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BLUE BOY / Kevin Canty THE SUMMER HE WAS seventeen, Kenny was given a job as a lifeguard at a leafy, brick-and-ivy racquet club, in the money belt just beyond the city Umits. Rising at six every morning, he would usuaUy find his father asleep on the sofa, morning news or exercise on the television, a last, unfinished highbaU on the floor beside him. Covering his father with a lavender chenüle bedspread, a bedspread decorated with Uttle Unes and popcorn balls of cotton, Kenny would eat his cornflakes at the coffee table, watching television. It was just the two of them that summer. In the damp, smoky sunlight of first morning, he'd ride his bicycle twelve miles to work through backstreets and aUeys, secret rutted warehouse lots and suburban lanes knuckled with the swoUen roots of oak trees and sycamores, cool and leafy, the best hour of the day. Legs pumping past the sleeping houses and the blankfaced cars (windows up, AC on) he thought: I am a body, only I am a body, I am only a body. On his bicycle, every thought came in rhythm. He'd stop in a forgotten tangle of weeds overlooking the railroad tracks, a quarter-mile from the club, and change from elastic bicycle shorts into his swimsuit; a serious cyclist, he didn't want anyone to know. Standing unseen in the greenery, naked from the waist down, Kenny felt strangely free and light. There he would smoke the first joint of the day, the whole thing, seriously wrecked at seven-fifteen in the morning, and pedal slow as a circus clown the rest of the way, finishing the cool water in his bottle as he coasted along. Stoned was the only way to do this. The other lifeguards, money kids who were working between vacations, working to buy some tiny symbolic percentage of a car or to keep Daddy's Protestant ethic assuaged, they aU thought he was dumb. The candy-stripers— they aU wore striped bathing suits, all but Kenny—talked about dope, they wanted always and in aU things to give the impression that they knew, but it was plain to Kenny that they didn't. They knew about cars and coUeges and music and clothes and parks out West and islands in Maine and Impressionism and Expressionism and SymboUsm; they knew the right kind of cowboy boots and the right kind of mustard and they thought they knew about dope but they were wrong. This made Kenny wonder if they really knew The Missouri Review · 33 anything about anything, but he also knew it didn't matter: this money thing was Uke a song that they were aU singing together, and Kenny would never learn the melody. He devoted himself to lust instead. Enthroned on his aluminum stand, behind the darkest of dark sunglasses, Kenny studied the girls and women who dithered in the shallows or lay, idle as Uzards, on the scattered chaise lounges. He loved to see the pale side of a woman's breast as she lay stretched, top undone, arms over her head; or the pale skin at the edge of her swimsuit bottom, Uke a promise. He became a connoissuer of the reveaUng moment, accidents of skin when a bathing-suit was being adjusted or a tshirt put on, or when a woman would emerge from the water, blind and dripping, and if her suit was made of a certain kind of material Kenny would see her outlined in every detail, as if she stood nude before him. They didn't seem to notice, or if they did they didn't mind. Kenny stared and stared. He discovered why queens, in Shakespeare's plays, were more valuable than princesses: as the summer developed, he found himself drawn more strongly to the older women, the mothers rather than the daughters. The bodies of the girls his age were perfect, brown and Uthe, but after a whUe they seemed to have the hard unripeness of green fruit. They were beautiful in spite of themselves, beautiful but accidental; whUe the older women conveyed an air of intention that Kenny found attractive. They were careful...


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