When you’re young and the summer nights are warm, romance fills a young man’s dreams.
All that’s needed then is someone to share the moments.
My great-great-grandfather, Aloysius Tate, was wealthy and thought the best way to preserve his fortune was to buy real estate. There seemed to be more land available then than there is now. There were fewer people and fewer wealthy ones wanting to purchase it, so it didn’t cost as much and there was plenty to buy. He had lost some money in the market crash of 1929 and thought investing in the stock market was a good way to throw your assets away. He bought land instead.
He bought a lot of it. Then he left it to his heirs. He had a lot of land and a lot of heirs. Most of them ended up selling what they inherited because the taxes became a lot more burdensome as time passed than they were when Great- Great-Granddad was around, and their land wasn’t generating any income to defray those costs. The land sure looked nice, and it felt good to own it, but those heirs saw no reason to keep it.
But not everyone in the family thought that way. Some of Great-Great-Granddad’s heirs had more imagination. My great-granddad was one of those. He kept his land, a beautiful place, an hour’s drive outside the city at that time. It was several thousand acres of softly rolling, forested hills and a large lake. My granddad kept it as well, and when the time came, it was passed on to my dad and his brother.
This land was the only real asset my father had. He had no problem working; it was the working for someone that opened the can of worms. He had his own ideas about things and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind. Accordingly, he never got on well with any of the various and sundry bosses he’d had. He always ended up getting fired or quitting. He was just too independent, and he had too much pride.
As he kept losing jobs and didn’t have any assets at all except a half-share in a beautiful piece of land, he eventually decided to try to use the land to generate some money. He had very little cash to use toward that end, and so did almost all the work that was required himself. As time passed, things changed; he started having some success; eventually he even came to the point where he had to hire workers to help. He discovered it was one thing to work for someone and a different thing entirely to have people work for you.
He had learned, however, about not having enough money and was still careful with what he had, now that he had some. He figured hard work hadn’t hurt him any and thought it a good idea for his family to be involved in his business, and if it saved money on wages, well, that was just an added benefit. So, we, his family, all got involved in the family enterprise to the extent our ages and talents allowed.
But before discussing my family, I have to add a little more about that piece of land, because that’s what this is all about. There Dad was with a large piece of beautiful land and no job. No job again, which was frequently the case. By then he was twenty-two years old. He’d never gone to college and had been working fulltime since he was sixteen. But the pay had been meager, and he’d had to live on very little, so at twenty-two he had nothing but the land, and the tax bill that came up every year.
He didn’t want to sell the land, but there were those damned taxes to pay.
What he did was talk his brother who shared the ownership of the land with him and got him to agree that my father could build a cabin there. Dad also talked his brother into paying for the materials. My father could be persuasive and charming when he needed to be.
He built the cabin but didn’t live it in. Instead, and in no time at all, he had it rented out—a week or a weekend or a month at a time, whatever—to people who wanted to get away and fish or hike or do whatever they wanted out in the country in a roughhewn sort of way, as the cabin had no electricity or running water.
Eventually, when he was being forced to establish a waiting list for renting that cabin for a week in the summer, he built another cabin, and this time added a generator and dug a well, which meant he could charge a lot more for the rental.
So this beautiful property out in the country was now generating some income, enough to pay the taxes that at that time were pretty low and to pay his brother back. The land also was providing him enough money that he was making a meager living. This made him very happy: he knew he would never again need to listen to bosses telling him to get his reports in on time, or that he was five minutes late punching back in after lunch, or the floor he’d just scrubbed was dirty again.
He built a third cabin, and while doing so, came up with another plan. He’d seen a way to make money by turning his asset into a cash generator. He got his brother enthusiastic enough in his idea to help him finance the operation, and they started in. They cleared some land next to the lake and built several cabins nearby, these not quite as crude as the first ones Dad had built. They brought in truckload after truckload of sand and turned a wide area on the side of the lake into a beach. They laid down some gravel so they had a road and a parking lot.
All the money that was needed was provided by my uncle, who’d not had my dad’s problems working with bosses. He’d begun as a salesman at a car dealership and quickly worked up to manager. He made good money doing that, and then he married a woman he’d sold a car to who, it turned out, was from a rich family. So when the time came, my dad had access to the money needed to his vision. And it didn’t take all that much, because Dad started small. A few small rustic cabins that he mostly built himself, a beach, some word-of-mouth advertising, and my dad was in the summer vacation business.
He thought that just getting it started, getting a little income flowing, would allow for improvements with time. His plan was for people to come during the day, spend time in the lake, on the beach, and maybe hiking the hills and forest. The few huts would allow people to stay overnight, maybe for a week if they wanted to.
Perhaps the surprising thing was: it all worked out. People liked the rustic feel of the place, the lack of huge crowds, the return-to-nature ambience. As time passed, more and more people would come out from the city for just a day, and then it got that staying for the weekend became popular. And Dad was using the income from that and further investment from his brother to continue to build cabins and make improvements. By the time I came along, Dad had built and was running a very successful summer resort. Oh, not the fancy kind with a huge lodge with opulent rooms and fine-dining facilities and a spa and swimming pool and a staff of masseurs and all that. It was still pretty basic, but now there were horses to ride on well-established trails. There was a shack that rented fishing equipment and rowboats by the day, and one that rented small sailboats, powerboats and jet skis.
