This story concerns a man who lived his life at the lake, in the town. As with most stories that are true, nothing happens.
…..The man had counted out the construction workers’ weekly wages and they were laid out on his desk. The money was in bills, coins, a few ounces of raw silver, drawn from the mines across the valley from the lake.
…..The door to the man’s office opened and another man entered. He wore a long dark coat and a felt hat flopped over his head. It was late spring, and just beginning to get hot.
…..The strange man said that his car had blown a head gasket just as he was pulling into the town. The stranger said that the repairs were going to cost fifty dollars, and that he, the stranger, had only thirty-four dollars on him. The stranger wanted a loan.
…..How do I know you’ll pay me back? said the man.
…..The stranger explained that he had four gallons of whisky in his car, to be delivered to a hotel on the south end of the lake. He was getting two hundred dollars for delivering this whisky.
…..Listen, friend, said the strange man, how about I offer you my watch as insurance against the loan?
…..The man opened his coat to take out his watch and when he did so the man saw the shoulder holsters and the guns housed in them under the man’s coat.
…..The man had his own gun, against the fireplace, between his desk and the strange man with the guns who asked for money.
…..The stranger pulled his watch from his vest pocket, a gold watch, on a long gold chain. He handed the watch over to the man. The watch ticked along, humming. It was a good watch, worth at least a hundred dollars.
…..The man counted out the twenty-six dollars that the stranger needed.
…..The stranger said, Thanks, friend. Say, how about you try some of my whisky?
…..Along the bottom of the stranger’s car door, near the sidesteps, there were puncture points in the car’s body. The man recognized these as bullet holes, but the man thought it best not to say anything about them. The stranger’s whisky was nicely aged, and delicate. All the way from Canada, said the man with the guns, and he smiled.
…..The construction workers rebuilt the man’s hotel from the fires that had destroyed it last summer, and business opened up for good again by mid-June, when the tourist season went into full swing. The man’s hotel rooms got booked, and nights the restaurant and bar were walled with bodies.
…..Across the country the people were thirsty. The whisky came from Canada, and from Mexico, and from the east, brought overland off of ships that had shipped the whisky into ports.
…..One day the man read the newspaper and saw a photograph of a man who had been killed. The man who had been killed was a notorious bootlegger and bank robber—a gangster of notorious ilk, said the newspaper. The photograph of the body depicted a man laid out on a table, the bullet holes that riddled his chest just visible in the poor newsroom print that rubbed off on the man’s fingers. The story continued inside the paper, and the bootlegger’s mug shot proved that this was the man with the guns who had given the man his watch for the loan.
…..The man kept the watch for many years. The man’s son grew and he took over the man’s hotel, and the son took possession of the watch. Eventually, the son sold the hotel, and the hotel was torn down, and where the hotel had stood a larger hotel was built. This hotel had many stories. From the higher stories of this hotel, guests paid for excellent views of the lake and the far southern shore, where the ski slopes cut into the mountainsides.
Jamie Iredell is the author of Prose. Poems. a Novel. (Orange Alert Press, 2009); and The Book of Freaks (Future Tense Books, forthcoming 2010). This story is excerpted from a novel-in-progress called “The Lake.” He blogs at jamieiredell.blogspot.com.