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Bright sunlight was playing on the soft lake waves. It was the glaring sort of light that promised a wretched summer. That would be later.  Today it was spring and the children from the lakeside community were in the water. All of them except one scrawny girl in an orange swimsuit too big for her. Her fingers lighted on everything in her reach, grabbing leaves to be crumbled, rocks to be scratched against each other, and sticks to snap over and over again. She was thin enough that it was hard to tell how old she was and dirty enough you almost didn’t see purple and yellow tinted marks on her skin. Marks that looked like hand prints and wooden spoons. She never uncurled from her hunched crouch long enough to tell how tall she was and she seemed to prefer her hair in her face. She watched the other children play through it with mouse-brown eyes. Her hair was pale at the tips. Once upon a time she had spent enough time in the sun to bleach it, but its tangled lengths promised a dark-haired future the closer to her scalp you looked.

Every once and awhile during those late spring days one of the other children’s parents would encourage their brood to invite the lonely looking girl into the water. The intensity of her look when she gazed up at the offer never failed to startle. It was not the look of a shy child. It burned with the sort of curiosity that cruel boys gave to caught frogs and stranded catfish with a stick in one hand and a brick in the other. Yes, I will play, those eyes said. No, you won’t like it, whispered the twitching fingers at her side. The parents stopped sending their children.

The next summer the girl was gone. No one really quite remembered who she belonged to or where those unremembered persons took her. The year after that no one remembered her at all. Thirteen years later it took the locals five drowned bodies with orange fibers under their fingernails to remember that once a girl came to the lake with hungry eyes full of pain. The body count was seven when they finally found her. She was floating among her last two victims on the west shore with an old swimsuit tangled around her left wrist and a bullet hole in her mouth.



  1. Also, HOW IS IT YOU DON’T HAVE AN AGENT YET?! Are you querying right now? Catalyst?

    • I am querying…literally right now, I sent three off today. No luck yet, but I did get some positive feedback in January’s query round, so that was encouraging at least.

  2. BJ, cut it out. Your writing is getting so dang good that it’s giving me a serious complex.

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