For those who have been patiently waiting, here's the continuation of SPECIAL TIMES, SPECIAL SUMMERS
Superspy In Action
I would normally sleep with my window closed. The strange sounds, the crickets, the owls, the frogs, the combined symphony would almost always keep me awake. If it rained, as well, Leaving the window open would invariably mean that I would be walking through a puddle on the floor. I hated it, and the two reasons I gave would always get me to shut my window. But, from time to time, either someone would open the window when I was asleep, the wind would blow it open, or maybe, just maybe, I would fall asleep before I closed it. Sometimes, I'd awake to find a face (Imagined) staring at me through the window, and I'd scream and slam the window shut. It was something I had never been able to shake, nightmares of an ugly face staring at me through the screen... and a hand with a knife ripping the screen open!
This morning, I woke about 6:30. I wouldn't normally wake at that hour. But I was hearing chatter outside. I looked out: Karl and Diane were playing a round, or maybe a second round, on the little course. Apparently, they either got in late, just before midnight, or early, like about 5AM or so. Whichever it was, I rose, and shouted "HEY! Have you no respect for the dead?" Then I laughed out loud. "Any Eagles?" I yelled over at them.
Karl raised a hand, all 5 fingers extended. Then he put 2 fingers up, and pointed to Diane, then 3, and pointed to himself. "WHAT?! I'm Coming out! Prepare to lose, amateurs!" I called. Before I went out, I marked the sheet that I had begun, a sheet on which I was keeping track of the holes-in-one that were shot. Karl was gaining, and Diane - Surprisingly, had shown a touch on the course - a touch that I never knew she had.
After about another hour, we called it a game, and began to discuss a possible fishing trip over to the rocky coast on the west side. That is when a car pulled into the Lester's driveway. Yep, that was Steve's buggy, alright. He got out, raised his cap to the 3 of us, and then called for Diane to come over to him. I noted the time, and realized that "Superspy" was now underway. I invited Karl up to the front of the cabin, and we went up front, and sat on the chairs that were in front of the house.
Karl seemed a bit uncomfortable I didn't know if it was because of the game that we had finished, if it was because of Steve's appearance, or something else was on his mind. It turned out to be the latter.
"Mike, I have a question for you, and don't be upset--after all, I'm trying to protect my sister."
"Well, I don't know why I'd be upset. You can certainly try to protect her. Remember, I have no brothers or sisters, so I won't know exactly what you are driving at, I suppose," was my reply. Karl sat back, looking at me, as if he were trying to figure out the best way to say his question, as if it were difficult to phrase.
Finally, he sighed. "Well, I guess it should just be said. What is the blazes is happening between you and my sister?"
I was startled. "What? What do you mean? There's nothing going on. Why in the name of Charlie Brown would you ask that?"
Karl sighed again. "When we pulled up to the library in Day Park, it looked like you were planning on giving her a tonsillectomy! She told me all about your chat, and everything you said."
Again, I was startled - and appalled! "Excuse me? Tonsillectomy? You've really lost me here, buddy! And all our chat was about was if I would sing for her! She did tell me that she was studying magic. And hypnosis, too, as she said."
Karl stared at me. Disbelief? What was he seeing? "You really don't know what I mean, do you? You have no clue at all."
I stood up. "Karl, I really don't know what is going on here! The charge you are leveling at me is... weird, to say the least! I don't know what you saw, or thought you saw, but I didn't have anything in mind. And what the blazes did Diane say our conversation was about, anyway?"
Karl remained seated. He covered his face with his hands, as if to relieve a pain that had occurred. He took a deep breath, and then released it.
"Come on, Karl... let it out. Just what the fig did Diane say, anyway?" I growled. He looked up, a bit shocked at my tone, I guess. I softened it. "Look, buddy... I really would like to know what is going on. Why this all of a sudden, anyway? And, just look a moment. Is Diane over here? No, she's with Steve!" I waved over at Steve, he nodded, smiled an ironic and mysterious smile, and took Diane's hand. Then they walked off to the east. That was surprising. He took her hand! What the heck, it wasn't that bad, I supposed.
"What she told me was probably exaggerated, Mike, " said Karl. "But I remember, too, what you said a while back."
AH! That was it. The game had him concerned, but he didn't know it was a game. I would have to phrase my wording very carefully, if I didn't want to lose my advantage over Diane. Then, Karl muttered something sotto voce, in that same language as I had heard him use before. This was my chance to learn something else.
"Karl, just what was that you said? The language isn't familiar. It's not French, Latin, or Spanish. What is it, when and where did you learn it? Do you know any French, Spanish, or Latin?" Now, I sat down again, and waited.
