A woman is trapped in the middle of a lake.
|Written for "Invalid Item"
by Lisa McCourt Hollar
“Damn! Will you stop clowning around?” Stacey held onto the side of the boat while Kenneth rocked it back and forth in the water.
“Oh come on, Stacey, try to loosen up.”
“I still can’t believe you talked me into coming out here. You know how scared I am of the water.”
“Nope, sis, it’s not the water you’re afraid of, it’s drowning. You were perfectly fine with the water when we were fishing on the shore.”
“And I’d be perfectly fine if you’d take me back to the shore. Damn it, Kenny… STOP!”
“I’m sorry sis, just having a bit of fun.” Kenneth stopped rocking the boat and looked at the sky overhead. “Looks like it might rain.”
Still holding tight to the sides of the boat, Stacey glanced up at the sky. It did look ominous. “So are you going to let us go back in?”
“I suppose. The water in this lake gets awfully choppy when it storms.” He reached around and yanked on the pull cord. Nothing happened.
“I don’t know what’s wrong,” he said, pulling again… and again. “Oh no.”
“I think we might be out of gas.”
“This isn’t funny, Kenneth!”
“I’m not joking. We should have a full tank, but look, the fuel gage is showing empty.”
“So we’re stuck!”
Kenneth winced. Stacey’s voice tended to break glass when she shrieked… or came close to it. “Calm down sis, it’s not that far of a swim.”
Her voice rose even higher. “SWIM? SWIM!” She slapped the top of her lifejacket and then quickly grabbed hold of the boat again. “I can’t swim, Kenneth. I knew coming out here would be a mistake, but you promised me we would be okay!” Then she started crying and Kenneth groaned.
“Relax. I’m not going to make you swim. There’s a gas can in the boat house. I’ll go get it and bring it back.”
“NO!” Stacey grabbed her brother’s arm. “You can’t leave me here. What if something happens?”
“I don’t know. The boat sinks maybe?”
“It’s not going to sink.”
“Yeah, that’s what they said about the Titanic.”
“Okay, you know what, you’re being ridiculous.”
“Again, that’s what you told me when you talked me into climbing onboard this death trap. Face your fears. Everything will be okay. It’s safe. And now I’m going to die.”
Kenneth started laughing. “Stacey, you aren’t going to die. I’ll be right back. You can go with me if you want.”
Stacey’s squeezed the sides of the boat so tight, her knuckles were white. She looked at the water. She chewed her lip, uncertain. “Okay, fine, go. Please hurry.”
“I’ll be right back.” Kenneth slipped into the water and began swimming.
“Why did I ever let him talk me into this?”
She knew the answer of course. She’d spent the last year in fear of her life. Her ex- husband had beaten her black and blue in the short time they’d been together. He would have killed her if Kenneth hadn’t intervened. He put Waldrick in the hospital. This was supposed to symbolize her freedom… her rebirth.
She smiled with relief as Kenneth reached the beach. He turned and waved. She waved back. He then turned and headed for the beach house. She began practicing breathing slowly, trying to calm herself. All he had to do was get the can and bring it back. Something moved behind Kenneth, coming out of the shadows and approaching him. The sky was darkening more and more as each second passed and Stacey had trouble making out the form. Squinting, she gasped. It was Waldrick. “NO.” She started yelling, but Kenneth couldn’t hear her. He went into the boathouse. Her ex-husband stood outside, waiting. He pulled something from his pocket. Stacey recognized his knife. He used it for gutting deer. He turned towards her and waved. Stacey could almost imagine him winking.
“No. Oh God, no.” She screamed for Kenneth, but the sky chose that moment to open up and the rain fell. Through the boathouse window, she could see Kenneth. He had the gas can and was heading back towards the door. “NO!” She had to help him. But how?
Stacey looked into the water and made her decision. Letting go of the boat, she dove in. The lifejacket kept her upright as she doggy paddled back towards the shore. Her heart was pounding so hard inside her chest, she thought it was going to burst. Never taking her eyes off the boathouse she made her way forward. Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion.
Kenneth came out of the boat house and Waldrick lunged. The gas can fell to the ground while the two struggled. Stacey screamed and paddled even harder. Water washed into her mouth and she spit it out, gagging. Still, she continued towards the shore, determined to help her brother. Then Kenneth’s knees sagged. Everything stopped moving as his knees thudded to the ground and he tilted to the side, Waldrick’s hunting knife sticking out of his gut.
Waldrick picked up the gas can and began walking towards her. She was almost to the beach, but if she kept going, he would kill her. There was no way she could escape. Turning, she began to paddle back to the boat. When she reached it, Stacey pulled herself back up and fell to the floor. Then she looked over the edge. Waldrick was still on the shore. When he saw her watching, he waved. Opening the gas can he began to pour the gas into the water. Then he pulled out his lighter.
“No.” She looked towards the far side of the lake. She had to do it. She dove back into the water. Behind her she heard a loud whoosh and felt the heat of fire on her back. A few moments later she heard the sound of a car start up and saw headlights moving towards the other side of the lake.