That summer the road down by the creek flooded over and stayed that way for a half a century of days, and Daddy worried the truck wouldn’t get out to the field or back into town to the grain elevator come fall, and Mama made cornbread night after night from the dwindling cornmeal because nobody could make it into town and it felt like eating sunlight, and I jumped over those rattlesnakes that had come up into the yard to stay dry and sat coiled, rattling their shakers like a swamp band’s hustle song, and Papa said don’t you get bit or you’ll have to sweat that poison right out on your own and if you can’t there ain’t no place to bury you in all this water because we’d stood out one evening and watched a parade of those old coffins that the water’d unearthed from up at Rock Creek go floating by and knocking into one another, and I wondered if one of them was Daddy’s old sweetheart from school days who still used to smile at him whenever he’d run into town to get more nails for his hammer, the one who took sick last winter and never could get warm enough to fever it out, and so they buried her that next Tuesday up at Rock Creek, and Daddy cried on the porch to the purple sunset ‘til Mama said you’d better hush it ain’t proper, and I wondered if his old sweetheart was one of them that floated by us, and did Daddy recognize her, and was he trying to recognize her, and is that why he stood by when all them coffins went floating by us, and I thought how it wouldn’t be a bad way to end up, floating along a new summer river on and on until there’s nothing but wide open fields of water and then the sky comes all the way down to touch it and drink it up blue.
Linda Niehoff‘s short fiction has appeared in TriQuarterly, Necessary Fiction, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. She lives in a small Kansas town where she works part time as a portrait photographer and full time as a homeschooling mom. She blogs at www.thewrittenpicture.typepad.com and is on Twitter: @lindaniehoff
Photo by Tejvan Pettinger