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The Book of Aric

by Doc Sawzall

Chapter 16

Love Defined

Breakfast was a casual affair of eggs and bacon followed by pancakes, all devoured by boys in a casual state of dressed and undressed. Ethan wore an apron over his tee shirt as he cooked this morning. I set about cleaning and clearing the table as the three others found their shorts. Once I had the table set I found a pair of shorts and put them on and brought a pair out to Ethan and helped put them on him. I have to admit I found the sight of him in an apron very enticing but with three sets of hungry eyes on us, there wasn't much I could do. Sam took charge of the cabin clean up, opened all the windows, had us make our beds, fold and stack our dirty laundry in paper bags he had given each of us, and generally pick up, sweep and put things away. The outhouse was used and when it was my turn, I left the door open as I watched the morning fade away. We needed to get some work in before lunch as we would be off to the rope swing afterwards. I had Sam help measure the spacing we would need for the new footings that would support the floors. Earl had helped me determine our starting point, we would measure off of two existing footings and by careful measurements and cross checking, to see we stayed square to the main room of the cabin, we then marked the holes we would need to dig.

Ethan and I would dig the holes and I had Sam and the guys find the stones we would need to put in the bottom of the holes for drainage. I planned on bringing the cement and the wheelbarrow over after the holes were dug. The posthole digger and the iron bar to move rocks we couldn't dig around made the work easier than I expected. We were far enough off the edge of the island that as we dug down, the dirt was not as rocky as it would be if we had placed the cabin further inland. Once we had finished the holes for the extension of the main room we set to work on laying out the holes for the bunkroom addition. As with the first set of holes this went quickly. While we were digging, I sent the guys over in the rowboat to grab the cement, wheelbarrow, wood, and a saw for the forms.

We were able to mix and pour our footings before we broke for lunch. We made crude forms to place on top of each hole so the cement footing would rise above the ground. Once the forms were set to level, we mixed the cement in the wheelbarrow; from there we would carefully pour it into each hole. Eddy and Bobby kept the water coming as we needed it and Sam took his turn at various tasks, once he had the basics, he'd move to the next so that the concept was clear in his mind. He kept us supplied with juice and water and did whatever additional tasks we needed. When the last of the footings were poured, we cleaned our tools and put them away knowing we'd remove the forms from the cement in the morning when it had cured.

We ate lunch at the picnic area by the outdoor fireplace and tossed our scraps and garbage in the fireplace for later use tonight. We had a date with the rope swing and a bar of soap. We were dirty and smelly, judging by our looks and odor. It was a substantial morning's work and we had accomplished much. We grabbed our towels and headed off to the rope swing.

Ethan and I had checked out the spot the morning we installed it. It was hung off a branch of a pine leaning over the water. The branch was about twenty feet up and allowed for a running start to get far enough out for letting go and splashing down. The shoreline dropped off quickly on this side of the island and as long as you got a few feet out there was no danger of shallow water. There were places on either side of the swing from which you could easily climb back onto the island. It was a few minutes' walk to the other side if you didn't count the number of times we stopped to explore an anthill or the discarded skin of a snake that had changed his clothes. The blueberries were flowering and we made note of the easy pickings for future use. We passed several large trees that had fallen and uprooted themselves, the tangled web of roots proved too fascinating to pass by; there were stories of buried ancient wonders to be told there. We tossed pine cones at last year's bird's nests as they barely clung to their branches. And we wondered what type of animal left hair in its scat. We saw turtles sunning themselves on rocks and stumps scattered among the flowering lily pads. Along with the concentric rings left in the water as frogs jumped away from our noisy advancing army. Further out, lazy ripples would form as the fish picked off unsuspecting insects for their lunch. There were tadpoles and frogs' eggs to be found hidden in the shallower pools amongst the weeds. Wild azaleas were blossoming and underneath the ferns amongst the pinecones, Jack in the Pulpits gave their benediction to the spring afternoon. Chipmunk scouts would announce our presence as Blue Jay sentries would spread the news of our impending arrival. Lady Slippers stood quietly as we passed by. Mother and father mallard showed off this year's offspring as they serenely floated by, guiding their floatilla in this day's lesson.

