June 22, 2009 § 3 Comments
Lanie and her small tribe of girlfriends at the lodge, (Greta, whose family owned the place and lived there year round, Jenny and Annie) sat on the weathered wooden pier near the marina after dinner. That first night of vacation was always the best. The first night back under a different, yet familiar sky, they all exchanged shoeboxes of trinkets and letters and pictures they’d collected for one another throughout the year. While the cicadas and loons sang their summer theme music, they gossiped about their tumultuous and heart breaking lives in suburbia. Once their separate lives were sorted, they convened on the events that blended them together.
They’d all had a crush on Mr. Harris since they were old enough to realize it, and every summer they kept a notebook, tracking his every move, recording his outfit choices, even reporting what he ate for lunch, all while boys their own age went completely unnoticed. Their all time greatest discovery had been two summers ago and they took this first night to rehash the scenario once again.
Jenny had stumbled upon Mr. and Mrs. Harris “going at it like crazy” in the woods behind the tennis courts. She’d watched from behind a pine tree as they made love in a sunny clearing some 200 yards from the front porch of the lodge. Afterwards, Jenny had gathered up the girls with breathless urgency in order to relay every detail to Annie, who had a gift for drawing, and she recreated some of the more acrobatic moments in her sketchbook to be treasured for all eternity.
Lanie and Greta were just children back then, the youngest in the group of girls, and the more graphic details of the encounter made Lanie giggly and uncomfortable. Even at age thirteen she could easily remember when boys seemed like untrained dogs; loud, covered in filth, foul smelling and no fun. Greta, although young, was the first to kiss a boy, and the details of their Dorito tasting tongues spitting all over each other had kind of turned Lanie off to the whole pursuit. She was smart enough to know that real kissing wasn’t like that, but she also knew that it wouldn’t come until she was older. Jenny broke up her reminiscence by lighting a cigarette, a new development that they all grilled her about until the sun began to set and Michael Harris was far from their minds.
Later in the week it was hot enough that Lanie made her debut at the lakefront beach. Over the winter she’d developed the first hints of her “feminine form”, her string bean silhouette were showing the beginnings of an hourglass. She spent eight hours at the mall trying on suits before buying three bikinis that gave her parents mild cause for alarm. But it was just for their trip to the Lodge, after all, and there they were all family. The blanching heat drew a crowd into the lake playing water volleyball in the chest deep water. Lanie joined in and as the crowd grew larger the game devolved into a disorganized sort of keep away, or dodgeball, or any excuse to throw the person next to you over your head or under the surface. As the ball bounced in her direction Lanie yelled out,
“I got it!”
“Oh no you don’t,” a voice said.
Mike Harris grabbed her around the waist with one strong arm and pinned down her hands with the other, crushing her backwards against his chest in a tight bear hug. The ball caught a wave and he bounced it off his head like a soccer star, sending it far into deeper water.
Lanie squealed and kicked her legs, splashing the both of them.
“Hey, no fair!” She said with a childish whine.
“No faaaiiir!” He mimicked.
She could feel his breath on the back of her neck. Her cheeks grew hot and prickly, there was a strange flip in her belly. She squirmed again, feeling his damp chest hair on her back.
“Hey, c’mon!” She said, trying to sound unaffected.
“Alright, alright!” He said, laughing.
As he let her go, his right hand brushed over her breast. She ducked under the water to keep from gasping and splashed him the face when she resurfaced. Her laugh sounded forced and unnatural.
“No fair holding my arms down,” she said.
“Sorry Lanie,” he called over his shoulder, already swimming toward the shore.
She spent another two hours at the beach swimming, dozing and reading magazines until the sun touched the top of the pines across the lake, telling her to get ready for supper. And even then, after showering and putting on her blue cotton sundress, even after she wound her honey gold hair into a knot at the nape of her neck and treated herself to some mascara and rosy lip gloss, even three hours later as she made her way down the main staircase to the dining room, she could feel Mr. Harris’ fingertips dragging across her skin.
