Running Out of June

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a young man, a dog, a lost love, and the month of June.

Submitted: June 04, 2016

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Submitted: June 04, 2016

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June was always his favorite month. June meant the start of summer, the grass a vibrant green, the wind dying away. School was over and his birthday was right round the corner. It was the relief of sitting in front of an air conditioner, the noise it made creating the perfect ambient sound to match the quiet serenity of summer nights. June meant excitement; the first taste of ice cream, the first drive with the windows down, the first time you look upon the wide, blue ocean.

He sat on the couch and watched TV. It was late, he was alone, and he was restless. The dog could sense his anxious energy and seemed to absorb some of it. Still, the dog lay at his feet, content to stay motionless as long as his master was. He muted the TV. Somehow watching people move without having to listen to them soothed his brain. He paired the images on the screen with the sound of the AC, the crickets outside, the gentle whimpering of the dog, and he found therapy.

He loved June as much as he hated September. September was when people went away; off to school, off to start a new job, a new chapter, a new life. September was when the weather decided to be fickle again. He could handle October, when the seasons were no longer in transition and fall was here to stay, or November, when the crunchy leaves give way to Christmas excitement, but he couldn’t stand September.

The calendar stuck to the wall in the kitchen with blue masking tape informed him that there were only a few days left in May. It occurred to him that he only had a finite number of Junes to enjoy in his life. Someday, he would reach his final June, and he might not even know it. He estimated there were only a handful of the twenty-odd Junes he had lived that really meant anything. June wasn’t the first time he drove a car, but it was when he got his license. June wasn’t the first time he drank a beer, but it was the first time he got drunk. June wasn’t the first time he kissed a girl, but it was when he met her.

He had met her before, but he hadn’t really met her. He had somehow gotten her acquaintance when they were in their mid-teens, a face among many that came and went in the flurry of adolescence. She knew people he knew, and he knew people she knew, but they didn’t know each other. He might see her once a year; at a cookout, or at the mall, or at a party, his hand in some other girl’s, a girl he would leave come September.

He had always preferred June to July, even though his birthday was in July. June felt fresher. June was when everything started to bloom. July felt too saturated with the syrup of summer. July was when you make your eighth or ninth beach trip. July was when your legs get stuck to the car seat. July was when the heat starts to get to you and the AC stops working. August was even worse. August was when the incessant heat becomes less and less bearable when the promise of more summer slips away slowly. August meant September’s nearby. July was indulgence, August was sobering, but June was invigorating.

His lease ran up in June. A friend of a friend helped him find the place a couple years ago after graduation, and through this loose familial connection was allowed a cheaper rent, which allowed him to live alone, except for the dog of course.  He could extend it, allow himself the same exact modicum of comfortability he had enjoyed the previous year, and be free of any immediate worry. The hotel job made available to him through his uncle gave him a modest income, more than enough to live on in his quiet, tired town. In fact, everything about him was modest. Modest house, modest car, modest dog. He felt far too young to be so comfortable.

One June, he started seeing her around more often. They didn’t go to the same high school, but in that way that friendships shift and change in your teenage years, he found himself hanging with people he hadn’t always hung around with. Someone he was close with was close with someone else, who was close with her. She appeared for the first time to him in a smaller setting, in someone’s basement one Saturday night. That’s when they had their first real conversation. They talked about parties they had been at together, people they both knew, experiences they had shared together, but not with each other. He started to wish they hadn’t waited till now to ignite this friendship.

The dog got up and did a lap around the living room, deciding to be the first to act on the wandering energy floating throughout the house. The people still moved on the television, the frantic gestures of an old movie meaning much less with the absence of sound. He turned his attention to the window and saw scattered stars littered onto a blanket the last shade of purple before it becomes black. He got up and walked to the basement. The dog followed, eager for whatever it meant.

The June of his junior year he played left field. He was certainly not a bad player, but not quite good enough to have any real hopes of being made captain the next year, or even moving to center, the position he preferred. It was the ninth inning and the score was tied. All they had to do was keep the other team from scoring and they would have a chance to take it. It was a playoff game in which the stakes were advancement to the next round, and the next round meant travelling to further away towns to play better teams, teams they didn’t normally face in the regular season. He thought about how he would be fine if the season ended right then, without even finishing the game. He had played baseball all his life, and he continued to play through high school because, well, he had played baseball all his life. But in this moment he was ready for that year’s adventure to be over, and to turn his attention to more leisurely activities.

