Young Only Once by Lee DeBourg
Learning how to downhill ski was on Hank Lawson’s to-do list.
The opportunity to work as a bartender at a ski resort was the ticket.
The girlfriend held a differing view, given Snow Mountain’s reputation among the singles crowd.
What could be the conflict?
All Hank had to do was learn a new job, a new sport, and interact successfully with his new co-workers, fifteen college girls hired for the busy season in the lounge, the Snow Girls…
I sat patiently on the edge of the twin bed. It was almost dawn outside the large bedroom window. My gaze was on the tree line, a half mile away across an open field.
The side screens of the window allowed a slight, already warm breeze into the room. Music from early morning songbirds filtered through the haze of this late August day.
There was stirring in the bed behind me. She slid across the sheet and was now seated alongside me, her long black hair cushioning her head upon my shoulder. Michelle’s skin, soft yet firm, felt good. I turned my head slightly, breathing in deeply the essence that was Mikey.
“What are we doing?” she mumbled sleepily. “Taking in the greatest show on Earth.” The darkness had receded. The eastern sky was cloudless, brilliantly illuminated with red, orange, and pink. Sunbeams were poking above the tree line.
“Did we buy tickets for this?”
“None required for those with eyesight, who can see.” We continued our silent vigil, sunlight peeping between the distant trees. The new day was only moments away.
“What are we seeing, exactly?”
“A ritual older than life itself.”
“So this is what morning looks like.”
“At the beginning of a beautiful day.” Mother Nature had set the stage. We waited in anticipation for the performance to begin. After another thirty seconds, it did.
“The sun just rimmed the tree line. The earth just moved beneath our feet.” Mikey groaned and her head rolled off my shoulder. The bed moved beneath us as she undoubtedly sought out her pillow. I remained transfixed by the scene outside the window. Several deer entered the field, prancing and playing before continuing along their path.
“I can’t get back to sleep.”
“You’re welcome.” I turned slightly, taking in Michelle’s apartment bedroom, another twin bed, unpacked boxes scattered about, the faint odor of cleaning fluids indicating the expected arrival of tenants. Breathing in deeply I again sensed Mikey’s scent, something I had missed during the summers separation. I closed my eyes and drifted back to our unexpected meeting, almost five long months earlier.
I turned to look at Michelle. Her elbow was in her pillow, her hand supporting her head. She began a slow yawn so I admired the rest of her, the tan lines demonstrating a sharp contrast between her light olive hue and the dark bronze of a summer’s recreational effort. Her straight black hair framed beautiful facial features and as the yawn subsided it was replaced by a growing smile.
I gazed into her large brown eyes, fully awake.
She winked. “Just to say we’ve had the experience… would you like to celebrate the arrival of sunrise this morning?”
x x x
Ah, college daze, the start of my senior year at Collegeville, a Midwestern state university of about fifteen thousand students. About seventy percent of the student body came from the City, three hours distant. Two hours in the opposite direction was the start of Vacationland, a four-season tourist destination. Ours was viewed as a safe little academic enclave, free from physical danger and nasty radical ideas, which permeated more substantive Universities. The Collegeville public relations machine clamored incessantly about world-class opportunities and cutting-edge growth, but the truth was they had never strayed far from their original mandate of churning out schoolmarms and shopkeepers.
This was the mid-seventies with a rather brutish recession going on in the real world. Where better to be gainfully unemployed then pursuing a Bachelor’s degree? A recent cover story of a national news magazine proclaimed ours the age of the one nightstand. While this didn’t describe my behavior pattern, I had seen enough evidence to agree with the articles salient point. People were out of control. The result was exhilarating, so long as you didn’t personally become caught up within the frenzy. Responsibility and balance seemed the logical keys to making the most of this, my final year of school.
My academic career had been slightly different from most. I’ve always been slow. Given enough time and concerted effort I could usually catch on, but others were much quicker. My freshman year of college presented three problem areas, highlighting my relative slowness.
