The abrasives on the raft surface scratched Hank’s back as he shifted his body next to Jackie’s. Hip-to-hip, as he rested his hand on the inside of her thigh he could feel the damp fringe of her pubic hair. They stared up at the starry sky, the crescent moon reflecting across the water like a broken searchlight. The lake water lapped over the raft and the rivulets sent a shiver up his spine.
“When I come home next summer, we’ll go away together,” he said.
Jackie rested her head on his chest. “I like to feel your heart beat.”
Hank ran his fingers through the dark strands of her wet hair. “Did you hear me?”
“Yes.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled herself on top of him. She smiled as she tickled her eyelashes against his cheek. “Do you like my butterfly kiss?” she said.
“When I go to law school, you’ll come with me. We won’t ever be apart again.”
“Silly boy. You’re not coming back.”
“I am. I promise.”
“Shhh.” Jackie put her finger over his lips. “It’s okay, Hank. You’re going to marry one of those college girls.” She closed her eyes for a moment and cocked her head to the side. “You’ll have two kids – a boy and a girl. She’ll want more, but you’ll convince her two is enough. It will be a good life. You’ll forget about me.”
“No! You don’t know.”
“I do, Hank.” Her lips pressed tight against his mouth, her tongue teasing. He could taste the cinnamon from her gum. “Do you want to make love to me?” she asked. “Or do those college girls call it ‘fucking’?” She laughed and jumped up. “You’ll have to catch me.” She dove into the water and started to swim toward shore.
“Hey!” Hank scrambled to his feet and scanned the inky dark water. Jackie was halfway to the beach. He leaped off the raft and knifed through the water as though he were flying. It was effortless. Exhilarating.
Jackie laughed and taunted him as he caught up to her. He reached for her foot, but she slipped from his grasp. She turned and faced him, her matted hair splayed on her face and shoulders like seaweed. She mouthed the words, “I love you,” then gave him her little finger-wave and dove beneath the surface.
“Henry, are you okay?”
Henry could feel his wife’s smooth hand on his back as she whispered in his ear. He was curled up in the bed, his back to her. His hip ached as he straightened out his legs and his arthritic hand throbbed as he slowly unclenched his fingers. “What’s wrong?” he asked.
“You were breathing hard. I was afraid. Your heart…I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have woken you.”
He could feel his heart racing. It hurt, but it was a different kind of pain. “It was just a dream,” he said.
“What were you dreaming?”
He closed his eyes and settled back into the soft mattress. “I don’t remember.”
Len Joy lives in Evanston, Illinois.
Recent work has appeared in Annalemma, Johnny America, Pindeldyboz, LITnIMAGE, Hobart, 3:AM Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, DOGZPLOT, Slow Trains, 21 Stars Review, Foundling Review and The Daily Palette (Iowa Review).
He has recently completed a novel, American Jukebox, about a minor league baseball player whose life unravels after he fails to make it to the major leagues.
His blog, “Do Not Go Gentle…” (http://lenjoy.blogspot.com) chronicles his pursuit of USA Triathlon Age Group Championships.