The Blue Hour is delighted to bring you a short story in six parts by author Lucien Brodeur. This is part five. Check back tomorrow for the final installment!
That night Jules tried turning his mind into an open vessel from which nothing left and into which nothing came. He breathed slowly, telling himself that he was just a body in a room breathing in and out. He willed away thought, imagination. He willed away worry.
As he started to drift, shards of green light formed on the ceiling like pieces of a translucent puzzle. The fragments shifted and rotated into place, as they became a surface of rippling water.
Sun shined on Green Lake’s surface. Despite its presence and his desire to forget what had occurred, memories from the day began washing over him as if the presence of the lake had triggered them.
The curled look of fear on his mother’s face when she saw him on the front steps in his bloodied condition. She cried out, “What happened? Why aren’t you at school?”
They raced to St. Mary’s Hospital downtown with Jules holding a hastily made sandwich bag ice pack to his lips. Drips of blood landed on the passenger seat.
“Eight stitches, son,” the doctor said, his breath smelling of Marlboros and Sanka. “And mostly inside the lip. As for the rest of your face, there are a few minor lacerations that will need to heal. There will be bruising.”
They made phone calls to neighbors to ask if anyone knew what had happened. Why hadn’t any of the kids tried to stop it? Who was Chuck Butler?
Mr. Boudreau called the Principal who informed him that for fighting at school and truancy afterwards, Jules was to be suspended one week starting immediately. Witnesses said that Chuck Butler instigated but it was Jules who threw the first punch. The other boy’s punishment was being determined. In addition to the suspension, Jules was to be referred for testing and possible psychological counseling.
His mother and father relayed this information to Jules before hugging him tightly, telling him that no matter what they loved him. The boy felt numb when he heard their words.
Jules looked at himself in the bathroom mirror after brushing his teeth before bed. There were purple streaks under both eyes, and the stitches poked out from his bottom lip. He remembered the other reflection he had seen. The golden one in the lake.
As he lay in bed with the ceiling glowing, Jules thought again of what his mother told him when he was little. To fight the dark, think of things “good and bright and beautiful.” But why should he only have to think of those things? Why not be where they were all the time?
He got out of bed and went to the wooden desk in the corner of his room, pulling out a piece of lined paper and a pencil from the drawer. He wanted to leave them a message but could not write it. So instead he wrote the words he believed would bring him back to green lake. Once they were transcribed in his best cursive, he said:
“Wish I may, wish I might, wish to see Green Lake tonight.”
Moments later Green Lake began to roil. The waves crashed against the beach and the foam splayed.
Jules stood on the bed on tiptoes, extending his arms upwards and waving, beckoning forth the lake girl.
Her silhouette appeared gliding among the waves. She emerged from the water, and after taking Jules by the hand they ascended toward Green Lake. Though mostly elated, he felt a twinge of something else once in the water.
“Wait,” he yelled, “I’m not sure!”
The lake girl wrapped her arms around Jules and looked him in the eyes.
“It’s too late,” she said.
The final chapter of this story will appear tomorrow, Saturday 21st September.
Lucien Brodeur is a high school English teacher who lives with his family outside of Boston. His short stories have appeared in Mirror Dance, Eunoia Review, and the Four Cornered Universe.