In this picture, holding my sister and me by the hand,
my mother stands the most exposed—
the water to her knees, my sister’s thighs. I’m waist deep
in the cool water. My mother and sister are wearing matching
homemade green and white striped bathing suits.
I’m wearing a wool one, a bit too prickly; furthermore,
my bathing cap’s askew as if I were putting in a hurried,
somewhat reluctant appearance. As usual, my older sister,
Shirley, looks much more composed.

This evening we will go to town to see a girl’s entertainment show
at “Camp Win-a-Toboggan” (I stand corrected later
for my mispronunciation.) We all like best Professor Spittoni
who could spit in spirals, both in and out the window.

My father will never forget this line. Like a fish
suddenly breaking the surface of a lake, it pops up
often in unexpected places.

We return to the cabin late that night, no electricity.
Suddenly the dark becomes hysterical
in one spot, then another. It is a bat.
This is his cabin.

Like a cave man with a club, my father wielding
his tennis racket gets him out.
But standing in the lake that afternoon,
we didn’t know yet the bat was coming,
that Professor Spittoni would join our family,
or what the joke would be.

Published in Whistling Girls and Cackling Hens Sandra Larson, Pudding House Chapbook Series, 2003