Searching 4 Miss America
Union Pier, Michigan
August 3, 1949
With the orange, five man, war surplus
life-raft perched atop their heads,
looking much as a four legged caterpillar,
two boys made their way across the old road,
turned right and went forty yards,
stepping on unseen rocks, stones,
and occasion bottle caps,
to the path leading down to the beach.
Fighting gravity, hanging onto the line that
ran around the circumference of the raft,
as sharp-leafed weeds cut at their feet and legs.
Running across scorching sand
as the wind tugged at the top-heavy,
Splashing into the cool, lapping water, the raft,
with its two metal oars held snugly beneath
the compartmental, middle air-filled seat,
was lifted off their heads in unison and flipped,
landing right side up into the water of Lake Michigan.
Sitting canoe style,
one boy on either side
with their outboard legs
dangling in water no deeper
than needed to clear the oars
so the boys might find what they were
hungrily searching for…
Going south the day before,
the boys had gone ashore
and the girls had been either
or not pretty enough.
But the scene changed constantly
and just because the girls of their dreams
were not there on the outgoing trip
it didn’t mean they wouldn’t be on the beach
when they rowed back in a few hours.
So why tie yourself down with anything
less than you really want?
What else but a big busted,
Miss Jewish America of 1949…
or any reasonably attractive girls
that would consider talking to them.
On this day,
the third day of their combined family’s vacation,
the fifteen year old boys planned to explore north,
towards the unknown.
His nose red and peeling,
wearing a blue, boxer-style bathing suit,
one boy’s shoulders and back were burnt
from the two previous days of continuous,
unaccustomed sunshine on his light
The other boy wore a yellow,
brief-type bathing suit that
showed in deep contrast to his
already well-tanned body.
Pulling the raft ashore,
the boys swam a few
minutes to cool off,
then dragged the raft
back into the water
and jumped aboard.
Straddling the tubular semi-hard
the light skinned boy sat on the starboard side
and the dark skinned boy on the port side.
Their outboard legs dangled in the water,
while their inboard legs, stretched forward,
rested on the raft.
At this time of day the sun was behind them,
shining pleasantly on their backs.
Paddling leisurely, the boys enjoyed the
heat of the sun and the gentle bobbing
motion of the raft.
The dark skinned boy felt the heat on his back
and the right side of his face.
He looked at the dark-brown skin of his thigh,
still glistening with water,
and at his stomach,
darker where the wet flesh creased horizontally
along either side of his navel,
and at his upper arms:
As the oar dipped in the water and was drawn back
his biceps swelled and contracted with each pull and release.
The water is a dusky, greenish-blue.
The sand at water’s edge, dark brown,
away from the lapping water,
a light, golden beige.
The shrubbery on the embankment is brilliant green.
The sky, radiant blue,
and the clouds as white and feathery as tufts of pure white cotton.
The ores in the hands of the two boys cut through the water as though moving by their own volition.
Breathing through their nostrils,
the boys sensed the aroma
of the green growth.
The gentle onshore breeze skimmed warm water
from the surface of the lake bringing it inshore,
bringing warm water to them, to the boys.
Mesmerized by the all-enveloping beauty,
the totality of what the dark skinned boy
saw, felt and sensed seemed too beautiful to be real
and the boy felt as though he were within a surrealistic dream.
Parting his lips,
breathing through his mouth,
the boy drew the sun-warmed
sea-cooled air deeply into his lungs.
He felt the hot sun and tepid water.
He saw the sky, clouds, sand and shrubbery.
He sensed the sweet odors of life about him and felt…?
Closing his eyes,
the motion of the raft tranquilized him.
The tepid water caressed him.
The soft air kissed him, and…
The boy had no way of knowing,
but at that very moment…
That very moment was the pinnacle,
and at no time in his life
would he feel what he felt
as strongly as at that exact time.
He knew nothing of death; those he loved were alive.
He knew nothing of the pain of lost love.
He knew not of debt.
The war was a memory.
His country… America was a peace.
He’d made no mistakes… no mistakes of consequence.
His parents were together; his family intact.
There was nothing he needed
really needed that he didn’t have.
The roads to his life were fully open to him.
The boy looked about the beautiful world that encompassed him
and felt the wonder of his strength.
The wonder of his youth.
The boy pulled the oar through the water and felt the miracle that,
might be felt only by the very young or the very innocent.
©July 30, 2011 / Mark M. Lichterman
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