Seventeenth Summerby Maureen Daly
A summer to remember…
Angie always thought high school romances were just silly infatuations that come and go. She certainly never thought she would fall in love over one short summer. But when she meets Jack, their connection is beyond any childish crush. Suddenly, Angie and Jack are filling their summer with stolen moments and romantic nights. But as… See more details below
A summer to remember…
Angie always thought high school romances were just silly infatuations that come and go. She certainly never thought she would fall in love over one short summer. But when she meets Jack, their connection is beyond any childish crush. Suddenly, Angie and Jack are filling their summer with stolen moments and romantic nights. But as fall grows closer, they must figure out if their love is forever, or just a summer they’ll never forget.
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I don't know just why I'm telling you all this. Maybe you'll think I'm being silly. But I'm not, really, because this is important. You see, it was different! It wasn't just because it was Jack and I either -- it was something much more than that. It wasn't as it's written in magazine stories or as in morning radio serials where the boy's family always tease him about liking a girl and he gets embarrassed and stutters. And it wasn't silly, like sometimes, when girls sit in school and write a fellow's name all over the margin of their papers. I never even wrote Jack's name at all till I sent him a postcard that weekend I went up to Minaqua. And it wasn't puppy love or infatuation or love at first sight or anything that people always talk about and laugh. Maybe you don't know just what I mean. I can't really explain it -- it's so hard to put in words but -- well, it was just something I'd never felt before. Something I'd never even known. People can't tell you about things like that, you have to find them out for yourself. That's why it is so important. It was something I'll always remember because I just couldn't forget -- it's a thing like that.
It happened this way. At the very beginning of the summer I met Jack -- right after graduation. He had gone to the public high school and I went to the Academy just outside of town which is for girls only. I had heard of him often because he played guard on the high school basketball team and he sometimes dated Jane Rady who sat next to me in history class. That night (the night when things first began) I drove down to the post office with my father to mail a letter and because it was ratherlate Dad pulled up in front of McKnight's drugstore and said, "I'll just stop here and keep the motor running while you run in and get a stamp." McKnight's is where all the fellows and girls in Fond du Lac get together and I really would rather not have gone in alone -- especially on a Friday night when most girls have dates -- but I didn't want to tell my father that.
I remember just how it was. I was standing by the drug counter waiting for the clerk. The sides of the booths in McKnight's are rather high and in one, near the back, I could just see the top of someone's head with a short crew cut sticking up. He must have been having a Coke, for he tore the wrapping off the end of his straws and blew in them so that the paper covering shot over the side of the booth. Then he stood up to see where it had landed. It was Jack. He looked over at me, smiled, and then sat down again.
Of course I didn't know him yet, he just smiled to be friendly, but I waited for a few minutes looking at magazines in the rack near the front door, hoping he might stand up again or walk up to the soda fountain or something, but he didn't. So I just left. "You certainly took long enough," my father said gruffly, "I might have been arrested for parking double like this."
The next night my sister Lorraine came in from Chicago on the 2:40 A.M. train. She has been going to college for two years and wears her hair long, almost to her shoulders, and puts her lipstick on with a brush. We drove to meet her, Dad and I. It was raining a little then and the lights from the station shone on the wet bricks. The two-wheeled baggage carts were standing in a line, their long handles tipped up into the air. We waited while the train came out of the darkness, feeling its way with the long, yellow headlight beam. When it stopped, a man jumped out and ran into the station with a package under his arm. A conductor swung onto the platform and stood waving a lantern while the train waited, the engine panting out steam from between its wheels. Dad and I walked along, peering up at the windows. A boy at one of them woke up and waved to me sleepily.
Then we saw Lorraine half stumble down the steps with two suitcases and a black wool ram under her arm. "I fell asleep and almost forgot to get off," she said. Her hair was mussed up and her cheek was all crisscrossed red where she had been leaning on the rough upholstery. "One of the girls had this goat in her room and didn't want to pack it so I brought it home for Kitty. (Kitty is my sister who is ten but still likes toys.) You've got to hold it up straight or the rubber horns fall out." Lorraine laughed. "I'm glad I'm home -- this should be a good summer, don't you think, Angie?" Dad kissed her gingerly -- because of so much lipstick -- and I took one bag to the car and he took the other and we went home.
That was Saturday. Monday was the day summer vacation really began.
