The Eternal Red Summer

by Aaron Powell

Vera KratochvilThe warm summer air is heavy with the sweet smell of suntan lotion. I breathe in, studying her oily body—the way her tanned flesh glimmers in the sunlight—as I gently slip into the swimming pool.

I slowly open my eyes.

The chlorine burns and blurs my vision, but the sensation quickly subsides as I move carefully toward the deep end where she is floating on an inner tube, oblivious to my presence. Pockets of shadows dance beneath the water; I hear a clicking sound that I can’t identify—so surreal.

I bend and spring forward, twisting my body as I move across the pool to her. Facing upward, I move underneath the black tube. Her left hand is dangling over the side, her fingers resting in the water. Her shapely bottom is visible through the center of the tube and she adjusts herself, dipping her rear into the water. I study the tiny air bubbles that move over her skin. I imagine how wonderful it will be to hold her again—the way the warmth of her body will contrast with the cool water as we embrace—and I’m finally able to gaze into her big, blue eyes. Oh, how I’ve longed for her.

Fourteen months is a long deployment.

I pass beneath her, hungrily sweeping my eyes down her golden-brown calves and over her adorable little toes. She’s wearing a red ring on her right pinkie toe that I bought for her last Valentine’s Day. I can’t wait to taste her lips.

I’m nearly out of breath.

I sweep my arms upward, forcing myself down in the water to take one last look at my summer nymph before I surface and surprise her. I consider grabbing her ankle or touching her hand but before I’m able to decide, a large shadow moves against the far wall of the pool, startling me a little. She speaks, and then I hear a different voice—a man’s voice.

My lungs are beginning hurt; tiny black specks are jumping around my field of vision.

There’s a muffled splash. Muscular, hairy legs—a man’s legs—enter the water. The inner tube above me tips, and she splashes into the water. I watch in horror as they move together and embrace, unaware of my presence. His hands move over her body, tainting what’s mine, and they submerge together as one. And as I watch them kiss, I feel myself drifting away; shadows begin to consume me.

“Bonilla! Bonilla, wake the fuck up!”

Piercing white light overwhelms me when I attempt to open my eyes. I try to mumble something. “What…what is this?”

“Bonilla! Come to, dog. We’re hit! We’re in the water. Where’s your weapon?”

There’s noise all around. “What—”

“Grab your weapon! We are taking fire!”

As I begin to regain my bearings, I realize what’s happening. Our Humvee is in the river, and we’re taking on water. The booming sound of mortar fire is everywhere. AK rounds are peppering the top of the vehicle. I feel my rifle by my feet and kick it into my hands. My driver is frantically working to remove the radio from the dashboard.

“Dog,” he says. “You good or what? We’re in the shit!”

“Yeah,” I manage. “What happened?”

“A mortar round landed right in front of us, nearly smoked us! I drove off the berm into the river to avoid it. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But don’t worry, artillery rounds on the way—danger close!”

“You wouldn’t believe this dream I was having,” I tell him. An RPG round hits the river bank just beside us, blasting sand onto the Humvee.

“Yeah? Were you back home playin’ with some titties?” My driver finally detaches the radio from the dash. “I hope you weren’t dreaming about this shithole. I hate dreams like that.”

“Nah,” I answer. “I was back home visiting my girl, but I surprised her and some guy showed up.”


“Yeah. It was trippy, though. I was in a pool, and I dreamed I was drowning. It was so…real.”

My driver shakes his head. “You were drowning, dog. I had to revive you and shit. The concussion must have winded you before we went over the berm.”

“Yeah, I guess that explains the water.” I consider this for a moment, wondering if we should attempt to abandon the Humvee. We seem to be resting on the bottom. “Wait a minute, did you put your dirty mouth on mine?”

He’s shaking his head, grinning.

“I thought I tasted hot garbage,” I say. He starts to say something but I stop him. “Don’t. I don’t wanna know.”

His grin says it all.

There’s a distant hissing sound. It grows louder, pssst, followed by a series of jarring explosions. My driver curls into a ball on his seat, trying to keep the radio above the water. Another artillery round hits, this one strikes the water approximately ten meters in front of the Humvee. The concussion makes my teeth hurt, and water sprays into the sky before raining down upon us. I manage to work my hand into my trousers and find a letter—the final one she sent me—and remove it. It’s completely soaked. There’s a dead fish on the hood of the Humvee, it’s caught on the windshield wiper. I hold the letter out through the door, picturing her floating on the inner tube again, and then drop the letter into the river. I watch as the letter drifts away with the current, then sinks beneath the surface. Like her, the last letter—her betraying words—are gone forever.

The incoming artillery fire has ceased; the summer day completely silent—eternal. No matter how bad it gets, it always passes. Things always settle down again.

The fish wiggles back to life. My driver sees it and smiles, then turns the wipers on. The fish slides down the hood and into the water.

Category: SNHU Creative Writing, SNHU online creative writing, SNHU Student