Swimming Sweet Arrow

A Novel


By Maureen Gibbon

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Evangeline Starr Raybuck — plain-spoken, lusty, and hardworking — and June Keel are high school seniors, best friends going out with best friends, working together at Noecker’s chicken farm after school. Vangie and June make out with their boyfriends together in the same car; they pass dirty notes to each other during the day at school. They tell each other everything: “That was the kind of friends we were”.

After they graduate, things begin to shift. Vangie gets a job waitressing and moves in with Del; June, unable to get a job anywhere but the local factory, moves in with Ray and his older brother Luke. As they become more involved in their lives with their men, they see each other infrequently, but not so seldom that it doesn’t become clear to Vangie that there’s something dangerous going on, that June has crossed a line with the men in her life that even Vangie would not.



Copyright © 2000 by Maureen Gibbon

Reading Group Guide copyright © 2001

by Maureen Gibbon and Little, Brown and Company (Inc.)

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

"What Is This Gypsy Passion for Separation," from The Selected Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva by Marina Tsvetaeva, translated by Elaine Feinstein, copyright © 1971,1981 by Elaine Feinstein. Used by permission of Dutton, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.

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First eBook Edition: December 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-09310-1

This is a work of fiction. While there is a real lake called Sweet Arrow, all other names, characters, places, and incidents are entirely the product of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, incidents, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.


WHEN I was eighteen, I went parking with my boyfriend Del, my best friend June, and her boyfriend Ray. What I mean is that June fucked Ray and I fucked Del in the same car, at the same time.

The first time it happened was an accident. We'd been at a formal dance at the school, and we all wanted to go parking and kissing for a while. The speed we did—in the bath-rooms just outside the gym—was still in our systems, but the whooshing of June's long, fancy dress and my long, fancy dress on the car seats drove us all over the edge. I think Del and Ray even came at the same time, what with all the rocking in the car and general excitement.

After that, we planned the nights together. Each couple still had their private times—unlike Del, I couldn't come with the others in the car—but all four of us liked the feel of the extra kissing, sucking, and nakedness going on. We went to the same cornfield each time, parked beneath the trees on the property line, and drank a case of beer. We drank and talked until, by some cue, the touching started and the talking stopped. When we fucked, Del and I didn't talk to June and Ray, and they didn't talk to us. The only sounds in the car were small groans and sighs and sometimes the slippery sound of cock moving into pussy. We used either Del's or Ray's car, and we took turns being in the backseat.

On this particular night, we were in Ray's car and Del and I had the front seat. After we screwed, I lay with Del between my legs, my knees opened as far as they could be between the seat and the dash. Two of our feet were up on the seat, and two were down there by the gas and brake.

"I can't believe we do this," June said from the backseat. I could tell from her voice that she was feeling silly. "I'm best friends with you, Vangie, and there you are."

She and I could see each other —just eyes and the tops of heads—in the space between the seat and the door.

"You broke my rhythm with all your humping," Ray said from the back to tease Del, and when we all laughed, Del slipped out of me, slip, just like that.

"Now I'm cold," I said, and meant the wet place between my legs, but Del reached down on the floor of the car and gave me my shirt.

"Cover up," he said. "I'm going to piss."

"I'm out," Ray said, and he climbed off June. He and Del straddled the car doors, legs going through the open windows. They had to climb out of the car like that because June and I never wanted them to open the doors and make the light go on. We liked to get dressed in the dark, grabbing our clothes from the floor, talking and laughing.

"Their asses look so funny when they do that," June said, and it was true. The whole side of the car filled with butt, and I couldn't stop myself from watching. I mostly watched Del, but I snuck looks at Ray, too. He had dark hair that almost looked black, but his skin was ten times fairer than Del's. He was taller than Del, and thicker through the chest, and I thought that made him seem right for June. When I squeezed June's arm when we were acting crazy or when I wanted to bug her, it was soft in a way that made me want to go on touching it. I thought holding her had to be that way, too, and that Ray would be good at it.

"They look silvery in the moonlight," I said, and June nodded. She was sneaking looks at Del, too, but like the rest of what we did together, the looking June and I did at the other's boyfriend did not seem strange or unnatural.

By the time Del and Ray were coming back, June and I had put on our bras and shirts. I watched Del walk barefoot and naked across the ground. He looked handsome. He wore his hair long in the back, and the black hair framed his face and shoulders. Because his eyes seemed half closed and because of a small, crooked scar that split an eyebrow, Del's face had a tough, lazy look that I liked. I also liked seeing behind that look when he smiled or was being sweet with me, or when he was on top of me, fucking me, and the skin around his eyes puffed up because he was moving into me so hard.

