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With a Little Help

Part 1: Gemini

Chapter 1: The Chariot; or, the Boy in the Lake

When your last memory is of dark cold water rushing into your lungs, your next memory should not be of afternoon light and a half dozen trim, muscular, naked young men gathered around you, one of whom is kissing you. That was the sequence that Donny remembered, though, for quite a while; that, and the certainty that he was in fact dead and had somehow ended up in a paradise he’d never guessed existed.

After the kiss, water burbled up his throat. The naked young man sat back and turned Donny’s head to the side, so the lakewater wouldn’t end up going back into the wrong pipe. This gave Donny a wonderful view of the young man’s young manhood, which was large, uncut and, for some reason, clean-shaven. Donny wanted to thank him for the kiss and the view, but he coughed, and then — because God had never liked him much — he chucked up all over the naked young man’s kneecaps. The young man rolled Donny over on his side, to keep him from aspirating his own hork.

The others laughed, but not the first young man; his voice was low and soothing when he said, “That’s all right. It happens. You’ll be okay now.” He looked up at one of the other young men. “Go on and get into town now, Andy. We’ll bring him along in Rog’s wagon. Let them know we’ll need Doc Ryan. You’ll probably want to get Ray Travers, too.”

“Ray? You really think so?”

“Yeah.” The naked young man looked out across the lake, from which the trunk of a 1947 DeSoto ragtop was still protruding. “I do. This wasn’t an accident.” He looked down at Donny again. “Was it?”

Donny closed his eyes.