Summary: A 4th of July picnic with the family.
Down by the Bay...
by Twilight (Dawn)
Down by the bay,
Where the watermelons grow,
Back to my house,
I dare not go.
For if I do, my mother will say,
Have you ever seen a Bee,
With sunburned knees,
Down by the bay?
"You sure you got everything, Chief?" Jim eased the truck into the slow lane, signaling to get off at the next exit.
"Man, Jim...for the last time, I got everything on the list." Blair reached forward, pulling a sheet of paper from the brown paper bag situated between his feet on the floor of the truck cab. "Look," he waved the sheet near Jim's head. "I even checked things off as I put them in, okay."
"Easy, Sandburg." The exit ramp was a bit sharp and Jim had to step on the brakes and coast around the turn that led to the flashing red light at the bottom. "I just don't want to have to drive fifteen miles and fight the crowds at the Speedy Mart."
Blair nodded, stuffing the paper back into the bag. The street was lined with tall, lush trees that gave way to rolling flowery fields and beyond them, Blair could make out the coast of the inlet they were heading to.
The road thinned and Jim had to ease off the gas and pass a few men riding bicycles along the narrow lanes. Up ahead, he could see the dock areas and a few pavilions standing in the open fields. "Should be the last one on the left...I can see Dad sitting at a table."
Blair squinted, unable to even see the picnic area at the end of the road. Minutes later, they pulled in and Blair jumped out and grabbed his bag and duffle.
Jim went around the back to get the cooler and the folding chairs from the bed of the old blue and white truck.
They dumped their load on the nearest table and Blair hung back as Jim went to talk to his father, he gave Sally a big squeeze before shaking Steven's hand. On the bench behind them sat Steven's very pregnant wife and a few small children. The other tables were full of unfamiliar people, some Jim's family, but most were friends, employees and associates of Jim's father, invited to his annual Independence Day Celebration, complete with loads of food, swimming in an Olympic sized pool and watching the fireworks from the company yacht.
"Nice to see you again, Blair." William Ellison extended his hand, his head covered with a brimmed hat and eyes hidden behind dark sunglasses, but his smile was bright.
"Nice to see you too, sir."
Jim's dad turned and dug into a cooler, holding out a cold can, dripping with condensation "Soda?"
"Sure...thanks." Blair popped the tab, lifting the drink quickly to his mouth to suck the foam that rose and started to froth over the sides. William moved away to talk with one of the children playing nearby.
"Let's set up, Chief and then I'll take you around to introduce you to the ones I know." Jim opened their cooler and sat out the fruit salad and seedless watermelon he had picked up from a vendor on the way up, followed by a large red bowl that held Blair's potato salad. Sally took their offerings and added them to a row of checkered clad tables in the center of the pavilion and then waved them away. "Go enjoy yourself, Jimmy. I got this."
Jim grabbed the folded chairs and sat them in the shade of the tree line before turning and taking a deep breath. "Okay, so you know Steven and that's his wife, Melanie. The kids sitting at the table are his...Stevie and Stephanie."
They visited with Jim's brother and family for a few minutes before moving on to the next table. Jim gave him brief updates on his family members, some who he hadn't seen since he was a child. One elder looking lady in a red flowered dress sat under a bright orange umbrella, her bent and aging fingers holding a thick brown cigar, puffing periodically, leaving a ring of red around the base.
"Oh..." Jim pulled up short and shot Blair a quick look, but it was too late, the woman had spotted them, waving them closer.
"Yes, how are you Aunt Ruth?" Jim leaned down to give her an awkward hug, enduring the sloppy kiss that left streaks of lipstick on his face.
"And who is this handsome young man?"
"This is my roommate Blair, Aunt Ruth," Jim moved back as Blair reached out a hand.
"Oh, no." She said, opening her arms wide. "Auntie Ruth always hugs..."
Blair automatically moved in for a hug, allowing the stranger to kiss him, "Nice to meet you," but as he turned to follow Jim to the next set of tables, feeble fingers pinched his rear and he jumped, turning to see Aunt Ruth looking the picture of innocence, well... except for the burning cigar dangling from her mouth.
Jim snickered from ahead, speaking just loud enough for Blair to hear him. "Stay away from Aunt Ruth, Sandburg, or your ass will be sore and bruised by the end of the day."
"Yeah, man...thanks for the tip."
Blair flopped into his chair, pulling the sun block from his duffle. Lunch was winding up and he was stuffed, having eaten his fair share of grilled steak and corn. He was pleasantly surprised that his potato salad went over so well, several people had even asked him for the recipe.
He flipped the lid on the bottle, taking his time, smoothing the cream on this arms and neck beyond his blue Hawaiian shirt, making sure to get both sides of his legs below the knee length cargo shorts.
Jim joined him a little later, reaching for the bottle. "Steven wants to play horse shoes. You up for a game, Chief?" Jim lathered on the cream, leaving thick trails of white on his arms and legs.
They spent several hours playing the game, joined by others making an impromptu mini tournament. Blair, sweating and hot, left Jim with his father and went in search of a beer, avoiding Aunt Ruth by going all the way around the pavilion to get to his cooler.
He sat stretching his legs and sipping on his cold brew. Soon Jim joined him and they rested for a bit, enjoying the breeze, watching the younger children run back and forth, chasing after a Frisbee. A tan dog jumped along behind them, barking and jockeying for a turn at the green disk.
Blair's head jerked up, eyeing Jim. "For what?"
Jim took a swig from his bottle, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. "Thanks for coming with me today. I know Simon invited us for a BBQ, but I'm glad you agreed to spend the day with me and my family."
Blair sat his bottle along the leg of the chair. "No problem, man."
