Contemplating Narcissus (excerpt)
After burying the raven Larry had shot with his arrow he and I walked around the lake. We took turns with the bow and hunted frogs and turtles mostly but occasionally we’d aim for a fish, always remembering to shoot below it. My dad said it had to do with the way water bends light. It sounded odd but it was true. We had better luck when we listened to my dad’s advice. We stopped to rest. We sat on a wet log on the bank and breathed in the clean air. We listened to the birds singing and cackling, and the sounds of fish splashing as they surfaced for insects and quickly returned underwater. We looked out on the lake; we could see the cornflower blue sky and the white, gossamer clouds reflected in the water. The clouds looked like strips of gauze in a patchwork sky.
After a while, as Larry practiced aiming with his bow, I got up and walked to the edge of the lake. The surface of the lake was as calm as a baby sleeping. For no apparent reason I knelt down at the edge of the water; it reminded me of kneeling at the communion rail at church. I leaned out over the water and meant to gaze beneath it, but instead I was startled by my own reflection. I leaned in a little closer to study my features. Just then a fish jumped nearby and caused a ripple in the water. I felt a shiver course through me involuntarily. The water settled again and became a perfect mirror.
“Hey Larry. Come here a second.”
“What do you want?” he said, slightly annoyed. He no doubt was hunting frogs or turtles.
“Just come here, would you?”
He walked up beside me, looking at me in a peeved way. “Well?”
“Take a look.”
He leaned out over the water. “So big deal, haven’t you ever seen your own reflection before?”
“Not like this, not on the water.”
“Geez,” he said, shaking his head. He turned to walk away.
“Wait. Who do you think I look like?”
“Who do I look like?”
“Huck Finn,” he deadpanned.
“No, really. Who do you think I look like?”
“You’re killing me, Malory.”
“I never saw it before, but I think I look like my mother.”
“Well, she is your mother! You’re supposed to look like her! Would you rather look like my mother?”
“I look more like my mother than I do my father. I think the resemblance is rather striking.”
“Are you through admiring yourself yet, Mrs. Damper?”
I stood up quickly. “Don’t call me that!” I said harshly.
“Hey Larry,” I said of a sudden, “do you think I’m like my mom?”
“Geez, will you get off it?”
“No. I don’t mean physically; I mean her personality.”
Larry clucked his tongue in annoyance. “What do you mean?”
“You can be honest. Am I like her?”
He screwed up his eyes at me but remained silent.
“C’mon, you’ve been around her. You know how bossy she can be and sometimes mean. And suspicious—”
Larry pursed his lips as if tasting something tart. “No, you’re none of those things; you’re the opposite. The only thing about her that you duplicate is…you’re nervous.”
“What do you mean?” I said defensively and stood up.
“Uptight, on edge, but don’t worry about it. Nobody’s perfect—not even me,” he kidded.”
“Nervous,” I whispered to myself and considered his observation. I disagreed with Larry but kept my opinion to myself.
“C’mon,” my friend said. “Let’s circle around the lake again.”