Karl replied, "No, we don't know any of those you mentioned. What I spoke is actually Swahili. See, my mom was a missionary for a while, and the language spoken in the area was Swahili. Diane and I were born in this country, but went over there at a very early age. We learned the language at the same time we learned English, and sometimes we lapse into Swahili. It's handy if you don't want anyone to know what you're saying!"
I laughed a bit. "The schools don't teach that language around here, that's for sure! Maybe you can teach me some of it, someday. There's a few phrases I'd like to know. And, I'm sure you can teach me how to cuss at people!"
Karl cracked up. He laughed for a good 5 minutes over what I said. It wasn't meant as a joke, of course, but it sure came out that way. As his laughing eased, I looked up, and saw that Diane and Steve had just returned, and that Diane was getting in his car. Sure, I thought. Go for a ride, keep her away from me for a while, Steve-boy.
Then, I reassured Karl. "Karl, let me tell you something. You can trust me with your sister. If I want to go out with her, or something, I will check with you. I've been told that dating a friend's sister can be a complicating factor in friendships. In fact, I'd more than likely be asking you to ask her for me. I'm not very comfortable around girls, and Diane tends to make me a bit more uncomfortable that you'd think!"
Karl gazed at me askance. "But, what you said..." he began.
"I know what I said, Karl. It's true, too. But don't let it cramp your style. I think Diane may be a bit too young for me. But when I want to find out, I will still ask you, first."
Karl seemed satisfied with what I said. I sat down again. He muttered again, quietly, and I spoke up, "Again, Karl? Swahili, again? What is it this time?"
"Just wondering if the fish might be biting today, Mike. It's still early, the lake is quiet. Do you suppose there's anything biting?" At that, he slapped his arm, swatting a mosquito.
"Aside from Mosquitoes?" I laughed. "It's possible. We've got some bait ready, if it's worth anything. If you'd like to try, just say so. I happen to know some of the best spots on the lake. I've spent a lot of summers here, already, and have figured the best locations." I pointed some of them out. "Over there, to the East, near the boat landing, out in about 25 feet of water seems best for Rock Bass, and Perch. To the south-- straight across the lake is another one. I've not had any luck over there, but it's said to be teeming with Pike. No Muskies in this area, though. Over to the west, there's a rocky floor. It gives a lot of Bass, generally Largemouth, I've seen only one Smallmouth bass in all my years here. There have been sunfish all over, and you've seen the carp jumping by now. So, which area would you like to try, Karl? If you'd like, just a little ways to the east produces some fair size bass, and just beyond the raft gives us some small pike and a few horned pout." At Karl's puzzled expression, I said, "Oh, that's the southern term. 'Bullhead', I believe, is the 'Yankee' term!"
"You mentioned something about a second lake, Mike. What's that like?" Karl asked.
"Never fished there. The channel was only opened a year ago, I've only rowed to the area, never actually into the lake. And I don't know anyone in that particular area, so I don't know what goes on with the fish!"
Once again, Karl muttered something in Swahili. Although I didn't know what he said, exactly, I guessed, and said: Ok, we'll go west. The horned pout I dislike. I prefer the battling bass to the wet-rag pull of the bullhead."
"I thought you said you don't speak Swahili!" he said. "But you certainly understood that statement!"
I laughed. "Just luck. I noted your eyes when I mentioned each area, and I saw you nodding when I mentioned the west area!"
"Oh," Karl responded. "I see. For a moment, I thought you were either lying to me about not speaking the language, or somehow you were picking it up awfully fast!"
I glanced at my watch. "I just checked the Solunar Tables yesterday for when the best fishing activity should be." Karl looked puzzled at the reference. "It's a table of predicted wildlife activity. It's very seldom let me down. It's not perfect, and I don't know what the formula is. I think it has something to do with the sun and moon, and I think it has something to do with the tides. I'm not really sure, of course. And my watch says if we leave now, we can get to our best spot just as the best time of day starts. In fact, This is the best time of activity for the whole week! There's another time when it will be nearly as good, but it's awfully late, and I really don't want to be out here at 11:30 tonight!"
Karl nodded at that. "How long does this active period last, Mike? Should we bring a lunch, snack, or a bottle of pop?"
"The table shows 2 and a half hours. You might want a drink, though. Snacks are fine, but we'd be back in by lunch time. So, use your best judgment. I'd row over, that will take a while. Fortunately, it's not windy, it would really slow us if it was! We better hurry--time's a wasting!"
