Joyland

New York |

Andy

by Hilary Wallis

edited by Kyle Lucia Wu

I was lying on a blanket listening to Casey Kasem’s countdown on a portable radio the day Andy rolled up in that blue Astro van. He climbed out and walked over to me slowly with his hands in his pockets. It was springtime, just before my sixteenth birthday, and the air that day was dazzlingly crisp, the way it gets in New Hampshire when the seasons change. I pushed myself up on my elbows to get a better look at him. Usually, he arrived robust and animated, but today he was mellow.

“How’s it going, Molls?” His voice was hoarse and soft.

“Good,” I said, shielding my eyes from the sun. “What are you doing here?”

“What? No love for your uncle?”

I felt badly then that I hadn’t run across the lawn to greet him. I shook my head and stood up into his arms and he wrapped me in a bear hug and lifted my feet off the ground.

“Jeez girl, what are they feeding you?” he said, setting me back down on the grass. “You’re shooting up like a weed.”

I felt my face grow warm. I had grown a lot that summer. I was trying to play it down by standing with my hips out to the side and my shoulders hunched, but Andy had caught me off guard and I guess I was standing up straight.

Andy smiled and squeezed his eyebrows together and said, “So, I better go say hey to my sister then, huh.”

I stayed to finish out the song. When I walked into the house a few minutes later, my mother’s voice was stern coming from the kitchen. I hovered in the hallway for a minute, straining to hear. “There’s going to be rules, Andrew,” I heard her say. She dropped her voice low then and I could only make out a collage of disparate words: “contribute,” “more difficult than it appears,” “unemployed,” “consistency”. I edged closer to the doorframe.

“I know. Yeah. Jesus.” Andy was exasperated.

“Creeper!” My brother’s voice was so loud behind me I jumped. I gave Chris a dirty look and wondered how long he’d been standing there.

“Kids?” my mother called from the kitchen. “They’ll be so excited,” she said to Andy before calling back to us, “Come in here! There’s a surprise,” her voice suddenly light. We went in. “Look who’s here!” my mother said, all sparkles now, beaming her big smile first at us and then at her brother, leaning against the counter, already halfway done with a beer.

“Uncle Andy!” Chris said, surprised.

“What’s up man?” Andy said, reaching out in a stiff embrace, clapping my brother on the back.

“So, guys,” my mother said, “Your uncle is going to stay with us for a bit. We’re gonna give him the shed out back.”

“The guest house extraordinaire!” Andy said.

I suddenly realized why my mother had been spending so much time out there in the past few weeks going through our old junk.

“Where’s Jess?” Chris asked.

Andy winced with mock exaggeration, though it seemed to start out real.

“We’re taking some time apart,” Andy cleared his throat. “Or, I guess we’ve split up.” Then he added, “For now.”

*

Andy slept on the futon in the shed, which had once been my dad’s office so it had heat and carpets and a half-bath. I remember that spring when he arrived, the house always smelled like marzipan and duck and roasting onions; my father was taking a French cooking class in Conway while he was supposedly looking for a new job. As far as I could tell, he spent far more time rendering pork fat than sitting down with the classifieds. One day, I was sitting at the counter drinking lemonade as he was taking particular pains over a cassoulet and Andy walked in and lit up like it was Christmas. “Ho ho, I didn’t recognize you there, Monsieur Jean-Claude-Jacques-Cousteau.”

“Hey Andy!” my father said, robotically chipper, leaning over the stove to blow on a spoonful of sauce. He talked to Andy like he was a little kid and my father was a guest at his parents’ house.

“J’aime ze apron!” Andy said in a ridiculous accent, leaning on the doorframe to take it all in.

My father froze in his position over the stove and cleared his throat. I knew he was working hard to appear relaxed. After several seconds with no response, Andy got bored and went out to the porch, “Smells magnifique,” he said, kissing the air and clapping my dad on the back as he passed.

My father took the cassoulet out of the oven and set it to cool on the counter. He put a pear tart in the oven and went off to do something upstairs. I lingered in the kitchen to take a non-fat orange Dreamsicle when no one would see me eat it. I sat at the island and pressed my legs against the metal bars of the stool to keep cool. I felt a finger hook under my bra strap and then a sharp pinch on my shoulder blade when it released. I jerked around ready to slug Chris for being such a jerk but it was Andy who stood their grinning.

“What’s cookin' good looking?” he said brightly.

My cheeks went hot and prickly. I pressed my fingertips, cool from the popsicle, to my cheek.

