Pete and Repeat Went Out on a Boat

A Short Story by Briane Pagel

Pete and Repeat went out on a boat, Pete jumped in, who was left?

by Briane Pagel

Two old friends, one old joke. As Pete and Repeat go out in their boat, their day goes through a dizzying array of repetitions: peaceful afternoons, revelations, alien attacks. It’s all on the table, at least until Pete jumps out of the boat and…

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Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Pete jumped out.
Who was left?

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Pete jumped out.
Repeat watched him, with sad eyes, knowing that this had been going to happen.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Pete jumped out.
Repeat almost went in after him, so violent was the thrashing of the boat from Pete’s sudden leap up to his feet and into the air, arcing out over the water until he splashed into the grayish-green surface, foam sloshing up instantly and the smell of fishy seaweed practically exploding outwards, and would it have been so bad if Repeat had gone after? Without Pete, he had little to live for.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Repeat leaned forward but was too late and Pete was in the water and sinking, the last thing Repeat ever saw being Pete’s large eyes glimmering through the first few feet of water. The water didn’t seem clear, but that was only a trick of the light. It was clear as air, at least at the top and nearly down to the bottom (if there was a bottom), clear until suddenly it was not, in the murky depths below where the many hidden secrets sat in the water, water which surrounded those secrets the way it surrounded Pete, now, hugging him (and the other secrets, too: the water did not just cling to Pete’s reason for leaping over the edge of their small boat, but also all the other whispered shouted moaned cursed secrets hurled out over the water into the water against the water secrets sometimes skipping like stones until they ran out of steam and sunk themselves, falling at an angle: at first, slipping into the water smoothly, before losing velocity and drifting to the bottom. Pete did not skip, he just went straight in and down), the water hugging Pete so hard that eventually it forced its way into him and Pete became a secret, too,.
Repeat’s hand hovered in space, not over the water, but in the boat, in the same place where he had just missed grabbing Pete’s arm to stop him, Repeat’s mind fixated on Pete’s eyes as they had stared back from below the surface of the water before disappearing. Sorry, they seemed to say, better luck next time.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Pete jumped out.
Repeat sighed and picked up his sandwich, still half uneaten. He took a bite, tasted bologna and mayonnaise, some thinly-sliced onion and provolone cheese. The bread was soft, crumbly, in his mouth. He swallowed it and wished he had something to drink.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
I can’t take it no more, Pete!” Repeat hollered and dove at Pete moments before Pete moved. Repeat got Pete’s hands, pushed him down, lay on top of him. Pete was angry – angrier than Repeat had ever seen him (or felt him, in this case, as Pete’s face was buried beneath Repeat’s shoulder and so the anger was not visible, but instead pummeled at Repeat like a large animal in a small sack) and Repeat howled at Pete incoherently.
What are you doing you goddam…” Pete snarled but Repeat sobbed against him.
You don’t know you don’t know youdon’tknowdon’tnodon’tnodon’tno” Repeat sobbed trying to press Pete down, but his breathing grew ragged, he couldn’t catch his breath through his crying. Pete shoved him to the side of the narrow boat, rolled him onto his back and scrambled to his feet.
What in the hell are you doing?” Pete demanded, but Repeat, in his terror and exhaustion didn’t answer and instead grabbed at Pete.
Don’t… no,” he said weakly and Pete tried to back away from Repeat’s grasp and fell out of the boat.

It was raining and nobody went out this time.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat, Repeat keeping a wary eye on Pete.
Did you ever wonder…” he began, slowly.
Pete looked up from his shoes, which he had been contemplating.
Wonder what?” Pete asked.
Repeat stared around at the water, the boat, Pete. Is this all there is? He thought to himself.
What the water feels like?” Repeat said.
They both eyed the water, which was a gray-green and looked as though it might be warm and not too deep.
Not before right now,” Pete said, and without another word he stood up and jumped out of the boat, making a cannonball of himself, legs folded up and head tucked down and arms hugging all of him together.
The splash exploded outward from Pete’s compact bundle, sending water droplets fleeing from larger splashes, the water torrenting up as a sheet before breaking apart.
Repeat was soaked. He sat still, water dripping off his baseball cap.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
I know this one knock-knock joke,” said Pete.
How’s it go?” asked Repeat.
Knock-knock,” said Pete.
Who’s there?” asked Repeat.
Banana,” said Pete.
Banana who?” asked Repeat.
Knock-knock,” said Pete.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Pete jumped out, and immediately Repeat rose to his feet, kicked off his shoes and pulled his t-shirt (the one he’d gotten at the Jane’s Addiction concert 8 years ago that his wife always wanted to throw away) and tossed them to the side and was in the water after Pete, Repeat’s face feeling the bubbles thrown up by Pete’s passing, tingling and tickling, as Repeat swam after him. Pete swam down down down and so Repeat did, too.
Swim swim swim,
Down down down,
Swim swim swim,
Repeat’s lungs were bursting. He let out his breath a little at a time. The trick, he knew, was not to keep the air in because people don’t suffocate just by not having oxygen – it’s the poisons in the blood, the carbon dioxides and monoxides and trioxides and more, all those carbon combinations that poison you slowly and then quickly, we’re made up of carbon but too much of it combined with oxygen – the other thing that we need so much – or mixed the wrong way, and we die.
Swim swim swim.
Dive dive dive
Exhale a little.
Down down down.
Pete was still ahead of him, diving further.
The record for free diving is 531.5 feet. That record is held by a man. The man’s wife died trying to break the man’s record. Repeat thought about that irony.
Swim swim swim.
Exhale a little.
Dive dive dive.
Exhale a little.
Down down down.
His lungs, bereft of air, were not pulling him upwards anymore. He found it easier to go down down down. There were no bubbles coming up from below him anymore, though. Pete was not exhaling. Pete was diving faster than he was. Repeat could not see Pete anymore, down here.
Swim swim swim.
Reach reach reach.
Nothing left to exhale.
He caught Pete’s heel.
Then it was gone.
He drifted back to the surface, slowly, the bubbles of poisonous air that had been in his lungs above him and breaking the surface harmlessly. When he came to the top, too, he bobbed for a while, droplets of water falling off his nose, and then he climbed back into the boat that sat silently waiting for him.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Let’s take a swim,” Pete said, and leaped out of the boat, swimming, for some reason, in his clothing and shoes and even his own baseball cap, which was for the Brooklyn Bombers.
Repeat did not join him.

