The Lake

The heat shimmer- dances above the tall grass in the field across the road. Insects sing loud. Grasshoppers hop blade to blade. They are the only bugs I can see and I want to know what is making the big buzz sound in the grass acre near my house.

I am ten years old.

I am in the habit of staring into this field behind the big barn. It is a mystery field; always changing shape and color.

This day, I straddle the bicycle that Amah Howard said I could borrow as long as I put it back in her shed exactly the way I found it. Amah is like that. Organized and to the point. She works her farm on the same schedule every day and says only what needs to be said.

The bicycle is a three speed and has a basket in the front and a bell near one of the brakes. It is my turn to ride it up and down the old road in front of the farmhouse that I live in. My legs stretch to the road, my toes barely touching the   broken tar.

I squint through the heat shimmer to the state road past the field, a sweat trickle going down down down down.

I am hoping for a swim later.

We never swim during the day.

It is always after my dad gets home. It is always after supper.

The beach is mostly empty when we get there, except for the occasional couple of families packing up their things. Sometimes there is an older boy and girl swimming in cut off shorts, their long hair plastered to their heads and backs.

The lake is flat and going blue gray. It is a mirror of faint ripples.

It is a mystery lake, but I know I will find a pretty rock in its depths.

Once my grandparents showed up at the lake on their motorcycle. My grandfather was cool in his leather jacket and sunglasses, but grandmother…she was beautiful.  She sat on the bike behind my grandfather in her leather jacket and sunglasses, too, an old lady,really, but when she took off her helmet to say hello, she was a vision of glamour. Her blond curls  helmet-messed up and her lipstick mouth grinned big. She laughed and her french accent was caught up in the trees canopying the lake.  After a brief talk, the sunglasses went back on, the helmet straps snapped and the bike turned to leave and promptly spun out in the sand. My grandfather hung onto the handles trying to keep the bike from spilling, but the spin of the wheels was too strong and I stood and dripped scared as I  watched my grandparents suffer the indignity of falling helpless and weak.

I did not like seeing them that way.

My father, his gait set firm, walked quick to the spill in the sand and assessed the situation. He didn’t look afraid. Moments later my grandparents were back on the bike, waving and roaring down the road.

My father.

An assessor of situations.

When he takes us to the beach he does not swim.

Not because he can’t. He just doesn’t.

He lies flat on his back on a towel, his broad chest laid open, ribs pointing to the sky, arms in a V behind his head making a pillow. His eyes are closed, his mouth firm.

I watch him breath slow.

I dive for a rock.

I come up for air and my brother is next to me in the deep end of the lake, the water up to his neck.  He’s five.

I toss my rock.

I dive under again, open my eyes and see the bubbles where my rock landed. I break the surface of the water and see my brother’s head bobbing in the lake.

Then I don’t.


My eyes dart.

My throat squeezes shut and I try to make my way toward the place I think I saw him last but the water is heavy against my legs.

A great splash comes from behind me and my father is walking on water.

His arms pump full and his legs stride long over the top of the lake. He moves past me and his right arm lifts high then plunges into the liquid and pulls up a coughing boy by his hair, lifting him into lung breathing air and carries him back to the beach all shivering limp.

I drip scared a second time, fist white tight around my rock.

I am ten years old and I am trembling because the sun is going down and it’s getting cold and my brother almost drowned right in front of me.

I thought my father was sleeping.

How did he know?

How did he know where to put his hand to save?

There is so much I do not know. So many mysteries.

Things I know and see in part, but not in their fullness.

Things like heat shimmers and insect choruses and lake mirrors and fathers sleeping.

I am learning to revel in the mystery.

To trust in the Father’s timing to rescue and save.

To remember He is a Father who never sleeps.

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