It was just after nine o'clock and I was in the garden picking small round radishes and pulling the new green onions for dinner at noon. I remember it was a warm day with a blue and white sky. The garden was still wet with last night's rain and the black earth was steaming in the sun, while between my toes the ground was soft and squishy -- I had taken off my shoes and left them on the garden path so they wouldn't get caked with mud -- and I remember thinking how much fun it would be to go barefoot all the time. The little tomato plants were laid flat against the ground from last night's downfall and there were puddles like blue glass in the hollows. A breeze, soft with a damp, fishy smell, blew in from Lake Winnebago about three blocks away. I was so busy thinking about the weather, the warm sun, and the sleek little onions that I didn't even hear Jack come up the back sidewalk.
"Any baked goods today?" he called.
"I don't know," I answered, turning. "You'd better ring the back doorbell and ask my mother." I sidled over a little and stood in the thick quack grass beside the garden path. I don't like to have people see me in my bare feet.
"Why don't you ask her for me?" he called. "You know her better than I do." I stood still for a moment hoping he wouldn't notice my feet. "Come on, hurry," he said. "I don't care if you haven't any shoes on."
Now, it wasn't that I was shy or anything, but it's awkward when a boy has on a clean shirt and his hair combed and your hands are all muddy and you're in your bare feet. I tried to wipe off the mud on the quack grass before I went down the garden path.
"What were you doing," he asked, "picking radishes?" (I still had the bunch of radishes in my hand.) "That's kind of silly, isn't it?" he added laughing. "It's just my salesman's personality coming out -- anything to start a conversation. Twice already this morning I caught myself saying to customers, 'What's it going to do -- rain?' I've got to be careful not to get into a rut." He laughed again and I laughed too. It was such a warm, bright morning.
We talked together for a while and I told him I didn't know he worked for a bakery, and he said he hadn't until school let out and that he was going to drive one of the trucks for his father during the summer, and when I remarked that I didn't even know his father owned a bakery, he said, "You don't know much about me at all, do you?"
"I know your name," I answered.
"What?" he asked.
"Jack Duluth. I remember reading it in the paper when you made that long shot from the center of the floor in the basketball game with Oshkosh this winter."
"Good for you -- just another one of my fans." He laughed. "What's your name -- as if I didn't find out after I saw you in McKnight's the other night. Angie Morrow, short for Angeline, isn't it?"
I was glad he had asked about me, but for some reason it was embarrassing and I tried to change the subject. "I remember when you used to go with Jane Rady," I ventured. "She used to sit next to me in history class. She talked about you a lot. She told me about the time you drove to the city dump -- "
"Forget it," Jack said sharply. "Forget all about it, see. All that is down the drain by now." For a moment I thought he was angry. "Go ask your mother if she needs any bread or doughnuts or anything, will you?" He sat down on the cement doorstep and I opened the door to go inside. All of a sudden he turned and said slowly, with a thought in his voice, "Say, Angie, you don't go steady or anything, do you?"
My heart jumped a little. "No, I don't," I answered and then added quickly, "My mother doesn't like me to go out much." It wouldn't do to say that I wasn't often asked, either. I waited a moment. "Do you, Jack?"
He laughed. "Of course not. None of the fellows I go around with do. Silly to tie yourself down to one girl. But, say, seeing you don't -- how about going sailboating with me tonight? Me and Swede Vincent have got a little boat we bought last fall. Do you know Swede? He's a good guy. He'll come with us and sail it and you and I can just -- ah -- well, just sit. How about it?"
I didn't know, I told him. I would have to ask my mother first.
"Go ask her now," he urged, "when you ask her if she needs any bread. I'll wait."
"Oh, I can't do that!" I could hear my mother upstairs running the vacuum cleaner noisily over the rugs and I remembered I hadn't tidied up my bedroom yet. "Now's not such a good time to ask but I'll tell you by one o'clock," I promised, trying not to be too eager. "I'll try to fix it and if you'll call me then I can let you know."
"I'll call you at one then and let's skip the bakery goods for today. Please try to go," he added. "No girl has ever been out in our boat before so you'll be the first one. Something kind of special."
That was the first time I ever really talked to Jack. When I went back into the garden to get my shoes I noticed how the little tomato plants seemed to be straightening in the sun. And there were small paper-thin blossoms on the new pea plants.
