“If you’re going to hit something,
don’t hit it hard.” I cut
engines and drift into my slip
inches away from the pediatric oncologist’s
identical floating obelisk. He watches me
over correct from his flying bridge.
My sister says the doctor is the main reason
she stopped coming up here. “Ancient societies made sin
eaters live out in the wilderness – in the scrub!
All the energy spikes he absorbs from terrified parents
while sitting behind his terrifying altar of a desk
are released on that fantail!” (probably not her term.)
“The whole bay reeks of diagnoses!” (He’s pretty tense,
but he keeps to himself.) Cheryl, his friendlier half,
vaults their Bayliner’s railing to help guide us in.
All afternoon at Paradise Bay
my sister’s kid ripped graceless
off-axis backflips, whipping drips
over my Newsweek and Time.
Now he stands there transfixed.
Cheryl grabs the line from my nephew
and expertly loops it around a cleat.
The final tightening yank on the hitch
loosens her sunglasses from their silky perch.
They’re splashlessly consumed. She punches her hand
in after them like a primitive fisherman.
The doctor’s grip whitens on his Michelob.
I tell my nephew to get the mask,
but Cheryl says the glasses were drugstore garbage.
I tell my nephew to get the mask
and take a look, it’s only five feet.
“Really don’t!” Cheryl says. He’s already halfway
through a sleeve of Lorna Doones. The crumbs
on his swim trunks watch the exchange intently.
He resumes chewing and casts the deciding vote.
Port wine cheddar spread on Triscuits.
Tuna fish sandwiches on white Freihofer’s.
(one slightly soggy from the cooler
but I eat it. It’s fine.)
A box of Freihofer’s hermit cookies,
and a bag of plain M&Ms.
My nephew requests time checks on the ship to shore.
“‘Billable Hours’ in Harris Bay needs a time check please.”
It’s been three years since I wrote that old name
on a silver dollar and threw it off the bow.
No one but Poseidon accepted the rechristening after the ceremony.
The sacrificial champagne was still a drowning upside down mushroom
cloud bubbling when my sister said, “You could rename fucking Storytown
after that little bitch she STILL wouldn’t come up here!”
Then the north country drunk couldn’t wrap his wet brain
around “Kiersten”, so letters look smooshed under the boarding ladder.
Cheryl approaches, her hair wet from the clubhouse showers.
I root around in the cooler and fish out
a compensatory Lowenbrau for her, but the doctor grunts.
Cheryl says she’ll just stick to her veggie tray.
We talk about milfoil and the fall haulout schedule.
Suddenly Cheryl frowns and she points her celery stick
at my daughter’s botched name. “Are you looking low?”
The starboard side of the swim platform has dipped.
Lake water is oozing and sucking through the slats.