"It's so fucking hot." I complained, watching smoke roll off the end of my cigarette. I was hanging it out the window so my mom wouldn't notice the stale smell later. School had been out for a few weeks and Chris Chambers and I had run out of things to do already. We'd read a bunch of old magazines, tried watching T.V., attempted to play catch, but most days we ended up in my room playing cards while my fan turn lazily circulating warm air around the room.
We were too old for the tree house where we used to play with Vern and Teddy. It was sagging hopelessly. We were all too tall to sit Indian-style and look at old nudie magazines we'd nicked from our older brothers. Even though we built it, another group of kids had taken it. I was betting one of them would fall through the dry-rotted floor one of these days.
"Shut the hell up, you whining ain't gonna make it any better." Chris huffed, his face flushed from the heat. He was frowning at the card he just drew from the deck. I pitched my cigarette out the window. I drew, I had a shit hand. I tossed my cards down in frustration.
"But it is. God!" I yanked at my collar and attempted to swallow the lump in my throat. My mouth was too dry. If it was going to be this hot all summer, I wasn't going to survive. "I'm on fire." I gritted my teeth and tugged on my shirt. I was sweating a lot.
"Lachance, why don't we just go swimming?" He drew again and smirked at me, laying down his cards. Why didn't we think of that sooner, rather than suffering?
"Yeah." I said, straightening my legs and pulling the damp part of my jeans from the back of my jeans. Chris did the same, "Why didn't you say something sooner?" I grinned.
"We're too lazy to think in this heat." Chris said moving towards the window. He swung his legs onto the window sill and steadied himself with one hand. He jumped landing perfectly on a tree branch. He always did, my window with the use of this tree was like the front door to him. I copied his moves, but I stumbled holding onto the trunk with my hands. I usually didn't use the tree unless I was sneaking out which didn't happen often.
He maneuvered from branch to branch siftly like a monkey, until it was safe to jump; he landed lightly in the grass, and stared up. Looking down at him, he was small, even though if I were standing next to him he was a good two inches taller than me. "What are you waiting for Gordie?" He teased.
"Nothing." I grumbled trying to figure out how to get down to the last branch without falling and breaking my bones. Finally I made it, and then jumped for it, landing in an awkward crouch.
"Way to waste half the day." Chris laughed, and dragged me into his one armed hug. We were off through Castle Rock to the creek. The creek was connected to the Royal River somewhere, the same river where we had found Ray Brower four years earlier with Vern and Teddy who had almost disappeared completely from our lives.
There were times when I'd think about Teddy and Vern and how close we used to be and feel sentimental. I'd remember us singing off key and giving each other shit over the stupidest things. I saw my first dead body with them; aim a gun at one of the most bad-ass hoods in Castle Rock history with them standing by. That seemed like the million years ago.
The streets were almost empty as we carried on, but the occasional car would pass moving Chris and me up onto the side walk. "I can't wait." Chris said walking a little faster the closer we got, and soon we were sprinting towards the creek. We both were pouring sweat and all I could think about was how great the water was going to feel.
"There it is." I said in awe, as if I'd never seen anything more beautiful in my entire life. While Chris was next to me, kicking off his shoes, and pulling off his socks, and I did the same. I was down to just my jeans when he collided against me and we tumbled into the cool water. "Hey asshole!" I choked out, as he dunked me under repeatedly. That fucker was going to drown me. I pulled his hands off me, listening to his laughter. "You're dead Chambers!" I lunged after him, pushing his shoulders down. Although he had grabbed the heavy fabric of my pants and hauled me down with him into the dark water, I opened my eyes to see him staring back at me, with that stupid smirk on his face.
I couldn't breathe. I finally got my head above the water, choking and sputtering, his laughter filling up the air. "Calm down Lachance." He splashed me.
I splashed back, " I could've drowned, you dick!" I exclaimed, sort of laughing. I was trying to get the water out of my ears. Shaking my head and digging at my ears.
"You could not've!"
He moved closer, squinting against the sun that beat down on to the water, "Gordie I would never let you drown." His tone was serious, his eyes staring straight into mine.
"Yeah, because who else would help you study?" I said trying to lighten the emotion in his eyes.
"None of them wet rags that's for sure." He snorted.
We laughed, and floated on our backs the better part of the afternoon. Talking about nothing and a lot of things at the same time, we usually did. Nothing too serious, that's what Chris was good for, understanding without it being a big deal. We were silent for a while.
"What are you thinking about?"
I didn't know how to answer, I was thinking about the last time Chris, Teddy, Vern and I had been together, again. I was thinking about how Chris and I spent almost all our time together. "Old stuff."
"What about you?"
"About how if you drown, I'd flunk out, if I didn't die." He was moving back to the bank. I followed.
"If you didn't die?" My eyebrow rose in question, as we climbed up on the soggy embankment. I had no idea what he meant.
"Who else would I hang with if you were gone, man?" We began to gather our shirts, and shoes.
"I don't know." I shrugged, Chris and I always ate lunch together, studied and hung out on weekends, and we didn't really have anyone else.
"Exactly." He winked. Then the subject changed to our soaked jeans. We sat out in the sun, and let them dry.
"I feel like a fream." I sighed staring off into the water.
"A fream? We're not freams, we fit in. We ain't Artie Johnson, Gordie." I laughed as Chris mentioned Artie Johnson, who sat by himself at lunch and usually talked to himself; he wore those thick coke bottle glasses much like Teddy was still stuck with.
"If either of us drown, we'd be like him."
"Nah," Chris turned to me, "I'd just go hang with him."
I looked at Chris, "Well if he's so cool then why don't you hang out with him?" I joked.
"Because you're better, and you don't talk to yourself." He smirked at me and hit my shoulder.
And on that afternoon, down by the creek one thing hit me; I couldn't live without Chris Chambers. Those eyes looking back at me, it was just hard to process at the time, I didn't realize what had happened until later between us.