River Lake by Steven Grassel

River Lake

River tires of running and decides to become lake.

“I’ll be lake now,” says river.

So river finds a hole in the earth and flows down inside. The motionless comfort of the hole soothes river. Dirt turns to mud at river’s bottom. River can feel drowned plants struggling for sun. Now, river is lake.

“Home is where the motionless body of water is,” says river.

River flexes its surface and thinks of things that can float: autumn leaves, toy boats, facedown people, logs, empty cans, certain birds.

“It will be good when they float on me,” says river. Nothing comes to float on river, now that river is lake.

“I would tap my watch to signal that I am waiting for something, but I am a river. I mean lake. Yes, now I am lake.”

And in the time of waiting, river continues to flex its surface. Wind ripples across and river wonders how to feel. River is no longer in control of movement since it is down in the hole, no longer able to choose which way to move. River thinks about cursing the wind, but the rippling surface calms river, so river curses no one.

The plants are now begging for light, but what can river do? River has chosen its hole, so as to become lake. What are a few dying plants in the grand scheme of things? If plants could scream, they would, but in this world plants cannot, so they stretch for sun quietly, desperately, surrounded by water.

“Just trying to get by,” says river.

A few of the plants give up. River wonders if they know what is happening, as they are only plants, but of course they do. Wondering is something river does to feel better. River could not stay here, turning dirt to mud, killing plants, if it did not believe that it was necessary to become lake.

“It will be nice when I become lake,” says river. ‘I am lake,” says river.

River wonders if it is a good lake then people will build houses right on the shore. White houses with white roofs and white fences and white linen and all the homeowners will wear white outfits and maybe even white gloves so as to keep their hands pristine. If the lake houses are carpeted (which is not a requirement, people can do what they wish with their homes), river hopes that their carpets will be white. River will keep the mud down at the bottom so they will have nothing to worry about. River will be a good lake for them. Docks will be built upon river and the people will buy boats to take their children out onto the water.

River will be a good lake so the homeowners will come. A few plants drop their leaves as they go and rather than fall, they rise. Right up through river to the surface, floating stuck, trapped between gravity and buoyancy. This is where the leaves will fade and die.

“Now they can have all the sun they want,” says river. In the sun, the leaves will become yellow, then brown. Then pieces of the leaves will detach from other pieces, the process repeating, dividing until there is nothing to see.

“I’ll stay here until they come,” says river.

Night falls, and the leaves strewn across the surface can no longer be seen. It is like being in the future, one where the leaves have gone through the whole process and are dead and gone, and river is truly lake, because it is night, and no one can see that it is just river.

In the darkness, river imagines the occupants that will reside on its shore, clad in white for weekend fun.

When they take their boats out on river, they may forget to say thank you, but river will know they are appreciative. That will be enough when river is lake.

A light is coming over the horizon and river knows they are driving closer. That is the only possible explanation for light. River imagines they are driving closer with all the building materials for the homes, all the white outfits. The light coming closer signals their arrival and river is so ready to become lake. River knows it will be lake before morning.

“Here they come,” says river.


River Lake


Steven Grassel is a writer from Pittsburgh. His work has appeared in Wigleaf, Word Riot, and The Turnip Truck(s). He lives in Brooklyn.


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