‘The Lake’ by Kate Foster

Dante likes to tell stories. More than anything, he likes to make them. This is how he lives his life, moving from one story to another. I listen with my eyes fixed on his. The movement of his lips hypnotizes me and I inhale the carcinogenic sounds.

When Dante calls me that night it is already dark, but the August moon is blazing in the sky. It radiates beams of amber among the night’s shadows. Dante has toked a few Js and his voice rasps in jazz-like notes across the line.

“I’m flying,” he says, “Let’s go fishing. I’ll get the gear. You can drive, cousin. We don’t need a flashlight tonight.” Dante is always making plans. Everything he says jumps out of his mouth as a whole scheme. He does not ask if I want to go but simply says, “Right on. See you when you get here.” I pocket my phone and start toward the door, pausing only to grab the flashlight on my way out.

When I get to Dante’s place, I find he is not alone. Peering in the front window of his grandmother’s house, I see that Dante’s friends are there, sinking into the floral couch with glazed eyes, talking lyrically to themselves and each other. I stand on the outside for a while and watch Dante as he gesticulates wildly, his high-top dreads bouncing. I can feel the shape of the words as they flip and slide into my imagination. Realizing our outing is not going to be an exclusive one, I tap out a beat on the window and interrupt the rhythm of their conversation.

It takes them a while to rise, but finally, Dante saunters into the yard where I am leaning against my mother’s Chevrolet. Josh and Tyler follow him, carrying fishing rods and gear. We assemble ourselves into the car. This car that shuffles us all summer, from work to beach to liquor store, from parking lot to pub to party. I toss the flashlight into Dante’s lap, but he ignores my subtle gibe.

It is late and the road winding out of town toward the lake is quiet. Josh is in the back seat rolling another joint. Dante raps something about the time he got chased off a bridge by an old grey mutt. The boys are laughing and shaking their heads. Dante keeps putting his hands on the steering wheel and I keep pushing them off. We zigzag along like this until Dante suddenly shifts a long leg to the driver’s side and bangs his foot on the brake. Curses rise from the back seat and Dante steps out into the path of the headlights. His hand scythes its way through the air and points to the cemetery that spreads across a hill on the edge of town. Leaving the car on the shoulder of the road, we climb over the fence and dodge our way among the graves. We pause while Dante tells us about the ghost of his grandfather that can move pennies across his tombstone at the stroke of twelve. Since we have no pennies and it is not yet midnight, we return to the car and carry on. We fall silent as we reach the lake, remembering Dante’s step-brother who drowned two years ago.

Josh and Tyler settle themselves on the tiny, weathered dock with their tackle, their phones alight to attract bait. Dante and I throw our gear into the musty, communal rowboat. Its cracked yellow paint feels like dry leaves in my hand as I climb over the side. Finally, I am alone with Dante. We row toward the center of the lake. The black water and indigo sky seem to merge into an abyss at the horizon. We cast our lines carelessly into the water. Dante’s words push into the air again and fall over me like a thick blanket; the weight bearing on my shoulders. My fascination moves from the lull of his voice to the landscape of my own thoughts. I look up searching for Cassiopeia but not finding her. The moon is still brimming and there is so much I want to say.

“I have one,” I say, still holding my line. Dante moves to net a catch, but I stop him. “Not a fish,” I say. “A story.” Words rush from my mouth as I begin to tell him my dream about Cassie. My Cassie, who passed by accident before we could help her. Walking out of a cave in the woods, she hands me a book where every other page is blank. Her other hand drops a pill bottle that disappears in a mound of sand at her feet.  I stop suddenly as Dante reels in a thin speckled trout. The hook is piercing its lower jaw. Its writhing body a frantic scream. I reach out to stroke its side, the thousands of gleaming, protective scales.

“How does it end?” Dante wants to know as he unhooks the trout. I take it, still flipping, and drop it back in the lake. I shudder, still feeling the cold wet fish in my hands. “She walks across my grave,” I laugh. Dante laughs too. I stand and balance in the small boat. Throwing off the last of my reticence, along with my sweater and sandals, I dive for the moon’s reflection, shattering the inaudible surface of the lake. The cold water sends pleasant shivers down my sides and feeling the waves surround and buoy me, I swim invigorated toward the shore.

 


KATE FOSTER is a Black Nova Scotian whose writing has appeared in Understorey MagazineCanthius and Room Magazine. She lives with her family in Dartmouth, NS.

Copyright © 2019 by Kate Foster. All rights reserved.