He strolled past the faded steel frame as the sunset lit the sky with a fiery fury. With one hand on a leg of the old Watertower, memories came flying back faster than the old muscle car his brother used to sport. His eyes flickered and brow flexed as he remembered his vibrant adolescence. He felt his eyes dampen as he gazed up at the structure that represented his old friendships and a love that once was and never again would be. His heart never stopped longing for the comfort that he felt in her arms, even as a young teenager. It was an authentic hometown love that could not be reproduced in a Hollywood studio, no matter how hard those 90210 bastards tried.
Joel was now on the wrong side of his twenties and he returned to his old Upstate New York hometown only for a funeral, not to tie up loose ends or even visit his parents. In fact, it’s quite possible that his parents wouldn’t have known he was in town, had they not assumed responsibility of ‘the bearers of bad news’ and called him.
Y’see, it’s not that Joel didn’t have a good relationship with his folks. He had actually been very close with them throughout his teenage years, it was just that he was a bit of a wild man and after his junior year of college, his father had cut him off. He understood why his father did what he did, but it still left Joel pissed that he had to bust his ass to scrounge enough cash to finish his final semester at Collins College. It didn’t help that his student loans were still haunting him like the fucking ghosts of Christmas past. This bitterness had made Joel’s transition into an independent man a bit smoother, in a backwards kind of way. He never worried about asking his parents for money because frankly, he didn’t care to call them or even write them a Christmas card. He grew accustomed to living on his own and fending for himself.
Joel had been away from Lewbeach, New York for about 8 years now. The town’s name was quite deceiving; there was no beach there at all. The locals believed that the town’s founder, Thomas Lew, named the town while attempting to make an ironic joke about the area. It was a beautiful place, a real diamond in the rough, but not much of a town at all, and certainly not a beach town, just a bunch of houses scattered in the woods of Upstate New York. The town consisted of trees, houses, trees, a school, and more trees. It was a pretty boring place to grow up and Joel often envied the kids from bordering towns who actually had a central gathering place. He never thought he’d miss it, but the tears that now fell down his face would beg to differ. He allowed his legs to give out as he collapsed on the grass field that surrounded the Watertower. Now laying in the fading shadow of this silver behemoth, he thought about his adolescence and remembered how it all began…
“Alright guys I got ‘em. I can’t take them all the time though, he’ll notice for sure.” Joel said, revealing some of his father’s cigars.
“How many did you get? Oh three!? Awesome man, that ones huge too. I bet they’re Cubans.” Dave said excitedly. He was a real nicotine fiend, and Joel’s father was indirectly responsible.
“I have no idea what they are but they sure as hell put me on my ass!” Chase joked.
They were all laughing, buzzed with excitement, all four of them; Joel Fitzgerald, Chase “Rowdy” Raughty, Dave Himand and Pat Boyle. The crew, or the “campout crew” as they later called themselves, was inseparable, even when they were at each other’s throats. They had been friends since they were in grade school and knew each other inside and out. Sometimes people thought they were all related, possibly because they were all Irish, with the exception of Dave, who disguised his Australian heritage with a thick head of red hair.
Joel and Dave knew each other the longest since their older brothers were best friends, Danny Fitzgerald and Frankie Himand. Those two were legends around town. They were known for being the biggest trouble makers since their parents’ generation. They were both 19 and reckless; always throwing beer bashes in the woods and often running from the cops.
Because Lewbeach was such a small town, it didn’t have its own police station, so the fuzz from the neighboring town, Cranston, had to patrol the town and deal with the mess that Danny and Frankie made. The fact that the cops were from a different town gave them an even bigger desire to disregard the local law enforcers. Joel and Dave were expected to be as wild as their brothers, and often followed suit.
The crew was crowded around a blazing, lighter fluid filled campfire. The late August stars were coming out and fire flies replaced those blocked by the thick Maple trees overhead.
“Whose got those beers?” Dave asked impatiently.
“Right here you Aussie bastard. Can’t you wait a damn minute I’m trying to get service. My parents don’t even know where I am.” Pat whined.
“You’re gonna be a sophomore in High school next year for Christ’s sake. Sack up man, they can’t be that worried.” Joel said.
