At fourteen, Corrine Lindeman was already attuned to her own beauty. While other girls were focusing on school and sports, Corrine was busy attracting boys. Allurement just came earlier and more naturally for her. Her smile alone detonated teenage hormones. Desirable beyond adolescent bearing, Corrine had her pick of all the handsome, rollicking young studs that were cocksure of themselves—until falling for Corrine. Once under her spell, they behaved like the mutts that appeared around the Lindeman’s yard whenever their poodle went into heat. Sniffing and brooding and snapping at those who dare lift a leg on their territory. My best friend Rick and I used to chuckle at Corrine’s smitten boyfriends. Rick said you could set an egg-timer to measure how long before she dumped them. And Corrine always did the breaking up. I once saw our school’s fullback sobbing while walking home from her house. He had quit the football team—which had been the very sun to his still coalescing planet—to be with Corrine Lindeman. But she kicked him aside for the quarterback. And when Corrine sacked the quarterback, that top jock began huffing glue. The kid was never the same. Corrine crushed rising legends like an overly enthusiastic nun snuffing candles after the opening antiphon. And this was well before any of us aspiring swordsmen had managed to land our untested daggers anywhere near a feminine sheath, which made Corrine’s power over young men even more amazing. Corrine had Seventeen magazine star quality. The kind of teenage beauty who carried her virginity like a pink coin in her purse.
At the time, I was fixated on ice hockey. Our team captain made everyone name a girl he liked, but I never mentioned Corrine. Nor did I reveal that I had yet to kiss a girl. I didn’t want rolls of tape and water bottles being fired at me. The guys who had been with girls bragged about it mercilessly, especially those who had navigated the perilous teenage passage between first base and third. Those lucky bastards regaled the rest of us with awe-inspiring tales of bra-unfastening, unsnapping of blue jeans and the discovery of priceless buried treasures. They spared no detail when describing the snow-white tan lines, the skin-tingling feels, and impassioned moaning. Some even presented evidence to the olfactory. Whenever our leading scorer, Stevie Haynes, went out with “Sticky Mickey” Tayler, he did not wash his hands for days. I kept my hands in my hockey gloves and my mouth shut. But when Corrine’s best friend, Jill Redner, mentioned that Corrine liked me, I took off like a fighter pilot on an inaugural sexual sortie. It was a mission in which I would never fully return. I soon began obsessing over Corrine Lindeman the way a pilot fixates on altitude when flying below radar through pea soup fog. Ready at the minute to test my vestal landing gear, but with nowhere to land and overburdened with ordinance. Soon my careening flight turned to spying, culminating in the night that Rick and I spied Corrine making out on her back porch with Tommy Steele. Spying had been my idea, but Rick brought along his dad’s hunting binoculars, and soon began broadcasting the action as if calling the Kentucky Derby. Steele’s fast out of the gate and already on record pace, he’s moving along the inside and goin’ strong! When Rick announced Tommy’s unfastening of Corrine’s bra—I punched Rick right in the arm.
“Wha’ja do that for?!” He dropped the binoculars.
At the time, I had no idea why I punched Rick. I was just beginning to strap on jealousy’s massive toolbelt. The unfamiliar weight overtaxed my already stressed heart and lungs. I had become monomaniacally possessive of Corrine despite barely having spoken to her. I also had a bee buzzing around my brain stinging me with the notion that Jill had given me bad intel. I had seen similar intel cause friends to crash and burn. We boys were just beginning to learn that some girls said stuff about other girls just to draw attention to themselves. Because if Corrine liked me, why on earth would she allow that big basketball-bouncing doofus, Tommy Steele, to run his scabrous hands under her shirt? Yet, I desperately wanted to believe Jill—despite knowing that Corrine was way out of my league. The whole impossible situation robbed me of my sleep. Had me roaming my bedroom like a feckless vampire. Caused me to choke on my English and my math finals. And still I inched closer to Corrine’s fire. I was old enough to know which girls were trouble, but too young to defy them.
I began frequenting Corrine’s favorite hangout: the neighborhood pool. Having grown tired of Marco Polo, Sharks and Minnows, and burning my eyes in over-chlorinated water; that summer I learned a brand-new game: girl-watching! How in all those years, had I failed to notice the mind-blowing spectacular of girls in all ages, shapes and sizes, sauntering around in nothing but vibrantly colored bras and panties? Some of those bikinis contained less cotton than the top of an aspirin bottle. And when those darling little gossamer triangles got wet, they shrunk down to delectably pasted 4×4 patches of gauze. I had yet to see an R-rated movie, but who needed celluloid with cavalcades of live glistening girls swimming and sunning and covered only in flimsy wet noodles bubbling over their hot spots? Good God, the hours I spent flayed on my stomach with my priapic root ruthlessly garroted in the lacerating straps of a circa 70’s chaise lounge. It was a wonder EMS was never called to bring in their jaws of life. But there I was: on my stomach, and stiffer than a railroad spike, that fateful Saturday when Jill Redner caught me watching Corrine squirting baby oil all over her chest and stomach.
