JUNE 17, 1955
Chicago, Illinois/ Michigan City, Indiana
Sitting forward, Larry reached to Friendship, breaking the dinghy’s forward momentum and preventing the bow from scraping the white-hulled boat. Backwatering, Walter moved the stern closer as Mitchell, grabbing hold of the gunnel, pulled the dingy alongside. Larry scampered aboard, followed by his older brother. First handing Mitchell the heavy ice chest, as Walter stepped onto the coping, Larry pulled the dingy forward where it was secured to the buoy.
As the lowest ranking “mate” on Friendship, Hey, what else is new? Mitchell thought as he carried the ice-chest below into the cabin, then brought the floatable cushions and life preserver topside. As Walter unsnapped the canvas boot that covered the furled sail, and Larry attached the jib to the forward guy wire, dipping the swab into the lake, Hey, what else is new? Mitchell swabbed the deck.
Hoisting the mainsail at 7:47 a.m., Walter at the helm, Larry secured the line to the cleat on the brightly varnished mast as, lying on the bow, moving the dingy to leeward, “slipping” the buoy, he said, “Anchors away, Skipper!”Once upon the boat, until they returned and hooked up, the word “Dad” was dropped and Walter was called “Skipper”—and he loved it.
Holding the helm in his left armpit, Skipper drew inward on the sheet—the line that controls the reach of the main-sail boom. The boom moved inward and, trapping the light wind, the white sail bellied gently outward, and Friendship moved past the buoy and tethered dingy.
Sitting on the bow, calling out and using hand signals, Mitchell directed Skipper past boats and empty buoys that he might find hard to see from his position aft, in the cockpit.
Skillfully working his way past “rag baggers” and “stink pots,” Skipper steered Friendship out of the harbor, past the breakwater, “Hoist the jib!” and into Lake Michigan.
Taking up on the line, “Aye, Skipper!” Hoisting the thin triangle of canvas upward along the cable, securing the line to a polished brass cleat by means of a turn and two half hitches, “Jib secured, Skipper!” Mitchell called, then went aft.
Larry took up on the starboard line.
In the slight breeze the jib furled outward along the outer edge and inward along the inner.
The helm moved a point to port. The bow sluggishly turned a point to starboard, but, the jib filling with air, Friendship picked up speed and, three minutes later, wanting to take a different tack, to sail “closer” to whatever wind there was, “Coming about!” Skipper called, as, throwing the helm to starboard, he took up on the sheet, moving the boom from starboard to mid-ship where, hesitating, the sail “luffed” until, catching the breeze, it shifted to port.
Forward, the starboard jib line was released, and the port “taken up.”
Tacking—taking angled legs into the wind to move forward—Friendship tacked five times in the next half hour.
Five nautical miles off shore, taking yet another southerly tack, Friendship followed the Illinois-Indiana shoreline for fifteen minutes, then, “Coming about!” Skipper called, and tacked once again, setting a visual east-by-southeast heading.
The sky was clear, the sun was brilliant, and even this far onto the lake temperatures were in the low eighties.
Sitting on floatable cushions, Walter and his sons watched as Chicago’s beautiful skyline became smaller… smaller… until even the tips of the tallest buildings disappeared from sight.
Shortly, whatever breeze there was all but died and Friendship moved lazily over the still water.
The three aboard were now bare-chested, with the brothers wearing only the bathing suits they’d worn beneath their jeans.
Larry holding a bottle of Coke and Mitchell a Pepsi, Walter drank from a tin cup that was held in one of the compartments under the aft cushion that was kept there for scoping and drinking of the fresh Lake Michigan water, once far enough away from shore.
“Hey, Skip, okay to go for a swim?”
“Doesn’t look like we’re going anyplace fast. Sure, why not.”
Standing on the coping, with a spring that caused the boat to rock and the mast to sway, Larry dove off the side.
“How’s the water, Squirt?”
“You old fart! Come in and find out for yourself.”
“Old fart, huh? You little shit, I’ll show you who’s an old fart!” As Larry, using the coping as a springboard, diving, almost landing on his brother, grabbing an ankle as he went down, Mitchell pulled him under. In a second or two both boys came up sputtering and laughing.
In a well-remembered whine, “Mi-tchie,” Larry said, “I’m tel-ling! Daa-d, Mitchie called me a little shiiit!” Surface diving, it was his turn to pull Mitchell beneath.
“Hey!” Their horseplay interrupted, “Cat’s paw!” Standing, pointing to a far off patch of rippling wind on the water’s calm surface, “Wind’s on the way!”
Swimming to the boat, pulling themselves aboard, standing in the cockpit dripping, all three watched the water for signs of the rapidly approaching wind.
In the calm, the sheet had been hanging loosely. Now, not knowing what tack he was going to take, or the wind’s velocity, Skipper held the sheet in his right hand, and the helm in his left, waiting…
The wind hit… Friendship began to move.
Judging the wind’s speed, Skipper moved the helm to port and, “sweating” the sheet, dropped a hitch over a small, clicking capstan bringing the boom inboard, causing the sail to snap full and puff outboard. “Jib to starboard!”
