Floating Down The River (poem) 


“Floating Down The River”
Floating down the river

I watched all the burning pieces go,

Her envelopes in a paper boat

Flames against the flow,

‘Twas once I the captain

Of her lonely beating heart,

But then she took a different ship

And I watched us drift apart.
The letters engraved in roses

The perfume now is gone,

And as the letters become ashes

Her words still haunt me like a song,

I know that she did love me

In her own original way,

But while I swam in illusion

She floated quietly away.
The last letter to catch the fire

said that she loved another,

And with tears in my eyes

I hated waking to discover,

she never again would love me

The way I used to know,

Floating down the river

I watched all the burning pieces go. 
© 2004 Paul D. Aronson. 

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Orchard House Part 27: Still Got The Blues

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 27: Still Got The Blues

The music cried in the night and it seemed to mirror how I was feeling. Both lost and found at the same time. The music’s volume would increase from time to time, as if someone was opening the door to the barn and heading in to hear the music. This rise and fall of blues just seemed to add to my melancholy. The band kicked into “Right Next Door” by Robert Cray. I imagined myself back in the 80’s and wondering how life would have been different if I had met Summer then. Of course, she would have been just coming out of her teens at that point and we truly would have made the talk of the town no matter where we went. I smiled at this thought, imagining all the people speaking in hushed tones at this May-December couple causing such a scene by – gasp! – holding hands in public. I laughed and Summer looked at me with a quizzical expression. When I told her what I had been thinking, she laughed too.“Ooh, the shame of it all,“ she mocked, sounding like a little old lady gossiping at a fence. Then the music changed again, and Summer’s countenance went rigid. Oh no, I instantly thought, another song to bring back unpleasant memories for her.

“I absolutely love this song,” she said.

“But…”

“Oh, no buts about it. It’s just a beautiful song.”

Someone opened the barn door again and I could hear it clear as day, an electric guitar letting out a sorrowful mourn. I knew what it was. ‘Still Got The Blues’ by Gary Moore. I nodded my head in approval. He had been one of my favorites before his passing last year.

“This song is sad,” Summer said. “But it has this romantic slow dance vibe going on.”

“Yeah I like it,” I replied. “They sound pretty close to the original. Gary Moore. I saw him in concert once. Amazing guitarist.”

Summer didn’t seem all that interested in my inner music nerd at the moment though. She was instead looking at me with a lonely smile. “Would you dance with me now?” she asked.

“What?”

“You owe me a dance before I go, remember. And I need to do something wild before the night is up too,” she said with a wink. “So come on, get up and dance with me.” She got up and tried to pull me to my feet.

“Really summer, you know I can’t dance.”

“You’re not getting out of it.”

I allowed her to pull me up, but I wasn’t sure this was a good idea. “Remember the last time? I did horrible.”

“That was country music. Maybe you just weren’t feeling the groove. But this is the blues. You got to feel the blues.”

“I feel the blues. But my feet don’t.”

“Just follow me,” she said and I couldn’t help but let her lead me from the porch to the edge of the orchard. “Here. Put your hands on my hips.”

She guided my hands, placing them palm first against her hips. She seemed to press them there to make sure they would stay. Then she put her hands on my hips in the same fashion. Her fingers gripped me just enough to make my hips sway with her own to the slow blues beat. I tried to match my movement to her own, but the sensual rhythm of her body made me forget everything. Her hips moved against my hands and I tried not to clutch her too tight, but soon found my hands moving her in much the same way as she was guiding me. I felt both her rhythm and the melody of the song coursing through me, one through my ears, the other through my hands.

I could feel Summer’s eyes on me. I looked down to see her dark brown eyes staring into my face. I had seen this look before, once outside the restaurant, again in the car by the roadside, and earlier today before we capsized our tube. It was a look that compelled -no implored me – to kiss her. I never once saw such desire in a girl’s eyes. I had shared a kiss before, that was obvious, but never so much with the eyes before the lips. Her deep eyes were kissing me already, and I could see the need – no the want – for me to take her in such pleasant passion. I felt myself leaning into her, first at the hip, then my chest, which pressed softly against her breasts. My face closed the gap between hers and mine.

