In our small canoe, I wondered why dragonflies kiss the water when they fly low between cat tails. My brother and I had just watched the strange insect birth itself from the back of a beetle. At first, he mistakenly called the interaction the shedding of a cicada. He used them as ammo when we played war together in the woods. Sometimes at night, I could still feel their small legs on the back of my neck and their shrill cry burying itself in my ear.
We watched in fascination as this dragonfly slowly ripped through the husk, barely attached to the bark of a tree. Its iridescent skin peeling away from the dry browning one. The ordeal lasted only a few minutes. We were unable to look away. The dragonfly ate the beetle after it had emerged and I taught my brother about cannibalism and serial killers. I told him about a local serial killer who killed hitchhikers and hid their fingernails in his seat cushions. He was caught chewing on one of his victim’s toenails. My brother had forgotten to wear socks that day and drew his feet in closer.
The dragonfly, once satisfied with the meal, flew lazily towards the witnesses. My brother ran away. I held out my hand for it to rest. It landed briefly. Its delicate wings fluttered against my palm. The body flexed in a curling motion. I thought it was trying to mate with my hand. The more I stared at this creature, the more I became afraid. It was a ridiculous thought when I could have easily crushed the insect with a quick flick but its black eyes scared me and I threw it. The dragonfly hesitated in the air a moment before flying away. I ran to find my brother.
He was already pushing our canoe out when I reached the pier. I helped until the cold lake water rose to my knees. He scrambled in first and I did after. The oars were too big for us so we had to kneel on the seats to avoid hitting the shallow area. When paddled out far enough, we stopped using the oars and sat against the bottom of the canoe. The ridges there were bolted together with a combination of heavy metal and welding. We liked the coolness of it in the water. I reached under my seat for the sack of food our mother packed for us that my brother forgot but I remembered.
My brother extended his hand to me, palm up, waiting. She hadn’t packed much. I gave him the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and took the plastic bag full of grapes. While he ate his sandwich, my brother told me that his classmate said grapes would kill dogs if they ate them. I asked him if he meant the dogs or the grapes. He shook the canoe in response. I climbed up on my seat and peered over the side of the canoe. The water was clear for this early in the summer. I could almost see to the bottom. Fish swam with a calm swish of their tail. I studied them and waited until one rose to the surface to drop a grape on its head. The plopping noise scared it off before the grape could sink to hit it’s target. I sighed with disappointment and relief. The lake was more of a green than blue, inaccurate compared to the crayon drawings my brother made. In school, they taught you that oceans and lakes were blue like the color of blueberries, deep and dark and lurking. Our lake was the color of seaweed, green and murky and slimy. Sometimes it smelled too, like the bodies of fish that could never be found but were always nearby. I thought about the murderer I taught my brother and wondered if a vein popped the same way a blueberry does when the skin bursts between your teeth.
Tori Tiso (she/her) is a writer, feminist, and cryptid enthusiast hailing from Wisconsin. She is a Reader at The Wisconsin English Journal and graduated in 2020 with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her writing includes themes of womanhood, food, and mysticism. Finding inspiration from the Dairyland lately, she has been embroidering cow sweaters whilst drinking beer and eating cheese.
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