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August 15, 2022

Divine Destiny

By Pavelle Wesser

"Hot dogs are almost ready." Harry announced.

Jill looked up from her magazine: "When are you going to look for a job, Harry?"

"Tomorrow, after I start planting the vegetable garden." He lit a cigarette.

"Since when are you interested in growing vegetables?"

"...Since we can no longer afford groceries."

"What did you expect, Harry, between me being laid off and you being fired..?"

"I've already told you, Jill, that company used me as a scapegoat to cover for their own backhanded accounting schemes."

"I'm not arguing right or wrong, Harry. I'm just pointing out that no job equals no money."

"An equation I'm familiar with, my dear."

"An equation you do nothing to solve, I might add."

"It's not 'add,' Jill, it's subtract: your salary minus my salary..."

"Harry, I'm tired of going around in circles." Jill threw down her magazine.

"All right, Jill, relax. It's all a matter of divine destiny. I was actually considering that we might join the neighborhood church."

"Why in God's name would we do that?"

"...So we could have something to do other than complain," He took a swig of warm beer.

"For Christ's sake, Harry, what's with you?"

"I'm not sure, but I do see your point: To hell with the church."

"I'm getting the mail." Jill shuffled off in her flip-flops and returned several minutes later, red-faced.

"Wow," said Harry, "You got burned today."

"I sure did." She tossed a letter at him. As he read it, the cigarette dropped from his mouth.

"How can the bank threaten us with foreclosure like this?"

"Why not, Harry, it's not like we've been paying our mortgage."

Harry tossed the letter into the flaming grill: "I swear to you that first thing tomorrow..."

"Forget it, Harry. Empires can rise and fall before tomorrow ever comes for you."

"That's not fair, Jill."

"It's the truth." She turned and walked toward the car.

Harry crushed his cigarette underfoot and followed her. "Where are you going?"

"This house doesn't belong to us anymore."

She sniffed deeply to hold back her tears and gagged on the smell of charred hot dogs. She refused to look at Harry as he climbed into the passenger seat beside her.

"Talk to me, Jill," he said, hours after she'd been driving along in silence.

She turned to him, her eyes glazed over with tears: "I don't even know where I'm going, Harry."

"Well, Jill, there's always the lake."

"What lake?"

"My family owns a cabin on a lake."

"How come you never told me before?"

He hesitated: "Some members of my family believe that it's cursed. We stopped going there years ago."

"What do you mean by cursed?"

"The place holds bad memories."

"Jeesh, Harry, you're being awfully mysterious tonight."

Harry's eyes were distant: "My brother Al was a terrific athlete. I wish you could have met him. He was a great guy, but he got conceited, you know. He decided to go for a swim late one night without telling anyone. The rest you can guess for yourself."

"He drowned? That's terrible, Harry."

He hung his head: "I know. There was a time we loved that lake. But we have this belief that it's not safe to disturb the dead. And then, of course, there's the threat of the curse."

She pulled over to the side of the road and stared at him.

"I don't get it Harry. First of all, you never told me all this. Second of all, why are you suggesting we go to this lake?"

"Because we have nowhere else, Jill, we're broke. Besides, I've been feeling a little nostalgic."

"Well, if you're OK with it then so am I," said Jill. "Tell me how to get there."

He gave her directions and she drove, focusing carefully on the road ahead of her. The look on her face was determined.

"You know," she said, "my theories on death are different than yours."

"How so?"

"I believe in making contact with the dead."

"I can't agree with you there, Jill. I'm just not sure it's safe."

* * *

She stood by the lakeside, admiring the way the pale moonlight reflected off its surface. Harry had chosen to take a nap in the musty smelling bedroom. Jill knew he was just begging out due to nerves, but she herself had no fear. Her great-grandmother had taught her how to summon the dead. She closed her eyes and concentrated.

She reopened them as a fresh breeze was coming off the water. Ripples appeared and moments later, a man's head broke through the surface. He spat out a mouthful of green water and swam to the shore in broad, clean strokes. As he emerged from the lake he smiled and made his way toward her.

"You must be Harry's brother Al?" said Jill, hugging her arms around her body.

"Yes," he nodded

"Harry will be so excited to see you."

Al's face darkened: "It was a mistake for you to come here, Jill."

"You know my name," for a moment, she was flustered, then she shook dark hair from her eyes. "You know, this was Harry's idea. He told me about this place and I figured, how can you have a cabin on a beautiful lake that you never visit?"

"There's a curse on our family, Jill, and it's activated by coming here. The surviving members would have sold the cabin, but no buyers ever came forward. The place sits empty year after year. Frankly, it's better that way."

"So you're not the only one who's perished?"

"No, there've been others."

Her gaze was steady on him: "Are you suggesting that Harry will be next?"

"If you'd been paying proper attention, Jill, you might have noticed that Harry's already drowning under the weight of all the tomorrows he's failed to deliver."

"My, my, your family has a habit of being awfully mysterious."

Al waved as he waded back into the water: "You'll see."

She watched him disappear beneath the surface before hurrying inside.

"Harry," she called out, "I just saw your brother."

There was no answer. She entered the darkened bedroom, where the odor of mildew had been replaced by the stench of decay.

"Harry?" Goosebumps rose on her flesh as she flicked on the overhead light; the dim bulb buzzed. She stared at the empty bed, which appeared to be flecked with something indeterminable. She took a few steps closer and realized that fresh algae had been strewn over the sheets. Chills ran up her spine as she backed out of the room. She grabbed her purse and car keys from the kitchen table and ran from the cabin.

By the time she'd covered the short distance to the car, she was shaking. At the same time, she felt feverish. The combination was overwhelming. She leaned against the side of the car and surprised herself by vomiting green lake water. She stared out across the lake's vast surface, but if Harry was submerged there, she would have no way of knowing. Opening the car door, she staggered into the driver's seat. She began driving with no destination and no Harry either. She was so absorbed in her thoughts that she never saw him beside her.

"Do you really think that tomorrow will be any better than today, Jill?"

Al sat beside her in the passenger seat, soaking wet in his bathing suit.

"And that's if there even is a tomorrow," he continued.

"I need to find Harry." She started to cry.

"Harry's tomorrow ended up being tied in with the broader spectrum of his own death."

"That doesn't make sense." Jill yelled at him. Tears were running down her face, which she made no attempt to wipe.

"I have a message from him, Jill. He's waiting for you down by the lake."

She tuned the car around. "You better be right."

But Al never answered. Glancing at the passenger seat, she noticed he was gone. She drove as quickly as she could to get back to the lake. Once there, she stared out through her windshield across the water, but saw no one. She emerged from the car feeling cold and more alone than ever. As her eyes searched the water, she saw a ripple moving toward her. Harry emerged with an ever-present cigarette dangling from his lips. He motioned to her and she made her way toward him, stumbling on pebbles that littered the path leading to the lake.

"Harry," she said when she reached him, but something about his appearance stopped her from saying any more.

"I have no tomorrows to give you, Jill." He smiled sadly, "but I can offer you divine destiny."

"I'll take it," she kicked off her flip-flops and followed his floating form down the pebbly path. Harry looked back at her only once before entering the water. As Jill waded ever deeper in behind him, her tears dried and her eyes became bright with the promise of divine destiny.

Article © Pavelle Wesser. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-11-24
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