About the Author

Don Calame

Books by this Author
Beat the Band



THIS IS IT, DAWGS," I say. "From boys to men. Tenth grade is the year we tag all the bases. First, second, third, and then we slide into home."

"I'd just be happy to step into the batter's box again," Sean says.
I shoot him a gimme-a-break look. "Don't be so mopey, dude. Tianna was just a practice swing. Now you're primed to aim for the fences."

Me, Matt, and Sean shortcut across Dreyfus Park, our bikes kicking up the dust that settled over the summer as we head toward the beige brick building of Lower Rock- ville High that looms like a penitentiary. A penitentiary chock with hotties, to be sure, but a lockup for most of the daylight hours, nonetheless.

"I don't know," Sean says. "I don't think I'm over her yet."
"Of course you aren't," Matt consoles. "It's only been a week since you split up."

I laugh. "Are you kidding me? They were only going out for a month. A week is more than enough time to get over it. It's standard formula: One day of angst for every week you were dating. Four weeks, four days. Over and out. Any more time is just a wank."

Matt looks at me in disbelief. "Where do you get these things?"

"It's common knowledge, dude. Google it." "What do I do if I see her in the hall?" Sean asks. "What do you mean, if “" I say, pumping the pedals on my creaky mountain bike, feeling the strain in my legs as we split the goalposts and ride over the football field. "You are going to see her in the hall. She might even be in a bunch of your classes. Who gives a crap?"

"Just say hi," Matt offers.

"No." I glare at Matt. "Wrong. Do not take advice from the Whipped One." I turn to Sean. "You say nothing. She dumped you, so she no longer exists. Simple as that."

"Ignore her?" Sean says. "I don't know if I can do that."

I sigh, exasperated. "Look, Sean. You're a changed man. We all are. This past summer was epic. Look at all we accomplished. Our first party, yours and Matt's first girlfriends, Matt kicking ass in the butterfly, seeing our first naked babe -"

Sean cringes. "Please. Do not bring that up ever again.
I'm still having nightmares about Ms. Luntz threatening to suffocate me with her gargantuan gazongas unless I swim a thousand laps."

"What I'm trying to say is, you're no longer wet behind the ears.Tianna breaking up with you is the best thing that could have happened. I mean, seriously, why would you want to waste the best years of your life tied to just one babe? No offense, Matt."

"Why would I be offended?" Matt says. "It's not like me and Valerie are getting married."

"No," I say. "You're just having her baby." Matt scowls. "You're so full of it, Coop."

"Sean-o? A little backup here. Matthew is, in fact, carrying Valerie's baby, is he not?"

"Leave me out of it," Sean says, the wind whipping his hair.

I raise my eyebrows at Matt, like "Need I say more?" "Jealous much?" Matt says.

"Oh, yeah, without a doubt. Green as hell. Aren't we, Sean? We'd love to have to ask permission anytime we want to do something. And be dragged to every chick flick that comes out. And have to drop everything when- ever our 'honeykins' calls."

Matt shakes his head. "Everything you just said is total bullshit. And you know it."

I smirk. "Then why is your face getting red?" "Because it isn't." I glance at Sean. "Sean-o?"
Sean looks off in the distance. "I said, leave me out of it."

Matt rolls his eyes. "Yeah, you guys have really matured this summer. It's staggering."

We hop the curb into the student parking lot and pedal toward the bike racks. The lot is already full. I don't have my driver's license yet - another thing I need to get started on this year - but everyone knows that if you want to nab a parking space you have to get to school at least twenty minutes early. We pass my sister Angela's car, recognizable by the fact that it's the only one in the lot with a car cover. It's her sickness. One of many.

"Look, Matt," I say. "You're acting like we think it's a bad thing. So, Valerie's got a tight grip on your Mr. BoDangles. At least you're getting some. Some of what, I'm not sure. But you seem comfortable with the trade- off. Personally, I wouldn't be. And I'd be lying if I said Sean and I don't miss you sometimes. But we get by. Don't we, Sean?"

Sean says nothing. Jesus, I hope he's not going to use this Tianna thing as an excuse to be such a soggy turd all year long.

The three of us coast up to the bike racks and leap off our bikes.

"All I'm saying is, we have an opportunity here." I pull a key from the pocket of my jeans, unlock my bike lock, and unravel the chain from around the seat post. "Our summer goal was a success. We saw a live naked -"
"Hey!" Sean shouts, waving a yellow coil lock at me like a weapon. "Did I not just ask you never to bring that up again?"

I laugh. "Sorry. But remember what I told you at the beginning of the summer? About the natural order of things? Internet porn, live naked girl, and then the dirty deed? Well, we're ready to take that next step."

"Would you stop it with that stupid theory of yours?" Matt says. "You wouldn't know the natural order of things if it crapped on your head."

Sean snickers. I ignore him and give Matt a you-can't- be-serious look. "Correct me if I'm wrong here, Matt. Maybe I shouldn't be including you with me and Sean. Maybe you've already rounded all the bases. If you have, just say so."

