6/11 Idaho Magazine Features - "The Demons of Boulder Lake" (non-fiction)

Daniel Claar - Idaho's Premier Backcountry Writer

Winner - Idaho Magazine Publisher's Choice Award 2010
"The Proper Filter"

Winner - Idaho Magazine Judge's Choice Award 2011
"Where the River Leads"

"Hot Spring Break "

"Stampede! "

"Seeing Things"
Winner - Idaho Magazine Second Place 2011

Thursday, October 1, 2009


     Jerry was finally on the edge of a fitful sleep when his wife stomped through their living room. She shot a withering glance towards his blanketed form on the couch and then slipped into the deep purple light of first dawn, the front door slamming like a rifle report. The brief encounter had been his only contact with Sarah all day; a three second snippet stuck on constant rotation like holiday jingles.
     He was a bit surprised she had gone to work. After last night, he wasn’t sure if anyone would be in the proper mind frame to deal with stressed shoppers hunting for last-minute gifts. Jerry could picture his wife biting the head off some unsuspecting customer, but knowing her spiteful toad of a manager, he couldn’t imagine Sarah taking any chances.
     Jerry had called in sick despite having the entire next week off. They needed the money, but he made it a point to avoid spinning blades when exhausted. Over the years, he’d seen co-workers lose fingertips, entire digits, and once, even a hand. Besides, Jerry knew his boss would be willing to sign off on a smaller paycheck. A recent nosedive in the weak construction market had already brought mandatory furloughs to Dante’s Lumber Yard. Jerry was only scheduled for a half day and, although he didn’t like to take advantage, there was a solid chance Dante would pay him the hours anyway. They had grown up together in the Idaho logging town of Timberline and their families had been acquaintances for three generations.
     Standing at the kitchen window, Jerry digs a pack of Camel cigarettes out of his flannel shirt pocket and lights one. Yesterday had marked the end of ten days without smoking. Sarah had made it clear that it was an impossible habit to justify when they could barely afford to heat their house, but that hadn’t stopped him from taking a walk down to the corner Smoke N’ Suds. Not today.
     He looks at the clock on the stove. 5:49. The glowing green numbers are the only light in the room, barely enough to cast his ghostly reflection across the glass. Outside, it is dark and dumping snow. Although the driveway is less than thirty feet away, Jerry can barely see a vague outline of his battered Chevy S-10 through the thick flakes. The rest of the world has been swallowed by the storm. It has to be the roads, Jerry reasons. Otherwise, she would be home by now.
     The fight last night had been explosive, bordering on a physical confrontation. Jerry had never seen Sarah so close to hitting someone. He winces as he recalls her petite figure swelling with rage, her blue eyes turning black. He remembers the potted poinsettia that was supposed to serve as their Christmas tree smashing at his feet, showering his legs with shattered clay and damp soil. Jerry still hears the unbearable sound of his wife crying behind a locked bathroom door.
     A broad-shouldered and shaggy Saint Bernard creeps into the kitchen, toenails clicking on the tiled floor. The animal turns his back to Jerry, sits at the side door of the house, and begins to whimper softly.
     “You too, Brutus?”
     Upon hearing his name, the giant dog offers Jerry a suspicious glance before returning his attention to the door.
     “You think I wanted that, huh? I didn’t have a choice, man. He was too far gone. I guess I should have let your mom take him in when we noticed the abscess... We can’t even afford your damn dog food!”
     Brutus doesn’t flinch. Jerry might as well be talking to himself.
     He thinks about the heavy Carhartt boot box resting on a work bench in their garage. The ground outside has been frozen for weeks; digging holes has to wait for spring. Time enough for him to carve a maple plaque with commemorative inscription at Dante’s shop. Sarah will like that.
     A haunted vision of trust-filled eyes floods his memory. He remembers the lurching metal in his hand, the acrid smell of burnt powder, and the black stain splashed across the evening snow. He remembers the conviction he was doing the right thing vanishing as quickly as the echoing blast. He remembers handing Sarah the collar and realization taking control of her eyes.
     Jerry takes another look at the clock and then back at their dog. The Saint Bernard raises a giant paw and places it on the doorknob. Jerry takes a last drag off his cigarette, slowly exhales the plume of smoke, and snuffs it out.
     “Goodbyes are important, Brutus. Don’t worry. She knows that.”

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