The Sun Poured Down Like Honey
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Nina Simone - "Suzanne"

The six of us played a game as the sun set on the lake. We were an adult, a child, and four somewhere in between, but we all behaved like kids, even Chloe's dad, Terry, who was past fifty. Hyperactive little Danny threw perfect blueberries across the porch of the house into my mouth. Everyone laughed, even Terry as he strummed his mandolin. And then we figured out that Danny could pitch blueberries and Terry could hit them with his mandolin and I could catch them in my mouth. This was very exciting, maybe partly because we were all already a little drunk except for Danny.

On the drive from the city, the talk had mostly been about teeth and booze. On a whim, Josh and I had studied dental anatomy the previous night and wanted to impress with our knowledge of incisors, bicuspids and molars. "There are as many people in this car as there are incisors in the human mouth," Josh observed. "That's right," I said, "it's as if the front seat were the maxilla and the backseat the mandible." "Hmm, yes, and the windows canines!" "And the windows canines," Chloe mocked in a ridiculous voice. The women laughed at us and then Anna turned contemplative. "Do we really have to stop for vodka, just so you can have your gross Caesars?" she asked me. I told her with my face that we did.

When we ran out of blueberries, we descended to the rocky shore and undressed in the day's last light. There was, for each of us, flesh to see that had been seen and flesh to see as yet unseen. Heads down, we tiptoed cold and careful out into the water, watching as well as we could for clamshells that might cut our feet. One at a time we lowered our most sensitive parts into the cold and screamed and then, the worst of it over, we lowered the rest of ourselves into the bracing lake with a splash that let the others know where we were, for it was dark now.

In towels, Anna and I sat on stools at the kitchen island, our knees nearly touching, drinking rum cocktails under an umbrella of copper pots that hung from the ceiling. Outside, a chorus of tree frogs sang the opening bars of "You're So Vain". Terry had cooked pasta and he called us to serve ourselves, suggesting that we use "just a little hot sauce. We got it in Barbados and it will melt the skin off your face." This wasn't literally true, though I did ruin my meal by adding one or two drops too many. I left the island sweating and sneezing and nothing I drank to ease the burning helped, not even the table cream.

Outside, in the driveway, Josh and Chloe leaned against the car, holding hands. Anna and I stood opposite, watching Josh contemplate his nth green cocktail - a rum, soda, citrus and sugar drink of his own creation. "What shall we call this?" he asked. "The Sea Cow?" I said. "Portnoy's Complaint?" Anna said. "The Somnambulizer?" I said. "Urchin's Abode?" Anna said. For a while we listened to the crickets and the threatening buzz of mosquitoes. "I have it!" Josh said, interrupting our reverie with a raised glass. "Behold: The Cockandballs!"

The dining room - or what had been the dining room a few hours earlier - was littered with bodies. Terry lay sweat-drenched on a chaise longue with a ping-pong paddle over his face; Anna sat slumping and cross-legged on the blonde hardwood floor, Danny's head in her lap. They were casualties of my superior ping-pong skill, though it seemed my pride in victory was not matched by their shame in defeat. Josh hadn't even tried, unwilling as he was to remove his sport coat. Now he sat in an orange Louis XIV chair, head back, mouth open, a half-finished Cockandballs in his hand, snoring in a way that suggested a caricature of snoring. I had not wanted to beat Terry, the brave, wheezing pater familias, in front of his son and daughter, but Anna was to play the winner and I was not about to miss the opportunity. I toyed with her on the first point, hitting looping forehands to her backhand until, showboating, I smashed the ball across the table, past Anna, off a window and into a fruit bowl. "That's the first thing you've ever done to impress me," she said.

How Josh got to the living room I couldn't say, but there he lay, face-down on the floor with his arms outstretched above his head. A small pool of Cockandballs had formed at the mouth of an overturned glass near his feet. Terry had gone to bed and the rest of us sat under blankets watching an episode of Saturday Night Live from the late 80s or early 90s, though I wasn't watching what we were watching. I was thinking about Anna's bare shoulder pressed against mine. We sat just like that for a long time, until the snoring became choral.

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Posted by Jordan at March 29, 2012 12:56 PM
Comments

Wonderful.

Posted by Kevin at March 29, 2012 2:09 PM

you made me want to be there...

Posted by maureen at March 29, 2012 7:49 PM

Nice :D

Posted by blahdeedah at March 30, 2012 6:55 AM

This story made me feel very alive and full of wonder. Thank you.

Posted by Robert at April 2, 2012 11:14 AM

Brilliant, loved the story & the song. Loved them together.

Posted by Karin S. at May 5, 2012 5:10 PM

such a vivid story, loved it + the song.

Posted by Crindy at May 11, 2012 6:56 AM

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