In the movies, the perfect kiss is rough, hard, and desperate. They grab each other in a mad assault of passion and look like their faces are mashed together in a hungry lock, but in real life it’s not mad, and it’s not rough. It’s tender and beautiful. My lips lightly touched Summer’s as if I were gently pressing my nose against a flower to catch it’s sweetest scent. Our lips met at the corners, and then fully pressed together. I could taste peach flavored balm on her lips, and knew in an instant I would forever associate the taste of peaches with her mouth. Her lips parted against mine and her tongue ran playfully across my open lips before welcoming mine within hers. She moved her hands from my hips and around to my neck, lacing her fingers together, drawing my body even closer to hers, as we danced to the music carried to us on the breeze. My hands left her hips too, sliding around to her back to clutch her to me.

We spun, open mouths and lips hungering for the other upon them, as ‘still got the blues’ played around us. No longer did it seem like it was coming from far away, but now I could hear it in my head, keeping the beat with my steady thumping heart. Unwrapping her arms from around my neck, her hands found my face, placing her palms flat against my cheeks. Her lips left mine for a moment, and we both took a breath before finding each other again, moist lips pressed tenderly, yet full upon each other’s mouths. The tip of her tongue touched mine and ever so playful, she sucked at it, drawing me further into her mouth, until all I wanted was to be swallowed up by her; to let myself go and drown in the very depths of Summer. Still that song played in my head and ears, born on the wind and carrying us to a place where tears and joy co-mingled upon our faces, and our kiss could not remember a time when it did not exist. In this moment, I knew that unlike the song we kissed to, I would never have the blues again as long as Summer was in my arms and upon my lips.

Her eyes, now closed, ever so slowly opened to look deep into mine. Their dark brown color had turned to golden amber as if my very kiss had warmed her soul from within to pour forth from her eyes. I wondered if my own shone in the same manner, and her smile soon confirmed that they did. In the heat of her warm touch, I could only whisper, “Summer..I…”

She put her fingers to my lips to stop the rest from tumbling out, replaced them with a kiss, just as intense as our first, and we danced, pressed perfectly to one another as if we were molded for each other’s embrace. The music played on, blues crying in the night, as our kisses counted minutes to hours, the waning moon watching over us like a curious spectator to the first stirring of a new couple’s longings.

Hours later, after the blues in the night had faded, and silence descended over the orchard, we retired to the comfort of the house, where we managed to stop kissing long enough to fix up a pot of coffee and stare at each other from across the kitchen island.

“I told you I wanted that dance,“ she finally said, with a sly smile.

I reached across the counter and took her hand. “And you did do something wild and spontaneous.”

She winked. “So did you.”

“Did you think I wouldn’t?”

“I hoped you would,” she confessed.

I smiled. “Then what are we doing staring at each other from across the table?”

In a flash she swept everything on the table to the side and crawled over the top to kiss me again. I dragged her the rest of the way over, picking her up and carried her into the living room where we collapsed onto the cushions of the couch, fumbling hands and kisses in the dim light of the room.

It would have been so easy, and perhaps natural, for us to go further than we were. We could have went around the hallway to my room, or she could have led me up to hers, but something held us back from letting our kisses and touches cross the line between making out and making love. Maybe other men would have done different, staying under the same roof with this beautiful woman, but it was enough for me that night just to know her kiss, to have her arms wrapped around me, feeling her breath in my ear as I nuzzled her neck on the couch, never once thinking what could lay ahead, for fear it would all end in that instant. it was enough to know for once in my life I felt truly wanted, and for the first time since Ashley, I felt good about the future.

Part 28: What If’s

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Orchard House Part 26: Cookout For Two

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 26: Cookout For Two

The grill was a little rusty, and there wasn’t much propane left, but we managed to slow cook our hamburgers. I sat out on the porch watching over our food, while Summer got all the condiments ready. At one point, I turned to see her at the doorway looking out at me. She was behind the door itself, as if trying to do it in secret, but once she realized she was spotted, she gave a little wave and flashed a smile brighter than any flame on the grill.She brought all the fixings out on the porch and set them on one of the little glass tables. She came over and sat next to me on the metal swing. We both had dressed into jeans and t-shirts, though her jeans looked better on her, and the shirt she wore clung to her frame tighter than mine did. Emblazoned across the front was an image of Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet in a scene from the movie, Spaceballs. Nerd love on display as usual.

