Go Green or Go Home
I watched them all summer, I would do anything to learn their secret. The pair of brothers seemed never to tire, they practically jogged up the ladders. What I would consider hoisting was mere lifting to them. Packs of shingles were like boxes of crackers to these kids. It is my second summer with Mr. Colby, and I learned being a roofer comes with a great amount of stress. Not that other trades don't, just that roofing brings with it a contention with the elements, namely the sun. That ball of fire is really something else, wreaks havoc on your system. Not these two, they reveled in the light. I run 5 miles every morning and made varsity wrestling as a freshman, but these guys were on another level.
Also, they seemed too young for their abilities. The older, Rodney could pass for 17 but no way was Calvin legal to drive. At first, I assumed it was farm-strong, but then Mr. Colby, the contractor, said the two had grown up on a riverbank. Lithe and smooth, just like the current, they carried wares to and fro on the job site. Without falter these two worked every day. First on, last off. Never smoked a drag or took a sip of coffee. I had to find out what they were hiding.
They hung by themselves but by no means where they stand offish. I made a point to get on their crew, but they often shunned additional help. Claimed it ruined their flow. I made sure to stay out of their pathways and bring water before they needed it. Gophering is one thing I can do well. After a few days of cracking jokes Rodney and Calvin were pretty comfortable around me. I overheard them just after morning break.
“Did you know green is the only color mammals can't create?” Calvin's voice was warm like melted chocolate.
“Really?” Rodney's voice was even deeper.
“Yeah. David Attenborough said it on a nature show.”
“Hold my beer!” they laughed together.
It took another week of self-deprecating jokes for them to understand my sarcasm, but soon we were insulting each other like old friends. I tried to get them to open-up about their seemingly chemical prowess, but they were not interested in sharing with me. The more I hung with them the more the more they talked about nature and science.
“Science will set you free,” Rodney seemed to be the right side of their brain
“Science is just chasing nature,” Cal would say. “Science is trying to gain nature’s secrets.”
“Maybe so,” Rodney loved toying with his brother. “Maybe nature wants to share.”
“Why is she so coy about it?”
“Because brother,” Rodney said with a wiggling his fingers, “Seeking is our job.”
I was getting chummy with them but as for every summer, September kills it. We would go back to different schools, and I may never see them again. I kept thinking about what Rodney had said about seeking. I thought maybe he was inviting me to investigate them. Regardless, I was out of time.
“Come on man,” I prodded. “You two have been amped all summer. Like three-coffees-an-hour lit.”
“Yeah?” Rodney had a five-gallon bucket of tar in his arms.
“Yeah, dude. You're making everyone look bad.”
“I had not noticed,” Rodney tried to hide his giggle.
“You two are on something, tell me what it is.”
“I told you,” Rodney laughed hard, almost nervous. “I'm all natural.”
“Alright,” Calvin looked around. It was the first time I'd ever seen anything other than ease in his eyes. “We can't do it here.” He smiled bringing back all the light. “Meet us tonight at our pond. We’ll show you everything.” Calvin looked to Rodney and the older brother nodded reluctantly. I danced on the inside.
“Text me the address!” I blurted out. Cal and I shared a goofy smile and went about our day. After lunch I was sent on a supply run and by the time I got back the crews were gone for the day. Still floating, I detailed my vehicle, tidied my job kit and made my way home.
I showered, ate dinner, but was not hungry. Too excited. Changed outfits. Changed again. Put on cologne. Then washed it off and put on a different scent. Now I was a potpourri of eau du toilettes. I scrubbed them both off deciding to forgo unnatural musk. I sat down with a book hoping to pass the time until departure. After 1/2 hour of rereading the same page, I decided to just go.
The long, overgrown driveway was intimidating but it opened to a modest house near a graceful riverbend. Once I parked and exited all I could hear was the river’s susurrus. Crepuscular light had all but given in to evening’s grasp. Instinctively I made my way past the house toward the sound of water.
Between the nearly full moon and the escaping light, the eddy they had carved out beside the river shone bright. A huge natural swimming pool had been cut into the granite bank just at the river’s bend. It gently pulled the water in and eased it out without disturbing the current.
“Ahoy!” Cal waved glowing green lights from the far side of the pool. He was standing on a rock outcropping, then dove towards me. I stepped to the roughhewn steps at the pool’s entrance and watched soft green paddles pull him easily under the water. Watching in awe, I tingled to see him stay submerged the length of the pool.
“Glad you could make it,” Rodney's deep voice caught me off guard. I turned to see his outstretched hand. I shook it and barely noticed he had similar glowing lights on his fingertips. Were they gloves? Paint? Rodney dove into the near side and swam submerged, like Cal, into the darkness.
Calvin’s greenlights crept up to the stone steps of the pool and I could see they were not glow sticks. Or gloves. It was his fingernails that were glowing green. Despite his dripping wet body, I could not take my eyes off his hands.
