If I can budge up the tiniest bit, I'll be able to see them again. Ah, better.
Now, I think that's the MacEwan boy jumping. I remember his mother. Couldn't punctuate to save her life, but a whiz with her math. Can't imagine she'd be pleased to see her own boy jumping off those useless old bridge supports. Same ones where her own brother drowned, the lot of them whooping and hollering same as these boys. Smacked his head on the cement when he flipped, as I recall. But it wasn't what killed him. No.
Mark, that's this one's name. Mark MacEwan. Hmm. He must be about done with school now. Maybe this past year.
I could ask Mrs. Sherman if I could wake her up. She remembers these things. But it wouldn't be fair. She does so much for me, useless old lady that I am. Look at the sweet peace on her face, bless her. She does surely deserve a bit of a nap, if anyone does. Must be close to supper time, though, if I'm reading that lowered sun right. My, but I am hungry.
Someone ought to put a stop to it, all this river-swimming. I can't anymore, but someone ought to. Though I suppose kids these days need something to do around here, with the town as good as shut down. Keeps them out of trouble. My Thom always said I worried too much. I suppose he was right.
Old Barking Town. Hmph. Never was much of a town. Not even when the mines were open. A few houses here and there, and those all but empty.
Mrs. Sherman told me that the population of Barking was once as high as 502. It's on the sign when she drives in. But that must have been in its heyday. I don't think Barking can have seen so many people in years.
Let's see. We lost the Morrissons year before last. Off to grab Florida sunshine, they were. It was the Kelsoes the year before. Or was that three years ago? Oh, dear. Muddle-headed me. The Kelsoes are still here, I think. It's the Kesslers that left.
I can't get those boys out of my mind. Now, let me think. What year was it, when the four boys drowned? '81 or '82, I should think. Reagan was in the White House, then. Early days, still, for him. My, that was a sad summer around here.
Do you remember the terrible summer, Mrs. Sherman? Mrs. Sherman?
There I am again. I do forget myself. I'm so sorry. You sleep, dear.
Bit cold for these boys to be swimming in the Allegheny, I should think. September, is it already? October? I think it might just be October. Some of the leaves are starting to change. Must be an Indian Summer. Maybe Mrs. Sherman will prop a window for me when she's up.
It's a pity we never signed on for that Meals On Wheels. I do so hate the idea of disturbing poor Mrs. Sherman for supper. I didn't plan to get old. Funny to watch it happening.
Dear Mrs. Sherman's not much better off. I'm the only family she has left now, too. Just us two in the world. Bless her heart, she brings herself every day to sit here by me. The only one who does, now. I don't think she even went home last night.
In truth, I think it's as good for her as it is for me. Her own young ones left for the city, oh, years ago. Years ago. All these memories just start swirling again like the leaves there on the hillside. Windy it must be out there.
Well, my mind might not be much, but my eyes are as sharp as ever. And those boys are still jumping. Now, why would they do that? Why won't that MacEwan boy stay away from those cement pillars? You would think his mother would have told him... but maybe she didn't. I never did hear them talk about the thing behind the pillars. The thing that bobbed and floated. The thing that watched. Now why was that?
I held my tongue. Figured the sheriff held information back sometimes. I know they do that in their investigations and I thought maybe I'd just keep it quiet for him, too. One of my best students, and there he was protecting us all. He was a good boy. College. Married. Two little girls of his own.
Oh, it's slipping away. I'm losing it again. I've got to try to hold onto it this time. The boys. It was something to do with those boys down there. Mark MacEwan. He's one of them. It was his uncle got taken under after he jumped. That was it.
Mrs. Sherman? Do you remember when that MacEwan boy's uncle drowned? Mrs. Sherman?
He drowned. No, he didn't drown. He didn't drown, but everyone thought he did. He hit his head when he jumped. I saw it from here. But it wasn't what killed him. It was the thing hid behind those pillars.
It was floating, like driftwood, maybe it even hung to a piece of driftwood. I can't recall. But it ducked under the water just as that boy hit the water, all bloodied. I wasn't sure what it was, though my eyes are good as ever. I never had cataracts like Mrs. Sherman or my Thom. No.
Now, that looks like the MacEwan boy down there. I wonder why someone doesn't stop those boys jumping off there. Don't they know the danger? Don't they know how those boys were taken all those years ago? My, but it was hungry. I never told anyone. It was the sheriff's right to hold back what he wanted.
Took them all: One, two, three, four, as they jumped. Oh, why did they keep jumping? That was it-- they were looking for him. Looking for the first boy. The other MacEwan boy. They saw him hit his head and then they were in the water, too, looking for him. Not a one of them ever came up again.
Sheriff found their clothes, shoes. I think the story in the papers said it was the undercurrent pulled them all under and they never found a body. Not a bone. Because it had been hungry.
Hungry. Did we have breakfast? I can't remember.
I don't think Mrs. Sherman is getting up again, and it's a shame. It's a shame. Because he is down there again.
I think he's been there all afternoon, hiding there behind those rocks, watching them. Watching those boys jump.
It's moving now. Oh, it's moving.
Oh, someone needs to warn those boys there's something in that water.
Laura Lovic-Lindsay left Penn State University with a literature degree in hand in 1993, having written no more than a few poems at that point. She has won poetry and fiction contests (PennWriters Poetry Contest, writerstype.com, writersweekly.com, Writing Success writers' conferences), had pieces accepted for publication (Fireside Fiction, Fine Linen Magazine, Boston Literary Magazine).
Laura lives and writes in an old farmhouse in a small Western Pennsylvania town, but her heart roams realms both real and imaginary.