At that, we went off to gather our gear, and whatever we thought would be good. Clouds were gathering, cooling the day. The little weather station I had indicated a temperature currently in the mid-70's, humidity on the rise, and the barometer was falling, indicating that rain was likely later this day, either around dusk, or early morning. I grabbed a radio, a couple of bottles of Orange soda and a bottle opener. Then I picked up my gear and went to the boat. Karl was a few minutes behind me. As we shoved off, I absently noted that Steve and Diane weren't back yet. Steve was going to do well as a spy. I laughed lightly as Karl and I headed to the west shore, the rocky floor of the lake.
There are times when you wish you had good luck. Today wasn't an exception to that, at all. We sat for 3 hours, with barely a nibble on the bait. But we listened to the radio, talked about school and what we'd be taking in courses the next year. After a while, my thoughts turned to Diane. I wondered how much Steve was learning, and what I would know. It was around noon when I suggested that we call it quits, and go in. Karl agreed, and I moved up to the anchor line, to begin the retrieval. It was then a big speedboat came racing by, setting our boat rocking. I waited for the waves to die down, and started to pull up on the anchor again. As I did, the same boat came racing by, again, bearing straight down on us. The driver swerved off at the last second, missing us by a matter of a few yards. Karl and I could hear the guy's laugh. "Get that guy’s boat license number if he comes by again!" I screamed over the roar of the motor. But the boat roared off to the south side of the lake, leaving Karl and me shaking our heads and trembling a bit.
Karl muttered something. Swahili, again, I guessed. Possibly a curse. I said a few nasty words in French, and uttered a Latin epithet. "This idiot is doing us no favors, Mike," Karl groaned. "Let's get out of here before he comes back.
I responded, "Yeah. You told him to go to hell, didn't you? I gave him a few nasty words of my own. What do you think? Drunk, or just plain stupid?"
Karl seemed surprised, "You seem to be picking up the language, Mike. You hit it exactly."
"No surprise! I said the same thing in French. Great minds think alike, you know!"
We laughed. Karl kept his bait in the water, trolling the bait behind the boat. I rowed back, and we reached the raft area, when Karl's pole bent... "WHOA! Mike, I've got something!"
I quickly dropped anchor, and got the net. Karl battled that fish for 10 Minutes, finally getting it up to the boat. It was a beautiful Largemouth bass, I took out the scale. "6 and a half pounds. You really got a big one there!"
Karl was shocked at the size of the fish. "I've not seen a bass that size before!"
"I've not, either, " I said. "But 6 and a half pounds is not a record around here. And the world's record is over 3 times this size!"
We docked the boat, and Karl and I went different directions. He brought his fish and equipment up to the cabin, while I stayed on the dock, trying my luck. I heard a familiar "Vroom" of Steve's car and determined by the sound that he was just leaving. I wondered if Diane was with him, or if she had was now at home. And I found myself wondering what Steve might have learned. I would walk to his place later, to find out.
It wasn't long until I found the dock shaking, rumbling under running feet. I turned to see Diane running at me, full tilt. I had nowhere to dodge if she planned on pushing me in. I'd have to do a nifty leap to avoid being pushed, and not fall into the water.
Then, it happened. She stepped on a bad board. It broke, and she began to fall, giving a brief cry of alarm. Somehow, and I will never know how, I got there and grabbed her, keeping her from falling into the water, or onto a couple of protruding nails that I had just noticed. She held onto me for a couple of minutes, then let go. "Thanks, Mikey. If you hadn't been there...." she said, then trailed off. Then she muttered something in Swahili, like Karl had done.
"Yes," I said. "I agree completely. You really DO need to be more carefully when running on a dock, Diane. This is the prime example, and it was nearly a lesson painfully learned." I pointed down at the nails which protruded from the dock. "See? If you hadn't fallen into the water, you would have landed on those. I'll repair them later. Until then, Please, be careful!"
She looked at me, and blanched. "I didn't know you knew Swahili!" She was obviously remembering the conversation with Karl, which I hadn't understood. But it was plain that she thought I did.
"I don't," I replied. "But it seemed a logical conclusion, considering what you just did. Besides, as I told Karl, earlier: Great minds think alike!"
Now, it was her turn to laugh. It started as an aborted giggle, but then turned into a roaring belly-laugh, the likes of which I had never heard before. I wondered how far it could be heard. When she finally was able to control the laugh, and paused for breath, there were tears in her eyes. "Thanks, Mikey!", she gasped, still out of breath. “I really needed that!"
"Well, why did you run all the way down here, anyway?" I asked. "There must have been some reason, and if it wasn't to push me in, what was it?"
"Lots of reasons," she replied. "But I wanted your input on something. Tell me about that hunk!"
