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Boot Camp Day 1(a): Golden Boys

Mel was my best friend during the summer we spent at Lake Barron. When people asked what “Mel” was short for, she liked to say “Melvin.” Sometimes she’d wait for a reaction, but sometimes she’d just say it and walk away. There was nothing about her that made “Melody” seem like a good fit.

Mel and I were horsing around in shallow water in her father’s leaky rowboat the first time I saw the Payton boys race by in their aluminum canoe. I stood staring. Mel waved a greeting, but neither of the boys acknowledged us. They glided past us in a matter of moments. I watched until they disappeared from sight around the point where the campground ended.

“Who was that?” I asked Mel. Her family had spent summers on the lake for four years, and she seemed to know all the locals by name.

“The Paytons—Junior and Mike. Their parents own the house with the tennis courts.”

I whistled. We had rowed past the Paytons’ house a couple of times in our meandering explorations of the lake. It was a palace compared to most of the other houses around the lake, a six- or eight-bedroom Tudor mini-mansion tucked into a stand of pines on the hillside. The entrance faced the road along the ridge on the south side of the lake, so from the water, we had a view of the back. A dozen windows and three sets of French doors looked out on a broad patio. A flight of flagstone stairs led from the patio down to the level clearing where we’d seen the boys playing tennis in crisp whites.

“Which one is which again?” I asked. I tried to sound casual. I had only known Mel for three weeks, and I wasn’t ready for her to know the source of my curiosity.

“Evan—Junior, they call him—is the tall one with the straight hair,” she explained. “Mike has the curly black hair.”

I wanted to be like those Payton boys. I wanted to live at the lake all year in a big house with my own bedroom and my own bathroom. I wanted a tall, handsome brother who didn’t have to share a set of bunk beds with me. A brother who goes rowing on the lake and plays tennis at a competitive level and always gets invited to every party. I wanted the best teeth that money could buy and an expensive haircut and shoes for every different sport and muscular arms and long, tan legs. I wanted gold medals for swimming the butterfly and a wide smile and dark brown eyes framed by perfect eyebrows.

[This story goes somewhere very dark eventually, but I’m not sure where yet.]

Note: The prompt for this story was the word canoe.

© 2008 Edward F. Gumnick

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