Thomas Cannon lives in Oshkosh with his wife and three children. His story "Part of the Gift" is the lead article in the book
"Cup of Comfort for Parents with Children With Autism". He has had poems published in Literary Mary, The Poetry Explosion
Newsletter, and Wisconsin Calendar. His short stories have been published on the websites Sante Fe Writers' Project, Fictional
Musings, and Long Story Short. His influences and heroes include Joseph Heller, Tom Robbins, Ernest Hemmingway, John
Updike and Raymond Carver.
He has been waiting to see the lake that had disappeared all day and walk along its bottom. He thought he needed to see what no
person had seen since the lake had been created.
Nan didn't understand. Even now she is walking behind him, letting him know she is not enjoying this. There had been a fight
when he suggested going.
"Kurt, I want to go to the shops downtown. Why should we go just because you want to? What about what I want?"
So Kurt had followed her shopping. What could he do? Argue some more? The weekend was to work on their marriage.
He knows she is miserable now. She is walking on the wet sand and muck in flipflops and a white skirt; mute as a water lily.
When he looks back at her, he only sees her bony wrist as she tucks her fine brunette hair back behind her ear. A new shorter
haircut he doesn't much care for. He refuses to see the look on her face.
He had looked just as ridiculous in his hiking clothes as they shopped. He knows he had the same look on his face.
He stops to help her across a small trickle of water. But she takes a few quick steps and leaps.
She lands in the mucky sand but keeps walking. Mud has splattered on the back of her legs and her skirt. He unstraddles the little
stream and walks on.
They've been through rough spots before. They've always gotten through them. Just got through them.
It was getting late, but he took in everything around him. He refused to be rushed. She had taken so long at the shops, leaving
him to mill around the sidewalks and watch girls in tight summer outfits go by. His only purchases are still in the paper bag he
carries with him.
So he studies where the water had cut a deep line into what had been the shore. He marches along the sand with its branches
and assorted debris. There are gullies and what seem to have been sandbars. But the thing Kurt isn't sure of is if this was how
the lake bottom had been or if the terrain had been created by the leaving water as a levy broke and the man-made lake flooded
into the Wisconsin River. Further away are stranded boats. He knew he would not make it that far, but he wanted to check out
the famous water-ski arena. The show is advertised on billboards all over Wisconsin. He had snapped a picture of Nan in front of
their sign stating that the show was "On The Lake". But he had stood so far back to get the big sign in that he couldn't make out
any of Nan's features in the viewfinder.
Nan is leading the way now. He wants to turn and race away and leave her here. She has ruined it for him.
He begins to hear music. Pirate music, to be exact. The water-ski ramps and the boat sitting off-kilter have some sort of pirate
theme to them. Because there is no water, Kurt sees how the ramps have wheels on them and must have sat along the bottom.
Kurt walks past Nan and with his hiking boots, climbs up the steep embankment. He cuts through brush until he sees the
bleachers. He hears the music and loud voices. He sees the college kids in brightly colored T-shirt uniforms sitting on a railing. He
moves closer and sees a small audience. Behind them are rows and rows of empty seats. On stage there is only a man rolling up
a long cord. People are attending a performance of nothing, he thought. For what could there be to see.
The next day, someone would tell him that they were still putting on the land portion of the show. Some acrobatics and Kurt
would remember that there was what looked like a Ferris wheel with two round cages on either end. But at the time it was a
revelation to see people come for a show that was no longer there.
He sits down and takes a peach and a candy bar out of his paper sack. Two of the things he has brought for a romantic picnic for
the two of them on a lake bottom. Peaches were Nan's favorite. He holds the candy bar and the peach in each hand like he is
comparing their weight.
Nan calls up to him. "Who's up there? What's going on?" She breaks their silence.
He bites into the peach. It is round and sweet.