“Yeah pussy, we’ve been out here just about every other night. You gotta figure they have an idea where their little Patricia is!” Rowdy teased.
Pat was 16 but looked like he just barely hit puberty. He was undersized to say the least and used to wear glasses. He eventually switched to contacts when he started high school in an attempt shake off his boyish look, but it only made him look like a teenaged Pee Wee Herman.
“Alright, Alright relax assholes,” Pat laughed. “Here’s 3 beers each, that’s all I could grab from the old man. If he found out he’d probably whoop my ass worse than Frankie beats on you Dave!”
Dave looked across the fire at him with less than playful eyes. His brother Frankie was out of control and tended to take his anger out on him in rather creative ways, you could say. Last Christmas it was a stray ornament to the head, New years was a champagne cork to the gonads, and on the 4th of July, the crew’s personal favorite, it was a roman candle shot at him from point-blank range while drunkenly screaming “Happy New Years Little Dick Davey!” Frankie liked to be festive with his brotherly beatings, he was classy that way. Dave always threatened him when his friends were around, reminding him that he was only 3 years younger and one day he’d get his, but his buddies knew that he was just protecting whatever pride he still had.
“…So that’s why I think I should ask her out man. Her tits make up for her lack of … her lack of.. whats it?” Rowdy explained.
“…Personality?” Joel interjected. “Jesus you really are dumb as rocks, you know that?”
“Ah fuck off Mr. Private school. We can’t all be rocket surgeons.” Rowdy retorted.
They all laughed like bastards, but Rowdy didn’t get why of course.
He was the biggest one of the group and the combination of his last name, Raughty, (Rah-tee) and his energetic personality, made it easy for his friends to come up with Rowdy as his nickname. He was a complete brick head and his friends loved him for it, but girls often found him too loud and obnoxious for their liking. He had no censor around girls and didn’t care if they didn’t share his same amusement with “dick n’ fart jokes.”
“So what are we doing tonight?” Pat asked, as if they actually had interesting options.
“We could go down to Flatrock, I heard my brother Danny talking to Frankie earlier about a party down there tonight. Let’s go down there and steal some beers, maybe a few girls too.” Joel offered.
“No, no, no.” Dave said, right on cue. He wasn’t keen on spending time with his brother when he was drunk, and hated the idea of being with him when they both were drunk.
“I’m with Joel man, let’s do something besides just sit around all night.” Pat agreed.”Why don’t we actually try to get some instead of just sitting around all night talking about it.”
“Yeah, lets get something going ourselves man. I haven’t gotten laid all summer!” Rowdy shouted. “It’s bullshit…”
“You haven’t gotten laid period!” Pat said.
“Hey Pee Wee let me know when you hit puberty, then you can start giving me hell about not gettin’ none.” Rowdy said as he tossed an empty can into the fire.
“How ‘bout the Watertower?” Dave suggested.
They all nodded. “ I’ll call Emily, she’s got Jane over tonight and her cousin from New Hampshire is in town too.”
“Yeah, you go call your wifey, what else is new.” Dave said bitterly.
Dave always complained when Joel brought up Emily. It could’ve been that he was jealous that Joel could actually hold a relationship, or maybe that he didn’t want to share his friend with some “devil woman” as he referred to her. Regardless of Dave’s reasoning, it pissed Joel off that he couldn’t even mention her name without Dave challenging his masculinity.
They had been dating for several years by this time and Joel loved her, but he never told her and he certainly never told his friends. He was scared to tell her he loved her because he knew it would make it that much harder when he left their local high school for Knowles Academy in the fall, a boarding school in Northern Connecticut. She hated thinking about him leaving so she made him make a deal with her that they wouldn’t talk about his leaving for the rest of the summer. Joel agreed, but it only made him think about leaving town even more.
Joel pulled out his cell phone and called Emily.
“Hey baby, what’s happenin’?”
His friends all started howling, they jumped at the opportunity to make fun of Joel’s soft side and mocked him unmercifully. Rowdy got up and started air humping a tree, shouting “Emillyyyyyy, Oh, Emillllyyyyyy!” with a cigar hanging out of his mouth.
