Paulette kicked a pine cone down the wooded path along the river. This was the shortcut to her best friend’s house. Rita the redhead lived on the wrong side of the tracks in one of the ramshackle shanties on the thin strip of land between the banks of the river and the railroad tracks. Paulette, Frankie and Scrawny Ronnie’s neighborhood wasn’t exactly upscale either; the big expensive McMansions were on the other side of the river.
She stopped in mid-kick at the sound of voices. A smile grew when she recognized it was Frankie. That’s when something in the river caught her eye. A closer look and that smile stretched across her face. She crouched down, grabbed a stick and reached for Frankie’s swimming suit before the current washed it away. Spying upstream just a few yards, Scrawny and Frankie clung to the side of Ronnie’s rubber boat. The boys froze when her giggle gave her away. No sense hiding any longer, Paulette hung the swim trunks on a branch out of sight and proudly stepped into the opening. Ronnie grabbed his suit out of the little boat, worked them up his legs then hugged the side of the boat before his head bobbed underwater. Frankie’s free hand searched and searched to no avail. Paulette didn’t even try to hold back a snicker as Frankie’s panic rose.
“Very funny Ronnie! Give it back!”
“Seriously dude, I don’t have it!”
The two boys were losing it.
“RONNIE!” If he wasn’t freaking out, surely Frankie would have heard his father in his voice.
“Is there a problem, boys? Paulette out right laughed.
“This isn’t funny Ronnie, stop kidding around!” This time he did hear his father in himself.
Ronnie glanced at Paulette then ducked back behind the boat to whisper, “Hey man, I’ll run home and get another swimsuit.”