Virginia Lee

The image displays a pencil drawing of a creek.
Eduardo Suré; Drawing of a Creek, 2018; Graphite

About half of a mile past the highway bridge, there is a section of Beaver Creek where Gregory can fish with no one else around. He is wading as he casts his lure upstream wondering what lure trout will bite that evening. A vast cornfield on his right separates him from the road. On his left, a very steep hill is between him and a large lonely farm. Trees grow along both banks and shade him from the sun as he wades. The only sounds he hears are the white noise from the wind moving through the leaves and the babbling of the water moving around obstacles in the creek.

Gregory reels his lure out of the water just inches from the tip of his rod. He is using a small silver minnow crank bait. The treble hook at the tail is tangled with the line. He tells himself to retrieve the lure at a more appropriate speed for the flow of the stream. He studies the treble hook and the tangled line, and sees a simple solution for untangling them. While his eyes are focused on the minnow, he detects movement to his right. He quickly looks over hoping it is not a rabid raccoon or a hillbilly. Seeing nothing, he returns to his task which helps to slow his racing heart.

After untangling the minnow, Gregory unclips it from the end of the line. He holds it carefully in the palm of his hand while he handles a tiny tackle box that is clipped to the top of his waders. He exchanges the minnow for a small pink jig with a chartreuse grub tail. Then, he carefully walks upstream about twenty feet to a pool next to the roots of a large tree where trout may be hiding.

Gregory stops when he is about ten feet from the pool. He casts the lure into the water and lets it float down to the bottom. He lets it sit there while he holds the fishing line with his right hand so that he might feel a strike. After a few seconds, he carefully reels in the slack. As he does, he feels a tap. He flicks the lure so it appears to the trout like it is trying to dart away. He feels a solid strike. He snaps up the tip of the rod to set the hook. The tip of the rod bends toward the water and he begins to reel in the fish.

Water splashes. Gregory reaches into the water to pick up the fish. The beautiful brook trout lies in his hand gasping. As he admires it, he sees movement again out of the corner of his eye. This time it is clearer. It looks like there is a child by the stream and he turns quickly in the direction of the movement. No one is there. However, a bush is swaying as if it had just been disturbed. He convinces himself that a weasel just darted out of the water and ran into a hole hidden by the bush. As he is distracted; the trout thrashes suddenly, slips out of his grasp, and swims away.

The fish in the hole are too startled for Gregory to try again there. He carefully wades upstream about fifteen feet and stops. The water is almost to his waist. It is too deep. He must be very careful because he is alone. No one would hear him cry for help, much less pull him out if he were to begin to drown. He decides to find a shallower part of the creek.

Before leaving, Gregory casts his lure one last time toward the bank on the right. It plops into deep water next to a little girl. She is watching him. When he looks back at her, he notices that he can see distorted images of the ground, bushes, and trees that are behind her. Her body is translucent. While he stands motionless with fear, she slowly picks up her right hand and waves at him. Suddenly, she appears to slide unintentionally into the creek.

The water in the creek around her splashes violently. The ghost grabs Gregory’s line and pulls him toward the deep. It is six-pound line, but it will not snap. He releases his fishing rod.

The water begins to rise. It fills his waders. He goes under. He unclips the suspenders and frantically climbs out of them. He comes up for air.

The creek is now too deep to stand on the bottom with his head above water. He uses all of his strength to swim with the current toward the shore. He grabs for tree roots and uses them to pull himself out of the water.

Gregory lies on the ground. He needs to catch his breath. He turns his head to cough out some water. He sees the ghost climbing out of the creek. He rolls over, pushes himself up, and stumbles as he sprints into a cornfield.

Gregory runs at top speed until he is out of breath. Over the top of the corn, he sees the roof of a house in the horizon. He goes toward it. Leaves cut him arms as he moves through the corn field. He cannot see anything, except for corn, so he keeps his eyes on the house to find his way.

When Gregory arrives at the house, he sees an old woman in a rocking chair on the porch. He walks toward her, but stops at the edge of her property. He does not want to frighten her. Being wet, barefooted, and gasping; he believes he appears as if he is suffering from mental problems.

“You saw Virginia Lee, didn’t you?” she shouts from her chair. “The little girl who was drowned in the creek.” She adds without emotion as if she is commenting on the weather or untied shoes.

“A ghost,” Gregory says between deep breaths. “It tried to drown me.” He sounds mentally disturbed.

“Well, you can’t blame her: you look a lot like her father,” she says accusingly. “Come up onto the porch. I’ll call you a cab and get you a towel.” She pushes herself up and shuffles to her door. He watches her struggle to open the screen door as the bottom catches, slowly climb up the step leading into her house, and then fidget with the door to shut it.

Gregory does not want to wait barefooted on the porch for a cab. He does not want to make small talk with the old woman. He looks down the street in one direction and sees a dead end. So, he takes a chance and walks in the other direction hoping it will lead him to the highway.

© 2018 EDUARDO SURÉ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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