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Swim the Fly

"Movies don’t count," Cooper says. "The Internet -doesn’t count. Magazines don’t count. A real, live naked girl. That’s the deal. That’s our goal for this summer."
"Been there, done that," Sean says.
"Taking baths with your sister -doesn’t count, either, Sean." Cooper snorts.
"Screw you, meat stain. I haven’t done that since I was, like, two, okay. And that’s not what I was talking about," Sean says.
We’re walking up to the pool. Cooper, Sean, and me. Bare feet tucked into untied sneakers, ragged towels draped around our necks. It’s our first day of swim practice, which means that summer’s really started. We’ve been friends since kindergarten. We’ve been on swim team since third grade. The Rockville Swimming Association. Six years as Lower Rockville Razorbacks.
"He’s talking about Tina Everstone’s left boob," I say as we turn onto Maple Drive and walk along the curb.
"Oh, please. Not that again." Cooper rolls his eyes.
"It’s true. I saw the whole thing when she was taking off her sweatshirt during gym. Her T-shirt came up just enough"
"And she wasn’t wearing a bra and her left one popped out and you saw the entire thing, nipple and all, and even if I didn’t think you were lying to us, it still wouldn’t count," Cooper says. "I’m talking totally naked. Not a quick flash, okay?"
"Whatever." Sean shrugs and looks off at the rundown ranch houses like he doesn’t care what we think.
"How are we supposed to see a live naked girl?" I say. "Maybe we better set a more realistic goal for the summer. Like finding Atlantis."
"Matt, Matt, Matt." Cooper puts his arm around me like he’s my wise uncle. "That kind of attitude will get you nowhere in life. Don’t you get it? You have to follow the natural way of things. It’s like that picture in our bio textbook. First there’s the monkey. Then there’s the caveman. Then there’s the human. It’s the same with sex. First there’s Internet porn, then there’s seeing your first real naked girl, and finally it’s the dirty deed. You do want to have sex someday, don’t you, Matt?"
Every summer there is a goal. It’s tradition. I don’t remember when it started or why. But as long as I can remember, we’ve always come up with something we had to accomplish before the start of the new school year. When we were ten, it was riding our bikes fifteen miles away to Perry Lake and skinny-dipping. When we were twelve, it was going to the Fern Creek Golf Course every day until we collected a thousand golf balls. Over the past few years, the goals have become more centered around girls and sex. Two years ago, each of us had to get our hands on a Playboy and show it to the others. Last year the ante was upped to finding an illegal password for a porn site. And now, Cooper’s challenge for this summer. Which I can’t see ever happening.
Maybe if we were even a little bit cool, or had any chance of getting girlfriends. But that’s just not the case. By the time you’re fifteen, you’ve either had a girlfriend — maybe even had sex — or, like Coop, Sean, and me, you haven’t even mustered the courage to ask a girl out. There’s also a third group, I guess. Guys who say they’ve had girlfriends but who nobody really believes. Which just means they’re liars who fit into the second category.
We make it to Rockville Avenue Pool just in time to hear Ms. Luntz, our swim coach, calling the team over for a meeting. Ms. Luntz is a gourd-shaped woman who wears her blue-and-white Speedo stretched to capacity underneath denim short-pants overalls. Her legs are thick and pockmarked, and purple worm veins bubble up beneath the see-through skin on her thighs. She doesn’t make things much better for herself with her Campbell’s Soup Kid haircut and gigantic pink-tinted glasses. You could almost feel sorry for her, if she wasn’t so nasty to everyone.
"Hurry up, people," Ms. Luntz squawks. "Let’s go, let’s go. Before winter comes. We’ve got important business to discuss."
Cooper, Sean, and me make our way around "the toilet" — a shallow, oval kiddie pool that’s always suspiciously body-temperature warm. My mom says it’s warm because there’s less water in there and the sun can heat it up faster, but nobody’s buying that. Last year, Cooper bet Sean ten bucks he wouldn’t bob for a Life Saver over the painted picture of Elmo, which is where most of the little kids hang out, and Sean did it without blinking an eye. It was pretty sick. Sean kept saying how they put chemicals in the pool for a reason, but there’s no way I could have done that. I feel my stomach lurch now just thinking about it.
We walk along the edge of the adult pool toward the deep end where the diving boards are. I breathe in the sharp chlorine smell and watch the swimmers stringing the swim lane dividers, and it’s like "Yeah, I know this" mixed with "Oh, God, not this again."
We hang back at the edge of the crowd that forms around Ms. Luntz. It’s all the same people from last year. A sea of blue and white Lycra. Guys and girls from seven to seventeen. All of them serious about swim team.
It’s different for Coop, Sean, and me. We do swim team because we’ve always done swim team. Between the three of us, I bet that we have the largest collection of green fifth-place ribbons in the entire league. It’s not like we try to lose. It’s just that we happen to be the three least athletic kids on the team. Maybe even in all of Rockville.
"Okay, so, welcome back and all that crap," Ms. Luntz says, tapping her pen on her clipboard. "It’s another summer, which means another chance to make a run for gold. Our first meet is in three weeks. I want us to set the bar high right away. I want us to take first in this year’s relay challenge."
Coop leans over to me and whispers, "Yeah, and I want to take a whipped-cream bath with...

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