AS THE DIVE boat bounced over the waves, Finn peered through his filthy scuba mask and set it down again. Hopeless. He'd have to clean it in the water if he wanted to see anything. Axel, Finn, and his buddy-since-preschool Burrito had met in Fort Pierce to explore a local wreck, the SS Halsey. Learning to scuba dive had been Burrito's idea, inspired two summers ago when they'd discovered that Finn's biological dad had been an avid diver.
The divemaster, a pot-bellied pirate of a man with graying beard and balding head, ran through safety procedures, reminding them to stick with their buddies.
Burrito said, "Let's run through the hand signals again." He gave a thumbs-up.
Axel said, "All good."
Burrito frowned. "No, that means you want to surface."
"Just messing with ya," Axel said. "What's this?" He placed a closed fist against his chest.
Finn laughed. "Heartburn?"
"Yeah," said Axel. "Lethal-dose hot wings."
"Low air, boys. Try to focus." Burrito tapped the air gauge hanging over his shoulder. "What would you do if you were actually running out of air?"
"Easy." Axel said. "Find you. Grab your regulator."
Burrito scowled. “I might share with you. Maybe.”
The boat rose and fell, slamming the surface. The captain had promised excellent conditions over the wreck, but the offshore storm made riding out to the site a bone-rattling experience.
"Okay, when we get to Sweden," Finn said. "I have a list of stuff I want to do." He pulled out his phone, thinking about the trip with Axel right after the rocket competition at Kennedy Space Camp.
Burrito grinned, his good mood restored by thoughts of their upcoming trip. "Insanity in Stockholm? Mayhem in Malmö?"
As a little kid, Axel had spent every summer in Sweden. Now, as one of the best kart racers in the U.S., the trip promised a rare break in his hectic schedule before the World Championship in Portugal. "My grandmother says we could visit Spaceport Kiruna in the Arctic Circle."
Burrito said, “And fly to the International Space Center with Swanson Galactic."
"No, thank you." Finn tapped on the phone. "I would like to see the Northern Lights, though."
Axel shook his head. "That's only in winter."
"Wait, can we go to the ICEHOTEL?" Burrito asked.
Axel laughed. "No, genius. The hotel made completely out of ice isn't there in the summer."
Finn swept the screen of his phone. "Here it is. What about kitewinging?"
Burrito brightened. "What's that?"
Finn showed them the video. "It's like kite surfing, but with skates on the ice instead of on a board over the water." He looked at Axel. "Ever done it?"
Axel spit in his mask and rubbed the glass. "I've heard of ice sailing, but only in winter. It's like windsurfing." He stood and dipped the mask into a bucket of fresh water.
Finn did the same. "Is that the same as ice yachting?"
"No, that's the thing that looks like a Star Wars space fighter. They fly over the ice at a hundred miles an hour."
"Sweet!" said Burrito.
"Dang," said Finn. "Probably another winter thing. Why is all the good stuff in the winter?"
"I dunno. I never thought about it before." Axel pulled out his sunscreen stick and rubbed some on his face, which was starting to turn red. "We go boating in the summer."
Finn said, "Next year, you should both come to Germany with me in the summer, and we should go with you to Sweden at Christmas."
Axel drank from his water bottle. "It's funny you say that, actually, because my parents are saying I shouldn't go anywhere next summer."
"Why not?" Burrito fiddled with his watchband.
"I'm supposed to get more serious about training, if I want to go pro."
"More serious?" Finn thought Axel already spend most of his time at the track. How did he even fit in his online courses?
Burrito crossed his arms over his chest. "I want to see the trolls."
"Trolls?" Axel looked confused.
"You said you can only see them in the summer."
"I said that?" Axel smiled half a smile.
"Trolls in summer. Yes, you said that." Burrito stood up. "And we can still eat the little meatballs, right?"
"Uh, yeah, we have those year-round."
Burrito never seemed to worry about school or college, and his grades were okay without him ever missing a party or day at the beach. Finn was always struggling to keep up with his homework. He wondered why he worked so hard and had so little to show for it. He tried to keep his voice lighter than he felt. "My parents want me to get an internship next summer."
"Divers, get ready." The divemaster walked around the boat.
Axel nodded. "Where would you work?"
"Not sure." Finn tossed the phone into his backpack. "My dad's friend works at a company that builds submarines."
"Let's go snowmobiling." Burrito put on his mask and other gear and moved to the back of the boat.
"It's summer." Axel strapped on his own mask. "As in, no snow in the South where we're going. We'll do that kite flying thing."
Finn stood slowly, feeling the weight of the scuba tank strapped to his back.
The divemaster's gruff voice called out. "Hey, kid. You forgot your fins."
Finn fought to balance in the gently rising and falling boat as he picked up his fins and tucked them under his arm. "Kite flying?"
Axel stood too quickly and nearly fell over with the rolling of the boat. "Isn't that what you said?"
"I said that?" Finn started toward the entry platform again.
"Something like that. Kite swinging?" Axel shuffled behind him.
"Kitewinging, ding dong."
"Smile for the camera." Burrito sat on the edge of the boat, pointing the waterproof videocamera at them. "You look a little green, Axe."
Clutching his stomach, Axel made a rude gesture at Burrito, who continued filming and laughing his signature laugh, which Finn had always thought sounded like a donkey braying. Heh, heh, heh, snort, heh, heh, heh. Burrito put his regulator in his mouth and leaned backward, flipping neatly off the boat. His fins arched overhead and hit the water with a small splash.
The divemaster scowled. "None of that showing off, boys. Giant step off the ladder."
Finn shuffled forward toward the ladder.
Axel gripped the rail and grumbled under his breath. "I think I'm going to barf. Could somebody hold the boat still a minute?"
"You'll feel better once you hit the water," Finn promised.
"I'll feel better once I barf."
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