Volume 2, Number 3 -- March, 1997

The Raft

By Dave Lind

We never really got along, my brother and I, I'm not sure why. Perhaps it was because, as Monte always said, we each had different fathers, though personally I tend to doubt it. Of course, I tended to doubt just about everything Monte told me since, truth be told, just about everything older brothers tell younger brothers is either wildly inaccurate or a bald-faced lie.

Now I'll admit, when one looked at the two of us side-by-side there was little doubt that we sprung forth from different gene pools. Monte was big for his age. Much bigger than I, even allowing for the two-year age difference between us. I, on the other hand, was always the smallest boy in my class and thus, easy prey for bullies. Monte was forever rushing to my aide whenever the occasion arose, and it did, more often than I would have liked.

But, grateful as I was for the intervention, there were times that I would have rather absorbed the inevitable pounding than broil under Monte's disgusted scowl that conveyed more eloquently than any words how disappointed he was to have such a sissy for a younger brother.

Of course, our differences did not stop there. As I said before, he was big, while I was small. He had jet-black hair, while mine was curly blonde. He was a four-year letterman in high school, in three sports, while I read books and played in the band. He scored the winning touchdown in the homecoming game while I wrote about it for the school newspaper. He dated early and often, while I was a virgin until the doddering old age of nineteen. He partied with the "in-crowd" while I played Dungeons and Dragons with Fritz Galaban and Howie the Wedgehead.

In short, he was cool and I was not. And whether it was my efforts to "prove" myself to him or his efforts to disown me that caused our problems, the fact is that there was always a rift that existed between us. But it was a rift that, while ominous and imposing at times, we were occasionally able to span, if only for the briefest of moments.

The first such moment that I can remember came on a breezy spring day when I was ten. Monte had grudgingly taken to walking me home after school as a means of deterring would-be bullies. I, of course, offered no objections to this policy.

What I did object to was Monte's best friend in the world, Wayne Bozwell. Everyone called him Piglet, because he wasn't quite as fat as his older brother Darryl, whom everyone called (naturally) Pig. Piglet was loud, stupid, fat, and obnoxious. And he smelled bad. Of course, it goes without saying that he hated me. Probably because I was never hesitant to point out to him all of his many flaws. In detail.

Hey, I never said I didn't give the school bullies a good reason to beat the crap out of me.

Anyway, we were walking home from school, Monte, Piglet and I, when I noticed that we had veered off our routine path and were heading for the old Martin Pond.

"Where are we goin'?" I asked Monte, "This ain't the way home."

"Shuddup, Toad." barked Piglet. By the way, Toad was what Monte and all his friends called me. It was a reference to the color my face turned the time I talked Monte into letting me smoke cigarettes with him behind the garage.

But that's another story.

"But Monte," I pressed, "You remember Mom said..."

"What Mom doesn't find out," snarled Monte derisively, pausing in mid-stride, "won't hurt us, will it?" He then punctuated his words by thumping me on the bead with his knuckle.

"What a dweeb." snorted Piglet, "Why'd we bring him with us anyway?"

Before Monte could answer I chimed in, "So in case you trip and fall on Monte I can run for help.''

"Shuddup, you little insect!" roared Piglet as he lurched after me. I had been prepared, however, and easily avoided him. He lumbered after me for a few steps before stopping and, chest heaving, said, "Ahhh, yer lucky yer Monte's brother..."

"Half-brother-" corrected Monte.

"Or what?" I sneered, "You have to catch me to sit on me, Lardo!"

"That's enough!" interrupted Monte, glaring at me. "We don't have time for this crap. Let's go."

Piglet faked one more charge at me, then we resumed our trek. We walked on for a few more minutes before cresting a small hill and starting down toward the pond. As we neared the water I could see what we were heading for.

"Whoa, cool!" I exclaimed as we reached the water's edge and stood staring at a small, ramshackle little raft. I gazed appreciatively at it for a few moments before turning to Monte and asking in a near-hushed voice, "Did you build this?"

Monte fairly beamed with pride as he nodded his head. We stood in awe for a few more moments before I asked, "So what are you gonna do with it?"

"What do you think we're gonna do with it, stupid?" sneered Monte, "We're gonna ride on it."

"But I can't swim." I objected, "And neither can you."

"Big deal, ya little pansy." spat Piglet, "I can't swim either, that's what the raft is for".

"You don't have to know how to swim," I countered, "whales can float."

"Shuddup, you little maggot!" bellowed Piglet, "Or I'll take you out and drown you like your parents should have."

"At least I have parents." I shot back, "You were adopted from Marine World."

Piglet started to lurch toward me, but was cut off by Monte,

"Knock it off, already." he said, irritably, "Come on, gimme a hand with these. "

Monte reached down and grabbed one end of a long wooden pole. I couldn't tell exactly how long it was because the other end ran into the water and disappeared under the tiny raft. Piglet grabbed hold of a second pole and, at Monte's urging I grabbed a third and, one by one, each of us gingerly hopped on board the lurching, bobbing, makeshift raft.

"All right now," directed Monte, "Push off with your pole, like this." He then began demonstrating for me and the raft began to creep slowly away from the shore. I was surprised, and impressed, at how firm and confident his voice was while be was giving instructions. I listened closely and soon was pushing the tiny raft all around the pond while Monte and Piglet let their poles dangle in the water as they sat, backs to me, and lied to each other about girls.

Even though I knew I had been brought along primarily as slave labor, I was having a grand time. There would be hell to pay from Mom when we returned home late, but that wasn't all that unusual anyway. Besides, it was about as long as Monte and I had ever lasted together without him caving in to temptation and loading up my skull with noogies.

So I was really starting to relax and let my mind wander when my pole got stuck in the mud for an instant. I tugged at it. Then again, harder. that's all it took.

At first I didn't realize what I had done. I'm sure that, in reality, it only took a fraction of a second, but to my mind it was a long, slow, painful realization that I had bung onto the pole too long and the raft was drifting out from under me. I suddenly found myself hung out between an immobile pole and a drifting raft. T looked around frantically and saw that I was about twenty feet from shore. A cursory look down revealed nothing but a widening expanse of wat