Castle Roland

The Gulf
Between Us

by Rick Beck


Chapter 15

Posted: 21 Jan 16

The Gulf Between Us

A Rick Beck Story
Editor: Jerry W.
For David

Tom & Huck Build A Raft

Looking back on the summer I was fifteen, it may well have been the best summer of my life. I was still relatively innocent and my days were filled with soft warm breezes, endless beaches, and the most mellow waters one could conceive. My nights were spent in Ivan's arms, which kept me safe and free from worry.

Ivan and I were the best of friends. We were together most of the time we could getaway with it. Once we sprang free of the school house doors for the summer, the fun began. We drew closer as we lived lives I couldn't have dreamed up the year before, when we left the only life I knew behind.

Now the things we did each day led to happy carefree lives.

In a year I'd gone from a fat dumb kid to a rather sleek and more intelligent young man. I did things men didn't get to do. The experience of living had taught me to be a man. Being told I did a man's work did wonders for my confidence.

I felt good about myself.

After coming in from a fishing trip, I headed for my house. Mama was usually working in the kitchen on Sunday afternoon. I continuing stuffing the bills Mr. Aleksa stuffed into my hand into the jar on the fridge.

I didn't spend any money. There were no mom and pop shops on the beach and I didn't go anywhere but to sea. In my mind I was being paid to have a good time with my best friend. I left the money alone. It was there to backup my family during hard times. Mama insisted it was my college fund.

It didn't pay to argue with Mama. Whatever it was, it was on the fridge and only Mama and I knew it was there. If Pop lost his job again, it might buy the Olson family a little time. Anything to avoid being uprooted again.

Little did Mama know that this wild child wanted nothing more to do with more school. Once the final bell rang in high school, I was out of school forever. I had no interest in being inside during the day ever again.

I lived in paradise. Why would I want to be indoors and in class?

When I came in on Sundays, Mama would say, "The fisherman is home from the sea."

It had a nice ring to it and it was a fair assessment. Mama said it proudly, so it was good to hear. On some days there were two twenties in my pocket, but usually there was one. I never counted it when Mr. Aleksa gave it to me. Mama counted the money in the jar from time to time. It was gravy to me. I'd have paid to go out with Mr. Aleksa. Now I had money to pay him with.

"I've always pictured you being the most like John-Henry, Clay. Now I think you're more like Teddy. I never saw a dime he made, but make it he does. I think he was nine the first time he went out on his own and earned money. I've never known him to let a week go by without working since then. He'll soon be eighteen. You seem to have his need to be a working man."

"I'm lucky, Mama. The job fell on me and I love it. Had I not met Ivan, I'd be more like Brian," I said.

"Oh, Lord help me, I don't know I could handle another child like Brian. I've waited for him to grab hold of something. I don't know why he can't find his way."

"He's a muscle head, Mama," I said. "He loves being at home where there are plenty of mirrors."

"What is a... muscle head?" she asked, unsure about the term.

"That's Brian," I said.

She looked puzzled at first, smiled, and then she began to laugh.

I was a working man and I could pay my way if asked, but telling my parents to take money out of that jar wasn't a risk I'd take. Mama knew it was there and she'd use it reluctantly.

This Sunday ritual bought me more freedom and I wanted all I could get.

After coming back from our latest fishing trip, Ivan told me, "Boris is coming. We'll take him fishing with us while he's here."

"Cool," I said. "I'm finally going to meet Boris."

"Yes. Dad says he's staying a week. That's if my mother leaves him alone for that long. She's going away for a few days and he'll drive down once she's gone. My mother won't like it. If we keep him on the boat, she can't reach him.

"Cool," I said.

"Dad's really looking forward to his visit. Boris went out on the boat a lot when he was fourteen and fifteen, before he moved to Tampa."

"We didn't go out that much when we were fourteen," I remembered. "It's only this year we're going out every week."

"Boris is the oldest son. Dad assumed he'd follow in his footsteps. Not so much now. You'll like Boris. We're a lot alike."

"Then I'll like him," I said, believing I would. "Betty Sue Sourgrapes?"

I remembered Ivan's displeasure after returning from Tampa the last time.

"She's not allowed on the boat. There is always danger that too much rocking can sink us. Besides, the point of going fishing is fishing. Screwing too much scares off the fish."

I laughed without thinking it was funny. His words were painful to hear and it had nothing to do with Betty Sue Sourgrapes.

