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Chapter Twenty-Nine
Still Water

...Burned alive in a fiery car crash, Bud envisions a sequence of events, the front of the car crumpling in on itself, flesh being torn by the flying glass and metal fragments, flames from the engine bursting from underneath the dash and engulfing the body. The thoughts makes him shudder. It would be a painful way to go, but being tortured would probably be worse. All kinds of terrible ways they can fuck you up with torture. Being buried alive would suck too.

Bud floats on his arched back slowly drifting away from the shore.

Where the hell are you going?

He hears the vibrations of a motor in the distance, preceded by a second. Above him white puffy clouds framed by a blue backdrop form nothing in particular. That's the kind of day it was.

He was a good floater. With his arms outstretched he could remain almost motionless in the rolling lake water. His chest and mouth remained above the water line, along with the rim of the can he held in his right hand. Be gentle waves, he begs. Don't spill my beer.

A shark attack would hurt a lot. Dying from exposure in the desert. Sinking in quick sand. Poisonous snakebite in the neck. Falling into a volcano. Having an organ stolen and then bleeding to death. Yes, There were many more terrible ways to die than drowning.

A shiver pierced his motionless body. He closed his eyes as his nightmare returned. A sudden gulp of water, his head pulled beneath the water surface. The world turns from blue to gray, till his lungs explode and everything goes black.

Why does the water bring such awful dreams? Why do they follow him when he's awake? He had swum all his life, never faltering, never unexpectedly sinking, even after repeated falls at high speeds while learning to ski barefoot or attempting some of the other stupid water stunt. Winded, injured or unconscious he knew when to breath and when not to. It was natural. Deep in his consciousness lingered fragments of time without oxygen. Blank spots, which convinced him he must have drowned somewhere else than in water.

It was a day in June in the Ozarks. Bud had come down to the lake to help his parents install a new hot tub alongside the lower deck of their lake house. Twenty feet down a steep hillside, that was the hard part. The rest of the weekend could be spent grilling steak, drinking and relaxing next to the lake. There was also a jet bike, a ski boat, an array of sofas and TVs and, of course, the new hot tub. Bud had chosen warm lake water for relaxation. His partially submerged head muffled the world around him. The distance between reality and dreams seem to shrink. A light breeze brushed against his chest. Slowly a wind will take him somewhere. Anywhere. When he emerges from his peaceful cocoon he'll wonder how far might he have traveled? Twenty, fifty a hundred yards? Where has the dock gone? Should he worry about the passing boats torpedoing his wayward ship? Is he even in the same cove?

The clouds still formed nothing. No discernable landmarks home. It seemed like his imagination could take him anywhere. But he knew there was no point to break the arch in his back, rotate his body upward to see he had gone nowhere. Again.

How about a drink of beer, buddy.

Let me relax, he implores, just for a moment. Let me have a moment without disappointments and failures.

It wasn't a very good moment, but he had so few these days he takes what he can get. A motorboat passed by, followed by some joyful screaming; probably a new skier bouncing across the water surface. A few seconds later Bud felt his body glide over the gentle ruling wake of the boat.

Drown you fucker.

Of course there was that nagging voice that kept interrupting his moments. Direct and confident. You'd think it was the tone of a stern parent, but for the excessive amount of dirty words. Often it would chastise him, but it was definitely not his conscious; seldom did it offer useful advice.

Eat shit. I hate you.

And often he wasn't sure whom it was referring to. Was it he hates or someone else?

The passing boats waves dispersed. He realized he was hungry. Dad was probably warming up the grill by now. Mom would be preparing a salad and vegetables. Adrienne and Tom should be getting back from their excursion on the jet bike. A lot of time had passed. Somewhere behind a patch of clouds the sun had started its downward arc.

Drown. Drown. Drown.

Earlier, this chant that started his meditation on death. But he didn't care to fall again into those trappings again. Please, no more thoughts of drowning or any other horrific deaths. Go away, he whispers to himself. Let me relax. Let me be. He doesn't need to move to feel a sensation of flailing arms and gasp for air. His screams for help engulfed in the stillness of the water. He can find no peace.

He tries to think of other places. Struggling to imagine him anywhere else but here. In Venice - no in Rome. He sits at a table in a piazza drinking espresso... beer... Scotch, Yes Scotch. There is a bottle of Scotch on his table. Maybe he has a note pad out and is writing or he could be just leaning back in his chair watching a startled pack of pigeons fly up into the air, then return to the same spot were a old man on a park bench is throwing out crumbs.

No, the old man is biting the heads off the pigeons.

Bud kicks his legs and swings his arms in front of him, pulling himself upright in the water. He sees his dad up on the deck of the lake house. Smoke is rising from the grill. Maybe he should help with dinner? He takes a drink of beer. Still cold but a little deluded. He feels frustrated.

Like your life is so fucking stressful.

There was no elegance to his inner voice.

Fuck you. You lazy bastard.

It came at times when he felt stressed or empty. He didn't know why. His life wasn't stressful or difficult. He had no reason to complain. Just a day at the lake, boy life is tough.

Shut up. Shut up.

Sometimes he wasn't sure if he was hearing an inner voice or answering it.

Run away little boy.

If he was being mocked.

She'll never love you

Or what it was even referring to. But then he must... somewhere. Deep in his consciousness, he must have drowned before.