Did I introduce myself yet? No? I’m Eli Jones. Sometimes I forget, because most folks around here know me pretty well. Not because I’m famous, it’s just that, well, it’s a small town—and everybody knows everybody.
I’m better known than most, however, because of where I work. I have the greatest summer job in the world—head lifeguard at Silver Lake Beach Club. Picture a bronzed god sitting high above the crowd, chiseled features in profile, wind in his hair, sweeping the horizon for signs of danger, ready to spring into action at the slightest sign of trouble. Adoring females recline at my feet awaiting a kind word and ready to do anything for my attention.
Okay, I exaggerated a bit. Girls don’t worship me and unless I concentrate on sticking it out, my chin has a tendency to disappear. It’s a family trait. But, I do have bedroom eyes, shoulder-length hair, and a nice tan from sitting in the sun seven days a week.
Silver Lake is a great place to hang out. There’s a paved basketball court, snack bar, paddleboats, fishing, a swing set, and several wooden picnic tables that sit under a grove of tall shade trees. It’s a private club, so you have to join to swim there. But the fee is so reasonable that practically every local family belongs. In the summertime, if you didn’t have to help plant or harvest on one of the nearby farms, then you were splashing around at Silver Lake.
I’ve been working here for the past three summers to earn money for college. You don’t make a lot of dough, but there are lots of beautiful extra benefits—like Karen, one of the new lifeguards.
Karen is a knockout, standing five-foot-four, with green eyes and sandy brown hair. I first met her a few months ago at the spring guard interviews. When I told her about the required swimming test, she says, “I didn’t know I’d need a bathing suit today. Do you have one I could borrow…and someplace to change?” I took her to the guard shack, tossed her a tiny red racing suit, and with a straight face said, “The job’s yours, if you can fill out this form.”
Karen, without hesitation, replied. “No problem. Do you want to watch or wait outside and be surprised?”
I had found my summer romance. We’ve been dating ever since, including some steamy sessions at the local drive-in theater, where we still have yet to see a movie all the way through.
Every day I lead Karen and the rest of the lifeguard team on a mile swim across the lake and back—capped off by a 40-foot free dive to the deepest spot in the swimming area. My fellow workers complain about going that deep because Silver Lake is spring-fed with continuously flowing cold water that gets even colder once you drop below the thermo cline.
The reason I insist on this training is because once I had to go that deep to rescue a six-foot-three guy, who weighed at least two-twenty. He had gone beyond the deep-water line, got a cramp, doubled up and sank straight to the bottom, like a torpedoed battleship. Picture the struggle I had trying to bring that incredible hulk back to the surface, especially when I couldn’t push off the soft muddy bottom.
The only exception I ever made to hiring nothing but excellent swimmers was for a guy named Hal, who I spotted one night at Gold’s Gym bench-pressing more than 300 pounds. Hal looked outstanding on the guard stand, but had so developed his chest and shoulder muscles, he couldn’t lower his bulging arms down to his tiny waist. The man couldn’t swim a lick. I didn’t have the heart to fire him, so we only used Hal in shallow water where he could wade to make a rescue. You’d be amazed at how many females that year tried to drown in less than five feet of water.
My stomach just grumbled reminding me it’s time for lunch. I grab Karen and head to the snack bar, where I order my usual hamburger, fries and a Coke, and then carry it to the lifeguard break room to watch a little TV.
The noon news once again features in living color the escalating war in Vietnam, with exploding napalm, guns firing, and people dying, all up close and personal. Talk about reality TV! I watch Walter Cronkite report the daily body count, and then CBS cuts to a close-up of LBJ, with his big nose and Texas drawl, mumbling something about a domino theory, where if Vietnam fell; then in short order, the communists would take over America.
What a lot of crap. How could losing a civil war in Vietnam have anything to do with freedom in this country?
Ignoring the political propaganda, I turn to Karen, who’s munching on a basket of ketchup-covered fries. “So, are you glad to be out of school for the summer?”
