At the Lake

At the Lake

Bev is singing Karen Carpenter songs. She’s getting that thin. Her voice steals across the sand to me. From the cottage. She’s making love with Mike. I’m on the lake beach watching their two kids: Alex, four. Lexie, two. They are ankle deep, knee deep, hip deep until I snatch them out. Water rolls off their tan skin in flecks like diamonds. I roll them and sand sticks to them like I intend to fry them up. Maybe I will.

They have a weird strength. Their hands and feet are webbed. They dig a hole in the sand. They roll me in and pat me down with those hands and feet. Only my head and toes are out. Bev’s cries sliver through the lake grass. I yell out, “Why would you want to make fuckin’ more of these?!” The two of them echo, “Fuckin’ more!!” My toes point to them in an accusing way, slashing toenails.

They giggle and tear for the water. I discover I can’t get out of the packed sand. How did they do that? “Wait!” Bev is singing again, her babies left with an incompetent. They wiggle to the end of the dock, slipping off their suits, white butts mooning and blinding me. They dive perfect swans, like they learned in a different former life. Then they are under the ripples. They don’t come back up. Oh my God, they are goners. I close my eyes tight, preferring this as a dream, but when I open them I see the two jumping on the raft fifty yards away, spinning their chubby bodies, shadows wheeling the opposite direction, time slipping ahead or back. They run and dive again, making no splash, moving just under the ripples, struggling with something in their hands. They come pat patting up to me. They are holding squirming fish in their hands. The fish have sharp little teeth, smiling as they sense my fear. They present my long nose and the fishies nibble and I sneeze and sand grits my eyes. My toes are feasted upon, the gnarly nails crunched.

I hear Bev’s voice getting closer. Then Mike. They reach the sand. “Where are their suits?! How did they get fish?!”


“Weren’t you watching them?”

I spat sand. “Listen. They can dive and swim underwater and snag fish.”

“That’s absurd.”

“I just saw them.”

“Are you doped up?”

“Just the hash. See, here’s my little pipe.”

“Oh, my God,” said Bev. You had one simple job.”

The kids ran to the water and let the fishes go. “Bye!”

Bev struggled their suits back on.

“I can’t get out,” I say. “They really packed me in.” I try to wiggle my body. It’slike something beneath has increased my gravity several fold. Mike starts scooping with a plastic shovel until I come sucking out from the demon’s force field. Sand scours my nuts and I hop like a sand flea on hash.

As a diversion, Mike suggests that we take the sailboat for a spin. I’m terribly afraid of any boat, but I’m willing to escape the wrath of Bev. It’s a two man thing with a yellow sail. Neither one of us knows how to sail, but how hard can it be? Turns out very hard, especially when we forget the oars. I have my little hash pipe to make smoke circles against the deep blue sky. Mike is suffering with the still bulge in his shorts. Back at the beach, they are burying Bev. Suddenly I’m way paranoid, my heart throbbing, playing my ribs like a xylophone. “We have to get in,” I say, hinting a sob. “My God,” Mike says. “I don’t know how! We have to tack!” “How do we do that?” “We have to go back and forth. You just can’t go in, without oars.” “I think I’m dying, you know? Are you ever afraid of dying? When the kids were under water I thought they would die. I’m afraid of everything. I’m afraid of time passing.”

We’re drifting farther down the lake. The sail flaps in our faces, mocking us, mortal creatures, frightened beings. A cloud covers the sun, turning us to shadows of our former selves. Ripples flare, fish shine like feathers. The beach disappears. A squall renders us useless. On the shore a line of purple boulders are the destination, beckoning. I toss the pipe over, good riddance. Time has warped and the bubble breaks and we crash into the rocks, the sail crumpling like a dead insect. We scrabble up the sheer faces over webs of moss. We leave the boat. Fuck it. There’s a cabin there with an old couple on the porch. They smile at us. Their heads look big and shiny, like alien heads, like we have entered a different dimension. Our legs burn as we run over the grass to the dirt road. We hear them laugh and for some reason I start to cry. The sand on my legs is a collection of fiery diamonds. Mike carries me on his back like a wounded soldier. The dust of ages kicks up around his bare feet.

It takes forever to get back. The sun has emerged, newborn in a new time and place. The cars are covered with dust, the trees have grown, paint has peeled. On the beach we find Bev’s mummy, just her nose and hair free of the sand. The children are grown now. They run circles. From her belly they have delivered a sand baby and are passing it between them. When they see us they scamper into the lake.

We dig Bev out, brushing sand from her eyes. She sputters, “What has happened?”

“We’re back,” I say.

They stay under the water. Nothing.

“Where am I?” she says.

From the lake’s surface finally come some bubbles, each one holding laughter which bursts in the sun.

I think of the life she’s missed. “It will be alright,” I say, trying to believe myself.


About the Author

Gary Moshimer has stories in Frigg, Wigleaf, Smokelong Quarterly, Pank, and many other places.


Image by Nathan Osman from Pixabay