“The Lake Monster” – A Short Story

Illustration by Ryan Bauer-Walsh

There was a recent sighting of the Lake Monster so Christina and I drove to Pepin and rented a boat to see if we could find it. 

“Log, log, another log,” Christina says, her eyes up to his binoculars, scanning the water. “So many stupid goddamn logs that kind of look like lake monsters.”

Last week was Christina and my fourteenth wedding anniversary. To celebrate, we bought 200 scratch-offs and drank a bunch of Scotch. Christina drank a bunch of Scotch that tasted like burnt leaves and I drank a bunch of Scotch that tasted like a burnt bomber jacket. We scratched lotto tickets until our forearms ached and then we took a Lyft home and fell asleep watching the news.

To be honest, Christina is a way bigger fan of lake monsters than I am. I’m only here because I bought this speargun online as an anniversary present to myself and I wanted to try it out. Instead of looking for the Lake Monster, I keep shooting my speargun into the water. 

“You’re scaring everything mysterious away,” Christina snaps. “Just like always.”

I stop, but after about 10 minutes of stopping I get bored. I shoot my speargun out into the lake again. This time I hit something. 

“Whatever it is,” I tell Christina as I reel it in, “it’s super heavy.”

When it is about 10 feet away it looks like I’ve caught a soggy loaf of bread, but when I get it near the boat, I see what it actually is.

“It’s a foot!” I scream. “It’s someone’s severed foot!”

I watch a lot of Law and Order so I immediately think this is mob-related, that this foot is probably the foot of a snitch. I start thinking about how we’re now involved in this foot-severing, how we’re going to be forced into the witness protection program, how we’re going to have to change our names and move somewhere hot and dry, like Phoenix.

Christina is super calm, doesn’t seem concerned at all.      

“That’s not a foot,” she says. “That’s some sort of weird fish.” 

I look at the pale lump, floating in the water. There’s some milky blood coming out of where I snagged it, right near what I guessing is the ankle? 

“That’s a foot,” I say. “There are some toes right there.”

“Those aren’t toes,” she tells me. “Those are tentacles. Or something.”

We stand there, contemplating the dead foot or weird fish. While we are studying it, an eagle swoops down from the sky and snatches it out of the water. The hook on my speargun snaps and the eagle carries the foot or fish to the shore and eats it, slowly, piece by piece. 

“Hurry,” I tell Christina, “take a picture before it’s gone.”

Christina gets a couple of shots, but we’re too far away for them to be any good. Her pictures make the eagle look fuzzy and small and the fish/foot look like a half-eaten burrito.

It’s getting dark so Christina and I head back to shore. We return the boat and then we head to a bar. We drink some Scotch that has notes of burnt tires and burnt roses and then we play pull tabs. We sit at the bar and argue about whether it was a foot or fish for the next couple of hours, and then we argue about it for the rest of our lives.