Notes From the Small Pond...Lake Michigan, July 1981
By: Parnell Thill, Pine Journal
Me and JC dozing in a yellow, inflatable raft. Waves effectively rocking us to sleep as sounds of The Alan Parson’s Project waft over the water toward us from the cassette player on the shore, where we’d slept in the nylon pup-tent his parents had bought for us somewhere on Mackinaw Island.
The sun bakes. Our hair bleaches. Our skin browns. On the shore, in the shade, JC’s little brother and older cousin, Alison, wear protective white T-shirts, broad-brimmed hats, their minimally exposed skin slathered in Coppertone.
“Saw Alison smoking last night with those college kids from the other cabin.”
“I know. I saw that, too.”
“You gonna say anything?”
“Yeah…what’s the point?”
“…She was drinking, too.”
“I’m not gonna say anything.”
“What’s the point?”
“None of our business.”
In a few weeks we’d be on the football field for Two-A-Days, sweating away the increasingly fragile, increasingly tiny fractions of our youth, squeezing out innocence with each salty drop. Two weeks after that we’d start our junior year of high school.
“Two-A-Days are gonna suck.”
“The opposite of fun.”
“…That’s for sure.”
On the shore, Alison stands, waving her arms across her body to get our attention, screaming something about lunch.
“If Alison heads over to that cabin tonight, we should go with her.”
“Just to see what’s over there; see if there are girls –”
“Of course there’s girls, Man! You’ve seen them.”
“Well, we should go over there.”
“Your parents would kill us.”
“They’ll never know.”
“Right. You’re the worst sneak, the worst liar ever.”
“You can teach me.”
Eyes closed, tiny, brilliant shards of colored light explode and drift against the inside-of-the-eyelid backdrop. Atoms. Waves lap against the yellow raft. The sun cooks.
“Ever think about life after high school?”
“Yes. More and more I think about it.”
“Bums me out.”
“Why? Because high school is so awesome?”
“No, not at all. But it is predictable.”
Alison on the shore waves her arms, annoyed at our ignoring her. She sits down in the sand and sips from a tumbler with a straw.
“Eventually, there’s a decision point, I guess.”
“Seems like every other minute is one of those points.”
“I think you’re right about that.”
“And then, it seems like every decision you make breeds more decisions that have to be made.”
“…so, I guess you just keep making them. One at a time.”
“But no alternative.”
“And then one of the decisions you make turns out to be a bad one and you spend the rest of your life making other decisions to try and undo the bad one, setting yourself up to make more bad ones.”
“Like playing hockey without a goalie – emergency mode all the time.”
“So…the key is to not make that first bad decision.”
The Alan Parson’s Project sings: … I don’t wanna stay here no more. I don’t wanna live here. Ain’t gonna spend the rest of my life quietly fading away…
“How many more days until we head back?”
“Two. Two more nights.”
“…Let’s follow Alison tonight.”