It was so hot that summer that when Benji hopped from his front porch he found his kickball melted to the driveway. Sighing, he peeled it off with the toe of his flip-flop. He had been to the lake so many times that the netting of his suit started chafing the insides of his thighs. Slung around his neck were his goggles, and bulging from the pocket of his trunks was a mason jar full of disconnected bits of insects like eyelashes and pubic hairs.
Really, he didn’t even like swimming, nor did he like killing bugs, but Darlene interested him. They all popped differently, and the specificity of Darlene’s mental catalogue of these differences impressed Benji. She knew that ground beetles popped at the lake floor, knew that moths popped violently, their wings crumbling like Twix wrappers.
By the time Benji made it to the lake, sweat oozed from his back. He saw the usuals—then Darlene, already neck-deep in the water, her wet, red hair glistening. He yanked off his shirt, tugged his goggles over his eyes, and rummaged through the leaves at the edge of the lake until he found a torpedo-shaped firefly. He trapped it, mentally apologizing.
He swam to Darlene. “Look,” he said, lifting the jar, and she did, and he smiled. For Benji, talking to her was still tricky, like straightening paper clips.
They swam underwater, kicking downward, their slimy calves and ankles sliding against each other, and, as the water grew darker, its weight throbbed in their ears. Just when Benji thought he couldn’t take it, the bug exploded, splattering the glass neon. Weightlessly, they floated side- by-side, waiting for the glow to fade, and as Benji’s lungs began to burn, bubbles erupted from his nostrils, and he sensed that something was going to change.