The mouth of the river tumbles into the sea, even at low tide. A village of jagged rocks and apparent caves curves along the cliffs. The river cuts sharp banks into the beach that crumble under the weight of a foot, letting you go before they will let you stay. She watches from the bridge as another man tries to cross. The dog nudges her hand and whimpers a little. He would never hear her warning from this height, over the sound of the adjoining waters. And even if he did, he would never listen. His foot slips into the river quickly up to his knees, but he keeps his balance for a moment. It’s easier to see how to cross the river when you’re in the water. No rocks or driftwood to ground his steps, only sand. At that, he turns and takes a wide, solid step up onto the beach. He looks back across the river and stares at the cove a little longer than most, and then out at the sea.
In the last dark morning she hears a scream from the cove below. Always a quick scream. Both her and the dog, look out the dark window without getting up, listening for more.
~ Megan M. Codera
Later, when he told the story, he would say it happened so fast that it was like it never happened. But he rarely lingered on the details. The words still got caught in his throat, tangled up in the images he was trying to forget and hold all at once. And it often made everyone uncomfortable. Most of the time, he just said his son was gone and left it at that. Most of the time, no one asked any more questions. So it was easy enough to turn the questions back toward them and change the conversation.
He didn’t want to be the man who lost his son in the river. He wanted to catch fish and meet new people and find new rivers and eat good food. He wanted to be a man who continues, in spite of the noisy and mangled cans dragging behind him. Which is probably why he was drawn to spend more time with kids. They were eager to learn how to do things, took instruction easily from the funny man by the river, and they could care less where he came from or where he had been.
~ Megan M. Codera
Out on the street, the conversation always came back to the rain. Even when the rain stopped, it took days to dry out the shoes and coats and packs. The kids huddled in the doorway of the old Ben Franklin, down at the end of town where no one bothered. They talked about relocating somewhere on the other side of town because the heavy rains of February had started to pool into their flat. Jerry said he’d seen some sandbags around the gutters over on Plymouth and he was planning to grab them after dark. He asked Louis if he’d stick around to help. Louis shook his head and took a long drag from his cigarette, then handed the rest to Jerry.
“Naw,” Jerry answered for Louis. “LouLou better get home before mommy worries.”
The girls giggled and Louis smacked Jerry in the arm. The sky let up briefly as he backed out of the doorway, but the eaves dribbled so much it was hard to tell if it had really stopped raining. Louis held out his hands in disbelief as he walked away and someone said something he couldn’t hear that struck them all funny. He shoved his fists in the pockets of his black jean jacket, stuck out in the drizzle again. He really had no desire to stay with his friends, if you could call them that, and even less of a desire to go home.
~ Megan M. Codera
A single sandwich board sign leaned against the parking side of the hardware store. The old wood had been painted with several coats of white to cover its former message. “Bring Lolita Home” was written in large, incomplete letters, as if there was barely enough black paint. Coming from the other direction on the highway through town, the sign would have been missed completely.
Perhaps it was once propped on the corner each morning, but now, it seemed, there was just no longer a need. If she had returned, Jonas would have gotten rid of the sign. He kept a clean storefront. No crates or pallets or flyers. This was the first thing folks saw when they passed through town and he was proud of that. He even asked Sheila to do up some flower boxes on either side of the front doors and keep them tidy for him. Had Lolita been taken so long ago that they just stopped putting that hope on the curb?
I passed through Rockgate for weeks before ever stopping. I had hit the road earlier than usual, subconsciously on purpose, I suppose, and had almost an hour before visiting hours up on the hill. As I pulled around the curve of road along the canal, I thought for a moment that the sign was gone. But as I parked beside a green truck, the sign was still leaning on the wall, within inches of the truck’s bumper.
~ Megan M. Codera
The shore pines are bent like a warning from the wind, from the sea. But instead of going back, she has made a home in their curve. She would take the harsh wind at her face over the murmur of the media. Sometimes it gets so strong, up here on these cliffs that she loses balance and almost falls. It is just enough of a push to make her feel alive. To remind her that even if her profile died, she did get out of there alive.
The dog knows when the wind starts up like this it could be fatal to be so close to the cliffs. She can hear him warning her from the porch. He never used to bark in the city. Here, he must know, there’s no one around to hear him but her. And he knows someone needs to speak up, take control of the situation.
~ Megan M. Codera
It was easy to miss something that had been dumped in the greenbelt. Those thin patches spread between the backs of houses and the ends of the roads, thick with ferns, trees and the bramble of winter. The deer often made trails through the salal, but since the other side of those woods were known to be just the next street over, there was really no reason to ever walk through there. If it had been summer, the smell would have hit the whole neighborhood and caused a bit of curiosity. But it could have also just been assumed to be a raccoon or possum or one of Ray’s bins stuffed with fish carcasses or bait. Luckily, with the constant, cold rain, no one would be out exploring. Everyone would only be outside long enough to get from their houses to their cars or drag the garbage to the curb.
The rain had completely drown the smell of decay, at least in the air. In his head, he knew she was there. He was just waiting for her to come to him in some other form. He was so certain that she wanted to come back. Even though he knew she didn’t belong here. Even though he knew no one would ever come looking for her here. No one even knew he existed, really. His neighbors knew of him briefly, but they really didn’t know him at all. They only knew what he told them in passing, on his way to the mailboxes. He said he had a mother up north, where he spent most weekends. He said he worked at the base because people would be less likely to ask too many questions. And none of the neighbors would have seen her riding shotgun. She never sat shotgun, she only laid in the backseat.