There was much to be learned in this quiet little corner of the universe and without knowing, much was imparted to us in the guise of fond memories and recollections. I remember the sky being the perfect shade of crystal clear blue. The air was clear and dry with no hint of the humidity that was to come. The wind was light and barely perceptible, enough so that the bugs were kept at bay. The island, once more securely in the hands of its conquerors, had yielded to our advance and onslaught as we marched towards the rope swing.

The old pine was a gnarly affair and stood taller than the large barn at the end of the driveway. It had been silent witness to decades of life down at the pond. Much had passed beneath the branches of this old guardian of the island. The bark was thick and bore the scars of previous invasions. Branches further up had lost battles to the wind and snow, but not the war. It had stood here for years and would be here for years to come. We placed our gear in the wild grass and pine needles at the base of this wizened old tree. Towels were spread out and tee shirts, socks and sneakers were carefully placed. Shorts came off revealing the faint outlines of the suns' first caress of our bodies. We stood there, five naked, victorious warriors about to enjoy the fruits of their victory march across the island. Grabbing the rope from where it was draped across the tree, I would first demonstrate how it worked. I worked my way back and with the rope held high, ran towards the pond. As I left terra firma and reached the peak of my arc, I let out a blood curdling yell and let go. The distance to the surface from the moment I let go, was measured in fractional seconds. As I slipped my tether and fell to the water I barely had the chance to grasp my legs and draw into a cannonball. I hit the water with a resounding smack as the cool waters of the pond enveloped me. A split second earlier I had pinched my nose and I sank until my buoyancy reasserted itself assisted by my flailing arms and legs as I broke through the surface. I shook the water from my hair, bellowed how much fun that was, and reached for the rope. Once in hand I tossed it to the shore and asked, "Who's next, ladies?"

Ethan grabbed the rope, sailed out towards the heavens and let go. He hit the water with a resounding smack and the geyser created as he broke the surface was impressive. He in turn tossed the rope back where an eager Sam was not to be denied. He screamed from the moment he began his journey to the pond to the moment he had splashdown. He was followed quickly in turn by Eddy then Bobby. Sam was standing on the bank when Bobby came up out of the water to wait for his next turn. He elbowed me and pointed to his groin, his face a curious mix of bewilderment. He wanted to say something but struggled to form the words. He looked at me, looked at Bobby until I understood his confusion. Bobby wasn't circumcised. I tried to quietly explain that he had a foreskin and not draw notice to a puzzled Bobby, when he blurted out, "foreskin…what's a foreskin?"

Sam had to see for himself so he could understand this new mystery. Bobby was a good sport and explained the basics. To his credit, he explained in terms that Sam could follow, trying to keep the reasons for being circumcised or not, simple. Although Sam heard the explanation, it couldn't satisfy the mystery in front of him; it required an inspection so he could see its workings for himself. Walking over to Bobby he knelt in front of him and gently took hold of his penis. He drew the skin back exposing the head and let the skin go and watched it cover the head again. Once was not enough and he moved the skin back and forth several times so he could be satisfied with its workings. The attention paid to Bobby's foreskin had the effect of causing an erection and once fully erect the foreskin had been stretched so it no longer covered the head. Bobby allowed Sam to stroke him a few more times. Sam, his curiosity satisfied, turned and said he thought it was cool but he was glad he didn't have that bit, as it would only get in the way when he had to pee. I tossed Bobby the rope and he took off, relying on the cold water to cure his 'problem'. To be honest, I was as curious as Sam in the sense that I also had been interested in his foreskin. I wasn't alone in those thoughts as I noted Ethan also had been watching. As Bobby walked past me to start his swing I whispered thanks for satisfying Sam's curiosity and he replied smiling, "no problem," as he winked at me. He was a good sport and handled what could have been an embarrassing situation with class.

