excerpt from
The King of Sweden
Norman Lock

Spring comes and the boy who was lost all winter lets go of the ice, turns his face away and lets go of its pale breast. His lips are blue. He falls a little through the water, then lies down in it. He sleeps in its wet sheets. Above him the ice grows thin as a fingernail. Soon it will melt away entirely and the light on the other side of the waves will spill onto the riverbed.
My father is there. He sits in his rowboat and waits. The boat swings in the current. Dry brown leaves that were locked in the ice all winter glide past.
Suddenly the divers bob up and pull themselves into the boat. Cedar water the color of tea streams from their rubber suits. Their wet black hoods pop as they pull them off.
"He was caught in some roots," my father tells us later as he sits in the kitchen drinking coffee.
"Poor soul," my mother says.
The divers haul in the heavy rope. It makes a sawing sound on the side of the boat. Rags of green and rust-colored weed ride up into the early morning light. When the boy lets go of the bottom the boat dips and my father leans over the side to balance it. Drops of water fly from the taut rope as they haul him in.
The people on the shore move closer together. Except for the sawing of the rope and the breathing of the divers as they pull him up everything is quiet.
And then the boy is there. He comes out of the water head first, gray and swollen with staring eyes.
"All gray and covered with slime," my father says.
"Poor little soul!" She shakes her head sadly.
I am under the kitchen table, listening as he tells what happened.
"Like he was just born, only this time he was born dead. The eyes," he says, "the eyes are what I remember. Staring out at us." He shivers, remembering the boy's dead eyes.
They pull the body into the boat. My father pulls an arm. It smells of mud and a fishy smell. The face is scratched where it rubbed against the ice all winter.
"If it weren't for the eyes," my father says. He looks at my mother a moment, then looks away. He looks at the floor and strokes the ridge of his ear with a finger.
One of the divers covers the boy with a blanket. My father closes his eyes to pray but no prayer comes to his mind. He begins to row. The boat moves slowly towards the shore. He tries hard not to splash with the oars.
"Out of respect," he says.
The boat scrapes against the gravel and my father jumps out and pulls it up onto the shore. The boy's father and some men come and take the body and carry it up the beach, their feet sliding on the pale yellow stones. The mother cries and, helped by some women, follows after them.
My father and the divers stand and look at the dirty wave breaking over the stones.
A man comes back with the blanket. It is neatly folded. He gives it to them without a word and walks back to the house. The blanket drips and the inside of the boat is full of mud.
"Across the river they were plowing," he says. "Birds came down where the dirt was broken open. A whole river of them. For the worms, I guess."
My father comes home and tells us this. When he is done telling he rests his head on his arms. He doesn't say anything more. My mother lays her hand on his head and leaves it there for a long time. That night I see him get drunk for the first time.
And so the boy is found. The ice melts, he rises and is found. They carry him to his house by the river, wash the mud and slime from his body and dress him in his best clothes.
Who will carry home my child? Who will wash it now that it's lost?

The King of Sweden is now available from Ravenna Press.