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Chapter 8 – Doer, Faker

May 8, 2012

Chapter Eight – “Doer, Faker”

October 9, 1973 – The Iron Range, Minnesota

Brightly colored, revealing, tight-fitting clothing was barely visible in the trees. Sunlight poked through the leaves and needles, branches and trunks of large oak, sycamore and pine.

The trio was quiet and tense. Their goal lay not forty feet ahead. They all stood, legs bent and taught, ready for the signal.

“Look, a squirrel!”

Eli was moving before the other two could even look to see no squirrel at all. Maya caught on almost immediately, now used to Eli’s prankster style, but not so accustomed that she didn’t glance upwards and to the left. Braden was still glancing backwards even after his feet started moving after Maya.

“Geronimo!” was Eli’s cry as he leapt off the cliff.

“Who shouts ‘Geronimo’?!?” was Maya’s.

“Look out below!” was all Braden could muster just after Maya’s splash into the river below.

The water was cold, but it was an unusually warm day for early fall in Minnesota so it wasn’t as cold as it might have been. Swimming had been Braden’s idea, though the couple had agreed immediately.

Eli paddled his way to one of the inflatable tires they had tossed down before moving back for the big jump. He hopped onto it like some ancient species making its first leap onto land, his violet swim trunks now a wet, light shade of purple.

Maya swam slowly toward him, eyes barely above the water level with a hungry look not unlike a crocodile. Her white bikini visible below the water level made her look more like a beautiful Amazon coming in for the kill or a kiss to Eli, who went limp at the very sight of her coming toward him.

Braden slid into an easy backstroke, his tanned chest wet and reflecting the Sun back at itself. He breathed once deeply, taking in air, and floated closer to Eli’s tire than the latter would have preferred given how much tighter his trunks had become mere seconds ago.

Maya laid one hand on Eli’s stomach.

“So, you rested up from your late night?”

Eli had hitched a ride to Minneapolis and partied all night at some bar in Downtown and an after-party elsewhere. He returned just as the Nelsons and Maya were headed to church. He still had the pink ink peace symbol stamped on his right hand marking him for re-entry should he have reason to slip out and return to the club. He had been quite drunk on arrival and shortly hungover after that.

“Much better, thanks.”

Mrs. Nelson had insisted he join them at worship rather than crashing on the floor as he said he preferred. He slept through the entire service. He had no time to change clothes or do more for his appearance than run the big comb in his back pocket through his hair.

“I’m thinkin’ the preacher wishes he had chose a different topic…”

“Hm? What was it?”

“‘No rest for the wicked’. Your snoring and your general appearance stole the show.”

“F***… I snore?”

“Not too loud.”

She touched the hickey on his neck, the one she had noticed when he appeared in the driveway. Now she could see another, fainter one on his chest. Still another on his left side, close to his waistline.

“So, are there more of those somewhere where the Sun don’t shine?”

He just smiled. She couldn’t understand how he could love her on the one hand and spend so much energy dancing and screwing around with the boys at the gay bars.

“Wanna take a peek?” he smiled with that slightly animalistic look she found exciting and slightly scary at the same time.

She smacked his stomach with the flat of her hand causing his legs and head to lift, jostling the tire around a bit.

They both laughed, but he stopped short as he caught his breath and stared up at the clear blue sky. His smile faded and he spoke.

“I feel… No, I think… No, I definitely feel…”

“Therefore you are? What?”

“i just think. Or feel. Or both. That we ought to be doing something important. Something to…make a difference. Something else. Something.”

Braden had been doing some swimming around and returned for the last part of the comment.

“There’s a tractor pull this evening. Not too exciting, I know, but you can meet folks.”

Quite used to Braden’s habit of changing the subject by not having any idea what the original subject was, the other two didn’t even bother with updating the jocky youth, who didn’t wait for a reply anyway, and dove under only to come up sharply into the air. It was a move that would have been the envy of many an olympic swimmer with a body to match.

“See what I mean?”

“You think it’s Fate, Eli?”

“Don’t believe in it. No. We are merely people with special talents who… um… noticed each other and had the nerve to make contact.”

She ignored the obvious pun with regards to them meeting in karate class.

“So, Braden is really strong and tough. You’re really, really smart—”

“Thank you!”

“And what’s my talent?”

Schneider suddenly got a panicked, strained look on his face. He had enjoyed her company immensely but never stopped to wonder precisely why.

“Well, you definitely kick ass, m’lady! Typically mine, but nevertheless…”



“Well, you are also very well versed in history and politics and have a keen understanding of civil rights violations when you see them.”



“And you have the courage to speak up when you see said affringements, without hesitation, clearly indicating a sense of right and wrong that cuts through the malaise that other mere mortals fail to see!”

Surely that—


Mayday! Mayday! Physical prowess and combat ability: check. Studious and intelligent: check. Courageous and incorruptible: check. What’s left, goddamit? Oh, what, what, what…? Couldn’t she just ask, give me a clue?

Eli glanced over and looked into her eyes tenderly, without giving a hint that he had absolutely no idea what he was about to say.

“You are, far, far above average in the looks department.”

Math and poetry rarely mixed, especially under pressure. Eli felt rather than saw both of her feet make contact with the floating tire. He was immediately airborn and soon after waterborn.

Braden popped up from below, completely mistaking the looks on their faces for the one he’d seen just before they marched off to Eli’s bedroom.

“Uh. Should I leave?”

Eli gasped for air and grabbed for the tire.

“No. Good gawd, no!”

He decided to give the woman some space for the time being. He did notice a trail of smoke over the trees, but thought little of it. He was instead intent on programming his brain not to repeat the same mistake again.

Maya and Braden didn’t notice the smoke either, and swam some distance away from Eli while he licked his figurative wounds.

Being in the water, none of them noticed the tremor that had preceded the rising smoke. Being so far away, they couldn’t hear the cries for help either.


©2011 Christopher C. Knall

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