They say it's gonna be a scorcher today. Wanna go swimmin'? I know the perfect place. The water is so beautiful, it looks toxic. Like a cocktail of Midori and Blue Curacao. Sort of like if you mixed a blue raspberry and a lime Slush Puppy. And the water temperature's just right. Not so cold that your heart stops when you jump in, but not so hot that it's not refreshing.
The best part is jumping in but first, you have to climb the rocky, dry path that looks like peanut butter fudge. Be careful though. Watch out for the pull tabs. They'll slice your foot right open. Make you bleed like a stuck pig. Just take turns--lookin' where you're goin' and lookin' down. A tetanus shot might be a good idea too. In case you get cut. Or bit.
See, there's this place at the bottom of the hill, before you take the secret turn up to the swimmin' hole. The property looks like a farm 'cause there's a split rail fence and a barn. My girlfriends and I always stop to see the guys who live there. They're wild. Cute too. In that I'm-bad-and-I-might-just-ask-you-to-be-bad kinda way. They live life more outdoors than in. Up at the swimming hole. Camping out in the woods. Hunting.
They took us in that barn once and I saw one of the scariest things ever. Saddest too. They had a pit bull in there. Back before it was cool. Before Michael Vick got caught. They couldn't let it out 'cause it was crazy vicious. It'd kill anything with four legs.
It was the guys' fault. They made the dog that way. Made it hate all animals. They'd take a rag and use it to pick up something dead. Then they'd beat the tar outta the dog with it. They started small and worked their way up. Squirrels to possums to groundhogs.
The dog got out once. Killed a goat. After that, they had to chain the dog inside the barn. They put one of those super mean collars on him with big spikes that dug into his neck if he made a wrong move.
I never did understand why the dog hated the animals the boys beat him with. Why didn't the dog hate them? Heck, why didn't we?
The wild boys were the ones who showed us the swimming hole. We'd heard about it but didn't know where exactly it was. All we knew is you cross the bridge from West Virginia to Ohio. After that, you go right and the turn up the mountain was somewhere near an Esso station.
We passed the Esso station and that's when we saw the boys. Sittin' at a picnic table out in their yard, in the shade. Suzy pulled her car into their driveway. We sent Laura Jane out to ask for directions. Boys'll tell her anything. She was in a white bikini and blue jean short shorts. The car windows were down so Suze and I could hear everything.
Laura Jane ducked between the top and middle split rail and then sashayed over to the boys. The biggest one said, "Well, well, well. What have we here? I seen that same sorta swing on a back porch once."
From the car, we could see Laura flash her Ultra-Brite smile. She flipped her almost black, bra strap-length hair and said, "You boys know where the secret swimming hole is?"
"You mean the filled-up strip mine?" the youngest one said. I thought he was good lookin.' Kinda reminded me of John Denver, only smaller.
It seemed to me like the rest of the boys got tense. Their eyes were all squinty. Like they were miffed. Little John Denver ignored them. He smiled up at Laura Jane, then stretched out his arm and pointed towards the woods.
"See that rusty oil drum over yonder? When y'all get to it, keep your eyes peeled 'cause the turn's right beyond that."
The biggest boy shoved Little John. "Ah man! Why'd you do that? We don't want no girls up there."
"Says who?" Little John said. He turned back to Laura. "I can take y'all up there, if you want."
John Denver's name was actually Danny.
"Why's it called the strip mine?" I said from the back seat.
"'Cause that's what it used to be," Danny said. "When there was no more coal, they flooded it."
He turned back to look at me. "Wait 'til you see it. The water's the coolest color ever."
Danny led us up the peanut butter fudge path. Held back brambly branches so we wouldn't scratch our shaved that morning legs.
All of a sudden, the trail ended. We stood at the edge of a sandstone cliff, twenty or more feet over the opaque and aqua water. The Mountain Dew in my stomach simmered.
I peeked over the edge. "How do you get down to the water?"
I can't believe I asked that. I slapped my hands over my ears 'cause I didn't wanna know the answer.
Danny snorted. "You jump, silly."
I pursed my lips and swallowed the jawbreaker-feeling lump in my throat.
Danny took a step towards me. I blinked. And then, before I knew it, I was hurtling through the air. Beside Danny. I backstroked, over and over. Trying to . . . I don't know . . . save myself? Make it back to the cliff's edge?
Then I hit the water. My eyes and mouth slammed shut. I felt my hair float above me as I sank. I opened my eyes and looked up and saw the light through the teal murk. I pushed water down to get up. To the light. To the air.
I broke through the water's surface like a baby being born. I whipped my head around, trying to locate Suzy and Laura Jane. They waved from way up there. My legs fluttered under me like beaters on a handmixer. I cupped my hand and circled it over and over, towards me.
"Come on! Jump in! The water's awesome!"
I looked around for Danny. He was floatin' on his back. Grinnin' up at the blue, clean slate of a sky. I stretched out and did the same. Filled my lungs with little puffs of air so I could stay on top of the water.
This place is so great! Everyone should know about it. Well . . . maybe just the people I like a whole lot.
So, wanna go swimmin'? I know the perfect place.