As quickly as our adventures with the rope swing had halted they resumed. We played at the rope swing for an hour or so more, soaped up, and rinsed off. Once we had cleaned ourselves we lay on our towels in the sun as we worked on our tans. I discussed with the guys the next steps we needed to do in the additions to the cabin; I wanted them to understand that there was a lot of work yet to do.

It was time to head back to the cabin. The afternoon was growing late and we needed to send for Earl and Marge, who were coming over for supper tonight. We were going to have pan-fried chicken and biscuits with fresh summer squash and onions. While Eddy and Bobby went to fetch Marge and Earl, Sam raced around the cabin making sure everything was neat and orderly. Ethan and I set the table and made sure the outdoor fireplace was ready for the bonfire afterward. By the time they got back, everything was shipshape and ready.

When we saw the group come up the path we were in for a surprise, Trind was with them and Marge was beaming. The two of them quickly settled into the kitchen area and Earl came over to inspect our work setting the footings. He was pleased when he double-checked our measurements. He smiled at Ethan and me and commented that every job starts with a good foundation. I was pleased at the complement. Ethan mentioned the use of the second rowboat with a motor when it came time for moving material out and Earl noted it would save some time. Sam was drinking all of this in, getting complemented on the fine job he did in helping out. The six of us guys sat around the outside fireplace and discussed in more detail what we needed to do next. There was another shed to pull down and scavenge as much lumber as we could, get it sorted and ready to go. We weren't far along in discussing the process when we were told to come on up and wash our hands. Trind was very pleased with the cabin and she asked about the bathroom. Sam, consummate gentleman that he is, explained we had an outhouse and when it was dark out you needed the 'Pooplight'. Walking over to where it resided on the shelf, he also told her it was very important to make sure it worked before heading out. If you needed extra batteries, they were right next to it on the shelf.

Marge and Trind cooked a fabulous meal…it was superb and there was plenty to go around. Everyone complemented them both. Marge allowed as how the old cook stove reminded her of her mother's kitchen and she had grown up learning to cook on a stove just like that. Whenever she could turn the complements towards Trind, she did who would blush at the attention. I know she loved and missed our parents and was brought up like her two brothers to be self-sufficient and independent; but just then she needed the attention Marge was giving her. Marge had always wanted a daughter and she wasn't letting Trind go. They were quickly becoming inseparable and I swore Trind took years off of Marge's life and she looked younger whenever Trind was around.

We went outside to the fireplace after supper. Marge and Trind elected to sit on the screen porch in the rocking chairs. We guys circled the fire with our marshmallows and listened as Earl told stories both funny and scary. When it was time for them to go, Eddy and Bobby loaded the rowboat with what needed to go back, had a list of items for the next trip out, and took our three guests back to the farm. While they were gone Sam once again took charge of the cleanup. When it was clear we were in his way, we went and sat back down at the outdoor fireplace. We held hands and said much of nothing, content at the conclusion of a fine late spring day. We sat until the guys came back and they joined us for a spell. We enjoyed discussing the day's events and our plans for tomorrow. We had the family gathering to go to and we made sure Bobby knew he was invited.

It was amazing how well we were all getting along and it looked as if we were going to have a great summer we could look forward to. We could hear Sam bustling about the cabin as he swept the floor. He had the battery-operated radio on and the Red Sox were playing the Tigers, to be truthful it was just noise in the background. We stared into the fire and watch the glowing embers and the sparks fly off into the sky. The evening sky had darkened sufficiently that the stars were out. The moon would be rising soon and the temperatures hadn't cooled. I supposed it was from the humid warm front that was expected to stay through tomorrow evening when we were supposed to get thunderstorms. Hopefully it wouldn't interrupt the family gathering tomorrow.

Sam had finished cleaning the cabin to his satisfaction and came down to join us. We roasted a few more marshmallows and sat quietly for the most part, enjoying our evening. Sam let out a prodigious fart; I swear it was loud enough to be heard back up at the house. Ethan asked Sam if there were any lumps with it and we all laughed and giggled hysterically.

