A Story

Me probing the muddy bottom of the lake of time.

Strange Falling Out Among Relatives

The rumor sifted up out of the layers that settle on the muddy bottom of the lake of time. In the 1940s, two families, the Brightwells and the Touchstones lived across a vivid lake from each other, each with seven children. The oldest two, Autumn Apple–she was a Brightwell–and Cougar Blue, a Touchstone, married.

But apparently there were a few other connubial pairings going on in the many secret love bowers afforded by the almost grotesquely lush vegetation surrounding the sparkling green eye of the lake.

Great Grandma Brightwell let it slip before she died that the family of Autumn Apple and Cougar Blue had a double cousin, a child born of two younger siblings, Unholy Annie and Bear in the Air (so called because he was very light on his feet), a child born in secret, given away and forgotten.

Why fifty years later did this rumor or remembrance bubble to the surface like gasses released from organic matter decomposing at the bottom of the lake?

Or was it a collective dream they were all slowly swimming through like green bottle glass? Because with strange inevitability, the adopted child, Angelica, now in her late fifties, began her search for her roots and found the Brightwells to glad cries of reunion and jubilation by her newfound cousins.

The Touchstones grew angry at the accusations that Bear in the Air might be the father of this sudden stranger in their midst. “You are slandering the good name of our brother, father, grandfather!” Dragging his name through the mud.

However, these are modern times, and the DNA test proved negative for Bear in the Air’s possible paternity. It was Angelica’s mom’s husband all along.

Yet that wasn’t the point to the Touchstones, and that side of the combined family withdrew without discussion or confrontation. The outward silence was inwardly fueled by gossip until the imagined slight achieved the status of epic insult.

This peculiar boulder lodged in the streambed of the once freeflowing river of the Brightwells and Touchstones, the extended two family family.

It was twenty-four months before the four Brightwell sisters found out about the silence they had suspected but only recently confirmed.

One night, they began to text each other, brainstorming a solution. A letter of apology? A phone call? The texts flew back and forth until they had woven a kind of counter-dream that floated above them all, misted out over the lake, the mountains and over the Touchstones, too.

That night, each Brightwell sister dreamed of speaking to a Touchstone uncle. In the dreams, barriers fell; the old camaraderie returned.

In every dream, the dreamers walked by that shimmering lake, and the overgrown leaves and branches reached out to brush their backs, their shoulders, to tangle briefly in their hair.

They passed through the old love bowers and finally came to the shore. They stood together on the wooden dock, looking out across green water.

It was so deep and so still.