From where we sat, the view of the orchard and the mountains behind it were incredible. The sun was in its descent, making her way to the edge of the blue tinged mountaintops. Within an hour, she would disappear behind the mountains and turn the sky into the color of orange flames.

“What can be better than this?” I sighed. “Cooking out, brilliant sunset, amazing company.” I looked at Summer next to me. She was staring out there somewhere, her eyes perhaps fixed on some imaginary place far away. Maybe she was thinking of ocean shores, western plains, or Paris nights.

“I’m going to miss this,” she said.

I hung my head; this wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear her say she wanted to stay here forever, or at least as long as I was.

“Me too,” I replied. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”.

“You asked me today what was next for me. I’m wondering, curious I guess, what’s next for you?”

She seemed to ponder the question for a moment, as if she wasn’t sure, but knew it didn’t involve staying here. “Well, there are still some things to settle with my mother’s estate. Now that I know how my father feels, it will make it easier to do that. After that, I’m just not sure. I guess I’ve been so busy living day to day and caught up in this little adventure with you I hadn’t planned that far. I don’t really have a job to go back to.”

“Is there a guy back home?”

“Not anymore.”

I got up and flipped the burgers on the grill. “What do you mean?”

“We split up after mom died. I don’t know if it was my grief or just that it wasn’t going anywhere. He was the typical guy. Didn’t really want to be with me. He’d rather watch soccer than to see me blocking the television with my butt.”

“If I turn on the TV now, would you block it for me?” I teased.

She laughed. “You’re so funny, Matthew.”

“I’m here all week.”

“I guess it’s one of those things where I was his girl when it was convenient for him. He said he loved me, but there were always unspoken conditions. I mean, who wants someone that when he comes home from work he doesn’t even act like he’s happy to see you?”

I flipped the burgers again and turned to face her. “I’m always happy to see you.”

She smiled. “And I’m happy to see you too.”

“Summer, these past few days have been some of the happiest of my life, I want you to know. I came here wanting to get away from everyone, forget all my pain and loneliness… And you…well, you showed up the first day like a summer breeze to blow the winter away from my heart. “

“That’s sweet,“ she said in a hushed whisper, the way someone speaks if they regret having to hurt someone’s feelings. “Thank you.”

I sat down next to her and leaned back in the swing. “I don’t look forward to winter returning when you’re gone.”

If I was testing to see if she wanted to stay, she didn’t take the bait. Instead, she looked down at the ground. “I don’t know how to say this, Matthew…”

I swallowed hard and held my breath. Here it was, the beginning of the pain again. “Yes,” I stammered.

“The burgers are on fire.”

“Oh crap!” I jumped up, and sure enough they were flame grilled. Big time flame grilled. Scooping them up with my spatula, I put them on the plate I had brought out with me. Some of them were shriveled and black, but two seemed at least edible. I looked at Summer and shrugged. “Hope you like them like your coffee,” I said.

We both laughed, and once again, a serious moment was averted. We were getting good at this.

The burgers weren’t as bad as they looked. Dressed up with condiments and cheese, you almost didn’t taste the burn. We laughed about the food, and though it had gotten ruined, it was one of the best little dinners I ever enjoyed. When she learned I didn’t like mayonnaise, it got even more memorable, with her trying to find ways to sneak the condiment into everything I ate. When she handed me a potato chip, it had a little on the edge. When I asked for a bun for my second hamburger, she smeared it on its bottom. I was too vigilant of course, and noticed every time, sending her into fits of laughter.

Eventually, the fun and laughter died down, and we moved from the porch swing to the steps, so we could see the sun setting from a more picturesque vantage point. As it dropped low on the horizon, the colors began to spread like paint across the sky, from yellow to orange to red. We watched the skies and their dazzling display of warm vibrant color. I had never seen a sunset this spectacular before, but maybe I had never taken the time to look. That was Summer’s doing for sure. She had a way of inspiring me to see things differently. In just the few short days I had known her, she was changing my very world. But what was the change for? What good would it be if she weren’t around? I looked at her sitting beside me on the steps. She was watching the sunset, too. Jackson had come around the side of the house to sit at her feet, and as she stroked his fur he seemed to be changed by her, too. I imagine on most nights Jackson just sat alone without much company, but here he was enjoying the attention of another. I guess we both would be sad come tomorrow. As if to show me how right I was, the sound of a blues guitar wailing on a note broke the silence of the sunset. As the sun sank behind the mountains and the last light faded, the guitar was joined by the rest of its ensemble, carried to our ears on the wind.

