Love and Lake Trout

by Trevor Walker

Long ago, on a cold, wet, November evening, I found myself at the wrong end of a large lake with a broken engine and darkness closing in. I grabbed the paddle, cursing its inadequacy, and started the long journey back to the launch. The calm, frigid lake hissed with the sound of sleet, and as I followed the shoreline I was soon engulfed in fog. This was trouble; I was miles from the launch.

Conditions continued to worsen, and I soon found myself alone and lost in the sleet and fog, at night, on a lake I’d never been on before. Shivering and desperate, I talked aloud to myself to stay focused and alert, but two hours later I was going numb and becoming delirious. Suddenly, I saw movement… A boat! It was a rowboat entering the small bay just up the shoreline. I hollered and waved my paddle but there was no reply, so I dug in and tried to catch it as it disappeared into the fog. I needed help soon, or I was going to freeze out here. As I got closer to shore I briefly spotted the boat through the fog then, once again, it faded from view. I rounded the point and followed the shoreline. The temperature was dropping faster now, and the sleet froze on my raincoat. As I neared the end of the bay, an old shack materialized out of the shadows and mist. An old wooden boat lay in decay on the shoreline, pulled up for the last time many years ago. I pulled my boat up here and surveyed the bay for the rowboat- it was nowhere to be seen. How could it not be here? The bay was only a hundred meters deep, and half that in width, yet it just wasn’t here, so I turned back towards the cabin, through the haze of my own frozen breath. It was just an old shack, long since neglected, but most of the roof was still there. The one dry corner would be my shelter, and the old wood stove would have to be put back into service for the night. I found an old, busted chair and got a fire started and, as smoke belched through the broken roof, I slowly began to feel the pain of thawing out. Shaking uncontrollably, I hung my frozen clothes around the stove and gathered more firewood for the long night.

Morning couldn’t have come soon enough. Half thawed, and even less dry, I got back into the boat and paddled the last couple of miles. It was noon by the time I got back to my car, and a dry change of clothes. The local restaurant was back on the highway and, as I nursed a hot coffee there, I started telling the old guy beside me my story. His eyes narrowed and he studied me hard and, as my voice trailed off, he started telling me the story of an old man, and his wife, that used to live in that cabin many years ago. “It’s the only cabin on the lake”, said the guy. “The old man used to row the boat every single night, while she would fish. They trolled for lakers that way until one stormy night she fell from the boat and drowned, they never found her body, and the old man died the next year. Sometimes people still see him at night, searching for his wife. That’s his old boat pulled up on shore”. He motioned to the wall where an old newspaper clipping told the whole story. “It’s all there”, he said, “The story of a perfect love that not even death could quell. The old man searches in vain, every night for eternity, for the only two things that truly meant anything to him- love and lake trout.”

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