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 fury of water spray, swam purposefully toward the elevated dock, and ferociously pecked at my trainer in the hope of getting some bread.
“Sally, come up! 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, now! 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, after a short run, lifted off the water. The bird flew straight at my uncle and hit him in the chest. He raised his arms in a delayed effort to protect his face from the onslaught. The bird stroke one of his forearms with a mighty wing producing a visceral crunch. My uncle fell to his knees cradling his arm.
I stared down at him in amazement and then turned to find the swan. It was again a mere white speck in the distance, flapping its long, long wings to somewhere far away from here.