There's nothing worse than a lonely fart, a fart that cries out for its siblings in a crowd such as ours, and it wasn't long before its lonely cry was answered. Eddy leaned over and let a squeaker go, that brought another bout of laughter. I lifted my hips off the bench with my hands by my side and played a trumpet blast, this got Bobby going followed by Ethan, as they both imitated the bullfrogs at the water's edge. Not wanting to push our luck and see if they really did have lumps we quieted down and once more were lost in the fire of our own thoughts. Suddenly Eddy stood up and raced to the cabin, when he came back he had an armful of towels and a bar of soap.

As he neared us he tossed the towels and clutching the bar of soap raced down to the dock and dived in screaming "last one in is a rotten egg!" To an outside observer watching the four of us suddenly try to get coordinated enough to slip out of our tee shirts, shorts and sneakers in a glorious effort not to be last, would have provided a night's worth of entertainment. We stumbled and bumbled as we ran in various stages of undress towards the dock where our pride would be saved and salvaged. There were boys with tee shirts over their heads as they ran with shorts at their knees while sneakers were flying off at each half-step. The trail of scattered clothes wasn't unlike the trail of bread crumbs left in the forest by Hansel and Gretel.

I had seen pictures in Life magazine of the debris left by tornadoes in the South and Midwest, as they tore through some innocent, unsuspecting town and the night reminded me of that. I had managed to get my tee shirt up and over my shoulders when Ethan pushed me back down on the bench. Bobby was trying to knock a giggling Sam over as he had lifted his hips and had his shorts down past his knees. I gave Ethan a slight elbow sending him over as I stood up again victorious in my battle with the tee shirt and had turned to make my way to the dock, kicking my sneakers off when a finger caught the elastic band of my old gym shorts. As I flew forward I put my hands in front of me and caught the ground. My forward movement ripped the back of my old gym shorts and dragged then towards my ankles. Scampering towards the dock while trying to regain my footing, I managed to fully slip out of the last remaining bit of my torn shorts, and was nearing the dock when a streaking Sam flew past me on one foot as he was removing the last sneaker. It came off just a little bit with each step. I think we tied each other as we dove in, each of us flailing our arms at each other to slow the other down. Ethan and Bobby were grappling as they approached the dock, I could hear the sounds of their laughter as I dove under the water.

We soon forgot who was last, as other games were played. We played chicken and tag, we had contests to see who could swim the furthest underwater, who could jump the furthest and make the biggest cannon ball off the dock. There were races and standing flips. We played so that everyone had a chance and applauded each other's successes. We dunked and dove, played hungry fish, sneak up on one another, and occasionally someone would let forth a stream of bubbles as we bathed in the light of the rising moon. We played until everyone was full.

We had vanquished the pond and the night was calling us inside. We clambered on shore and retrieved our towels as we dried ourselves in the light of the dying fire. Clothes were gathered collectively, to be sorted later. We'd sing of our victories in the game we played as we marched towards the cabin. The bonds formed in our competitions were unshakeable. We divvied up amongst ourselves what was ours and put what we needed away, the night remained warm and the cabin comfortable so that clothes were not necessary. On the table, there were games and cards awaiting us for their entertainment and on the counter next to the sink, a pie and five glasses. There was fresh milk in the cooler and our exertions would be fed. It was quick work, that pie was; the fresh milk drowned the pie's sorrows. Where five formerly flatulent sons sat, a new country song sprang forth in a chorus of belching. There were high notes and low notes, inner rumblings producing bursts of song and as quickly as it started it was over. There would be an occasional quick release of gas from one end or the other, as we played through the game we had set out. We sat at that table warmed in each other's comfort. Our bond grew and deepened in the noise and silences we shared.

