Set back from each side of the road were the faint outlines of ornaments and lawn curios of lakeside cabins and gravel driveways. Once upon a time, he had known the names that were attached to most of these, from the bridge all the way to the old resort on the big lake side of the road. He stopped in front of his dad’s old place on the small lake side, but just for a moment. The driveway was long, and the pale glow of light up the hill at the far end seemed a cold reflection of laughter and loss recalled.
Two decades after he’d left it behind, it felt both longer ago and less than that. Many firsts in his life had happened around that bridge, along this stretch of road, in the woods around these lakes. Kisses were shared and feelings were felt, friendships were found and lost, and families had fractured to pieces. So much of what had shaped his life and attitudes had happened in these cabins and along the shorelines that they faced, even over and above the half-remembered incident that had drawn him back in this season.
He had been very young at the time, almost but not quite yet a teenage boy. It had been a darker night even than this one, moonless and muffled under a blanket of late summer heat. He’d been walking along the outskirts of the woods at the edge of the neighbor’s place, and had noticed moving lights farther in among the trees. He recalled walking in that direction, but then the memory blurred and his next recollection was of standing in the neighbor’s yard again, a few feet outside the tree line.
Now, standing on the road where the neighbor’s driveway bordered the trees, he felt a brief flutter of butterflies in his stomach just before he caught a glimpse of light back in the woods. There were three, no, four lights moving in what appeared to be a slow, choreographed dance between trees. He stepped off the road to cross the ditch when the lights all flared together into a searingly bright flash that felt cold against his squeezed shut eyelids. He stopped and exhaled three desperate words.
“Wait! What?! No!”
It was two days before someone called the county about a car parked next to the old bridge that spanned the creek between the two lakes. A truck came and towed it away through cold scatters of wind-driven rain past the last cabin on the left and the brooding woods beyond.
As the tow-truck passed the old resort, a man with a shovel stirred from where he’d been standing at the edge of the ditch, and crossed the road into the shadows of the woods.
Kevin R. Carr 2022
About 590 Words