The first person to notice the lake was sinking was little cousin Rory. The water level is just low this year, said Grandma Mel. Never mind, the rain will come soon, said know-it-all cousin Nick. But Rory knew what she saw, and the lake was sinking. She got her favorite cousin Sam to come investigate with her. They rowed out to the very center of the lake where Grandpa Tom had said it was at least eighty feet deep. And there, in the middle of the lake, was a very small whirlpool.
How can we stop it? Rory looked at Sam. I don’t think we can, he said.
When news spread that the lake was disappearing the relatives came flooding back to the lake house. Some hadn’t been there in over ten years. They came in their bathing suits and stood in the water, trying to soak it up before it was gone.
This is where little Billy learned how to swim before he could even walk.
This is where the twins stopped fighting long enough to catch that big turtle.
This is where I proposed to your mother––she was so excited the canoe tipped.
This is where Uncle Greg taught me how skipping rocks fends off sadness.
This is the only place I can think about your Grandpa without crying.
They started taking shifts in the water. Some family members would stay, while others went to the cabin and cooked meals for everyone. They set the food on the pier and ate with their legs dangling in the water.
At night they looked up at the stars and thought this may be the last time I get to see those stars reflecting even brighter in the lake than in the sky. At night they slept on floatation devices always with one pinky or toe in the lake. They dreamed of the lake as permanent and unchanging. But when they awoke their flotilla was circling the drain, pulled in the night by the current.
The water level dropped and dropped. The fish were confined to tighter spaces. The minnows pressed against the bluegill, the bluegill against the bass, the bass against the crappie and the crappie against the perch. They tried to stay in the shallows, preferring the close quarters to the mysterious drain below.
The water now started out past the pier. The new land, covered in dry waterweeds and muck, was combed for forgotten secrets.
This is the compass my first boyfriend gave me. I threw it in the lake when I no longer wanted to find him.
Here is the lure that hooked my leg when Fredrick miscast––remember how we tied it to a rock and sunk it so it would not hurt me again?
This must be the toy boat that Brett sank with a roman candle.
Here is the treasure chest that I buried when I was five. It is full of marbles.
These objects made them happy, but the lake made them sad. Instead of trying to catch fish, the family set out to save them. They filled buckets and bathtubs with water and put them in the cars, transporting the fish up to the river so they could swim to another lake, one that was better cared for. Not all could be saved so they ate the rest. They made a bonfire at the place where they had sunk the first rowboat, twenty yards from the end of the pier that was now the new shoreline. They cooked the fish and with each bite they remembered the first time they caught a little bluegill in the lake and the excitement of their children when they taught them how to reel in a tiny fish from the seemingly bottomless pool.
But now they could see the pool would soon be gone. Their tears fell freely into the water.
Our time together was too short, said the young ones.
I wanted to take my children here one day, said the teenagers.
If only I hadn’t moved so far away for so long, said the adults.
If I knew one day it would be gone, they all lamented.
When the water was merely a small pool ten yards in diameter circling the whirlpool the family linked hands and looked at the final dip in the lake. All the mysterious creatures they always thought might lurk at the bottom surfaced. Behemoth fish the size of canoes with glowing eyes and sharp teeth were swirling and swirling around the drain looking for more water they could not find, feeling for legs and lungs that they did not have. One by one the giant fish were sucked down the drain. All that was left was a hole the size of a beach umbrella glowing with unnatural light.
And then from the hole came the sound of a song they all knew. It was the same song they had played at Grandpa’s funeral, his favorite song. The family members looked at each other. Cousins looked at aunts, uncles at parents, nieces and nephews stood uncertain of what to do.
Finally Rory let go of Sam’s hand and walked forward. She looked at the hole and before anyone could stop her she jumped in. Then, realizing what they must do, the family followed her. One by one, youngest to oldest, they dove into the last of the lake. The last to step in was Grandma Mel. She submerged herself and swam as she hadn’t in fifteen years from the very bottom of a large lake past the glinting teeth and piercing eyes of the monsters, past the perch, the crappie, the bass, the bluegill and the minnows.
She did not stop swimming until she reached the pier. A hand reached down to help her. She looked up to see her late husband smiling at her as young as the day they first swam together in the lake.
Anna Geannopoulos received her BFA in writing from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2011. To see more of her published work visit annageannopoulos.com.