Academic journal article Chicago Review

Fire Patrol

Academic journal article Chicago Review

Fire Patrol

Article excerpt

Fire Patrol

There I am again-late morning, late June, 1982-leaning in the humid shack doorway, peering out over the sun-blazed reaches of the Hidden Pond pool facility and of my thirsty, wistful life: a relentless battery of yellows and white-golds spiking off rippling blues, and all the squealing, chasing, cannonballing kids, and their lounging, chatting mothers, occasional fathers; and here and there the blonding, zinc-nosed lifeguards roosting in the chrome and orange stands or ambling over the hot, sprawling concrete, just the last unshowables hooded in regulation navy-blue with white side panels, and even here the nylon giving a good indication of all that nestles beneath-entire contours and silhouettes recording the changeableness of each guy (or girl), whether he be hoisting himself up from a long, shriveling workout, or lying back in the plumping, lengthening sun. Just now an on-duty double-toots his whistle, no chicken-fighting, another hers, no running on the deck; two more simply twirl theirs, the cords shortening and accelerating around their index fingers while their mirrored eyes scan the water-then, with a practiced flip, the counterclock untwirl; others rest from such labors, about to toot or twirl again soon.

I must have heard a rushing-up behind me, the slap of bare feet on the tile-then the growl, definitely a growl, like a breaking wave after all the taut weeks of teasing and innuendo. Two granted wishes encasing and squeezing me; I instantly recognize their amber shapes, the densities and directions of their fine platinum down (there are other things I should be studying, books I should be reading), and when he suddenly arches back-the brown, crested coins on the squares of his chest; the smaller, tapering squares of his springboard stomach, all this must be pressing up against my back, but what delights me most, my chief sensation and thrill, is the soles of my somber, Catholic feet leaving the ground.

Heavenborne, I hold my breath, waiting to see what he'll do with me next, and he pauses, as if to think, then cries, "Jose! "-why Spanish?-and shakes me side to side. It should shame me to be so boyed by a senior at Brentwood High-all my eighteenness, all my parochial school, falling out like so much stuffing. Yet when he puts me down, and the tilt-a-whirling park settles back to its usual place, my only regret is I can't throw up my arms and say, Again. Again. Everything's veiled in blushes and giggles, and when these subside, I dare to whisper, "Why did you do that?"

But he laughs and shakes his head. "Do what?"

Other days, he sets me down again. And again. On one of the jogging paths. In the parking lot. I come to hope for it, position myself for it-the rush from behind, the press of his arms, the lift from the ground, "Jose!" And again my stupid words, my stupid question.

"I don't know. Why do you think I did it?"

"I don't know. Tell me."

But he laughs and shakes his head. I should know what it means, or it means nothing. And likewise how do I interpret his glance, flashing up, narrow and shifting, and dropping back to the asphalt? My eyes widen urgently on his sandy, hanging mop-not the unbent, flawless blond of a Steven Conway, darling of the golden-muscled protein-drinkers inside-more wiry and swirling, but he has the same near-white eyebrows, same white fuzz on his cheekbones, longer wisps snowing over his thighs, and down the gleaming curves of his shins, and crowning, with little knuckle-tufts, each amber toe displayed on the black soles of his sandals. "Tell me, Ricky."

"What do you want me to say?"

And now I look up, catching the evasive green-grays, the blinking blond lashes. "Anything you want." And so to the ground again, and the thickening silence.

We watch the sandal-his left-move a small gray pebble here, then there, across the asphalt, and glance, when we glance again, no higher than knees or hands. …

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