The first was dormitory assignment. I was arbitrarily placed into a new experimental concept, “co-educational housing.” As such I was one of four freshmen among five hundred upperclassmen, my three roommates all being seniors. I was normally introverted; my social and conversational skills just didn’t seem to develop well during the year.
The second problem was the Business Administration department. The courses were simple and I easily achieved A’s in most of the classes. However, the entire process smacked of remedial education. Halfway through winter semester I discovered the Business Department itself was on probation from the North American accrediting body.
Then there was the entire area of finance. My first year was paid one hundred percent by scholarship and grant monies, available for only one year. I went to the financial aid office where I was blithely informed that, like most of the other fifteen thousand students, I was expected to sign my name to a horrendous mountain of debt to complete a Bachelor’s degree. I was slow to understand this advice. In fact, I never accepted this sage wisdom from the learned university’s hallowed halls. I was so dense that I never comprehended why, after four years of concentrated effort, I could expect to receive both a sheepskin and account statement for many thousands due and payable.
The net result was that I dropped out of school following my freshman year. Due to initiative completely my own, within one week I was punching a time clock at the steel mill in Capitol City, forty miles from the farming community of Stony Point where I lived. During the next fifteen months I upgraded to a better quality used car, took a few junior college classes, lived in an apartment in Capitol City for a short time, and had a romantic relationship which didn’t end well.
When I returned to Collegeville after the one-year absence I had enough cash, well managed, to completely pay for three more years of college. Unfortunately, I had not factored in double digit inflation, with college costs rising far in excess of general inflation. Fortunately, I had been asked to return to the steel mill for two successive summers, so the original goal was still met.
These thoughts and others filtered through my mind as I walked from Mikey’s apartment toward my own. There were thirty buildings within the apartment complex, each with twelve units. Her building was the furthest back, overlooking a large field. Mine was across the parking lot, about centrally located.
School was to start on Monday and we had each arrived Thursday. During our telephone conversation a week earlier she had tactfully suggested that I not help her move in when her parents drove her up from the City. As the parents helped their daughter settle in for the start of her junior year they did not necessarily need to meet the guy who had begun sleeping with their daughter late the previous Spring.
The telephone conversation also contained a surprise. Michelle announced that she had gone on the pill. I understood both the practical and emotional implications of such an announcement, having heard a similar statement earlier in my life. That situation had not worked out. I could only hope that Mikey was…somehow different.
I approached my building and considered what the coming year held. Whereas Mikey’s roommates were all arriving today, Friday, my three roommates arrived the same time I did.
The Boys of Paradise were back in town. The four of us represented different sections of the state. We had summer jobs of construction, auto factory, steel mill, and park ranger. We had all been in a big hurry to return to Collegeville to begin our final year.
Paradise was our base of operations, the same apartment we had occupied the previous year. We lived the way young guys would choose to live with no mother figure to act aghast or totally horrified. Paradise was a state of mind. Our door was always open. We had quickly become the social center of our small building, people coming and going all the time, staying five minutes or three hours, whatever their agenda. It was not unusual to find a dozen people within the apartment at one time. It was not unusual for twenty or thirty people to stop in during any given evening.
I opened the external door to our building and entered. The previous afternoon the Boys of Paradise had held a brief board meeting. We had established a loosely defined goal for the year: we were going to get drunk. We were starting the latter part of August and hoped to sober up by graduation come May.
Let the memories develop and accrue.
Lee DeBourg is a humble scribe, having recently brought two novels to the Literary World. He does not think of himself as a writer: Writing is something he does at the margin.
Having grown up on a family farm in the Midwestern USA, he acquired a degree in Sociology, then worked a series of techie jobs. He considers himself 15% choirboy and 15% outlaw. The other 70% is that of a quiet, hard-working guy, responsible and dignified. He possesses a head full of useless information and storehouse of insights gained over a few decades.
Deciding to try his hand at creating fiction, he produced a debut entitled Concurrent Relationships. He had so much fun in so doing that he immediately launched into a second, more involved effort entitled Young, Only Once. Both works are now out in the literary world as of April 2014
Young Only Once Purchase Link: http://bit.ly/1imZrHo
Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_qT65sFd_Y
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