It was the men on the boat who did it. Two of them. Fishing boat. Jackets Army surplus or faded to close enough. Hats with the bills low over their eyes. Maybe there were beer bottles in their hands. Maybe just rods. They were higher up than the kayakers, their gazes, their voices descending, aimed low as they called out to hail them, “Watch out for the alligators!”
And whether they meant to tease or haze or frighten or warn, whether they were ill-informed this would be funny or that there was anything bigger than nutria in these waters, whether this was the greeting of all seasoned lake folk one to another and their winks hidden under their caps, they tripped something ancient and dark and deep, and with those careless words they summoned her.
We remember Styx is a river. We forget she is a deity, too. One of the old ones, like first to throw in with Zeus and take on the Titans of old. Personification of hatred and goddess of oaths. You say it, and she’ll take you at your word. You say it, and there’s always the possibility you will speak something into being.
Maybe it was not the men in the boat at all but what the women in the kayaks said in return—how it fell flat—and what they said next, under their breaths.
Two boathouses flank the threshold where river becomes lake. The pair are like sentinels, like either side of an old mirror, like a nymph I saw once on the other end of the lake, clinging to a concrete pylon holding up a bridge. The nymph was long as your finger, slender and the sharp yellow-green of new shoots, balanced atop her old carapace, that chamber of transformation, not quite done with it, drying her wings.
Or maybe it was not punishment at all—not mirthless retribution or gleeful irony or simple concrete literalism but reward. Maybe it was a promotion to spend all day every day in the lake, the two of them, a gift to never go home.
Of the two boathouses, the White Rock is all modern and utility. The Boomerang should be haunted. I’ve never seen anyone enter it. Never seen anyone go out. It has stately old-fashioned architecture, white like a temple, cobwebs in the corners, windows all bars and no glass. It has the air of a threshold, locked on one side and wholly open to the water on the other. It has the feel of hollow. And it is stacked with empty boats.