Wednesday 2 August 2023

The Monster by Pete Riebling, orange soda

 One day in July, we were flying a kite at a beach on the shore of Lake Lanier. There was a monster in the lake, according to my father. I half-believed him. He told me not to let go of the spool. I told him I wouldn’t.

My mother was on location in Idaho. She was the head of cinematography for Bottom Line Productions. I missed her.

‘Is it big?’

‘Bigger than you.’

‘Bigger than you?’

‘Bigger than me.’

‘Bigger than a dinosaur?’

‘About four feet high and twenty-five feet long, with a neck about twelve feet long.’

‘I want to see a picture,’ I said.

‘The only pictures are grainy,’ he said.

‘I have an idea,’ I said. I proposed we return to the lake with Mommy and her crew and capture video footage of the monster. Clear, irrefutable proof.

‘Don’t let go of the spool,” my father said. “And don’t tell your mother about the monster.’

The shore was sandy. Umbrellas were planted in the sand. A swimming area was demarcated by buoys on a rope. I wasn’t allowed to go in the water. There was a monster in the lake, after all.

   I was happy to fly the kite. It was designed to resemble a parrot with bright feathers and a tail. We’d bought it at a general store on the way to the beach. We also brought pails and shovels as well as a frisbee. My father assured me there were plenty of other things to do at the beach besides swim.

My father had launched the kite before handing the spool to me and telling me I was in charge. I was in charge, but he was watching me closely and warning me not to let out too much line. I was relieved when a local history buff approached and distracted my father by engaging him in a conversation about the construction of the lake, which apparently had necessitated the destruction of farms and the displacement of homes and businesses. ‘They even dug up graveyards and relocated the corpses elsewhere,’ the man said.


‘Yes, sir.’

‘Well,’ my father said. ‘A disturbance of the dead hypothetically might explain why there’s a monster in the lake.’

‘Come on,’ the man said and laughed. ‘Don’t tell me you put stock in such nonsense.’

‘A couple of decades ago, a zoologist found footprints that don’t match any known species in the Western Hemisphere.’

‘It was a hoax.’

‘Maybe,’ my father said. ‘Or maybe there’s a monster in the lake and the government is hiding the truth because otherwise tourism would grind to a halt and tax revenue would plummet and they know they’ll get away with it because people like you won’t dare to question the official narrative.’

That’s the moment I started to understand my father was half-crazy. I let go of the spool on purpose. The kite blew away, sailing higher and higher until it was invisible. My father wasn’t angry—it seemed to me this was the outcome he’d been expecting all along, and when it happened he felt validated and correct in his judgment. We built a castle.


About the author 


Pete Riebling received a BA in English/Creative Writing from Emory University and an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. His work has appeared in BirdHouse Magazine, Bookends Review, CafeLit, Cosmic Double, Flash Fiction Magazine, NiftyLit, Ocotillo Review, and Quibble. 


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