By Patrick Shawn Bagley
The night before graduation, we drove out to her father’s camp on Embden Lake with my acoustic guitar and two fifths of Smirnoff. The place was like something out of an L.L. Bean catalog, with deer heads and a togue mounted on the walls. No one had been there since before ice-out, and the cabin smelled of pine and mothballs. Fishing rods and a single-shot twelve gauge stood propped in a corner by the door.
She moved slowly above me, bearing down with her hips, whispering, “Not now.” Her tears broke cold against my skin. “Not now.”
We woke early and sat naked under a blanket on the porch. The morning was gray and damp. The loons were still at it. My head hurt, a dull and muzzy sort of ache. I didn’t look at Rachel. “So are you coming with me or not?”
Her hair brushed my shoulder as she shook her head. “I can’t.”
“Can’t or don’t want to? You’re twenty-two years old, for Christ’s sake. Don’t tell me you can’t.”
“You aren’t from here. It’s easy for you to just go, but everything I love is right here.”
“I guess you’ll get over me,” I said.
“Don’t be like that.”
“You know what I mean. That way you get.”
I kicked off the blanket and went inside to dress. Through the windows, I saw her walk down to the lake. There were other camps nearby, but it was too early in the year for most of the owners to be around. I heard a light splash when she dove in. I hurried to get everything ready, then went out to wait for her. The water was freezing and she wouldn’t stay in long.
Rachel surfaced right where her father would put in the dock once he opened up the camp for summer. She walked out of the dark water, pushing her hair back away from her face. I waited until she opened her eyes. I wanted her to see me when it happened.
The shotgun blast rolled across the lake. In its wake, everything was quiet. I put the gun back in the cabin and came down to the shore with my guitar and what was left of the vodka. I sat on a rock and played her a song, then. The loons sang their own tune, but it wasn’t for her. The rain came slowly, like a dingy gray hangover.