My mother always lies down in the afternoon -- at least, she has for the past three years, anyway. Right after lunch she went upstairs as always, turned down the chenille bedspread and drew the shades. Out on the side lawn in the shade of the house Kitty was sewing doll clothes and talking to herself in a quiet, little-girl singsong. From Callahan's, across the back garden, I could hear the drone of the baseball game on the radio. All the little children were in taking their naps and already our street had settled into the quiet of afternoon. I'd have to ask my mother soon for I knew that in a few moments she would be asleep.
Outside her bedroom door I paused. "Maybe I'd better count up to seventeen first," I thought. "Seventeen and then I'll ask her." So I counted slowly, deliberately, being careful not to skip. When I was younger I used to count up to fifteen while trying to decide things, then it was sixteen, and now it was seventeen -- one count for each year. But when I got to seventeen I still hadn't figured out in my mind how I should say it. "Better count up to eighteen," I decided. "Eighteen because that's how old Jack is. After that I'll go in for sure."
My mother was almost asleep when I pushed open the door gently, lying on top of the blankets with my old blue flannel bathrobe thrown over her. Sunlight filtered through the drawn shades in a brownish-yellow glow and the crocheted circle used to pull them down twirled in the breeze. I swallowed hard and it made a noise in the quietness of the room.
"Mom," I ventured, "a boy asked me for a date tonight." She opened her eyes. "It will be all right and I'll be home early," I assured her hastily. "He'll come over first and you can meet him and make sure it's all right. They're nice people -- he plays basketball and his father owns the DeLuxe bakery." I rushed the words after each other without stopping, before she could say no.
Rolling over toward the wall and nuzzling her head into the pillow she asked sleepily, "What's his name? I don't think I ever heard you mention him, did I?"
"Jack Duluth," I answered and waited. The room was quiet except for the sound of the window shade flapping in the breeze.
"Duluth as in Minnesota?" Lorraine called out. She was in her own room down the hall taking the curlers out of her hair. She keeps them in all the time except when she's going out. Lorraine wears her hair very long with just a little fluffy curl on the end like they all do in college. But already my mother was breathing lightly as if she were asleep.
"Mom," I said quietly, trying to keep the impatience out of my voice -- my mother doesn't like it if we tease, "can I go or can't I? It will be all right -- really it will."
"See what your sister thinks," she answered. "I suppose it's all right if you're home early. And see if you can fix that window shade so it doesn't flap so -- put a book on the cord or something."
It had been as easy as that and my heart was beating fast as I closed the door softly behind me while downstairs the telephone rang. It was Jack.
We walked out to the lake, he and I. It was about half-past seven in the evening and the sky was still brushed red with the sun. "Looks like ostrich feathers on fire," Jack had said. We had cut through our back garden and through two empty lots and then crossed the highway between our house and the lake. Jack had held the barbed wire of the fence apart for me to crawl through and we went into the field behind the boathouses. "This is my own special short cut," I remembered him saying. "I like it better this way than walking through the park."
Along the path by the fence was a row of wild plum trees with hard green knobs of fruit hidden in the leaves. Little sparrows twittered excitedly and fluttered among the branches as we passed. Not many people came by this way. Just past the last fence was a row of whispering willow trees lined along the ditch by the railroad track. Water from the spring rains still gurgled and ran in ribbons between the swamp grass. "You'll have to jump," said Jack. "It's marshy here. Step first on that flat stone and then over onto the sewer top." There was a round cement sewer with a heavy, knobbed iron lid padlocked shut and almost hidden in the weeds. "Let me go first," he said, "then I'll catch your hand and help you across." The ground was marshy beneath my feet and I almost lost my balance on the smooth stone. Jack caught me and I remember his hand was tight and warm.
We hit a flat grassy spot a little farther on -- just on this side of the tracks. "This is Hobo's Hollow," Jack told me. "Lots of times I come through here and see the fellows who have jumped the trains lying here sleeping. Sometimes there are four or five of them and they make a fire and cook things. I saw a man dead drunk here one day lying right in the sun with flies on him and a bottle in his hand and the next day he was gone. They never talk to me when I go by at all. Just sit and look."