"You're okay with Boris coming? I mean you're not angry any more?"

"I can't say I'm not angry. He's my brother. It doesn't do any good to stay angry with him. Boris is Boris and as much as I'd like him to come home, he isn't coming home. His life is in Tampa now. We were once close. Now we're long distance brothers."

A visit from the beloved Boris couldn't hurt anything. I'd been hearing about him for a year. Ivan and I were into our second summer together and Boris hadn't come to the house once. I didn't give it much thought until I heard he was coming. Having a face to go with the name would be good.

We'd be going sport fishing or big game fishing. It sounded like fun. We weren't sure when Boris was coming, because his mother hadn't decided when she was going away.

Learning this was the first time Boris would be in the house since he left it, didn't mean much to me. He'd lived there with Ivan for over four years. Then Ivan's mother came to get him.

I could read concern in Ivan's voice as he mentioned the family history. He wasn't sure his mother wouldn't come to get Boris, but Boris was seventeen and old enough to tell his mother no.

Ivan's family had complication mine didn't, if you didn't count Brian. I don't think we did.

I gave no thought to the type of fishing we'd be doing. I gave no thought to needing a personal invitation from the captain of the Vilnius Two. Ivan and I were always together. I thought that meant when Boris came, we'd be together.

I never consider my services might not be needed on a special fishing trip for Mr. Aleksa's oldest son. I didn't feel like a deckhand but that's what I was. The only reason I was a deckhand on Mr. Aleksa's boat was because Ivan was my best friend. It still never registered that I was an employee.

Sometimes seemingly meaningless gestures can become important in ways that aren't apparent at the time. That was the case when Mr. Aleksa took me aside to ask me to come on the sport fishing trip.

"Clay, you know about the fishing trip for Boris?"

"Yes, sir."

"We'll going game fishing. I want you to come along. I want you boys to have fun. This won't be work. Kenny will handle preparations and the cleanup. You boys will fish as much as you like. Kenny too. It'll be a relaxing trip."

"Yes, sir," I said. "Thank you. It sounds like fun."

"I wanted to invite you in case you thought it was just for my sons."

"Thank you," I said, thinking I'd planned to go all along.

I wondered why he wanted to invite me himself. Didn't being Ivan's constant companion indicate I'd think I was invited? It confused me at first.

Mr. Aleksa was happy when we talked. I don't think I'd seen him happy before. Maybe it was the idea of having his sons together on the boat, but there was a twinkle in Mr. Aleksa's eye I hadn't seen before.

I wondered if Ivan realized the favorite son was coming for a visit? Ivan had told me that Boris was the center of attention no matter where he went. I didn't see anyone being the center of attention but Ivan if he was there, but I accepted Boris likely had Ivan's poise and charm.

These were trivial details leading up to a special trip. It was a trip I'd never forget. I read nothing into these preliminaries. I had the invitation in my pocket and that was cool too.

How could I know that invitation would be the difference between Ivan and me staying friends and going our separate ways. This is how I learned that small stuff is important. I learned how smart Mama was in the meantime. The invitation and her advice gave Ivan and me the time to repair the damage done the day Boris came. Even then, it was a close call. I've never forgotten that either.

Why Boris hadn't returned in over two years didn't seem important. It was important to the brothers in a way I couldn't see. It had been a long time since they both lived in the house next to the river. It proves that when you know someone as well as I knew Ivan, you can't know everything, or which thing could come close to bringing a friendship to an end.

I was not a great thinker at the time, and with Ivan's help, I thought more often, but no thoughts would prepare me for the day Boris came to visit.

+At dinner later that week, we heard a fish story from my father.

"I was talking to your father today, Ivan. He tells me Boris is coming to go big game fishing in a week or two. He didn't have a date yet, but he's coming soon. I've never seen Mr. Aleksa so happy."

Mama perked right up. Ivan had mentioned he had a brother.

"While your brother is here, you must have him come to dinner," Mama said to Ivan.

It wouldn't be the last time Ivan would be informed of Mama's guest list. Boris was coming to dinner whether or not he liked the idea, but I didn't know anyone who didn't like one of Mama's meals.

Mama, on the other hand, began planning for Boris to come to dinner immediately. He hadn't even shown up yet and she was planning a dinner for him.

