“Everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”- Alice in Wonderland
“Everyone knows it’s a race, but no one’s sure of the finish line.”
-Dean Young, “Whale Watch”
Children rarely listen to any armchair advice from their immediate family, relatives they commonly have contact with or anyone they haven’t known for more than a couple years because in kindergarten or day care they often got gold stars just for showing up… Little glittering prizes plastered on poster boards in elementary school classrooms regardless of grades or mistakes…
On the windy day when you lower the green jet-ski instead of the good one, race it to the north end, out of the safety of the bay, into the choppy waters, you’ll get bullied by the wave’s splash like the cattails of a whip. The lake will overwhelm you; you’ll inhale some of the water, a sharp pain will course through your body as you try to breathe those short shallow breaths, which you will force yourself to do as seldom as possible. You will cough and keel over on the craft; It’s not uncommon to spit up blood; you will have to return to the dock and raise the jet-ski back onto the boatlift. You will stub your toe on the cracks in the planking, stumble and get a splinter in the ball of your foot heading towards the deck but won’t notice. All feeling numbs against water trapped inside your lungs.
Jackie Paper’s mother made him a hotdog with potato chips and served it to him on a plastic plate outside so he could enjoy it on the newly refinished deck while he watched the schooners and speedboats, stingray’s and ski-nautique’s jet in and out of the bay. He didn’t wait five minutes after he finished to fly from the deck onto the dock into the water where he free styled too far and got a cramp. His mother almost lost a son that day.
If wet some recommend running around the shore of the lake until the air has thoroughly dried you off. Listening to the gulls dive and racing through the varying levels of grass on the neighbors’ unkempt lawns, in between the oaks and elms, keeping ever mindful the sticks and stones and acorns that litter the ground in lieu of stubbed toes or splinters. You will most likely fail, but you will get dry.
When you **** your big toe on the zebra mussels while wading in the shallows, near the seawall beside the dock, trying to catch crayfish and minnows darting between the stones underneath the water, and the blood doesn’t stop flowing for 10 minutes and the H2O2 bubbles burgundy on the decks maple woodwork, instead of that off white color it usually bubbles, and stings something awful, don’t be a little ***** about it. It’s your own fault for leaving your aqua-socks on the green marbled tiles in the foyer closet next to the bathroom; where you changed into your bathing suit and got the bottle of peroxide.
Last winter Christopher Robbins drove his red pickup on the ice (near the island, towards the North end, where even when it’s been freezing for weeks the frozen water seldom exceeds six inches in thickness) at night and fell through. He felt the cold water enter his lungs. Although it was snowing and no one had noticed he survived; it took him the whole of an hour to reach the nearest house and call home; he lost his truck and suffered from severe hypothermia and acute pneumonia. At the hospital it was determined that while there was ample evidence of the early onset of frostbite in his extremities, amputation would not be necessary.
While sitting Indian style on the dock next to your friends, settled on the plastic furniture, sipping whiskey and beer, comparing scars assume, no matter whose company you’re in, that yours are the smallest. Those cigarette burns running down the length of your right forearm are self-inflicted and old- reminders that you haven’t had to force yourself to breathe in quite some time.
When you jump off the end of the dock you’ll forget to keep your knees loose because you were running on the wooden planks trying to avoid the white weather worn and dirtied dock chairs and worrying about getting a splinter. The water is inviting but during the summer the depth is only three feet four inches. You will roll your ankle at the very least and probably sprain it because, Like an *******, you locked your knees and jumped without looking.
Two summers ago Alice was tubing behind a blue Crown Royal when she hit the wake at an awkward angle and flew head first into the water in the bay a few hundred feet off the dock at dusk. The spotter and driver simply weren’t watching and the wave-runner didn’t see her due to the advancing darkness. She cracked her head open on the bottom of its hull; swallowed water. She needed 70 stitches and several staples but Alice made a full recovery.
Mothers often tell their children to should chew their food 40 times before swallowing to aid digestion and to wait a full half hour after eating before engaging in physical activity. Especially swimming.
When you’re at the lake house this summer skipping stones swimming and running on the dock remember not to listen to any advice.
If this were a race to get dry you’d be much closer to first than last.
The internal bleeding eventually stops. The splinters all get pulled out, staples and stitches are removed, lacerations heal and the feeling returns to the fingers and toes.
The water eventually drains from the lungs and only the scars remain:
Gold stars on poster boards;
because everybody has won, and all must have prizes.