The body was found a few yards from the boathouse, under the bridge, where the Charles River took one of its wide, evasive turns. The boathouse caretaker discovered it when his paddle cut through the dark water and thumped against a heavy mass. In the moonlight, the man saw fleshy blue-white, gleaming like alabaster through a tangle of black, glistening weeds. What else could it be? he wondered about the huge, buoyant thing in the water. It clung to his paddle, and as he pushed it away, it sprang back. Then it huddled close to the canoe and stuck.
He tensed up. His heart pulsed in his hot ears. The chirp of peepers changed to a motor-like hum, and the carnival in the distance faded to a sour, undulating ring. It was as if all noise blended to a single, abstract sound, like the far-off buzz of a swarm of bees.
This was all he could remember on the night he spoke to the boathouse police. There were no details about the river current or the cars on the bridge nearby. He could only articulate the terror he felt as his canoe moved into the boathouse light, as he waited for the body to turn over. How he dreaded seeing the blue lips and glassy eyes, and that he would know the face.
Days later, the boy’s photograph appeared on the front page of the local tab. The man saw the curve of dark hair, the gentle brown eyes. A smile more innocent than he had imagined. He recalled the boy’s dead face, with the blurred colors of a Ferris wheel in the distance, swirling behind the tall black trees. He thought of all the souls lost to the river, and to its wooded bends and secret caves. And the boy whose memory would forever haunt Norumbega.
As late summer turned to a sudden, brittle autumn, a ghostly cloud moved in over the town, and all were haunted by Mac Adams. Most could only envision his boyhood portrait in the newspaper; it was the only face they knew. Others, who dared to wonder, imagined this face beneath a mesh of olive weeds in murky water. For the man who found him, this lifeless image was real, and he couldn’t get it out of his head. He longed to see the boy’s living face, if only in his dreams.
The boathouse caretaker’s name would never make the headlines. He would not be rewarded for his nightmare on the water. Eyes that met him on the street would never understand that Norumbega, the river, and his entire life had changed forever.