Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

River Hills--a story (iii)

Her privacy is interrupted. 

The park was empty, the river quiet, bedded down calmly.

And then she felt it. It came into her like something cool and refreshing, even though she knew what it was the second it entered her--she recognized it for what it was: despair. Why wouldn't the kid kill himself? Lloyd was right. Why should he go on living? What single good reason could he give to come home to insulin and prison? Hadn't his mother offered him help? Sure, but what kind of help--help in fighting the law, a letter in a lifetime of prison?

Why not just lay down and die? There was bullet left in that gun. Why not just quit? She stopped and looked down at the water, silent and constant like eternity, and her own sadness, like the boy's, fed the flow of despair that came up suddenly and refreshingly from her soul. It would end things, she thought. It would end suffering. It would end horror. It would end aggravation that she lacked the strength and courage to fight anymore. It would end nausea. It would allow her rest. Despair as relief.

Across the water, a huge scruffy owl swooped out of a tree but stayed in the woods, flying between thick branches like a circus performer. It was wrong, she knew--despair was the lack of hope, and hope was hers, always, eternally. Why was she feeling it?--how was it that despair even felt so good to her soul?

She looked around. They were here in the winter, she and Lloyd, when the snowbanks lay along the unsheltered paths like bread dough, and the deer left broken chains of darkened prints down the bluffs. They'd come here several times in the last year--before Paige had left--because now, with the house empty, they'd been trying to come up with some new ways of being together: cross-country skiing, photography. They'd been right there where she was standing, the two of them leaning on their ski poles, sweaty, trying to catch their breath, when a half dozen deer walked right across the river in a single line. Life was good, a miracle.

That was before their daughter had done something unthinkable. That was before Paige shattered God's own law--an adulterer. Paige, adulterer. Lord, give me strength, she prayed, her eyes on the dark green river beside her.

Through the trees on the bluff, the sound of the car coming down the road startled her, sent something she recognized as fear through her like a chill. She looked back at her own car, parked by itself at the river's edge, and felt a kind of embarrassment when a brown squad from the state police emerged from the trees at the bottom of the hill. A quarter-mile away, she watched as the squad pulled up beside the Buick and an officer stepped out, a woman, who walked around her car as if it were a suspect, then followed what were likely Carol's own footprints in the gravel, looked down the path towards the woods, where she stood.

The young woman, her blond hair pulled back tightly, removed her sunglasses and held a hand up over her eyes, then stared into the trees. In a gesture that seemed instinctive, she checked for the gun on her belt before tossing her hat in the car and locking it. She started walking, looking, Carol thought, for the driver.

Poor thing, she thought, she thinks maybe there's another suicide, so she stepped out of the trees, stood there motionless for a moment, just to be seen, and then waved politely, happily, as if there were nothing amiss. The policewoman stopped, thought for a moment about going back, then kept walking towards her.

Maybe the wave wasn't enough, she thought. Maybe the woman read the wave as someone putting her off. She looked down at her watch and realized that she'd been gone far too long, so she put her hands in the pockets of her coat and started walking back. "I'm okay," she said, quite loud, once the officer approached.

The woman smiled, kept coming

Alone on the river, the two women talk.

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