Lizbet lured Kay to the lake with promises of fresh air, warm bathing water and a fine picnic table to set her paints upon.
Kay gathered her paint pots and paraphernalia, locked the cabin door behind her and toted her kit down to the beach. Lizbet was just coming out of the water, her wet dog dancing around her, teasing Lizbet with a stick that she would not let go.
At ankle deep, the dog shook with a mighty wiggle, radiating the lake water out four feet about her in a diamond spray as the droplets caught the sun.
“Oh,” says Liz, “I was just coming out. Are you coming in?”
“How cold is it?”
“Seventy-two degrees warm,” she replied. “They tested it this morning. It’s not bad if you go in slowly. You get your feet wet and let them freeze. When you don’t feel them anymore, you move in up to your knees and let them freeze. You keep doing that until you are in. Everything’s frozen so you feel warm” She hesitated a minute noticing that Kay was not at all convinced and added dubiously, “and there are warm pockets…”
Her words hung in the air. Kay had no intention of freezing herself for the pleasure of a two minute swim and the unlikely chance of finding a warm pocket. She unpacked her palette, her paints and vials, her water tub and her brushes and paper until they spread over the entire table.
Looking across the lake, she saw little to paint. Smoke still hung heavily above the water obscuring the low mountain, obscuring even where the shore and land met. The sky was grey with a pall of ocher-tinted smoke coming from the west. The Sorrento fire had grown from thirty five to seven hundred kilometers square overnight. It was unimaginably huge.
The cloud travelling east towards Seymour Arm was smoke, not moisture. Moisture in the form of rain had not been seen for a month and then, it had barely wet the surface.
There were children on the beach screeching in their high pitched voices, a band of six small boys, cousins, were building a fort from beach rock. One of their fathers was an engineer and the child was precociously instructing the boys to reinforce the bearing wall, to dig out drainage and to grout the stones with sand as the five boys piled the stones three wide and three deep.
Two toddlers were lumbering along precariously as only toddlers can, bottom heavy with diapers and top heavy with yellow life vests. Thin girls were parading in their bikinis, exhorting each other to run into the water, hitching the panties that would not stay firmly up over their skeletal hips. When they raced back out of the water just as fast as they went in, they quickly wrapped large beach towels over their heads and about their slender frames, looking like miniature Biblical figures.
Kay watched in wonder at their insouciant sense of balance and their indifference to the rough stones that scattered the beach beneath their tender feet.
Lizbet took her leave.
“I’m going to get into dry clothes,” she said as she walked up the sandy hill to the road and from there to the cabin.
Kay shrugged. It had taken her half an hour to get down and to prepare to paint. If she didn’t find anything to paint, at least she could drink in the fresh air and watch the activity flowing around her.
It was almost an hour later when Lizbet’s voice came, proclaiming from the road, “Don’t ever say I don’t do things for you! I’ve brought you a glass of wine!”
Sure enough, she was balancing two glasses of red as she picked her way over the tufts of dried yellow grass that gave purchase on the sandy hill to the table.
Coming behind her was Heather’s husband, grinning, balancing his own glass filled with a milky brown liqueur, his libation of choice, Baileys.
Kay moved her spread of painting tools out of the way and the three of them clinked glasses and sipped away as they chatted.
Kay, absorbed in a child and its movements and continuing on with her daubings of a moored boat, payed little attention to the conversation and the wine.
She loaded her brush with blue and carefully drew it along side of the boat she was painting. A few strokes of the same blue over the first wash served to describe some reflection and water movement below the boat. Then she picked up her wine glass and savored two long sips of wine.
It’s one of those things. You don’t really look at what you are doing. You are focusing on one thing and doing another. Beach-side multi-tasking. Out of peripheral vision, a movement catches your attention. Your brain is slow to register; it does not compute the image; the pattern slowly emerges; an alert comes far to late for the registering message to be heeded. There was something black in the red liquid contained in her glass that she had just freely drunk from.
She almost flung the glass from her. There was a great black insect in the bowl of it drunkenly swimming in the red wine. It was wearing white and black striped swimming trunks and she had narrowly missed ingesting the ugly beast!
Kay touched the glass gingerly by the stem, pushing it away from her. It was a very large hornet. She dumped the glass to make it go away, but the hornet was not interested in leaving. The hornet climbed swayingly to the rim of the glass and fell helplessly back into the residue of wine. He licked his angular legs and rubbed his mandible and antennae. Oh wine! How Divine!
Kay closed her eyes and said a powerful prayer of thanks. She had narrowly missed ingesting that ugly besotted, black striped beast.
The insect, like many a drunken fool, proceeded unaware of Kay’s repulsion. He continued to wobble and sway about the rim and down again into the cup, bewildered that his drinking partner had cut off his supply.
Kay packed away her kit and headed back to the cabin to make dinner.
When Lizbet and Heather’s husband came in for dinner, Lizbet was laughing.
“He misses you! He’s still down there drunkenly calling your name. Jason gave him a droplet of Baileys as we left, but it just wasn’t the same. I distinctly heard him cry, “Sauvignon, Sauvignon, my beauty, where are you!”