Gary Sheppard

Empty Lake

Fish covered the shore. Turned it silvery gray with a weighted copper shine. The water was feathered, clouded with mud and cypress stumps and Aunt Candy at the bottom in plastic wrapped tight. She said how she adored my voice, its blueblood timbre. I stood there forever watching the men drag the whole bottom, after she had floated up, before they unwrapped her on the fishy shore. There was nearly an entire set of luggage floating. Uncle Rey commented on the color. Almost maroon. I could not remember how I sounded. There were people from all around the territory closing in, grabbing looks. The air was wet and stank of chimneys and diesel fumes. A sweet, burning char at the back of your throat. The people edged closer. Not much was much left when they flapped her open. A mushy, wet form, hair a darker brown. Voices mumbled that it didn’ t look like her. Someone loosed my lure from the plastic and handed it to me. Then the wind picked up and the whole spectacle went cold with skiff. And my mouth was sore from all the teethy chattering. The women were scared and had big eyes and they stayed away like the dogs that wanted to sniff but could not. Everyone said something. Uncle Rey said how I must be hungry. He was right. He said he could fry up a couple of pork chops and that they probably wouldn’ t be as good as the ones Aunt Candy made, but they would be good. We stood there together for a long time looking at the empty lake and all the fish on the shore. I could not keep them. I could not see beyond the day. I could not do anything. Not a single thing could be done. In a year’ s time it would be dry where the lakebed was and you could find the best stones for skipping, or keeping.

Gary Sheppard's writing has appeared or is forthcoming from The New York Tyrant, Word Riot, and The Chiron Review. He is the recipient of a John & Renee Grisham fellowship. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

1 comment: