, September 2020

“I’m going for a little walk on the property,” Tom told his wife. She and the kids were still at the table finishing breakfast.

They were staying at the Deep Lake Cottages at Lake George in upstate New York. Tom was still rattled at what he’d seen the day before on the way to their river tubing adventure, a huge Confederate flag with an AK-47 on it and the phrase “TRY AND TAKE IT” draped from a front porch. Last year they came up during the Fourth of July and went to a fireworks show in the tiny town of Hague up near the top of the lake, and there too he had seen a Confederate flag, on a boat parked at the dock. It made no sense. This far north, a hundred miles from the Canadian border.

This year they had come up at the end of the summer, and today was their last full day. It was a cool overcast morning, people sitting on their cottage decks drinking coffee, some smoking cigarettes. Down towards the lake there were several pickup trucks with New Jersey plates, a couple with “NRA” stickers on their back windows, belonging to a group of families with lots of kids who had rented three cabins next to each other. They were cooking bacon, eggs, and pancakes on the griddle of a propane barbecue, and it smelled good. Fishing poles, life jackets, bathing suits, and towels were everywhere. As he walked by, a couple of them were looking at him trying not to look at them, until a man in a New York Giants hoodie waved with his spatula and said, “Good morning.”

Tom returned the pleasantry with a wave and a smile, but he felt uncomfortable. He tried to imagine how uncomfortable he would feel right now if he were anything other than a fair-skinned, slightly overweight white guy. He wondered if it would still make him angry after so long, or if he would eventually become numb to it.

The lake was cold and deep. They had been coming up here with the kids for ten years, and he’d been here a few times when he was a kid. Looking out at the choppy water, he decided to talk to his wife about going somewhere else next year. He couldn’t imagine where, though, if it was all like this. ▪