“My appeal went well,” I told Karen and John, “Except for the part where they turned me down and dragged me screaming out of the room. This bastard Willie, who apparently runs the draft board, ignored every word I said.” They listened in disbelief as I related my sad story.
“Now will you consider Canada?” John asked when I had finished.
“Don’t forget marriage and a baby,” Karen added.
“Why don’t I marry in Canada, produce a baby, and declare myself a homo? It won’t help. This man is pure evil–if you’re breathing, then you’re dead meat. There is no place to hide.”
“What will you do?” Karen asked.
“I want to get drunk and feel sorry for myself.”
John lit up. “So what do we do when we’re feeling blue?”
“LIFEGUARD PARTY,” Karen and I said in sync.
“I’ll spread the word and reserve the party cabin for tomorrow night.” John offered.
The party cabin is a 1930s dance hall built into the hillside overlooking Silver Lake. It features a significant screened-in, semi-circular porch on stilts that takes advantage of the steady cool breezes coming out of the valley. Inside there is plenty of space for dancing, ten picnic tables for sitting, and at the east end, a classic bar, with a converted horse trough for icing down the beer. A dusty moose head hangs on the north wall with a lacy bra from some previous soiree dangling permanently from one of the antlers.
When John got married last year, we rented the cabin for his bachelor blowout, so nobody would try to drive home drunk. Our plan would have been perfect if Larry, one of the ushers, hadn’t found where we hid his car keys, and managed, while searching in town for more ice, to crash into the back of a parked car. “The guy was moving like a turtle,” Larry later explained after we bailed him out.
People come from miles around for our infamous nighttime lifeguard soirees, mainly because of a convenient nearby forest, where couples can slip away for a fun time. Yep, at Silver Lake, if you kick the bushes during a lifeguard party, they’re likely to kick you back!
When we arrived later that night, the party was already in full swing. The live band, playing “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love” had the crowd rocking, so Karen grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor. We found a small open spot and joined the others, shuffling and rhythmically twitching our bodies, in a ritualistic mating dance that goes back to the dawn of time.
Several beers later, I had achieved totally wasted, along with most of the other party people, but Karen remained raring to go. “Uh oh,” she observed, looking at my droopy eyes, “You’re getting that sleepy, about to pass out look. Let’s grab some fresh air before you’re no good to me at all.”
Karen dragged me outside. “Okay, lover boy. “What’s your pleasure tonight? Most of the best bushes will be gone by now. Want to try the high dive?”
“Oh no,” I shook my head. “Last time we almost bounced to our death.”
“I know, let’s take out a canoe. It will be so romantic on the lake in the moonlight.”
Doing the horizontal mambo in an unstable canoe was nuts, but I agreed anyway. We walked down the hill to the beach, grabbed a couple of paddles, and shoved off. With no headwind, it didn’t take us long to find a secluded spot. We moved together to cuddle. “I’m going to miss you,” I said.
Karen kissed me long and hard. “Ditto.”
One of her shoulder straps had fallen. I kissed the side of her neck and then worked my way down her shoulder. Karen moaned. I pulled off my T-shirt, slid my hand under her skirt, and removed her lace panties. Karen blew into my ear and unbuckled my jeans. I slid off her other shoulder strap and her dress fell in a heap to the bottom of our craft. We crashed together like rams in mating season. Our locked bodies’ energetic locomotion started the canoe rhythmically rocking, and before we knew it, our un-seaworthy vessel flipped over.
Karen got in one brief scream before we hit the dark, cold water. Shivering, she asked. “What are we going to do now?” Looking at her, the semi-submerged canoe, and our nakedness–I couldn’t help it–I began laughing. “This is not funny,” Karen insisted, but I saw a smile sneak onto her luscious lips.
“Oh yes, it is. We are treading water in the middle of a lake, our clothes are gone, and I have a major boner–having recently suffered from coitus interrupt us.”
Karen giggled. “Poor baby, let me fix that.” She swam over and put me in a very interesting lifeguard carry.
“I don’t remember this from the Red Cross manual,” I said, as we paddled our way across the lake.
“Sure you do. This is the tired swimmers carry, designed for a non-panicking, cooperative victim. The instructions say–lay on your back. Spread your legs. Put your hands on my shoulders and relax.”
She had it right, just like the picture in the manual (except for the relax part). But, I’ll bet the Red Cross never had this version in mind.
We arrived at the shore and after a quick glance around to make sure we were alone, we jumped up and streaked into the guard shack. After drying off and sharing one more naked, lingering kiss, we got dressed using the spare bathing suits and jackets we kept in our lockers.
Karen wrapped her arms around me. “I love you, Eli.”
“I love you too, Karen, and don’t worry about me; I’ll sort out this draft business.”
“I don’t want you hurt.”
“I’m very good at hide and seek.”
“That’s not funny,” she said.
I agreed. “Come on, let me take you home.”
We hiked back up the hill to the party cabin and found a few diehards still awake; sitting around, guzzling beer, and singing one of our favorite drinking songs.
“Now I am a member of the Souse family,
The best family that ever came over from old Germany,
There’s the Highland Dutch and the Lowland Dutch,
The Rotterdam Dutch and the goddamn Dutch,
Singing glorious, glorious, one keg of beer for the four of us,
Glory be that there are no more of us,
For one of us could drink it all alone,
All alone, all alone, glory be that there are no more of us,
For one of us could drink it all alone (damn near)!”
Why is it whenever people get drunk, they think they can sing? Wincing at the discordant melody coming from the lousy, but enthusiastic, choir, we declined the invitation to join them and the nearby howling dogs.
Between working and seeing Karen every night until she went back to college, the next sixty days flew by. My dad tried to intervene with the draft board on my behalf but had no more luck than I did. In fact, my father, who never loses his temper, shook Willie so hard the prick’s false teeth fell out. Willie didn’t press charges only because my dad had been a decorated WW II veteran.
I had run out of time and options.
My last night at home, I spent with my family. “Make sure you take enough warm clothes,” mother sniffled. “You never know where they might send you for basic training and it’s already mid-October.”
“Don’t worry, mother. The Army provides you with food, clothing, and shelter, plus they pay you $100 a month just to let people take shots at you.” She did not look amused. “I’ll be fine. In fact, I hear that Army bases have a lot of recreational facilities, so I plan to take along my tennis racquet and golf clubs.”
My father smiled. “I wouldn’t count on too much free time in basic training.”
My twelve-year-old brother asked the question on everyone’s mind. “Are you going to die?”
My fake smile melted. “Not if I can help it. Maybe the war will end, or I won’t be sent to Vietnam. We can always hope.” I tried to sound positive for my family’s sake, but knew I was being pulled down a path to a place I didn’t want to go.