“Aye, Skipper!” Larry sweat the starboard jib sheet, tightening the narrow forward sail that, straining against the guy wire, now began to billow.
Faster… Creaking, the mast angled to starboard as, faster… Friendship began to move, faster.
Looking aft, now they could see bubbling wake.
Seating themselves, Larry and Mitchell sat on the port… the high side.
Heeling now, surging green water “buried” the starboard coping.
Allowing the sheet to play out, spilling wind, Friendship ran on a somewhat, even keel, till…
Skipper hauled three “clicks” on the capstan and, churning water racing beneath the edge of the coping, the starboard gunnel slanted sharply downward once again, and…
The outer, luff, edge of the sail furled inward as the force of the wind thrust the “belly” of the sail outward, propelling Friendship forward…
Heeling, one inch of coping buried in the rushing water… Two inches.
Abandoning his stern position, Skipper joined his sons on the high side.
As the port gunnel elevated, the starboard gunnel submerged…
As three inches of coping buried, the mast angled closer to the bubbling, rushing water.
Their legs stretched across with their bare feet braced against the low side cockpit, their buttocks hiked over the high side coping, Skipper now manned the helm by means of a tiller extension, as…
Chuting by, green water cascading into the cockpit drained out through the aft scuppers.
Letting up on the sheet, Skipper moved the rudder a point to starboard, turning the bow minutely out of the wind. The billowing sail “spilled” wind, allowing the drastic heel to straighten slightly, and from where the three sat, looking to starboard, what they saw was the boom—the foot of the sail—and foaming, rushing water.
Mitchell looked over his shoulder: Slanted out of the precipitous water, counterbalancing the wind’s driving force, the anti-fouling, gold painted keel was at an even angle with the mast.
Grasping the guy wire in both hands, standing, bracing both feet on the outer edge of the coping, leaning backwards, unheard, he screamed back at the screaming wind, as, holding steady, Friendship knifed through the water.
“Hey!” Letting up on the sheet, allowing wind to spill, and Friendship to level, somewhat. “One’a you guys get your skipper a beer! Anyone hungry? I’ll take a sandwich, too.”
Hanging on, going below, having done this before, hanging on, opening the cooler, Larry handed three cans of beer and sandwiches topside.
“Hi. Is Marsha home?”
“This her father?”
“No. Her brother.”
“Uh, Roger. You’re name’s Roger?”
“You probably don’t remember me, but you’n’me met about six years ago at the bowling alley in Union Pier.” No response. “You were bowling with some buddies, and Marsha and her friend Shelly, and me and a pal of mine came in and Marsha introduced you’n’me.” Silence. “My name’s Mitch Lipensky.” Not even the sound of breathing came from the other end of the line. “Anyway,” becoming irritated, “I’m calling from Michigan City. Any idea when your sister’ll be home?”
“No. I don’t live here. Only stopped by to get something.”
“Well, if you’d tell her Mitchell called, I’d appreciate it.”
“Yeah, sure.” Roger dropped the receiver onto the cradle.
Taking a few seconds to realized that the line was dead, looking at the phone, “Thanks, schmuck!”
Across the lake, not giving Mitchell another thought, going to the refrigerator, removing the package of steaks his mother had told him to take, Roger left the apartment.
Mitchell had spent a good part of the time on the trip to Michigan City thinking about Marsha, and was not too sure if, as he’d wishfully imagined, she liked him as much as he hoped, or if by now she had cooled off and the night before had only been a romantic night thing. The more he’d thought about Marsha, the more he thought that, Yes, maybe I really do love her! Yes, he had enjoyed the time spent with his father and brother, and the sailboat ride. Oddly enough, though, he’d wished that he hadn’t made this trip because he would much rather have spent the time with Marsha.
By the time they’d docked, if for nothing more then to confirm what he hoped her feelings towards him were, he had desperately wanted to talk to her. But knowing that she would be at work, he had not wanted to waste a long distance call, which, as he was calling from a public phone, Marsha would not be able to return if she was not at home and someone else answered the phone. So, thinking she would be at home at that time, Mitchell had waited until 5:40 to call.
The elevator door gliding open, “Marsha.” Glancing at his sister, nodding his head, Roger walked past her.
Responding just as indifferently, “Roger.” Stepping into the elevator, Marsha pushed 9.
Not knowing if he was even going to call, Marsha waited until almost 6:30, then took a shower.
Thinking she’d received the message that he’d called, letting the phone ring eight times, he had waited until 6:32 to call.
7:20: Let it ring! Sitting on the sofa with her legs folded beneath her, Let it ring! Willing the phone to ring, Let it ring… It did. Running across the apartment, grabbing the receiver off the cradle on the third ring, “Hello!”
“Oh,” obvious disappointment sounding in her voice, “it’s you.”
“Hey, thanks! It’s nice talking to you, too, kid.”
He called… The line was busy.
“Sorry, Rose. I thought it might be someone else.”
