakened at 7P.M. when a series of firecrackers exploded by my window. I groaned as my shoulders lifted off the mattress. I may not have had the world’s worst sunburn, but it was the worst I ever had. It was a light supper, just a hot dog and some potato salad, with a few baked beans. So much the better, since I really wasn’t in the mood for any big meals. I put on a light-weight shirt to protect me from the mosquitoes, and then went down to the swings. I sat for a few minutes, remembering the buzz of the game earlier. Then, I found myself swinging high. I dragged my feet to stop, and turned around. That girl from the game –what was her name again?– was standing behind me, a wide grin splitting her face. Her hair was now done in page-boy style and the light of sparklers was reflected in both her eyes and hair. For some reason, her name kept escaping me.
The boy I met earlier came up and said “I told you to wait for me, Diane.”
Ah, that was it. Their names were Diane and Karl. Why did that take so long for me to remember? I promised myself I would not forget their names again.
Diane gave me another of those indefinable looks which seemed to be her trademark. “I hope you’re feeling better now, Mikey.” Karl shot her a dirty look. It was easily readable, even by a novice like me. It said “you are my sister, and you don’t know this guy. So, shut up!” She ignored it, I guess, because she continued. “We came over around 6. We were told that you weren’t feeling well. We wanted you to join us out on the raft.”
“I wouldn’t have come out anyway,” I replied, as my shoulders painfully reminded me of the earlier game. “I got way too much sun today. I’m still kind of sore, and I'm feeling a bit woozy.”
Karl spoke up. “I was wondering if you planned on going fishing tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow? The way these boats were parading through here? I doubt that fish would be biting, but I did notice an area that seemed to be untouched by the noise today. It’s over there.” I pointed to the west, near a rocky coast. “We might have some good luck over there. Want to meet at seven, down by my dad’s boat? We’ll use that. BYOBB. That’s Bring your own BAIT, Buddy!”
“I’ll do that,” Karl said.
Diane sputtered. “I am going along. Karl, you are well aware that where you go, I go, and where I go, you go!”
“You’d be quite welcome to come along, Diane,” was my reply. In fact, I prefer more people to fewer.” Karl shot me a dirty look. He was one who was very easy to read. His look said Give me a break! She’s driving me nuts!
Karl took a couple of swats at some mosquitoes that were floating around him. “I’m going in. Just too many bugs out here tonight. See you in the morning, Mike!”
I nodded, and reminded him, “Seven A.M. Be ready!” Karl nodded back, then ambled off to the house. I got up, and offered Diane the swing. She sat down, and gave me a dazzling smile. I felt a bit odd, so I said “I’m going to wander the beach a bit.” I did move off, but not very far: only as far as the gym bars. I found myself gazing west, at Diane. She noticed, and gave me that same smile as before. But this time, her expression was not simply a “Thank you.” Why was she so difficult to read, anyway?
I stood for a few moments until the mosquitoes became a swarming nightmare around me. I gave her my goodnight sign, a pantomiming of lifting my hat, then went in. I noticed that she went in at the same time.
The fireworks began at 10P.M. Every year, I would watch with great interest. But this year, for some reason, I could not concentrate on the display. My eyes kept straying to the house next door. A few bottle rockets whizzed by our window, exploding brilliantly. But they barely captured my attention. I simply kept watching for another glimpse of Diane. I could not understand why.
The loud crackles and flashing lights of the finale alerted me to the end of the display. Yes, I had missed the whole thing. I had been watching Diane’s house for 30 minutes. Something weird was happening to me, and I didn’t know what.
I was tired, and still a bit sick. I got ready for bed, and crawled in. As I did, my mind returned to the day. The game replayed in my mind. Diane had captured my imagination from almost the moment she came into the driveway next door. Diane had called me Honey, and Mikey, two things which I had never been called. She had invoked my name when pushing Steve into the water. She had taken my hand, and held it longer than I had expected when saying “Okay. We have a pact.” I still didn’t know what she meant. I tried to sort through it all.
A bottle rocket whizzed by my window. Firecrackers were still exploding, sparklers were still being lit and tossed into the lake where they fizzled out. This was going to continue long into the night, I knew. I set my alarm for an early rising, just so I could conduct my fireworks hunt in the morning.
Another bottle rocket sped by my window. A flying disk burst while going by. As it did, I imagined the face of Diane, looking in at me. I heard her say, again, the mysterious words: “We have a pact.” This is the last thing I remember before falling asleep.