Untitled by Wendy Rivara
by Janet Shell Anderson
Dying will be easy.
It’s twenty-eight below. If he dives in the lake, it'll be over quick. What if she's lying? Fat ice candles burn on the dock, a custom for the dead, fire inside ice, lighted votives set inside carved holes in massive ice blocks. He lighted them hours ago.
Nels Leandersson waits for Lucia Loki on the dock beside the frozen lake. The aurora cuts the sky green white. The thousand black trunks of the winter forest stand at midnight like an alien army. Snow is shoulder high under the trees, ice three feet thick on the snow-covered lake. He has chopped a hole in the ice beside the dock. Car lights pop like flashbulbs through the trees at Spring Bay, and he knows she’s coming. The road's bad. She could wreck on the turn. His son did. As if to answer his thought, the ice snarls at the end of the dock.
In summer, they made love in the thick forest on Hibbing Point on beds of moss and fern. He didn't care then. He didn't worry. Lucia is hot; everyone says so. All the other men in town want her. So he does too. There's nothing more to it. She's a waitress at the Montana Café in Cook, twenty-two years old, all smiles, breasts, quickness, eyes that offer. It isn't like the other men don't try, but she likes Nels.
Now what can he tell his wife, Kristin; how can he get out of this? Six months he's slept with Lucia and thought it would never cause a problem. She's just a kid, a nobody, nothing to him. Now she calls at midnight when he's alone at his cousin's house, his wife in California, him drunk, burning big ice candles on the dock. Her car turns off Highway 24 on the snowy road up Hibbing Point, and Nels sees the flash of lights like a second aurora.
The northern lights hissing over the lake, serpent's tongues, are horrible, urge him on.
His cousin Eric jumped off this dock into the lake and drowned one year and one day ago. Cancer. A lost job. A faithless wife. Too much. Eric was buried from the Cook Evangelical Church as if it were an accident, and all the time Nels sat in the third row and knew better. They used to whisper when they were boys in the white, upright, proper Cook Evangelical Church on Main Street, where they both later married white, upright, proper Cook Evangelical girls and then regretted it.
Nels looks at the patch of open water. One perfect circle, wide enough for a man to go in; a thin film of ice covers it already. It looks dark against the snow surface of the lake, like an eye.
Lucia Loki will tell Kristin; Kristin will divorce him. His father-in-law will fire Nels from the lumber company the old man owns. Nels will have a cheap wife, a new baby, no money and the town sneering at him.
The car pulls up to the house, and Lucia gets out. She sees Nels and knows what he is doing. The fat ice candles burn, fire inside ice. Lucia Loki runs toward the burning candles.
He can go in the water. It will be over quick. Like his son killed on Highway 24 on the ice last year, like his cousin Eric at Spring Bay never to see spring again, he can escape.
Lucia pulls her coat open, sprints for the dock, the ice, kicks off her boots, rips off her sweater, her blouse. By the burning massive ice block candles, Nels sees her perfect breasts.