The SS Pike Bay, on a run to Duluth, Minnesota, moved slowly across the horizon as Kirsti pensively looked out across the dark waters of Lake Superior. She shuffled her canvas shoes into the rocky beach causing the smooth stones to clatter together mimicking the sound of bagged marbles. She adjusted herself to a more comfortable position on the weather beaten oak trunk whose root end protruded out of the beach to a height of five feet, tentacles of what were once roots extending out to emptiness. The sound of a squawking seagull brought her attention to the shore line. She smiled slightly as she watched Patton race after the seagull, his large snow shoe like feet splashing water skyward.
The puppy, a gift from her husband of fifteen years, was she knew, although David would deny it, a gift to help her forget. But how could she forget? “Five months twelve days,” she thought. “This is one time I wish I wasn’t so good at remembering dates.” She looked back out at the deep waters of the lake and wondered if they would ever recover the body or if it would remain out there somewhere.
Kirsti shivered, not from the cold breeze, but from the memory of that day. How could a day of ice fishing go so wrong? Her younger brother had gone out hundreds of times and never had a problem. But this past winter had been different, unusual. The weather had been unseasonably warm for a couple days toward the end of February. That shouldn’t have been a problem, but mid morning that day an abnormally strong wind gusted up Keweenaw Bay causing the ice to separate into large icy rafts. It had stranded sixteen people, fifteen had been rescued, one, one was lost – her brother.
It all happened on a Sunday, a Sunday when it was her turn to play the organ, something she loved, had a talent for. For as soon as she touched the keys, no orchestrated the keys, the organ sang with a level of pitch, tone, and purity unsurpassed in its beauty. And then that particular Sunday, she did something she never did, she hit a wrong chord. Granted it was during a particularly difficult and challenging movement, but the resulting noise pierced through the small congregation of the Lutheran church, causing Billy Anderson to awake, throwing his hymnal three feet in the air before it crashed with a thud and Margaret Olson, eighty-seven, to swear and slap a hand at her hearing aid. Margaret never did realize that there hadn’t been a problem with her hearing aid.
Afterwards a couple people commented, “No worries, you do such a marvelous job, usually.” Kirsti tried to ignore the comments, the mistake, but she hated making mistakes. Hated it. And then she found out about her brother. And since then she had not played. Something inside her couldn’t, wouldn’t let her. Yes, she had tried. She would go, let herself in with the key she still held, with all intentions to play, to orchestrate, but the organ had somehow turned dark and ominous and she just couldn’t touch the keys. She just couldn’t.
Patton ran up, skidded to a stop and shook himself off. Cold Superior water, showered down on Kirsti. “Patton, stop that! You’re getting me all wet,” she shouted. Patton completed drying off, planted his wet dirty paws in her lap, and gave Kirsti a big sloppy lick across the face. She pushed him away. “Get away. Bad dog!” she scolded.