A Strange Day in July


JH Fiction Writing Contest Winner: Carman Parson

Carmen Parson

A Strange Day in July

By Carmen Parson

As Reginald Patterson’s mother fixed his tie for dinner that July evening in 1957, he squirmed and shifted uncomfortably and said, “Mom, can’t I just stay in my room for the evening?” But instead of saying yes, his mother just rolled her eyes and said, “No, that would be rude and it wouldn’t just be your aunts and uncles. Someone you know is coming.” At those words Reggie’s heart leapt with hope. Could Johnny be coming? Or Daniel?

“Who?” he asked eagerly.

His mother straightened up and responded, “Cousin Suzana Wilson.”

Reggie’s face went from happy to horrified. “SUZANA?!” he yelped.

His mother, who was taken aback by his unkind remark, lightly smacked him across the head. “Now young sir, Suzana may be a bit younger than you—”

Reggie snarled, “and annoying.”

He received a slightly harder smack, “Could you just be a bit more mature tonight? This is hard on your father.”

Reggie didn’t like the idea of this get together, but his dad and the family had to discuss the will and testament. He slouched grudgingly. “Okay, fine, but I still think the tie is too much.”

The first guests arrived at six, and to Reggie’s sad surprise it was the Wilsons, Aunt Martha and Uncle James and their “little angel” Suzana. Reggie’s mom hugged her, and her parents then told him to go play with Suzana. He gagged and his mother gave him a stern stare that said, “Wait ‘til after dinner…” Reggie grabbed Suzana’s arm and took her outside.


Reggie lived out on a lake in a nice neighborhood in a small town in Maine, where everyone knows everyone’s business. The lake he was raised on was surrounded with stones and pebbles of all shapes and sizes. That’s where his uncle taught him how to skip stones across the water. He would take a flat stone, wind up his arm, and toss the rock and watch it gracefully glide across the peaceful waters.  He told Reggie it was relaxing. The first time Reggie tried, he threw the rock and it ended up with a big “splash!” The second and the third ended up the same way “SPLASH!…SPLOOSH!…KER-PLOP!”

“Careful,” his uncle chuckled, “You’ll wake up Steve.”

“Who’s Steve?” questioned Reginald.

“The creature living on the lake of course!”

Reggie’s uncle would tell him stories about how he and Steve would play together skipping rocks across the lake to each other. Reggie guessed that was before his uncle had gotten sick.


As he searched for skipping stones Suzana began to question him. “What are you doing? Don’t you know that you’ll get your clothes dirty?” Suzana was a couple of years younger than him but he was sure she was twice as annoying.

“I’m bored. Your mom said to go play, not poke around and in the dirt”

“I’m skipping stones,” he said reluctantly.

“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard, you are a terrible cousin” she shot back.

But Reggie didn’t care, he had found three perfect skipping stones.

“I’m leaving,” she said as his first stone skipped across the water. “I am going!” she yelled as the second stone skipped across the water the same way. “Don’t you even care that I’m going?”

Reginald put down the third rock and said, “You don’t have to scream Suzie, I can hear you perfectly well.”

Suzana snarled at him, “Maybe you shouldn’t be so rude.”

Reggie rolled his eyes. The sun was setting by then, the lake was sparkling hypnotic-like. Reggie loved it when it was sunset, it made him feel calm, close to his uncle.  He sighed and picked the third rock again and told Suzana, “Watch this,” and like his uncle he wound up his arm and swung the stone into the water.

“One, two, three, four, five—SIX TIMES?” She yelped.

Reggie was shocked too; he had never even gotten four. He jumped with glee as Suzana raised one eyebrow. Boy can he be weird, she thought.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye Reggie saw something in the lake, something coming towards them. He couldn’t see completely—the lake was too bright—until it hit his shoe. He looked down only to find the stone he had just thrown. Deja vu? he thought, or maybe  another rock?  He picked it up and tossed it back into the lake but farther this time and tried not to skip it. A few seconds later the rock came flying back! Reggie rubbed his eyes in disbelief. Could he be losing it like his uncle?

“Suzana? Come and see this.”

Suzana looked at him suspiciously for a second or two then groaned, “This better not be a dead bug trick, Reginald Patterson!” She climbed down the small hill she was standing on and came to him cautiously. He handed her the rock and she examined it.