“Hey Jeffrey, what’s up?” Jill coyly smiled.
“Nothin,” I said, picking up my unopened National Geographic.
“You hear Corrine just broke up with Tommy Steele?” She asked.
“Really?” I inquired from my pelvically wedged position.
“She broke up with Tommy…because she wants to go out with you, Jeffrey!”
My brain instantly flew through the full gambit of sublime promise to a rapturous run around all of Corrine’s most intimate bases: I was going to Corrine Lindeman’s boyfriend! I was going to be the one handling that sumptuous body that Tommy Steel had so blithely mismanaged. I was going to finally end my lifelong virgin Odyssey. Corrine and I were about to launch on an epically-erotic, phantasmic adventure! I would have jumped for joy—had my unrelenting teenage Excalibur not been so precariously ensnared in plastic.
“But you better go over there and talk to her.” Jill advised. “Because Corrine also kinda likes Mike Reynolds.”
“Reynolds?” I asked, pulling straight out of my elastic guillotine. My throat issued a low guttural squeal, but it was nothing compared to the silent scream that Jill had just laid on me. Mike Reynolds was the goddamn captain of the high school wrestling team! Not to mention, his parents were richer than Arab Sheiks and had just bought their hyper-hormonal son a brand-new kick-ass Camaro! Jill had just turned my raging timber “rattler” into a cowering salamander.
“If I were you, Jeffrey I’d go talk to Corrine now!” Jill advised. “Because Mike told Corrine that he was coming to the pool today to see her.” She added in a chiding singsong voice.
A dark cloud passed over the sun, turning thoughts of Reynolds into visions of a mountain lion eviscerating a spindling fawn. It hit me that Jill might be setting me up for an ass-kicking; that, or she was trying to prevent one. Either way, the girl had just downgraded me from being Corrine’s new Lothario to having to deal with a knuckle-dragging cretin who, when he wasn’t pinning cauliflower-eared light-heavyweights to a one-inch mat, was throttling greasers. Reynolds had recently pummeled two greasers for sitting on the hood of his new Camaro. He put one in the hospital, while Jill had just taken me from 0 to 60, straight into a brick wall.
When Jill walked away (grinning) I went back to Corrine-watching. Corrine was in her cherry red bikini, her face dazzling in the sunlight. Her tanned skin looked as smooth as butterscotch. Her smile hastened the rhythm of my heart. And since Jill had left her to come over and fuck with my mind, for the first time that summer, Corrine was alone! I pretended to survey the pool. I yawned to feign being calm, collected, and cool. But when the sun went under another larger cloud, it cooled my formerly warm and throbbing teenage blood. My Osgood-Schlatter knees cracked when I stood up, while my testicles retreated high into the hinterlands of my pelvis. With chilled blood rushing in all directions, I started to sit back down—until seeing a black Camaro rumble into the pool parking lot.
Once freed from the paralyzing venom of a black Camaro, I set all cartesian coordinates for Corrine Lindeman. I had a one-minute window. I started out limping, due to my bad knees acting up. My chest hurt to breath and my stomach threatened to vomit, but I kept going. Some dumb kid splashed me with a can-opener, but I kept going. Rick asked me if I wanted a Sprite from the soda machine, but I kept going. And when the sound of the growling Camaro abruptly quieted, like a fighter pilot locked and loaded, I continued toward my target. The next thing I knew, SHE was sitting directly in front of me.
“Hi Jeffrey,” Corrine nonchalantly glanced up, one hand shading cornflower blue eyes, the sun haloing her curly blonde hair and mouthwatering body. Corrine had been a gymnast—until hitting puberty. In a single school year, her petite figure had hour-glassed into ample hips and round pert breasts that beckoned to leap from their overmatched bikini nets and go frolicking in the sun. But it was her face that drew the air out of my lungs. A face I swore destined for Hollywood. Paris. Milan. The next new star to grace the red carpet at Cannes. Corrine had that kind of pedigreed promise. I had seen plenty of beauties in magazines, but none of them prepared me for live Corrine, close up. Pictures do not capture all the nuances of a woman’s smile: the brightening of her eyes, the sublime turn of her lips, the intermittent tummy twitch. Nor do pictures show a shoestring bikini expanding and contracting like a living vine around a ravishing young body.
