“Ahhhhhhhhh…….eeeeeeeeeee …………..ahhhhhhhhhh ……. Eeeeeeeyyyyyaaaaaaaaaa eeeeeeeeeeeyaaaaaaaa!” Barry screamed in a lilting but bad Tarzan imitation as he swung out over the pond on the fat rope. Mark had just time to get out of the way before Barry dropped with a maniacal laugh …right where Mark had been seconds before.
“You dickhead!” Mark laughed when Barry resurfaced. “You tried to land on me!”
“Damn straight I did.”
They palmed water into each others faces for a half a minute until that grew tiresome. Treading water, Mark looked over at Josh who was lazing on one of those inflatable pool loungers. He’d grabbed it out of the neighbor’s pool before they left and he thought he was pretty cool.
Mark exchanged a conspiratorial glance with Barry and as one they silently slipped underwater. Josh never saw them coming because he was fixated on something on the opposite shore. When they came up underneath him like a pair of trained porpoises and threw his lounger over on its side, Josh’s surprise was genuine. He broke the surface spitting water and muttering curses, which only fueled the hilarity all the more.
“Stop it, you bastards! Stop! I need you to………..”
That was all he got out before he got dunked. Frustrated and coughing water this time, he swam away from Mark and Barry toward the shore, leaving his float behind.
“Hey, where you going, Josh?”
“Away from you two morons, that’s for sure. Freakin babies.”
“Aw, come on, Josh.” Barry wheedled “we were just goofing around.”
“Well get your asses out of the pond then, and I’ll tell you what I was trying to say before you dunked me.”
They came reluctantly out of the water into the heat and humidity of a southern Virginia day. Barry toweled off but before he was finished a fresh sheen had covered his body…sweat this time, instead of pond water. Josh and Mark didn’t bother.
“So what’s the big woop?” Mark asked.
“Something’s going on over in those trees on the north side. I dunno what, but I saw a man and a woman over there making a lot of hand motions, and it looked like the guy was digging. I think I saw a shovel. They both looked real mad, and then she pushed the guy to the ground. When he got up they went to the hand motions again---I think they were talking in sign language, like they were deaf, y’know? I never heard any voices. The guy turned this way for a sec, and then he grabbed her and they started to walk away real fast when you two assholes dumped me off my float and now I don’t see them any more. But I think they left because they saw us.”
“Well, what are we waiting for?” from Barry. “Let’s get dressed and go see what they were doing.”
“I think we should just go home.” Mark offered. “It’s not our business what they were doing.”
“You wuss!” Josh said, already pulling on his pants. “I’m going. I don’t care what you two girls do.”
Josh had been their undisputed leader since the ‘Gang of Three’, as they called themselves, was formed when they were all 11 years old. They would argue, and swear they wouldn’t, but in the end they always followed Josh.
Now they stood in a circle around the thing that they had uncovered. It was clear that it had been hastily buried and not nearly deep enough. They’d unwrapped the bedsheet it was buried in, expecting to find a dead dog or something.
“Gawd!” Josh spun around, bent over and blew lunch.
“Who’s a wuss now?” Mark commented as derisively as his shaky voice would allow. .
All three boys were horrified, each afraid to show it, all trying to maintain their cool…afraid that if one of them showed fear or sorrow, it would infect them all. At 16, they were all far too self aware to be able to show anything but misplaced machismo.
“Call 911.” Josh instructed Barry. “ You go up on the road and wait for ‘em. Mark.”
Mark took a last lingering look at the infant, infants?...... buried there….the one with two heads and four arms, and the bashed in skulls. Then he headed to the road, unseen tears now streaming down his face, the waning sound of Barry’s voice on the cell following him up the slope. The end