My First Short Story: Concrete River Blues
As mentioned in my prior post, I am going to start sharing the short stories I write each week for my class. As we work on our final short story, which can be up to 20 pages long, we are encouraged to write a two-page story each week. Concrete River Blues is not the first story; it is the second. I was not too happy with my first story, but maybe I will share it at a different time.
Concrete River Blues
No one walks in the riverbed.
On days of incessant boredom, Kyle and I drop items from the bridge into the concrete riverbed. The river is often dry. When there is water, which is rare and far between, it creeps through, amber and filled with junk, looking like a basement flooded with ginger ale. I picture the river this way; it is the city’s digestive system; consolidating the waste people want out of sight, from beer cans used only once to people never used at all.
One time I went to the river during torrential rainfall. The water flowed higher and faster than I had ever seen before. In the two minutes I was there, I spotted four couches, one television, an orange wig, and hundreds of plastic bags flowing with the water. I thought Mother Nature knows we never learn from our mistakes; when the water comes and washes away our shame, she’s not cleaning up, she’s collecting evidence.
When Kyle and I go to the bridge, we bring an eclectic array of items to drop, mostly from the Council Thrift store at the end of our street. We bring Items that fracture, shatter, explode, and sometimes splash. The easier it breaks and the more pieces it breaks into, the better. One time, Kyle dropped his Grandpa’s phonograph, and the record inside rolled down the riverbed like the wheel of a phantom car.
Nobody walks in the riverbed.
With a struggle, Kyle lifted the black desktop computer above his head. His shoes scratched the pavement as he skidded to find stable footing. For a moment I thought he would drop it backward. The case was massive, and Kyle has thin arms. It wasn’t until the computer left Kyle’s pale hands that we saw the bill of a man’s hounds-tooth driver’s cap peak out like a rare bird from under the bridge. “God Christ,” said Kyle. The case fell at such a speed that we had no time to yell a warning. The walker looked up at the last moment, and the case struck his face, snapping his neck back like a Pez dispenser. I heard the crack clearer than I had heard anything else in my young life. The sound of my life cracking. My face and brain felt fuzzy like it does when I get the laughing gas at the dentist. I hesitated, then looked down. I saw three fingers on the man’s left-hand curl and straighten, curl and straighten as if he were scratching the neck of a cat; then the fingers stopped moving.
Kyle started to run. “Where are you going? You can’t leave.” I said. He looked at me with tears in his eyes, then turned and continued running. I took one more glance at the man, which made me feel as though my body had become void of blood. I ran away.
That night there was no word of it on the news, only the Weatherman talking about the rainstorm that would be starting in the early morning hours. I thought of the man’s hand, among the debris, breaking through the gray water that so rarely flowed; as lifeless as the plastic grocery bags and tree branches that joined him on his journey to the ocean. I didn’t sleep that night. I didn’t eat breakfast the next morning.