Who’s there?” Repeat asked.
Banana,” Pete said.
Banana who?” Repeat asked.
Knock-knock,” Pete said.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
When Repeat wasn’t paying attention, Pete leaned over and shoved him into the water, laughing as he did so.
Gotcha!” he said, and Repeat laughed, too, even though this was going to soak his Jane’s Addiction t-shirt with the grayish-green water and give more ammunition to his wife’s attempts to throw the shirt out. Repeat treaded water, spinning around until he found his baseball cap floating behind him, and put it on his head, feeling the brim squelch with water. He turned back to the boat and saw that Pete was gone.

Who’s there?” Repeat asked.
Banana,” Pete told him.
Banana who?” Repeat asked, dutifully.
Knock-knock,” Pete smiled.
Repeat did not sigh. At least Pete was here.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Hey, why the long face?” asked Pete.

Who’s there?” Repeat said, for the umpteenth time.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Pete had been best man at Repeat’s wedding to the girl Repeat had met at the Jane’s Addiction concert. Pete and Repeat had gone to grade school together, had gone to high school together, had played on the varsity football team together, Pete a defensive back, Repeat the kicker – the kicker! – and then after college, they’d both worked for the same company, a corporation that made grills on which you could cook hamburgers without all the fat, but also made military-grade tires for vehicles, and computer chips for the space program. They worked in the accounting department. Pete wondered if Repeat’s wife’s attempts to get Repeat to throw away the Jane’s Addiction t-shirt, something Repeat told him about all the time, meant that Repeat’s marriage was in trouble, and briefly, considering that, forgot his own problems.
Repeat?” Pete said, breaking the silence.
I didn’t even say anything yet,” Repeat said, and they laughed. It was an old joke.
Pete thought about how, just before Repeat had come back from the beer tent at the Jane’s Addiction concert, he had been kissing the woman who was now Repeat’s wife. They’d stopped kissing just a minute before Repeat had sat down on the blanket next to her and her two friends, and Pete and she had both looked at him.
The kiss had never been repeated.
Pete laughed now, aloud, at the pun.
What’s so funny?” Repeat said, and Pete suddenly could not control himself any longer, he was going to tell Repeat, he had to tell him right now, but then something made him not.
I know this knock-knock joke,” he said.

Orange,” Pete smiled.
Orange who?” Repeat asked, wondering where this was going.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
So we’re having a kid,” Pete said.
You are? That’s great!” Repeat told him.
Yeah,” Pete said, feeling the responsibility of fatherhood weighing on him.
Neither of them liked where this was going, though, suddenly. It felt a bit trite.
I guess I’d better jump out now,” Pete said.
See if the next one’s better,” Repeat said.
See you soon,” Pete said, and leaped out of the boat.
Repeat sat and waited.

Pete and Repeat were beset by alien invaders whose flying saucers hovered so dangerously close to the water that their antigravity beams whipped it into a froth.
Repeat nodded, happily, a blaster in his hand.
The laser blasts closed in on them. They were outnumbered. The saucers dipped down, alien troops swarmed from multiple openings, and as they did, Pete stood up, squared his shoulders and leaped, just as Repeat’s body exploded into flames.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Leaning forward, Repeat kissed Pete gently on the lips.
I’ve been waiting to do that a long time,” Repeat whispered.
Pete jumped out.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
The day was a fine one! It was bright, the water looked grayish-green but in a clean, friendly way that made you want to jump in, Repeat’s Jane’s Addiction t-shirt made his biceps seem especially muscular, Pete’s Brooklyn Bombers cap seemed bright, sky blue and the air itself seemed electric.
When Repeat saw Pete tense up he said, “No,” softly.
Pete looked at him quizzically.
Let’s give this one a chance,” he said, and they drifted together, silently, for days, hours, minutes, weeks, who could tell? They had some snacks and some beers, and sometimes they talked about stuff: baseball games they remembered playing, toys they’d had as kids. Sometimes, though, they just sat and enjoyed each other’s company.
Pete told Repeat a story about Pete’s dad working on Pete’s car with him when they were young. Repeat hadn’t known his own dad but remembered a Christmas, once, when he’d gotten a puppy.
Eventually, a friendly silence fell over them.
This was a good one,” Pete said.
Yeah,” Repeat said. “Yeah, it was.
See you next time, buddy,” Pete said and leaped out of the boat.

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana again?” Pete asked.

Pete and Repeat went out in a boat.
Pete jumped out.
Who was left?

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