“Come on in,” Cal invited with a smile. I said nothing. He knew I was looking at his nails. “I said I was all natural” he wiggled his fingers as Rodney had earlier. Then he grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled me in for a gruff, wet, delicious kiss. I melted-just a bit. The burning question of the fingertips would not leave me.
“That's not the only reason I came,” I said taking my shoes off.
“Why else would you come?” Cal’s smile was electric.
“I want to know your secret,” I took off my shirt and tossed it on the rocks.
“I just told you,” Cal said slipping back into the water.
“Not that, your real secret.”
“Ha, you are too funny,” he splashed at me. I stripped to my boxers.
“What's with the fingers?” I stuck my foot in the water. The chill stuck the hair on the back of my neck.
“An ongoing experiment,” as he treaded water the green light under the water was enhanced. Softer. Glowing. Hypnotic.
“So, this is why you don't go out at night?”
“One of the few drawbacks,” as Cal spoke, I eased my legs and then trunk into the water.
“What are the benefits?” I tried to keep my voice full, but the chill of the water brought a yelp. Calvin only smiled.
“Too many to count,” Calvin dove under the water, his green glowing hands pulled him away. I let the warm air bring scents of sweetgrass and honeysuckle. The second set of green hands was moving towards me. Rodney emerged and ragged himself off.
“Will you tell me about the nails?”
“I told you, all natural,” he sat on the stone bench near the water.
“Okay, but really. Paint?”
“Algae,” he held out his hand for my inspection. It was the first time I noticed he was missing his ring and pinky finger on the left side. His hand was heavy, the nails glowed a milky neon green on our faces. Subtle ochers and yellows could be discerned amidst the verdant greens.
“How do you do it?” As I spoke Calvin splashed back to the surface. He swiped the water off his elegant hide and made sure to get some of it on me.
“You pound little holes,” Rodney's face was firm, he retreated to the stone bench.
“Like primitive tattoos,” Calvin acted like it was a good thing.
“Does it hurt?” The brothers shared a look.
“The benefits outweigh the costs,” Rodney sounded like a politician.
“Until now,” Calvin shot a look of daggers to his sibling.
“Even now,” Rodney looked to me and then back to Cal.
“I don't think we can stay the winter,” Cal gasped, like it was the first time that he considered consequences. He looked deep into my eyes and held my gaze.
“Where will you go?” I knew the answer.
“South. Toward the equator,” he confirmed.
“What is with the glowing?” I took Calvin’s hand in mine. His long fingers gave me a sense of assurance.
“Bioluminescence,” Rodney corrected.
“Why do they luminesce?” Up close I could see Calvin's nails had hints of aqua and marine. I couldn't help but wonder what color my nails would be.
“We don’t know,” Rodney said after a beat.
“Like I said, ongoing experiment,” Calvin touched the side of my face with his hand.
“What does it feel like?” I cupped his hand on mine, eager for his answer.
“Like riding a horse, bareback,” His voice tasted salty in my mind.
“Extreme focus, prolonged stamina; sharp eyes, smooth joints strong breath, what’s not to like?” Rodney looked at the sky, perturbed.
“Do you sleep?” I left Calvin’s embrace and lowered my whole body into the pool.
“Are you trying to get in my pants?” Calvin followed me into the water.
“Yes. But also, aren’t you wired all the time?”
“It is not like caffeine, but we get sluggish on rainy days.” Rodney interrupted from shore.
“Improved eavesdropping is another drawback,” I say and then turn my attention to Cal. “How did you discover it?”
“Rodney was the first to try. Of course, it would be old Rod n Reel!” he shouted. “He hates when I call him that,” Calvin swam past me doing a light backstroke. I couldn’t help but stare at the glowing lights as I followed. He knew I was looking but did not mention it. “Instead of blocking the sun, Rodney thought we should invite it in.”
“Through your fingernails.”
“Yep, Rod saw them as pre-built solar panels, just needed some tweaking,” We swam to the far edge of the pool where I hung to the rock and gasped for air. Calvin continued to tread water on his back. “It took him a few tries,” Calvin smiled and wiggled his fingers, “But once he figured it out, he showed me how.” He crawled out of the water and sat on the rock next to me, our bodies glistened in his green glow. I could feel the freedom of his thoughts, the speed of his dreams. I wanted badly to see inside his brain. I leaned in and he did too.
We kissed again, this time soft and moist and divine. I paused, wiggled my fingers and said, “Show me.”
To Be Continued...
READ NEXT: Siren in the Swamp
About the Creator
Jordan J Hall
I write Historical and Speculative Flash Fiction. Nature and society's underbelly are the focus of my work. My writing can be found at FoxHollowStories.com and The Spectre Review Literary Magazine. Check out jordanjhall.com for more.
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