Roast beef, baked potatoes, and a green bean casserole with mushrooms and chunks of savory ham were the main dishes. Desert would be strawberry shortcake and a three layer strawberry cake with chocolate melted between layers and walnuts sunk into the chocolate. It was alive with flavor and strawberries were cheap and plentiful.

Mama knew how to bait her hook. She didn't intend to let Boris getaway without getting a closeup look at him. At sixty-nine cents a pound at Piggly Wiggly roast beef was a luxury at the Olson house. We saw it on Easter and maybe on New Years Day, but seldom when an occasion wasn't attached to it.

"Your father too," Pop said. "Your mother hasn't met Mr. Aleksa, and it would be a perfect time for him to come to dinner with his two fine sons."

"Dad's so tired when he comes in, Mrs. Olson, he doesn't feel like doing much but sleep. I'll ask him, but don't get your hopes up. He thinks he smells like fish and he wouldn't think of eating at a table as fine as this with that handicap."

"You tell him he's an honest working man. He doesn't need to apologize for wearing the smell of his labor. It's honorable work," Pop said with conviction.

"I'm saying I doubt he'll take you up on it, but I'll tell him," Ivan said.

"Yes, by all means. He's welcome at our table any time he feels comfortable coming down," Mama said with no qualifiers.

That was the ultimate compliment for Mama. He smiled when Ivan relayed the invitation to him.

"That's a powerful offer. I'll give it some thought, but you know how tired I am when I come home," he said. "I don't go anywhere except to the market."

"I explained that, Dad," Ivan said. "They understand."

When Mr. Aleksa came in for a day or two, he rarely asked about what we were up to. We were supervised at a distance from my house. We understood that appearing at dinner two nights a week was a small price to pay for our freedom.

We were better fed than we had a right to expect and getting fed took the heat off us. Showing up with our parts in good working order reassured my parents. When Pop and Mr. Aleksa compared notes, there were no complaints. We'd never been a bad influence on each other and we were working men.

What I did was seen no differently than the work John-Henry or Teddy did. Mr. Aleksa's approval of my performance was the gold standard at my house. I put in a hard days work on his boat and him saying so pleased Pop.

When the radio crackled unexpectedly during the day, my fear was it was my parents calling for me to come home, but that didn't happen. As time went on, the radio interrupted our flow a lot less. The first year it reminded me that my parents were never more than a radio call away.

Mr. Aleksa called each evening when he was on the gulf. He reported his position to Ivan and gave him news on how the fish were running. He'd ask if all was well at the house and if we needed anything he could pick up on his way in.

There were days we weren't near the radio when he called and days when he didn't call at all, but it was fairly predictable. Not making contact for a day or two wasn't cause for alarm. This would soon be important to our future.

If someone told me I wasn't living at Ivan's the summer I was fifteen, it would have been news to me. I was comfortable at Ivan's. Living in the big conservancy house again didn't interest me. We went there plenty and I stretched my absences to the max.

Every day I felt older, more mature. I was growing closer to the ultimate freedom.

One day it occurred to me, 'I might never grow any older.'

Dylan was ever present that summer. He both entertained and warned us. I laughed the first time I heard "Like a Rolling Stone." That was so us. We rolled from dawn to dusk, day after day, depending on each other for adventure.

I saw everything in a similar way to how Ivan saw them. I had no opinions before that, not beyond Pepsi or Coke. Adopting the same opinions as Ivan was easy. He explained how he saw things and he made a believer out of me.

Ivan dusted off old Dylan, and played 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue.' We were waiting for Boris to come, and Ivan claimed it was his song.

"That's Boris' song. Pop Pop called him Baby Blue."

"Your grandfather called Boris Baby Blue?"

"Yeah, Pop Pop called him that up until he died. He called him Boris too."

I didn't like the song. I didn't tell Ivan that. There was a foreboding I felt when linking his brother to it. That's how it made me feel. I smiled and nodded when he explained the connection to Boris.

Each time it played, and it played a lot before Boris came, I kept my opinion to myself. Ivan sang along seeming not to realize what Dylan told us about his 'Baby Blue.'

Maybe it was just me. I didn't agree with Ivan on some things. I liked some Dylan and I was neutral on some. That song made me uneasy.

Time didn't exist for Ivan and me, except when it was time to get to my house for dinner. When we were on the boat there were two times, a time to work and a time to relax. The best fishing was before dawn and after sunset. The boat went quiet in the heat of the day. Ivan, Kenny, and I might swim or nod off in the shade on deck.