I shivered a little. It was weird there with the air half gray-green from the thick trees and lush weeds and the coming night. There were bits of charred wood and old rusted cans sticking up in the grass. The wind sighed a little as it wove its way through the long line of willows. Jack pulled my hand suddenly and we scrambled up the cinder embankment of the railroad track. Directly beyond was a broad gravel drive and then the gray and white boathouses.
It was early in the season and many of the houses were still padlocked shut from the winter. Between them the little waves slop-slopped against the heavy wooden piles. "Swede said he'd have the boat out by the steps of the Big Hole," Jack told me. "He came out to clean her up a bit before you came. We had a sort of picnic in it last week and it's still all full of old sandwiches and stuff." The Big Hole was built by the city a few years ago to harbor small boats against the sudden vicious squalls that come up so quickly on Lake Winnebago. It's bordered on one side by the boathouses, on the other by a shrub-edged drive and on a third by the Point with a tall, white lighthouse on the end. Over on the right the water sloshes into a mass of treacherous water reeds and thick seaweeds. Beyond this is bare red clay scattered with water pipes and heaps of black dirt -- an uncompleted WPA project.
I saw Swede bending over in the boat arranging canvas. Jack whistled at him shrilly through his teeth and Swede straightened and waved. "You'll like Swede," Jack told me. "Some girls think he's kind of fast but I told him to be nice to you." Swede was rather fat with kinky blond hair and had on a very tight, very clean white sweat shirt.
"Hello," he called. And when we got up to the boat, "You're Angie Morrow, aren't you. I thought maybe at the last minute you wouldn't be able to come. Jack said he thought maybe your mother might not want you to go sailing," and he grinned at me.
"Everything's all right so long as we get her home by eleven," Jack told him. "Any time after that's no good. We won't go out far -- just until we find the moon." He squeezed my hand. I couldn't help shivering a little -- it was such a beautiful night.
In the Big Hole the wind barely wrinkled the water with waves. We moved slowly at first -- Swede up in the bow and Jack and I sitting in the stern, until we had passed through the narrow space between the lighthouse and the breakwater. Already cars were parked along the Point with their headlight beams poking out into the thickening dusk. Almost everyone in Fond du Lac goes out for a drive in the evening and then stops for a while to look at the lake. Someone honked a horn and leaned out a car window to wave at us. "People do that just to be friendly," said Jack. "I don't know who it is."
"Are you comfortable?" he asked. "If you get chilly say so and you can put my sweater on." I just nodded. It was too lovely to talk. The boat rose and fell gently as it topped the waves. Swede was letting out the sail and the loose canvas flapped in the wind. Occasionally the greenish water slapped hard against the side of the boat and sent spray over the edge. "Here," said Jack. "We'll put this canvas over your legs -- no sense in your getting wet. You're a good scout, do you know that? Lots of girls are scared to go out in boats."
"I love it," I told him. He was sitting almost on the point of the stem with his red and white basketball sweater tied around his neck by the sleeves and a light wind was ruffling his hair from behind.
I sighed and he said to me, "You're not cold, are you? Remember, just say the word and the sweater's yours. I really brought it along for you -- I never get cold myself." Leaning over, he put it around my shoulders and I remember thinking when he was so close how much he smelled like Ivory soap.
We were sailing in silence for a long time and way up in the sky, past the boathouses, was pasted a thin tissue-paper curve of moon. Swede had hung a lantern that swung in the darkness on his end of the boat and it licked red light over the tops of the waves. Just then he finished a cigarette and flipped it out over the water. We were far out by that time and the car lights were only star dots along the pier. It was very still. I looked back at Jack and he was sitting with his head thrown back, gazing at the sky. Far beyond him was only the darkness of the lake. The wind blew lightly, brushing through my hair. Jack moved forward suddenly and slipped up beside me on the narrow seat. "Angie Morrow," he said quietly. "You look nice with the wind in your hair."
And I remember just how he said it.
Copyright © 1942 by Dodd, Mead & Co., Inc. Copyright renewed © 1970 by Maureen Daly McGivern
Copyright renewed © 1970 by Maureen Daly McGivern
Meet the Author
Maureen Daly, still in college when she wrote Seventeenth Summer, recaptured with extraordinary freshness and sensitivity an experience that because of its very nature no older author can touch. Seventeenth Summer was chosen unanimously as the first winner of the Intercollegiate Literacy Fellowship.
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