‘Getting Closer’ by Steven Millhauser
From The New Yorker:
He’s nine going on ten, skinny-tall, shoulder blades pushing out like things inside a paper bag, new blue bathing suit too tight here, too loose there, but what’s all that got to do with anything? What’s important is that he’s here, standing by the picnic table, the sun shining on the river, the smell of pine needles and river water sharp in the air, somewhere a shout, laughter, music from a radio. His father’s cleaning ashes out of the grill, his mother and sister are laying down blankets on the sunny grass not far from the table, Grandma’s carrying one of the aluminum folding chairs toward the high pine near the edge of the drop to the river, and he’s doing what he likes to do best, what he’s really good at: standing around doing nothing. Everyone’s forgotten about him for a few seconds, the way it happens sometimes. You try not to remind anybody you’re there. He loves this place. On the table’s the fat thermos jug with the white spout near the bottom. After his swim he’ll push the button on the spout and fill up a paper cup with pink lemonade. It’s a good sound: fsshh, psshh.