“Dad’s making a pie or something I think,” I said.

Andy grabbed a spoon and opened the oven and skimmed a big chunk off the top, barely letting it cool before taking a bite. I knew my father would be furious. He looked down at the magazine I was reading, it was opened to an article called “Ten Things You Didn’t Know To Love About Yourself”.

He cocked his head. “Why are you bothering with those idiotic, stock affirmations?” he said in a way that was both earnest and cavalier. “Look at me kid: you are fantastic. You’re brilliant. You’re at an age when we don’t say that shit anymore but it’s the truth. You are a gift to us all.” He went to the fridge and peeled a hot dog out of the slimy package. He broke it in half and ate one of the halves in one bite. “I mean it,” he said, pointing at me with the other half of the hot dog. I was completely still, my eyes locked on his face.

“Now,” said Andy. “Do you need anything from the store?”

It took me several seconds to understand what he said. I shook my head.

“Alrighty then,” he said, backing out the door, his thumb and index finger cocked into a pistol, “Catch ya on the flip side.”

*

Sometimes none of us would see Andy for three days in a row. and when my mother would go out to the shed to check on him, he would be sleeping. And other times he would be in the house for days, playing guitar with Chris, sleeping on the couch, not changing his clothes, eating string cheese from our fridge.

I know my mother was very worried, but she shared very little. She was stoic in that way that seemed inevitable of people who had grown up in New Hampshire. The only time I remember her directly bringing up what was happening with Andy is one evening when I was helping her put away the dishes, she said, “Molly, I’m counting on you to be your loving, supportive self for your uncle. He’s having a tough time right now and sometimes we all need a little help. That’s the beautiful thing about family, right? We have each other.” Her face was so earnest I had to look away. “And let me know if you notice anything unusual, okay?” She tucked a loose strand of hair behind my ear. I didn’t resist but I was confused about why my mother had enlisted me to keep look out for Andy, though I understood her trusting me was serious.

One of the hottest afternoons in July, Susannah and I retreated to the basement to watch reruns of Full House on an old pixelated television in the finished part of the basement. The basement had been my mother’s project for several years though it never seemed to be done. There was an old exercise bike in the corner and the carpet usually oozed up some musty water around your foot when you stepped on it. The cool, chalky air was deliriously refreshing and we stayed down there for hours waiting out the afternoon sun.

My mom kept an extra freezer in the unfinished part of the basement. There was a box of neon colored ice pops in plastic tubes and every couple of episodes, I would get up and rip two pops off the sheet where they were attached in the dozens by perforate edges.

I handed Susannah a pink one. She liked pink and green so I always gave those ones to her, though my favorite flavor was also green. I had electric blue. I climbed back over her onto my side of the couch, and lay my head down on the arm opposite her and slid my leg along hers, my foot between the cushions and her tank top, which had a tiny ribbon-bow dotting the neckline. We ripped the jagged edges of plastic open with our teeth and sucked until the top went white and we had to bite it off and go farther down to where the ice still had flavor. She was taller than me and her toes were at my shoulder, flecked in purple nail polish that was uneven up close because she had painted over a few times without removing the bottom coat.

I heard someone coming down the basement stairs and then saw my uncle’s profile retreat into the storage room. He was back there long enough I forgot about him and only remembered when the lights flashed on full blast so quickly I couldn’t see in the sudden brightness.

“What’s going on down here?” Andy asked accusingly.

I lurched up and pulled my knees into my chest before I realized he was joking. Susannah, I noticed, only lifted her head off the couch about an inch to look at him.

“Molly,” Andy said, “are you going to introduce me to your friend or what?”

“Oh yeah,” I said, forcing my eyes to adjust to the light. “This is my uncle, Andy.”

“Hi,” Susannah said, raising her head a little higher. Her lips looked glossy from the pink ice pop.

Andy flicked off the lights again and bounded up the stairs, stopping at the top to yell, “Molly.”

“What?” I called up.

“It looks like you ate a glow stick.”

*

I was working behind the desk at The Racquet Club that summer. The whole place smelled like the inside of a can of tennis balls; and even though the courts were a level below, all day I could hear the squeak of sneakers on the asphalt. One of the last afternoons in July, Susannah came to visit me with gummy candy and a Cosmopolitan Magazine.

