Fiction: The Pond
By Corey Villas
As the sun began to top the trees, you could tell today would be another scorcher. One of the hottest days of the summer so far from the feel of it. Even back in the woods, shaded where we were, I had already started sweating like hell through my shirt. Travis and I walked with our fishing rods out in front of us to knock down any spider webs we might come across. The brush was thick, fallen trees everywhere, a half-ass path worn through it all on the count of us having walked to the pond just about every day since the start of summer, only about a half-mile through the woods from where we lived off of Old Pine Road. Travis, like every day, led the way, me following a little ways behind.
“Get that fat ass moving, Nate,” he hollered back at me.
“Sorry I ain’t as fast as you, ya skinny little shit,” I hurled back.
Like most 16 year old boys, these were the types of pleasantries we often exchanged.
Travis was tall and lean, some might even say scrawny. He had these big ears that shot out from the sides of his head like a monkey. His hair was black and his skin was tan, his family having Cherokee blood somewhere back down the line. Ever since his Daddy passed a few years back, Travis had become more fearless in the things he did, but really it was more reckless than anything. A real “fuck it” type of attitude towards just about anything and everything. For the most part, I went along with it when he tried to act tough, letting him feel that pride that’d swell up in him when he did something ballsy. He needed that.
“Think we’ll get to see her today?” Travis asked, stepping over a rotted oak log.
“Means we’d have to run into that prick, too,”
Whipping his head around, “Shit, a run in with him is worth getting to see her,” Travis snapped back. He made a good point.
As we reached the pond, we set up at one of our usual spots, in the far corner where a row of longleaf pines started along the worn out path that went all the way around the water. Pinecones and pine needles covered the ground, fluffy white clouds rolled through the sky, a slight breeze swirled the hot, humid air around us. We both went through our normal start, each of us familiar with the other’s routine, him starting with a flashy, chartreuse yellow rooster tail to “get ‘em stirring” right out the gate as he said it, me going with a more subtle, plain brown grub. Guess you could say it fit our personalities about right.
“Want a dip?” Travis asked, putting in a pinch of peach Skoal. He knew I’d say no, like every time, but it never stopped him from offering.
“Nah, I’m good.”
“One of these days, you’re gonna shock the hell outta me and take one.” I didn’t respond, just grinned and shook my head, casting my grub up near some lily pads. The peach scent passed by my nose in the breeze.
The pond belonged to a man named James Stegall, but most people just called him Mr. Jimmy. As long as I can remember, even as a boy, Mr. Jimmy had always worn old blue coveralls, a faded Atlanta Braves hat that became more faded as the years went by, and had tobacco stains in the creases of his mouth. He was what they called “old country.” His land had been in his family forever, a small, rundown white house not too far off from the pond. He had given us permission to fish the pond as much as we’d like on three conditions: no littering, no drinking alcohol, and no fishing on Sundays. His rules were easy enough to follow, especially when it meant we had a place to fish as much as we wanted. Even a careless peckerhead like Travis could follow those rules if it meant fishing.
About an hour had passed, the sun rising higher in the sky, the heat stronger than the day before. I had only caught one fish, a small bass, to Travis’ two bass and a bluegill. I was changing out my grub for a rooster tail like his when I heard laughing from the far side of the water. Looking up, I could see them walking through the knee high grass along the path.
“Aw hell,” I muttered.
“Aw hell is right!” Travis exclaimed, his face lighting up, straightening his hat, spitting out his dip and breathing into his hand and sniffing it to check his breath, only smelling peach. He quickly brushed the crumbs off his shirt from the tomato and mayo sandwich he scarfed down a bit earlier.
“Look at these two Nancy-boys!” he shouted as they rounded the corner near us, finally noticing we were there.
“Hey Stoney,” we both said in unison.