“They are playing my song,” I said.

Summer smiled. “I love blues. Nothing gets closer to the soul than that.”

“Must be that concert Helen was talking about. Blues night at Shelfy’s barn, I think she said it was. It’s up there close to the church. Not far at all.”

“That adds another dimension to the evening,” she said with a wistful smile. “Cookout, sunset, blues. And you.”

“I’m feeling a little blue,” I admitted.

“Don’t be. Blues may be sad, but they remind us of the joys of life and how we should savor the moments.” She looked at me. “Moments like this.” She reached over and put her hand in mine. My fingers instinctively curled around hers.

The band was playing full speed now. What was once a slow number, had now kicked into overdrive, mixing ZZ Top with a bit of Willie Dixon. The night was falling fast. The colors of the sky were all gone now, replaced by a cloudless canopy dotted with stars. I had never seen so many stars before. You never saw this in the city, and I thought to myself, as beautiful as the starry blanket looked above us, I would never get used to it. It would always be a wonder to me, much like the woman at my side.

Part 27: Still Got The Blues

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Grandma’s Road (poem)

I thought I would share with you today an older piece from my notebooks. This was written as an ode to my childhood and family, inspired by visits to my grandmother’s house. At the time this was written I hadn’t been by the old house in a long time as it had been sold long ago. Driving down the road to see what it looked like after all that time, it struck me how everything had changed and inspired this piece. Hope you enjoy 


“Grandma’s Road”
This used to be Grandma’s road,

dirt and gravel, twisting country lane;

and as a child I’d get so excited

to see my Grandparent’s house again.

As we made round the final bend

you could see it looming there,

and the whole family always gathered

Sunday afternoons in God’s care.

As kids we’d play by the trickling creek,

collecting fossils and killing time,

and though we didn’t realize it then

those were the days sublime.

Sometimes my cousins and I’d go running

through the fields and wood,

we couldnt wait to get to grandma’s

’twas a different world than our neighborhood.

We’d sometimes go to the country store

to spend what little money we had,

on bubblegum, candy, and sodapop

much to the chagrin of Mom and Dad.

I remember a church on the corner

and the smell of honeysuckles so sweet,

If we didn’t go to grandma’s on Sunday

the week just didn’t seem complete.

Down Grandma’s road, there were just a few houses,

everyone knew their neighbor’s names,

there was no diversity or difference between us,

everyone treated everyone the same.

and the woods were our favorite playground

our sanctuary against the changing wind,

we knew all we had to do was go to Grandma’s

and everything would be alright again.

But now down this road it’s different,

everything has changed around there so much,

Grandma’s road is paved and divided,

no longer gray gravel and dust.

and where there were just a few houses

now there’s subdivisions rows,

though I used to know where the road ended

now I haven’t a clue where it goes.

Now the neighbors don’t know each other,

they barely ever say a word,

now there’s the sound of loud traffic

where it used to be the sound of bluebirds.

but to me no matter what the changes

in my memory where love is sowed

this will always be the most beautiful place

for this is Grandma’s road. 

© 2001 Paul D. Aronson.

Orchard House Part 25: Summer Daydream

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 25: Summer Daydream

The ride back to the store was just as lazy as drifting down the peaceful river. Everyone was tired from being out in the sun and all the adventure of the rapids. We looked to be the only ones who fell in though, and all the kids wanted to hear about it. This time, I was allowed to ride in the back of the truck with Summer. Apparently one of the kid’s parents had been at the pick-up spot to get him, giving us more room. Danny seemed glad to be rid of me anyway. He didn’t look too pleased that we had shown up late after the rest of the group. When he saw our disheveled state, he knew we had taken a dunk. He just shook his head as if to say, ‘I told you so.’ Summer laid her head over on my shoulder and nearly fell asleep as we went down the bumpy dirt road. When we got to the store, I nudged her a little, and she raised her head with a smile saying, “Oh hi daddy,” with a mischievous grin. Several of the boys in the back with us, looked at each other, raising eyebrows, which caused Summer to break into a laugh. As we got out of the truck, she said goodbye to some of the girls, and I walked up to the cab to thank Danny.

