Crawfish

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A girl and two men and a pond and a forest.

Submitted: August 31, 2014

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Submitted: August 31, 2014

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*

They paddled the cold deep water. The oars squeaked in the oarlocks. Two men of nineteen from the campground across the lake; a native girl of sixteen. They met when she walked the forest path encircling the trout pond. Coyly she asked if they had  some weed. They were fishing from the shore. They offered to show her where they thought someone was growing some in the forest. 

She walked ahead of them, to a place where she knew of an old rowboat abandoned behind a dead trapper’s shed. They watched her walk, watched her long legs move through the grass, like a deer. They watched her buttocks move beneath her shorts. they saw the sun illuminate the blonde hairs of her thigh. They saw frazzles of hair poking out from her headband. They saw her shoulder blades move like machinery as her arms swung. They said nothing as they stepped behind her, watching, like panthers on the path of a wounded stag. Her legs were long in the grass.

The men threw the cans and crawfish traps and beer bottles out of the rowboat. The shadow of the dead man's past lurked in the eaves and slats of worn lumber. The summer sun stabbed their lean tattooed shoulders. Their hair hung lank and greasy into pale unfurrowed brows. They lugged the rowboat from behind the trapper’s shed where the mud made sucking sounds, as they lurched it free from the earth's suckmaw. They tugged it through the weedy overgrowth and down to the shore with the girl watching, glancing nervously at the waterline.

The men stepped into the boat first, and watched her step in. As one man, the taller good-looking one, rowed the boat, she told stories of the older natives, and those that had passed on, and those that arrived in their wake. They were inheritors of the empty cabins dotting the shoreline. She told them about black bears and White-tailed deer, and of Bald eagles and nighthawks. She mentioned strange beasts in the woods hiding in rocky crags sucking the bones of children in the caves. These were tall tales indeed, meant to impress but still the men said nothing. All was silent except for the dipping of the oars and the lilt of Red-Winged blackbirds and a chorus of Wood frogs rising like mist from the far shoreline.

Now the water was green, and then it was clear and she thought she could see the world beneath so deep, of schools of transparent fish and crawfish she caught as a child. Her Dad said they made for good bait, and so she caught him plenty. She thought she could see Steve Brown, a six year-old boy that fell out of his father's canoe and tumbled down where light could no longer reach, and retrieved back like a parcel from another world, a harbinger that all was lost, and all would remain that way. She told them of the nighthawks that swooped and flitted through the dusk, and that her grandmother told her that they were sent from Heaven to snatch up the evil spirits that still lingered from the day. She scanned the sky to show them, but saw none. 

Her long bony fingers skimmed the metallic surface of the water One man watched her tawny legs kick up on a small cooler. They were pale yet glowed red as the sun dissolved into a crimson puddle, breaking the shoreline into silhouettes of bare trees. Far away she saw smoke rising from a cabin.

`The man rowed with furious concentration. His eyes fixed to the far shore. 

Rememba’, I have to be back in a half hour, the girl said. Her eyes were large, her lips pursed in bemused thought.

You will, the man assured her. His red fingers wrestled with the tightened knot of the anchor rope.  She thought she heard a loon and pointed in that direction. However, the sun had sunk deeper and the shadows of the trees now stretched like unfeeling fingers across the darkening waters.

There’s a guy that patrols in a boat, he works for the county, she told them.

He won’t find us, we wont get caught the young man that wasn’t paddling the rowboat responded. His head was bowed down to his fingers tugging at the hard knot. The row boat touched the shore and the man dropped the paddles and leapt to the wet bank. His sneaker slipped on sphagnum moss. He cursed to himself and the girl giggled.

The other man leapt ashore and held his hand out to the girl. On the shore her toes disappeared in sphagnum moss, and she quite dramatically arced her back to brush the seat of her shorts. One watched the ripple of her musculature with sacred fascination.

  So, where is it? she asked.

Just o’er yonder.

In the forest the sun was blotted out and the deer trail they followed lingered in ghost form. She led the way and they watched her walk the confident stride of a native to these parts. I know where we are, she told them. And they told her to keep going, just a little further, where there was no light, where the trail stopped dead and the world fell silent in mute invocation. She saw no weed, but only the dark fronds of Elf ferns and the gnarled trunks of Black maples and pitch pines where the dark gathered like the legs of giants stooping and standing into formation. She looked up where the outline of the trees stood stark against the night sky, and the flitting forms of nighthawks made her smile, and she looked to them and pointed up.

  There they are!

* *

They carried her to the row boat. Her shorts and tank top were gone. Her head lolled in a lazy arc. Clear eyes clouded over to the twilit sky. The nighthawks were gone. The boy that did the rowing stopped at the edge of the shore where the black shape of the rowboat stood out against the dark water. He dropped her legs. The other locked his forearms under her arm, his two hands gripped her hard pointed breasts. His face was dark and formless. His eyes neither shined or glinted in the starlight. There was no moon or stars and the clouds smothered the gray face of the earth.

Put her in the boat.

He struggled with her weight and she fell head first into the pond. Her body was arced over the bank of wet sphagnum moss, graceful and supine. He stepped into the water and pulled her up. Her hair was dripping. His boots got wet. Her eyes stared at him with the knowing gaze of absolute nothingness.

Fuck, he stammered as he pulled her up and into the rowboat. She fell into a heap. He, the one that didn’t do the rowing, saw the stark purple bruising around her throat. It was darker even than the shadow cast over her from the rowboat.

They looped and entwined the anchor line around each of her ankles. They tied the two fifty-pound barbell weights used for an anchor to each long leg. They sat in the rowboat staring at her for several minutes, before the one that did the rowing lifted the oars.

Let’s do this.

He rowed to the middle of the pond where the clear depths plummeted into cloudy chaos. 

Throw the weights over.

This ain’t right.

Just do it. 

The one that did the rowing watched each weight plunge into the depths. Her ankles swung to the side of the boat. He watched the other struggle with her body and didn’t offer to help. Just lit up a cigarette and watched, holding the sides of the rowboat as it tipped perilously to one side.

She unceremoniously slipped into the dark waters and they peered over watching her thin wan body slip into unmitigating darkness.

Somewhere from the far shore: Molleeeeee..... Molleeeee! It’s time! Molleeee.... it’s time . . .

No light betrayed their form. No moon cast them into silhouette. They rowed silently to the shore, stepped to it and dragged the rowboat behind the old long dead trapper’s collapsed tin shed. They placed the crawfish traps and bottles and cans into it and positioned it as closely as possible to its original place behind the shed. They took the forest path back to the campground, loaded their gear into a car and left.

Five-hundred and twenty-five yards away the girl swayed as gracefully as river grass, a ballerina pirouetting into corruption, arms in invocation to the world closed over. An hour hadn’t gone by when the first of the crawfish began to scissor away its victuals. By the end of that weekend, she was skeletonized. The universe buried her at last in a layer of sedimentary silt and pond muck.

The young men, by then, returned to school. Some believed that they had a bright future ahead of them.


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