~ blue rain cloud
Muddy Water and a Fence
"'It's you, pal,' Finny said to me at last, 'just you and me.' He and I started back across the fields, preceding the others like two seigneurs."
"We were the best of friends at that moment."
-John Knowles, A Separate Peace
I had grown up there, on that little farm. I had only spent my summers there, of course, but it was where I had matured and learned the lessons of the world. The sky was as wide as I remembered it to be; the cottony tufts of cloud seemed to be the same ones I had seen summer after summer. The fence was different, though. The old structure of uneven logs, my fortress, was gone; a sparkling white picket fence stood in its place. I leaned on it, watching the gate swing back and forth gently, and remembered my old fence. The old one had been my friend; I would sit there and think, swinging my legs through the gap in the logs. It was my perfect spot, because the wood was worn in such a way that it felt as if it had been carved especially for me. Now it was gone, and all I had left was a memory of the solid wood that had sustained me through the ups and downs of my summers, particularly the best summer. I recalled it vividly, the images as bright as the white painted fence I was leaning on. . .
"Ellie! It's time!" I scrambled over the fence surrounding my grandfather's field and dashed into the woods. I heard my best friend of four summers chasing after me, the familiar sound of her Mary Janes as they slapped the dusty path ringing in my ears. I nimbly climbed into a ramshackle wooden tree house and settled myself on the floor, patting my hair primly. Ellie's freckled face soon appeared, and she stuck her tongue out at me as she pulled herself inside. I merely grinned cheekily at her and wiped my hands on my overalls.
"I now call the Best Friends of June and July Club to order. What's on the agenda?" Ellie stood up, smoothed her skirt, and saluted.
"Absolutely nothing, sir! .I mean, ma'am!" We giggled and I straightened my face as much as possible.
"Right then. Troops, plan B!" I leapt up and we grabbed onto the slightly frayed rope hanging limply next to the exit of the tree house. We screamed with laughter as we launched ourselves into momentary oblivion. My ponytail came loose and the wind blew through my hair as the rope grew taut and we let go, falling into the water with a splash. I giggled gleefully when I came up, but Ellie was nowhere in sight. Feeling a sharp tug on my foot, I dove into the water. I opened my eyes in the murky water and saw a dull, blurry pink shape swimming towards me. I squinted as Ellie rose for air, and then shot up and tickled her. I grinned as I popped up to the surface, only to be met with a rush of water.
"Ellie!" I squealed. She smirked in reply, and I chased her to shore. Her heavy, limp skirts impeded her movement, but she still arrived at the lake's shore first. I slowed as Ellie clambered out of the water, my eyes widening as I took in her appearance. Her pink Sunday dress was bedraggled; the cotton fabric was limp and looked more brown than rose- pink. One of her hair ribbons fell, defeated, next to her ear, while the other was nowhere in sight. Her shiny black shoes squelched noisily, muddy water oozing from the ruined leather and her now-brown socks. Her bouncy pigtails were ratty and lifeless; the dismayed expression on Ellie's face only added to the disaster. Tears rolled silently down her cheeks as I raced to my friend, trying to instill a glimmer of hope on a hopeless situation. I combed her tangled brown hair with my fingers and tied it back with the remaining ribbon. I used my dripping sock to shine her shoes, but it was useless. Despite my efforts, Ellie looked like she had been dragged through a den of wet, muddy, hyperactive puppies. Factoring in my adjustments, it seemed as if Picasso had dropped by to help, as well.
Ellie's mother, needless to say, was livid with rage when we returned. The two of us were confined to our respective farms for a week and were only allowed to visit designated, pre-approved locations for the remainder of the summer. We spent most of our time on my fence, chatting and inventing elaborate schemes for the next summer. We remembered how scared we were as we stood on Ellie's doorstep, dripping muddy water and hoping to survive her mother's rampage. Mostly, however, we just existed; Ellie and I were perfectly suspended, all summer, in a single moment with a single state of being: we were best friends.
I stepped away from the fence and smiled. Although my sacred symbol of summer was gone, I still had what was important. The memory of that perfect, carefree summer was fully intact, and I walked away from my grandfather's farm feeling complete. The fence no longer existed, but I would hold the memory forever.