There was something good about being able to see Del naked and walking toward me. I was able to look at his face and his chest and his penis, all at the same time. His body looked like it fit together, and it seemed like a dark, natural thing. What I liked best was how dark his cock and balls were, darker than the skin of his thighs and belly. I could not stop looking at the dark, good color, and just seeing him loosened something inside me. Of course he saw me looking—I was staring—and he smiled as he got back in the car.

"So you like my cock," he whispered when he slid onto the seat beside me. His teeth were crooked and doubled back on themselves in places, and I passed my tongue hard over them when I kissed him to give him his answer. He took my left hand and moved it to cover him, to hold him, and I thought what I always thought when I touched him there: that skin couldn't be softer. It was like the skin behind your ear but even softer, and now he was damp against my hand.

"I like it," I said. I knew June and Ray probably heard the whole thing, but I didn't care. I liked that Del talked to me like that, and I liked the way his face looked when he said those kinds of things to me. He was not afraid to do things, not afraid to try things with me, with my body.

"Are you ready?" June asked.

We always went to pee together, not because we were afraid of the woods or anything, but because it was friendlier to do it with someone else. She couldn't see where my hand was, but I think she knew anyway. I let go.

"Sure, now the lights can go on," Ray said when we opened the car doors. We all laughed because he was sitting in the backseat, holding his shirt over himself. A line of hair snaked down his belly, and that's where I could see how white his skin was.

June and I walked to the first line of trees, where we could squat and pee. I even liked doing that: being outside and feeling the cool air between my thighs, the leaves and bits of dirt beneath my toes. We didn't bring tissues to wipe ourselves but stayed and air-dried a bit.

"I just leave it all here," June said to me.


"Everything," she said. "Piss, come. It all just runs out of me."

"I know," I said. It was why we never put on more than our shirts and bras—because we knew our pussies were so wet. I liked knowing that it wasn't just piss running out of me but also Del. Something about being wet with his come made me happy in a way I didn't have words for. It made me feel wild, I guess, and like a woman—but those words didn't get at how I felt when I smelled that sharp smell or felt that slipperiness. When June and I talked about sex we sometimes used this one phrase: young and dumb and full of come. I didn't feel dumb, but I liked the saying because it rhymed and because it used the word come. I didn't wash any of it away before I went to bed, either. I might wash my feet, dirty from walking barefoot, but I'd leave that smell on me.

"Are you staying over?"

"I told my mom I was," June said.

"Good. I don't want to be alone."

"I'm someone."

"I know," I said.

I'd heard talk in school about other couples screwing together, but as June and I walked back half-naked to the car, I knew that no one could ever be like us. No one would be better friends than June and me, and no one would screw like us. What other people did inside their cars or beside the lake didn't matter. The four of us were inside our own web.

All the way out to the house, Del and I sat in the backseat. He kept one arm on the door, his hand in the open air, and one hand between my thighs. I squeezed his hand with the muscles in my legs to get him to think of the other way I squeezed him —with the muscles in my pussy—and I put my arm around his shoulders. I felt tough and older when I put my arm around him. Del was a year older than I was, and I saw him as a man, different from other guys in our grade.

"One time we'll have to go camping," Del said to me. "You can tell your dad you're with her." He rubbed his fingers over the wet part of my jeans.

"Maybe she and Ray can go."

"I don't give a shit what they do. I want to be with you."

I thought about how good it would be to sleep in a tent with him, and I smiled and made a secret sign on his shoulder blade with my fingernail—a butterfly. Sitting like that with him, I knew what I always knew after we'd been together: that it was sweet to Del, too. That's what I saw in his face when he walked back to the car and asked me if I liked his cock. He was glad I liked his body, he was glad I liked to touch him. He would never say it that way, but I knew he felt it. Sweet, sweet, I thought when we were driving around the lake, which was called Sweet Arrow. Sweet arrow means straight arrow, an arrow that flies straight and true.

"What are you thinking about?" Del asked me.

"Nothing," I said. "Just about you."

