The park district pool opened up right around the same time library went to summer hours. No one really noticed except Eileen Pulaski. Eileen was living a secret life.
Most days she was the bright, popular girl who was loved by everyone in town.
She had just finished her junior year at General John A. Logan High School and she was set to win all of the tiaras in her senior year.
The other side of Eileen was a girl who sat quietly in the library devouring the science books and taking practice tests so that she could score higher on her college entrance exams than anyone else in her class.
Janice Coraopolis met Hercules at the picnic and held his hand until both of them had sweaty palms. Then they switched hands.
Hercules the Greater brought his guitar. He seemed to have a gift for that, too. He played just about all of John Denver’s greatest hits.
When he was done Miss Kravitz set up her keyboard and played some different things – she called it jazz music. Like tortilla chips of old – this jazz music was something that no one really knew anything about and were a bit intimidated by.
Frankly they were uncomfortable because there was nothing to sing along with. They nodded their heads politely.
She wrapped up her set to a rousing round of applause. Once her gear was stowed away – she retreated to Roger and Louise’s weeping willow tree to enjoy a vegetarian hot dog.
Roger and Louise were known to host the biggest Memorial Day picnic in the county. Roger cooked steaks and ribs and hot dogs and brats. Louise made five or six different salads. The rest of the adults brought desserts and soft drinks. The Pulaski family always brought potato chips.
The picnic after Hercules the Lesser finished first grade – Mrs. Pulaski decided to buy a jumbo-sized bag of tortilla chips for the picnic. The exotic looking chips ended up scaring the good people – people who thought Pringles were avant-garde – who milled around the table afraid to touch them.
Hercules the Lesser and Eileen had tortilla chips with lunch just about every day for the rest of the summer. After that the Pulaski family brought Uncle Ray’s regular chips from the Family Dollar and everyone was happy.
Hercules the Greater was even more surprised to find out he didn’t care about those Eagles anymore. He didn’t even care about baseball anymore. His father assumed it was either drugs or something worse. He couldn’t imagine his son just woke up one day and decided to live his own life.
Hercules the Greater asked his mother to look into guitar lessons. She was more than happy to set that plan in motion. When Mr. Kennedy learned of this major mutiny he flipped his lid. When Mrs. Kennedy defended her son’s choice – Mr. Kennedy went down to the Stardust seeking a drink or two and maybe a sympathetic ear.
Hercules the Greater was more attentive to spring this year than usual. He felt like he was in tune with the little green buds sprouting from the ends of the branches. Everything smelled more intense this spring. He found a spring in his step.
The first time he missed spring baseball practice no one said a word. He was – after all – Hercules the Greater. They figured he’d come around and be back on the mound in time for the first big game of the season against the Washington Irving Elementary School Eagles.
Hercules the Lesser wasn’t even thinking about the eggs. It wasn’t that he was apathetic – he was just so distracted by Janice Coraopolis and the tugs his heart – the poor sap had no room in this head for a painted egg.
Easter for the friends and neighbors of Hercules the Greater meant fancy clothes and fancier food and the epic Easter Egg Hunt.
In the early days of the town’s existence, the fancy people held their Easter Egg Hunt in the city park. The less than fancy people held theirs down by the river.
Every kid in town – regardless of the family finances – got at least one hardboiled egg and one chocolate egg.
These days the fancy people celebrate Easter at the river – often in the canoes or on little rafts. The less than fancy celebrate in the park where they can move the long wooden tables into the shade of the tall oak trees.
Janice Coraopolis was one of the first people in modern times to cross the line when she left her family out at the river to hunt eggs with Hercules and his family.