In Ron Rash’s “Chemistry,” the reservoir, on its surface, was just a lake. Beneath, though, it was a place of surreal horrors, as Joel discovered. I found myself wondering: Why would his father keep diving, knowing all of the grim and terrible things to be found at the reservoir bottom?
Was it curiosity? When I was a young boy, I’d often hide under my blankets at night and tuck in my limbs, so monsters couldn’t grab me and drag me from my bed. I’d get hot and sweaty, and the air under my blanket would get stuffy, but I resisted poking my head out. Eventually, though, I had to breathe, so I’d raise the sheets just a little, to look for monsters. When none leaped out to eat me, I’d throw back the sheets, breathing in the cool air and shivering as it chilled my sweaty skin. Then I’d shine my flashlight around and look under my bed.
Were my life a horror movie, the audience would have been shouting at me not to look under the bed, that it was a bad idea and the monster would get me. Yet I couldn’t resist looking, making sure the monster in my imagination was gone or hiding away. I wanted to know what it looked like, and face it, in some ways. The night isn’t half as scary when you have a flashlight, even when it ruins your night vision and gives you away.
I believe that Joel’s father looked because he was curious about where he might be going and how he might look, drowned and drifting at the bottom of the reservoir.