A dusty, stifling summer. The lake lay as still as the air. A swan approached from afar: a white speck in the boiled blue of the sky. It landed in a flurry of water spray, swam purposefully toward the elevated dock, and ferociously pecked at my trainer.
“Sally, come! Your uncle’s here!”
I looked up the hill at our white house surrounded by the rusty yellow of the sun-beaten grass. I didn’t want to go up there.
“Sally, come on! Your uncle has something important to tell you!”
My uncle had always something important to tell me when he stayed over. Usually, he confided in me at night. It was so important and so secret that he never wanted my mother to know about it.
I ignored my mother’s calls and turned back to the swan. I fed it some bread.
My uncle came down the path and put a hand on my shoulder. “Don’t you want to say hello to your uncle?”
I shrugged his hand off. I wanted to run away and never come back. My uncle placed his hand back on my shoulder.
The swan hissed. It spread its giant wings and lifted off the water. It flew straight at my uncle and hit him in the chest with dripping feet, bouncing off but coming back for him right after. My uncle raised his arms to protect his face from the onslaught but the swan stroke his forearm with a mighty wing, producing a visceral crunch that brought my uncle to his knees.
I stared down at him as he cradled his arm and then turned to find the swan. It was once again a mere speck in the distance, flapping its long, long wings to somewhere far away from here.