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“A Drowned Friend“
I was on a bus tour with a handful of friends. The bus was taking us along the entire coast of Massachusetts, at which point we would turn inland and head through the middle of Maine to a medium-sized city in Canada. The coast was beautiful. The highway paralleled the edge of the water, and there were abandoned beach houses in the water just offshore, in varying degrees of dilapidation. Each house would have warranted hundreds of pictures, and I kept wishing that we could stop to explore a bit. I told my friends about how I grew up in Massachusetts, and that my family used to spend our vacations in houses ‘just like those before the water rose’, and that there are still a few that are open to the public.
I was sitting in the window seat, and the person sitting to my left was an older woman who I didn’t know. She could see that she was sitting between me and a few of my friends, so she gave up her seat and moved to one that was a few rows back. My friend LJ took her place next to me. She asked if I had bought a bike passport. I told her that I hadn’t, and she said she said, “Yeah, I didn’t either, but since we’re with the tour group, we should be fine. We’ll have no trouble getting into Canada.”
We looked out the window at the retreating waterfront, and as the road turned inland it widened into a freeway. After a while, we crossed over a long blue bridge and saw a green sign proclaiming, “WELCOME TO CANADA.” After a short distance, the bus driver pulled to the side of the road and parked next to the shore of a small lake. There were low trees around the edge of the lake, with hanging branches that dipped large leaves into the water, and the brackish water had algae and sludgy lily pads floating on top of it. The bus driver pulled a small silver metal boat out from the bus’s storage compartment and carried it to the shore. He invited a few of us to get in, and I was the only volunteer. We pushed off from the shore, and the boat pitched a little, which filled the bottom of the boat with water. We quickly bailed out the water, and rowed toward the middle of the lake.
Just then we heard a scream from the shore, and then a splash, and LJ was nowhere to be seen. We rowed over near where she had been, but couldn’t hear or see anything. I saw some bubbles coming to the surface of the lake, so I pointed and yelled, “Look, bubbles! There! No, there!“ I followed the trail of bubbles with my finger for my boatmate, who pulled out a large wooden rod with a hook on the end. He pushed it down into the water and a hand surfaced. “Good job!” I yelled. “Keep coming!” I reached in to help him, and yelled LJ’s name, with no response. We saw then that the hand was no longer connected to an arm, and it was in fact trapped in some sort of vegetation that went below the water. The two of us kept lifting the rod, until the grille of an old pickup truck came to the surface, with a piece of LJ’s dark blue shirt sticking out. Tears came to my eyes as we let go of the rod, and the grill, shirt and disembodied hand sunk below the water again.