To go along with the horses and sailboats, Dad had found it profitable to hire teenagers who knew how to ride and sail, and they took groups on trail rides and gave equestrian or sailing instructions for those wanting them. The guides were mostly 17- to 20-year-old guys who were kept busy, because, for some reason, young girls wanted to go on those rides and get sailing lessons from the guys Dad hired. I never asked him why these guys tended to be really cute; I didn’t think I needed to. But the girls flocked around, not only because they were cute but because they all were good at what they did. Being competent meant they had some self-confidence, and young girls seem as attracted to confident boys as they were to cute ones.
Bookings for rides and boats were very heavy every year all summer long.
There was a concession stand on the beach now. Young and attractive lifeguards watched over the swimmers, and again, they were young and attractive. The kids doing that particular job weren’t only guys. Pretty girls did that, too, which meant we had young boys hanging around on the beach as well as girls. Dad seemed to understand the call of nature and used it to enhance the income the resort drew. The place flourished.
The cabins had been improved over the years. Now, they all had both A/C and heat and running water and indoor toilets and showers. And there were more of them. It cost more to rent them now, too, but there was still a waiting list.
Along the way and well before the place was what it was now, Dad had married a girl who’d come out to spend a day on the beach in the summer. She was capricious and captivating, effervescent and elliptical, impetuous and impractical, stubborn and seductive. She was also my mother.
I need to explain about my mother.
She was different. I’ve never met anyone like her. It was difficult not to love her even if at times she could be frustrating as all get out. She wasn’t a bit practical. She was in her own world, flighty and artistic and somewhere above the temporal plane the rest of us operated on. A good example is the names her children were stuck with. I never knew why—even though I’d asked her more than once—but she’d decided each of us should have a name based on a precious stone. That was crazy. But that was my mother. My dad, as practical a man, as down to earth as anyone could ever be when it came to everything else in his life, doted on her, and what she wanted, she got. What he got was four kids, two boys and two girls. I was the second boy, and the third oldest child, but not by much—only four-and-a-half minutes younger than my sister.
I was always happy that it was precious stones Mom had been focused on at the time her firstborn arrived. It could have been something else, say dogs or trees. How’d you like to be a boy and go through life with a name like Rover, or Redwood?
But her fixation at the time explains why my older brother was named Alexandrite, which of course Dad and everyone else shortened to Alex. After him came Amber, and I suppose the rest of us could have had names beginning with A as well, but her mind didn’t run that way. I was named Peridot—I’d looked at my birth certificate and there it was, bold and embarrassing as it could be—but Dad never called me that; he only called me Perry, and that solved a lot of what I’m sure would have been problems growing up. Mom often used my real name until I was old enough to complain about it. When I asked why such a stupid name, she said she had known, looking at my blue eyes when I was born, that those eyes would turn green, which indeed they had, so the name would be perfect. How had she known? Well, that was Mom.
The youngest was Pearl. A very old-fashioned name, but now, at the age of six, it seemed to suit her personality. Strangely enough, all our names did that. Did we grow into the names, or did Mom somehow understand things that no one else could? Alex had an erratic temper, almost unstable at times, running hot and cold. He was also hard and stubborn. As his temper flared, his eye color changed, too. It was ordinarily a dark gray with a trace of green, but with anger, the irises reddened. It was easy to know when he was angry, which was often.
Peridot is a softer mineral that Alexandrite, and I was easier going than Alex. Not as focused, not as stubborn. I was more accommodating and sensitive. And Amber, she of the like-colored eyes, was the softest of us all, personality-wise. Also the one I was closest to, which wasn’t that surprising with twins.
We kids all had dark hair. Amber was quite attractive—her hair was almost black and she wore it in a pony tail. Her light complexion, eponymous eyes and dark hair made for a striking contrast. Alex’s eyes were usually simply a dark gray so weren’t as noticeable against his short-cropped, dark-brown frizz. As for me, well… Amber tells me I’m good looking. I don’t see it myself, but there have been times when I’ve caught glimpses in the mirror right after a shower of how bright green my eyes can be, and against my hair that’s even blacker than usual when wet the contrast can get one’s attention.
I’d asked my mom questions about the names and eyes and personalities. She always smiled at me when I asked, and said, “You have so many questions, Perry. So many.” And then she went on to something else. If you wanted straight answers, you had to go to Dad, and the one thing he was as unsure of as the rest of us was my mother. The important thing, however, was that he loved her absolutely. I did, too.
Sometimes love equates to accepting people as they are, quirks and all. That’s what love is, I guess.
Anyway, now that the background has been supplied, now that everyone knows about my family, the story can begin.
    
“Dammit, Perry, get out of bed. It’s almost seven already. You’re late as hell!”
