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How I felt about the lake and everything came to a head when I went down with my brother to watch the girls rehearsing the water ballet early one night that July. We stood on the upper deck, looking down to where the spotlights played across the water, and where the local gym teacher, Dick Miyagawa (sturdy, popular, smiling), rehearsed his charges by megaphone, striding briskly on the pier in his flowered shirt and khaki shorts to the life guard tower and back, calling out: "Stroke, stroke, good! Okay! And turn, turngood! Okay! All together now" In the background, ukulele music crackled from the loudspeakers and a deep velvet voice, "wowing" as if in a time warp, sang about "heavenly" bodies, while the girls with their ruffled pastel caps covering their hair, glided back and forth to the music through the pink oil of evening, as if moving there forever would be the most natural thing in the world.


I felt delight for sure -- but also fear, because I knew the magic of the lake could be cruel as well as kind. I was a bony child who sank the moment I was not flailing vigorously in the water. A girl who lived not far from us had drowned near here just weeks before. People said she had been unhappy in love, but no one knew for sure. She was a lonely young woman who had a habit of taking long mermaid-like swims by moonlight, and one night the lake had taken her. The following day the lifeguards found her bobbing lifeless against the pier, her red hair floating like a halo about her head.


So I couldn't help but think of her as the ukulele played and I watched the girls weaving a spell in the water with their long legs and delicately synchronized arms, splashing and laughing when they got it all screwed up and had to begin all over again. And then Mr. Miyagawa made a joke, and they laughed harder. And for a while my fear went away Suddenly they were simply people having fun in the water, and I wanted to leap the railing and join them in the lake, where they might laugh to me and souse me with their spray.



Rod Clark, Editor


Illustration © Tommy Sweeney