After the last game was played we threw the blankets and pillows down in front of the couch and lit a small fire in the wood stove to ward off the impending chill of the cool dawn air. It was story time. The hour was late and tales of struggle, woe and horror were told. There were mysteries, the disappearing judge, the one-armed bandit, the car that started by itself. Other stories told of people disappearing and of graves becoming mysteriously empty. Our munchkin was the first to lose the battle with his eyelids, as his head drooped and the security of our laps grew inviting. His battle would start imperceptibly, a nod and a yawn. A futile stretch of his arms and legs as he struggled to remain upright between us, deep breaths failed to chase the sleep away. There would be a lean to either side just to get comfortable. A head placed on a shoulder as neck muscles relaxed from the weight of the day. Another stretch, creating space between his sentinels, a shift of position so for a moment, he could lay back and relax and then nestled comfortably, ensconced across our laps, the light would go out. He'd take a few deep breaths in one last effort to chase the sandman away and then finally succumb. For him the struggle was prolonged; for us, all too brief. We would let him lay there as he floated off and when we were assured he was in the land of dreams and adventure, we carefully carted him off to bed.

All that was left to do was to pick up and clean up after ourselves. We packed up and put away what we needed to, wiped down and washed the remainder. We went out to the porch and watched the moon rise higher in the sky. We stood there absorbing the beauty of the night, reveling in the adventures of our day, took comfort in the ones we held close, and listened to the sounds of our hearts beating together.

I had often thought I was too young to feel the way I did. There were times I was confused as to the depth of my feelings. After all, I was just a kid. This wasn't the path I had started on or had bargained for and as I stood there wondering, I remembered everything else as well. I had grown up fast, recovered from sorrows, and then discovered strengths deep within me. I had experienced a lifetime in my short time here on this planet, caught in turbulent waters and finding safety on a distant shore. I had found love, and lost those I had loved cruelly again. Through all of this I had found myself and come to understand how simple my needs were.

I was wanting, needing and seeking for what would complete me, that which would fill the empty side of my soul. I had found myself in the darkest depths of despair -- a pain and suffering so unbearable that my insides had been stripped clean away. As quickly as I had plunged, I had been rescued. I knew of hurt and loss and of the joys life shared equally. Through it all, when all seemed lost, I had moved forward reluctantly and now, when I had found where I needed to be, it all made sense. I understood my life, my reason for being. Far more than my peers, I had experience, as the innocence of my childhood was stripped away. Had I not been who I was then, I would not have earned the depth of my feelings. At any other time in my life, I had never been as sure of anything as I was then, right there, at that very moment in time.

I heard Ethan whispering in my ear as I came back "You've been traveling again, care to tell me where you went?" His arms wrapped around my middle as he stood behind me with his head on my shoulder. "Eddy and Bobby headed off to bed a while ago" he continued "They said goodnight and see you in the morning".

"How long have we been standing here?" I asked.

"I've been here holding on to you for an hour or more."

"Get outta here, it can't be that long!" I exclaimed "We just walked out here after putting the munchkin to bed."

"If you listen closely, you can hear Eddy snoring" That's how long it's been," he pointed out. "You know I don't mind. I have enjoyed the quiet time, holding you while you were gone on your mental fishing trip."

"I'm so sorry; I didn't mean to drift off" I tried to say "I don't know what to say".

"Don't be sorry. Just for once, let me know where you've been. I wish I had a camera to record the expressions you make. I'm just so glad you keep coming back to me". I clasped the hands that were crossed in front of me and leaned my head back into him so our cheeks were touching. I never wanted this moment to end.

I found that I didn't, for all that I was, have the words at that moment to tell him what I needed to tell him. I didn't know how to overcome my feelings of inadequacy, to be able to express to him the depths of my soul right then and there, to expose myself fully to him. I was looking for the right metaphor as I gazed out towards the pond, silvery moonlight softly illuminating the world in front of me.

"You're traveling again. Care to take me with you?" he asked me tenderly.