“Can we share?” she asked, pointing to my swivel chair. I slid over and she squeezed up next me and I could smell her Celine Dion perfume and watermelon gum. She readjusted her ponytail and propped up Cosmo on the keyboard. I felt adrift in all the beauty tips and sex advice but I tried to look attentive. I wanted to keep up with Susanna who seemed to be suddenly learning a lot very fast. She had repeated a grade when we were young, so she was already seventeen. She talked constantly about the boys on the cross-country team, which she would make for sure. She had already run cross-country “for fun” last year and was better than most of the girls on varsity. She had off-handedly said I should try out a few weeks earlier and I took her suggestion seriously. Though I hadn’t run distance before, I desperately wanted to stay on par with Susanna. I could feel her beginning to slip away from me; she was starting to realize that I was clunky and obtuse in social situations. But I thought if I could get myself onto that team, we’d spend so much time together, she couldn’t leave me behind.

She moved to the floor of the office, and made me read off a quiz from the back of the magazine called, “Can You Keep a Guy Intrigued?” The questions embarrassed me but I stayed as neutral as I could, dropping my voice when someone walked past us to scan their ID card. When she had decided on all ten answers I said, “well, you’re a virginal vixen, eager to grab your love life by the horns, but unsure where to start…”

“Perfect. Maybe I could start by spending more time with your brother,” she said, running her fingers through her hair.

“Gross.”

“Fine then, your uncle.”

I looked away fast.

*

In the afternoons I started to sit on the back porch, hoping Andy would be awake and come sit with me. After a few nights he did. He came out of his shed wearing jeans and a white t-shirt. He had just showered and his hair was wet and combed and I could smell musky Old Spice when he pulled up a chair next to me.

“How’s it going kiddo?” he asked, stretching his legs out in front of him.

“Fine,” I said. “What about you?”

Andy took in a breath and exhaled slowly through the gap between his front teeth. “Life is a wild ride, man. You got to enjoy the good parts.”

“Totally,” I said and shifted in my seat. “I’m going to get some water. Do you want anything?”

“Dos brewskies, por favor,” he said sticking out his lower lip.

I raised an eyebrow at him. “Two?”

“Gotta jump start this dull afternoon.”

I slid the screen door open and grabbed two beers from the fridge. I filled a cup with water for myself and went back to the porch where, from behind I saw Andy was in angry conversation with himself. The back of his head was darting erratically from one side to the other and his finger was pointing aggressively at an imaginary foe.

“Hey,” I called out loudly so he would snap out of it. My throat squeezed hard for a second.

He turned around abruptly and gave me a slow smile as I held out the bottles.

“Ahhhh yeah,” he said and took a long sip and smacked his lips. He looked left and right over his shoulders with exaggerated caution. “You better take this one, it’ll be warm by the time I get to it.”

I took the bottle warily, not exactly wanting it but not wanting to miss an opportunity.

“Salud,” Andy said clinking his glass neck against mine. I tipped the bottle in his direction and swallowed puckering my lips at the bitter taste. Andy tapped his hand on my thigh and said, “you’ll get there, kiddo.”

I squeezed the cold bottle between my legs and stared straight ahead, hoping that Andy wouldn’t notice how uncomfortable I felt.

After a long pause, Andy clicked his tongue and said, “So what’s new in the life of Molly Porter?” He tilted his head to the side and it seemed like he really wanted to know.

I felt blurry in his focus of his attention and my stomach fluttered in a panic to think of anything something interesting to say.

“I’m reading the Transcendentalists for summer reading,” I said, scrambling for any ideas of my own. I knew it was childish to bring up school, especially in the evening, especially in the middle of the summer.

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind,” Andy said and it surprised me he knew he what I was talking about. Of course he had gone to high school too, but I couldn’t picture him squeezed into a desk annotating Emerson in an anthology with rice paper pages.

“I love those guys,” he said, leaning back into the stretchy plastic strips of the deck chair. “They understood how lucky we are to have been born in a place with this kind of beauty,” he said, lifting his index finger off his bottle to point to the east side of the yard, where, though we couldn’t see them from there, the white mountains started a few miles away.

“Hey guys,” my mom said, walking over to us, sounding pleased to see us there like that. “What’s happening?”

“We’re just musing over how to achieve happiness, Caroline,” Andy said, sticking out his chin. “Any insights you’d like to share?”

“Marry rich,” she said flatly. We both stared at her in surprise. “I’m kidding,” she said without smiling. “I’m going to the gym. I’ll start dinner when I get back. Does tuna casserole work for you guys?”

Andy gasped, outraged. “What happened to Chef Monsieur Tomàs?” he asked.

