By Kerry White
Not far from the small town of Stiles, yet clearly beyond the indication of civilization it offered, was the Bend. Set back from the road and down a steep, rock-filled embankment, lay the river with its dark swirls, muddy fluidity and brooding trees. The Crow River, which flowed through town and often flooded in the spring, turned here creating lumped sandbars and pockets of stillness in all the rush and power of its flow.
Scooter, all of eight years old and enthusiastic, had rushed ahead of Lem to the fishing spot. Giving Scooter the privilege of being there first was an easy father’s gift. Besides, maneuvering down the embankment wasn’t as easy on Lem’s old knees as it was on his son’s. As soon as he reached bottom, Lem knew something was wrong.
Scooter stood silent and still by the bank, head down. The fine new fishing pole drooped, the line slack out in the water where it disappeared below the surface, hooked.
Almost inaudible Lem heard, “It’s Ridley, Pa.”
Ridley? Ridley’s dead, lost in last week’s flood. Scooter’s best friend. Lem scanned the water and realized something bobbed just below the surface. A piece of checked shirt drifted up and down with the water’s current. He knew that shirt well.
“We need to bring him in, Scooter.” Eyes filled with tears, so large and deep brown, looked up at him.
“I … I can’t, Pa.”
Lem kneeled down and took his son’s shoulders into hands, rough and scarred from years of working at the sawmill. “Scooter, his folks will want to mourn and bury him. They need to be able to say goodbye. If your mom and I …” his voice faltered, “If we had lost you, son, that’s what we’d want, too.”
Scooter turned to look out on the water. “He’s gotta be cold, wet and cold, Pa, and the fish …”
Lem gripped his son’s shoulders tighter, which made Scooter face him again. “He may not be the same as we remember him, but he’s still Ridley. Can you hold the pole while I work the reel?”
Finally, Scooter nodded. Scooter brushed the tears away and gripped the pole so hard his knuckles turned white. Lem slowly turned the reel and drew the body toward the shore. Once it reached the shallows he stopped.
“Scooter, I need you to do something important now. Hand me the reel, ok? I want you to go to the post office and tell Mrs. Stern what we found and to call the sheriff. I’ll wait here with Ridley. Can you do that?”
“You can stay at the post office.”
Scooter shook his head, “Pa, I want to come back.” He looked towards the river bank. “I want Ridley to see I’m still his buddy.”
He brushed his son’s tawny hair just before Scooter started to climb. It would be a long walk back for him but Lem knew his son had just grown long legs.
Once upon a time in a small village there was born a male child of unusual strength, vitality, incredible handsomeness and intelligence. He lived down the street from where Kerry was born. This required Kerry to become a thinker and writer of …thoughts. He constantly strives to find the uncommon, unusual or nothing at all; gazing off into some far away distance before the dinner bell rings. Other days, he is a pirate, for pirates have no bounds and can do anything they want, when they want to and however they want to. Kerry has been published in FewerThan500, Flash Fiction Magazine, “FoxTales 2, 3, 4” and most currently in “Phantasm’s Door.”