Samuel J. Adams ~ Everybody Did

It’s my nine­teenth birth­day and I’m swim­ming with ten friends in a quar­ry when this old man with a big beard comes charg­ing across the lawn. He’s one of those tall guys who makes him­self seem taller by walk­ing stooped, like he’ll become gigan­tic if he rears his head up. Plus, when your eyes sit inch­es above the water­line, every­body on land seems tall.

Who let you in?” he says. “Who said you could be here?”

Before answer­ing, we swim to these wood­en squar­ish docks float­ing in the mid­dle of the quar­ry, and clam­ber up their lad­ders to face him.

We walked our­selves in,” Gina says

How? Where?”

Through the field,” Erin says

Field!” He enun­ci­ates field like it’s an out­ra­geous thing to trav­el through. “This place look open to you?!”

We’re famil­iar with rhetor­i­cal ques­tions, but this one con­fus­es: we can’t see any­thing to open or activate—just a PVC-pipe water-purifi­ca­tion rig that’s seem­ing­ly run­ning. Windex-blue water sur­rounds us, rip­ples against the toothy gran­ite perime­ter. There’s div­ing boards, a play­ground slide, signs say­ing “NO LIFEGUARDS ON DUTY”, lad­ders shawled with algae; behind the old man’s red­den­ing face, leaves turn post­card col­ors, rus­sets and golds. It’s nice.

We’re sor­ry, sir,” I say. “Your web­site says you’re open until sun­set.”

Liar.”

That’s what our phones said,” Dave says.

Your phones!” He goes to the pic­nic table where our stuff’s piled. “I should take your god­damn phones and throw them—plunk!—in the water.” As he speaks, he mim­icks splash­es with flicks of his fin­gers. “You lit­tle shits don’t even want to know what’s down there!”

Nor do we care,” Gina says. She sits on her float and set­tles her toes con­fronta­tion­al­ly in his waters; float-to-float our par­ty sits down to join her in toe-wrig­gling sol­i­dar­i­ty.

On the table rests a box of choco­late cup­cakes whose bluey-indi­go frost­ing has stained my tongue and hands the col­or of quar­ry-depths.

Go ahead,” Erin says. “Have a cup­cake.”

Instead, the old man throws a cup­cake at Gina’s float. It falls five feet short and he stamps his feet and mut­ters, stim­ming his arms about, and it’s in this crazy moment I see a com­pro­mise, hatch a plan.

Listen, Sir,” I say. “How about this? We’ll swim to the float near­est you. You take your shots at us. Then we go.”

He doesn’t say yes and he doesn’t say no, so to prove myself a trust­wor­thy bar­gain­er, I swim to the float near­est him. When I sur­face, he beans my head with a cloud of sug­ar. Erin sur­faces next and he hits her left side, frosts the area from breast to shoul­der. He chucks his last cup­cake at Gina and miss­es: it plunks in the water and bobs and crum­bles before it sinks. He search­es for oth­er baked muni­tions.  For some­one who’d nev­er want­ed cup­cakes to begin with, he seems awful­ly mad now that they’re gone.

The old man walks to the edge of the quar­ry, and as he’s stand­ing there with noth­ing to say or throw, his Poseidon vibe real­ly comes through, like he wants to grab his tri­dent and jump in his waters and sum­mon forth waves to wrack us upon his rocks, and for about five sec­onds he seems majes­tic and fright­en­ing­ly in com­mand of his quar­ry. But between myth and real­i­ty life installs help­ful par­ti­tions; cold, deep quar­ries are not some­thing sev­en­ty-year-olds jump into ful­ly-clothed, even if they own the place, and we know his quar­ry isn’t deep enough to swal­low all of us if he grabbed a gun and opt­ed to set­tle the mat­ter that way.

I come back in half an hour. If you lit­tle shits are still here I’m call­ing the sheriff—or you’ll wish I did!”

When he leaves the teas­ing starts. “There’s a cau­tion­ary tale for you, Joey,” some­one says. “How many birth­days till that’s you?” says anoth­er. People pon­der if he throws trash in this quar­ry; Bronwyn, a punker, says she sure would.  Our quips car­ry from float-to-float like the rib­bits of frogs on lily pads until, in the mid­dle of the rib­bit­ing, the clear voice of Gina sounds.

Fucking eh, Joey, you could have got us killed. You even check his site?”

I want to answer her but can’t get a word through my grin. I just say, “Uh…” until my throat becomes a digeri­doo for hold­ing that one note. My friends push me off the float—shoving hard­er than they need to, hon­est­ly, with it being my birth­day and all.

Underwater, I can see two sink­ing cup­cakes. As they fall they jet­ti­son squid-inky trails and they’re love­ly to watch, so love­ly I test my lungs a sec­ond before fol­low­ing the bub­bles from my nos­trils back to the sur­face where my friends, gath­ered here for me, silent­ly stand. I couldn’t real­ly tell who pushed me from the float, so I just smile and assume every­body did. I climb the lad­der and look at my friends and I won­der who among them I’ll get to keep, and for how long.

~

Samuel J Adams is an MFA can­di­date in fic­tion at Bowling Green State University. His recent fic­tion appears in BULL and Rubbertop Review. He tweets @Bib_Zone