Stoney Stegall was Mr. Jimmy’s oldest son, early or mid 20’s or there about, who still lived in the rundown white house with his old man. His real name was James, named after his Daddy, or at least I think I had heard that once somewhere. Truth is everyone called him Stoney, everyone except Mr. Jimmy. Where that name started beats the hell out of me. I had always wondered on it, figured maybe it was from all the weed he smoked, or maybe because he was dumb as a damn rock. Either fit the bill. If Mr. Jimmy was what you would call “good people,” Stoney was the opposite. He was always having run-ins with the law, petty theft here or caught holding drugs there. There was a rumor that he had once broken into a house in the next county over, only to find out it was the newly-elected sheriff’s place. Lucky for him, the sheriff wasn’t home and there was no way to prove Stoney did anything. His only saving graces in this world were that everyone respected his Daddy, and that he was handsome as hell, at least according to the ladies. He had auburn hair that parted on the side, broad shoulders, thick arms, and crystal blue eyes that made the girls in town so wet they had to change the panties every time he came around, or so legend had it. I guess that’s the only way he ever landed a girl like Lexie.
Lexie was everything that hormone-crazed boys like us could only ever dream of. Every boy in the area, and man for that matter, knew who she was. Just saying her name out loud would send goosebumps up and down your back. Big natural rack, curves in all the right places, toned thick legs, and an ass that you wanted to use as a pillow. She had moved to our area a few years back, no one was really sure from where or why. The mystery only added to the legend, like an angel appeared straight from heaven one day for no rhyme or reason at all.
Like most days, she was wearing a white tank top and cut-off jean shorts, what people called Daisy Dukes for some reason, I don’t know why. But if this Daisy chick wore shorts like these, then I’d probably like her too. We could see Lexie’s black bra through her shirt, and I couldn’t help but think how hard that bra was working right then and there holding all of her in.
Her sandy blond hair fluttered in the breeze, her emerald eyes as mesmerizing as ever.
“Don’t you dipshits have anything better to do than come here every damned day?” Stoney asked, throwing rocks into the water in front of us, scaring the fish off just to be a dick.
“Not really, no,” I answered. Travis kept quiet. He despised Stoney, more than most. He’d never confront him for sake of the pond, and to avoid getting his ass kicked. But there ain't nothing in the world Travis would’ve rather done than call Stoney a dumb sonofabitch to his face. Travis always said he hated him so much because he got to play with those big ol’ titties on Lexie, but deep down I think it had more to do with a moron like Stoney getting a Daddy like Mr. Jimmy and Travis having no one.
“Why ain’t y’all out chasing girls instead of fish? What are y’all gay or something? Shit, when I was y’alls age I was regular poon hound, chasing girls all over the goddamned place, had to beat ‘em off with a stick to keep ‘em away,” Stoney said, laughing at his own story. He loved making jokes about us being queer or gay or whatever creative name he came up with that day. Really it was about all the moron could come up with.
“Guess we just ain’t the stud you are, Stoney,” Travis said quickly through clenched teeth, refusing to make eye contact with him.
“That’s right, and don’t you fucking forget it,” unknowingly flexing his arms in his sleeveless black t-shirt.
“Oh you’re so bad, you leave them be!” Lexie told Stoney, slapping him on the arm playfully.
“Boy I tell ya, when my old man finally croaks one day and this land and pond are mine, I’m damn sure not letting you or anyone else come here, I guarantee ya that,” Stoney proclaimed.
“Croaks? Is Mr. Jimmy sick or something?” I asked concerned.
“No,” Stoney asked, almost more of a question than an answer, confused about why I’d ask that. He made the stupidest damned face when he was puzzled, like he smelled a fart. Lexie could tell Stoney didn’t get it, and knew how angry he got whenever someone embarrassed him or made him feel dumb.
“Let’s let them fish, baby. Besides, you promised to take me into town for lunch later, and I need to wash up,” she told Stoney. They walked back towards the house, from the way they had come, Stoney grabbing at Lexie’s ass, her laughing and swatting his hand away.
“Did you see her?!” Travis said finally once Stony and Lexie were out of ear shot.
“Sure as hell did. How is someone that looks like that even real?”
“And that prick gets her to himself… it ain’t right I tell ya. Shit ain’t right at all, Nate.” He kept staring off, like he could somehow still see her.
I let out a sigh. “Whatta ya gonna do, I guess, right? You want to move to the other corner? Doubt there’s anything left here now,” I ask looking at the water. Travis didn’t respond, still staring in the distance.