To fit out the boat for sport fishing, Mr. Aleksa would take a week, which left Ivan and me high and dry, until Boris arrived. We didn't take to shore duty all that well. We concluded that there was more than one way to skin a cat.

We struggled to set the raft in the water, but after that, on a most pleasant afternoon, we didn't have a care in the world. We also weren't paying attention.

As we floated free "We'll build a raft and let the current take us places," Ivan informed me, while we sat on the deck and watched the gulf. "We can fish, swim, and lounge like Tom and Huck. That'll give us something to do until Boris comes."

"Yeah," I said, thinking it sounded great. "How do we build a raft?"

What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

It took almost three days to build a raft out of small logs left beside his house. Using Ivan's grandfather's tools to fit the logs into place, we smoothed an area where we'd ride the raft to adventure.

Ivan dug out an old sheet to use for the sail, grooving the mast to slip between the logs at the center of the raft. We were sailors in action.

It took all the strength we had to carry it from beside the house to the gulf. It was a heavy sucker. It took to the water surprisingly well. The weight of the thing made it sit low in the water, which created a stable surface for us.

The raft reacted nicely to the rolling nature of the water.

There was nothing better than resting the back of my head against Ivan's chest as the raft floated us away from our lives and our beach. We'd ordinarily be fishing with Mr. Aleksa starting that afternoon. He'd been in the house and restocked the fridge the day before. He'd come in late and left early. We hadn't seen him since the refitting of the boat and selection of the gear began.

I can't say how much Pop knew about the plans for Boris. I can't say if he knew Ivan and I weren't going out with Mr. Aleksa on the usual days. If things didn't come up at the dinner table, I assumed all was well, but our absence was likely not to be noticed right away.

When Mr. Aleksa came to the house and found none of the groceries he'd bought had been eaten, it would be the first time someone realized we were gone. The question would then be asked, "Where are they?"

We might miss a week of dinners and then show up two or three nights one week. We'd slipped into a comfortable way of doing things, so on those hot and humid summer evenings, no one missed us or came to the house next to the river to check on our condition. We had always been fine up until then. We were now floating aimlessly in the Gulf of Mexico. of our beach, Ivan prepared me for his brother's arrival, telling me stories about their childhood together. He couldn't hide his excitement over having Boris back in the house next to the river, but there was always the agitation that came when he got to the part about his mother coming to get Boris, but like the gentle breeze and slow moving clouds, I let it pass.

It was the part about Boris leaving him alone that I didn't understand. Ivan did quite well alone, or so it seemed to me. When his Pop Pop was alive, both Ivan and Boris stayed when school let out.

They were both fascinated by his stories, his beach, and the life he had.

Love for Boris had a short shelf-life when he visited his grandfather. His mother would come after him two weeks into the summer. Boris happily left Ivan with Pop Pop, and returned to Tampa. Even at ten, Boris was leaving his brother. Ivan had his grandfather, not to mention the beach, to sooth thoughts of his brother's absence in those days. Ivan adapted to being without Boris.

Ordinarily the details in the life and times of Ivan and Boris wouldn't have been a problem, but this part of the story filled in the blanks for me. Ivan was careful with his words, which wasn't unusual.

We paid no attention to our new lives as Tom and Huck. This wasn't the Mississippi. The shore wasn't right over there.

"Where are we?" I asked, when I could find nothing I recognized.

Ivan sat straight up and sprang onto his knees to take a good look around.

"Where'd the beach go?" I asked, loving the gulf but not liking all that water all around us..

"I didn't expect to get more than a few hundred yards from the beach," he explained, trying to move the sail to catch the nonexistent wind that would take us... which way did we need to go?

I was slow on the uptake in most cases, but I could see how ole' Tom and Huck got themselves into a passel of trouble without doing anything. We were being true to Twain's duo. If only Jim had come to row us back to... wherever our beach was, but he hadn't, and we were surrounded by an endless sea.

I could read Ivan like a book by then. I knew we were in trouble. We were lost and had no idea where shore was. I pretended I didn't understand how serious our situation was. He pretended it wasn't all that serious, just a minor miscalculation that might kill us.

"We'll wait until the stars come out. That'll tell us which was is home."

He had to see the stars to read them and we'd wait until he could.

