Friday, October 3, 2014

Summer People



Some of them have been coming up here for generations and spending their summers in the old camps that are strung around Caspian Lake.  The summer people used to roll in around Memorial Day and leave by Labor Day, but that's not so common anymore.  People are busier now and tend to come in for a couple of weeks, maybe a month, then rent the place out the rest of the time.  But the curious thing is, even though they are renters, even if they've never been to Caspian before, they still look like summer people.
We don't live in the posh part of Vermont.  We still have lots of working farms, lots of logging and a fair amount of poverty.  Don't think it isn't stunningly beautiful because it certainly is, but most of us don't look like we just stepped out of an LL Bean catalog, even when we try.
When I go into Willy's, the store on the shores of the lake, where they stock the better wine and cheese in the summer, it's because I've just come from my morning hike.  My pants are torn, I'm covered with dog hair and I haven't showered yet.  I know all the clerks and usually chat with Millie, my all-time favorite clerk.  No one could possibly mistake me for a summer person and that's not too surprising.

The following excerpt, set in the 1950's is from my novel, The Luck of Opposites.

At first glance the kids just seemed like kids, but half of them wore braces on their teeth because it was important for summer kids to have perfect teeth and by the time they were teenagers, all the girls were beautiful with perfect teeth.  The boys all had strong brown legs and clear skin.  Every last one of them, except for a couple of them, but anybody could see that those kids were just a little bit slow in developing and next year they would be perfect too.

The girls would walk around in old cut-off jeans and torn t-shirts and still look so beautiful with their perfect teeth and shining hair.  Sometimes they’d come into the store wearing a bathing suit and a towel like it was normal and it must have been because nobody stared or anything.  Those girls walked straight and smooth with their shoulders back and always looked like they knew exactly where they were and why.  Confidence, she supposed, but more than that.  They didn’t just think they were better, Jinx knew; they really and truly were better.  She could see why her mother had danced with them and been a summer girl, if only for a little while.  Her mother, her beautiful mother probably pulled it off, fooled a few people who didn’t know better, but she knew she never could even if she did color her hair and get curves.

Jinx looked down at her own clothes, a cotton blouse and last year’s jeans that she’d cut off because they were too short, but they were still too tight in the seat and pulled up right into her crack and her grandmother had insisted on hemming them so they didn’t even look a thing like the cut-offs that the summer kids wore.  She touched her hair and knew it wasn’t as shiny, it couldn’t be, not with the horrible shampoo that her grandmother made that was supposed to be as good as store bought, but wasn’t.  She’d tried to get her to buy Breck, but that hadn’t happened, just like Dove soap hadn’t happened because there was nothing wrong with the soap her grandmother had always made. 

One of the Mernard boys walked in and ignored her because all boys ignored her except Sam and even he would ignore her if other boys were around.  The Mernard boy walked right past her and she caught the smell of cow on him, strong in the humid air of the store.  Nothing strange about that because anybody who kept cows smelled like them, but nobody else inside of Walters smelled of cow.  They smelled like the sun or water, maybe clean clothes or sweat on clean clothes, but they didn’t smell of cow and the barnyard.  She wondered if she smelled of cow, just because everybody else did who lived up here year round.  Maybe because the smell was in the air it was on her too.  Maybe it was inside of her and if she sweated just a little she’d smell as bad as the Menard boy and everyone in Walters Store would know exactly where the smell was coming from.  She did her best not to sweat as she walked out the door.