I pulled the pillow over my head, knowing all the while that it wouldn’t help. Alex was boss today, and Alex didn’t like slackers.
He was two years older than I was, and although he was not any bigger at 18 than I was at 16, he’d been my big brother all my life, and I’d always deferred to him as a matter of course. He was also a lot different, much more serious, focused and motivated than I was. About most everything. There was more of my mother in me than in him.
I was supposed to be up and in uniform; staff employees wore brown collared shirts, brown shorts, and darker-brown ties. Most of us ditched the ties when Alex wasn’t around. My dad, who’d designed the uniforms so guests would know whom to talk to if they had any questions or needed help, had originally made the tie part of the uniform, but he had backed off on it as a requirement a few years earlier after listening to us and other hired employees complain that ties and summer weather just didn’t jibe. Alex, on the days he was running things, still made the ties mandatory. Complaints simply flew over his head unnoticed. Yeah, he was like that.
I was on duty on the weekends, our busiest time, and two or three times during the week. We had fulltime summer employees, too, now that we were larger. Originally, Dad had tried to keep it all in the family, which had meant he’d done almost everything himself, but as the resort had grown, that had become impossible. Yet he still wanted his family involved; he always told everyone the resort was a family business. Mom, of course, wasn’t the sort to handle responsibilities like that, and Pearl was too young. But Dad, Alex, Amber and I all pulled shifts. By now, I was sort of a jack-of-all-trades. Today, I’d be working the beach. And because Dad was in the city on a purchasing trip and Alex was in charge, I’d be working the beach wearing a tie. On the beach! A tie!!!
Well, as long as he was around I’d be wearing it. I had a cell phone—all staff members did and could talk to each other, so help was always nearby if anyone needed it—and the others would let me know when Alex wasn’t around to see what I was wearing. His whereabouts were always announced to everyone by the staff member closest to him. When that call came, the tie would be gone before the call was even disconnected.
Being up and out on the beach at seven AM was ridiculous, but Alex was the boss, and on days he was the boss he had no sense of humor at all—not that he had all that much other times, either. I was really getting fed up with him. He was becoming an irritant that got worse with every dealing I had with him. I had the feeling things would come to a head sometime this summer. But that day, after having grabbed a granola bar and an apple, I was on the beach shortly after seven. It was deserted. Not even the overnighters or other cabin dwellers were up yet. No self-respecting vacationer would be.
I climbed up on the lifeguard’s elevated chair and ate my breakfast. I could look out over the lake from here. It was beautiful. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a very calm lake on a very calm early morning, but the water can be still and flat as a mirror. Not a ripple in sight. It’s a wondrous sight that affects me every time I see it. I swiveled in my seat and looked back at the scenery behind the beach. I could only see a little bit of one or two cabins. Dad had built them thinking they’d be more attractive if they were private, and he had lots of woods to work with. When more had been built, only a few of those were set close to the water; I could see one window and a rooftop and a front step, but not more than that. We had twenty cabins, all told. From my chair I could see only a bit of three of them.
I could see lots and lots of trees. Most of our acreage was forest. People liked being in the woods—trees, gently rolling hills and water and enough privacy and freedom to do as they liked.
Amber was down where the original gravel road, which was now blacktopped, met the highway. There was a booth there, and today she was collecting entrance fees. She wasn’t alone. It would have been too easy for all the fees to be stolen had only one person worked the booth. Even though Dad or someone else would visit the booth every couple of hours to pick up what we’d made and to keep the cash on hand very meager, just having two people who could both be seen from any car that drove up made everyone feel safer.
I eventually got down from the chair. Even if no one was around, there were always things to do on the beach. We had trashcans strung out along the beach’s edge where the sand met the lawn before that merged into the woods, but teenagers, who made up a large segment of our day visitors, weren’t famous for using them. So there was always trash to pick up. And holes to fill where the younger kids had dug in the sand. And supplies to bring to the concession stand from the storeroom. So I kept busy and by ten people were showing up, and I wasn’t alone any longer.
By one, the beach was crowded. It was a warm day with a high sun in a cloudless sky. There were blankets and bodies all over the beach and a lot of splashing going on in the lake. We had a large area roped off with floats for swimming, and while it wasn’t really crowded, there were lots of people in the water. Crowley was keeping busy.
Crowley was the first-shift lifeguard today. We hired kids from the high-school swim team who’d taken basic lifeguard training. Dad denied it, but I was sure their looks played a role in his hiring practice; our lifeguards were the handsomest and prettiest you could find most anywhere. Crowley was gorgeous, a girl with long blonde hair who filled her regulation lifeguard swimming suit as full as it could be filled. She was eighteen, slim where it was good to be slim, friendly, and very responsible. She also knew how to flirt with the teenage boys who hung around her chair all day long without taking her eyes off the swimmers. She was one of the ones I liked a lot.
We had boy lifeguards who weren’t nearly as friendly, at least not to me. They flirted with the girls, even Amber, and weren’t as diligent about watching the water when they did so. But I looked at them a lot, even if they didn’t look back. They were handsome, and being gay, I couldn’t keep my eyes off them.
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