“Hey thanks,” I said, “That was lots of fun. Wasn’t what I expected, but that’s what makes it exciting.”

He smiled and held his hand out. “You be sure and tell your friends. As we hit our summer stride, we’ll be making more trips and we have some overnight tube adventures planned, too.”

I shook his hand and wondered why he was being courteous and nice, until I looked behind and noticed Summer was there. She squeezed by me to thank the guy, too.

He grinned a little bit wider shaking her hand. “We had fun,” she said. “Too bad you missed our rapid ride.”

“I would have come little miss, but from the looks of you, it does look like it was fun.” He then pressed something into her hand. It looked like a piece of paper. “If you want to have fun again, just give me a call and we’ll make time to come get you.”

She looked at the paper. It had his phone number written on it. I gave him a look that said, ‘man, you got nerve,’ and he put on his best smile for her. I imagined it made the local college girls melt, but looking over at Summer, she seemed unaffected. “Will do,” she told him in a gracious manner, shoving the number into her jeans pocket. “Come, sugar daddy,” she said to me with a wink, and led me away from the truck and into the store. I felt his eyes on us the whole way and was glad that was the last time he would stare at Summer’s backside.

We bought a couple of sodas in the store. Helen was still there, though Raymond had gone out in the fields to see how his workers were doing. Twyla was at her booth in the back, and when she saw us she waved and offered us some of her prize lemonade on the house. We accepted her offer and gulped it down as if we hadn’t had anything to drink all day. After being out in the sun and on the river, it was like liquid heaven. Twyla reached up and held Summer’s hand like most little girls do when there’s an older one around to look up to. Summer smiled at her and told her she made the best lemonade she ever tasted.

While Summer and Twyla bonded like long lost sisters, I picked up a few things from the store’s frozen case. They had some packaged hamburger, so I grabbed a roll of it and got some buns, fresh lettuce, and tomatoes to fix us up some dinner later. I remembered seeing a gas grill on the back porch of Orchard House, so as long as it worked, we could have a little cookout for two. .

With grocery bags and sodas in hand, we walked through the orchard back up to the house. We didn’t hold hands this time, but if I’d had a free hand I would have asked her if I could.

“My, what a day. I’m going to need a bath to wash this river off of me,” Summer said.

“Yeah, I know. Don’t use all the hot water,” I teased. “I’ll need one, too.”

“I might save you a little,” she laughed. “What’s in the bags?”

She had been busy with Twyla in the store, and so hadn’t seen my loot. “Well I had ten dollars left from our tubing adventure, so I thought we’d try and cook out. “

She clapped her hands. “Great! I haven’t cooked out in ages. Today is becoming a day of firsts and long time since I have done that moments.”

I smiled and nodded. “Yes it has.”

As we neared the house, Jackson came out to meet us, wagging his tail and drooling all over us. Summer patted him on the head and he sat on his haunches at her feet. “I’m going to miss you, Jacks,” she said. Then she looked at me as if she might same the very same thing, but she looked away before the words could come out. I knew she didn’t want to think about it, and neither did I. The subject would have to be broached soon enough, just not now.

Inside the house, I put up the groceries while she disappeared into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. I heard her turn on the bath water, and for a moment imagined her shedding her clothes for the tub. Embarrassed, I shook this thought out of my head and left the kitchen for the hallway and my room. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I wondered how I was going to handle this, how I was going to sit here this time tomorrow with a great big hole in my soul. Part of me was thinking this was going to be just like the emptiness Ashley caused when she decided she couldn’t pretend any more. Forget Ashley, I berated myself. This is nothing like that. Ashley left because she felt nothing at all for you. Summer is leaving because..because..well, you don’t know why, but it’s not because she doesn’t want to be with you. Or perhaps it is. Perhaps Summer just had to keep moving. Maybe staying still wasn’t the life for her either.