"Let's hit the water, I'm getting hot." Jim stood and stripped off his shirt and dropped his Bermuda shorts. He tightened the strings of his swim trunks and stowed his keys and wallet in Blair's duffle. "Get my back, will ya?" He passed Blair the sunscreen and turned around.
Blair poured some in his hands and smoothed the lotion all over Jim's back. When he was done, he took off his own shirt and Jim returned the favor. Blair wore his trunks under his cargo shorts, like Jim and so it only took a few minutes to get ready and grab their towels.
Others had the same idea; families walked the short distance in their swim gear, carrying tubs and other safety devices for the smaller children.
They both jumped right in, staying under water until emerging at the other side. Jim drifted on his back and swam laps for a bit while Blair climbed the ladder to the diving board at the deeper end.
The afternoon passed and Blair found himself in the shallow end, chatting with Melanie as she watched her small children playing on the steps that descended into the pool. The little boy would go to the last step before racing back up to the top, feet barely in the water and swim trunks dripping while his older sister swam around held aloft by the inflated tubes around her forearms. She circled Blair and her mother, smiling each time she was able to make it back to the steps.
"Come on, Stevie?" Melanie called, reaching out her arms. "I'll hold you."
Blair smiled as he made a go at it again, but ultimately turned and retreated to the top step. He looked so much like an Ellison; it had Blair wondering what Jim had looked like at that age.
"He not a fan of the water?" Blair asked leaning back in the water and letting his legs slowly rise to the surface.
"I just think it's too big. We have a pool, but it's a small fraction of this size."
Finally the little boy joined his mother, burying his face in her neck and hanging on tightly as she sank in the water a bit.
Blair floated a little longer before getting out and drying off, finding an empty pool chair to rest and watch Jim and a few others dive from the lower board. The sun warmed his skin and his eyes drooped. After a bit he lowered the chair and rolled to his stomach, burying his face in his arms and drifting off to sleep.
A gentle shake to his shoulder woke him a little later. "Come on, Chief. Let's get changed." Blair cracked open an eye to see Jim standing over him, water dripping down his chest and legs.
He rolled to his back and checked his waterlogged watch, having forgotten to take it off. "Man, the day is flying."
They both went to the locker rooms, stepping under the hot spray of the shower and then a few minutes in the sauna before getting dressed. Jim's brother and family were waiting for them as they emerged. "Dad wants to know if you guys want to go out on the boat now. He wants to get a good spot to see the fireworks."
Jim nodded, tucking the duffle with their wet trunks and towels under his arm. "Yeah. Just let me pack up the truck so we can hit the road when we get back to shore."
Blair walked along beside his friend, helping pack up the cooler and folding the chairs. Jim snitched another piece of watermelon while he was getting the empty potato salad bowl, stuffing a dripping chunk in his mouth.
The sun was pretty low in the horizon as they boarded the large ship and by the time they anchored darkness was creeping over the deck.
Jim's family moved to the rear of the boat and Blair followed along, hissing as he sunk into a deck chair.
"What's the matter, Chief?"
Blair shook his head, accepting a cool glass from a man in white. "Nothing, just a little too much sun, I think." He sipped his drink, tasting mango and coconut and a hint of something else he couldn't place...Jim would know.
Minutes later the sky was completely dark and the loud booms and bright fiery multi colored light of the fireworks tore through the sky. Blair watched, glancing from time to time at Jim to make sure he wasn't having any problems with the sights or sounds.
Jim's brother held his daughter as she gasped and marveled at the night sky, but poor little Stevie sat huddled on his mother's lap, hands clamped tightly over his little ears.
The display went on for about thirty minutes and by the time the big finale came, Stevie was clapping his hands and pointing to the smoky sky. "Yea..."
Jim sat at the table reading the morning paper and sipping his coffee. He could hear Blair puttering in his room, drawers opening and closing, the mattress squeaking as his friend sat and sighed.
He dropped the paper, alarmed by the pain in his friend's voice. "What's the matter, Chief?"
The door opened and Blair shuffled slowly out, still dressed in a cotton t-shirt and plaid boxers he wore to bed. "Do we have any Aloe?"
Blair's cheeks were a bit red, but Jim did a double take as his eyes traveled down Blair's body to his legs. From about mid thigh to just below his knees, Blair's skin was bright red and Jim could feel the heat radiating from the burn. "What the hell happened?"
Sinking stiffly into the dining chair, his friend shrugged. "I guess I forgot my shorts were longer than my trunks."
"I'd say." Jim laughed.
"It's not funny, man. I can hardly bend my knees...and my ass hurts. Your aunt got me a time or two...how am I going to do your paperwork if I can't even sit?" Blair shifted out a leg, feeling the skin pull tight as he tried to straighten it. Even the seat of the chair pressed into him, hurting the back of his knees.
Jim went to the bathroom and came back with a gel for burns, handing Blair the bottle. The ointment stunk, but after a few seconds of tingling, the burning faded.
"Better?" Jim asked, already grabbing his keys.
Blair nodded and walked awkwardly back to his room, carefully pulling on his blue cotton shirt and shimmied into a pair of jeans. He was feeling better until he tried to get on his shoes. "Ah...Jim?"
"Problem, Sandburg?" Jim stood in the doorway, leaning casually on the frame, keys dangling from his fingers.
"Umm...well..." He looked from his friend to his shoes and back to his friend.
Jim sighed, rolling his eyes but helped him get on and tie his sneakers, all the while singing softly. "Down by the bay..."
"So not funny, man...don't say it."
Jim lifted his head, a slight twinkle in his eyes, "Have ya ever seen a bee with sunburned knees, down by the bay."
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