“You bet. No studying, no exams, no term papers, just lots of sun, sex and suds.”
“Must be why we get along so good.”
“Especially the sex part,” she says, patting me on the leg. “Do you miss school?”
“I love Ohio State. I can’t imagine any other time in my life when I will have this much fun.”
“What about exams?”
“No problem. I have perfected acing true/false and multiple choice questions without studying. My life couldn’t be better.”
“As long as you don’t get drafted.”
“Ouch, why did you bring that up?”
“Because you are ensconced in the typical “what me worry” college cocoon, ignoring the world’s problems as society crumbles all around you.”
“I’ll bet you’re real popular at parties.”
“The innocence of the 1950s is gone. We have rioting in our cities. Children go hungry. Factories pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink. Young men are dying in Vietnam.”
“Hey, I’m aware. I even tried protesting once.”
“Fred, my college roommate and a true radical, used to protest everything—from high tuition fees to not enough free parking spaces on campus. We shared a cheap apartment just south of the university that stood one notch above an official Columbus slum—even the rats refused to visit our neighborhood.
Anyway, we had a card-carrying communist come to OSU to talk about why the U.S. military “advisors” should get out of Vietnam. The school decided it went “against policy” to let the guy speak. Not that big of a deal to me, but Fred went nuts. “We are being denied our constitutional right to assemble.” So Fred organizes a sit-in at the OSU administration building. I only went because I heard girls got aroused at protest rallies and you stood a good chance of getting laid.
About thirty of us arrived late in the day and marched into Derby Hall through the seven-foot-high, bronzed entry doors. We ascended the stairs to the large waiting room just outside of the bursar’s office and sat down in a big circle in the middle of the room. The campus cops were pretty cool about it. They just stood there with their arms folded watching us—with a little curiosity—wondering what we intended to do. The other students and office staff mostly ignored us, going about their business as usual. After awhile, the student dean announced. “It’s five o’clock. We are closing. So if you want to leave, do it now.” It sounded good to me, so I got up to go.
But the suggestion did not appeal to Fred. He had everyone link arms and start chanting, “Hell no, we won’t go,” over and over again. The dean shrugged and left. But our merry band of protestors kept chanting and swaying back and forth anyway. I hesitated, not sure what to do, and ended up getting locked in with the others.
So, there we were, no food, no lights, staring at each other in silence, because thank god the chanting had stopped. Suddenly Fred stood up, illuminated by his BIC lighter and announced. “Thank you for your solidarity. We have scored a major victory here tonight, confirming the right of any individual to speak his piece, regardless of his point of view. And since they have locked the bathrooms, we have an opportunity to hold the nation’s very first college campus shit-in.”
Can you believe it? While others held up a blanket for privacy, a few supposedly intelligent students used the lobby to take a dump.
After being trapped for fifteen long hours with several apprentice hippies and a smelly carpet, my experiment in protest activities came to an end. I heard Fred later transferred to Berkley, and the cops arrested him when he tried to blow up an Army recruiting station.”
Karen smiled. “You shouldn’t be discouraged. I’ll bet if enough students keep complaining about Vietnam, the Johnson administration would have to listen.”
“I don’t know…maybe. I sure as hell don’t want to go to Vietnam. Can you see me as a trained killer?”
Karen laughed. “No, I can’t.”
“Well, now I am depressed, and will spend the rest of the day worrying about society’s ills and getting my ass shot off.”
“Everything will be fine. Besides, I’d like to see you hang around here for a while.” Karen planted a serious lip lock on me, while her tongue checked out where my tonsils used to be. Finally coming up for air, she asked. “See you later tonight…about eleven o’clock?”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” I replied.
I thought about what Karen had said. True, the world wasn’t perfect, but I had money in my pocket, a beautiful girlfriend, and the sun was shining. What could go wrong?
“DRAFTED” by Rich Allan http://www.amazon.com/Drafted-ebook/dp/B004LGTRSK/ref=tmm_kin_title_0