NEITHER OF my parents wanted me, so I lived by myself in a run-down apartment my dad found for me. I shouldn't say it like that. My mom offered to have me come and live with her in New Mexico, but I didn't want to change schools and I didn't want to leave Del. My dad wanted to be a bachelor again, so it seemed like the best plan for me to live on my own in the kitchenette. That was what my dad called the place he found for me. It was one room with a kitchen area and a sofa bed, and a separate little bathroom. The apartment was above a small-engine repair place on the way out of town, and I think my dad picked it because he was only about five miles down the road. He bought me groceries and checked on me once each night—to see how I was, and to make sure I didn't have Del over. I guess that's what he thought a dad did: buy groceries and be ready to raise hell.

When the four of us got to the apartment that night, June and Ray and Del and I spent a long time hanging in the windows of Ray's car, saying goodbye and kissing in the night air. After being so long outside and feeling coolness on our skin, when June and I came in, we thought the apartment seemed stuffy. We opened windows and then started pulling the cushions off the sofa bed so we could go to sleep.

"Do you think we'll get tired of it?" June said when we were folding back the blankets.

"Probably. After a while."

"Do you ever look at Ray?"

"Sometimes," I said. "When I'm looking at Del sometimes I can't stop from looking over."

"I look at Del."

"I know," I said, nodding. "You can."

She went into the tiny bathroom then, to change into her nightgown. It didn't matter that she and I had just been naked and screwing our boyfriends in the same car —June and I always gave each other privacy for getting changed. I knew her breasts were covered with Ray's hickeys, and she knew my breasts and thighs were covered with Del's. But for whatever reason, we did not come out and stare at each other.

When June came out of the bathroom, I already had our water pipe and pot out on the sofa bed.

"Do you ever think we should stop smoking so much?" she said.

"Come on. Young and dumb. We'll stop another night."

"We always say that, too," she said, and we laughed.

I didn't care. I wanted to smoke and think about Del. June sat up cross-legged on the bed while I filled the pipe with dope we'd cleaned the other night. Sometimes I thought of what it would be like to sneak Del into the apartment and sleep with him all night, but I did not want to take a chance on my father's wrath. Besides, it was all right to be sitting there with June. She was more than a friend, and more than even a best friend.

After I was high, I said, "Sometimes Del gets really deep inside me."

"Do you like it?"

"It hurts sometimes, but I still like it. It's like he's at the very end of me."

"Do you think you love him?" June said.

"I know so," I said. I held the smoke in and mouthed the words. "I love the way he feels."

"I don't know if I love Ray."

After she said it, she touched the little place at her hairline where the pigment broke. There, just beside her part, her hair was not deep brown but was as blond as mine.

"What do you mean?" I said.

"I don't know what I mean."

I kept waiting for her to say something else about Ray, but she didn't—she just went on fingering that little strip of pale skin and light hair. Though I didn't know what she was thinking, I thought she seemed sad, so I kept us smoking until we finished two bowls.

We peed one last time, and I flicked in a Cars tape that would play, over and over, all night. On a night when we had been smoking and drinking, I kept the tape player on because weed made me nervous and fractured my sleep. If I woke up, the sound and the green lights of the tape player would keep me company in the dark until I could sleep again. And I knew I would wake up, because even as I was lying there, trying to let sleep come, I found myself worrying.

In spite of how much I loved to party, I worried about how all the drugs I did were affecting my body. I was secretly sure they had changed me forever. I also worried about how Del and I would get a place of our own after graduation. All of Del's money went into his car, and every time I saved something, I'd blow it on weed and booze. Of course, my worries would have been solved if I ever stopped smoking and speeding and drinking, but it never occurred to me to stop, because it wasn't really my life that I wanted to change—I just wanted not to worry.

Though I wasn't sure if it was real or not, as I lay there I thought I could feel a little achy place inside my vagina, sore from screwing. In half-sleep I felt June move on the bed and then felt her leg lightly pressing against mine. Sometimes when we accidentally touched, we moved immediately away from each other. Other times, we'd let our legs stay touching or let our backs rest against each other. That night June didn't move and neither did I.

I watched the green lights of the tape player for a while, then closed my eyes. The whole time I could hear June's breathing and feel the little bit of weight on my skin that was her resting against me. I kept finding those things in the darkness.


HERE is what they never tell you about being a girl. The lucky few will crack the nut after a time or two, but the rest of us will screw for a long time before we get it right. A long time. I screwed for four years before I came. You tell that to any guy, he'll shit. They get it from the start, and go on getting it and getting it. It takes a girl longer to figure out how to get hers, because if she isn't one of the lucky few who spill it on a cock, she's got to get it in a way that doesn't hurt the boy's feelings. Try that when you're fucking in the woods or a car, or when everyone tells you that you're only screwing because you want love. You don't even know you're supposed to come.