I picked up the cellphone from the desk. No calls or voicemails. I really should call Eric, I thought. At least tell him where I was. Yes I should, but not tonight. Tomorrow maybe. Tonight I was going to enjoy the time I had left with Summer. Who knows what tomorrow would even bring? Maybe she wouldn’t go. Maybe I could talk her into staying. Maybe…life is a bunch of maybes, and every one up to this point had turned into nevers. It was best I didn’t think about it. I closed my eyes, not trying to dwell on anything, just trying to relax, and she came into my room. Not really; it was all in my head, but I could see her coming in, lean body wrapped in her towel, her hair in a bun on her head, also wrapped up in a towel. She would say my name, and then she would fall into my arms, kisses cascading down on me like rain. She would take me into her towel, her still wet skin soft and warm against me…

“Mathew..”

I came out of my reverie in record time. Ashamed and embarrassed over my thoughts, I turned red as a sheet, wanting to apologize to her for thinking such thoughts, but then I stopped. She was wrapped in a towel, bath water still dripping on the floor as she stood in the bedroom doorway. Her dark hair was wrapped up in another towel and I thought how close this was to my daydream. All except she wasn’t falling into my arms or raining kisses on me. She was just looking at me concerned.

“Are you okay? You look flushed.”

“No, I’m okay. I’m Sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

I couldn’t tell her what I was sorry for. Here I was having similar thoughts as the typical male would with a guest of a girl staying with him. Priding myself on being different, I chided myself for having such fantasies. I couldn’t tell her how I was feeling in that instant. I was angry at myself, feeling that in my mind at least I was betraying her trust.

“Nothing,” I replied. “Sorry for..um daydreaming.”

She smiled. “It’s okay; I do that a lot myself. The bath is ready for you if you want to take yours now.”

“Okay thanks.”

“I’ll be back down in a little bit,” she said, and turned to go up the stairs to her room. I couldn’t help but watch her as she walked away. I hadn’t watched a woman so much since…well since never. Summer was nothing short of captivating, and if she had turned and said to me in that moment, ‘you want to come up,’ I would have reached the top of the stairs before her. I shook my head, thinking myself silly, and went to take my bath.

Part 26: Cookout For Two

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Orchard House Part 24: Fade Into You

Orchard House: Daily Serial Novel

Part 24: Fade Into You

If going tubing was spontaneous and out of character for Summer, then it was full blown unheard of for me. As a kid, I had friends who had been river tubing while on trips to their grandparents, or over summer vacation, but I had never done anything like this. It’s funny, for it’s such a simple thing, and as I discovered, a lazy pleasure. While some go fishing, and others play golf, tubing is the easy life, and if you’re with a woman both beautiful to look at and wonderful to know, it makes tubing one of life’s most poignant pleasures.We drifted down river, the rest of the group slightly ahead of us, as we had a larger tube that made it slower going. We didn’t mind though. It gave us time to enjoy ourselves and spend our last day together. I was very aware and saddened by this fact. At some time tomorrow, Summer would be gone and I would be left on my own again. Ever since I had arrived at Orchard House, she was there. It was going to be so empty without her. Drifting along on the water, I had to push this to the back of my mind, but I was already missing her.

She seemed to know where my thoughts were. “So, what you going to do after this?” she asked.

“I haven’t the slightest clue.”

“I think you should write again.”

“I don’t think I have anything left in me to say.”

“Sure you do. You got that music nerd thing going. Chase that dream.”

“I already tried it once,“ I said. I kicked at the water with my feet, and it caused our tube to turn and go into a lazy spin.

“Chase it from a different angle. Get on the net and do a blog, or start your own music mag and work for yourself. “

“I don’t know, Summer.”

Her face lit up as she had another idea. “You could always write a book.”

“I did that once and failed. I mean, what would I write about now to make it any different?”

“Write what you feel.”

I laughed. “If I did that no one would read it.”

She smiled and gave me this knowing look. “I would,” she said.

“You’re biased.”

“I guess I am.”

