's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" On the Lake "

Submitted by Kiara Maher

“on the lake”

Cormorants. I’ve seen them often on the logs and rocks in the middle of the lake, watching them perform their awkward, flapping dance while I sip my morning coffee.

Cormorants flap in place, as my uncle once explained to me, because they need to dry their wings after diving. Ducks and loons don’t need to do this because the special oil in their feathers keeps them dry. By sacrificing this protection and letting their feathers get soaked, cormorants can dive deep into the lake; deeper than any other bird’s oil-buoyant feathers would allow.

This summer has been different. Everything else is the same, I mean, but the cormorants are different this year.

When I take my morning coffee, the cormorants are on the lake. When I break for lunch on the back porch, the cormorants are on the lake. When I look out the window at dinnertime, safe in warm inside as the sun goes down, I can still make out their slender, gawky shapes on the lake.

Even when I’m taking the time to just relax, read and watch the animals that come and go in the water and trees, I haven’t yet seen one dive or surface.

The cormorants are never in the lake.

At first they behaved normally, flapping and preening as they are apt to do; however, little by little over the three and a half weeks that I’ve been here, they’ve slowed down and become increasingly still.

I’m looking out the window now as I type this, through my binoculars. I can see three ducks and one cormorant on the nearest log. The ducks all seem fine. The cormorant looks sluggish and very thin. I don’t think they’ve been feeding much. Maybe not at all.

Between meeting deadlines, talking to clients and the thirty-minute drive into town proper, I haven’t yet gotten around to doing any actual swimming in the lake this year.

I really don’t think I will do any swimming in the lake this year.