March 7, 2015


Layne Carter is a Washington native living in Bellingham, Washington. She is a barista and a journalism major, and enjoys writing memoir and realistic fiction.

Pond Scum

    I’d like to remember what time of year it was, but the fact of the matter is, I was four to five years old and there’s not much about that day I remember before I jumped into the pond.

    What I do remember is that it was one of the many occasions on which I went to feed the ducks with my grandma. I remember it was colder than most times we had gone to the pond at the park just blocks from my house. Must’ve been fall. This is when my grandma could still drive, before she had to carry around an oxygen tank when she walked.
She had an old silver Cadillac, and in the glove compartment there would be a tube of those miniature sized M & M’s for me. I remember that being something I literally counted on happening every week when I saw her for church on Sundays. The consistency was kind of comforting, though I would finish the tube in about one minute, short and sweet in the most literal sense of the term.
She had a wiener dog too—Henry. I remember kind of hating him as much as a five year old could hate anything really.
Henry trotted ahead of my grandma and I, toward the pond and the ducks that I’m sure he found incredibly fascinating. I stood at the edge with a few pieces of Wonderbread, breaking pieces off and tossing them into the pond. It was more of a drop into the pond, however. I always wanted the ducks to get closer to me so I would drop it as close to the edge as I could. I do remember a slight feeling of guilt, only because the bread was soggy with pond water by the time they got to it, but they were a matter of feet away from me, which at the time was as close to wild life as I was going to get.
This is where the memory becomes vivid and not just sensory—I had sat down, watching the ducks in their slow dancing float around the pond. I hear a splash, and to my left I see that Henry, that stupid dog, had jumped into the pond. And I mean, come on. He’s a wiener dog. Even at the age of five, I knew he didn’t stand a chance.
The next thing I knew, I was in the pond too.
What I remember after that? My grandma had followed me into the water. Looking back on it, all I can think is the word “lemmings”. But it was so much more than a mindless wander off a cliff and into a pond.
This made me think about how human compassion looks when it isn’t contextualized. I jumped into the pond after a wiener dog I hated at five years old. Maybe I didn’t know any better, but it makes me think about what lengths I would go to today had someone been in a desperate situation. Does age make us less likely to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of someone else? I don’t mean age as in number of years, rather in human experience. What taint’s that innocent and willing spirit that drove five year old me to justify jumping in that pond? Then there’s my grandmother, who followed me in, maybe out of responsibility, maybe out of worry for my safety. Regardless, she went to a great length to ensure the well-being of two beings she loved. She wasn’t exactly young; maybe it isn’t age that strips away that willingness to go to great lengths.
All I remember after that was being wrapped in a fleece, plaid blanket that looked like it had spent a few months in the back of a middle aged woman’s SUV. A stranger saw the lemming-like series of events and was waiting for us ashore when we struggled our way out of the pond.
All I know now, is that though this was cold, not to mention a memory which reeks of pond scum, I look back on it surprisingly fondly.

~Layne Carter

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