If you sat in the right place on the outdoor patio at the restaurant, looking at the lake as you munched your dinner, and the sun was setting and the lighting was just so, maybe you would catch a glimpse of him. It wouldn’t look like much, a faint curve moving opposite of the waves. Really, that would be it. Just a wee bump in the middle of the big lake in the middle of the city. Cars sped over the bridge that spanned the north and south lobes of the long expanse of water. It was deep, and cold, and stretched in a long vaguely oval shape between two mid-sized cities. One one side, houses clustered, old homes that looked as if they had grown there. On the eastern-most bank, a shed was packed with canoes, and a launching deck for the sculls for the local college rowing teams. The sun cast long tendrils upon the surface of the water, which threw back fractured diamonds of light. The sky turned slowly from brilliant blue to soft cobalt, as the western sky flamed with color. At last the sun dipped below the low swell of mountains, leaving the sky gray, blurring to black on the easternmost edge. The waves, silvered now in the last of the gloaming, lapped around the old dock where he lay in repose.
Sometimes, when the sculling crews were out practicing, he’d glide along underneath, watching the oars dipping into the water in what he perceived was an attempt to move as he did. They were too ungainly to do more than move forward or a long curving line. He could stop and change direction at a moments notice, diving deep or gliding just under the surface of the water. Sometimes for fun, he’d swim just beneath a mid-summer swimmer, staying just behind them, with only an occasional tickle along their gleaming bellies. And rarely, if he was in a particularly jocular mood, he would wrap just one arm around one leg–only for a moment, but enough to catch the attention of the unwary swimmer. Then he would dive, hard and fast, a gleaming bullet aiming for the dark part where leaves and bits of foam cups were mired in the bottom silt. He could watch the sudden flurry of movement; they almost all responded in the same way. First a pause…then, feeling the slime and seeing the mark of his limb on theirs, would drive off in a splashing cacophony of motion, scrambling for the dock lest the ‘thing’ return and capture them in earnest. He’d squirt himself with joy when their limpid legs came out of his water, hearing their quick run along the dock. And once more the lake would lie quiet and unfettered by the bipeds.
He enjoyed winter, when ice crusted the top of the lake, and grew thick and thicker. Sometimes the bidpeds would come out and drill holes through, and drop their lines with succulent tidbits. These he would take for his own, sometimes paying for the snack by grabbing a fish and spearing it upon the line. Sometimes he would take bait AND fish, then return to the bottom to sleep. When the ice broke up and floated away, down the long water to the river that drained it, he would chase and play with them. There was always fun to be had, there in the depths of the lake.
He grew, season after season. If he was seen now and again, it wasn’t something that worried him. Sometimes a diver would peruse the murky depths, but they stirred up enough silt to easily hide him. And several times a summer, he’d find tiny bipeds struggling to reach the shore. Sometimes they would float, sometimes they would sink, but he would catch them up and nudge them tenderly until they could stumble through the shallow water and return to the land where they lived.
It was a happy life, all in all. And though he spent it alone, he never minded. A long deep winter brought long days and nights of sleep. Spring brought a change to that, for during that somnolent winter he had changed, sliding silently into maturity. And just like that, his entire outlook on bipeds underwent a radical shift. No longer did long white limbs seem intrusive, but enticing.