“It’s a rock, so?” she said handing it back to him.

“Look!” He grabbed the rock and threw it farther and harder this time.

“What was that for?” she asked, confused.

“Just wait,” he said anxiously. From the blinding waters the rock appeared, soaring at them!

“See?!” Reggie said, pointing.

Suzana’s eyes looked like they were going to pop out of her head. When the rock came ashore, Reggie scooped the rock and chucked it again and again and again. He threw with all his might, but the third stone always came skipping back.

“How is this possible?” Suzana asked in awe. Reggie wondered the same thing: he had skipped rocks on that lake many times before and it never happened. Could it be a magical rock? Or is Suzana losing it too? Or—

“Kids it’s time for dinner!” It was his mother.

“Let’s worry about this later,” Reggie said pocketing the mysterious pebble.

Dinner came and went and not a peep out of either Reginald Patterson or Suzana Wilson. Excitement, curiosity, and bewilderment filled them both as they waited eagerly for their mothers to excuse them. They continually fiddled with their forks and spoons. Reggie took out the stone and tossed it around in his hand looking for something that could cause the strange phenomenon, but it was just like any other rock.

“Have you shown Suzana the lake?” his mother asked.

“Yes, ma’am, and we plan on going out again,” Suzie said sweetly.

Boy, can she be fake, Reggie thought.

His mother smiled, saying, “Well, in that case you and Reginald can go—” At those words, Reggie and Suzana shot up like springs and darted to the back doors.

When they reached the lake, the sun was missing, but light was still there. Reggie wracked his brain. How could a stone bounce back off the surface? It’s almost like a game of—

then he thought of it. A game of catch! He looked out on the murky waters, looking for something. He inhaled and let out a yell: “Steve!”

Suzana looked at him, and he tried again. “STEVE!!”

“Who are you looking for?” She questioned.


“Who is Steve?”

“The creature on the lake”

“Who told you that?”

“Uncle Jerry!”

Suzana sighed, “I don’t know if you know this—my mom told me not to talk about it to you—but Uncle Gerald was losing it. Something was wrong with his brain—”

“YOU DON’T THINK I KNEW THAT!?” Reggie roared. He didn’t mean to, or at least not at Suzana. He had known for a while, no matter how hard his mother tried to protect him from the fact. When his uncle moved in with him and his family, the man would stay up late with his nephew and tell stories of war, and he would tell him about Steve. Reggie believed him. That was when he had a mild case. Over the months Uncle Gerald stayed with them, his stories became more unrealistic, but Reggie didn’t seem to notice. As their friendship grew, so did the disease.

Reggie guessed that, like him, Suzana wanted a close relationship with her uncle, but by the time she learned to talk his health had decreased. Reggie always noticed how she acted weird around Uncle Jerry. Reggie missed him, but he didn’t talk about it. Instead he kept it shut inside, letting it fester.

Now he had taken it out on the person he least expected. Suzana‘s eyes welled up with tears and she stifled a sob.

“Suzana, I’m sorry.”

Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement out on the lake. Reggie turned to see something emerge from the murky depths. Reggie gasped and pointed to the swampy mess.

“What in the name of Sam Hill?” Suzana said, wiping away tears.

Reggie wondered if it could really be as his uncle had said. He took out the stone, wound it up, and tossed it into the waters straight towards the eerie figure. Five skips, then the creature caught the rock on the sixth. It looked at the stone closely and skipped it back.

“Steve!” Reggie said in a hushed breath.

“STEVE?!” Suzana gawked.

Reggie grabbed the stone and skipped it across once more. Steve caught it and threw it back. Reggie smiled. It felt like a piece of his uncle was with him. Even though it was a supernatural being in the lake, it still felt like uncle Jerry was there by his side.


A few weeks passed after the discovery of Steve, but no matter what he could have told his parents they wouldn’t have believed him. And he was fine with that. Every day after school Reggie would run to the lake to play for hours on end with Steve.

Days turned into weeks, which turned into years.

Reggie had become an uncle himself, and he had bought his family’s house to stay close to his friend Suzana, who stopped by regularly with her kids, Martha and Jerry. He would take niece and nephew out to the lake and would skip stones with them.

Reggie would chuckle, telling them, “Careful…You’ll wake up Steve.”

“Steve?” they questioned.

“The creature that lives on the lake, of course!”