Beginning July 5 and continuing through Sept. 6, the Sunday Today section will be devoted to new works of short fiction by 10 of the region’s best writers.
Last summer, we took readers to the fair with stories by the likes of Jess Walter, Sharma Shields, Shann Ray and Polly Buckingham. This year, we’re headed to the lake, with new pieces from writers such as S.M. Hulse, Thom Caraway, Kim Barnes and Paul Lindholdt.
Kicking off the series, as he did last year, is Shawn Vestal. Vestal, a columnist for The Spokesman-Review, who has his first novel coming out next year.
Spirit Lake was quiet at night, vacation homes edging the shore like distant ships. Ambra Zanetti hung her legs from the dock that sat higher above the water than it had the day before. The lake was dropping, the engineers said, because of holes punched in its clay bottom by pilings pounded in 100 years before by the lumber barons.
It used to work. He flipped the switch a few more times. Everything used to work, didn’t it? He scowled at the light switch, then looked around. The sun would be behind the hill in a couple hours. He’d gotten a later start than he would’ve liked and now his left leg ached, nerve pain shooting up into his lumbar region.
In my memory, we approach the lake from the west, tromping hard on a thatch of pine needles that covers everything. CJ says we should go around to avoid the people, but Quinn has a look in his eye, and says going straight down the beach would be quickest.
Beatrice would never have met him if she had not fallen into the lake. She understood that, later, with a clarity that came only with time, their encounter spun over and over in her mind.
But she had fallen in. One moment kneeling at the edge of the pier, her attention caught by the strange silver vines floating just beneath the surface, like octopus tentacles, the next losing her balance and toppling head first into Goose Lake.
Where the road dead-ends, a man and boy are casting lines. “Any luck?” I ask, my elbow out the car window as if to test the breeze. The creek is cloudy, the day overcast. “Just a few squaws.” The father frowns and turns back to casting.
“He means squawfish,” I explain to my son Carl. We bump across the gravel lot to the boat-launch. Feds renamed the squawfish a pikeminnow years ago, but change comes slow in these far parts. Pikeminnows are still trash fish. The state pays bounties for their heads. Everyone wants to catch and devour more trout.
Not just because your body is beautiful but because of how you use it to slide through the water, the way your hairline crests the surface, hands reaching forward from strong shoulders, the pull of the submerged hourglass, he watches you. He critiques and corrects and sometimes you feel you can’t do anything – even the easiest of things – right.
“Just jump,” said the girl. “What are you afraid of?” A golden trail danced on the water in the morning sun, blinding Callum where he watched the other two from the upper trail. The silhouette of the boy shook a little where it perched on the edge of the cliff above Blackbird Lake. The shadow of the girl stood on a boulder nearby.
Hardly anyone was on the lake this early. A couple fishermen in aluminum boats, a solitary kayaker near the far shore. And Cal, in the canoe he’d bought at the local outdoor supply’s ding ’n’ dent sale a few years back. It was blue, which he’d heard was bad luck, but it’d been 50 bucks cheaper than the green ones.
In those days, our daughter would bang her head on the floor. She would bite us, hold her breath until her face purpled like a blood blister. Her shrieks would pierce the neighborhood, carry outward into other neighborhoods, into downtown Spokane and over to Idaho and Montana, Seattle and Canada, up and out of the atmosphere, all the way to the former planet of Pluto.