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Hengold

My neighbor Hengold

used to plod out

onto the frozen lake

behind our neighborhood

with a chair, a heater, and

a little blue cooler


He’d clear away the snow,

set up his spot,

and, for hours on end, stare

down into unknown fathoms


My wife said ignore him, he’s

just an old kook and

watching me watch him watch the ice

makes her feel weird

Her advice was sensible so

I ignored it

and abandoned our cabin’s cozy sunroom

for a trip out onto the ice


He greeted me warily

I asked him what was hiding down

under the glimmering sheen, and learned

he was looking for a girl

gone away long decades ago

- a mermaid, he added, frowning

at my poorly-concealed chuckle


I asked how he intended to catch her and

he nudged the cooler with his rubber boot

that’s when I noticed the stench


But before I could ascertain its contents

he’d returned to his staring

more intently, now, and

I made my way home wishing

I hadn’t laughed


Some weeks later I saw ol’ Hengold

one last time

setting up camp

to wait for his beloved

and to my eternal regret

I left my spying spot to sign for a package

when I returned, Hengold had gone

leaving no trace

except a turned-over chair

by a rift in the ice,

and a mangled blue cooler


all bloody inside



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