She stretched out on the tube. Lying on her back with her legs dangling in the water, she looked like Venus lounging at Vesuvius, or a mermaid waiting on a rock ready to sink a ship or two. No wonder every guy looked at her. I don’t think she saw it, but she had a beauty that was natural and poured forth from her like rays of sunshine. While most women her age were fully entrenched in the world of makeup and designer fashions, she didn’t need any of that. Though she was gorgeous relaxing in her tight formed shorts and revealing bikini top, she could have been clothed head to foot in burlap and still been as beautiful.

Once again, she seemed to know what I was thinking. Of course, this time it was easy to tell because I was staring at her so much.

“Did you mean what you said to Earl today?”

I noticed she didn’t call him dad. “Yeah, about the world not wanting him anymore. You know what I meant by that right. I meant that you…”

“No, about me being beautiful.”

I looked over at her, which as always, was very difficult for me to do. Even more so because she was asking me something like that. Her dark brown eyes held me captive in that moment, and it was like being made to drink truth serum. I knew if I looked in her eyes long enough, I would spill every secret, every hidden emotion within me.

“Yes,” I replied. “I meant it.”

She smiled. “Thanks. That means the world to me.” She broke eye contact and looked away, staring off into the trees that lined the river bank. “You’re the first guy…man.. to ever say that without pretension…without wanting something more than to let me know.” She shook her head. “Sometimes a girl wants to be admired and thought of as pretty without a guy’s paws all over her.”

“I would never paw you,” I confessed.

“I know you wouldn’t. That’s what’s so amazing about you. You look like the kind of guy to ask permission first.”

I swallowed hard, wondering what she was trying to do to me. Did she want me to ask her something or was she just testing me? “I would,” I agreed, and left it at that.

She turned again to look at me. She was lying on her side on the tube, one hand resting lightly on her hip, the other propping her head up and helping to balance herself. “You held my hand in the orchard. That was nice. But you haven’t since. Why?”

“I..I don’t know. I guess I don’t want you to think something or…”

She smiled, and it made her eyes almost glow in afternoon sun. “Make me think something, Matthew,” she breathed softly.

“Oh…okay.” But what was I supposed to make her think? I couldn’t tell her what was going on inside my head, because I wasn’t sure myself. I couldn’t tell her that the nervousness I felt around her was because she was so beautiful, and no one like her ever paid me no mind before, much less lavished their attention on me. I couldn’t tell her about the butterflies in my stomach, or even how Ashley never once made me feel so important as she does. All Ashley did was… stop it, I told myself; this is Summer here before you, a girl you are finding yourself…

Summer sighed and slid across to my side of the inner tube until she was right next to me. “Can I lay my head on your shoulder?” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered.

She laid her head over until I felt her cheek against my shoulder. She put her hand flat against my chest. I knew she would be able to feel my racing heartbeat. There was no way to hide it. To calm myself, I put my arm around her and held her close. She snuggled tighter against me and the lazy river carried us on.

“Tell me a poem,” she said.

“I don’t know any.”

“You’re a writer, make one up.”

“It’s not that easy,“ I protested. There was a silence between us for a moment, and I knew this was something important to her. “But I will try.”

I could feel her smile against my shoulder. “I don’t want a dark poem. Nothing depressing or sad. Make it pretty.”

“I’ll try. But bear with me; I’m not very good at instant poetry.”

I looked down at her. Face against my shoulder, her neck lay exposed, giving way to the shape of her shoulders, down the curve of her body as it was nestled against me. One leg dangled down in the river, the other stretched out on the tube, which was soaking up the warmth of the sun and passing it on to our skin. Admiring her like this, I took a deep breath, for it had come to me now, the poem that only she could bring forth from my soul.

“If I could just fade into you

See the world as you do,

I’d float away into thy soul,

Leaving behind a world so cold;

To go down in the depths of thee

Hoping you’d just cradle me

To lift me up and touch the sun

Until we two become just one,

For then I’d see the world as you do

If I could just fade into you…”

For a moment there was silence. I could feel her breathing against me, and for a moment I thought I felt something wet on my shoulder. Probably just the light spray of the river as we rolled down its surface. Then she lifted her head and looked at me with eyes that I could see were brimmed with tears. “Wow,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that.”

“Neither was I,” I admitted.

“When I was a little girl, I always wanted a boy to write me a poem. It took quite a few years, but I think I just got my wish.”

I smiled. “So did I.”