“Hi Corrine!” I said, my voice sounding as if I’d been hitting on helium.
“Why don’t you sit, Jeffrey?” She scooted to one side of her towel, trying to tug a tiny bikini triangle over a pink edge of an areola. While Corrine tried to resituate herself in a bikini that she had clearly outgrown, I nearly threw a cerebral clot, having never witnessed anything as sublimely erotic.
Corrine in her bikini had rendered me deaf and dumb—but not blind! And when she patted the part of the towel where I was supposed to sit down, the thumping in my ears pounded louder than an artillery bombardment. After the shelling stopped, her glistening red fingernails lingered on Peter Frampton’s crotch like five ruby red droplets. All this while a nearby radio played Frampton’s latest song:
Oh, won’t you show me the way!
Landing on Corrine’s towel was like falling from a mountain. It took an eternity to hit the ground. Yet despite her towel being laid flat on cement, it felt as warm and soft as a pillow. Corrine’s towel even succored my bony legs. I kept my T-shirt on to cover my pigeon chest, but pressed palms to the ground to push my arm muscles out. Once I resumed breathing, I smelled baby oil. Corrine’s immaculate skin glistened with it. From the high undular mounds of her wondrous breasts, all the way down the lean continuum of her stomach; how I longed to dive headfirst down that pleasure-greased Slip ‘N Slide. How I envied that silver bead of perspiration that slowly meandered its way down her exquisitely scooped abdomen as it eased its way into the wink of her belly button. Her gymnast thighs were slightly bent and ashine with oil, which accentuated her upthrust triads of quad muscles. All this, while two equally well-lubricated and spry adductors toyed with their capitulating bikini elastic, creating shimmering fissures leading toward her most coveted riches. Now, whenever I smell baby oil, I think of Corrine and that fecund summer. That day I went into sensory overload: the of sight Corrine, the smell of baby oil, the brush of her towel had turned this little pipsqueak into freeform Jell-O quivering in the sun. I had just seen the movie The Blob, but it was not as scary or as intimidating as being in the presence of Corrine Lindeman. She was barely five-feet-tall, yet sitting close to her was more frightening than being thrown into a roiling abyss. I felt like a cowering male praying mantis about to be devoured by his first date. A pathetic discredit to my gender. Especially when Reynolds strutted by with his shirt off. That dude was jacked! And when he smiled at Corrine, she smiled back.
“So, how’s your summer been, Jeffrey?” Corrine asked.
“Fine.” I gulped. “Yours?”
“Kinda boring…so far.” She smiled.
That look. That smile! It made me feel like a baby bluegill going belly up in a kiddie pool. Eyes blurry from chlorine and sun, I had been floundering around until BAM—Corrine set the hook! Which, of course, I swallowed. Corrine knew exactly what she was doing. And I did not. I believed her summer, her life, to be infinitely more exciting than mine. So, for her to say that her summer’s been, “Kinda boring…so far,” followed by that smile, thrummed in my brain, like John Entwistle playing bass in 5:15.
I was supposed to go to hockey camp the following week. My dad had already paid the deposit. But I could not risk leaving Corrine with Reynolds for an entire week. So, the hell with hockey camp!Though I would have to pay my dad back. And I’d have to tell Rick. As well as the rest of my team. Not to mention, my coach had just demoted me to second line for “playing with my head up my ass.” But I was not telling anyone the reason I was so distracted, or why I was bailing on camp. Though once I was spotted with Corrine Lindeman, everyone would know.
Ya hear Corrine has Jeffrey pussy-whipped now?
I considered all this and much more. But being with Corrine made everything else seem tertiary. I was already planning our summer—our life—together!
“The Malvern Fair starts tonight,” she said. “You going?”
“Yeah, Rick and I are going.” I lied. I wasn’t a big fair guy. Not since the time I puked on The Zipper.
“How are you getting there?” she asked.
“Probably my mom.” I felt my face redden.
“Your mom?” Corrine laughed. “Why don’t you go with Jill and me? Her sister’s driving.”
It was to be our first date. My first date ever.
