Ponder Lake was deeper than it looked. The dive raft anchor was attached to the end of a mussel crusted chain so long it was lost in the murky depths. On a dare, I once tried to reach the bottom, inching down link by link until I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. I shot up to the surface taking huge gulps of air, and swallowing nearly as much lake water.
Our summer cabin sat back from the shore of the lake, just inside the tree line. When we’d get to the cabin, the first thing we’d do was open all the windows and doors, airing out that sickly-sweet smell of mothballs. My brother and I would go into the woods, and collect the huge cones from under the surrounding Coulter pines. We’d use them as kindling for the First Night bonfire.
In the evenings, we’d sit out on the porch in oversized rocking chairs, sipping hot chocolate and counting the walleye jumping for bugs, and the loons diving for fish. We took our vacations there every year as far back as I can remember. They never went back after the summer Jimbo Hill drown trying to swim to the lake bed.
He was showing off for Sissy Moltrie. Jimbo dove off that floating dock the afternoon of July 3, 1965, and that’s the last time we saw him. That was until his bloated body washed up in Snyder Bayou three days later.
Sissy knew Jimbo had a crush on her, and that he’d do all sorts of crazy things to get her attention. She didn’t even feel bad that he was dead. When she thought none of the parents were around, she’d tell everyone what a goober she thought Jimbo was for jumping in the lake. I hated her. We couldn’t swim off the raft the rest of that summer. If we had, I’d’ve pushed her in the lake.
This is the first time I’ve been back to Ponder Lake since I was a kid. The cabin is in sorry shape, but it still smells of pine smoke and mothballs, nothing a little work and fresh air won’t fix.
I don’t remember whose idea it was for this reunion. That everyone came back – except for Jimbo, of course = surprised me. Even silicone, Botox Barbie Sissy showed up.
The lake looked the same, despite the long years between summers. Even the diving raft was back. Who knows, I could get my chance to send Sissy over the side after all. Maybe, Jimbo will show up and take Sissy for a swim, finally proving to her he can swim all the way to the bottom.
The kids are already telling ghost stories.