She smiled. “And what was your wish?”

“To write a poem for a pretty girl I was crazy about.”

“How crazy?”

I looked ahead of us on the river. There was a commotion up ahead, though the other tubes had disappeared around an approaching bend. “Very,” I nervously replied, now seeing what was going on ahead of us. Danny had lied to me. There were some rapids on this river and it was right in front of us. “Hang on,” I said, and Summer must have heard the fear in my voice, for she finally looked up to see and she let out a squeal of delight.

“Awesome!”

The tender moment was forgotten, and her youth and exuberance took over, as she grabbed both me and the tube. I tried my best to hang on, as the river started into a slight descent of tumbling water and rolling foam.

Summer let out an excited yell, right in my ear, and we rolled over rocks on the rough ride down the rapids. I could feel the stones of the river rubbing against the underside of the tube and I thought to myself it’s going to puncture our float. The ride got rougher, and I wrapped one arm around her and clutched the tube under me with the other. She rolled over on top of me, wrapping her arms around both me and the tube. She was pressed against me so tight, her cheek lying against mine, her ear right at my lips. They lightly touched her lobe, and in the terror of knowing we could very well drown in this river or go over a massive waterfall to our doom, I kissed her ear. She let out a gasp as the tube capsized, sending us both into the river.

One fear I’d always had as a kid was drowning. I know it’s quite common, but it doesn’t feel that way when you are under the water and sucking it all into your throat. I came up gagging, thrashing my arms around. I felt myself go over a rock, and its rough surface scraped my leg. I caught sight of Summer, but she was ahead of me and too far to reach. I tried to call out and went under again. When I came up for air, she was closer, trying to fight the flow to come back to me. She must have seen I was in trouble. The tube was getting too far away from us, and now it was a choice for her on whether to grab me or go for the tube. She seemed to hesitate, and then went for the tube. The water ran over my head and when I returned to the surface, she had managed to grab the tube and was now holding her arm out in my path. As the river threatened to carry me right by her, her hand grabbed mine, and with a burst of surprising strength, slung me around to the tube, which I grabbed, wrapping both my arms around it and clinging on for life. We rode the rest of the rapids this way until the river leveled off and grew calm and lazy again.

We hoisted ourselves back up on the tire, positioning ourselves on opposite sides to keep it balanced and afloat. “You okay?” Summer asked.

“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “What about you?”

She took a breath. “Yeah I’m fine. I don’t think the tube got punctured on the rocks, so we should be good.”

“The rocks caught my legs a little,” I said, and I saw her survey the damage from her vantage point.

“Yeah they did,” she noted. “We’ll get them cleaned up at the pick-up spot.”

I nodded. “It’s not too bad, just stings a little. Thanks for saving me.”

She giggled. “I didn’t save you. Just helped you get back to the tube.”

“Well, whatever you want to call it, thank you.”

“You would do the same for me,” she replied.

“Yeah I would.” I laid my head back on the inner tube and closed my eyes. I had to admit this was nice, despite our bout in the rapids without a tube. Looking over at Summer, still dripping wet from the river, I smiled. “This has been so nice with you,” I said.

She was lying back on the tube in the same fashion and she turned her head to look at me. “Yes, it has been such an exciting day. I don’t think I will forget this for a very long time.”

“Neither will I.” I reached my hand across the space between us. She took it and held it in her own. This was the way we arrived at the pick-up spot a few minutes after everyone else, lying on the tube, drying in the sun, holding hands and smiling at each other like two kids feeling something they had never felt before, those first pangs of affection that given time, blossom to love.

Part 25: Summer Daydream

“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.

Dying To Be Thin

She’s dying to be thin

it’s all she can think of,

convinced she’ll be more attractive

and easier to love.

She sees girls on the cover

of her favorite magazine,

and she thinks they look so happy,

being beautiful and lean.
She looks in the dressing mirror

and frets over her weight,

until she goes to the bathroom

to throw up what she ate;

She’s already petite

but no one can tell her that,

for in her little mind

she’s nothing less than fat.
In all the music videos,

and all the shows on TV,

the girl everyone wants to be with

is thin as thin can be;

She wants to be just like her

so she weighs herself again,

Killing herself every day

just dying to be thin.