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Henry at the Lake

by BP | Score: 6200

Henry watched as the blue heron stalked the coastline, its long, stick-thin legs carrying over the sand in a oddly graceful staccato. It had been hunting on and off all morning. Dipping its beak into the waters at different intervals as if it hadn't expected to catch any fish, but figured since it was here it might as well take a look.

Over the past fifteen or so minutes--Henry eased back in his chair and checked his watch to be sure--the bird's demeanor had changed and the casual pacifism it had shown melted away. In its place stood cold determination. Slowly, the heron lifted its leg and stepped forward, gently placing it back in the water. It repeated the gesture with the other leg, inching deeper into the lake. Something must have displeased it because after a minute of staring into the water it exploded from the water and took flight. Its great wings beating the air, the heron headed for one of the great pines looming over the water's edge and disappeared into the branches.

"Better luck next time," Henry said, and he took another sip of beer.

Henry had arrived at his family's lake house on Friday. House was a charitable term. Built in the 40s, the little cabin more resembled a shack, but that hadn't stopped three generations of Henry's family from using it every summer since it was built. Barbeques, birthdays, long weekends. Whatever excuse they could muster to gather themselves and their friends up to spend the night in the little shack on Hardy Lake they took.

Henry's excuse for spending a booze-filled weekend at the lake was that he had lost his job. Over fifteen years with the company and after one blown assignment he was out on his ass. At his age finding someone who'd hire him seemed unlikely, and since his savings would only last him another year or two he figured getting on a good drunk and wasting away in a chair on the dock was the best use of his time.

Across the way, the heron reemerged from the tree. Spreading its wings, it made a show of swooping down and diving toward the water. Henry thought it looked like an angel that had been shot midflight and now was careening toward certain death. But before making contact, the heron pulled up. It's claws skimmed the water, slicing it a boat fin and creating tiny little wakes. When the bird finally came to rest it had travelled a quarter of the lake and was now bobbing weightlessly, its narrow head craning from side to side in that twitchy way of all ugly birds.

Something in the birds gracefulness sickened Henry. He knew why, of course. But he was drunk and bitter enough to convince himself he didn't. Throwing his legs down, Henry tried launching himself out of his seat, but inebriation and the fact that he hadn't sat up in hours altered those plans. He fell back into the chair with a crash and for a moment he thought it would collapse under his weight. When it didn't, he tried standing again, this time taking more care to ease himself into it. His knees cracked as he stood and he let out a groan that reminded him of his grandfather.

"Son of a bitch." Henry's mouth tasted like stale beer that had be left out in the sun all day. Instead of drinking water or doing anything that might make him right, he stripped his clothes off, gave his body a half-hearted stretch and in three long strides cleared the rest of the dock and hurled himself into the water. He felt the weight of his phone in his pocket just as he broke the water's surface. He got halfway through muttering, "son of a bitch" again, when a mouthful of lake drowned it out.

He flailed in the water. Arms and legs slapping impotently, barely keeping him afloat. He'd grown up on a lake. There were summers were he was convinced he'd spent more time in water than on land. But in the moment he lashed out at the water as it swirled around him, like he was fighting off a swarm of specters.

When his head broke the surface, he gulped down whole slices of air. He looked like an idiot, but the air calmed him and he remembered what his body was supposed to do in water. Adjusting his body, he lay backwards and began kicking his arms in legs in sync. From blind dog to seasoned swimmer in less that thirty seconds.

As he eased forward, pulling himself away from the shore, Henry wondered if he could make it across the lake. It'd been years since he'd even tried. In his childhood it seemed an insurmountable feat. Something only heroes from folktales could do. Hercules cleaned stables with rivers, Theseus slew monsters, and some America myth swam across Lake Hardy on a summer afternoon. It wasn't until his twenties when he successfully cleared it. Arms and legs burning, chest heaving, the memory of that first time filled him with pride, even now. Pa

Completed challenges

The following challenges were completed during the writing exercise:

Begin Start typing to begin
Words Reach 50 words
Words Reach 100 words
Location A lake
Words Reach 200 words
Event Someone loses his/her job
Sentence "I've been in love with you since years."
Words Reach 300 words
Letter Use the letter E
Prop Include a toy top
Words Reach 400 words
Words Reach 500 words
Words Reach 600 words
Words Reach 700 words
Words Reach 800 words

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