Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | February 13, 2008

The Raft

Moosehead Lake, Maine. August 22, 2007.

Moosehead Lake Sunset

The boy blinks and lifts his head. His eyes fill with orange and lilac and rose. If the sky were dying, this would be her memorial. I think I fell asleep. Beneath him, the raft rocks on the water.

He made the raft himself. His father and sister helped tie the difficult knots and reach to drape his Batman towel over the driftwood mast, but it was his small hands that dragged the driftwood through muck and tangled roots to their campsite. He was the one who persuaded the logs to float while his sister told him it would never work. But he made it work, then poled his creation around the shallows like a gondolier in Venice. He sang and laughed and his sister couldn’t get him because she didn’t want to wade through the cold mud.

But she was up at the campsite, now, sitting by the fire with their parents and maybe roasting marshmallows. He’d told them to go ahead without him. He wanted to watch the sky.

The boy sits up in the folding chair, stretches, yawns. There, far in the distance, a kayak or canoe with two figures drifts on the lilac-orange water. The boy watches them approach. I’m a fearless sea captain! If there be pirates, I’ll take them on! He reaches for his pole. In his hands, it becomes a cannon. They’ll never even come close!

The pirates veer to the right, and one of them waves. The boy waves back. That’s odd. But it is only after they drift off into the lowering darkness that the boy realizes what was odd. Their faces and clothes and smiles were perfectly normal, but their boat was floating several inches above the water.

The boy drags his hand in the lake, and yes, it laps right up against his ship. I’ll go after them. I’ll capture that phantom pirate ship. But the sky is swallowing up the water, and all is the same murky purple black. The boy’s pole is too short to drive his ship into the deep, formless night.

First thing in the morning, then, he decides.

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