Sunday, April 23, 2006

Crotch Lake, Part II

As I row I think back to earlier in the evening. We'd pulled ashore at a gravel beach off a large cove on the northeast side of the lake. Grey twisted stumps and various other bits of dry drift littered the gray slate and gravelly landscape running up a gently sloping incline to heavy evergreen forest. Jay and I gathered wood and started a fire in a rock ring previously blackened and surrounded by rusty cans as the horizon faded from orange to red to black. Kevin and Dawn disappeared for a while.

When night fell we'd lain on some blankets, smoked, and watched the sky. Kevin was on some riff about bees and multifaceted vision. "I mean, do bees see all the honeycomb chambers individually at once, or as a single honeycomb chamber? Their eyes must somehow match up to that structure..." The stars eventually distracted him from his rant and we watched the Milky Way unfurl. A glinting object rode the dome of the sky and Kevin said "look at that plane."

"That's not a plane," I replied. "It's too high and going way too fast. It's a satellite."

"Wow. The whole world just opened up!"

I've rowed twenty minutes and we're not yet halfway to the cabin. Jay wants to row, and he and I switch seats. "Remember the rocks around the point ahead," he says, and I take the light from him. He's managed to spark his dried paper towel enough to light a cigarette, and is trying to keep the flame alive in a coffee can without burning the entire fuel supply. He's fiddling with the oars when Kevin says "I'll turn on the motor. The water's so still we'll make reasonable time."

We put-put along on battery power. Kevin and Jay finish the bourbon. Dawn is quiet and perhaps asleep. I try to imagine how deep the lake is at this point. We're easily a half-mile from shore in any direction. A milky inverted cone of light peters out quickly in the dark water as I point the torch downward. Kevin says "I have to piss."

"Goddamit, we were at the shore for hours," is Jay's curt reply.

"Well, fuck y'all. Who needs land to piss?" Kevin stands up to his full six-foot-four and I hear his heavy stream in the water. The boat is much less stable and we all know that standing up that way even in a stationary row boat is a bad idea.

"Hey Kev," I say. "Why don't you put a spoon on that and see if you can catch somewhat?"

"A spoon? Hell, I should put a reel on this baby!" Jay is so amused he begins tickling Kevin under the arm, and in my laughter I start jogging the boat back and forth to test Kevin's balance. He fails the test, flailing both arms suddenly and running quickly backwards still arcing piss and I know we're done for. The boat sinks sharply to one end as Kevin lands hard his last step and then rises up to fling the rest of us like a trampoline in different directions. A sharp pain as I flip over and smash my left arm into the gunwale on the way into the water. I'm deep quickly and have to orient myself because I know the boat is going to tip and we'll be fucked and fucked worse. I surface and see the boat is tipping away from me and I leap up out of the water, grab the bow and make myself as heavy as I can pulling it back to level. The boat settles and already Jay is back up and in and using a half milk jug to bail water. Kevin is screaming about Dawn and Jay says "Calm the fuck down!" And then I hear Dawn gasp and Kevin is reassuring her that she's alright, she's ok, she's safe.

I get myself in the boat and help Jay get Dawn up and over the gunwale. Her long dark hair is flat against her back and she's shaking. Kevin pushes her ass as Jay and I ease her up and over by the arms. Kevin is jabbering away, clinging with one hand to the boat. "Man, I barely saw her. I barely found her. I saw a mass of dark tendrils in the starlight. I grabbed her by the hair! She was deep." Jay says again "Calm the fuck DOWN." Suddenly we're not stoned and drunk and we're shivering and wet. I lost a shoe, one of my high school track team racing flats with cleats. Amazingly, none of the rods is gone, but the beer bottles have spilled out into the lake and sunk. We have to fetch the life vests which are floating on the lake. The flashlight lens is full of water but still functions enough for us to find them.

"Mom and Dad are going to be pissed," I say, and we all laugh. We're supposed to be adults by now. "Maybe we should dry off before we go back to the cabin?"

"Yeah, we'll build a fire at the docks and sit for awhile," Jay says.

We do so, and find another lighter in Dad's boat with which to get high again. Soon we're laughing and situating the event in all its weighty context. "You guys remember that poster in the beer store?" I ask.

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