By Blaise Marcoux
Copyright 2017 Blaise Marcoux
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Table of Contents
On An Unknown Stream (Prose)
Long Road to Letdown (Prose)
Fix It in Post (Prose)
Catholic Schism (Verse)
A Barren Field (Verse)
The Overwhelm (Prose)
Ile d’Orleans (Verse)
Easy Mode (Prose)
Elijah (A Hymn) (Verse)
The Shortest Day of the Year (Prose)
About the Author
ON AN UNKNOWN STREAM
Around the motorboat, the river sloshed, not flowed, as its murky tendrils nibbled close to the side, too near for comfort. From my research, I knew nasty rumors circulated about what fish possessed this stream and how carnivorous they were. I glanced at the engine, rattling its way to probable overheat, and then the hired helmsman, who refused to look at me. “We should slow down,” I told her.
She didn’t say anything. The sunset said all her words for her. No good came from boating in the dark. Even as a city-bred outsider visiting for photojournalism, I knew that.
But I felt little more ease on the waves during the day. “Please,” I said with admittedly enough squeak to be begging. “Just a mile per hour less. Or is it knots with boats? A knot less?”
She let slip a smile, but still wouldn’t face me. “Or a meter less? No metric system for you?” Her accent had thickened during our return trip to the dock, deepening with the reds of the sky.
“They use metric around here?”
“Oh hell no.”
A few minutes later, I did notice some slackening, but also a drift towards an islet, stretched enough for two city blocks long and a half-block wide, more mud than land. We’d passed it earlier with no afterthought. Nothing stood out here, no excess or shortage of trees, no sign of sizeable wildlife.
“Why are we stopping here?” Despite myself, my thumbs rubbed excitedly against my camera.
“Want you to see something.”
“Isn’t it getting late?”
She hopped off into the water with no answer, then pulled the boat nose enough into the shore for it to anchor. As she sauntered off, I followed, already scanning for snapshot targets.
After a ways, she stopped and bent over right as I spotted some water debris possibly worth shooting. When she stood up and whirled around, she had two beers in hand and a grin on her face. Up to this point, she’d showed only the typical range of boater emotions – stoicism, tranced blankness, and sly smirks. I came around to where she stood, only to find an ice-less cooler half-buried in the soil. Three more brews stood inside.
I chuckled. “What on earth?”
“Boater’s secret.” She cracked a can open and handed it over. “Rule is, take what you can get, but resupply within forty-eight hours.”
A sip. Flat and far too warm. Enough to give me stomach problems later, I knew. “Can’t you get a DUI for boating while drunk?”
“Oh, I’m not getting drunk.” She gulped down a sizeable take. “Besides, no one polices these waters. Not unless someone goes missing.”
We imbibed away, sans chat, staring at the opposite bank. The shots in my camera pleaded for perusal, but I felt that’d blaspheme the moment. True, not much to see. Not much to do. But sufficient all the same.
I looked at her, gathering in the lines of her skin as fast I could without turning intrusive. Her tan stained her bare arms and brought out the amber in her hair, overriding the strings of gray. Her nose hooked down, an eagle’s beak that intensified her eyes. Throughout her life, she’d lived here. Nothing I’d captured on film had remained alien to her. If she read my photo-essay, she’d be bored.
Therein resided some of my guilt – painting the mundane as outlandish, just so it’d reach some cosmopolitan’s coffee table. All while not knowing what a knot was and likely not researching that out ever in my lifetime. Peaks through a window of other worlds, but never an invite inside.
“Well,” she said, crinkling her can and tossing it out into the river, “let’s go.”
We hopped back onboard, and she pulled the motor string. Nothing. She frowned. “That was a good tug,” she muttered low enough where she probably thought I couldn’t hear. A succession of quick yanks. Not a single whir.
After a groan, she pulled out her cell. “Dan? Yeah, it’s Carla. I need a pickup on that island near Hobbes Park?”
A buzzing, indecipherable reply.
“No, not that one. The bigger one.” Buzz. “Yeah, engine went out, don’t know why.” Buzz. Irritation crispened her words. “Yes, I checked the gas tank.” She hadn’t. Buzz. “You know, things happen, alright Don? Come on, I know you don’t have any big dates planned.” I could hear distorted laughter through the phone. Her frown stayed put. “I’ll see you in an hour, okay?”
She finally looked over at me. “I guess there’s one more thing I could show you.”
We trekked past the cooler, her strides so long that I feared she’d run out of land and continue on down to the river’s bottom. But she halted close to the islet’s end, motioning me forward. Jabbed in the mud stood a wooden cross, unadorned and discolored in spots from all the humidity.
I raised an eyebrow at her. She kept her gaze on the marker as she spoke. “A body got found out here, really decayed, unrecognizable. This was back in the Seventies, when forensics wasn’t much, so she just went unidentified. I hear the case is going to get reopened, but….” A shrug. “Anyway, didn’t seem right to leave her unremembered. I was in high school then, and some classmates and I planted this here. Seemed right.”
An unsolved murder. She and her community had hid a beer stash on the same stretch of muck as where they’d found a corpse. Chugged away only yards off from where a skeleton had lain. All that, and they couldn’t even name the islet. The one by Hobbes Park. The bigger one.
I swatted a mosquito away. “Why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?”
“Well,” and she shrugged again, “you wanted pictures of the birds and such. Not many exotic ones of those out here.” She turned back towards the boat. “Besides, not like this is the most interesting island around.”
“What are some others?”
“You’ve got to go back to the city tomorrow, don’t you?” Her tone kept the same, but I couldn’t hear that combination of words as anything but a snarl. “You kept telling me that.”
I didn’t bother replying. When we returned to the boat, I glued myself on the day’s shots, my herons and red-tailed hawks and other birds whose names I couldn’t even remember. Nothing that went uncatalogued before. Occasionally, I’d toss an annoyed glance her way, but she paid me no mind, meditating on the moonlit river.
Who knew what stories I could’ve heard, what areas I could’ve discovered? Sasquatch Island. The Island with the Inexplicable Car. The Apparition of Mary Island. The Island I Lived On for a Year to Escape My Parents. Schrodinger’s Island. The Island Which Is Actually a Civil War Submarine Buried in Muck. Samuel’s Island. Yes, “that” Samuel. The Samuel I’d never get to learn about.
I wouldn’t break the silence, and neither would she. The frogs’ ribbits tried, the flies’ buzzing tried, the crickets’ chirps tried, but they were no conversationalists. They supplied only a drone simultaneously overwhelming and empty, a roar neither of us two humans dared disperse.
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