catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 15 :: 2004.09.24 — 2004.10.07


Returning to the lake

Pasted to the green lawn chair, I flipped blankly through a magazine, trying to ignore the beads of sweat forming on my skin. It was a convenient alternative to swimming in murky water. And I wouldn?t need to wash my hair again before dinner.

Aside from the heat, I felt uneasy. I gazed down the long, white arm of the pier, clinching pieces of grass with my toes. The July scene was as familiar as my bedroom closet, but it seemed intangible and strangely foreign.

Lake Wawasee was one of my favorite places as a child. It took seven hours to get to the cottage from our house in Ohio, and when our minivan pulled into the driveway, my cousins ran outside, trying to lure us into the water before we could grab our luggage. My younger sister and I would race into the cottage, jump into our Speedos, and run down the dock, plunging into cold, gray water.

We spent our days swimming, laughing, yelling, and playing backyard baseball, but I always looked forward most to going tubing behind my uncle?s boat. There was something rapturous about riding alone on the waves with the sharp morning sunlight warming your skin. I bounced wildly while the wind tangled my hair, until large waves defeated my boldness. My arms and legs would ache for days, and I always found cuts and scrapes the next morning.

Hunting for shells was a highlight of every trip. The water was shallow around the dock, and we walked slowly, careful to examine the floor of sand and slimy plants. When I was able to gather two handfuls of shells, I would emerge to place each one carefully on the white, wooden beams of the dock to showcase their majesty.

But the most beautiful shells were the mussel shells. Grandpa gave us his pocketknife, and we scraped away their crusty barnacles and slimy, black exteriors. Soon we revealed their pearly-pastel rainbows.

In the evenings, the wavering, orange sun cast shadows on the water and the tall flowers by the water. As dusk drew closer, we hurried to squeeze in hours of playtime before we were called inside. We normally accomplished this by jumping back in the water after dinner.

I loved to glide quietly under the dock, swimming like a mermaid. The sun shimmered between the slits of the beams, and even the ugly, wet spider webs seemed to glitter. Our mussel shells remained on the edge of the dock and reflected even lovelier iridescence in the evening. But we always forgot them, and they fell into the water while we slept.

The endless summer days at the lake eventually came to an end, and it seemed that with each passing year, it became more difficult to make it out there.

But here I sat, slumping lazily in the plastic lawn chair, staring out at passing boats and waves. I had become more cautious, though the same rambunctious desires pulsed through me. Such pure abandon was missing amidst my life?s complexities. I had lost the lake.

My observations were halted by the approaching footsteps of my little brother. I sighed, preparing to drive him away, but instead paused to admire his tanned, kindergarten body. His large toothy grin made me smile. Catching my eye, he ran down to the dock, and to my amusement, began hunting for his shells. He sprinted back to me and held them in his little hands like precious jewels.

It seemed simple. I laid down my magazine, walked to the dock, and we plopped into the lake. He held my hand as we walked through the water, searching for treasures.

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