June 20, 2016 by The Citron Review
by Andrea Eberly
“Everyone who meets Summer ends up liking her better than me, even my friends,” Kenny says as the canoe bucks in the wake of a motor boat. Beth steers from the back and Kenny sets the pace in the front. Kenny and Beth have known each other since junior high, back when Kenny was fat and condescending and Beth was thin and vicious.
Summer is Kenny’s wife. Beth hears how flat Kenny’s voice is. It must be hard to be married to one of those effervescent, nurturing people who makes everyone around them better. Beth knows that she is, indeed, better for knowing Summer. Beth’s husband, a quiet engineer, is more comfortable around Summer too; he thinks Kenny is a jock with his soccer team and centurion haircut. But Beth knows that back in high school Kenny played Magic cards at lunch while discussing the latest episode of Babylon Five. She remembers the stories he used to write.
“Remember when Mr Vincent made us read our assignments in front of the class? I really liked your stories,” Beth says. Then she asks, “Do you ever write anymore?”
Kenny stops paddling and takes a sip of beer. Beth recalls getting drunk with Kenny during undergrad. How he walked out of his bedroom with his pants off, white briefs glowing, asking if she wanted to go to bed with him. She looked at his briefs, his crooked smile, and said that she thought it would be a bad idea; she did not feel that way about him. He said he did not feel that way about her either, but could she blame him for asking? Of course not. She’d been drunk too, but can still remember the feeling of hugging him, his warm and stubbly cheek against hers, tequila on his breath, and the clicking of the front door before the long walk back to her apartment.
Kenny turns around and the canoe tilts. He looks at Beth and says, “I don’t write.”
They paddle about, through lily pads and mats of dense green duckweed. They occasionally hop in and out of conversation—TV shows, home improvement, their kids—all the while enjoying the sun and the breeze. A blue heron stalks a fish or maybe a frog. Beth wonders if Kenny sees it and she is about to point it out when Kenny finally blurts, “I do have a couple of ideas for science fiction. Stuff like, would we recognize aliens at all if they came to earth? You know, would they even be humanoids?”
Beth smiles and says, “That sounds really cool. You should work on it.”
“I don’t have time, the kids and soccer, you know?”
“I guess.” Beth pauses, then adds, “I’d read it though, if you wrote it.”
Kenny’s white briefs peak out from the waistband of his jeans as he leans forward to catch the water with the paddle. Beth matches Kenny’s tempo. Tiny whirlpools swirl away behind them where their paddles dip in and out of the water.
Andrea Eberly lives in Seattle, Washington. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Hobart and The Southwest Review.