In summer, the oaks and maples surrounding the black hole pond shone with leafy greens. In fall, browns and orange and reds changed the show. Through the branches down a steep slope were cattails, reed grass and shiny lily pads floating all in stark relief on the blackest dark pond. It was said there was no bottom, or at least the depth was immeasurable with conventional tools.
Even then, word was that because of the slope and the murkiness you could not scope the contours with scuba gear or anything short of heavy equipment. Even then, it was said someone had attempted to tame and re-landscape the pond with a back-hoe which was sucked into the depths by the failed effort.
The same happened to the tow-truck with heavy cables which tried to pull up the back-hoe. Subsequently a crane nearly had the same fate, but was rescued at the last moment when the 10 ton strength hoist cable snapped. A loud slurping boom echoed through the neighborhood as the tow-truck and back-hoe was swallowed by the gelatinous black muck.
Grand Uncle Willie and his son Uncle Cousin Willie lived in the house above Black Hole Pond, or so I’m told. I never saw them there that I recall. Second Cousin Removed Dorethea once told me the guy sitting on the lounge chair out in the screened-in patio was my Grand Uncle Willie, but I couldn’t swear by it personally, other than I trust she wouldn’t lie to me about such a thing. Uncle Cousin Willie was so named because he married my grand uncle’s second wife’s daughter from a prior marriage. I remember him from later, but not from then, nor his father.
I only recall talking to Third Cousin Lee while looking at his self-made Bozo cartoons and drinking Dorethea’s lemonade. Dorethea lived at Grand Uncle Willie’s after her husband passed. Lee’s Bozo cartoons were good, if I’ve never said before how impressed I was at the time. We should have built one another up more than we did back then. The people who liked to talk and tear others down seemed to predominate, but that is another story.
At that time, it was the cryptic warnings told second hand mostly, but attributed to the seemingly invisible Grand Uncle Willie which perpetuated the awe owed to Black Hole Pond. Maybe he just didn’t want to be sued; from my perspective, he didn’t seem to care whether any kids drowned or that we existed at all.
I was probably wrong about Grand Uncle Willie, based on what I came to learn later from Uncle Cousin Willie. And no one did drown there, at least not during our lifetime, perhaps before. I was pretty sure someone must have perished in that muck because the silence, stillness and darkness of the water seemed to bespeak of a ghost or perhaps several ghosts. We all knew how to swim, given the proximity of the lake just back above the hill. But no one other than Michael Immanuel ever swam in Black Hole Pond.
The cries of his mother continued even longer than usual. “Michael Immanuel David, dinner time”. It got to the point where all the neighborhood children had finished dinner, but then were recruited to go out and look for him. The parents apparently thought we would know better where he may be hiding than them, as they rarely went into the woods.
We searched well into the evening, until most of the kids had to go to bed. My mother didn’t worry so much about bed time, not after I turned 8 anyhow and she found out I stayed up late regardless of her attempts to get me to sleep. I would read with a flashlight in bed, or sneak downstairs and watch TV from the stairwell while she sewed.
I was the one who found him behind some beech trees near the creek across the road from Black Hole Pond at about 10 p.m. His mother had determined no police would be called because she was sure he was just seeking attention, so no one did call them, you just didn’t question another parent’s parenting. I asked where he had been. He said swimming in Black Hole Pond. I said you couldn’t have been swimming there and gotten out alive. He described how it was easy, but the muck pulled him in, but you don’t fight it and it lets you go. He said it wasn’t any problem, but he never went in again.
I believe he was sucked under and spit out luckily through the drain tunnel under the road. I told him so. He just didn’t want to admit how stupid it was of him to attempt to defy nature. I think one of the ghosts led him back up and sideways through the tunnel, not to save him, but rejecting him as not fitting for becoming part of the legend. He didn’t deny my version of the event and he never brought it up again either. No one believed me as to what had really happened, which is why I know it is true.