I’d eaten my bowl of Cheerios with a spoonful of sugar. I’d fed the dog, the cat, and my hamster, Houdini. I couldn’t wait any longer. It was time. I dialed Katie Lynn’s house. Her mother Caroline answered the phone.
“Morning, Mrs. Carver. It’s me, Dana.”
“Good morning, Dana. You’re up early.” I loved the way her Southern accent spilled out like Hershey’s chocolate syrup.
“Yes, ma’am. Is Katie Lynn up yet?”
“No, but I’m happy to wake her. Else she’ll sleep the day away. Hold on.”
I heard Mrs. Carver put the phone down. A minute later came the clank of porcelain on metal. That was probably Katie Lynn knocking the handset of her princess phone off its cradle.
“Mmm . . . hello?”
“Wake up, you sleepy head. Get your hiney out of bed.”
Her words came pillowy and slow. “It’s summertime. We’re supposed to sleep in.”
“They’re here, Katie Lynn! They’re here!”
“The space age tanning blankets. The ones I told you about. I ordered them from the Sunday supplement and I got you one too, ‘cause they were buy one, get one free.”
“That is exciting. Can I go back to sleep now?”
“No. It takes you forever to get ready so you have to start now. Be here by ten. For real.”
“Oh, all right. Which suit should I wear?”
“How ‘bout the white one?”
Katie made a growly noise. “Naw. I don’t have a base tan yet. I’ll look pasty.”
“Um . . . Bring the rust-colored one, the one you made in Home Ec.”
“Naw. It’s a one piece. I want to get sun on my tummy.”
“For crying out loud, Katie Lynn,” I said. “The fact of the matter is I really don’t care. Just pick one and get over here. The blankets are supposed to maximize our time spent in the sun. I want to get started.”
After I hung up, I closed my bedroom door and stepped into my suit. Shivered because it was still damp from yesterday. I wiggled and adjusted in front of the mirror. “I wish I had five or six suits,” I told my reflection. “Like Katie Lynn.”
Outside I grumbled as blades of wet grass licked my calves. “You’d think with three boys in the house, our lawn would be perfect,” I said to no one in particular. I dragged two aluminum chaise lounges into the middle of the back yard, lined them up with the sun’s position in the sky.
On the screened-in porch, I deliberated in front of my mother’s tanning product collection. Coppertone, Bain de Soleil for the San Tropez Tan, or Hawaiian Tropic Dark Tanning Lotion? Or, I could mix up some baby oil with iodine. I twisted the top off the Hawaiian Tropic, inhaled, and grinned. It was the first day of summer break. We should celebrate by smelling like coconuts.
Back in the house I gathered several issues of Seventeen magazine and two Rosemary Rogers’s romance novels. Katie Lynn always begged me to read the love scenes out loud. I grabbed my hand mirror at the last minute. In case she wanted to practice kissing.
In the kitchen I peeked over Mom’s shoulder as she scanned the newspaper and smoked, according to the ashtray, her third cigarette of the day. The weather section said it was going be a scorcher.
“Better get the hose,” I said to myself as I headed back out.
"Dang it!" I said, hose in hand. I backtracked to get Mom's kitchen timer. Katie Lynn and I always set it for thirty minutes. Half hour for our fronts, half hour for our backs. Katie Lynn also spent time balanced on each side so she wouldn't have white stripes under her arms but I wasn't that dedicated.
True to her slower than molasses in January track record, Katie Lynn arrived an hour late. I’d anticipated this and was already tanning.
I slid my sunglasses down my nose. “Aren’t the tanning blankets cool?”
“Are they Reynold’s Wrap?” she said. “’Cause that’s what they look like—tin foil.”
I rattled my blanket. “I know. And when you move, they crinkle. Am I dark yet?”
“Nope. You’re still super pale.”
I shrugged. “No big whoop. By Friday, I’ll look like the little girl in the Coppertone ad with the white butt.”
We spread Katie Lynn’s silver sheet on her chair and she greased up. Just as she was settling in, I heard the window in Mom and Dad’s bedroom crank open.
My brother Jude hollered out. “Hey! You all mind if I join you?”
“Yes,” I said.
“No,” Katie Lynn said.