It is the end of the summer for goddesses. Cal, gray-bearded, Hawaiian-shirted, counts thirty-seven bikini bottoms, thirty-three tiny tops, fourteen perfect midriffs, twelve enchanting sets of hips, two pairs of graceful hands – the kind that can do numbers, and one supernatural mane sent from above.
Because I’m his sister, I’m not included in the count, thank the great Lord above. It is when Cal begins the assessment of bounteous breasts, I leave the deck to fetch another cup of ice, to wander his redwood-needled front yard, pick up small fallen limbs and toss them in the green bin. This is late August at my brother Cal’s house on the river. Make myself useful. Ice to chew and grind while Cal, eternally in-love out-of-love Cal, adds up palatable body parts on his Beach Chart.
After I tidy the little grove in the center of the horseshoe driveway, rearrange his abalone shells, I make my way back to the deck again. The girls, who step out of their canoes, shake their wet hair, stretch limbs to the sun, rearrange paddles, coolers, many with their innocent backsides facing Cal, are oblivious to being watched by a fifty-five year-old one-legged man.
“Nature is good to me.” Cal eases his leg out of his regular lawn chair, gripping his usual Mountain Dew and puffing his typical malodorous cigar.
.His prosthetic leans against a bucket. I reach to get it for him but he waves me away with the soda can.
More chicks in canoes.
“Hey hey hey hey.” He groans his way out of the chair to approach the rail while hopping twice on one foot, “Ladies, care for a Dew?”
I don’t need to look. A few will cover their eyes from the sun and they will whisper amongst themselves.
“Girls, I have chips! You are looking so colorful.”
They re-embark in their canoes and float downstream like a parade of giggly French flowers.
“Cal,” I say. “Wouldja please?”
“What? There will be one. One, who needs a man like me.” A man to show them the ropes.
I chew ice despite my dentist’s advice and explain that women aren’t like that, especially girls, half his age.
He insists there will be two, like that.
“Two now?” I resume my seat near the fan. “Just for you?”
“Two.” He says they’ll both want him. “One passive, one scared.”
Three orange kayaks speed by in unison.
“Of course they will want you.” I try not to view his white belly, hanging over stained shorts. That white loose belly, white, pale, impractical with five gray hairs in a downward row. “They’ll fight over you.”
“They won’t fight, but the submissive one, she’ll know I’m her man.” Behind him, a canoeing family meanders into the brush. “The other one will try to talk her out of it, but my girl-”
“Your girl?” If my dentist could meet my brother, I think he would advise me to chew ice.
He says this chosen girl will need an older wiser gentleman, “She’ll melt like butter on a corncake.”
“Corncake.” I declare.
A barge of teenage boys in inner tubes arrive howling. They bellow, splash.
Cal looks away from the boys, refers to his charts, muttering about the odds of his girl coming soon. “Maybe not today.” I hear him mumble.
I say what only a sister can get away with. “Another tranquil day goes by for her before she meets her new stalker.” I wince at my own words, at once understanding their layered meaning: correct, prophetic, and cruel. I decide I’ve said enough and look toward Cal to see how he’s interpreted my sass, but he’s busy snubbing out the cigar.
When one of the boys flexes his muscles and another pours a beer on his head, they laugh.
Cal gets up, “Better start the barbeque.”
I pinch ends off beans. Cal places his chart pad below his chair and rustles around with the charcoal.
The boys below half-fight half-play, snap each other’s tan firm torsos with towels, call each other things like dick and fag.
Cal crushes another Mountain Dew can with his hand, drops it to the ground, and picks up his fake leg. Holding the prosthetic around the knee, he makes the stiff foot kick the can toward the corner where it scrapes jovially along the redwood planks, teeters, and finally lands.