It was such a humid day out today. But, I guess that's what you could expect from a strange and beautiful place such as Devon. It wasn't Georgia, that was for sure.
I'd been walking off to the dining hall when a classmate of mine from gym (Boy, he even put that Eddie Evanson back in his place at football), was seen fooling around with a crowd of boys on one of the cross-walks. "Hey Forrester!" one of them called out.
I wiped the sweat off my brow. A few yards away was Brinker, and a few other boys, including that boy from gym-class. In his restrained, bespectacled manner, he called me over.
Running over, he asked me if I wanted to go head off to the River, not but a 5-minute walk from the Center Commons.
"Was this your idea?" I asked plainly, squinting from the beating sun. Brinker shook his head nearly at an instant, and he had the other boys step aside. I was puzzled at first, but then, as they parted like the Red Sea, was the boy from gym-class dead center, for whom I would learn was Phineas.
His green eyes sparkling, he shot out his hand, not letting the moment waver for even a second, and shook mine.
"Nice to meet you," he greeted me with a devilish grin. I remember that this had made me cringe.
It had definitely been those what-have-I-gotten-myself-into sort of deals, when I met Phineas that oppressive June afternoon.
I trailed Brinker and his crowd (as I wasn't too familiar with either Brinker nor his friends) and saw the River come into complete view. It looked refreshing to take a quick dip in, but I wasn't very sure what they wanted to do here.
Ahead, I saw Phineas break off from the crowd and quickly scale the length of the river, strictly through mere observation. Everyone else had stopped walking by now, and even Brinker stood there, bemused.
Next, Phineas, with his arms cast akimbo, carefully observed the line of elm trees that stood sentinel along the River. He pursed his lips and scrunched his brow. Wiped the sweat from his forehead. Then, his eyes flickered, as if a bonfire had been lit.
He walked up to a certain tree. This one seemed to stand out from the others quite clearly, as I noticed its branches struggled to pierce the sky. Its contours were more severe; less of a bountiful nature. This tree didn't appear as if it belonged with the others. If I was correct, this was the tree that the seventeen year-old bunch used to jump off from for war-training.
I had never seen such a violent-looking thing such as this, before.
"The thing that I like about this one," he said to himself and then turned to us, "...is that it is such a cinch!"
What, were we climbing this damn thing? That was the first thing that popped into my head then.
He stripped himself of his clothes, until he was only clad in his underwear. As he lifted one foot onto the wooden pegs that ran up the length of the tree, his arm reached for another above himself. By the time Phineas had reached the scraggly-looking branch that reached well over the River, he was nothing but an ant from where we were all standing.
He shouted something about the war, and then sprung forward from the branch, hitting the water with such supreme grace that I was even slightly intimidated at his prowess; his courage.
His head poked through the water's glimmering surface, shimmering and scattering specks of sunlight. Laughing at himself and I suppose the thrill he had gotten from this feat, he asked aloud,
"So, which one of you wants to climb next?"
I noticed that everyone slowly shifted themselves away from Phineas, the River, and the tree. Brinker declined, of course. Another scrawny-looking boy merely mumbled a few imperceptible things, while the others protested. However for Phineas, this all fell upon deaf ears.
He turned his gaze upon me. "What about you?" he asked, slightly cocking his head to one side.
I wanted to turn and walk away and simply continue what I had been meaning to do in the dining hall at that moment, but my mistake was that I didn't break his gaze in time.
Strange, I know. But Phineas had a hypnotist's gaze. Armed with that easily disarming smile, I'm not even sure if Phineas knew that he could possibly make anyone do anything he wanted.
I found myself at the foot of the tree, where Phineas stood not even ten minutes ago. I had been reduced to a puppet and its strings.
Up and up and up the wooden pegs I went, struggling not to entertain the thought of one of the wooden pegs giving way. I would die. Keeping my eyes cast upward, it seemed like an eternity before I reached the scraggly-looking branch. From where I stood, the branch looked more massive in size than I had thought; it had the look and feel of an arm of a Colossus. My feet felt the rough surface of the branch as I carefully crossed from the trunk and its pegs. But the view! Through all the leaves and overhanging branches I could see the other side of the river! But my momentary exhilaration was stopped prematurely, for I heard Phineas faintly call from below.
I couldn't hear him quite exactly from where I was. His hands were cupped around the sides of his mouth.
Jump, he appeared to be saying. He flashed a smile; as quick as lightning.
My heart leapt into my throat. My palms grew sweaty. I swallowed a bit of vomit in my mouth. I inhaled; I took the biggest breath that I had ever taken in my life.
One. Two. Three.
I was afraid that my leg would get caught by a branch when I leaned forward to jump. But I felt the wind rush past my face, and my body being felt like it was suspended in mid-air. A swift glance of faces before I hit the water.
There was nothing. I couldn't hear, nor see. So, I kicked my legs, hoping that it would propel me to the surface as fast as possible. Once I felt myself break the surface of the waters, I scrubbed my eyes in order to view where I was. I looked to the river bank.
Phineas beamed. As I swam nearer to the banks, Phineas held a glint of interest in his eye.
As I dried off and gathered my belongings, Brinker and the boys walked ahead of me down the dirt road that led to the Playing Fields.
I thought I was alone.
But, as I tightened my belt, I turned to find Phineas dressing as well. Somewhat startled, I stuck around for a minute or two more, if not awkwardly, waiting for Phineas to finish.
As the two of us trailed the crowd, Phineas announced into the air, "Looks like its just you and me, pal."
I guess we had become the best of friends at that moment, earlier today.
But I should probably sleep now; I think I hear Finny walking near our dorm-room.