The next day was entirely different. Longer hours of sun were bringing the thaw. Victor had gone ice-fishing alone on the mostly frozen lake, not frozen enough where he had fallen through. I sat in the kitchen with his wife smoking cigarettes while they brought him up from the bottom. She smoked, I should say. They hooked him with his own lines and fished him through the hole he had made. From time to time I stood and looked through the kitchen window at men on their bellies doing their work. We’re not religious, she told me through the smoke. That’s not why they send me, I told her. We’ve lived here all our lives, she told me. He knows this lake like he knows this table top. They were much the same shape. She set the salt shaker out to show me his favorite ice-house spot. She placed the napkins where he fished for bass in spring. The cutting board became her house. She slammed the pepper down where she knew he was bobbing now. There’s nothing there, she told me. The pepper shaker shivered and spun. They brought him in before I had a chance to stop them and laid him on the living room floor. He’d been under for hours. Lake water pooled on the rug. The paramedics stood on the porch looking at their equipment. Can he still hear me? she asked. Yes, I lied, for a few more minutes. Maybe he could. What the hell were you thinking? she hollered at her husband. She beat his chest with brittle fists. His body took the blows like sodden sand. There’s nothing there! she told him. What were you looking for? I would have punched him too if I’d thought he could give me an answer.

Copyright © July 18, 2008 David Hodges

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