Hot summer rain came down like the sky was sweating. I swear there hadn’t been a breeze for days.
“I don’t think I can stand another minute,” I groaned. “I’m going to melt into a puddle of goo.”
“Aw, Maddy,” said my best friend, Ardith, “you won’t be the only one.”
“They’ll have to mop us up tomorrow,” Georgina chuckled. “Just imagine the police report. Elderly ladies disappear, house flooded.”
It was, quite literally, too hot to laugh.
It was hotter that year than ever before. Although, I do believe we said that every year. The three of us, each with a fan in hand, had given up sleeping and gathered on the wide porch, hoping for a breath of wind. Everything you could see was indigo in the moonlight. I couldn’t even remember how many nights I’d looked out over that same blue scene. The three of us had all grown up, countless years ago, on this estate—two tenant farm girls, and the estate owner’s daughter—best friends practically from birth. We’d raised our families, sent our children on their ways, and each bid our husbands farewell from this life. Somehow, through all that, we’d stayed the same friends we’d always been. Some way, we’d all come back to the estate no matter where else life took us.
“How did we ever manage this when we were young?” Ardie shook her head. “Why didn’t we ever move up north, where it’s cool?”
“And do what?” I asked, a bit more snappishly than I meant to. “All we ever been is southern women. What would any of us do in the big city?”
“Get an air conditioner,” Georgina answered. I smacked her with my fan.
“Hey,” Ardie said, but then didn’t say anything else.
“What?” Georgina asked.
“Ya’ll remember that old swimmin’ hole,” Ardie asked, “Down behind the old mill-house?”
“Oh, sure.” My mind wandered a bit as I answered. “I haven’t been down there since the rooster knows when.”
“We never needed an air conditioner,” Ardie went on, grinning like a Cheshire cat, “when we used to run down there on a hot night.”
“Ardith!” Georgina suddenly, remembered exactly what her sister meant. So did I, and I couldn’t help laughing.
“I’d almost be willing to head down there right this minute,” I admitted. “I wonder if it’s still down there.”
“Of course it is,” Ardie said, getting out of her chair, slowly and painfully. I remembered watching her as a young woman get up from sitting cross-legged on the floor just as quick and easy as anything; seeing her have to work so hard to get out of the porch swing hurt my soul. Where had that youth gone? “And I am going to head down there, right this minute.”
I groaned my way out of my rocking chair. I sure wasn’t going let her go alone. Or so I would say, so I could blame her later for the whole thing being her idea.
“We used to be so scared we’d get caught doing this,” Ardie said with a giggle as we put our nightclothes back on after our swim. “Now, I’m sure we’d scare anyone who caught us!”
On the way back up the trail, we stumbled across a young, newly married,couple sneaking down to the river.
“Fine night for a swim!” Georgina called out loudly, startling them both. I could tell they thought they were the only ones in the world who knew about that old swimming hole. They let us pass on the narrow path, then watched after us in amazement—three nutty old ladies in sopping wet nightgowns and soggy slippers, who’d obviously been for a midnight dip.
Somehow it had been more than that. For a moment, we’d had our youthful joy again. The river was cool, reviving. In the dark, you couldn’t see the wrinkles, the liver spots, or the limps. Bare skin shone bright blue against the black water as we swam, and laughed, and forgot how ancient we were, if only for a moment.
“Fine night, indeed,” I agreed.
I loved this! I can just picture these three old ladies sneaking out for a swim.
What I liked best: Your dialogue. You get the southern accent without it being obnoxious. That’s hard to do, and you did it well.
Magazine ready? Yes. Had the readers not chosen this as their winner, it would have received the Publisher’s Choice award.