by Dianne Bilyak
After coming around a sharp corner you’ll see it—a view of the lake from the top of the hill. If it’s summer you can go in the lake and swim to the raft. You can lie on the raft until your footsteps dry on the wood. If you get too hot you can go back in the water to cool off. (That’s what I do.)
If a group of kids come to jump off the raft it will go in circles. If you want them to leave, because you suddenly feel old, or you want to listen to the slap of waves against the raft, or you want to think about your dead grandfather—talk to the kids about serial killers or Jesus.
If that doesn’t work, swim back in. If there’s a lifeguard on duty get a cramp just for fun and pretend you’re drowning. They have to save you because that’s what they get paid for.
If you go to the lake later in the day, when all of the noise has gone home for supper, you can look right at the sun without burning a hole in your retina. I wouldn’t recommend the fake drowning thing—just read a book.
Lately, I like the ones about serial killers. I like to find out if I fit the profile (not for the killers, that would be ridiculous, but for their victims) one can never be too careful. Besides, it’s fun to scare yourself while you’re at the lake alone.
If you get too hot again, but you’re tired of swimming, sit under a tree. Make up a word like pondiferocious to describe the difference between shadow (bad: because it takes up space from the sun) and shade (good: because it provides respite when you really need it).
One time it was really, really, really hot—too hot for the water, the raft, or the tree. So I found shelter where the picnic tables were.
A Polish woman was there with her two sons. I sensed that she was drowning but she wasn’t pretending. I tried to imagine what roads (and I’m being both literal and metaphorical here) she took to end up at my lake.
She handed her two boys wedges of bread and watermelon. When they were done she applied sunscreen to their faces and scalps, saying, “Ja’ cohemchi,” which in it’s loosest translation means: “Be careful my little monkeys, you don’t want your heads to get bashed in by the sun.”
Dianne Bilyak was born and raised in Stafford, CT where she was recently voted to be Stafford’s Town Crier. She ran unopposed. The poem that appears in the Slag Review was written at Staffordville Lake.