Boys and Water

Part 1

Living on Cape Cod, I am more or less surrounded by water, and I am fascinated with the way boys interact with it. While the short stories in this collection are not all set on Cape Cod, they all involve boys and water in one way or another. There are eight stories which will appear in four parts.

I want to thank my editors who see to it that errors — most of them anyway — get corrected, and Mike, who manages this awesome site.


Boys jumping off bridge


This summer I was determined to do it. Last summer Mom had said I wasn’t old enough, but this summer I was nine and I knew that my older brother had done it when he was nine. That was five years ago, but this would be my summer.

I had watched with some envy as other boys did it. At the same time, although determined, I was also sort of scared. I was frightened about two things. One was the fear that I might hurt myself. The other was the fear that, if I chickened out, I’d never live it down.

Today was the day. Other boys were already doing it, so I had to wait my turn. The longer I waited, the more scared I got. True, none of the boys hurt themselves, but there was always a first time, wasn’t there?

I stood in the line which moved very slowly but also too quickly. At last I was at the spot. I stood on the edge facing out. Don’t look down, I said to myself. Look straight out.

Then, the other boys began to chant a countdown, and I knew it was now or never. My heart was pumping so hard I wondered that others didn’t hear it.

“Three,” they called out, “two,” “one.” Then “Blastoff!”

I leaped out into space. It seemed like I was in the air forever, although it was probably not more than two or three seconds.

I splashed into the water, sinking below the surface so far that I could push off from the bottom.

Rising to the surface, I took a big gasp of air and then laughed. I’d done it!

I swam over to the bank, climbed out and then up to the bridge where all the boys were cheering. They only got to initiate one or two boys a summer, so they made the most of it.

I met my brother on the bridge. He hugged me and said, “Way to go, Squirt!”

Soon, the two of us were standing together in the middle of the bridge, our toes over the edge. My right hand disappeared in his much larger left one. He counted down and we launched together, holding hands. Our hands separated as we hit the water. As I said, it only took a few seconds. For those brief moments I felt weightless, like I was flying, and then I was in the water, which buoyed me up.

My brother grabbed my hand and we climbed out together.

I didn’t count how many times we went off the bridge that day. I knew that we could only do it for an hour or less each side of high tide, because before and after that the water was too shallow.

When the tide had ebbed too much for bridge jumping, my brother and I walked home together. Mom was there with a late lunch, and I realized how famished I was.

For the rest of the summer, when the tides were right, we went to the bridge.

The next summer, we discovered that the town had put up a fence barrier so we couldn’t jump off the bridge. It was a great disappointment, but at least I have my wonderful memories of that magic summer.


Boy almost completely submerged in swimming pool


I was sweltering. It didn’t usually get this hot in northern Maine, so we had no air conditioners, and my fan just seemed to move the hot air over me.

In the dim light, I looked over at the other bed. My friend was sleeping over while his parents were visiting in Boston. He seemed to be tossing and turning as much as I was.

We had been in bed for nearly an hour, and I was wide awake.

Very quietly I asked, “Are you awake?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

I thought for a few moments before I whispered. “Don’t make a sound. Get out of bed.”

When we were standing beside each other I breathed, “Come with me.”

“Where?” he asked, quiet as I’d been.

“You’ll see,” I said.

As quietly as we could, we tiptoed to the bedroom door, opened it and grabbed towels from the bathroom before we crept through the hallway and down the stairs. He started to say something, but I turned and put my finger to my lips.

I opened the back door and soon we were standing silently on the patio.

“Are we going in the pool?” he asked.

“Yup,” I whispered.

“But I thought you weren’t allowed in the pool unless there was a grownup here,” he remarked quietly.

“Sometimes,” I said as I too spoke quietly, “rules are made to be broken. And this is one of those times.”

He watched me as I pulled off my boxers and stood naked at the side of the pool. In no time, he was as naked as I was. We sat on the edge of the pool and silently slipped into the water.

After the heat of my bedroom, the cool water was like a transparent, refreshing blanket, folding me into it. I lay in it, floating on my back and soaking up the feeling of the cool water all over my body and the freedom I was feeling.

We stayed at the shallow end, where we could touch bottom if we needed to. Soon, without speaking, we began to float on our backs next to each other, blowing little fountains of pool water into the air.

As we floated, I swam around and towards him until we were feet to feet. Then we began to turn clockwise as a single unit. We hadn’t discussed this, we had never done it before, but somehow we were in syn.

When we stopped, I turned and swam so that we were side by side, head to feet. I took his hand and moved as far away as I could, so that our arms were stretched. Then, using our hands as a hub, we began turning, very slowly, counter-clockwise, our joined arms being the diameter and our heads and feet moving through the circumference.

I had never felt so close to anybody. We didn’t talk; we just somehow understood each other.

Stopping the circling, we let our feet drop gradually and then we sank until the water was just over our heads and our feet were on the bottom. We moved slowly towards each other, and when we touched, we hugged gently. As we began to run out of air, we pushed off the bottom and rose slowly to the surface, still hugging.

I took his head in my hands. With no hesitation, we kissed, lips to lips, tongues to tongues. The sensation was thrilling.

We stayed there, lightly treading water, until we finally broke the kiss.

In the minutes that followed, never speaking, we continued to swim in various formations — some repeated; some new ones; sometimes on our backs; sometimes on our bellies; once even on our heads.

Unbeknownst to us, my father was standing in the second-story window watching us as we shared the moments together.

I learned later that my father reflected on what he was observing. For just a moment he considered joining us but realized that we were enjoying a very special time, perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime one, and his being there would only spoil it for us.

In the pool, we swam in a very leisurely way from side to side, never venturing too far toward the deep end. Each time we passed close enough, we reached out and touched each other.

At last we pulled together again, sank with our feet on the bottom, hugged, and kissed under water. The sensation was just as wonderful the second time.

We knew it was late and we both began to feel sleepy, so we climbed out of the pool, grabbed our towels, and dried off. Then we crept silently back into the house and up the stairs. We fell into our beds and soon we were sound asleep.

It was a long time later that my father told me what he had seen and thought, when we believed we were totally alone in the pool.

My friend and I never talked about that night, even years later, when we had married and were raising our children in that same house and swimming with them in the pool.

One night recently, I awoke, wondered what I had heard, and then moved to the window. Then I woke my husband and led him there, where we watched as our two boys swam silently in the pool, seeming to be communicating without a sound and moving together, touching each other, circling in sync.

We continue to watch until they climbed out of the pool, dried themselves, and crept up the stairs. When we heard the boys tiptoe up and knew they were safe, we went back to bed, hugged, kissed, and were soon asleep.