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Daimond Lake

Dancing in the Dark

Diamond Lake

A woman is dancing on the dock in the last light of the sun. The lake shimmers silver and sparkles like, well, diamonds. It is Diamond Lake after all. The snow-covered mountains across the lake glow rose-gold in this magic hour. The woman is silhouetted against lake and sky, doing some sort of stylized jazz – extended arm motion, extreme leg kicks, some whole body rhythmic twists. She has headphones on her ears and a margarita glass in her hand. She has all of us on the shore mesmerized. And a little embarrassed. A couple of young men inch their way out on the closest dock, elbowing each other in the ribs, daring the other to go talk to her. They lose courage and sit down on the grassy lawn for the show. It is a mating dance without a mate. It is miraculous and pathetic.

My friend Ru and I have almost seen this coming because the woman, who must be in her mid-forties, has the cabin next to ours and has been refreshing that glass all day. We have passed her on trails and have seen her sitting on the grass in front of other cabins, always with a drink in hand and singing loudly along with her walkman. As the sun gets lower and her dancing becomes willowy and unsteady, the lifeguard in me is on alert. Some of her pirouettes are swerving too close to the edge. She always rights herself, but rather than wincing fascination we have shifted into feeling concern for her welfare. Who could get to her if she took a plunge into the icy lake? Who would care? No one.

Ru and I stealthily inch our way out on the dock, taking pictures of the reflected sunset as cover, thinking we should talk to her, make certain she’s all right once dark descends and the dance is done. We linger. We pause. We swat mosquitoes. She finishes her performance and heads back to her cabin. We tell her we enjoyed the dance. She snarls at us, “I’ve been here all week and the only attention I get is from a couple of women?” Guess she doesn’t want to talk.

I lie in bed and think about her. What drives her to come to a wilderness fishing resort and drink? Well, of course, men. But what she didn’t reckon on is that this is mostly a family place. I don’t think about her long, because there is a mouse in my backpack.

I try to think what’s in my backpack of interest to a mouse — no food, a book, magazine, notebook, oops, the manuscript I’m editing! I turn on the light and throw a shoe at my backpack. A tiny mouse leaps out and runs out the bedroom door. I shut the door and go to sleep, only to be awakened by a mouse in my backpack. Well, heck.

I turn on the light and throw the other shoe. The mouse runs along the wall and stops. The door is still closed. But why couldn’t the mouse exit the way it was getting in? I get out of bed and open the door and shoo it out, telling it to go over to Ru’s room, she has all sorts of neat notebooks and stuff over there. I put my backpack up on the bureau as though this would be impossible for the mouse to find. Sure. I am up all night scrambling with this mouse. I finally put the manuscript under the covers with me, then take all of my belongings out to the living room, so when it comes back it will have nothing to rustle with in my room. This works and I sleep.

The next morning after breakfast at the lodge and after a couple of hours fooling around on the lake in one of those self-propelled paddle wheel boats – struggling to get far away from shore, letting the wind blow us back — we return to our cabin and see the mystery dancer stretched out on the grass in the sun, arms flung out, sunglasses on, no drink, no headphones, no movement. We do not envy her.

I linger on the dock spying on minnows when two seven-year old girls show me their fishing poles they’ve made from twigs and found line. They have no hooks, but an older brother has formed knotted loops at the ends where they can squish bits of bread for bait. Amazingly, they catch some hungry fingerlings, but the girls strictly practice catch-scream-and-release.

The girls have discovered a dead fish on the shore and they call me over to look at it. One of the girls tenderly touches the eye with a nail. They do not scream. They look at each other in wide-eyed squeamish wonder. I remember being about that age and sitting on the drainboard in the kitchen where all the fish scaling and cleaning was done, fascinated with the eyes of salmon. I never poked a nail at them, but I did run a tentative, curious, courageous finger over those staring eyes. Once. A connection. Something profane.

I wonder if the girls are feeling the same thing. I wonder if either one of them ever will go alone to a fishing resort and do a drunken desperate dance on a dock at sunset.

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