The Lucky Boy
Rocco Rizzuto picked you up at the corner by the drugstore. A short dark handsome guy whose bulging muscles came from years of construction work, Rocco was the factotum at the W estate. He was popular with men and women, boys and girls in Edgedale, a modest commuter suburb. Mr. W had plucked him off a building site and given him a sinecure he never would have dreamed up: “Chauffeur me, the wife, the kids, and take care of the cars and the lawn. When you’re at the house, you’re blind, deaf, and dumb. Got it?” Mr. W had rasped. Next day Rocco installed his pregnant wife and their two young kids in the servant’s apartment over the six-car garage and was never heard to complain about his pay.
As usual, he was smiling when he opened the door of the station wagon and told you to hop in. Driving, he gripped the steering wheel hard to flex his powerful arm muscles. Up close, you could see his perfect white teeth set off by his swarthy complexion. Habitually, he looked into the rearview mirror to check them out.
“I hear you’re the lucky boy,” he said.
“Yep. Galt phoned this morning and asked me to come for a swim.”
The W’s had the only pool in the town, probably because they were the only ones with twelve acres. Galt, the boy in the family, was your classmate, not really a friend, but you were popular, through no genius of your own, and Galt thought maybe the popularity of others would rub off on him. His father’s celebrity allowed Galt to use the swimming pool like a lure for acquaintances of any gender or sexual disposition. You’d heard rumors of booze, coke, and skinny-dipping on summer nights.
At the touch of a button under the dashboard, Rocco made the gates swing open and drove the wagon along the pale-gravel road, stopping under the portico at the front door of the great house. “Jump out,” he said, “and go through that gate in the hedge over there. Galt’s already in the pool. When you’re ready to go home, I’ll give you a lift. Have a good swim.”
Entering the compound behind the privet, you felt your heart beat a little faster. You lived in your parents’ modest little ranch on a fifth of an acre, and before you in the bright noonday sun was a sparkling pool, bordered by a dozen rounds of California tiles, with a pool house at the far end. At the near end the great house opened into a verandah that reached the deck of the pool.
A lone figure, fleshy white, floated in the middle of the water. It called out to you, “Hey, George, come on in. The water’s great!”
“Thanks, Galt. Just let me change into my swim trunks.”
“Naw, just strip and jump in,” and he rolled over a few times like a porpoise to emphasize that he was wearing no swimsuit. His clothes were strewn beside a deck chair.
Challenged, you assented, kicked off your Keds, stripped off your jeans, jockeys, and t-shirt, and dove into the pool. After swimming a few laps, you hauled yourself out like a seal and sat on the rim of the pool. It felt strange to be naked with a schoolmate you didn’t know that well. It felt good to swim unencumbered and to feel the sun directly on your whole body.
You looked out at the field behind the pool and saw the barn where Galt was known to have his own horse to ride at will around the estate. You looked over at the verandah and in its dimness you made out two figures at a table.
The celebrity wife, once a Ziegfeld showgirl, was a notch above cliché. Seated beside her was her louche nineteen-year-old daughter, who had herself already been pictured in the tabloids night-clubbing with a notorious philandering band leader. A voice spoke to you with friendly command. Had you heard Mrs. W right? Had she asked you to leave the pool, naked, and visit her in the shade of the verandah, where she and Gretchen sat to observe her son and his friends cavort bare-assed on warm summer days?
“Yes, come up here—just as you are. Don’t be shy. I’d like to know who you are.”
You weren’t too sure about that yourself, and her invitation didn’t seem right, but you were just thirteen, obedient to your elders, especially parents, and proud of your new curly red fringe. So you clambered up from the poolside and walked tentatively over the hot tiles till you reached the cool flagstone of the terrace, and came to a halt a few feet from the table at which the women sat.
Mrs. W, a fine looking lady of about 50, with good bones and a slim figure, wore a loose-fitting summer dress, while Gretchen, looking hung over, had on a dark-red two-piece bathing suit, with a man’s striped button-down shirt over her shoulders. The women were drinking Bloody Marys.
You stood uneasily with your hands folded over your junk while Mrs. W asked you pointless questions about school and the sports you played. When she offered you a Coke, you declined at first, not wanting to reach for the bottle and leave yourself exposed. But that was what the women seemed to want, so upon the second offer, you said what the fuck to yourself and lifted the Coke off the table. As you tilted your head to drink, your other hand fell naturally to your hip. Then you stood there bottle in hand and limp cock stirring under the gaze of your schoolmate’s mother and sister.
The shirt slipped off Gretchen’s skinny shoulders and she leaned forward as if to get a better view and maybe to enhance her scant cleavage. You resisted the urge to run back to the pool and you just let your erection tick to fullness. The silence had a special resonance, and then Mrs. W said, “Ahhh, thank you, George, thank you very much,” and Gretchen smirked. Then her mother dismissed you, and you returned to the pool.
Emerging from the shade, you felt the warmth of the sun on your skin, and your arousal eased. The pool was empty. Gone were both Galt and his clothing. You looked across the field and saw him, wearing a Stetson, jeans, and a white t-shirt, saddling up his paint. Had he left because he knew the routine whenever his mom asked a nude boy to visit her? Was she the reason he had invited you for a swim that day?
You grabbed your own jockeys, jeans, and t-shirt off a pool chair, picked up your Keds and stepped behind the pool house to pull on your gear. You then crossed the hot field till you reached the fence and looked back to wave goodbye to Galt, but he and Mustard had vanished into the nether acres of his father’s estate.
You vaulted the fence and then the drainage ditch, and hit the road headed home. You thought of Rocco checking his white teeth in the rearview mirror.
An eight-time Pushcart Prize nominee, George Held publishes both online and in print, and Garrison Keillor read one of Held’s poems on A Writer’s Almanac. His recent books include Neighbors: The Water Critters (2015), animal poems for children, illustrated by Joung Un Kim, and the poetry chapbook Bleak Splendor (2016).