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Showcasing creative writing by university students around the world.

Illustration by Rowan Ford

Illustration by Rowan Ford

Published Sunday, June 29th, 2014

Words by

On the River’s Edge

The bank of the Arkansas was patchy and parched. The night's rain had not erased the tracks of the drought. Indian summer rays beat down on the clay dirt, a muddle of reds that stuck to the skin like white on rice. The boy sat at the river's edge, his crop-blistered feet dangling in its wake. A string was tied to a nearby branch of a dead cottonwood. It lead to the water and disappeared below, weighed down by the contents of the other end.

They were white in the sun and the country was brown and dry.
- Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants

 
 
The bank of the Arkansas was patchy and parched. The night’s rain had not erased the tracks of the drought. Indian summer rays beat down on the clay dirt, a muddle of reds that stuck to the skin like white on rice. The boy sat at the river’s edge, his crop-blistered feet dangling in its wake. A string was tied to a nearby branch of a dead cottonwood. It lead to the water and disappeared below, weighed down by the contents of the other end.
 
“You’re gonna get burnt layin’ out like that,” a girl said, breaking through the brittle brush and taking her place by the boy.
 
“It’s alright. Gotta get rid of the tan lines anyway, I s’pose.”
 
He was leathery and deep brown from his hands to his shoulders. From his neckline to his hips, he wore skin white and untouched by the summer’s work.
 
“Been here long?”
 
“Just since finishin’ up Jackson’s stretch of land,” he said, turning his back on the girl and pulling the string from the water. “Didn’t think you’d turn up.”
 
“Well, I did.”
 
The boy stooped by the edge of the river and untied a Busch from the unsubmerged string.
 
“Want one? Unless-”
 
“Yeah, I want one.”
 
The boy hesitated before handing her the cool aluminum. The tops popped in the silence, their fingers doing the talking. The two drank, long and deep.
 
“Sure is nice,” the girl said, closing her eyes.
 
“Don’t think that’s the word I’d be usin’.”
 
“Anyway, it’s good to be outta class at least.”
 
“Yeah, guess so.”
 
“Nothin’ to do. Just sittin’ and bein’.”
 
“I guess.”
 
He snapped a stray blade of wheat from the ground and stuck the end in his mouth. He drank and chewed. The current of the river slid along lazily. Flies buzzed in the distance, feeding on garbage that had drifted out from town. The boy finished his beer and threw the empty can into the water. He watched it travel downstream as he fished out another.
 
“Me too, if ya got enough.”
 
“I got enough.”
 
He looked back at the girl.
 
“Guess that answers everything for me, then.”
 
“Guess it does.”
 
They sat in the clay, the powder caking their jeans and hands. The girl breathed slowly and calmly with does generic viagra work the wind. The boy fidgeted with the straw, biting down on it vigorously. He gnashed it in half and tossed it onto the ground.
 
“Ya know, old man Jackson said he’d take me on fulltime after graduation.”
 
“Yeah, I heard.”
 
“And with my momma gone over to Tennessee, I got rightful claim to the cialis canadian pharmacy reviews double-wide.”
 
“I seen that. You’ve been livin’ there goin’ on a year now already.”
 
“Just, ya know, I got things pretty good and set here, is all I’m sayin’.”
 
The girl sipped her beer and looked off down the river.
 
“Looks like your can got itself stuck.”
 
“How’s about not changin’ the subject on me.”
 
“Just sayin’. We shouldn’t leave it there.”
 
“No one gives a damn about this half-assed, dried-up river.”
 
“Guess not.”
 
The girl rifled through her pant pocket, extracting a silver flask. It flashed in the sun, and she flipped open the cap.
 
“Want some? Got it from grandpa’s cabinet.”
 
“Do ya really think ya should-”
 
“He won’t notice. Hopped on the wagon again ’bout three months ago.”
 
“That’s not what I meant.”
 
“I know.”
 
The girl took a swig and gasped, shuddering before handing the flask to him.
 
“Tastes like iodine.”
 
He coughed down the moonshine, eyes smarting. He was unable to stop the tears from falling. They traced wet, clean paths across his ruddy cheeks. He turned away and rubbed them clear with his forearm. The girl faced the river, pretending to take no notice of him.
 
“You don’t gotta do this,” he said once his eyes had dried.
 
The girl took the flask from his hand and pressed the opening to her lips. He watched her drain the container.
 
“You know what it’ll do to me?” he asked.
 
“Nothin’. It’ll do nothin’ to you.”
 
“We generic viagra online could manage, ya know. Lots of people do it.”
 
“I don’t want to manage.”
 
“I’d be good, better than I have been. We could go to that patch of prairie ya like so much. Start goin’ back to church. I’d make ya dinners and keep a roof over cialis commercial actors 2015 your head.”
 
“I don’t want you to be better.”
 
“What do ya want, then? ‘Cause I’m done graspin’ at straws here.”
 
She picked up her beer and gulped.
 
“I want you to let me be.”
 
“It’s not just about you, ya know that? How can I let ya be?”
 
“Like I said, it’s nothin’ to do with you.”
 
“How in God’s name can ya say that to me?”
 
“It’s just the way it is, is all.”
 
“Let me be a part of this. Let me help ya.”
 
“I don’t want your kind of help.”
 
He pressed his leg against hers, feeling her close to him. He went to take her hand in his, like he used to do so easily. She moved away and stood up to her feet.
 
“Please?”
 
Without looking back, the girl walked down the embankment. She dislodged the trapped can from the brambles lining the shore. Her back buy pfizer viagra stained crimson with dust, she left him alone in the October sun.

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