We had no idea in which way we needed to go to get home.

We'd decided to go rafting on the night of the worst storm that summer. There were no stars to read. We were lucky we didn't drown. While our food and the sail were victims of the unruly gulf, we held on until calmer waters arrived.

There was no sleep if we intended to stay with the raft. Near morning Ivan spoke in a hoarse scratchy voice.

"There's the North Star," he said softly. "The beach is there," he said, pointing to the right.

He didn't sound all that excited to know which way was home.

"Why don't you sound happy about knowing that?" I asked, unable to muster the strength to pretend any longer.

"We can't steer and we have no way of propelling this thing. We're going where the currents take us, and no one knows where we are."

"I appreciate you telling me that. I'd started to worry. That makes me feel a lot better, Tom," I said, my stomach growling as we drifted aimlessly in a direction that wasn't going to take us to our beach.

"I'm sorry," he said, sounding distraught.

"Haint all yur doin', Tom. I gets a passel a de blame fer bein' out chere," I said, as I imagined Huck might. "You din't do no draggin' me. That's fer shur."

Ivan smiled a troubled smile, appreciating my attempt to bring human to a situation that wasn't going to end well no matter what happened.

We had a sandwich each before losing the bag of food. Once we realized the afternoon on a raft was entering its second day, we wished we'd pigged out while we still had food.

I'd swallowed salt water during the storm and my throat and mouth were burning by the time the sun began beating down on the raft. We took turns holding onto the edge of the raft to submerge our bodies in the cool water. It was the only time we escaped the blazing sun that day.

One of us stayed on the raft to help the other one up. Our strength had begun to fail us and with both of us in the water, we might not be able to get back on the raft after a while longer.

By mid-afternoon it was as hot as it had been that summer. The night before we'd had the worst storms of the season. Nothing was working in our favor. We were lost and no one even knew we'd left the house next to the river.

We'd neglected to bring fresh water, which would have washed overboard with everything else, but it was a point to remember later, if there was one. We picked a poor time to get stupid.

We were fifteen and stupid was relatively easy for us.

The freedom we'd cultivated was going to be the death of us. What I wouldn't have given to wake up in the bed in the conservancy house to find out it was a dream. I'd never been so hungry or thirsty in a dream before.

It couldn't get much worse, I thought, as I slipped off the raft in the cooling waters to hide from the sun, after helping Ivan back up.

"Come back on the raft," Ivan said in a soft commanding voice.

I'd just begun cooling off. I wasn't getting out. He hadn't said a thing in hours. He spends a half hour in the water and I get a minute and a half?

"I have more time," I finally had the energy to say. "You spent a long time in the water. I just got in," I complained, not liking him cutting me short.

"Get the fuck out of the water. Now!" he said.

Ivan had never talked to me that way before. I climbed up onto the raft, struggling as he pulled on my naked body to get me on board.

Ivan got on his knees and stared out at the water. When I looked, I saw the dorsal fin. At first I thought it was a dolphin. When the second fin appeared near the first, there was no doubt what they were. Mr. Aleksa could spot a shark a mile away.

"Sharks!" he'd yell, pointing the direction out to us.

I laid on my back as the sun boiled me alive. Ivan kept watching our lovely visitors. He said nothing. When it began getting dark they were within a hundred yards of the raft. They were still there. Did they sense an easy meal?

I was starving.

I was too hungry to move. My skin was burned and burning. I felt like a breathing boil. We stayed in the middle of the raft where it was most stable. There would be no sleep tonight. As the dark covered everything, the water became rougher. The raft was stable but it gave us a rough ride. We both held onto the spot we shaped to hold the mast.

It was late when the storms returned. First the sky was alive with lightning flashes. It was pretty spectacular from where we were. Lightning went in all directions. It was like the fourth of July, crisscrossing the sky.

"Electrical storm," Ivan said after an hour, speaking of the fire in the sky.

It's the first thing he said since pulling me onto the raft.

The key word was storm, and it did. The undulating gulf turned wicked. We were tossed and turned as we held on for dear life. I wanted to let go and end this misery, but then I remembered the sharks. I didn't want to end up shark food.

"We need to get into the water. If we hold onto the side, we might ride it out. This thing might flip with us on it. We'll lose it if it does and we're done for."

