Chapter II

Billy-Rancher-1981-proof-11smallSteadily, Billy climbed the aluminum extension ladder to the roof of the garage. Denny shielded his eyes from the summer sun and gawked up at his older brother.

—You’re gonna get in trouble if mom finds out you’re up there.

—She’s not gonna find out if you’ll just shut up!! Now get out of the way down there. I’m gonna need some room.

Billy stepped away from the ladder onto the weathered wood shingles of the garage roof. Gingerly, he crept barefooted across and up the roof surface. His tall, lithely slender body belied his youth, for he looked older than ten.

With the caution of a cat, he crawled into position, near the peak of the roof; shaking a shock of golden, sun-bleached hair from his eyes. As Denny stood warily below, Billy proclaimed.

—Okay. I’m ready. Here we go. The greatest Granger dive of the whole world. And now…our hero… Billy Granger!!!

Singing a triumphant tune of portent and spectacle Billy skittered down the uneven shingles at top speed and leapt from the roof toward the clear blue water of the swimming pool, in a relaxed ball, exploding with a tremendous splash upon entry. Denny shouted.

—Oh wow! That’s the biggest splash I ever saw!

The younger boy trundled up the ladder with careless abandon, emboldened by his brother’s success. He tiptoed across the shingles, then, haphazardly hurled himself from the roof in the direction of the pool. He landed with a resounding flop. Billy laughed grandly at the exhibition, paddling toward the pools edge.

Hoisting himself up in one fluid motion, Billy grinned back at his brother who floundered helplessly, gasping and gulping in the pool. Scampering up the aluminum ladder to the roof, he glanced down at Denny, who was still struggling to swim toward the side of the pool.

—Watch this one, Denny!

With blithe elegance, Billy danced across the rooftop—showing off. Finding his proper launch point, he dove for the pool, thrusting out his arms, like wings. He looked like an angel to Denny, hovering momentarily over the water in a heavenly vision—the sun, a glowing nimbus behind his head.

Hitting the water with hardly a splash, Billy knifed to the bottom of the pool with practiced precision. Surfacing rapidly, he rose with a shout to Denny, who was already at the base of the ladder.

—Don’t do anything dumb, Denny. You know I’m a better diver than you.

In defiance, Denny glared at Billy, stomping up the rungs of the gleaming ladder. With a reckless flourish, he steered himself from the ladder, scrambling toward a safe perch from which to perform his unpremeditated upcoming feat.

—Just watch this, you big dummy!

Suddenly a shadow emerged from the sliding glass door leading into the house.

—What’s all this shouting out here, boys?

Ingrid Granger inquired in the direction of the pool. She could see Billy peering up toward the top of the garage. She followed the boy’s gaze to the sibling source, who was skittering about nervously upon the pitched plane of the garage roof.

—John Dennis Granger! You get off that roof right now. You’re going to break your neck.

The statuesque blond woman rushed across the walk, toward the ladder, which was leaned up against the garage gutter

—Dennis, I said come down from there. Now!

—Well, Billy did it first.

Denny whined defensively, scuttling with apprehension toward the ladder. He had climbed up the ladder, but not down. And he had gradually become conscious of the height and the danger, and the gravity of his predicament. He began to cry.

—Dennis, honey, don’t cry. Just get down from there. Now, honey. Come down the ladder, Dennis. Now.

Denny slowly swung his leg around the top rung of the ladder, and with great hesitation lowered himself down.

Billy dove beneath the water, and with strong, smooth strokes, he swam to the bottom of the clear, blue pool.

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