“Ah fuck you.” Joel said laughing. “Na, not you babe…just Rowdy bein’ Rowdy. What are you girls up to…Nothin’? Same old? Alright, you wanna meet up at the Watertower? Alright, we’ll start walkin, see you in a bi-”
Pat snatched the phone from Joel. “Grab any booze you can!” he pleaded and then snapped the phone shut.
“Let’s head out, we got a good 2 miles of walking ahead of us.” Pat announced.
As they started their trek through the woods Pat started warning them to walk on the correct side of the road. Dave and Rowdy started arguing about which side was the right side to walk on and which side to ride a bike. Joel led his friends through the trail they made over the years of walking to the old tower. They usually just went there to drink and screw around but this summer they started meeting girls there and every now and again someone would get lucky with one of the girls. It was the only way he could spend time with both Emily and his friends without getting tormented by someone.
They finally got to the bottom of the trail which spit them out onto the town’s only main road.
“I’m telling you man it’s the left side if we’re walking south!” Pat shouted.
“Fine man, but if we get hit by some drunk driver I swear I’ll kill you if the car doesn’t!” Dave threatened.
Just then Danny’s fire red Camaro came flying down the road. Danny saved up cash for three summers to buy his crappy old muscle car. The interior was a bit torn up and there was a massive dent in the back left bumper where a tail light used to be, but he loved it anyways. He always drove too fast and Joel swore he’d never ride with him even with a helmet and racing harness on.
Danny saw his kid brother walking on the shoulder of the road and pulled over to the side.
“Heeeeey!” Danny said, doing his best Fonzie impression. “What are you little bastards up to? Mischief I hope!” he shouted over the Led Zeppelin that blared from his nearly blown speakers.
“Hey Danny boy. Nothing man just going down to the old Watertower to meet up with Emily and some girls. Gotta get these guys laid sometime, aye!” Joel said, looking back at his group of goons.
“Haha good luck with that. Remember kid, I don’t wanna be no uncle anytime soon, so if by some miracle you do get lucky, don’t be stupid.” He said, looking straight into his brother’s eyes. “Or an honorary uncle for that matter! You hear me Dave? Ah who am I kiddin, you ain’t getting no tail anyhow. That is if you truly are Frankie’s brother!”
“What are you up to tonight? I heard you talking about Flatrock earlier.” Joel asked.
“Yeah I’m going on a beer run now. I swear beer just disappears in this town man. Should be a good bash though, hope the pigs don’t bust it up tonight. I hate those fuckers…”
“Yeah don’t get arrested. Pops will be pissed and Ma probably won’t bail you out again, you know that right?”
“Yeah yeah yeah, don’t try to lecture me youngin’. Happy birthday by the way kid. Here, sorry I didn’t wrap it.” He laughed as he handed Joel a warm sixer of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
“A real heartfelt one this year aye Danny Boy? Only a week late.” Joel said smirking. He wasn’t expecting his brother to get him anything, so a six pack of warm Pabst would do just fine. “Thanks for the beer. We gotta get goin’ though.”
“Alright have a good one.” He cranked up the volume as “House of the Holy” started playing, and sped off.
The guys finished off the six pack as they walked onto the Watertower’s field. They chucked their empties at one of the old rusted legs of the tower but failed to hit it. They were starting to feel a buzz now and decided to climb up to the first platform of the tower. They all sat up there, and looked out onto the field as if they were prison guards hoping for an escaped prisoner to pass through their crosshairs. The girls hadn’t shown up yet and Joel started to worry that they weren’t gonna make it out.
“Satan probably took her back down to hell, man. It’s for the better don’t worry.” Dave said in a sarcastically comforting tone.
“Why do you hate her so much anyways man?” Joel asked.
“I don’t hate her, I just don’t think you should be wasting any more time on her.”
“Well drop it man, I fucking hate it when you talk about her that way.”
“Alright you got it.”
“Don’t bring up my going away next year either, alright? It’ll just put me in a bad mood.”
Three shadows came out of the woods with a flashlight shining out in front. The moon was bright yellow. It was almost full and lit up the entire field.
