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Harper’s Pond

by Rob Crandall

“You think I’m crazy don’t you?” Edward said, his head down.

“Not crazy, Eddy. Honey, maybe you just need some rest. Or did you bump your head working in the garage? You need to put some tennis balls on those sharp corners, honey. Is that what happened?”

Edward shook his head in frustration. He mussed up his gray comb-over absently with one hand.

“No, no. I didn’t hit my head. Nothing like that. It’s like I told you. Just come over with me to Harvey’s house and see. He ain’t there!”

“I believe you, Eddy. I believe that he isn’t there, but that doesn’t mean...”

Eddy balled up both fists, and brought them down to his sides. “It happened! I saw it, and it happened, and I’m not off my rocker. I may be old but that don’t mean I got a screw loose. I’m just as sharp as... as I ever was! You know I didn’t get to be foreman for forty years acting like a slouch. You have to have something between your ears to get to that position. You know that, Karen?!”

Karen put a hand on his shoulder, and patted him twice. “I know that. Sure I know that. Why don’t you sit in your Ezchair, and I’ll boil up a nice pan of water to put your feet in like you like. And then you can rest. C’mon, I’ll make you a cucumber sandwich... with cream cheese.”

Edward’s shoulders dropped in submission as he acquiesced. His fists relaxed into open hands again. “All right. On one condition.”

Karen nodded gently, and smoothed over her husband’s wild hair.

“That you hear my story, start to finish, without trying to talk me out of it, or looking at me like I got bats in the belfry.”

“Sure sweetie. I just want you to calm down is all. Let your blood pressure regulate.”

Edward took a bite of sandwich, and wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his flannel shirt. He looked squarely at his wife, who was sitting on the couch with her hands folded neatly on her lap. The look on her face was accepting. Edward knew that she was trying her best, so he started.

“All right. It’s like I said. I picked up Harvey around seven, because he likes to sleep in on Saturdays... Why, I’ll never know. Lazy I guess. I bet he has more energy now. Probably loads of it...”

Edward shook his head, and re-focused. “He looked regular. You know, dressed in his hunting gear. Ready to go. So we had a quick cup of coffee, and then filled up the thermos with the leftover, grabbed his gun, and out the door we went.

“I drove us out to Harper’s woods, and the conversation was regular too. Nothing funny about it. I think we spent most of the ride talking about how Mavis puts too many spices in her pickles. Puts too many spices in everything, Harvey says. He said that her chili makes smoke come out of his ears. Ha! He says...”

“I like her chili.”

“Sure, if you got a fire extinguisher...”

“All right Eddy.” Karen said smiling. “Go on.”

“Right. So, we pulled off onto the two-track that runs about a mile into the woods, and then I pulled over and cut the engine. I think Harvey said something about hoping that the day would be worthwhile. Said he wanted to get a chance to make some venison stew this year, even though it was bad for his heart, and that Mavis would be on his back like a howler monkey about clogged arteries. A howler monkey! Can you believe that?”

Karen smiled. She was glad to see that her husband didn’t seem to be as upset as he was when he first arrived home. His laughter was reassuring. Sane.

“I hope you don’t talk about me that way.”

“I’ve never called you anything in the primate family.”

“You’re a peach, Eddy.”

“Anyway, so we grabbed our gear, and headed off to find our blind, which wasn’t but forty or fifty yards from the two-track. I said something about how a man should rise with the sun, and how could he sleep the day away like he does on Saturdays, and he said something about how a man is more alert when he gets his proper rest, and how being alert might be the difference between bagging a buck or going home empty-handed.

“And so we blathered on about that, and then we climbed up into our blind and got situated, and that’s when we both saw it. I think we saw it at the same time. It was just a regular pond. Regular except for the fact that we had been using the same blind for years and had never seen it before, but there it was all the same.”

Edward tapped his chin and shook his head. “Odd. That’s all I can say. Odd.

“Well, we sat around up there for a while. Hour maybe, and nothing’ doin’ in the deer department. So we had some more coffee and complained about our old bones and our incontinence. You know Harvey wears adult diapers?”

Karen shook her head. They both looked at each other with the same look. He doesn’t any more.

“So, it wasn’t long before Harvey wanted to go explore around that new pond. Said he was going to take the thermos down and fill it up. Said it looked like good spring water. I told him I’d wait up there and keep my eyes peeled for us.

“So I watch him go down the ladder, and watch him meander on over to that pond, and when he gets there I see him stare down into the water for what seemed like five minutes straight. I mean it, Karen. five minutes. And that’s when I started to think that something wasn’t right, so I called down his name to him, and he straightened up and gave a wave like everything was fine. Only he looked... I don’t know... spacy. Like Matt, at the factory used to look right before he had a seizure.

“Just then I spot this beauty of a buck... must’ve been a ten-point... striding over toward Harvey, as Harvey’s filling up the thermos. He doesn’t notice the deer. And then I see the darndest thing.”

Edward looked at Karen. She knew this part of the story already. It was the part that he had told her in such a tizzy when he had gotten home.

“That’s when the deer took a drink and... turned?” Karen said.

Edward nodded.

“And then Harvey took a drink from the thermos?”

He nodded again.

“He turned into a little boy, Karen. A little boy. Right before my eyes. Couldn’t have been no more than five years old. And he looked up at me and laughed.”

Edward dragged his hand over his lips and chin and blinked slowly.

“And then he ran away?”

“He shook out of those clothes and took off naked. Ran so fast I couldn’t get down the ladder and he was gone. And that deer... that fawn... took off wobbling in the other direction.”

Edward looked at his wife for a very long time. “Do you believe me?”

She paused. “Eddy. It’s not like you to make up stories or pull pranks. And you came in the house today as white as a sheet and I could see the shock on your face. So, I figure one of two things: You’ve had some kind of episode, or... or what you said happened, happened.”

“Which one do you think it is?”

“Which one do you think it is?”

“I know which one it is, Karen. I saw it.”

Tears began to well up in Edward’s eyes. He blinked them away. “Can you get me a Coca Cola?” he said with a voice that was not quite steady.

“Of course, honey.”

Karen came back from the kitchen with a glass of Coke and ice, on a corkboard coaster. She handed it to Edward, who took it gratefully, with a slightly trembling hand.

“You’re not making this up, are you Edward?”

“I’m not.”

They looked at each other for a long time in silence. Edward took sips from his Coke. The ice clattered.

“So, then that begs the question doesn’t it?” Karen said, looking down at her hands.

“I suppose so.”

“Do you think... we’d still know each other?”

“I don’t know. Maybe if we just took little drinks. You know, maybe it’s quantity. Just a sip at first. And see what happens.”

“It makes sense.”

Edward and Karen sat in the living room, her on the couch, and him in the Ezchair for hours. The clock ticked. Eventually Edward’s ice melted.

At exactly 5:44pm, Karen got up from the couch and took Edward’s truck keys from the hook on the wall and silently handed them to him. He looked at her and nodded.

Copyright © 2009 by Rob Crandall

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