Imagining the lake frozen

Bea sits on the chair with the sun burning her kneecaps and imagines the lake frozen, or as frozen as it’d get, with huge translucent chunks and triangles breaking over themselves, long grey cracks, the water dark underneath. She wonders if the lake makes that moaning sound, the ice shifting, melting, breaking, like Lake Minnetawa, or if it’s too big. She’s pretty sure it’s too big to freeze over completely — it never gets crazy cold in Toronto, or not for long enough amounts of time.

The beach is quiet this morning, and it’s hard to keep her eyes on the water. Even with her sunglasses, the sun’s bright on the water, brighter than looking directly at the sun, she thinks and she wonders if it’s true that you could go blind if you looked directly at the sun. She’d done it, figures every kid had at some point. And there had been an eclipse when she was in high school and they had been taken out to the football field with pieces of paper with holes in them. But how did that make a difference? How did that make it okay to look at the sun. She hadn’t looked, was too scared Mrs. Sandercock was right and that she would go blind, but a bunch of the guys said they’d looked and their eyes were fine.

A woman in a red bathing suit dives off the dock, without even leaving a splash, and swims out to the rope, her strokes long and perfect. That’s how Bea hopes she looks like when she swims, except this woman is older. In her mid-40s Bea guesses. Her arms are ropey as they rise and fall out of the lake, steady and even. One-two-three-breathe, one-two-three-breathe – her rhythmic stroke gives Bea something to hold onto, and when Red Bathing Suit reaches the end of the rope, without missing a beat, she turns around and heads back.

An excerpt from a work-in-progress tentatively titled “The opposite of drowning.” It is set in Toronto in the early 1990s where twenty-year-old Bea Porter is a lifeguard on the edge of Lake Ontario…