That flash of white over by the trees. They wouldn’t be able to see Buddy out here. The house was far enough away that his small frame would have become invisible in this early light. The air was heavy with water, weighing down his clothes as he walked to the waterline. It was either this or church.
Now grandfather had told him twice. “Ain’t nothing but bad things happened at that lake.” Buddy had believed him too, why wouldn’t he? Grandfather had a thing up in the attic, something like a fish and something like a monkey, and he said that it had been caught down there. Buddy didn’t know. It looked to him like there were stitches under the scales, when he looked closely. Not that he liked to look too closely. That thing looked down at him with wrinkled eyes and needle teeth.
The water is still this morning. Flat and grey and silent. Not even any birds this early. Buddy starts to strip off his clothes, like he does every Sunday. Small hairs stand up on end, on the back of his neck and his arms. Buddy takes a step down onto the shoreline, just short of the water. The grass ticks and settles under his feet.
He’d come to live with his grandfather after his mother had died. He’d never spoken to his father, he was gone long before he could speak. Some kind of salesman or something, who took a shine to a young blonde girl. That’s what Grandfather said, anyway. Some Johnny in blue jeans, that’s what Grandfather said. Buddy didn’t know, he just listened.
The water’s cold this morning, as it always was. Colder than the air, even. This morning swim was important though. He knew that. He knew it when his Grandfather put up the sign telling him to keep away. He always listened, after all. The water closes slow around his feet. Buddy wades slowly in, the water chasing the gooseflesh up his legs.
Grandfather wouldn’t be up yet. He always rose late, and Buddy wanted to finish this before he did. He hunkered down, the water knocking the breath out of him for a moment as he did. He took a moment and breathed. Then he put his face under the surface.
That month had been slow. He missed the meals that they had used to have, the moments alone after he got back from school. The house has been so quiet.
He opens his eyes to see a familiar face.