Their stories fit together like the Indian Puzzles that rub feet and fingers raw-we reassemble grooved stalks until they are frayed and flimsy as muffled sand beneath tunnels and towels and toes. Wave-worn dykes punctuate beaches, inconsequential barriers over which stones and generations spill. Hasty scuffed knees on crisscross wires are bandaged by remembering hands, patients in recovery regaled with tales of Crazy Louie and the swinging bridge, quests for a left-handed screwdriver, the infamous Uncles, days spent getting lemon juice highlights and baby oil tans.
Then we are off once more, newly inspired, selling spiral shells to relatives who smile and fork over a quarter rather than bend down to find a free one of their own. Weighty rocks are deemed ideal for great sloshing plonks, though our limited focus is consumed by the promised glory of a Butterfly Stone. We are groomed as future hunters, learn to sift only through wide stretches of evenly tumbled pebbles, anticipating the familiar gleam of prehistoric ridges in fading sunlight. My mother has a sixth sense, the Peterson Gift; she alerts me when she has a “feeling” and I force myself into “feeling” too. If we are successful, I know we will make the cottage rounds; the cousins and aunts will feign jealousy regardless of whether most of the stone’s identity is worn away because it is part of our own, and I will exult in having inherited my mother’s Belonging. Grandma, arms crossed in faux indignance but with a telltale crinkling to her eyes, claims we should find the split-wing rarities before being allowed supper in the traditional manner of search. Also a break in tradition are the driftwood-drawn circles, hints about the diameter of the campfire we’re sure to make from the same wood once stars dance with freighter beacons.
From each dwelling along our piece of the lake will emerge family, however far removed-Neighbor Boy and his parents are the only exception, but only by blood. We’ll collect wood, mostly damp and secretly discarded by the adults, whose s’more needs will be eagerly taken care of: burnt black for Mama Tammy and a perfect golden brown for everyone else. In return they’ll be forced to participate in our messy-face contest and the following midnight swim (under the pretense of ridding cheeks of chocolate). Sparklers will fizzle and eyes will go fuzzy with flame or fatigue, despite protests otherwise. We are packed sardine-style into an attic bed under rain-pattered tin shingles, and then into backseats for the journey home.
Benefits of dual enrolling in a college creative writing class:
-being in a college creative writing class
-mandatory writing assignments double as blog content
Therefore, secondhand writing exercises (completed (and incomplete anyway, because what isn’t) last minute, of course) comin’ atchu!!! (You’re welcome)