about the author

Brian Klonoski lives and writes in the shadows of towering pines in central Maine, where he works for a local newspaper. His work has been featured in the Harvard Summer Review.

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The Lake Is Burning

Brian Klonoski

I was ten years old the night the plane flew through the forest. You could hear the tops of the pine trees crack against the fuselage. Then, the explosion. A twenty-inch brook trout—caught, petrified, preserved for life—rattled loose from the wall and shattered into glossy shards of red and yellow and purple.

Dad and I ran outside and watched from the dock as the lake burned. A still-intact engine whined like electricity through the air, changed pitch, then died. Amid the infant silence, a moment of quiet desolation fell from the stars. The wind ceased rustling the boughs of spruce that lined the shore; the incessant lap of waves against half-submerged boulders vanished; and the loons that called sweetly to their mates became extinct. The whole world pointed to the columns of fire dancing over the black water.

The moment passed and the wails began—long, drawn-out attempts to form words that ended in shrieks of pain. I pointed to the aluminum boat dragged halfway up the gravel beach, its motor angled out of the water. “We can save them,” I said. Dad glanced at the boat then turned away as though the hull, glaring orange, hurt his eyes. “I’m not going out there,” he said, grabbing my arm and jerking me back toward the cabin.

When the survivors started crawling ashore—their bodies charred and steaming in the moonlight as they tried over and over to stand—we left. The pickup slid all over the dirt road. I told Dad he was going too fast, but he ignored me, took a cigarette from the pack atop the dash, lit it. We were still five miles from pavement when a moose calf ran into the headlights and froze. The first three or four sweeps of the wipers only smeared the blood. I started to cry. Dad drove faster.

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