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Our summer clothes

May 5, 2023

“My best friend’s name was Gil. We used to blaze down the sidewalks around here on our bikes with no-hands, cutting and weaving. I thought I was invincible, but Gil, Gil had a death wish. Everything I could do he did cooler, faster or with his emerald eyes closed. We had two girlfriends, Daisy and Sybil, who both thought we were crazy. I think they hung out with us because we were the only kids in the neighborhood their age.

“One summer, the summer before we were all supposed to go to high school together, we spent almost every day together. It was hotter than usual. Our bike tires all but melted against the scorching asphalt, so most days we laid under the maple tree in front of Gil’s house, eating freeze-pops for hours on end, careless in our summer clothes.”

“C’mon, Uncle Eddy, just get to the point already. I want to hear a ghost story before it gets dark, and the sun isn’t setting any slower!” Anne whined.

Sometimes when he glanced at her, he was pulled back in time. She looked just like Elaine, Eddy’s older sister.

“Alright, kiddo. I’ll cut to the chase. Just bear with me.

“One day, the heat was unbearable, and Gil said, ‘Hey, why don’t we go for a swim?’ with an eerie gleam in his eyes.

‘I know a great spot. My older brother showed it to me a few days ago. That’s why I couldn’t hang out with you guys. He and his friends and I sat at the edge of the water and skipped rocks and smoked.’

“Sybil and Daisy glanced at one another and seemed to arrive at some sort of unspoken agreement. In unison, they said, ‘Sure. Let’s go.’

“We peeled ourselves off the grass, leaving our bikes beside the maple, and set off for Big Reed Pond.”

“Wait a sec, Uncle Eddy, aren’t we at a place called Big Reed Pond right now?” Anne observed.

“Yes, indeed it is, kiddo. You alright? You’re looking a little pale. Hungry?”

Anne shook her head. “I’m okay, Uncle Eddy.”

Although she had requested the ghost story, she didn’t like the idea of one poking around her tent while she slept. But, like her mother, Anne would be the last to admit she was afraid.

“Alright. Anyways, Gil made sure he was the first to scramble up the gnarled pine at the edge of the pond and take the plunge. Daisy, Sybil and I climbed after him. The pond looked impossibly far away from the branch where we stood. Gil yelled from below, ‘Jump, Daize! The water’s so warm.’ Daisy glared down at him with more force than the July sun, and Sybil mumbled under her breath, ‘Don’t call her that.’

‘I’ll save you if you start to drown. I know mouth-to-mouth.’ Gil yelled again.

“Sybil mumbled something to Daisy about the two of them getting down and going home, and Daisy screeched, ‘Let me go, prude!” half-jokingly, and gave Sybil a shove.

“Sibyl fell back into the sturdy trunk behind her, but Daisy teetered off balance and began to fall. Sibyl, unwilling to let Daisy fall alone, jumped in at the same instant.

Below, Gil screamed, ‘Oh, shit! Daisy!’ and swam towards where her thin frame had pancaked against the surface, surely leaving her red and stinging.

“With a splash and bubbles of laughter, Daisy emerged, ‘That was so awesome.’ ‘Yeah, and you looked super-hot while doing it,’ Gil replied.

Daisy said, ‘Shut up, Gil. You’re the worst. And you’re a liar. You said this part was deep, but I pushed off the bottom.”

‘Wait, where’s Sibyl?’ She added, not seeing her friend where she thought she’d left her.

‘Daize, she jumped in after you, and I don’t know what you’re talking about. The bottom is too deep for you to touch. You couldn’t have pushed off it,’ Gil said, stealing glances up at me.

“Daisy freaked. She started swimming in circles calling Sybil’s name. Gil ran to get help. I don’t remember how I got in the water. I must have jumped. By the time Gil and the swarm of people came back, I had been swimming and calling Sybil’s name too.

“None of us ever saw Sybil again. Some say she’s still swimming at the bottom of Big Reed Pond, waiting to grab someone’s ankle and pull herself up out of the water.”

Anne’s voice quivered, “Uncle Eddy, was that a real story, or did you make that up?”

“Well, kiddo, I’m sorry to say that it really did happen, but how’s that for a ghost story! Spooky, huh?” Eddy exclaimed.

Anne—sharp, fearless, headstrong little Anne—began to wail like a loon in the evening.


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