“Land Hoe!” Rowdy screamed.
They climbed down to the field and met the girls.
Emily jumped into Joel’s arms and wrapped her legs around his waist. She gave him a soft but intense kiss. It was a ritual of theirs whenever they saw each other. He noticed that she smelled like coconut whenever he held her close. It always tricked Joel into thinking that he was actually at a beach, rather than Lewbeach. When he would snap back to reality he didn’t care that he was miles away from a real beach. When he was with her, it was paradise, no matter where they physically were.
“Hey there handsome. Look what I stole from my brother.” Emily said as she took a bottle of rum out her bag.
“Girls, ladies, females, how are we tonight?” Dave said doing his best Casanova impression.
“Hey Dave...fine and you?” Jane said with little enthusiasm. Dave and Jane had dated several times in the past, and always made it seem like they didn’t want to see the other. In reality their attraction never died.
Emily’s cousin, Samantha, introduced herself to the guys who were shocked by her gorgeous body. She was a beautiful brunette with big brown eyes and a terrific rack.
They started walking over to an old Oak tree that had stumps and rocks assembled around the front of it. Rowdy and Pat trailed behind and both quietly called dibs on Samantha and then started arguing, recalling previous “surrenders” to other girls. They didn’t come to an agreement so it was every man for himself.
They passed the bottle between themselves and got drunk under the moonlight. Jane and Dave started flirting and Samantha sat between Pat and Rowdy and told them about her town back in New Hampshire.
“So what’s the deal? Do you guys all go to high school together in this tiny little town? Must be a small high school.” Samantha said, not knowing that the following year’s plans was a sore subject.
“Ah, let’s not talk about school. It’s summer right, let’s just enjoy the moment.” Joel said.
“Aww baby I’m gonna miss you sooooo much!” Pat joked, imitating Emily.
“Fuck you dude.” Joel said laughing uncomfortably.
“Ah man I was just kidd-, what the?”
“Shhh, leave em alone.” Emily whispered pointing at Dave and Jane making out. “ Joel you wanna go for a walk?”
Joel nodded and when he stood up he realized that the rum did a number on him. He managed to pull Emily up anyways and the two walked towards the old Watertower.
“Seems like Rowdy and Pat may have to duke it out for my cousin…” Emily joked. “Those two are hilarious; I swear they’re always arguing over girls.”
“Hahaha you noticed that too, huh? I guess it was pretty obvious. She is a stunner though in all fairness. If I weren’t in love with you I may have been arguing with them too.”
She looked up at him with her beautiful green eyes. It hit him, he just dropped the “L” word. She kissed him and asked if he meant what he just said.
“Yes, I love you. I always have, and always will. No matter how far away we are from each other.”
“I love you too, Joel. Just promise me you won’t forget me.”
“I promise Em.”
The two were under the old Watertower and looked back at the others who now dispersed, except for what looked like Pat sitting against the tree playing with the near empty bottle of rum.
Emily whispered in Joel’s ear, “Looks like the others went on walks too. We’re alone.”
Joel laid down his sweatshirt on the grass and the two made love for the first time. It wasn’t their first time having sex, but it was the first time they openly shared their love.
After an hour or so of talking and laughing afterwards, the two headed back to the Oak tree. The sky started to turn dark blue which was an indicator that morning was right around the corner. When they returned, the others were asleep under the Oak tree. Rowdy and Pat were on each side of Samantha, and Dave was holding Jane with a sweatshirt draped over her. The morning sun crept over the mountains, and dew formed on the grass like bright pearls. Joel stood before his friends and took a mental snapshot, knowing that this could very well be the last time they were all together as best friends. It was a moment he would never forget, a moment he would cherish for the rest of his life.
Joel got up from the grass and climbed the Watertower. The sun had set and it was getting dark again. He could see the entire town from the top, which still really wasn’t much of a town at all. He looked down at the old Oak tree on the far side of the field. There were still stumps and stones around it, but the group of crazy kids who used to drink there was long gone. Joel climbed down from the tower and walked over to his car. It was a faded red Camaro with a dent in the back left bumper.