Jack’s first impulse was to take a deep breath, until he realized he was underwater. Something had a grip on his ankle and was not letting go. He reached down and felt the coldness of a large dead hand. Then reaching with both hands to try and free himself, he came face to face with the corpse. Staring him in the eye was his older cousin who had been only five minutes ahead of him. Jack’s next thought was that he had to go for help.
Struggling, trying to get loose and at the same time wondering how his cousin could be so completely dead when just a few short minutes ago he was alive. The corpse looked as though it had been in the water for a week. Its face was pale with blue-black spots and eyes that seemed as though they were alive and staring back at him. How could a corpse have such a grip on him? How could any of this be happening? A flood of questions ran through his mind.
He could feel the barbed wire that had entrapped and taken his cousins life in the first place. He could see the blue of the summer sky above and the lazy pillows of clouds dancing blithely along their way. He could hear the descending shrill of the Red-tailed Hawk circling high above the fields and lake. He remembered his cousin running ahead of him as he struggled to keep up.
Jack looked back at his cousins decaying body and remembered their grandmother telling them, just before they left the house, not to be late for supper. He thought of how much he and his cousin loved butter beans fresh from the garden, and that she had had a pot cooking and simmering in fatback all morning. How they always turned eating a big bowl of butter beans and a plate of homemade biscuits into a competition to see who could eat the most. He remembered that this time of year, watermelon was sure to follow the butter bean feast.
He thought about Saturday mornings and how their granddaddy would take them for a walk down the back alley to Benson’s store and then, buy them a coke cola and a bag of peanuts. How they would pour the peanuts into the coke, a ritual that never failed to bring a big smile to their granddaddy’s face. How they slowly walked home drinking their cokes and eating peanuts while their granddaddy told them stories. He recalled Granddaddy taking him and his cousin fishing, in this very lake, and that Granddaddy drowned when he had a heart attack and fell out of the boat. He and his cousin were too small to pull him out of the water; to save him.
Jack thrashed around in desperation, trying to break free from his cousin’s grip. He knew it wouldn’t be long now before he would be dead. He was about to black out when he felt the hand pulling on his ankle. He closed his eyes, this was it, his cousin wanted him to travel deaths road with him and he had no choice in the matter.
He opened his eyes one more time and looked to the sky and could hear his cousin saying “Come on Jack, stay with me.” Then he felt pressure on his chest as though his lungs were about to implode. Then the light of day began to fill his eyes and he saw his cousin hovering over him.
“Am I dead?” he asked. “Are we both dead?”
He heard his cousin laugh and say, “You scared the hell out of me Jack. I thought that you were going to be stuck in-between for eternity.”
“What happened?” Jack asked, oblivious to his circumstances.
“You fell in the water and I grabbed your ankle and was trying to pull you out but you kept fighting me. When you finally stopped fighting, was finally able to pull you through.”
“But you were underwater holding onto my ankle and wouldn’t let go, I…I thought you were dead.”
“Can you get up Jack? Granddaddy’s waiting for us with a coke and peanuts.”
Jack turned around and looked, and there was their Granddaddy, sitting on the bank fishing. He turned back to his cousin and said, “But, Granddaddy’s been dead for nearly two years…”
“Come on Jack, he’s waiting for us.”
Copyright © 2009 D L Ennis