W101 – The Peninsula
Day Eight: Death to Adverbs
Today’s Prompt: Go to a local café, park, or public place and write a piece inspired by something you see. Get detailed: leave no nuance behind.
Today’s twist: write an adverb-free post. If you’d rather not write a new post, revisit and edit a previous one: excise your adverbs and replace them with strong, precise verbs.
The skinny peninsula jutted out into the lake like a growth from the land. Almost 100 yards in a white farmhouse stood watch over the peninsula. Trees boxed it in covering it quite well in the summer while revealing it come fall when the leaves dropped. As the land sloped down towards the lake so too did it narrow. Weeping willows formed a triangle, one on the end, then two more on the east and west sides 20 yards or so down the driveway. There were a couple of pine trees on the property but the majority were Oaks and Maples.
The house was simple enough though not much to look at in comparison to all the new lake houses going up in the area. Everything about the place was original, at least the exterior, except for maybe the second story deck which had been replaced six years back. Every neighbor in the area had their own opinion as to how it should be painted, how if it was theirs they’d add on to the one story section of the back of the house and tear down that garage, build something attached. They were happy as it was that the trees covered it since it was hard not to look at it sitting out there in the middle of the lake and all. People liked to imagine it gone, imagine the trees cut down and an unobstructed view all the way across the lake. Would be a nice park lots of folks thought, no doubt a great place to fish, but then most would argue such a park would without question be public and no one wanted that. That would be an eye and ear-sore.
But on that Saturday night no one complained about their view of the old white farmhouse on the peninsula, how the trees hadn’t filled in yet and they could see it in all its plainness. No one. The driveway was backed up with police, fire, and emergency personnel. Their sirens echoed off the lake like pinballs while the lights danced imitating a disco ball. Whoever may have still been sleeping around the small lake was up at attention facing the peninsula. Some folks it can be assumed watched it all through binoculars. As luck would have it though no one was watching when it happened.
Earlier that day Sherman rode his lawn mower from end to end in a triangle, cutting close along the beach first then narrowing in to the center until he was back at the house. He loved to mow his long awkward yard. He loved the view he had of the entire lake. From his vantage point he felt like a lighthouse, like a guardian; his was the centerpiece and Sherman was not shy to claim his ownership of the property when asked where he lived. He knew the people in the area didn’t care much for his simple white house but he respected the nod to its historic condition. Were he to have his way – and he tried – the place would be turned into a museum, and a park of sorts after he passes. He kept the beach neat and tidy, always clean with just a modest dock on the west side. Positioned with intent along the peninsula were bird feeders and bird houses, nests for the swifts who swept long and low just above the water’s surface. He admired their grace, their elegance and precision as they wove through the breezes after their insect prey.
Sherman kept watch every day for migrating water fowl, most often he saw Geese and Swan but every spring he was privy to small groups of Mergansers and Buffleheads. He wasn’t much into technology except when it came to his camera equipment; he bought a new fancy camera every two years. He adorned his house with framed prints of his own photography: wildlife, lake life, and the changing seasons. As he parked the mower back in the small white single car garage he lost track of his thoughts in the vegetable garden. He’d just tilled it the day before to get it ready for the seedlings he’d started indoors. His wife used to help him tend the garden though she preferred to keep up after the flowers all around the property. She kept roses, rhododendrons, azaleas, and all sorts of native perennials in beds around the perimeter of the house. It was her idea to paint the gable above the deck that cappuccino color. She was in an artistic phase and thought it would make for a nice accent. Sherman never liked the idea but he loved the woman so all he could say was yes. Now he liked it even less but couldn’t bear to paint over it. She’d have his skin, were she still around.
The more he thought about Candace the more the darkness welled up from the depths. She’d brought more life to the place, even made that space below the deck into a patio. Of course it had been his job to dig it up. But she stepped right up to the plate when he was done and went to work – with his help – leveling and compacting the gravel, laying the bricks and designing the landscaping to wrap around it like a shawl. When they were all said and done there was no question they needed furniture and so they got a nice set. Every time she made something nice, upgraded and updated things, he smiled a little more. He felt a bit upgraded and updated himself. But now the beds lay neglected and overgrown with weeds. Some perennials still struggle up through the chaos each year but they’re never as beautiful as when Candace ran the show. He looked up from the vegetable bed and out across the lake, his anger was winning the war. Lest he scream out his pain Sherman went in through the back door, took his boots off in the mud-room then passed through the kitchen to the living room. On days like this his view down the tip of the peninsula haunted him. He kept thinking his life was cascading to the water’s edge where he would at last lose his grip of land and life.
It’d been three years since Candace disappeared. Since he watched the sheriff’s divers wade into the shallow of the beach until they hit the drop-off some 15 feet out. Since he’d told them she wasn’t out there, she could swim well and there’s no current to speak of in this lake. Since they’d returned empty-handed after swimming around the length of the peninsula in a treasure hunt that he told them was not there. He couldn’t understand why the police thought she may have drown or why more neighbors weren’t questioned. House after house around the lake were stacked up on each other, the space between them almost big enough for a two lane lawn tractor expressway. Every time an original house got snatched up it wasn’t but a month before the bulldozers came crashing in and a few more months before new construction began. All the old houses around the lake were overwhelmed by three-story walk-outs with cathedral ceilings, floor to ceiling windows and extravagant decks. Sure they were beautiful, but they were loud and boisterous. Just another point of pride for Sherman though because that peninsula was his, and besides you couldn’t build out past his house anyway, the land was too narrow, too low to the water. And yet with all their fancy houses and boats and cars, their clustered properties, no one had seen a thing. Sure everyone had an opinion of what he should do with his house, oh how they wished it were something to look at. But oh no, no, no, no, no one saw what happened to Candace on a stretch of land that had one way in and one way out by car and a lake with no public access. Their driveway was dirt and it rained that night, nature provided all the help they needed; the proof was there, no one had driven down it. However she got out of there had been by boat.
His rage turned to immense breath-taking sadness and panic as he imagined her struggling against a strong predator. She must have cried out, without a doubt she fought whomever but there were no signs. Rumors prevailed like birds on the shoulders of the police department. Anonymous tipsters proposed – with all due respect they said – that Candace had been unstable, maybe she’d gone in or left by her own volition. Sherman shook his head at the thought until his ears rang; Candace may have had her issues but not a soul dare deny she loved Sherman with all she had, which was saying a lot. He stave off the desire to inflict further pain on himself imagining what may have happened to her and set his pen to paper. He wrote through the afternoon and into the evening, he skipped lunch and dinner. He wrote about a young man’s heartache until the sun rest across the lake from him, until he stopped everything to capture this moment in time. Until the loose floor board in the kitchen creaked as it does when a body’s weight is sets upon it.
How’d I do? Are there some adverbs I missed? Do you wish I was more descriptive? Feel free to share some constructive criticism. 😀
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