Based on Summer Games by Tom Schlueter
“There’s the Black Troll again.”
I hear those kids whisper every day as they approach my house.
“He’s evil Ruthie, you don’t want to get caught by him.”
I stepped out onto my porch and the three children from the neighboring summer cabin did their best to appear casual and avoid eye contact with me.
“What are you kids doing?” I gave them a scowl.
They said nothing but started running.
“Bah.” I waved a dismissive hand at them.
They hate me. So be it. I wasn’t very fond of them either.
I went to the fridge and cracked open a beer. I took a long drink and sighed. Those kids are too young to know what a can of cold beer can do for you on a hot summer’s day.
I moved to an old lawn chair on the front of the porch and took another swig.
Sam, the kids Father, was out on the lake again. Not that he was ever anywhere else. He was a good buddy though.
Always up for some beer and fun.
His wife too, little more of a sad soul, but I would consider them both friends.
Their children mostly stayed out of the way and that was fine with all of us.
Children should be able to be imaginative at that age anyway, they’d always find things to do.
I could see Sam coming into the dock, once again empty handed.
He always swears he was this close to snagging the big one, but until I see it, I call bluff.
He tied up his boat and approached.
“You up for some fun tonight old man?”
“You going to provide the beer?”
“I guess I got it this time.”
“Then of course.”
We drank a lot. Me and Sam were partial to our beers. Margie, to her vodka. We talked and drank and argued about what bait was really the best for catching the big ones.
Then when we got too tired to talk anymore, I would wonder back to my cabin.
The kids usually sat down at the dock while we adults were talking. They only came inside when they had to.
I think that they thought that I was never aware of where they were or what they were up to, but I was. More so than their parents I believe.
Not that I cared about them. No that wasn’t it. I just was a man who noticed things. A surveyor, the eagle eye of the group. Yes, that’s right. Those kids don’t give a damn about me, so I don’t give a damn about them either.
I slowly rose from my bed. ‘Not as young as you used to be Harold.’ I gripped my head. ‘Jesus’.
I got up and slowly made myself a pot of black coffee. When it was done I poured some into a mug and went to sit in my old lawn chair and sipped at it.
I glanced down the road, and saw the kids coming. The older girl, about 13, The boy, about 9, and the littlest one was about 5.
The got quiet and the older girl took the younger two’s hands. They scurried past me and I just watched them go.
The next few days were uneventful. I watched the kids skip rocks, jump in the lake, splash each other and squeal. They seemed to always have a lot of fun together.
Sam was out fishing again, and Margie was drunk in the cabin.
I had nothing to do. I have had nothing to do since my wife died 6 years ago. I sold our house down in the city and moved up to our summer cabin permanently. It was weird being up here without Loraine. She was my partner in everything. And losing her has made me more bitter than I would care to admit.
Loraine was my sweetheart. We met in High school and then after a short breakup we got back together and then I got drafted into the war. Loraine waited for me the whole time. Sweet gal.
I felt my eyes getting misty and stood up quickly to get another beer.
I drink more than I care to admit now as well. But people rarely drink for fun anymore. People drink to forget.
I didn’t want to forget my wife but, my god, the memories were painful sometimes.
I had decided that I was going to go out on the lake today. Maybe try out one of the new baits that Sam let me borrow.
I strolled down to the dock, lunch and fishing pole in tow.
When the children saw me approaching they froze. They didn’t even try to hide the fear as they backed away from me and made their playing spot a safe distance from the Troll.
I scowled at them and untied my boat.
I decided to have some fun.
“Ah, the Black Troll knows about ye, and isn’t happy. Better watch yourselves children.”
I restrained a smile as I watched the horror spread across their faces.
I remained scowling at them as I backed my boat up and drove off.
As soon as I was out of their eye view I laughed.
“Those gullible kids. They’ll be talking about that for the rest of the summer.”
The Lake was beautiful. Shrubs and pines all around the edges like a fence that made you feel encased in nature. Riding along on top of the waves with the white foam occasionally splashing on board, the sun shining and the wind leaving you feeling slightly breathless.
Ah, Loraine loved these boat rides more than anything.
I sped up even faster and made it to the end of the lake.
Memories of Loraine surrounded me. I heard her laughing as I sped up, holding onto her big sunhat so it wouldn’t fly off her beautiful head of greying curls. I saw her smiling at me, dipping her hand in the water and playfully splashing me in her bikini and dark brown hair. I saw her round belly poking out of her maternity swim suit and her throwing up over the side of the boat but still insisting that it was one of the best rides yet.
Crack! I flinched. Thunder? In my midst of my memories I had failed to notice that the sky had turned dark, and the wind had gotten a little stronger.
It can happen quickly here, but this is just the start. I could make it back to the dock before the real storm hits.
I started off in the direction of the docks as it started to rain. About halfway there it was getting worse than I thought it would by this time. The rain was pounding, the lighting was getting way too close for comfort, and the wind was making it hard to keep a straight line to the docks.
‘Harold, you picked a grand day to come sailing.’
The only thing I could do was just keep going.
I could see the docks now, they were in my sights, just a little further. The wind was howling and the thunder clapped, and just as I pulled into the dock a lightning bolt so big struck, that it lit up the entire darkened sky to look like noon day.
I quickly grabbed my ropes and tied my boat to the dock and started to run back up to my cabin.
Then I noticed the kids.
As soon as I had turned they jumped up on the deck and started to untie my boat.
“Hey kids! Hey!! What are you doing?”
I ran after them. But it was too late. They had untied the last of the rope and gave it a quick push. The wind took hold of my small boat immediately.
The kids tried to scramble off the dock as I came up.
It happened so fast. The tiniest child, slipped and splashed into the crashing waves. Her siblings turned when they heard the splash and screamed.
“The Troll pushed her in!”
“He wants her to drown!”
The screaming stopped.
The oldest ran to her and scooped her up.
I was still struggling in the water. I hadn’t the arm strength to hoist myself out of the boisterous water onto the dock.
With a powerful gust of wind and a giant wave I lost my grip on the edge of the dock. I got a mouthful of water and then another.
I heard faintly, “Daddy, come help, The Troll…The Man needs help! He needs help!”
Then a tinier voice, “He save me from the water! Save him from the water!”
This, was a ridiculous way to die.
But I did save the life of a child.
If only I could have saved you, my sweet.
I just always thought I would die in the war, but when that didn’t happen I figured I’d die a heart attack. Bad genetics you know.
I swallowed another lungful of water and the waves crashed on top of me again and again and threw me further away from the dock.
What a day Loraine, Huh? Maybe I’ll actually be seeing you sooner than I think.
My brain was surprisingly calm.
I was thinking rational thoughts. I was going to die and I was making jokes to myself.
Maybe that wasn’t rational. Either way. I was going to die. In this Lake. The last place that I saw you alive as well my sweet girl.
I’m sorry about what happened that day. How fitting it is that I couldn’t save you and now I can’t be saved.
I heard the faint voice of Sam calling, “Harold? Harold!”
“He’s out there Daddy, he isn’t a troll, he saved me, you have to get in your boat and get him!”
Then I went under. It was quiet under the waves. A protective layer against the storm.
I closed my eyes.
Oh Sam, don’t worry yourself trying to come get little old me. I’ll miss the drinking parties with ya buddy. But I think it’s time to see my wife.”
I took a deep breath and water filled my lungs completely. I could feel myself fading.
“Loraine, I’ll see you soon my sweet gal.”
And then all was quiet.
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