Ivan slid off one side and I slid off across from him. I could only see his shadow when there was a flash of lightning, but it was mostly rain and waves now. I didn't know if the sharks were lurking close by, but if they were, we'd make a nice breakfast.

Sometime that night the storm let up. Somehow we ended up back on the raft. I didn't remember climbing up. I was holding on and the next thing I knew I was laying on my back and light had begun to appear around us. I couldn't move.

I suppose I fell asleep or lost track of who and where I was. The violent gulf once more melded into the placid gulf I knew. Ivan shook me out of my fog with a question I didn't understand and was too tired to answer.

"Clay, can you swim?"

"Huh?" I said at least once. "You taught me to swim. Remember, Tom?"

"Snap out of it, Huck. Can you swim a few hundred yards right now?"

"Sure, Tom," I said, still unable to focus or move.

He shook me to make me look. When he got my attention where he wanted it, I was looking at our beach and his house. We were back where we started.

"I saw this movie," I said. "It's the Wizard of Oz."

"Snap out of it, Clay," he pleaded. "Can you swim to shore or not? I'll go for help if you can't."

I shook my head and looked again. It was still there. I was probably dreaming part of this. Maybe I dreamed the entire raft deal. Except for being on a raft and burned to a crisp, that could have been true.

Ivan slipped into the water, giving up on me. I slipped in behind him.

We began swimming toward the beach. Then my burning skin was on the cool cool sand. It was solid ground. It was wonderful.

I don't know how long I was there. Once my stomach wouldn't allow me to stay there any longer, I went into the house and ate a box of cereal. I climbed the stairs and feel into the bed beside Ivan, who was asleep.

I woke myself up thinking my parents might have tried to get a hold of us. We were gone two days. I sprang up and went to the radio.

"Just checking in, Pop. We hadn't heard anything," I said. "We thought maybe you'd heard from Ivan's father."

"All's quiet, kiddo. Meatloaf for dinner. Mama says to come down. Banana pudding for dessert."

Oh did he know how to hurt a guy. What I wouldn't have given for a passel of Mama's meatloaf.

"Just ate, Pop. We'll be down in a couple of days. Base out," I said, having hot flashes and feeling like I might throw up.

We'd pulled it off and escaped being found out as the idiots we were. All this time I'd convinced myself we were pretty smart. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

I didn't wake up again until the next afternoon. My mouth felt like it had been stuffed with cotton and I was burned to the bone. I glowed like a neon sign. If my mother saw me, I'd be grounded until I was fifty. I hadn't burned since the first month I was on the beach, and now I was red as a beet.

We ate everything and anything in the house. We were even more ravenous than usual. Our punishment was self-imposed. We couldn't go to dinner until my glowing became less obvious, but we talked about the meals we were missing.

"I'm sorry, Clay," Ivan said as our voices began to come back.

"No one dragged me onto that raft, Tom."

"Yeah, but I was raised around the water. I know better. What was I ever thinking, Huck? This hain't the Mississippi."

"You weren't. We're fifteen. We don't think. That's why we're called kids."

Ivan looked at me with that look. He looked like he was accepting that I knew as much as he did about doing stupid stuff. He looked resigned to our shortcomings and didn't act as confident as I knew him to be.

"Look," I said, as Ivan remained silent.

"We were out there two days. I didn't think we'd make it back, Clay. It's fifty yards from where we put the damn thing in the water."

The raft washed onto the beach to the south of Ivan's house over night. It was mocking us for our ignorance. Dumb luck saved our asses. We were always coming back home. We only thought we were going to die.

Life threatening events, this was the first time I thought I might die, have a way of changing your perspective. There was less distance between where Ivan stood and where I found myself after that. His previous infallibility was set aside. He'd nearly gotten us drowned. I trusted Ivan completely until then.

It would be a few days before I linked the incident on the raft to Boris. Looking back on it, all roads led to Boris the week before I met him. Once I could see this, it was easy to put the rest into perspective.

Events needed to unfold before the picture became clear, and after our raft trip, I was happy to be alive, and excited when I could finally go home to eat.

I'd discovered how some teenagers ended up dead. Going without Mama's meals was deserved. Ivan could hardly go there alone because his burned skin became a tan in an hour and a half, but not mine. We had time to think over what we'd done.

After four days and some suspicious calls from my father, I turned a color that could pass for fishing boat brown. It was pork chop night.

I loved Mama's pork chops.

Previous ChapterNext Chapter