“Don’t ask me,” she said. “I’m doing dinner tonight and I feel like tuna. Speak now or forever hold your peace.”

“Sounds good,” I said.

“Great.”

I saw her notice the second beer bottle at Andy’s feet.

“Alright I’m off,” she said kissing my forehead. She pointed to Andy’s beer. “Let’s cool it after this one?” She phrased it as a question but it was more like a warning.

“Ay ay cap’n,” Andy said saluting her. We watched her walk out and then Andy handed the bottle back to me.

“Wait a minute,” he said suddenly, jumping up and leaping over the railing onto the lawn a few feet below. “What’s the story with this?” He held up a ratty rope hammock that had been lying in a heap to the side of my father’s enormous gas grill for several months.

“Oh yeah,” I said. “That was hanging up last summer out front but squirrels chewed through it so we took it down and I guess never got around to throwing it out.”

“So no one will mind if I steal some rope?” he said, raising one eyebrow.

“I don’t think so.”

Andy bounded back to the shed and quickly returned with a pocketknife and began sawing away. A few minutes later, he had loosed several pieces of rope and was back in the chair next to me laying two of them out in an X across his lap with on hand while he sipped on his beer with the other.

“You wanna learn to tie a seaman’s knot?” he asked me. He had worked on a fishing boat in Alaska for a few years after college so he knew how to make bowlines and square knots and sheet bends with his eyes closed.

“Okay,” I said. I pulled my knees up inside my sweatshirt as I looked at his lap.

“So first we’ll do a square knot. That’s the basic one.” I watched carefully as he narrated the steps. “You start out like this with one on top of the other, then you take top right and twist it around bottom left, see? And now what is bottom left twists around top right and then you pull it tight and voila – that’s a square knot. Okay, you try.”

He passed the ropes to me. I got top right down to bottom left but when I reached for the new bottom left, they untwisted and came apart. Andy said, “That’s alright, one more time,” and reached over to help me keep it in place. He turned sideways in his chair so his knees were pressing into the side of my thigh. He took my hands in his and moved them like I was his puppet. His fingertips were calloused from playing guitar and a few jagged pieces of hardened skin scraped me like hangnails as he worked his hands over mine.

“See,” Andy said. “Bottom left becomes top right, top left down and twist.” He loosened his grip and I held the strings myself and he guided me by pressing his elbows into my arms. My hair fell into my face so I could only see in shrouded gaps through the mess of strands in my lap but I didn’t pull my hand away to push it back. My breath was hot and sticky inside my sheath of hair and I felt like either me or the ground was spinning away. Through a small crack, I could mostly see the ropes and I pulled the ends and they came together in a lopsided square knot. Andy was so pleased he let go and leaned back and hollered, “Oh yeah! She’s got it!”

*

The first Tuesday in August, I met Susanna at an open cross-country practice in Great Woods State Park. When it was over, I looked for my mother’s Subaru in the parking lot but instead saw Andy leaning out the window of his van.

“Over here Molls,” he shouted, waving his arm in the air.

My chest clenched a little as I walked over to him.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Your mom got caught up at some appointment and couldn’t get in touch with your dad, so it’s Uncle Andy to the rescue,” he said. “I have to make a few stops on the way home,” he said, “That okay, kiddo?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, pulling myself up into the passenger seat.

“So, how was practice?” Andy asked, backing out of the lot.

“Well, it wasn’t great. I’m the slowest one by far.”

In the rearview, we both saw Susanna stretching her leg across the fence at the edge of the parking lot, her ponytail dipping down to her knee. “Hey,” she called her voice lilting up and back down in that one syllable. Andy backed up twenty feet until we were alongside her. I waited for her to come to my window but she went the long way to Andy’s instead.

“What’s up?” I called to her. She shrugged.

“Molly here tells me that Coach kicked you girls’ asses today,” Andy said, leaning an elbow out of the window.

“Yeah, basically,” she said. “Where are you guys headed?”

“Errands then home,” Andy said. “Can we offer you a lift?”

“No thanks,” she said without elaborating.

“Ah. Well another time,” Andy said, shifting into drive. Susanna pouted her lips at me as we pulled away.

The weather was perfect that evening, like it gets on those endless summer days in New England. The sun was coming in low through the oak trees and we were winding down a two-lane highway past a stretch of lakes. I cranked my window open and turned up the Grateful Dead cassette.

“Atta girl,” Andy said, with an approving nod.

