After Robert Lax
The One Who Drowned
You're not the first to ask. The Guinness Records people came.
Reporters, everybody taking pictures. It was the last day before
Christmas break. There was another kid, youngest of several brothers,
the Kinders. All day, I was throwing snowballs with rocks inside. At
Kinder, mostly. That day I couldn't miss. Other kids from our grade
laughed, and one or two joined in.
The slough was frozen over. Cattails brown and sagging, everywhere.
Cars passed on the road and honked, but no one stopped.
Then one of mine hit Kinder in the head. The rock in that one must
have been the size of a ping pong ball. He fell.
There was blood, but we all kept laughing. I could see he was
thinking of crossing the slough and hiding in the old barn on the
Stengren place. As soon as he crawled down the bank, everybody started
throwing snowballs. He stood up where the ice began and tried to run.
I followed him, but only got a few steps. The ice made a noise and I
The current carried me a long way, they said afterward. That huge
sound of the water was in my ears. A few times I saw shadows on the
ice, heard dim voices. Then they went away. Next thing I remember
for sure is waking up in the back seat of a neighbor's station wagon.
Yes, everybody asks if I remember being dead. It's funny, I didn't at
the time. It's not that I remember. Not exactly.
It's like when something happens and all of a sudden there's a face or
a scene in your head, and you know you must have dreamed that scene or
face. Maybe a long time ago. Maybe a bunch of times.
Searching, I don't know what for. That's what it was like.
A lady asked me once if it felt like coming home. I had to tell her
no. It was a bird of prey, circling closer. Or losing something, a
wild animal, then getting close enough to capture it again. Or
hearing something, a short cough maybe, where only silence was