A Boy  -  Chapter 2

A Boy - Chapter 2

A Story by RoughWaterJohn

A summer of discovery


 The five of them lay back on the now warm grass, eyes closed, each smiling for the parts that they had played in the morning’s adventures. Their skin drew taught and warm as the water rolled from their sides onto the grass. Anthony laughed out loud, as he rolled side to side on his back, allowing the water still left in his navel to slowly spill over his belly and down each side. Laughter was such a common occurrence among these four, now apparently five, no one looked to see why he was laughing, just accepting it as fact. They lay side by side, their heels hanging over the small bluff a few feet from the water, Tracy’s wet shirt the only aberration in a row of shorts clad bodies. The boys never noticed the difference. Tracey tried hard to forget. Laying there in the warm sun and grass, it was getting easier.

 They had each, at some time this morning, been an Indian, cowboy, cavalry officer, lone scout, even an occasional wolf. The wolf had surprised them all, but Tracey had been so convincing they knew there would be more in the future. It hadn’t always been this way. A year ago, it hadn’t been just the four of them. Playing in larger groups of boys, the popular kids would have been cowboys, with Indians being the lot of the rest, various slow and painful deaths their only reward for play. Mark had slowly changed that over time with some of the boys, although it was never a conscious decision. The first time he said he was an Indian, there were surprised and indignant shouts. The second time, almost everyone wanted to be an Indian. Mark laughed “we can’t all be Indians, who would we fight and make peace with?” Within weeks, the players were an ever evolving group of yelling, running, excitable boys, playing every part with enthusiasm, faked deaths replaced by feats of honor, everyone switching roles, as the sun swung slowly in an arc above them. The group got smaller over time, as most of the boys tired of playing what they called ‘kids games’. It had been the four of them ever since, playing what and how they liked, comfortable in their friendship. Mark could not remember how long Tracey had been inviting herself, ‘how does she find out what we’re doing and when’ he thought. Thinking back to the day’s adventures, he knew she would no longer need an invitation. He didn’t know where in the group she fit, but he knew she did.

 As the day shifted from morning to afternoon, sweat now running from their bodies in place of pond water, Tracey sat up and gazed over to the riparian growth, thick and brambled below the roof of trees. The others noticed her gaze, looked at Mark, who smiled knowing what was going on without looking, but had yet to open his eyes. Anthony got up first, followed by Tracey and eventually James and Carl, Mark being the last to rise, still smiling. Anthony walked a few feet into what appeared to be an impenetrable thickness of twisted branches, got down on his hands and knees, crawling slowly and carefully into an entrance, a small opening only visible from ground level. The others followed him in, Mark the last, handing in their packs and bags, that the others had apparently forgot.

 The Castle, as the boys had named it, was a large open expanse within the riot of growth in the forest, approximately 20’ across at the base, 9’-10’ in height at the narrowest point in the middle. They always capitalized both words in their minds. Over time, they had removed roots, rocks and cleared protruding branches, making a comfortable, cool and shady hideout, well lit because the top was open approximately 2’, allowing the sun to shine in. It had been impossible to see out of it initially, unless you were on your hands and knees, gazing out through the opening. They had, at Marks direction, cut openings at various levels on all sides, covering them with lighter and less dense foliage. No one could see in unless they were standing right against the side, but the boys could see out in all directions. It was always called The Castle, but it had as often been a spaceship, submarine or frontier fort.

 They were all mostly silent as they ate, except for an occasional laugh or comment about the morning’s fun, usually from James or Carl, and usually through a mouthful of food. Carl actually sent a piece of peanut butter sandwich flying onto James’ leg with a particularly loud outburst. James flicked it onto the ground without thinking. Carl eyed it, wondering if they would give him grief if he picked it up to finish it. Pride winning out over hunger just moments before Anthony picked it up and threw it out the doorway. “We don’t want to invite animals in here with food” Anthony said, but he was laughing as he said it, mostly at Carl’s obvious desire to reclaim what he had lost.  They finished their meals with talk about tomorrow’s adventures, and their plans for the summer, which surprising no one at this point, included Tracey.

“I think we should be Pirates tomorrow,” James said, “We haven’t been Pirates in a long time.”

 Carl spit up his very last piece of sandwich, something he regretted immediately, then said, trying to contain his laughter, “last time we were Pirates, you fell overboard.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot about that,” James said. “That’s OK though, I meant to, because it was so hot.”

 They all laughed at this, including James. They tossed out lots of ideas, Mark noticing that Anthony and Tracey had the best ones, although he would never say so. They tossed several more ideas around before Anthony said, a bit thoughtfully, “Why don’t we have a competition tomorrow?”

“What kind of competition?” Carl asked warily.

 Anthony thought for a moment, looking around at his friends, noticing Mark and Tracey were smiling. “We can make it an Olympics, with running, wrestling, swimming, ummm….  anything, it’s a competition.”

Everyone in the group glanced at Mark to see what he thought. Mark was grinning broadly. “That’s an excellent idea Anthony, we haven’t had a competition since last summer. Why don’t we have wrestling, running, climbing, swimming, jumping and eating,” trying to include something that each of them would be good at, knowing Tracey would excel on at least one of them. They all laughed out loud, knowing who would win the eating competition. Carl had a dreamy look in eyes, thinking about all the food possibilities. He was not fat by any means, but the terms ‘big boned’ and ‘sturdy’ were words he’d heard most of his life, usually by people looking directly at him. He did love to eat though, playing as hard, if less skillfully than the other boys. It didn’t hurt him, realizing Tracey would probably be better at sports than him, he wasn’t sure why though.

 They sat back on their packs or lay down on the dirt floor, talking, dozing and ribbing each other. Tracey was surprisingly adept at giving and taking, both Mark and Anthony noticed, a smile shared between them as they watched her giving Carl a slight ribbing about his Indian yell this morning. They both remembered it had been more of a medieval ‘huzzah!’ than a whoop. He sometimes got so excited in their adventures, he forgot what part he was playing. He didn’t lack for enthusiasm though.  Tracey found herself looking at Mark, his tanned skin slightly dusty from the dirt in The Castle, accentuating the light hair on his body. She thought he was handsome, but wasn’t sure how that affected her life, but she felt uncomfortably sure that it would. Mark was the reason she had started showing up wherever they played, although she doubted she would ever tell him. His eyes were closed, but she knew they were a brilliant blue. ‘It looks like a universe within his blue eyes’ she remembered, or at least that was what she thought. ‘He certainly has a power over the boys’ she mused, glancing surreptitiously at Anthony, ‘especially that one.’ She looked from partially closed lids at both of them, watching one then the other, pondering. Mark’s eyes remained closed, but Anthony’s opened occasionally, looking around The Castle at each of them, before closing slowly again. ‘Does he linger on Mark a little longer than the rest of us?’ she wondered. ‘Just best friends?” for they obviously were, ‘or is there something more?’ She wasn’t bothered by any path her thoughts were taking her, but she knew she would continue to watch them both. ‘And who will watch me’ she thought, ‘I wonder if Anthony has these same strange feelings inside him when he looks at Mark as I do. I wonder if he has any idea what they are, I certainly don’t, or don’t want to admit them.’ she grinned to herself. They hung around for a little longer before Mark got up, signaling to them all it was time to go.

© 2012 RoughWaterJohn

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Added on October 20, 2012
Last Updated on October 20, 2012
Tags: youth, kids, boy, girl, summer, pond, play



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