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The Water Hole

Photo by Nathaniel Chia on Unsplash

We’ve all been children. We all know what it is to half-believe something we’ve made up. If you don’t know, I suggest you go behind the old family home on Greenfield St. in Albertsons, Wisconsin.

Back there are the thin woods where me and my cousins used to play. And just past that first layer of skinny trees, where the house is almost out of sight, is the Water Hole.

It’s just a hole full of water, really. Very round, not big. A twelve-year-old boy could have jumped it, though to my knowledge, no twelve-year-old boy ever did.

It was my cousin Joey’s eighth birthday when we decided to try fishing it. My pa had given him his first fishing rod of his very own, and Joey wanted to get a feel for it. We tramped out to the woods, Joey, Billy, and me, all bare feet and floppy hair, ‘til the noise of the highway was gone and the light came through the trees, filtered like through green colored paper.

Uncle Jim had tied on the hook, and Joey had been careful all the way to the edge of the Water Hole. Its surface reflected everything, perfectly smooth. It was impossible to say how deep it was. We’d tested it with long sticks, but we’d never been sure we’d found the deepest part.

Joey held the rod tilted over the very center of the pool. With a  click, he released the line, with a swish, the sinker pulled it down, and with a plop, the hook disappeared beneath the mirrored surface. Soon the ripples stilled.

Billy and I crouched by the edge. We couldn’t see anything but the trees and a corner of the sky reflecting back at us. Our toes played in the dust that was like fine cocoa powder.

Billy sighed and flopped backwards. “Come on, Joey. You’ve had a feel for it. Give us a turn.”

“No.” A line of concentration had appeared between Joey’s eyebrows. “Not ‘til I catch a fish.”

Billy snorted. “A fish? There’s no fish in there! Where would it come from?”

I thought a moment. “Where’s the water come from?”

“Sh!” Joey whispered. “You’ll scare the fish.”

Billy sighed and shook his head. He was almost ten, and he felt he had to show how much smarter he was than us. But he didn’t say anything.

Suddenly the pole twitched, and I let out a gasp that startled me.

Joey had felt it. His lips pressed together so they puffed out, and his eyes grew rounder and rounder. He looked like a fish himself. “What should I do?”

Billy crowded the edge again, trying to peer past the surface. “Nah, Joey! You’re fooling!”

I scrambled up and stood next to Joey. Though I’m three months older, he’s always been bigger. He was born that way. I made a jerking motion. “Hook ‘im good!”

Joey jerked the rod so hard, the tip went up into a low branch. The end of the line freed itself from the water and sprang over Billy’s head, brushing his straw-blond hair. He yelped and ducked as it wagged back.

I reached over him and plucked the string from the air. When I slid my other hand down ‘til I found the end, Joey let out a whistle.

“That’s one pretty ring!” I breathed.

The gold shone even in the green light, and there was a light blue stone the size of a robin’s egg pressed into it.

Joey unhooked it. “It’s got a horse head carved in it. A unicorn.”

We were quiet for some minutes looking at the ring, passing it around, holding it up to the light.

Billy eyed the water. “What else do you think’s dropped in there?”

Joey grinned. “A dinosaur?”

“A dinosaur?” Billy groaned. “No, stupid! How do you think a dinosaur would fit in there?”

I swallowed. “The man who lost the ring?” Chills chased each other like cats and dogs across my back.

My cousins stopped fighting.

We raced back to the house.

We never did fish there again. Nothing could be seen past the calm reflection on the surface. No matter your age, the hiddenness of that Water Hole is as good as Forever. We all know, deep down, that if we so much as dip in a toe, we risk a bond with Infinity.

That’s too much. Even now, when my own close calls come to mind, I mosey on inside to find a place where things are more human, a place where I can ignore the truth.

Inside every human is a small infinity.

Copyright © Inkant


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