Oh fuck…oh shit…oh frigging piss on a stick is what I think as I stumble for a response. I can't think of anything clever, witty or wise. All I could do was to pull him closer and tighter to me. We were rocking side to side ever so slowly. I was the glib one, always quick with a retort, my wit, a rapier. Words were my weapons and I was misfiring, shooting blanks. If there's a heaven on earth I was there, right then, and I couldn't frigging describe it. I couldn't find the words to share or describe it.

"I'll be right here when you come back again, don't worry…I won't let you go, just remember to come home to me." He told me as he nuzzled my neck "Take your time, we've got all night."

I couldn't hold him closely or tightly enough. While our bodies were pressed together as we stood there swaying in the moonlight to the songs in our hearts, it seemed that I was struggling to close the distance between us. There's a million ways to say what I wanted to say and a million ways to get it wrong. As many stars are in the sky are the reasons I loved this man, this life, this moment and this time we shared. My feelings were old and yet…new, I was connected to this world as if I understood the mysteries of reincarnation. I had been there before and yet, I didn't know what was around the next corner…or the next thought. All I knew was this small moment in time.

"Why the tears Squirt? What's bothering you so much my love? Let me help you chase the pain away. Please come back to me and let me be here for you." Ethan squeezed me tightly, holding me, protecting me, keeping me safe in his arms.

The dam burst and the words came. "I love you so much it hurts, my love for you shakes the core of my being, and it is so overpowering it overwhelms me. I am so scared when I know I shouldn't be and I am so helpless to let you know how I feel."

"I must be the luckiest person on the planet" he told me. "When I am away from you, a part of me is missing. You make me complete and while I can't find the words as you just did, and struggle at times with my feelings, I have moved heaven and earth to be with you…to come home…home to you. I wake up secure in the knowledge that I will see you in the morning sharing my bed. In the jungle when all seemed lost or when the plane was going down it was your face that gave me the strength and the courage to go on, that I would go on holding on to you. And as far as telling me how you feel…I think…you just did and I am the luckiest son of a gun in the world.

"Everything about you, your smile and eyes, your gentle soul your easygoing manner, excites me to no end. I watch you as you deal with people and strangers…I see the deep love inside you, the kindness you give to everyone. When I see you coming around a corner, I get all tingly inside, I love the way you walk, the way you carry yourself, the way you treat my family, how you came to terms with your parents, how you care for Axel and Trind. I see the way you are with Sam and I love you for it, that you gave yourself to Eddy when he needed you`. Ma beams with pride with your accomplishments and Dad delights in your gumption. He's always stunned and amazed at what you do. I love the thought you put into everything. I love that your heart is on your sleeve, you are as honest as the day is long. You're considerate and put the needs of others before yours. You have my back and prop me up when I am down."

Removing his arms from around my waist Ethan spun me around and held me close so our noses were touching as he looked me directly through my eyes and into the depths of my very being… "Aric Johan Peterson, what's not to love?"

I floated…drifted out of my body several times that night, as Ethan made love to me. I could feel my departure through my fingertips and the tips of my toes as the faint wisps of my soul dissipated. I could feel my return as he breathed life back into me with his soft kisses on my lips. I gave of myself without fear or hesitation. As I lay there underneath him, my body mirrored his desire as he pushed into me. I yielded and clung to him as he pulled back. I wrapped my legs around him as I was reciprocating his movements, my head hanging off the side of the bed while I grappled with the mattress in a desperate effort to stay connected to him. My body would shudder and quake as he drove into me, his pace and fury intensifying until, with a few deep powerful thrusts, he groaned through his clenched teeth. His moment had arrived and as his body went rigid, my anticipation was matching his, and we shared the moment together, collapsing into each other. When he has sufficiently recovered, Ethan got a damp cloth. He wiped and cleaned me all over, his hand and the cloth following the little kisses he planted all over me. I was helpless and hopeless and uncontrollably in love.

Somewhere in the recorded annals of the universe, of the multiple dimensions and galaxies yet undiscovered, among the ancient and wise civilizations it was noted…that for a moment, Planet Earth stood still…I know for a fact it's true…I was there.

End Part 1

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