Wood knocking frogs and gnats scream in exorcism clouds performed by late spring. Good water is not clear water. Not even clean water. That’s not what makes water good. The desert does that. A drought-set standard dictates the goodness of any water. Timing, and temperature, turns the world halloween make believe dress up right as wrong and decent as any tepid thing in between. The face is pure manipulation, a mask just simplifies the equation. I can see who you really are more clearly in who you’d rather be than I could in any other amplified, magnified thing. You are me. If I were you. And that scares me, and that scared feeling whispers to me it must be true. Frightening. How good things always do. Good water can drown easy as summer drains your sound. Timing and temperature again. I see you in where you end up on the pier. The hat you wear. What you prepared. The sunscreen on your nose. Your plans for later. And when they change, you confess, you were waiting. And waiting is a big give-away.
Roosters crow when they see the sun in the morning, but woodpeckers pound trees up and down and flirt with one another loudly. Black squirrels still get chased by gray ones and a tall sand throwing hare runs so hard I look for the fox behind it who never comes. I pulled a fish with a hook in its lips up from brown water, green in my hands and banded like a raccoon and perched cradled in my palm so his sharp back fins laid down cool in my palm. Aged men wearing rags lost in ships at sea have hugged the legs of men in the same tender fondness my son wrapped his arms around my knee in the crooked pregnant belly of a canoe dragging her stern. And when he fell off the dock and bobbed back up onto his back, such a frozen peeled back look of fright on his face, I felt so needed, so perfectly positioned, like so many of my setbacks in life finally made sense in the instant I leapt in after him.
I think sometimes the feeling of being a man is like a soldier prepared for a war that never comes. Instead, you get these little moments to prove yourself, to kick your legs at endless water and lift your terrified kid over your head into his mothers hands. He says you saved me daddy, but you know that can’t be true. Between parents and their children, there’s no telling who is saving who.
The quiet. Not even highway sounds. No stray gunshots announcing sunset. The stretchiness of eastern Carolina, to be so drawn out endlessly in round sand and sticky pines. They frame this little lake for murder and keep it dead and clean and as still as they can for time unseen. And I am, my little family, are its solemn accomplices. We are skeletons offering ourselves to all the middle of nowhere’s closets. Campers of the vast evergreen wastes and swimmers of the dimpled cheeks of ancient craters. Baptized by the filthy hands of June and let loose ripe only for some more time.