Jimmy and Tim were caddies at the Long Shore Country Club the summer before they would enter eighth grade at Assumption School, the last year before going on to prep school. Tim did not know that the grueling sessions with Sister Mary Claire after regular school hours would win him a scholarship to Fairfield Prep. He also did not know that the nuns had somehow found copies of past entrance exams and shared the questions and answers with their star pupils, including Tim.
Jimmy and Tim were both becoming young men without realizing it. They rode bikes to the links every day and waited to be called out of the caddy pool of other boys waiting for an assignment. It was competitive, but if you got a foursome who played eighteen holes, the money was good—provided the players liked you. Tim often carried two sets of clubs, one on each shoulder, while the players rode the course in electric golf carts. By the end of eighteen holes, Tim’s shoulders ached and had red welts.
Jimmy was smaller and could handle only one set of clubs, which meant he made less money. Tim liked being out on the course. It was immaculately manicured and just steps from Long Island Sound. He dreamed of one day being able to play as a member, but he knew that probably would never happen.
It was late August, only a few weeks before school would reopen after Labor Day—the end of summer. Th e radio weather predictions called for thunderstorms in the afternoon, high winds, and lightning. That was enough to deter the golfers to the Nineteenth Hole, the cocktail lounge at the clubhouse. There would be no more tips for caddies that afternoon.
Jimmy and Tim finished the bologna and cheese sandwiches Tim’s mom had made for them and got on their bikes for one last swim at Compo Beach. The sun was still out, but the leaves on the maple trees were turning backward in the wind, a sure sign a storm was coming.
They got to the beach and parked their bikes next to the wooden bathhouses. Tim’s mom rented a bathhouse there every summer, a privilege available only to residents of Westport. She painted hers white, so it stood out among the other weatherworn wooden compartments.
Tim had a key, and he and Jimmy went in to change into their bathing suits. The water in the sound was warm, typical for late August, and fortunately there were no jellyfish. The tide was low so the two swam to the wooden float and stretched out. There were very few people on the beach. Clouds were starting to come in over the sound, so Jimmy and Tim decided to swim back to shore. They changed into dry clothes in the bathhouse and then lay out on towels spread on the lawn, watching the clouds and the leaves folding backward on the maple trees. They gave each other back rubs, as they always did after a swim.
“We’d better be going,” Tim said as he looked at the graying clouds that hovered above.
“Yeah, I guess so,” Jimmy agreed.
They picked up their backpacks and towels and got on their bikes for the ride back to Jimmy’s house, just past the Long Shore Country Club on Compo Road. It looked like the storm was about to come onto land. Although it was only four o’clock, it was already getting dark.
“You boys get in here,” Jimmy’s mom directed. “It’s going to get nasty soon. I heard it on the radio. They’re predicting possible tornados, and a cold front coming in from the west.”
“Wow!” Jimmy said. “So soon?”
“These storms have a mind of their own,” Jimmy’s mom added. “You boys better put your bikes in the garage, and shut the door tight.”
“Okay, Mom,” Jimmy said obediently.
“Timmy, I’ve called your mom and told her you are staying here for supper and overnight. You can sleep in the bunk bed in Jimmy’s room. Your mom said that was fine. She didn’t want you riding your bike in this storm. So that’s the plan.”
“Fine,” Tim said, “if that’s okay with her.” Tim was looking forward to spending the night with Jimmy. They had camped out in tents with the Boy Scouts, but this was different. He would be alone with Jimmy in his bedroom.
“It’s macaroni and cheese,” Jimmy’s mom announced as she put two plates on the kitchen table. “I didn’t have much else to fix on short notice.”
“This is great.” Tim smiled. “One of my favorites.”
“Here’s your milk,” Jimmy’s mom said. “There are oatmeal cookies for dessert. It’s not fancy, but it should hold you over.”
“This is great,” Tim said politely.
Jimmy’s mom was older than Tim’s. She had one leg shorter than the other, and she wore a heavy black shoe with a built-up heel on her right foot to compensate. She clumped around the kitchen as she prepared dinner for the boys. Jimmy’s dad had never been a figure in the household, and Jimmy never spoke of him. Ever since they had met in first grade at Assumption School and became best friends, Jimmy only had a mom.
After cookies and milk, the boys went into the small living room and laid out a game of Monopoly on the card table. Tim was winning, with houses on Boardwalk and Park Place, when the lights went out. The rain was starting outside, first a slow patter, and then more deliberately. The wind was picking up, and loud claps of thunder shook the house. Lightning illuminated the indoors of the house as Jimmy...