At dinner she sat with her girlfriends, a priviledge she’d just earned this summer, and they all recapped their days around the resort. All, that is, except Lanie, who wanted to keep her secret. It wasn’t that big a deal anyway, just an embarrassing accident. And yet every time she looked up from her plate, she found Mr Harris staring at her from his seat across the room.
June 9, 2009 § 1 Comment
Since I’ve focused most of my creativity on writing lately (happily), I’ve decided to put some bits of fiction up. They’re not necessarily full stories, just some clips and scenes and character sketches I’m working on as I put together an outline/timeline for a full length novel. I do it mostly as discipline check for myself. If people expect to read stuff, I’ll have to write it. But I’m not going to give a definite “every tuesday” or “a scene in ten chapters” type thing. When it goes up…it goes up. AND YOU’LL LIVE WITH THAT AND YOU’LL LIKE IT. So, let’s proceed.
When she was younger, her family took an annual vacation to a resort lodge in the North Woods of Wisconsin on the shores of Pine Lake. It was always the second week of July, the same room in the lodge, the same seats in the dining room. It was a tradition her parents kept to this day – their home away from home.
The Five Pines Lodge was filled with other families keeping their own traditions as well, and seeing them at dinner on that first hot gold summer night was like a family reunion complete with hugs and tears and packs of glossy photos passed back and forth, holding memories of the same people in the same dining room, on the same kind of hot gold summer night the year before. But the year Lanie turned fourteen, that night was different. There was a hushed tone as the families gathered, welcomes were whispered in earnest, hugs held a bit longer than usual, heavy with a truer affection than before. As the room filled, more people shot sideways glances toward the table set yearly for the Harris family.
The Harris’ were a young sporty family of five, Michael the architect and his wife Amy were a few years younger than Lanie’s parents and they had a six year old boy and twins, aged ten. They’d spent the second week of July at Five Pines Lodge since Michael was a boy himself, never missing their week in the woods – even bringing their newborn son Ricky to the lodge when he was only a week old. Mr. Harris was always the one to organize an afternoon hike or a softball game, and was as popular with the kids as he was with their parents. Lanie’s father had jokingly referred to him as their dedicated cruise director – summer vacation wouldn’t be the same without him. But that night the cruise director’s table was empty.
It wasn’t until everyone had found their seats and began ordering their meals that the double doors to the veranda swung open letting Michael Harris step inside. Behind him were his twins, Max and Maddy wearing bright summer clothes that belied the gray shadows of their blank faces. Even now, fourteen years later, Lanie remembered the eerieness of that expression. They didn’t look sad or angry, they weren’t forcing a fake shallow happiness or stone faced bravery. They were just shells, like the neutral bodies and faces of the people in anatomy text books, eyes forward, brows relaxed, mouths a pale pink horizon – the subtle downward curve of the earth. Eerie, to be sure, but no one in the lodge expected them to be smiling.
Amy and Ricky Harris were dead. It happened not long after last summer’s trip, a well publicized plane explosion that killed 187 passengers three minutes after take off. Michael and his remaining children, an uncomfortable grouping, like a word missing letters but leaving the spaces, were supposed to take comfort in the fact that their loved ones had felt nothing. Take comfort in knowing that his six year old boy on his way to see his grandmother was most likely dead before he had a chance to know he was dying. These were emphatic assurances given by amateurs, school teachers, systems analysts, retirees, no one who had ever been in a plane crash and certainly no one who had ever died in a fiery explosion. That summer Lanie’s mother explained to her the term “cold comfort”.
Despite the initial shock of seeing the tragedy in the flesh, it seemed that this vacation was exactly what the Harris family needed. It wasn’t long before old friends, some closer than family, gathered around to hug and kiss them, to offer them the support and love that they’d waited a year to give, and before dessert was served, Lanie was surprised to hear little Maddy laughing at something her father had said. She turned in her chair to see the whole family smiling, heads bent close together in conversation, holding each other up. After all, they’d had a year to grieve their loss, to move ahead, to make their peace. It was everyone on the outside whose wounds were torn anew.
PART 2 COMING SOON