My paddle cut into the sparkling ripples of the lake, sucking them back into darker, almost oily-looking gashes of water. The canoe moved forward, silent except for the drip of water off the paddle. Dozens of tiny reflections of myself skimmed ahead on the surface, always jumping away from me, always staying the same distance out of reach. The sun beat down on my left side, casting a shadow to the right that rippled and undulated just below the surface, like something that didn't want to come up and face the sun.
The peacefulness of the moment was interrupted by Jasper banging his paddle against the edge of the canoe. Four patient lessons from me, and he still couldn’t paddle properly: he kept switching sides, as if we were in a kayak, even though I'd explained to him that isn't how it works with canoeing. You stick to one side and propel the boat with deep, straight strokes. I sat in the stern, doing all the work, while Jasper bounced his paddle along in shallow, splashing strokes, switching sides randomly and not helping at all. He looked even bulgier than usual in his lifejacket. He was a chubby thirteen-year-old — well, let’s be honest, he was fat — and the jacket wasn’t doing him any favors. My stepbrother was a year younger than me, but almost a foot shorter and a couple of feet wider.