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The Lake

by Jupiter

Mrs. Sanson grabbed the doctor’s arm, “Do it, Doc. We want him well.  He wants to be well. He’ll  swim the lake in front of our house every day if you can just get him out of that damned iron contraption.”


Jimmy, fascinated by the web design, stared at the corner of the room and observed a tiny spider weaving her web.  He closed his eyes and viewed the lake in front of his home.  It would be at least a quarter of a mile across.  He envisioned swimming it no less than four laps each day once he escaped the huge monster that bound him to the table.  He could feel the urge to lift his arms and legs.  Jimmy decided that no one or no thing would ever bind him so decisively again. 


The neighborhood boys paddled the boat over to the backside of the lake near the dam to make certain none of their parents could see what they were doing. 

Each had an assignment for their Saturday outing. Brad had to raid his father’s liquor cabinet for various whiskeys from the four different bottles which he mixed in his tin camping thermos.  Dan had to be sure to take some Marlboros from his grandfather’s dresser, and Jimmy found a couple of cigars his grandfather would not miss.   Will was responsible for gathering the crickets and worms for their fishing.  Each boy had his fishing pole and tackle box.  Will and Brad pulled the boat up to the side of the dock. The boat would be a little crowded with all four of them, but Jimmy and Dan were small and could share the middle easily enough.

They really weren’t interested in catching any fish, just having a good time. The Saturday outings gave the boys time to gather and discuss which girl had been kissed and which one had been felt up. They would compare notes, laugh, drink, smoke and generally plan for the coming week at school and their next gathering.

They always invited Jack as he had a boat too, but Jack was grounded as he had not made his usual “A” in chemistry. Jack’s parents were certain their son would be a doctor one day.

They anchored the boat next to the large drain pipe which was hidden from the neighbors’ view behind some willow trees.  Jimmy traded one of the cigars for a couple of cigarettes and immediately lit one.  He propped his leg on the side of the boat and exhaled swirls of smoke into the air.

“Hey, Brad, did you get the whiskey?”

“Yep, sure did, Jimmy, and you can have a swig if you tell us how you managed to get caught by Mr. Todd behind the bleachers with your hands up Sally’s blouse,” Brad chuckled.

“Yeah, JS, how in the hell did you get Sally Westchester to meet you behind the bleacher at lunch anyway?” Dan asked.

Will nudged Jimmy as he winked and lit a cigar.  Jimmy reached into the cricket box and placed the cricket on his fish hook, then artistically placed the line in the water just at the base of the trees. “Now that’s a good spot,” he said and smiled proudly.

“Well, Sanson, what the heck did you do to get Sally?”

“Guys, it’s between me and Sally, but I will tell you she has some supple breasts,” Jimmy grinned feeling pride in his employment of the word “supple.”

The boys all laughed, and Brad began passing around the thermos of liquor.  Each took a sip.  They spent the next two hours sharing stories and enjoying their leisure time drinking, smoking and occasionally catching a fish.  Each of the fish was thrown back into the lake as no one wanted to clean them.  All they really wanted to do was talk, laugh, tell stories, and enjoy the freedom of being teenagers.

Jimmy thought of the endless days of swimming back and forth across the lake after he was released from the iron lung.  He kept his promise to God and to himself when the polio did not keep him a prisoner in the iron monster. Each morning and afternoon he would swim as fast as he could and was certain to paddle aggressively with his legs to make them stronger.  He never really developed the size of muscles he thought such activity would encourage, but Jimmy was just happy to be able to swim. Today, he was happy to be with his friends. He could still see that small boy with a determined expression as he swam by the willow trees.


Monday morning the boys all met at Will’s to ride to school. Will had his grandfather’s old car and a grandfather who was willing to keep him supplied with gas.  Dan managed to get a whole pack of Marlboros without them being missed, so the friends all lit a cigarette as soon as they exited the subdivision. They would make their usual trip through the Dairy Queen parking lot just to kill time as they enjoyed their smokes and discussed plans for an after school get together which usually involved a trip to the A&W Root Beer stand to check out the girls.


Jimmy was the class president, and Brad was the vice-president. Mr. Todd, the class sponsor, constantly reminded them that it was their responsibility to set good examples for their classmates.

It was the sixties, and Rebel Without a Cause was the hit movie.  Jimmy was definitely the class rebel, and many of his fellow students admired his challenges of the status quo. He was brilliant and had proven so with the highest scores ever achieved on the college entrance exams by a student at his high school.  Mr. Todd and Jimmy’s teachers could not comprehend why his grades were so low. They were constantly reminding him of his failing grades.

He refused to tell them how he had absorbed every bit of information in the set of encyclopedias in his home. That was Jimmy’s form of entertainment when he was younger and was not swimming in the lake. Little conversation took place in his home that he found constructive, so he decided early on to read all the encyclopedias from A to Z.


Times were difficult for the Sanson family with five children. They lived in a nice subdivision but were never financially as well off as their neighbors. Jimmy’s mother’s pride hid the family’s financial concerns from her neighbors. His friends knew: he was the only one who wore the same pair of shoes all school year until he entered high school.  When the soles of the shoes wore through, he simply placed a thick piece of cardboard in the bottom of the shoe.  By the time he was in high school, his parents had worked hard and had saved enough money to at least afford him two pairs of shoes each year.