Afternoon by Lake Milton


With twice as many people here as on the Florida beach where we stayed, we flanked ourselves with color, arranging our towels and chairs on the sand beside a zipper-edged sleeping bag printed to look like a double pack of Crayola crayons. the dark green letters on gold with brightly colored crayon tips flanking the top third of the material.

On our other side, a towel divided by wide strips of deep blue, aqua and white with thinner stripes of orange caught my eye as its owner shook sand from it and patted off the beads of water that covered him. Scents of various sun lotions joined the stronger odor of lighter fluid to pervade the lakeside air.

A pleasant female voice crackled louder than life over an amplifying system announcing swimming rules (at your own risk) for the Lake Milton public beach.

Headphones plugged to my little CD player, I started the Raising Helen soundtrack. I recognized few artists in its list of tracks, but since Jo just saw the movie I was thinking of her when I checked it out of the library. Turned out, I had heard the first song before, just discovering that it’s called Whip It by the group, Devo. The girls and I now think of it as the background music for a Swiffer commercial that Jo wishes she’d been in, portraying the wonder of modern housekeeping – a blonde girl who swishes around her rooms using this latest cleaning tool and keeping time to Devo’s distinctive beat.

Flipping over at intervals on my cot-like recliner, I tried to even up the patchy pink color I acquired in Florida. I kept my khaki-colored ball-type cap pulled over my eyes to keep my nose from burning and wondered where I’d left my glasses with the magnetic clip-on sunshades. I’m always mindlessly laying them down and asking later if anyone has seen them.

In the brown sand, crystal clear specks glittered around scattered lucky stones, twigs and (unfortunately) cigarette butts. The activity from the many sized and shaped people mixed with motion from white water birds in a blur against a clear blue puff-clouded sky from under my hat brim, their noises muffled by the beat from my headphones.

A pleasant surprise highlighted the midst of the soundtrack. My ears greeted the tune as the sound of a familiar “old friend” that I’d nearly forgotten, Simon and Garfunkel’s At the Zoo. Where “orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cages and the zookeeper is very fond of rum;” I wouldn’t have minded raising a glass with the zookeeper as I lay in the afternoon heat. A coincidence, we had just talked of visiting the Cleveland Zoo before the summer is over.

A shiny red watercraft cut a white line of foam through the water as it buzzed well beyond the swimmers.      

A long-haired dachshund, which we’d seen earlier, confined on the front seat of a pickup cab, now enjoyed sniffing the base of one of the few trees that shaded the sandy beach.

An aromatic cigar, which normally might have annoyed me, blended in acceptably with this outside scene. I thought of my grandpa whose portable television radiated stale cigar stench for months after we inherited it.

A lively, blond cherub in red swim trunks took in the same beach scene that I studied. I wondered how differently he saw it through his young, curious eyes – the colors, the shapes, the sounds. Though his was likely a different impression than mine, we both took home a fond memory of a fun afternoon.


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