I first screwed a boy when I was thirteen, but I didn't come until three boyfriends later, with Del. He made me come when we were sixty-nining on a dirty bunk in a cabin we broke into, out in Mennonite Town. It was all the licking and sucking that did it. When those contractions started, I didn't know what they were. That's how ignorant I was about my own body. My mom never said a word about any of it, and the clinic in Ontelaunee where I got my birth control pills made you learn about your fallopian tubes and your ovaries, but as for the rest, as for pleasure, you were on your own. They didn't even teach you the names for your labia and clitoris—nothing that wasn't connected with reproducing.

It was a shock to me that the inside of me could feel so good and loose, and I had to get Del's cock out of my mouth so I could make the noise that came out of my body. I think I cried out from being scared as much as from the feeling.

"It's like that toy with the rings," I told Del when I got my breath. I knew he didn't understand what I meant, and that almost made me cry. I was thinking of that toy where colored rings of different sizes rest on top of each other, all on a wooden dowel. Take away the peg and the rings begin to fall. But it is good to let them tumble, roll away, the red going one place, the blue somewhere else.

I tried again. "It's like rain," I said. "It's like you make my body rain."

He listened to me and he let me kiss his mouth over and over. His face was wet with me—chin, nose, cheeks—and I kissed away as much of it as I could. I liked the way it tasted, sweet and salty, not bitter at all.

"Vangie moisture," he said. "I read about girls coming before."


"Skin magazine. No one ever came with me before, though."

He moved down so he could lie with his head on my belly and play with me. He put a finger up inside me. "You got all tight. Your pussy got all tight."

"Oh yeah?"

When he moved away from me, I thought we were going to start screwing, because he still hadn't come. But we didn't. Instead, he got the flashlight he'd used when we'd broken the lock on the cabin, and he shined the thing between my legs. He pulled at me, holding the flashlight in one hand, moving my lips apart with the other. His fingers were gentle, but they kept tugging. I knew he was studying me, and I had to close my eyes from nervousness. My whole body felt hot even though the air in the cabin was cool.

"Pussy looks complicated, but it's not," Del said then. "It's about as complicated as an eyelid."

It took me a second to understand what he meant, but then I got a picture in my mind of the inner corner of the eyelid with its little bud, and the way the two little lips on my vagina came up to meet over my clitoris. I'd seen it how many times in the mirror I propped between my spread legs, there on my apartment floor.

Del put his flashlight away then. This time when he got between my legs, he pushed my knees up to my chest and licked me in one long lick, bottom to top.

"I'm going to know every inch of you," he told me.

I didn't say anything. There wasn't anything to say. But that's when I fell in love with Del. If it seems like a strange reason to fall in love with someone, you're wrong. Think how good it feels when the other person's mouth is on you there, how loved you feel. If the other person will not do that for you, what else won't they do?


AFTER Ray, June, Del, and I started screwing together, the four of us got jobs at Noecker's chicken farm, carrying and packing chickens. The jobs weren't steady—we worked after school and on Saturdays, and only when an old flock had to be taken from their cages, or when new chickens were brought in. Even though we were two couples, we never worked that way. June and I carried chickens, and Ray and Del loaded or unloaded trucks in the coop yard. We still saw a lot of each other. Old Man Noecker didn't care what we did on our breaks or what we talked about when we were loading the trucks, just so long as we moved his chickens.

This is how the job worked. In the coop, a puller yanked the chickens from their cages to hand off to June and me, and we in turn brought the chickens through the coop and out to the yard. She and I carried the chickens by one leg each, hanging upside down, three to a hand. In the yard we swung the birds up in bunches to Ray and Del so they could stuff them in slatted, wooden shipping crates that were stacked on a truck. All of it was hard work, but it was not so hard that we couldn't mess around a little as we worked. Each time June or I came out to the truck, Ray or Del had something stupid to say to us: Do you need a rooster in your hen house? Let us know when you want a cock. It was endless.

The old chickens were big, and sometimes a bird got its wings broken when a puller took it from the cage. Other birds had wings and feet growing onto the bars of cages, and the pullers had to yank those chickens like all the others. By the time they were handed off to June and me, the birds were usually too stunned to do anything, but every once in a while we got a chicken who acted up, who tried to peck us or the other chickens. If I had a free hand, I did what Del taught me to do the first night of work: I punched the chicken's head.


On Sale
Dec 19, 2009
Page Count
224 pages
Back Bay Books