Lake Ontario


Brian Mihok

Brian Mihok’s work has appeared in Hobart, >kill author, TRNSFR, Wigleaf and elsewhere. He edits matchbook, a journal of indeterminate prose.

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The room seemed foreign. Like it was somebody else’s office. Joseph wondered if there was such a thing as reverse déjà vu. He packed a pair of leather notebooks into his bag. His assistant, Andrew, stopped in and asked if he wanted veal Parmesan again for lunch. Yes, whatever, Joseph said and left to go downtown for an appointment. He walked to his car and was overcome with disgust. It was a strange machine sitting there, like an animal, tamed and pathetic. It had rust on its fenders and the blue paint was worn away to gray primer on the hood. It was worthless right then, and disgusting. Joseph wished there was something in his stomach to vomit onto it. But he was late and the sun was weighing down on him so he decided to get into the beast before he was incinerated by the rays.

He drove to a cafe and went inside. He ordered a latte to go and sat down at a table. There was a barista washing dishes. She had short hair and a nose ring. She blew air up her nose as if there were strands of hair getting in her eyes. Another man came in and announced himself to Joseph. They shook hands. The man ordered a latte to go and sat down at the table. They took out their leather notebooks and packets of stapled papers. The man asked about Roswell Park and Joseph said he didn’t know. I want to figure out a good salary structure during the transition, the man said. They looked over a sheet of numbers. You can’t cut anyone out, Joseph said. It’s against state law. No, no, the man said. They agreed on a flow chart. Joseph leaned back and thought about strangling the man. He rubbed his eyes and wondered how he’d be able to make it home if his car made him physically ill. Finally, the men said goodbye.

Joseph went back to the car and looked around as if people were watching him. Nobody was watching him and he put a hand to his stomach as it bubbled from the sight of the car. He took a deep breath and got in the driver’s seat. The plastic chrome on the steering wheel felt smooth as he rubbed it in meditation to stay his nausea. Its shine reminded him of when he and Tara drove up to a cabin that sat on a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario. They had a wonderful time, though it wasn’t enough to save the relationship. One night he sat on the edge of the bluff while Tara was reading inside. Two hundred feet down was a bed of dark boulders which thinned to a rocky beach on the water. The boulders were jagged. He saw where the lake met the sky. The water shot up to space and evaporated into someplace no person could go. There was a shine all around and Joseph laughed like he was in a trance. When he and Tara drove home he kept looking up at the sky as if to see where the lake had gone. Tara didn’t want to talk about it. That was a year ago.

He turned the key and pulled the car onto the interstate. He went north, past Niagara Falls and Lewiston. An hour later he was at the bluff. The cabin was gone or he was in the wrong place. He opened the car door and stepped out. The lake looked like a brown glacier. It had all been sucked up. He put a hand on the door and on the roof of the car and pushed hard. Pebbles spat out from under the tires. The front wheels hit the decline. He kept pushing and the car rolled off. He expected to see it shatter, an explosion of glass and metal and plastic. The car fell between two boulders and he heard glass break but nothing shot out. Then it was quiet again. He sat down and looked out at the gorge, thinking of nothing as the sun set. Eventually, an old man driving back to the city gave him a ride home.

That night he dreamed of the car, only in the dream the car was a butterfly net. It was floating around, catching the lake’s molecules in the atmosphere. The sunlight made everything look white. He awoke in the morning and looked up subway fares but couldn’t bring himself to walk the five blocks to the station. In the kitchen he looked around. He wanted to make something. Maybe crepes. He could make as many crepes as he could eat and sit on the front porch and eat them one by one. The front porch had never been sat on. He wondered why he had never made anything before. It seemed like the best idea he’d ever had.

© Brian Mihok

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