“I’ll show you what we’re gonna do, because I can’t take it no more. Come on.” He propped his fishing rod against a tree and took off down the path before I could get a word in, the same way Stoney and Lexie had gone. I leaned my rod against the same tree then took off after him.
“Travis… Travis, man, where the hell we going?”
“You’ll see… just keep your voice down.”
I followed him, figuring out on the that we were heading to Mr. Jimmy’s house. I grabbed Travis by the shoulder and jerked him around, the first time I’ve ever done anything like that.
“He’ll kick our asses if he catches us sneaking around his property. That what you want?”
“Nate, would you just trust me? For once, just stop being such a pussy and trust me, man.”
“I ain’t a pussy!” I pushed him in the chest, Travis snapping backwards.
“Then fucking prove it.” Travis smiles, a real smile, like he was happy to see the fight in me. It was at that moment when I saw myself the way Travis did, the way most others probably did. Travis had called me a pussy before, called me a hundred other things before that too. But for some reason, it never bothered me until right then.
I didn’t say another word as we kept down the path until we reached the edge of the back yard. The house looked in even worse shape up close, a few sideboards hanging loose, a hole in one of the windows, once-black shutters worn by weather and time. A dead patch of nothing but dirt was right off the back steps, looked like they probably pissed there a bunch. A pile of bones, some kind of small game, was rotting beside it.
“Let’s go this way,” Travis said in a low voice, waving with his head, sneaking around to the side of the house.
“Where? For what?”
Travis looked over the house, studying it like he had x-ray vision, then turned to me. “We’re gonna try to find Lexie getting out of that shower.”
A lump started building in my throat. I began to speak up, but I remembered… don’t be a pussy. Plus, who didn’t want to see her getting out of the shower? I gave Travis a nod, my chest tightening as I followed, my heart pounding. We crouched as we made our way up below the window. I looked out to the front yard to make sure no one was coming. I realized I had never seen the front yard before, only the back of the house from the pond. Old rusty cars were in a line out front, probably eight or ten or so, weeds and vines growing all over them. There are all sorts of old tools and rusted car parts scattered all over the place, even an old toilet sitting in the grass looking like someone placed it there, almost like it was waiting for someone to come shit in it. I saw Stony’s Lincoln in the gravel driveway.
Travis began to rise up slowly, looking into the window, slowly peeling back the flaps of broken screen. He tapped me on the arm, wanting me to do the same, letting me know the coast was clear. I peered inside, and it was obvious we were looking into Stoney’s room. A Pearl Jam poster hung on the wall over an old stereo. A half-empty bottle of Evan Williams and an ashtray sat on the nightstand, a dirty bong standing beside them. A big mess of bedsheets and dirty laundry covered the floor from wall to wall. How does a woman like Lexie spend her time in a shit hole like this? I thought to myself.
Just then, the bedroom door opened and Lexie walked in, wearing nothing but a towel around her body. Her hair was still wet from her shower.
“Holy shit,” Travis said in the slowest whisper I’d ever heard. But me, I was too stunned to talk, not even sure if Travis had actually spoken or not. My nerves were humming, my stomach rolling over.
Lexie stood there in her towel, and dried her face with the edge of it. She looked at herself in a small handheld mirror like she was about to put on some makeup, her back towards the window.
Suddenly, Lexie closed the mirror and tossed it on a tall dresser. She walked to the door, poked her head out for a moment, “I’m out of the shower, babe, be ready to go in a few,” she hollered, then closed and locked the door. Lexie slowly walked to the bed, dropping her towel to the floor on the way, her naked curves swaying slowly back and forth. My brain could barely believe what my eyes were seeing.
She laid down on the bed and wiggled her back to her liking, pulling the stained comforter up to her waist, her bare chest still out. She licked her fingertips on one hand, then slid her hand down her stomach, below the comforter, in between her legs. In that moment, it was as if the world stopped turning, if time actually stood still. It felt like what I’ve heard people call an out of body experience, like you’re in a dream or something. I got lightheaded watching in stunned silence, feeling like I was floating off the ground. Travis must have felt the same way, because he didn’t say a word either. Hell, he could’ve not even been there in that moment and I wouldn’t have had a clue.
