The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Take Him to the River, pt. 2

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continued from yesterday…

Pre-dawn was muggy along the river and in the forests that edged the water.  Thin blankets of mist clung to the ground, but dispersed a few feet up and disappeared into the grey sky.  A trio of turkey vultures soared through the fresh, moist air over the river.  The rushing waters below muted their calls as they circled in and out of the walls of trees on both banks.

The headlights on Michael’s truck pierced the mist as he drove down the narrow dirt path that lead from the main road to the river.  As he neared the end, the lights reflected off two trucks parked at the head of a narrow beach that had formed along the river bank.  Father Bernard stood in his black cassock with his head bowed as he leaned back against Guy’s truck.  His chin touched his white collar.  He clutched his bible with both hands.

Michael could see the silhouette of Guy sitting by himself in his truck.  Leon and Big Jean sat in Leon’s truck.  An orange glow lit their faces when Leon dragged on his cigarette.   Michael parked his truck and got out.  Sam opened his door and stepped out.  They had both dressed in cargo shorts and mesh utility vests.  Michael wore a red t-shirt beneath his vest.  Sam wore a blue t-shirt and a canvas porkpie hat.  He was more than a man in size, and his bulk still managed to surprise even those who saw him frequently.  If he kept growing, he would soon rival Big Jean as the largest man in the county.  He still wore a boy’s face, though.  His cheeks were pink from the summer sun, but smooth and unblemished.

“Good morning, Father Bernard,” the boy said.  He touched his brow with two fingers in a casual salute and stepped to the bed of the truck to retrieve tackle.

Michael held up his hand.  “Not yet, Sam.”

The boy stopped and walked to the front of the truck.  Leon and Guy stepped out of their trucks and joined them.

Sam smiled at the lot of them as they stood in a small circle.  “I don’t think we’ll catch anything.  The water’s moving too fast.  Look at it.”  He gestured to the river.  “You don’t have to look.  You can hear it.”

The solemn faces around him offered no response.  Michael’s eyes darted between them.  This wasn’t a good idea, but it would be over quick enough.  There had to be a way to explain to Sam how this had come to happen, but that was for later.

Father Bernard released one hand from his bible and extended his arm, gesturing to the river.  He walked wide of the group to the edge of the water.

Sam looked to his father, who nodded and nudged his head in the direction of the water.  Sam took a step toward the water and stopped.  “What’s going on, Dad?”  

“Go on, Sam,” Michael said.  “Go on down to the river.”

Guy snapped, “Boy, do what your pa says.”

Michael felt Leon’s eyes on him, again pinning him down.  He looked to Leon, who brought a finger to his chin and ran the tip of it on the grey stubble.  Leon said, “You go, too, Michael.”

Michael sucked in a breath to speak, but couldn’t find words.  He was stuck in place, Leon’s stare or not.  He heard the squeak of a car door opening and looked over to see Big Jean haul himself out of the passenger side of Leon’s truck and walk around the bed.  Once he was clear of the tailgate, everyone saw the shotgun in his hands.  Big Jean brought the weapon across his chest and pumped the slide handle.  The scrape and sharp click of metal made Michael’s stomach jump.

“Go on,” Leon commanded.  “The boy came from you.”

Michael’s hands trembled beyond his control.  He turned to his son.  The boy’s face was red.  Tears perched on the ledges of his eyelids.  “Dad.”

“Come on, Sam,” he replied.  He took the boy’s cold hand in his own and put his other hand on his back.  He turned his face to Sam’s ear and said in a low, plain tone, “Walk in front of me.  Keep walking.  Don’t look back no matter what.”  It was the only protection he could offer.

Big Jean fell in line several paces behind them.  He raised the shotgun to his shoulder and slid his finger inside the trigger guard.

Michael’s son stepped into the cool river ahead of him.  The boy’s shoulders were convulsing and Michael knew he was sobbing, but the gushing river water muffled the sound.

Michael neither heard nor felt his own feet splash into the river.  To his right and around a bend, the sun peaked over the top of the forest.  To his left, Father Bernard held a hand in the air as he read aloud from the bible in the palm of his other hand.  Michael couldn’t hear the words.  He didn’t have to hear them to know they were wrong.  They had always been wrong.  Sam knew that.  Of course he did.  The boy had been brave in the face of all everyone had told him was right and true.  He was not the one who had faltered.

Written by seeker70

April 18, 2016 at 7:00 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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