Corrine and I held hands at the fair. But my palm kept getting sweaty, so I had to let go. I did not want Corrine thinking my hand, or any other part of me, was gross. I tried making amends by winning her a stuffed animal. And after playing every sleazy steal-your-money game on the midway, I managed to make two-out-of-three basketball throws. But we had to choose our prize from the bottom row. I would not have given any of those stuffed animals to my dog, but Corrine was a good sport about it and chose a lame-looking lamb with a black felt nose. She carried our embarrassment of an animal in the palm of one hand, while I carried her miniature fishbowl with two hands. Careful not to spill! Corrine was very proud of the one-eyed fish she had won—even though everyone wins a fish in the ping-pong ball throw. Heck, I won one back when I was ten. And my fish had both of its eyes. I felt bad for my fish living in such a tiny bowl. So, with a half-year’s allowance I bought it a full aquarium. It died the next day though because I did not let the water sit long enough. I intentionally missed the bowls when Corrine gave me her last ping pong ball to toss.
After the midway, Corrine ordered two pink cotton candies. I paid for both, which was not a problem because I cut lawns during the summer. My problem was having to eat one of those nasty maraschino spider-spit froths. Goddamn yuck! Next, she wanted to ride the Tilt-A-Whirl. While Corrine screamed in delight the entire ride, I spent the last half of that spinning nightmare swallowing cherry flavored bile and clamping down on the inverted volcano burbling in my lower GI. As I limped off that God-forsaken, good-for-nothing (except to make you sick as a dog) ride, Corrine made a beeline for The Zipper. My thundering digestive tract and I followed. I was just learning the physical toll of love.
“What’s the matter?” Corrine waited for me to catch up. “You look pale.”
“I’m fine.” I gasped, swallowing another feedback of cherry sizzle.
“Afraid of The Zipper?” She shoved my arm.
“Nah,” I replied, feeling my stomach lurch, which I feared left a skid mark. The sky turned silver when we passed under the shadow of The Zipper. The Tilt-A-Whirl had left me feeling wan and ill, but The Zipper would surely do me in. It wasn’t a matter if I’d get sick, it was a matter of when, from which end, and whether or not it would be projectile. Corrine continued to lead the way with her winning smile and best-in-show figure. The poor teenage beauty queen had no idea that she was about to be locked in a gyrating chum cage with a despicably ill creature from the black lagoon who was about to blow mud and pond water from every orifice. I gazed mortified one last time at Corrine’s pristine white shorts and lily-white halter as we moved to the front of that serpentine line. My entire body shuddered while not so boldly facing what was about to be my crowd-spraying, Hindenburgian demise.
Oh, the humanity!
“Eight tickets each,” the dude manning The Zipper announced. He was the first guy I had ever seen with more tattoos than teeth. But he ran the best ride at the fair. Most rides were only four tickets, yet they all paled in comparison to the Zipper. No other ride had a mop and bucket waiting at the exit.
I handed the guy the rest of my ticket roll, which I was too light-headed to count out but knew by subtraction to be exactly sixteen.
“You only got fifteen!” he challenged with a four-toothed shit-eating grin.
“There’s sixteen,” I said, still seeing only in gray and silver. My forehead was percolating sweat.
“You sayin’ I can’t count?” He stuck out a skinny chest covered in tattoos and a dirty wife beater shirt.
“Just let us on the ride, man!” I was in no mood for an argument. I just wanted to put an end to my portending ruin.
“Girl can go.” The dude stared down Corrine’s arresting halter. “But you need to buy another ticket!” He pointed me to the ticket stand, and then he tried to put his arm around Corrine. “C’mon, honey, I’ll get you strapped into a car and ride with you myself.” But Corrine ducked the guy’s arm and ran from him as if he were Satan himself.
“Let’s go, Jeffrey! That guy’s freaking me out.” Corrine grabbed my hand and together we hurried out to the parking lot. I had just lost sixteen tickets but evaded utter shame and degradation beyond imagination; I also gained fifteen life-changing minutes with Corrine Lindeman on the hood of Jill’s sister’s Dodge Dart. I held Corrine in my arms, but I did not dare kiss her given the cherry bomb sizzling in the back of my mouth. I still felt as though I were on that infernal Tilt-A-Whirl. Whoever invented that hell-on-earth ride needed to be thrown in jail. One that never stops spinning! My head continued to spin long after Jill, her sister and Rick arrived. Jill was carrying Corrine’s fishbowl. Rick had my lamb stuffed in his back pocket. He chucked it to me. And when I caught it, it was missing its felt nose.
Jeff Hennelly has provided medical care and medical devices from Philadelphia to Prague. He has written three novels and published articles and short stories in medical journals and literary magazines. He has 3 children and 1 cockapoo in training for under 30-pound frisbee competitions. Early One Summer is based on true events multiplied with time.