I looked sideways at my uncle, who was squinting his eyes and belting along to Sugar Magnolia. We were flying down the road now, doing fifty at least around tight curves that called for thirty-five. Andy shouted yeehaw when the road dipped suddenly and our stomachs dropped. The woods shot by us like slides of wilderness in a View-Master. But in the car, we were in slow motion, my insides were syrup and I was sopping up that glowing radiance rising off the ground like steam, and we were floating, suspended above ourselves and I couldn’t get enough of the fleeting, brilliant harmony that was buzzing all around.

*

One of the last weeks of August, when I got back from The Racquet Club, I sat on the back porch hoping Andy would come out. The afternoon was still and long, the sun felt impossibly high for four o’clock. I could hear the ice cubes in my glass of water ping as they fractured in the heat.

Absentmindedly, I started doing a tap dance on the porch. When I was younger, my mother used to send me outside to practice my tap steps. I could easily transform the porch into a stage in my mind and there was one routine permanently embedded in my muscle memory. I had my back to Andy’s shed during an especially quick series of shuffles when I heard a burst of giggling quickly become silence. I turned around and saw Andy wasn’t alone. Susanna was following him out of his shed. They both looked stunned to see me; like it was the wildest thing they could have imagined seeing me on my own back porch in the middle of the afternoon.

I stopped mid-step. I stared at Susanna frantically though she wouldn’t meet my eyes. My brain went hot and gummy. I willed it to work faster and churn out something I could do or say to unstick the three of us from this moment.

Their eyes looked red and swollen, Andy’s especially, and they were blinking a lot to adjust to the light. Andy looked at me and then back at Susannah and his eyes got all squinty and he cracked up, “Oh shit,” he said, jerking his head toward me. As he laughed he curved his shoulders and held his face in his hands in his goofball way I’d seen him do a hundred times. “Oh shit,” he said again, laughing even harder now. Then Susannah lost it too and cracked up just as hard as Andy. They were mostly looking at each other, but every few seconds would glance at me, which made them laugh the hardest – like there was something ineffably funny about my existence. A moment later, as if only then registering that he could not just look at me but had to also say something, Andy called out “Whatsup Molls,” sounding casual as ever, but then cracking up again right after he said it.

I realized my hands were still spread out in front of me. I pulled them down and went in the house slamming the sliding door so hard it bounced right back open. Everything inside of me felt loose like it might drop out my bottom. I went into the living room and lay down on the couch, pressing one of the big pillows into my stomach like an anchor. It was windy and the pineapple print curtains were billowing out into the center of the room and then getting sucked against the screen. I watched them going in and out, furling or unfurling, feeling my hot tears well and abate and then well again until it got dark.

*

I didn’t want anything to do with Susanna after that. Sometimes my thoughts would drift amicably to a memory of her – a sleepover or a dance recital – and then I would remember that stupid face she was making in my backyard and I would feel betrayed all over again. I saw her a few weeks later in the Market Basket parking lot, she seemed to be alone and she looked skinny and I made a show of ignoring her.

I was mad at Andy too, though with him it was more complicated. I couldn’t pin point what he had done wrong.

What happens next comes to me in a dreamy haze when I try to piece it together in my memory. It was late afternoon and I was standing in the yard in the dappled sunlight when Andy walked out of the shed holding a football. We had barely talked since the afternoon with Susanna but he called out to me “Go long!”

I had been missing him badly, so I took a few steps back and yelled, “I’m open!” He tossed the ball right to me in a perfect arc. I tossed it back to Andy, who had to dive for it because my aim was off, but he made the catch and lay on his back and lifted his arm above him and yelled, “I got it, baby, I got it!” I applauded from across the yard and Andy jumped back to his feet, tucked the football under his arm and ran toward me, dipping and twirling to dodge imaginary linebackers and cornerbacks, elbowing them in the face as he went.

He was yelling, not words but just making noise, and as he got closer to me he didn’t slow down and I shrieked frantically, excitedly, and I spun on my heel and started running from him. Then he was chasing me around, both of us screaming. And I was running hard, as fast as I could, weaving figure eights around the yard, taunting him. I ran and ran until I felt like my chest was going to split open and I finally had to stop and bend over to try and get my breath back in my body when Andy charged into to me and jammed one arm behind my knees and one behind my neck and scooped me up in one fluid motion. I looked at Andy’s face and he seemed feverishly happy, ecstatic really. He was smiling this big, dazzling smile and I was smiling back at him and he spun me around and around and around and around, cradling me in his huge arms and then – he let me go. And then I was soaring in a perfect arc, the centripetal force increasing my velocity until I smashed headfirst into the gas grill.

