Art by Norman E. Masters
Fade back and vanish very soon"
This was one of Paradise Playland's series of dances held in the tennis court for the teen-agers. Music from a five-piece band pulsed gently through the night; the tennis court was strung with Japanese lanterns on overhead wires. Roselyn, wearing slacks, crossed at the fringe of the court to the park bench upon which sat the younger girl, Dawn.
"Hi," Roselyn said.
"H'lo," Dawn replied absently. "Oh, sit down."
"Say, you're Roselyn Lucas, aren't you?"
Roselyn smiled. "That's right."
"You went to Seneca High a few years ago."
"I remember you were in my gym class. Remember old Mrs. Franchell?"
"The gym instructor."
"Oh, yeah. Sure."
"Did you finish school, Roselyn?"
"Nah. Just left."
"What're you doing now?"
"Working up to Central City."
"Oh -- my name's Dawn. Dawn Chapman."
"Yeah. I know."
The music came to them on the warm July night. A red-headed boy played a trumpet solo, "I've Got A Crush On You."
"Got a weed, Dawn?"
"A butt." She looked at the younger girl. "A cigarette. You know -- " She pantomimed, "-- to smoke."
"Boy, this is a beautiful night."
"A beautiful night for makin' out."
"Well, it is."
"Say." Roselyn tapped her thumbnail against her front tooth. "Let's go swimmin'."
Dawn looked at her with wide eyes. "Tha'd be a ca-and-a-half." Then she said: "Where would we go?"
"Up to the 'butment."
"I can git a car."
"But we don't have any bathing suits. And if I went home to get mine my mother for sure would stop me."
"All right. Forget the bathing suits. The boys from Central City take their girls up here and you don't think they use bathing suits, do you? And what if somebody does get a glimpse of your one-button suit? It won't kill ya. C'mon."
Roselyn started to get up, then abruptly sat down. "Oh, say, Irl might not let me take the car if he knew you were goin'. He doesn't like strangers riding in his own personal limousine. So why don't you start across the park and I'll meet you on the corner of Cottage Place. If I can git the car, fine, and if I can't we'll walk over to the Covered Wagon. Okay?"
After waiting until Dawn had gotten out of sight Roselyn got up, crossed the tennis court and motioned to a boy who was talking with two other boys. "Gimme some cigarettes."
Frowning, he shook three cigarettes out of a package and handed them to her.
"Can I take your car keys?"
"Goin' over to Little Lake."
She started away; he grasped her wrist. "Who was the girl?"
"The one on the bench. I saw you talkin' to her."
"I dunno what her name was."
"Where'd she go?"
"Had to git home. Heard her mama callin'."
"Sure I'm sure. Want my bust size too?"
"Don't get wise, sister."
"Okay. Leggo my arm."
"And be back in an hour."
She met Dawn on the corner they had planned on.
They left their clothes on the grassy bank and then the water slid up their legs in twin cool rings.
"Suds me up," Roselyn said.
Dawn, dipping the bar of soap which had been in Irl's glove compartment into the water, rubbed it across Roselyn's back.
"Good job, Dawn."
She sudsed up Dawn's back into a creamy lather.
"Still a virgin?" Roselyn asked.
Dawn opened her mouth, snapped it shut, opened it again and then closed it slowly.
"That's okay. Not many are these days. Lost my own a couple years back. Watch this."
Listening for cars, Roselyn ran up the abutment. The concrete cool on the soles of her feet, she paused for a moemnt, looking at the water below.
"Don't, Roselyn. You'll hurt yourself. You could kill yourself if you hit wrong."
Stepping forward, Roselyn dove, knifed cleanly into the water and came to the surface, hair in her eyes.
"Gee, that was good."
"Nothin' to it."
The girls lay on their backs in the soft grass. There were stars; a large ice moon was sinking down the sky.
"The stars about the silver moon|
Fade back and vanish very soon
When, round and full, her silver face
Swims into sight and lights all space."
"That's nice," Roselyn said. "You write it?"
"No. A Greek poetess named Sappho. There's a Sappho's Leap named after her. It's where she's supposed to have thrown herself into the sea because her love wasn't returned."
"That's too bad."
Somewhere in among the trees there was the call of a bird. Soon after, it was answered.
"No, thank you."
"Got plenty if you want one."
They lighted the cigarettes.
"Ain't you ever smoked before?"
"See, you do it like this. Inhale the smoke into your lungs and blow it in front of you in a thin stream. Smoke's curlier if you don't inhale." She demonstrated. "See? Then you can let it drift from your nose -- " the smoke drifted from Roselyn's nostrils "-- blow smoke rings --" she blew a large smoke ring, then blew a smaller one through it "-- French inhale, and oh, there's all sorts of tricks you can do if you want to --" She looked at Dawn out of the corner of her eye but Dawn did not blink or look away.
"Jeez, you're a nice girl, Dawn."
"Well, thank you. So are you."
"No. I really mean it. You're not like me. My mother's dead; father's a drunk; brother's a namby-pamby --"
"Oh, have you got a brother? What's his name?"
"Forget him. He's a crumb. Want another cigarette, Dawn?"
"No thank you, Roselyn."
"Jeeze, but you're a nice girl, Dawn."
"An awful nice girl..."
"An awful nice..."
Under Dawn's skirt, resting spider-lightly on her knee, was Roselyn's hand.
"Roselyn! Don't! You're --"
"... awful nice girl."
Dawn sprang up.
She was up the trail, branches tearing at her palms.
Thick hands grasped her around the waist. Dawn slapped at them. There was a sob and the hands released her. Gaining the top, Dawn fell into Irl's arms.
"What're you --" He squinted at something.
"She said we were just going swimming and then she --"
"Forget it. I know all about that little girl. Get in the car."
Roselyn stood facing Irl.
"Gimme the keys."
"I didn't make her do anything she didn't wanna --"
"Shut up and gimme the keys."
"Oh, here, ya wise son of a -----."
Irl got in the car. The motor raced and the car jerked forward with Dawn hunched over in the front seat, crying. Roselyn stared wordlessly at her as the car went past.
Then she took the third cigarette from her shirt pocket and lit it by flicking a wooden match against her thumbnail. She inhaled, standing on the abutment looking at the water over the falls into the river below. Maybe this was how the Roman poetess felt -- what was her name? She flicked the cigarette into the water. The memory of this night, she thought as she started down the moon-washed road toward home, won't last much longer than the smoke from the cigarettes which she bummed from her brother Irl.