His left field meditation was interrupted by a hard crack and a baseball flying towards him, or perhaps over him. He ran backwards, the sudden shift in effort causing him to regret his experiment with cigarettes that he had undertaken that month. The ball and his glove were not quite on meeting paths until he leaped into the air. The ball landed soundly in his glove and his body hit the grass to thunderous applause. He had kept his team alive, and suddenly he wasn’t so wary of victory.

He thought about this as he searched through boxes in his basement. He thought about how even after his moment of heroism, his team failed to score, and lost the game in extra innings. But he also thought about how if they had won, his dramatic catch would’ve received less attention afterwards by teammates and coaches looking for positives after a tough loss. He realized this was a selfish thought. Finally, he found what he was looking for; a telescope. A telescope he had received for Christmas many years ago, an admittedly geeky Christmas wish. He hadn’t used it since he was a kid, and he wasn’t sure he even used it correctly back then, but he resolved to get his parents’ money’s worth, all these years later, by using it tonight. The dog followed him outside as he fumbled with the stand trying to get everything into position.

One thing was readily apparent to them after the third or fourth time they talked; she was really smart. He thought a lot of girls sounded smart at that age, an age where beauty and confidence can sap a boy’s judgement, but she was different. He knew she was smart. Smarter than him, smarter than anyone else they spent summer days with migrating from cool place to cool place. She didn’t display any impressive knowledge of any one subject or flaunt incredible grades, but she could read people, and she was always right in her assessment. They talked about what they wanted to do, where they wanted to go, who they wanted to be. He wanted to go to the west coast. He wanted to open up a coffee shop, or maybe a bookstore, or whatever kind of business that would allow him to make enough money to operate at his own pace. She was fine right where she was. She saw the appeal of exploring for a few months or a year, maybe visiting Spain if she had to choose, but she felt no need to run from where she was rooted.

He looked through the viewfinder on the telescope until he saw the moon. The telescope wasn’t nearly powerful enough to see any other celestial bodies in appreciable detail. A black crescent obscured about a quarter of the surface from the right side. He examined the long, empty oceans of shadow and tried to make out shapes. He wondered if he was the only one looking at the moon right at that moment. If only he had a better device in which to view the heavens, he could find more in the sky to occupy his brain and keep him from thinking about the more melancholic parts of his life.

He took a seat on the stairs to his porch. He suddenly became aware of his hands and wished he could do something with them. He half wished he had continued his experiment with American Spirits he started back in high school, maybe just to have something that was changing him, anything at all, even if it was for the worse. Closing his eyes, he listened to the insects haunt the bushes around his home as the dog chased fireflies.

He found himself becoming closer and closer to her, even after a few Junes went by and people began their September adventures. They were never so far apart that he couldn’t hop in his car to go see her within an hour. What had started with a mutual infatuation that could be disguised as a close friendship had evolved to the point where everyone knew they were a sure thing, even if they never said so explicitly. They became so close that he was surprised to hear her say one day that she thought he should move away. No, not right this minute, but someday. She knew he had an agitation that would never be quelled if he stayed put. He asked what would happen to them if he left, realizing as he spoke that they had never been this frank about any sort of future. She told him neither of them would be happy if they tied their fate together. She said that he would come to resent her for not being able to leave, and she would resent him for not wanting to stay. She knew him. She was smart like that.

He stood up decisively. The dog took notice. He fumbled with the stand again until it collapsed together. He brought it to his car and threw it in the trunk. He went back into the house and turned off the TV. He surveyed his surroundings; there was never much in the house because he never needed a lot. He thought about her and what she said about him leaving. He thought about calling for a moment, but knew he wouldn’t have much to say so he shelved the thought. He went into his room, grabbed a duffle bag, and packed it with clothes, not bothering to fold. He grabbed some sheets, a blanket, a pillow, a toothbrush from the bathroom, an extra pair of boots, a baseball glove. He shut off all the lights and walked out to his car. He stuffed everything in the trunk alongside the telescope. He led the dog into the back seat and he got in the front. He started the car and pulled away.

Minutes later the dog fell asleep. He had never been to the west coast before. Junes had come and gone before and they would come and leave again, but he decided he wouldn’t waste a second of this one.


© Copyright 2017 Cary Lang. All rights reserved.

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