I felt my tooth come loose and the warm rush of blood first out of my mouth, then from my forehead, my shoulder, my arm, my thigh. I was really hot. My mother was running across the lawn, holding a dishtowel in her hands, she was screaming, “Stay back! Stay the fuck away!” and I couldn’t think who she was yelling to. She kneeled next to me and her hands were so cool on my forehead and seeing her tears is what started me crying and then, hazily, I saw Andy standing over me and I heard her again say, “get the hell away from here,” and I realized she was talking to Andy and I turned my head to the side and vomited.

*

I broke my collarbone, sternum, radius and two ribs and I needed thirty-six stitches, most of them on my head and face. I was in recovery for six months. For the first two, I slept with my left arm and leg in a sling suspended from the ceiling. My parents kicked Andy out and told him not to try to contact us or they would turn him into the police. A few days after I got home from the hospital, Andy showed up and wanted to see me but my mother wouldn’t let him.

“You don’t get to look at her.” I’d never heard my mother yell like that but I had the feeling she intended for me to hear it all. “You don’t get to explain. What could you possibly say to her? That you didn’t mean to chuck her head first into a fucking grill? You’re too late.”

“Caroline,” Andy kept saying, his voice pleading.

“No Andy, I am done cleaning up after you. We took you in and we supported you, in case you are forgetting, one hundred percent financially when we couldn’t really afford to. And then you go and manipulate my friend into lending you money on the side. And that whole horrible mess with that seventeen-year-old girl. Do you know how mortifying it was to explain things to her parents? Do you understand how I am perceived now by people who used to be my friends? They were ready to call the cops, Andy, and I am the only goddamned reason that they didn’t. And you don’t give a shit. You could be in jail. For all I care you should be in jail after what you just did to my kid. And you better leave this minute or I will change my mind about filing that police report.”

*

A few times, I tried to explain to my mother that it was complicated, but she had seen it all through the window and wouldn’t hear me out. All she saw was that Andy had done irrevocable damage. I felt like I needed to talk to Andy, or just look at his face, but my parents were unrelenting in their decision to keep him away from all of us. So, though I had this nagging feeling to reach out to Andy to give him a chance to explain or to finally yell at him myself, I never actually did.

*

For my thirty-fifth birthday Allen took me to Lake George for the weekend. The trip was a brief armistice before he would start delivering the real ultimatum: marry me or leave me. I was trying to fend off that decision for as long as possible.

I suggested we rent a speedboat and go out exploring. Allen agreed. It was surprisingly windy on the water and oppressively bright. I squeezed zinc ointment onto my fingers and ran thick streaks it over the ridges of my scars. Though the doctors had been impressed with how they had healed, I always had to be careful in bright sun. I stretched out on the bench and watched Allen affectionately. He was so mild and kind and dependable in a way that was both comforting and tedious. I knew we were on the cusp of breaking apart and I wanted to make this day unfurl slowly, I wanted to languish in the goodness of us, while we still sort of had it.

He took the hat off his head and passed it to me. “The sun’s more in your eyes than mine.”

I put it on. A minute later it blew off my head and landed ten feet behind the boat. Allen turned the boat sharply and cut back to look for it. The hat bobbed above the surface for a minute then deflated quickly and drifted down and, by the time we got to it, almost out of sight.

“Shit,” I said, when he cut the engine. “I’m sorry.” I got up and went to him.

Allen shrugged. “Just a hat,” he said. But he was irritated and I realized he also knew that this was going to be our last good weekend.

He turned the engine back on to full speed now and suddenly we were rocketing across the choppy water. We were in the dead center of the lake and the wind was coming on hard from the East. I wanted to stand there next to him, but the boat was bouncing up and down so violently, I had to grip the railing to stay upright. My feet came off the ground every time the boat slapped the surface. Allen looked dead ahead, deliberately ignoring me.

My eyes watered in the wind so that everything blurred into points of blinding light and I couldn’t see where we were going but only feel our momentum as we shot forward and my body thrashed around with the bucking of the boat and desperately I thought of Andy.

Clutching the rail with my left hand, there was a rational reflex within me that reached over and gripped Allen’s arm with my right, signaling him to slow down, to tell him it was too much, to bring it back into control, but then another part of me was willing him to push the engine as hard as he could, go faster, faster, I thought, fast enough to lose ourselves for a brief moment in this dazzling light, this brilliant force whipping, churning all around us.