"Hunk? Hunk of what, Diane?" I queried. I had never heard the term used like that. Although, at that time, I felt a slight tightening in my chest, and had a gut feeling what she meant.
"Hunk of what? You are a card, Mike! No, I mean that adorable fellow, Steve! He's asked me out, and I want to know more about him!"
My heart sank into my shoes. He asked her out? On a Date? This was not in the plan as I understood it! She was calling Steve a "hunk"? Well, this must have been in his plan; I would talk to him tonight about this unexpected turn of events.
"Well," I said, "I can tell you quite a bit. But, isn't he just a little leery asking you out? Isn't he concerned about the age difference?"
She laughed at that. "No. He thinks I'm 16."
"HUH? You certainly don't look 16 to me! How did you convince him that you were?" I asked.
"Easy!" she said, removing an ID card from her pocket. "This convinced him."
"Diane!" I exclaimed, shocked. "You with a FAKE ID?!" She shushed me.
"Shhh! Not so loud!" she said.
"Diane, I don't believe it. I ought to tell your parents! That is going to get you into trouble, sure as the devil!"
"Please, Mike. Don't say a word. PLEASE?" she pleaded. Darn it! That same tone I couldn't resist. She had me with that tone, and she knew it. Reluctantly, I nodded.
"Ok, Diane. I won't say a thing. But, promise me you'll destroy that thing in the near future. Someone will ask you for an ID, and you'll take it out, and they'll know it's a fake. Believe me, you'll be in trouble!" I sighed. She hesitated. "Diane, promise me," I warned. She reached out, and made an "X" across her heart. Then she did the same with me. I took that to mean she would do so. I never did see the fake ID again.
So, I told her about Steve, as she requested. Captain of the Football team, and star Strong Safety. Smart, but quick to make judgments. He was a chess player, and member of the high school swim team. He was very well known in town, and loyal to boot. Steve was all that. I told her what I could. But, it was troubling to me. Steve could have told her everything. Diane could have hypnotized him into telling all, too. But she was asking me about Steve. As I summed up Steve's biography, I felt nervous, edgy. Something was wrong. I did not know what, but that feeling permeated my soul. Something was wrong.
I went to Steve's about 7:30 that night. He had little to say, but he explained away the date without a moment's hesitation. And what he had learned in the first day of "Superspy" wasn't much. He still had time, and I knew he'd make the best of it. But he requested the rest of the week without having to report. It seemed like a reasonable request, but it still gave me an uncomfortable feeling. But I let him have his request.
The rest of the week passed slowly: too slowly. Having Diane around would make time fly, but when she wasn't around, things seemed too slow. Karl and I would play golf, fish, swim, or play cards. He didn't play chess, so I let my game slide. But time dragged. I would be very happy when the week was over, and Diane was back at the cabin and joining us for golf, and other things that made life so fun during this summer. Without her around, I felt empty. I mentioned it to Karl, who simply shrugged. I did attempt to learn more about him, his family--and Diane. I asked if he could teach me a few phrases in Swahili, the language he still used from time-to-time. But he seemed reluctant to do so. I guessed that even though we had become friends quickly, he felt uncomfortable teaching another language. Maybe, he just didn't want to give up an advantage. Or maybe he didn't think he could teach it correctly. Either way, I decided that I would check the library for any possible way to learn the language. I didn't know much of the others, even though I did know some phrases and words in Latin, French, and Spanish. Swahili would certainly be my biggest challenge!
I wrote a letter to Wayne. I told him what was going on, and invited him to the cabin if he had a chance. I gave him more information than I had ever given anyone in my letter. I told him that the week had seemed so empty. I did get a letter a few days after I mailed mine, but he simply restated what he had previously said. To sum it up, he said "Be careful. Don't go overboard." And, he repeated that statement that had been with me since he first made it: "Sooner, or later, she will crush you."
Finally, the last day of "Superspy" was reached. I breathed a sigh of relief, and hoped that Steve would tell me all I needed to know that evening. I saw his car drive by that evening, but he didn't stop. And Diane was with him, again. Ok, the day wasn't over yet. But now, I felt left out. I felt deprived. And I felt neglected. There was something else, too. I could not identify the emotion. It was there, and it was strong, but it was not familiar. There was a bit of sadness, as well.
Over the next few days, the pattern of feelings continued, and Steve kept seeing Diane. I had asked him to stop after 5 days. He hadn't reported in, he hadn't told me anything, and he was still seeing Diane. Anger was now eating away at me. And I still didn't know what to do. And that's when I realized; Steve wasn't going to back off.