Calling it Quits
I’ve been working on this middle grade magical realism story since before my now two-year-old was born. The first draft is such a complete mess that I’m unsure what to do with it. I recently came across this quote from Aubrey de Grey, “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.” So that’s where I’m at. For now, I’m calling it quits on this story (and thinking about a middle grade novel involving Aubrey de Grey--he's an interesting guy.) But there are two characters in the story, an escaped circus tiger and a lake, who I can’t quit thinking about. That’s right, a lake and a tiger. And since I’m saying good-bye to the rest of the story, I thought I’d leave a tiny bit here.
Lake Thorpe hadn’t always been Lake Thorpe. Before she’d justbeen. If she thought back long and hard she could hardly remember the time when it was just her and the animals, before men came. Having doused many a man in her 13,000 acres of open water, she’d seen all kinds. The travelers of more recent times were by far her least favorite—always naming things and taking over.
She was home to snapping turtles, trout, catfish, crappie, water moccasins, mallards, and countless other birds, bugs and little lake critters. Her shores were the stomping grounds for a pack of reclusive diamondback rattlers, white tail deer, quail, swamp rabbits, coyotes, raccoons, beavers, the winter resting spot for a few confused bald eagles, and the permanent home for flocks of annoyingly possessive grackles. She’d seen a lot when it came to wildlife, but even old Lake Thorpe didn’t know what to make of a tiger, and a white tiger at that.
The way her pale coat and dark stripes blended among the pale winterbare hardwoods of Lake Thorpe’s forest. The way her fur brushed up against bluestem and switchgrass and the bark of the Blackjack Oaks in a whisper, like wind through evergreen nettles. The way her padded feet pressed against the beaten down mud trails without a sound, sending a heat that sunk in clear through Lake Thorpe’s silt and clay bottom to the red sandstone and shale underneath. The way even those few cranky rattlesnakes were too in awe of her to shake their husky tails. To the whole community the tiger’s presence felt, well, it just felt right. In fact, it felt extraordinary and comfortable all at once, like a homecoming of some wildness long lost.
A tiger, stalking her very own woods. Lake Thorpe’s surface shuddered at the thought.
Lake Thorpe sent a whisper from her cold murky bottom and across her pebbled shores to the oaks, river birches, pines, hickories, to the little chittamwood and sugarberries, and to the smattering of sand plums, sumac, and holly to hide the tiger. She knew they felt it too. And Lake Thorpe was old enough to know when something felt just-right-extraordinary it was fleeting and worth holding on to for as long as possible.