“Someone else, huh? Could only be a guy!”
“Someone new? Anyone I know?”
Across the lake, Mitchell dropped his dime into the slot again, dialed O, gave the operator Marsha’s number, then dropped the requested change into the appropriate quarter, dime and nickel slots… Probably her mother, he thought, and hung up.
“No, I don’t think you know him. Well, maybe; you might have met him in the country, or seen him around the J.”
“Yeah.” Becoming interested, Rosalie asked, “who is he? What’s his name?”
“Mitchell, uh…” trying to remember, “Lipensky.”
Mitchell called again.
“Mitchell Lipensky.” She thought a moment. “Doesn’t sound familiar. What does he look like?”
“Rose, you wouldn’t believe me! You’ll see when you meet him.”
“That bad, huh? Your mother’ll have a cow.”
“Oh, God! I sure hope so!”
He tried again.
“Look, Rosalie, I don’t know if he’s even planning on calling, but if he does, I don’t want the phone tied up.”
“So what are you going to do, Marsha, just sit there all night waiting for a call from a guy that might not even call?”
“Don’t know… Guess so.”
Continually fighting a futile battle to control the girth of her hips and buttocks, jealous, Rosalie never missed an opportunity to ply her perpetually-thin friend with food. “That’s dumb! J’ya eat?”
“No, not yet.”
“So, hows about meeting me at Askanaz?”
Mitchell tried calling yet again… with the same results.
“Askanaz? No, I don’t think so.”
“For God’s sake, Marsha, at least play a little hard to get!”
Remembering that last night she’d been thinking that exact thought, and really, she was hungry, and, If he does decide to call and I’m not here, then I guess… Marsha thought, he’ll just have to call back. “Yeah, okay, Rose. I’ll meet you there… When?”
“Right now! Okay?”
The decision made. Suddenly not wanting to be home if he should decide to call. Wanting him, if he really wanted to talk to her, to have to call back, “Yeah, I’m on my way.” Hanging up, grabbing her shoes, Marsha was putting them on on the downward trip in the elevator, as…
“Damn!” Now no one was talking, but no one was answering, either.
Friendship tied to a dock at the Michigan City Yacht Club, Walter still ashore having a drink or two with a couple of men he knew, but in the state of Indiana, as Illinois, the drinking age was twenty-one, and as Mitchell was legally too young to stand at the bar with the older men, and as he’d wanted to reach Marsha, and really, he would rather spend the evening with Larry anyway.
And besides, Walter had replenished their supply and they’d had better than a dozen bottles of beer in the cooler.
The only time Larry was allowed to drink beer was when he was on the boat, and then his father saw to it that he never had more than one bottle… But Mitchell was not his father.
“Mitchie…Urrpp! I wanna tell you sompin’. But’ch’ya gotta promise to never tell nooo-one.”
About to make the trek to the clubhouse to use the phone, again, putting the bottle on the coping, he looked at his bleary-eyed brother. “Yeah, sure, Larry, you’re my baby brother and…” in a high-pitched, falsetto voice, mimicking his much younger brother, “I ain’t tel-lin’!”
Taking another pull on his bottle, belching again, Larry whispered, “I’ve gone all the way with a girl.”
“Yeah, Mitchie, I done it! There’s this girl, she’s fifteen, an’…”
“Jesus, Larry, you’re big, but you’re just twelve!”
“Yeah, but there’s this girl, Vickie, she’s in high school, an’ she thinks I go to…” Giggling, he took another swig of beer. “…Catholic school an’ that I’m fifteen, too. An’ her’n’me went to her home when no one was home an’ we, uh, did it.” His voice raising an octave, “An’ it was grrreaat!”
Not knowing if he knew, How could he know? “You didn’t just put it in! Your, uh,” pointing to his crotch. “You used a rubber, didn’t you?”
“Yeah!” Looking at his brother incredulously. “What’a’ya’think, I’m’a baby?”
Actually, Yes, he did, which made Larry’s admission all the harder. Briefly wondering, Where in the hell’d he get a rubber? Now his turn to be incredulous. “You got laid, Larry? You got it? You been fucked?”
“Yeah! Shhh,” holding his finger in front of his lips. “I don’t want dad to know ’cause then he’ll tell mom, an’ you know how she is!”
Thinking, Yeah, she’d probably be overjoyed knowing that at least one of her sons got laid! He stared at his brother, then chug-a-luging the rest of his fourth bottle of beer, “Larry,” he said, “I’m going to bed.” And jealous—hell, green with envy—that his twelve-year-old brother… Hell, his just twelve-year-old brother had had intercourse, and that he, at almost twenty-one, hadn’t.
Mitchell stood, and because no one was nearby to see him, urinated over the side of the boat, then pushing the hatch open, “Good night, Larry.” went below, flopped down on his bunk and went to sleep wondering what kind of a God it was that lets a just- twelve-year-old kid get fucked while denying the privilege to his almost-twenty-one-year-old brother, as…
Home again, Marsha still hoped that Mitchell would call.