The Lady of Bark Lake

At the end of the road and the end of the driveway and then further into the bush and further along again along the trail that passed the cabins on the south side of the lake and then just beyond the ruins of the cabin around which so many ghost stories began, William and the lady sat on the rocks of the shore with each of them on their respective limestone stools, and each of them watching their respective views of the waters of the lake during the last of the best moments of the day’s light.

It was never entirely clear when the lady died, or even in fact, that she existed. According to legend, however, she lived on the banks of Bark Lake in a shack raising a couple of children while her husband worked in Toronto throughout the winter. Their last winter, the one around which the stories are told, was one that was harsh, with the barren isolation and deep-earth kind of cold Holywood has made us afraid of. That winter – the harsh one – the woman buried her children who died of diphtheria and then as you would guess it, utterly alone and in the depth of a Canadian winter and having just buried her offspring without the love of, without the support of, without the company of her husband, the lady died as well. Utterly alone. The story has it she died of diphtheria too but my guess is that heart ache was her undoing, it being the thing that takes more people than any virus that I know of.

Anyway, although he didn’t know it, that’s where William was sitting with the lady. She knew he was there and made sidelong glances towards him hoping that he wasn’t bothered by her crying but hoping at the same time that he was, that he would take notice, that he would acknowledge that she was there beside him weeping, hoping for that almost forgotten comfort of a shoulder to cry on. Something to touch.

But William didn’t notice. He sat there on his rock marvelling at the shimmer of the last of the best moments of the day’s light that passed trickling through the pine trees on the far shore of the lake and dappled on the water like so many moving freckles, that is if freckles were to move, or like fireflies (because they do move), or like stars dancing – if they were to dance. He wondered how anything could possibly go wrong in such a perfect place. And by thinking it and although sitting still, he gave birth to that something wrong in that perfect place, and that wrong thing rippled out over the perfect water, and it crawled out along what used to be the perfect land.

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