Monday, March 07, 2011


He drove south in steady rain as night fell. The radio was staticky from distant lightning and when the station began to fade in and out he snapped it off. Somewhere off to his right, only a mile or so he guessed but hidden by a dark line of trees in their summer fullness, lay the deep, slender lake he had glimpsed a half-hour earlier. Strung along the road like beads were vineyards and well-tended farmhouses with lights on in the windows, but just as often he saw the hulks of silos and barns long abandoned to the overgrowth and missing so many planks that they were now barely more than skeletons. Here and there, at the unmarked intersections he crossed every few miles or so, he passed a bar with a neon sign and a few cars parked outside.

The bluff the road followed rose and fell gently and rose again, then bent a little to the right to begin a gradual descent through second-growth woods. A pickup roared past him and hurtled ahead but he kept to the same pace, steady but unhurried, silent and alert. The rain picked up; drumming down on the metal over his head it fell off the windshield in thick sheets as he switched the wipers to high speed. A gulley on his left had gone over its banks but he plowed through the overflow without slowing and continued on. There were houses here and there, tucked in the trees with mailboxes and cylinders for the local paper set out along the yew hedges, then as the road bottomed out and met the shore of the lake a line of cabins and boathouses appeared on the right. All were dark. There were canoes upended on the docks.

As he approached the outskirts of the city he turned off onto a cross street and began to climb a hill. The shoreline was now at his back, there were sidewalks and clapboard houses under the trees, and for block after block every parking space was filled. The rainwater coursed down between the tires of the dark empty cars and fell into catch basins, flowing through hidden channels until it gathered in the lake. He came to an intersection, braked to a halt, and waited, staring at the scarlet stains of the traffic light's reflection on the wet pavement.

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