As a child of sixteen, I knew there was a lake monster where my family liked to boat. I had evidence. From my nightmares. Once when my father hit a sandbar in a wide waterway of Beaver Lake, my skis sunk a foot before hitting a solid mass and I flipped out with my fingernails, trying to claw my way through a sand filled liopleurodon. I have issues about dark water and the unknown.
At Camp War Eagle there are two water activity areas – the Pools and the Cove. The Pools are two standard country club chlorine tanks with a few basketball goals and mysteriously deflating inner tubes. The Cove, though – the Cove is dark water. Everyone must wear a lifevest. It’s where we keep the blobs and water trampolines and the Cove Monster.
Counselors tell campers that the Cove Monster eats children who don’t wear lifevests. Something about a floatation allergy. Kids will try to pick apart the logic of the Monster – where is he during the day? has anyone seen him? is there a missus? – but eventually they buckle their jackets. But when I fall off the blob, I swim like an Olympian because I know that the Cove Monster doesn’t hone in on the lifejacketless – he goes for stationary targets.
(I realize this sounds like I’m exaggerating or even inventing. No one thinks there’s a monster in the Cove. However, I don’t walk around a hallway maze with the lights out and I don’t watch Paranormal Activity because, even if I know something isn’t real, that doesn’t mean it isn’t just invisible.)
My fears compounded when I became the Waterfront Director. I had to dive twenty feet to the bottom to tie loose blobs down on a metal H-frame. Usually this happened as lifeguards took their stands, preparing for an onslaught of children. I’d tread water for several minutes, breathing deeply, until someone asked if I was okay.
“If I’m not back in fifteen seconds,” I’d say, “Get the harpoon gun!” Then I’d dive, blind as the dark green water and later come up with maximum adrenaline, thrashing invisible demons.
Last week the word came down to drain the Cove. There’s a small door on the bottom that sounds like a bathtub plug. Because of the pressure exerted by a million and a half gallons of monster habitat, my boss hired divers to hook the trapdoor to a hydrolic pump. I was shoveling mulch when I saw them climb into the Cove. “NO ONE IS SAFE,” I tried to warn them. No one ever listens.
The hydrolic hose broke. Instead, we built a small floating island from spare dock parts and bolted two 8 h.p. pumps to the decking. Connecting it to land with a twenty foot ladder, we ran the discharge hoses off into the woods and push/pulled the dock into position with old ropes. It was very much likeThe Sandlot’s erector-set ball throwing robot. Except the Monster didn’t show.
Today was the third day that the pumps were churning. I can see the rusted H-frames that hold the blobs down as well as concrete filled tires that keep the trampolines in place. Nasty green algae coats a fifteen foot wide ring on the black rubber lining of our man-made pond. However – no monster. Last night I told Holly that I think the monster is laying flat on the Cove floor, stone still and holding his breath until we go away. She told me that she married a child.
As I prepared to leave camp today, I drove past the Cove a final time and saw a white swan treading water. I yelled at it to get out while it still could. But now that I remember the bird, pecking at the water plants and putzing around the shrinking pond, I believe I just got Keyser Soze’d.