Mimi paddled to the pontoon to retrieve her swimsuit. It was gone. She frowned, gripped the edge of the raft, and was about to hoist herself up to peer over the pontoon to the other side when she realized she'd be hoisting herself out of the water in full view of the picnickers on the beach. She moved to the other side and looked around. It was empty.
In a flash, she realized what had happened. Her suit, caught on the corner of the pontoon, had fallen into the water when Birgie had jumped up and down before diving into the lake. Mimi dove under the raft, squinting as she tried to see through the soft green veils of suspended algae. No good. She couldn't make out a thing. She swept her arms around, hoping her suit had gotten tangled in the weeds as it drifted to the bottom twenty feet below. She came up after about a minute sans suit.
Damn. She scanned the beach, looking for some place she could make shore and scoot straight into some bushes. There was none. A hundred years of pulling up brush had made the Chez Ducky beach if not the cleanest one in the county, at least one of the more open ones. The closest any bush came to shore was fifty feet past the Big House, where a swamp elder thicket marked the border of Olson land. Better still, the shoreline there was thick with water lily pads. If she could slither to shore then duck into the brush, she might be able to sneak through the woods to the other side of the property where arriving guests would park their cars. Someone was bound to have left their door open and every Minnesotan carries a blanket in their trunk. Even in the summer.
Besides, she didn't see she had much of a choice. The option, marching out of the lake naked in front of a hundred people, didn't hold much appeal. Naomi might think Mimi had finally seen the light and was going Druid, but the rest of them...well, Mimi wouldn't mind their amusement as much as Debbie's assessment. Nope. Mimi did not think she wanted svelte, lipo-sucked, gym-toned, spray-tanned Debbie give her body a pitying once-over.
Mimi waited until everyone on the beach was occupied then began nonchalantly breast-stroking to shore. As she got closer, she sank lower in the water, submerging until only her eyes and nostrils were above the smooth surface of the lake. Sort of like a Nile crocodile approaching a wildebeest herd, she thought. She imagined launching herself out of the water, grabbing Debbie, and dragging her back into the lake. She grinned as she drew closer to shore, making a mental note to share this vignette with her cousin Gerry's wife, Vida, who held similar views regarding Debbie.
She took a deep breath and sank seamlessly beneath the water. Once under, she shot forward, porpoise kicking for all she was worth. The water grew warmer as it got shallower. The wild celery swept along her sides and brushed her stomach and thighs and breasts, as silky as feather boas. Her lungs had just started to burn when her hand hit the mucky lake bottom.
She planted her knees and carefully raised her head. Bingo. She was in the lily pads only yards away from the beach and bushes. She yanked up a thick handful of the tuberous lilies and festooned herself with them just in case someone did spot her --she didn't want to be responsible for some little old man dropping dead at the sight of her in all her feminine glory. Then, trailing her legs in the mud, Mimi crept forward on her elbows and forearms until she felt the kiss of cool air on her ass. She tucked her feet beneath her in a runner's crouch, took one last glance at the people on the beach, and shot out of the water, diving head-first into the bushes, shedding weeds and muck as she went. She rolled and squatted, listening. Nothing.
She smiled. From here she could stay in the brush all the way out to the dirt road that led into the lake, cross that, then continue through the woods to where the cars would be parked.
"Ow!" Her smile faded. A posse of mosquitoes was humming excitedly around her, alerting their brethren to the bounty of exposed flesh that the mosquito gods had sent them. It was going to be a long hike.
Fifty yards up the beach, Naomi stopped pounding nails and looked down into the upturned face of the little boy tugging at her bed sheet."What is it, Emil?"
It would have surprised Naomi to hear that the kid's name wasn't Emil, and in fact, the little boy wasn't even an Olson. His name was George. But as he was only three, it didn't really matter to either of them what Naomi called him.
"Did you see the monster?" he demanded.
Naomi, who loved children, put down her hammer and patted Emil-George's head. "What monster?"
"The monster that came out of the lake." He pointed down the beach.
"What did this monster look like?" Naomi asked.
Naomi regarded the child in delight. "What else?"
Emil-George nodded. "Dirty."
"Ah," Naomi breathed, nodding sagely. "That wasn't a monster, dear. That was your Aunt Mimi."
This apparently made sense to George-Emil for he said, "Oh," and wandered off. Naomi went back to her hammering.