The Creature from the Murky Shallows!
PP heard It before she saw it. A loud, splashy squishy sound rustling into the lake’s murkiness. But she’d been hearing such liquidy sounds all morning on her walk around the lake. Last night’s thunderstorm had created a moist and vibrant life on the narrow muddy path. Sprightly tree frogs hopping out from under her footstep barely missed being squashed. (That would be so horrible, she thought to herself if she stepped on a little frogie. Not to mention messy and…..okay, she didn’t want to go there, but took extra care with every step.)
But the splashing sounds she heard whenever she was near the water’s edge she’d just thought were the cute shy Indiana turtles, spying her before she them and diving into the lake’s sanctuary. So imagine her surprise when near the end of her walk, the sun beginning to emerge from under the puffy thunderheads, her head spinning from a myriad of ideas about her new work in progress: What would Lizzie do next? How would Trollop and Beatrice help her? Whatever had happened to the Eustace Diamonds after all?
When again, she heard the giant splashing slurp and glancing down she saw It---
Yes, she hated to admit it, but this was exactly was what her mother had been warning her about when she’d been bemoaning the frustrating restriction to her swimming in the lake because of the damn friar rule. “You know, there are all sorts of creepy crawlies in lakes, PP. You don’t know what’s down there. There could be monsters and killer fish and scary snakes and well…..maybe you don’t want to swim in the lake. Maybe those friars have a reason they don’t want you to swim down there…”
But yet, PP remembered the Lovely I’s wistful exclamation when first she’d seen the picture on the Internet of the Mount St. Francis Lake where PP would be. “You get to swim in THAT lake? Oh, how marvelous. I’m so jealous.” Which PP had thought was pretty funny. The Lovely I was jealous of her lake swimming possibility and not her art making opportunity. But then the Lovely I had been on several artists’ residencies herself and so the Lake swimming understandably may have had more appeal than the creative work—she being a lake swimmer aficionado.
Unlike PP, who had to admit she shared her mother’s suspicions about the unknown creatures hidden in the murkiness of lakes. Lakes had always kinda creeped her out, with their still non-moving water and unseen bottoms covered with fallen trees and greeny slimy plant life. PP had always been an ocean swimmer, not a lake swimmer.
Plus those signs all around the lake, “Please do not introduce any Invasive Species into the lake unless it has come out of the lake.” (Okay, a bit of redundancy here, but signage seemed to be uniquely strange here at the Mt St. Francis Lake.)
Yet this warning creeped PP out. Invasive Species? What could this be? It sounded so Sci Fi, like there were UFO pod creatures making themselves at home at the bottom of the lake just waiting to wake up and snag some unsuspecting writer who only wanted to cool off after a muggy hike round the sanctuary.
Now nearing the end of her hike, PP heard it again. The loud splashing rustle (can water rustle?): “Sluurrrrpppp! Splllaaaasshhhh!!!” PP glanced down and watched in horror as It wriggled away. It was none other than a huge black water snake slinking away in boneless flight in rapid squiggles.
She didn’t shriek amazingly enough. (She was quite impressed by this, but maybe she was just in shock) She’d never seen anything like this Lake Snake. It musta been 6 feet long and 3 inches round at the widest point at its middle. It slithered atop the water for a moment, its blackness dimmed by the murky lake, before disappearing into the muddy ooze.
Shuddering, PP quickened her step, wondering if it were poisonous or simply a harmless serpent more scared of her than she of It? But she couldn’t shake the idea that maybe the friars knew the lake was full of these horrid creatures that would slither up and poison swimmers with their potent venom. PP could just imagine swimming along the lake’s surface, happy to be in the warm water’s embrace and then all of a sudden feeling something below her. A subtle movement that brushed against her leg and then……
Does she dare take up the Lovely I's challenge to practice the artform of illegal lake swimmming tempting as it may be? (PP's 'naughty girl' list has, alas, been woefully neglected as of late, but...what about the snake? Would the Lovely I still venture into the waters with such a vermin lurking in its depths? PP thinks that, yes, she would, being the practiced lake swimmer and courageous adventurer that she is. Yet PP is not quite so brave, at least not today....)
And so this morning, immediately after her stunning snake sighting, she hurried up the grassy hill to her room and immediately got on the phone to the local YMCA where a helpful young woman named Paula, (her middle sister’s name—PP thought this a good omen) gave her directions, lap swim hours and even said PP could swim for free 5 times as a member of the Y in Oakland. Armed with this safe and sure swimming info, PP next called the Enterprise Rental Car Co. and spoke with another helpful Midwesterner named, Laura (her other sister’s name—no she’s not making this up! Her sisters are here in Indiana to rescue her from the Horror of Mount St. Francis Black Lake Snakes!) to reserve a car for the next week. So, now she would drive to the YMCA in Jeffs next week. No lake swimming for her. Thank you very much!
Though tomorrow, CM, the plucky visual artist, (what is it about visual artists that make them so brave about lakes? Well, except for PP's mother, but she's not a swimmer, so that doesn't count!) has promised to take PP on a canoe ride. Perhaps with CM by her side as both witness to a swim and protection from the vermin, PP may finally summon up the courage to take the plunge.