The Way Our Voices Carry by Madeline Anthes


We aren’t allowed to yell at the lake. Sound carries better over water. We hear our neighbors talking in hushed tones about the loud parties, the strange noises. Their voices float across the cresting waves, whispering their secrets to us.

We are so quiet that it’s possible no one knows we’re alive. When our parents come home, we can tell them yes, we were quiet. Yes, we were good. No, no one heard us. No, no one knows anything.


People come and go, strange cars parked in our driveway. We watch from our bedroom, the lake throwing glimmers of light on our ceiling. They stagger when they leave, dropping beer bottles that we’ll have to clean up in the morning. The sound of glass shattering makes us wince. The neighbors will have heard that, too.

There are weekends when our parents leave. We know they’re arriving at someone else’s house, parking in their driveway. Maybe their friends have children upstairs, watching curious and quiet as our parents enter through their back door. Maybe their friends don’t live on a lake and maybe those children can be loud when they cry.


Those nights, when we’re alone, we take the canoe from the shore and slide it out into the water. We paddle to the middle of the lake and lie in the bottom of the boat, letting the waves rock us up and down, back and forth. The canoe’s ribs dig into our backs and the water splashes our clothes. We know we will smell like lake water later when we crawl into our beds, but that’s just fine with us.

We take each other’s hands, the stars flashing above us so beautiful and so far away, and one by one we start to scream.


Madeline Anthes is an ex-Clevelander living in eastern Pennsylvania. She is the acquisitions editor for Hypertrophic Literary, and you can find her work in journals like WhiskeyPaper, Third Point Press, and Maudlin House. Find her work at, or follow her on Twitter @maddieanthes.

Image: Andrew McElroy