The River

Jake W. Ford

One time I was rafting down the Ocoee River and got knocked out of the raft at Diamond Splitter. If you’ve ever been down the Ocoee you know exactly the place I’m talking about. The current pulled me under and the harder I tried to fight the tighter it held me. I managed to get back in the raft with only my pride wounded but it made me realize things can grab a hold when you least expect it and not let go. It’s like you belong to it after that. Sometimes I feel like that again—like something is pulling me down.  Been thinking about it a lot lately; especially since the divorce.

I’ll have to admit I like beer and to some folks around here drinking is a fire and brimstone offense.  Seen many a preacher at the package store though, even seen a few there at the same time—acting like they were invisible.

I’ve never been one to waste money so I keep the empty beer cans, smash them with the heel of my boot, and then throw them into the back of my pick up until I have enough to exchange for cash. You know what they say ‘every little bit helps’.

Like I said, I’m divorced.  Oh she was a piece of work, let me tell you. “See ya baby! Going to get a Mister Pib,” and wouldn't come home for days, sometimes even taking the kids with her. Just last summer the cops called and said they had found my kids left in her car.  She was somewhere with my ex-best friend and had left the kids to boil like lobsters. Should have been the last straw, but no, I let it go like a leaking faucet.

I make good money, at least for living out in the sticks, and built this house just like she wanted it.  The place looked like a doll house people use to say.

During the day I deliver people’s packages, I’ll smile and say “Have a nice day.” If I play my cards right I can drink from quitting time until midnight, then by time for work the alcohol is out of my system.

People say I’m a nice guy. What else could they say? I’m polite and bring them things they ordered. They welcome me and I take in the smell, the vibe of each place I visit, like a man hungry for normalcy or at least arrangement. Sometimes I remember them late at night, as I drink myself into a deep sleep and let the river claim me.

Jake W. Ford is a writer and artist from East Tennessee. His work has appeared in Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment, Unlikely Stories, Grotesque Quarterly, The Southern Quarterly and Kestrel.

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