Dusty Millers

The grass was Zoysia, perfectly manicured like the lawn of a centuries-old Cambridge quadrangle. There was a large roofed terrace that looked out onto the polo field, high open arches and ceiling fans overhead. Members drank daiquiris and mint juleps. The feeling was understated, but all about money, Anglo-Saxon anglophiles who had somehow preserved an air of colonialism at the end of the twentieth century in a part of a country that had neither been a colony nor colonized another. Some even feigned British accents.

To the left of the terrace was the pool, the only refrigerated one in town. People were proud of that, and behind the pool, the snack bar.

No Jews, no blacks, no nouveau riche.

What did this exclusivity mean to an eight year-old? He played with his new stepbrother. They ate chocolate ice cream, butterscotch sundaes with malted milk sprinkled on top called Dusty Millers.

It was a big change: golf, tennis, swimming lessons, and rules. The unspoken ones were the most difficult to comprehend. His new brother knew what to say, how to act, and how the rules worked. He belonged. The boy emulated him and learned how to create the appearance that he too belonged.

They went below the surface to get to the bathroom. His brother had shown him a shortcut through a tunnel accessed from a concrete stairwell around the corner from the terrace. A large azalea bush obscured its entrance.

They descended the steps, opened the green screen door, and entered a cool, dank underground world. There were mounds of dirt on either side atop the shoulder-high concrete walls that lined the tunnel. Only a single non-covered light bulb burning at the far end guided them along the slightly sloping grainy concrete floor.

As soon as they passed through the door and left the steamy summer heat behind, they began running toward the light, their little bare feet pitter-pattering along the pavement. Sometimes they screamed as they ran. About half-way through the trajectory, the door, with only an un-dampened long rusty spring to pull it closed, slammed shut with a thwack, and they ran even harder toward the light.

At the end finally, under the bulb, they passed through another door, spotless white with a brass handle, leaving the strange subterranean shortcut, and entering the clean, tiled, brightly-lit men's locker room. They made a beeline to the bathroom stalls; Speedos and bare feet dangled above the floor.

Rinsing their hands in the sink afterwards, the boy made his favorite funny face in the mirror.

"Good one." His brother laughed as he responded with one of his own.

They ran back through the tunnel. Though guided on the return by the daylight that filtered through the screen door, the boy felt less certain above than below. He looked at his brother's face again, now studying it for clues on how to properly compose his own.

About the author:

Chris Marselli lives on Spain's Costa Brava with his wife and son. His non-fiction articles have appeared in Catalunya Lifestyle, and his first published fiction will be in the February edition of thewritersezine.com.