Lexie’s hand began to move more and more. Her body moved as her hand did, her back arching, sometimes lifting off the bed. Her tits rocked back and forth as she moved, squishing together between her arms. Her eyes closed, her head rolled back. Her hand kept on going between her legs, bouncing around like she was playing a piano. Quickly, she pulled the corner of the pillow to her mouth and clamped down on it, a muffled scream of pleasure, and her body tensed up then sank hard into the mattress. Pulling her hand from her legs, she laid for a moment, enjoying the feeling that had come over her, smiling mischievously, biting her bottom lip.
After a bit, Lexie stood and tossed some clothes from the floor to the bed. She grabbed a black bra and began to put it on, a hell of a sight itself, trying to corral herself into it. As I kept staring through the window in a trance, I felt Travis tugging on the back of my shirt. Snapping me back into reality, I finally heard him loudly whisper, “Nate, let’s go, damnit!”
When we returned to our corner of the pond, neither of us said a word. You’d think two sixteen year old boys wouldn’t be able to stop talking about what they had just seen, but it was the opposite. As if there were no words that could be spoken to describe it, almost a sin to even try. I picked up my fishing rod from against the tree, but had no interest in fishing.
“I think I’m gonna head on home. Meet up same time tomorrow morning?”
“Yeah,” Travis answered, staring at the water, wide-eyed and grinning, like his face was stuck that way. “You go on ahead, I’ll leave in a few.” As I made my way for the opening of our trail through the woods, I looked back to make sure Travis was okay. He was still standing in the same spot, hadn’t moved an inch.
On my walk home through the woods, I felt something I had never felt before, and couldn’t put my finger on it. It wasn’t that I felt older, that stupid kind of shit you’re supposed to feel on your birthday. It wasn’t more mature, either. But something filled me that I couldn’t explain. For the first time ever, I didn’t feel like the quiet, chubby kid. I felt like a man. Was it what I had seen Lexie do? Was it finally not being a pussy and doing something dangerous? Was it that I’d secretly always have one-up on that sonofabitch Stoney and he’d never know it? Or was it that I let Travis have that moment alone at the pond that I knew he needed? I knew I’d never be able to tell, and didn’t care. What I did know was that I liked this feeling. I wasn’t a boy any more.
The next morning, like all other mornings so far that summer, Travis and I met up and made our way to the pond, and like most mornings we sat up shop in our corner. It was another hot one, the air already thick and humid. Neither of us said a word about what we had seen, and knew we didn’t need to. We both could feel something between us. A sense of something big that had happened, a sense of triumph, a sense of manhood.
“Want a dip?” Travis asked, holding out an open can of peach Skoal.
“Sure, thanks,” I said, taking a pinch and packing it between my gum and bottom lip. Travis couldn’t help but grin.
After a bit of fishing, and Travis catching a bass and a crappie to my two bass and a little pumpkinseed, we saw Stoney and Lexie taking a walk around the pond. They eventually got to our corner, Stoney letting out a loud, unsurprising “hey, who let these two homos out here?”
“Morning, Stoney,” Travis said in a cheerful way, looking him dead in the eye.
“Morning, Stoney,” Stoney mocked. “Man, different day, but same ol’ shit, here y’all are again. Y’all can’t find nowhere else to go, nothing else to do? Y’all must be some kinda queers or something. Is that it?” As always, Stoney laughed at his own hilarious shit talk and looked at Lexie for some kind of praise or recognition.
“You leave these boys alone, they ain’t queer,” Lexie said, taking Stoney by the arm and walking him away.
“How do you know they ain’t?” That same dumb puzzled look on his face as yesterday.
“Oh, just a hunch...”
She looked over her shoulder back at us as she walked away in her cut-off shorts, biting her lip, that same mischievous smile, and winked.
Corey Villas, born and raised in North Carolina, is a graduate of Auburn University. In addition to A Thin Slice of Anxiety, his fiction is scheduled to appear in 2024 in Close to the Bone, Books ‘N Pieces Magazine, and The Piker Press.